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Writers Resisting Trump

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Writers Resisting Trump

I can’t let this weekend go by without writing. First of all, today marks one week until the unthinkable happens and an arrogant, greedy, pu**y-grabbing, power-obsessed man-child marches up Pennsylvania Avenue and then gets his DNA all over The People’s House.

Which means of course that we are also saying goodbye to Barack and Michele and Joe and Jill and oh, I can’t bear the thought.

From class to crass.

Also next week the Congress continues its three-ring circus to decide how and when to gut my health insurance (along with twenty million other people’s) and replace it with . . . what? Nobody seems to have a clue. A bunch of tweets telling me what a loser I am? A premiere Russian healthcare plan? Something Ben Carson dreams up — oh wait, he’s a housing expert now, I forgot.

The Resistance

In addition to all the fun in D.C., this Sunday is Writers Resist day. While I sometimes have trouble thinking of myself as a real writer, I have no trouble at all calling myself a member of “the Resistance.”

To resist means to withstand the action or effect of something, in this case a Putin-approved, race-baiting, Muslim-hating, fear-mongering, planet-threatening, money-worshipping . . .

I guess if I’m playing a writer today I should limit my adjectives, or so the experts tell me.

But you get the idea. You know who the guy is. Bottom of the barrel. Even his supporters know who he is. They just don’t seem to care. I can’t imagine that the Russian black-mailers have anything on the man-child that could possibly surprise any of us. Kellyanne Conway says that if we want to know the real Trump, we should look into his heart and not at his words or actions.

No thank you, Kellyanne. What a horrifying prospect!

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45

#WriteOurDemocracy

Writers Resist is a national network of writers concerned about the “growing public cynicism and an alarming disdain for truthfulness” that is eroding our democracy. The group understands that writers “have tremendous power to bypass empty political discourse and focus public attention on the ideals of a free, just, and compassionate society.” 

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This Sunday, writers all around the nation are gathering on Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday to share their words of resistance. If you’re a writer, visit this website and join others at an event on Sunday. Or invite your friends for coffee or wine and host your own event!

Word By Word

Throughout our history, writers have used their craft to resist illegal, immoral, unethical, unthinkable situations. The British taxation of tea, women’s suffrage, slavery, child labor, civil rights, poison-peddling tobacco lobbyists, fake reasons for going to war, black lives not mattering, climate denial.

Letter from a Birmingham jail.

Word by word, we write our democracy.

And we resist.

I can imagine some small hairy Neolithic guy carving himself a sharp chisel and then finding the perfect smooth rock and gouging out, “Hell, no!” before throwing it an alpha male’s head.

Just Write No

No, we’re not registering people by their religion or ethnic background. And no, we’re not paying millions of tax dollars to build a wall around our country, pretending that Mexico is going to pay us back. And no, we’re not going to reject science and common sense and abandon the progress we’ve made slowing climate change. And no, we’re not going to “punish” women who make the heart wrenching decision to end their pregnancy.

No, no, no, and no.

Hell, no.

{Author’s note: I recognize that I am not yet in a place to expound on the ideals of freedom, justice, compassion and the like. I am still astounded and angry and terrified. But I’ll come around and share something edifying at some point. I trust that God will not let me live in anger and fear for four years.}

I Have a Dream

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I Have a Dream.

Only words, a collection of letters, random markings made divine when early humans first scratched symbols in the dirt, trying to communicate with each other. Trying to connect. The animals are here. The water is here. This is the way. This is what I know.

Only words, but words are all we have, and so we keep scratching.

I picture Martin Luther King, Junior, scratching away, crossing out, circling words, drawing arrows from one paragraph to another, shaking his head, crumpling up his paper, and starting again. Forgetting to pray, getting frustrated, praying, and starting again. And again.

He had a dream, and he needed words. And eventually, God answered his prayers and gave him the words that have been such an unspeakable gift to the world. I have a dream . . .

Today some folks from my church are getting together to watch Dr. King’s historic speech. Afterwards, we’ll talk about racial justice, white privilege, and reconciliation. It will probably be hard to find the right words. We’ll be afraid of using the wrong words. It might be hard to hear some of the words that are spoken; I mean really hear them.

We’ll forget to pray, get frustrated, pray, and start again.

“This is my experience. This is what I know.”

Words of Love

Words are a gift from God. Of course, they can be misused, even turned into weapons. Just tune in to a presidential debate, FOX News, or a so-called “Christian” broadcasting channel and you’ll see how words can be used to drive wedges and stoke the fires of hate and fear.

But love is stronger than hate or fear. Dr. King knew this. Words of love and hope have more power than words of hate and fear could ever dream of having. His words reach across the decades, bridging the great differences that divide us and diving deep into the common spirit that unites every one of us, throughout all time and beyond time.

This week’s photo challenge from WordPress is to share a photo that reflects the word: alphabet. This MLK Day post was inspired by these two photos taken outside a community center in rural New Mexico:

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That’s a Strange Post for Martin Luther King Day

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Ignominious. Isn’t that a marvelous word? I thought it might be fun to pull a favorite word out of my gray matter once in a while and write about it. Kind of stream of consciousness, but not entirely because that’s hard to do without sounding ignominiously affected. Virginia Woolf, I am not.

Anyway, ignominious is an adjective that means “deserving or causing public disgrace or shame.” Some synonyms include humiliating, undignified, embarrassing, and mortifying. I’m not sure why the word popped into my head this morning. Perhaps it’s because some friends and I were talking about family alcoholism and drug addiction, and stories of shame and disgrace naturally came up.

I’ve been thinking about alcoholism a lot lately, I guess because of the drunken fiasco in the streets of Philadelphia that I witnessed on New Year’s Eve, and because a friend of mine’s husband just died from the disease. I drafted a blog about alcoholism, but it’s on hold, along with yet another one about differing views on God, this one brought on when my atheist neighbor passed away last week.

I’m not writing about those things, though, I’m writing about ignominiousness. Ooo – it’s even better in the form of a noun, isn’t it? It somehow brings to mind the sound a spider might make skittering along it’s web to bind up fresh prey. Ignominiousness, ignominiousness . . .

I read in the Oxford dictionary that there are few words that rhyme fully with ignominious. The name Phineas, as in, “The dirty dancing of Phineas was ignominious.” And another word — new to me — consanguineous, which denotes people descended from the same ancestor: “My attempt to prove that Virginia Woolf and I are consanguineous was ignominious.”

And my favorite ignominious-rhyming word, which probably deserves a whole blog post of its own: sanguineous. I’ve always loved the word sanguine, meaning optimistic or positive, especially in the face of a bad situation. I love what it means, and I love how it sounds.

And what about the noun, sanguineousness? That sounds nothing at all like skittering spiders — more like a sea otter gliding across the ocean on its back with a pup on its tummy.

Well, even a stream of consciousness post must have some sort of point. Since it’s Martin Luther King Day, let’s make it about racial justice. And here it is: despite many being in positions of power, despite some being armed to the teeth, despite having a legal system skewed their direction, opponents of racial justice in America will eventually go down in ignominious defeat.

Like the police who turned firehoses full-force on peaceful African-American marchers so many years ago and created for themselves an eternal, ignominious reputation, the systems of white privilege, which many white people are unable to see simply because they know nothing else, will — eventually — be nothing but an ignominious chapter in the history books.

And that’s not just sanguineousness. That’s the arc of history bending towards justice.

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Abdicating My Soapbox but Still Mourning Trayvon

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I’m staying out of the Trayvon Martin thing. I just can’t do it this time. I know that makes me a bad progressive, maybe a bad Christian, certainly a bad social networker, and perhaps even a bad American.

The media tells me I should have been glued to my TV for the past several weeks, cheering when “my side” scored a point, scoffing at the lawyers and witnesses on the “other side.” But I do not have a TV (much to Verizon’s incessant chagrin – I’m missing out on their BUNDLE, don’t I know??).

No, I have not been a proper “media consumer.”

I did not accept my free ticket to the summer circus.

The Facebook Frenzy

So when I got on Facebook yesterday to see what was going on in the land of cute kittens and pretty sunsets and weddings and babies and random photos of food, I was taken aback.

The verdict had been handed down twenty-four hours before; Zimmerman was walking the streets again, and all hell had broken loose!

I felt a moment of panic. I did not have my case prepared! Everyone else seemed to know every detail of the case, they had opinions on the lawyers and the judge and the witnesses and the pre-trial this and that.

No worries, my Facebook friends would tell me what to think. Most of my friends are progressive types, and they were all over the story. Dozens of articles, some searing with sarcasm and seriously funny, some digging up dark moments in civil rights history that many white folk have probably never heard of.

Pictures of hoodies and Martin Luther King, pictures of Martin Luther King IN a hoodie, pleas for civil suits, and petitions for the Justice Department to take action.

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My conservative Facebook friends (the few, the proud, the brave who suffer my rants about global warming, peace, WalMart, and even presidential elections) were all over the gun thing. This had nothing to do with race, they said, it was all about the right to bear arms. Some had moved into compassionate conservatism, feeling badly that George Zimmerman “is going to be spit on, literally and figuratively, for the rest of his life.”

Remarkably, I refrained from commenting, “I hope so.”

This was a turning point for me.

What I Do Not Know

Because you see, I do not know. Am I even allowed to say that, to not have an opinion?

I do not know the facts. I was not there. I was not on the jury. I do not know the defendant or the dead teenager.

I want to think that the jury did their best to put aside their prejudices, preconceptions, and personal politics and to seek the truth. “Reasonable doubt” is always subjective, but what else do we have?

I do not know. That is why I’m abdicating my personal soapbox for the moment.

I often jump to conclusions, often react with knee-jerk assumptions. People I know and trust say this, so it must be so. The wealthy corporation claims this, so it’s probably not true. Past history in America is this, therefore

We all do this. We base our opinions on our past experience, our beliefs, and our context. Nothing wrong with that, up to a point.

But in a court of law, that would be hearsay and circumstantial evidence.

What I Do Know

The circumstances in the Zimmerman/Martin case, as I see them, seem pretty clear. I can understand why people are holding vigils.

George Zimmerman has a history of violence towards cops and women; he has a history of racial hate speech, and he has called the police more than forty times about “suspicious” black people in his neighborhood.

The police told him not to go out there with his gun that night. The National Sheriff’s Association completely disavowed Zimmerman’s action and said his group was not a Neighborhood Watch.

Trayvon Martin smoked pot, I hear.

What Others Know

Many of my African American friends are devastated by the verdict. I am sick on their behalf, on this nation’s behalf.

Even setting aside the Zimmerman case, why are we still like this? Why should my friends have to worry that their teenagers will be shot when they walk out the front door? Like any parents, they talk to their kids about respecting their elders and responding appropriately to authority, but in their case, it can be a life or death conversation.

The FOX News commentators  say this whole mess is because the black people, including our President, keep bringing up all this race stuff. If they would just stop stirring the pot, everything would be fine.

Right. Let’s move on from all this unpleasantness.

My younger friends seem to have been hit upside the head with this verdict. It seems clear to them that Trayvon Martin was stalked and murdered. They thought that things had changed since their grandparent’s day. They know that politics is broken, but had hoped the judicial system was above that.

They have had their eyes opened.

I know the feeling. I remember the gut-kick I received when the Supreme Court said, “Stop counting the votes,” during the Bush v. Gore electoral debacle in — oh yeah . . . Florida.

Stop counting the votes? Isn’t this America? Don’t we count the votes here?

Well, folks, this is America. And shit happens.

 Bending the Arc of History

It’s up to us to keep trying to get it right. We must not give up. We are Americans.

Try to be civil. Try to consider the facts. Even try to examine the other side with an open mind, if you can find someone who is able to state it reasonably. It’s harder and harder these days, on both “sides.”

To my progressive friends, I say work for justice – don’t give up. Try to speak reasonably and don’t set your hair on fire. The arc of history bends towards justice – we must believe this and put all of our collective weight into bending that arc.

To my conservative friends who think that the word “justice” has been co-opted by “liberals” and is really something that God will hand down in the by-and-by, I say read your bible about justice and oppression and pray about it. Shut out the noise and see what God might be saying to you, personally. And pray for peace.

We should all be praying for peace. Real, true peace, not covering-things-over peace.

And we should be talking about morality, not just legality. Because as it turns out, sometimes laws are immoral.

I feel a little guilty for not diving into the blazing house of opinionators this time. But also a little liberated. I’m not informed, and I don’t know how to get informed at this point.

You guys already know how I feel about racism, and if you don’t, please read There’s No Such Thing as Quiet Racism. The disease is alive and noisy in America.

It is possible that Zimmerman is innocent, under a less-than-moral Florida law. It’s just as possible that he’s guilty as sin.

Either way, I hope that there are further investigations.

Because the kid is dead.

OK, maybe I do have an opinion.

Extremism in Defense of the Planet

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“The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. The Nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”

I might have agreed with Dr. King’s statement when I was a teenager during the Vietnam War, but it’s nothing that would have been ascribed to me as an adult.

Martin Luther King leaning on a lectern. Deuts...

Dr. King

Like many people, I have been taught to be wary of extremists. Stick to the center, stray neither to the right nor to the left, and you won’t get yourself in trouble. People won’t respect you if you stray from the comfortable middle. You won’t be listened to.

Unless you are an athlete or an energy drink, you don’t want to be viewed as extreme.

When I worked in environmental messaging and communications on Capitol Hill, we learned that the best way to side-line someone was to label them as an extremist. “Out of step” is a good phrase. Likewise, industry PR reps labeled all environmentalists as extremists — “elitist tree-huggers who want everyone to freeze in the dark.” We tried hard to represent ourselves as mainstream. Just a bunch of soccer Moms over here…what, you think I hug trees or something?? (I do, get over it.)

I’ve noticed that right-wing commentators are even calling the National Rifle Association “extreme” and “out of step” these days. Curiouser and curiouser.

In Praise of Imbalance

Last night in my spiritual book group, we got to talking about whether or not we can really make a difference in the world. Should we focus on our inner growth, become the best humans we can be, and trust that this will make the world a healthier place? Is it better to march in demonstrations and wave signs? Do you have to go to Africa and build an orphanage? Or is it the simpler things that count, like working at a soup kitchen or helping with Habitat for Humanity?

“Balance,” several intoned, followed by much nodding.

This may true for individuals; I’m not sure. But I am sure that balance doesn’t help a society or a world that is badly in need of change. Balance doesn’t lead to change, it maintains the status quo. In order to move from the status quo, you’ve got to have people out on the edges tipping the scales. The type of people who go on hunger strikes, who march in the streets, who refuse to sit in the back of the bus.

The comfortable people in the middle won’t like these troublemakers on the edge; they knock things off kilter. They will label them:

Extremists.

Getting Out of Step

I’m headed for the edge. I’ve changed my mind about extremists — I’m with Dr. King.

Look where “the norm” has gotten us. If enough people don’t get “out of step” pretty damn quickly, our planet is in big trouble. It’s not enough to just vote anymore.

Hand holding a world on fire

The oil and gas industry has more money than God, and they are willing to spend whatever it takes to stop action on climate change. It is up to “we, the people” to make this change.

Even my former employer, the well-respected but slightly stodgy 120-year-old Sierra Club, has just announced that it will engage in civil disobedience because the time is so short and the stakes are so high.

Creative Extremism

I think that when Dr. King talked about “creative extremism,” he might have been talking about the kind of extremist that creates new things, builds towards a new vision, rather than simply deconstructing and criticizing.

It seems we finally have a leader willing to lead towards that kind of vision. In case you missed President Obama’s inaugural speech on Monday, he spent more time talking about climate change than any other issue:

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”

“The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”

THANK GOD!

There’s going to be a huge climate rally in D.C. on February 17th. I’m going to make some signs and go act like an extremist. Will you join me?

Find out more about it here.

You can also make calls to help turn out other extremists — ahem, activists.

And check out this video:

How Do You Measure Success?

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What does success look like to you? Is it a “bitch-goddess” that causes “moral flabbiness,” as philosopher William James once told H.G. Wells? Success is often just another word for wealth, and it’s this “squalid interpretation” that led James to call success “our national disease” over 100 years ago. Certainly Mr. James would declare it a terminal case if he knew the Supreme Court had blessed the notion of corporations being people. Wealth at any cost — is that success?

In Cash We Trust

At least I’m in no danger of achieving that sort of success. Compared to people I’ve met in Central America and Africa, yes, I’m outrageously wealthy. But in the U.S., going from nonprofit environmental work to freelance writing to (potentially) a teaching position pretty much ensures my “failure” in this area.

Dying to be Successful

To some, success means getting other people to do what they want. That might mean voting a certain way – a successful NRA lobbyist. Or buying a certain product – a successful firearms ad campaign. Those outcomes also involve cash, either directly or indirectly. Many firearms dealers give cash to the NRA, and the NRA gives cash to members of Congress to get them to do what they want. “Morally flabby” success, indeed.

What about Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi? In a sense, they got people to do what they wanted – a Civil Rights Act and an India freed from Britain. But they got murdered in the process. I guess that was successful. There’s no “moral flabbiness” in a martyr’s success, but it’s not something I hope to emulate.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civ...

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr., and others, look on. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), political and ...

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
Credit: Wikipedia

Was Jesus successful, also murdered for his beliefs? The story of his resurrection started a major world religion over two billion strong; but that isn’t what he came to do. He came to give individuals the power to change and to be transformed into the free, fully loving, healthy people they were created to be.  I can’t help but wonder how successful that’s looking from a cosmic perspective.

Adam

Transformative Success

I believe this is an ongoing story, that there is hope for all of us. While success is usually associated with outcomes, I’m thinking it has more to do with trusting the process and doing what we are all called to do each day to grow into our best selves.

This unfolding story of spiritual growth and transformation comes closest to my personal definition of success: becoming who I was meant to be, not giving in to the fear of being judged by others, letting go of my need to control outcomes, and reaching for the stars.

I have to believe that there is even hope for the “Christian leaders” who sputter through their TV make-up, judging others, pretending to be what they are not, and using fear tactics to prevent people from reaching their own glorious stars.

Reaching Our Potential

In 2013, I’ll measure success by how much freedom I give myself to become me, neither compelled by others nor trapped by my own crap.

Speaking of which: I enjoyed these ruminations from author Gregg Levoy on getting beyond our crap and reaching our full potential —

“It makes perfect sense that we should be called to go beyond our limits, because the One that calls us is beyond all limits.

I suspect that all the energy we have bound up in resisting our own potential is more energy than we’ll need to reach it. It takes as much energy to fail as it does to succeed.

The strategies are legion:

  • Hiding behind the tasks of discernment. By analyzing a call to death and picking apart all its varying implications and by poring over calculations that would put an actuary into a coma, we lose all the heat from the heart through the head, as if we had been in the bitter cold without a hat.
  • Waiting for the Perfect Moment. Waiting for just the right combination of time, money, energy, education, freedom and the ideal alignment of the planets….
  • Telling ourselves lies. For instance, “I can’t afford it….” [when] the truth was, “I won’t afford it.” I won’t reprioritize my life, won’t make sacrifices….
  • Choosing a path parallel to the one we feel called to. One that’s close enough to keep an eye on it but not so close we’re tempted to jump tracks. We become an art critic rather than an artist, a school teacher rather than a parent, a reporter rather than a novelist.
  • Attempting to replace one calling with another. Because we don’t like it, our parents don’t like it, it doesn’t earn enough money or prestige.
  • Immediately turning a call into a Big Project. Thereby intimidating ourselves into paralysis.
  • Self-sabotage. We feel called to go to art or medical school but are so afraid of finding out we don’t have what it takes that we “forget” to mail the application until after its deadline has passed.
  • Distracting ourselves with other activities. We suddenly become inspired to finish old projects we haven’t thought about in ages.
  • Playing “sour grapes.” We believe we won’t succeed … or will suffer unduly, so we try to convince ourselves we don’t want it anyway.
  • Trying to make ourselves unworthy of a calling. Hoping that God will decide we’re not the person for the job and take it back.

The degree of resistance is probably proportionate to the amount of power waiting to be unleashed and the satisfaction to be experienced once the “no” breaks through to “yes” and the call is followed.”

Source: Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life

Reach for the Stars

What does success mean to you?

What stars are you reaching for?

If you aren’t reaching, what’s holding you back?

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