Tuesday, November 29, 2016

What Do We Do Now?

These are dark times in the USA. Donald Trump has been elected president, despite the fact that Hilary Clinton garnered over 2 million more votes (thanks Electoral College!) In the wake of his election, hate crimes - most explicitly done in his name - have skyrocketed. They are occurring everywhere, even here in Spokane, where I live. Trump has appointed a man, Steve Bannon, whose media empire is the “voice of the alt-right” (his own words) and his nominee for Attorney General was once deemed “too racist” to serve as a judge. Muslims, people of color, the LGBTQI community, all are living in fear for their safety, their civil rights, their very lives. Trump has hinted to the journalism community that he wants to be portrayed positively, and for them to not report on the negative side of his presidency. This is how fascism begins. I truly fear for my country, for my neighbors, for my friends, for the world. 

In light of all this, what is a person to do? It’s easy to look at it all and feel overwhelmed by the darkness. But we are not helpless. We are not alone. There are millions of people who oppose Trump and his racist, bigoted ways. We can definitely make a difference, and it can be quite simple.

First of all, do not remain silent in the face of hate crimes. This kind of stuff cannot ever be considered normal for our society. Prior to Trump, these people hid under the bushes, rightly ashamed of their thoughts and actions. For them, they see his election as giving them the stamp of approval and empowering them to act on their heinous views. We must always - ALWAYS - speak out against such acts. Silence implies consent. Speak out!

We must oppose any government attempt to restrict or diminish the civil rights of our fellow citizens. Registering Muslims, deporting or rounding them up must be vigorously opposed at every step. We cannot make the same mistake we did during WWII, when millions of Japanese Americans lost their homes and businesses as they were arrested and incarcerated in internment camps. The government will try to couch these actions in patriotic terms: “For the good of the nation” or “For our national security.” But these are just attempts to sweeten what is a heinous and very un-American act. We cannot fall for such lies.

We must oppose any government attempt to deny entry to any immigrant based solely on their religion. The Syrian refugees are fleeing a hell-hole of a war zone. They are not Islamic terrorists. The US already has one of the strictest vetting policy for immigrants. It has kept us safe so far, and will continue to do so. But America was built on the very idea of opening her arms to refugees and immigrants. Our Statue of Liberty proclaims this in no uncertain terms, and our history shows this to be true. Unless you are a member of a Native American tribe, you are here because your ancestors immigrated to this country, perhaps by force, but they immigrated here, nonetheless. All that we have accomplished as a nation was accomplished by immigrants and refugees. To close our borders is to deny who we are as a nation - to deny the very principles upon which this nation was founded.

Most importantly, we must act to counter the tenor of hate and fear that has been unleashed and fed by Trump’s campaign and election. It is so easy to see the hatred in other people and to react with more hatred and revulsion. But as Martin Luther King, Jr famously said, “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” And Jesus Christ taught us to love our enemies and to turn the other cheek. So, if we are to conquer the hatred we must respond only with love. We must seek to understand why someone is acting out in hate. Most often, their hatred is based on some kind of fear, and that fear is almost always unfounded, though they don’t see it that way. But if we can understand the fear that is driving the hate, we can see them as our brothers and sisters, and not the enemy. For as surely as we think of them as “them”, as something “other”, then we will have failed to respond in love.

I want to live in such a way that peace and love are not just motivating factors, but are the bedrock, the foundation of who I am as a person. I want to live a life full of grace - grace received by God, grace given unto myself, and grace given to those I meet. I want my life to be a mirror to the mystery of the relationship of the Trinity, played out in my relationship with other humans. The three “persons” of the Trinity are in an eternal dance of interdependence. When I can live in such a way that I know and feel my interconnectedness with everyone else, then there is no “other” - there is only “us.” In this way, I recognize the brokenness of those who are currently expressing hatred and bigotry, and therefore do not seek to overpower them, but to come alongside them, and help them find their interconnectedness to others. When we truly understand that we are all connected, and that what hurts you also hurts me, then we act in such a way to ensure that all people are valuable, all people are worthy, all people deserve our protection and our love.

How do we do this in every day life? For me, it is the daily interactions with people I meet - the clerks in the grocery store, the people at the post office, those that I am in line with somewhere. In the past, as an introvert, i would pretty much ignore these people. The interactions with clerks never involved eye contact, never involved conversation other than the most minimal required by social convention. Now, as hard as it is for me because it is not my natural tendency, I look these people in the eye. I respond enthusiastically with any greeting. I look for something to compliment them on - their hair, their jewelry, a tattoo - some way to make a human connection, and to make them feel good about themselves. I could be the one who gives them a compliment all day long. I’m not doing anything “phony” - this is actually being quite real, acknowledging our interconnectedness and our interdependence. It doesn’t get more real than connecting with another human being. 

And it doesn’t have to stop there, with simple conversation. Pay for the order in the car behind you next time you go through the drive-through for coffee or fast food. Pay for someone’s dinner at a restaurant. Buy a take-out lunch and give it to that pan-handler on the street corner. Or buy them a cup of coffee on a cold day. Give them a pair of socks, or gloves. I guarantee that those small things will completely change the day for that person - and change your day, too. When we give to others, we also receive something - we receive a changed heart, a heart that is not so alone and isolated. We rediscover our interconnectedness. This is the very core of what it means to live fully human, fully aware.

Each small act of love - for that is what this is - acts as a counter to the violence and hatred in the world. Imagine the change in our country if every one of us went out of our way to put a smile on a stranger’s face. If only HALF of us did this, it would be amazing! These are small things that can have a great impact. Not only does the recipient feel blessed, not only do you feel better, but you feel less helpless in the face of the hatred and violence sweeping our country. This is something tangible you can do to counter all the negativity.

But you don’t have to stop there, either! You can make a donation to the organizations that are standing against racism and bigotry, such as the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center. You could donate to a local homeless shelter, or the YWCA. You could donate to a myriad of programs supporting the current protests and Standing Rock. You could sponsor a child with Compassion International. You could donate to your local center for LGBTQI youth. You could donate to World Relief or other organizations helping refugees and immigrants.

And, then, if you really want to go all out in “being the change you want to see in the world,” you can volunteer. Volunteer at your local school or library or community center. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Volunteer at the YWCA, or a woman’s shelter, or a food bank. Volunteer with an organization that helps refugees. I would particularly like to encourage you to volunteer somewhere out of your comfort zone. Volunteer with a group that helps people with whom you normally have no contact. Expose yourself to people of different economic strata, or of a different culture or background. The more we can see that all people are the same underneath, the less likely we will be to fear or hate them.

To help you find an organization to donate to or volunteer with, here are a couple of lists.

For people who live in or near Spokane, WA:

National/International organizations and charities:

If each of us donated just $25 dollars to a couple of these organizations, think of the positive results! If only one in ten of us volunteered somewhere, think of the impact! And if we ALL were simply to be kind to others, to go out of our way to brighten someone’s day, just think how our communities would change! This is what will make America great again - an America that cares about every single person. Won’t you join me?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Stranger in a Strange Land

I feel like a stranger in my own country. Racist and misogynistic hate crimes are proliferating throughout the US, in the wake of Donald Trump’s election to President. The KKK and American Nazi party are celebrating, because they feel that they now have a friend in the White House. And Trump just appointed a white supremacist to be his chief of staff, so they are probably right. Not only that, but his other appointees are calling for a new House Un-American Activities Committee, just as during the McCarthy era, and Trump has declared that he plans to “round up” all undocumented immigrants and incarcerate them, and he plans to force all Muslims to register with the government, both of which sound suspiciously like what Hitler did to the Jews. It was for the “good of the nation” Hitler told his citizens, just as Trump is telling us.

How can this be happening? Did no one pay attention during history class in high school? I feel like the British must have felt during the Nazi bombings - under siege in my own country. But it’s not some external enemy that is attacking us, but it is our own government. The GOP now control both the White House and Congress, and their plans are going to set our country back by decades: rescind the Affordable Care Act, dismantle or severely cripple Social Security and Medicare, remove environmental protections and limits on drilling and mining, stop investing in alternative/sustainable energy sources, remove civil rights from the LGBTQI community, etc. Just as we were on the brink of becoming a better nation, with guaranteed health benefits like the rest of the civilized world and civil rights for all, we are now faced with at least 4 years of destruction.

And I feel so helpless. My gay friends are in fear of losing their marriages, and in fear of their very lives. My female Muslim friends are afraid to wear the hijab in public, and also fear for their lives and the lives of their children. My Black friends are also in fear for their lives. I am in fear of losing my Social Security Disability benefits, as are other disabled people I know. Other friends are now going to be unable to retire, because they will need to keep working in order to afford health care. How does any of this make America “great” again??

I used to believe that the majority of Americans were good, decent people, and that there were just a few “crazies” out there who hated minorities. I now fear that the “crazies” are in the majority. At the very least, the good and decent people who voted for Trump were willing to excuse his racism and bigotry in favor of his economic plans or his (supposed) pro-life stance. They basically looked at a bigot and said, “Well, that’s ok - he’s going to fix the economy.” And that may even be worse than the overt racism of the KKK. This is a racism that says economic plans are of more importance than human rights. And that is truly terrifying, because now these people will go along with whatever Trump does, because they’ve already decided they can ignore his racism and bigotry. So they will keep on ignoring it. Meanwhile, Trump is leading our country down the very same path that Hitler did in pre-war Germany.

No, I no longer recognize my America. And I no longer feel safe in this new America.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Silence is Deafening

It is now the Sunday following the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency. There are continued reports of wave after wave of hate crimes being committed, all over the country - explicitly being committed in Trump’s name. (See my earlier post for a short list.) Since the KKK and the American Nazi Party, as well as many other white supremacist/alt-right groups, endorsed and supported Trump for president, can anyone be surprised? Many well-meaning people said of Trump’s bigoted speech during his campaign, “He doesn’t really mean that. He’s not really a bigot.” Well, these hate groups certainly took him at his word, and now feel free to act out their hatred. Yes, their hatred existed before Trump was elected, but now they feel empowered to act on that hate. And Trump and his supporters are silent in the face of these hate crimes.

To all those people who said, “I’m not a racist, I’m voting for Trump because of his economic plans” or “I’m not a racist, I’m voting for Trump because he’s pro-life” - why are you not outraged at the hatred being perpetrated in your candidate’s name? If you’re not really racist, why are you silently sitting by while gay/trans people, Jews, Muslims, Blacks, and Latinos are being attacked - in Trump’s name? Why are you not speaking out? Why are you not holding your candidate to his and your (supposedly) non-racist beliefs?

Dr. James Dobson - during the campaign, you claimed that Trump’s heart is “soft toward the Lord” and that Trump was “God’s man” to lead our country. Is this silence in the face of hatred indicative of a man who serves Jesus Christ? Wouldn’t a Christian be appalled that people are committing acts of hatred and violence in his name, and speak out to stop it? Wouldn’t a real leader speak out? And you, Mr. Dobson, why are you silent? You claim to serve Jesus. Why are you not, at the very least, advising Mr. Trump to speak out against this hatred? More importantly, why are YOU not speaking out against this hatred? 

And, Mr. Franklin Graham, I am asking the same things of you.

Because not one of these people - Trump, Dobson, Graham, his “non-racist” supporters - is saying anything about these hate crimes, I can only come to one conclusion: they are ok with what is happening.  Oh, they may not BE racist (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) but they’re ok with swastikas and Trump’s name being spray-painted on Jewish homes and businesses. They’re ok with Muslim women getting their hijab torn off. They’re ok with LGBTQI people getting beat up and their homes and cars vandalized. Their ok with men grabbing women’s crotches in public  and yelling, “You can’t do anything to me, b*tch! TRUMP!! TRUMP!!” 

No, I’m hearing nothing but silence. And that silence speaks volumes. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Trump's America

It is Thursday, November 10, 2016 - two days after the US election, which Donald Trump won (though not by popular vote.) In that time, the number of hate crimes has exploded across the country:

I could list dozens and dozens of more stories - Muslim women getting their hijab torn off, patrons at a gay bar being told “Your days are numbered, f*ggots!” White high school students in Philadelphia holding a Trump poster and yelling “White power! N*ggers go back to Africa” and on and on and on.

Now, the people perpetrating these crimes existed before Trump was elected. The hate in their hearts was there. But they knew that hate was wrong, or at least looked down on by the rest of society, so they didn’t act on that hate. But today, with Trump elected president, they feel emboldened, empowered to act on that hate. Why? Because the highest office in the land is about to be filled by a bigot. By a man who refused to denounce the KKK when they endorsed him. A man who literally encouraged people at his rallies to beat black protesters. His election has legitimized their hate and spurred them to act on that hate, because they feel that now “their time has come.”

And I am laying the blame at the feet of every person who voted for Donald Trump. Even if that person says they’re not racist, says they're not bigoted, that they only voted for him because of pro-life, or his economic policies, or whatever. That is no excuse. You voted for a man you knew was a bigot, by his words and his deeds. You knew he was endorsed by the KKK and the American Nazi Party and you decided, “That’s ok, because he really isn’t a racist. He just says stuff to be outrageous.” Oh really? Well, the KKK and the Nazis sure took him at his word! And if you voted for him and didn’t see this coming then you WILLFULLY put your head in the sand, ignoring the evidence of his bigotry. You said to yourself, “MY desire for Trump’s economic policies is more important than the lives and safety of Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, and LGBTQI people.” You literally put people’s lives in danger because of your vote, whatever the reason you voted for him.

I am sickened by the hate, by the sheer animal nature of these actions. And I’m sickened that (some) well-meaning people made the expression of this hate possible by voting for Trump. The fact that 80% of white Evangelicals voted for this man turns my stomach! What part of “Love your neighbor as yourself. Love your enemy.” don’t they understand??? I am sick, sad, dismayed, and angry. I’m angry that many white voters put their own agenda ahead of that of the very lives of the marginalized among us. The blood of innocents is being shed, and that blood is on the hands of every single person who voted for Donald Trump. I hope you like what you see. #TrumpsAmerica

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Election 2016 - The Aftermath

It’s the day after the election, and my spirit is crushed. As I watched the results last night, first in disbelief but still hoping, then in complete horror, I couldn’t wrap my head around a country that elected a reality TV star who is a bully, a bigot, a xenophobe, a homophobe, an Islamophobe, and a sexual predator to be our next president. A man whose scorecard on Politifact had more lies than all the other candidates combined. A man whose grasp of foreign policy is on par with a 4th grader. A man who is in the pocket of a Russian dictator. A man who doesn’t see why we can’t just nuke our enemies.

I know that a lot of people voted for him because he claims to be pro-life (as in anti-abortion.) That remains to be seen, but regardless of his actions in this area, if you voted for Trump - for whatever reason - you voted in favor of racism, in favor of sexism, in favor of religious hatred. You can’t compartmentalize your support. Your vote elected a man who wants to, at the very minimum, force all Muslim CITIZENS to register with the government, and who may very well round them up and incarcerate them as we did to the Japanese during WWII - or even deport them! Your vote elected a man whose vice president signed a law that would make it a crime for homosexuals to even apply for a marriage license, and who believes homosexuality can be “cured” by electro-shock therapy. You voted for gay and trans kids to once again be bullied and abused and reviled. You voted to enable the KKK and American Nazi party to be legitimized and spurred to action, knowing the government will look away as they burn black churches and beat and kill people of color. You voted to take away the marriages of my gay friends. You voted for people who, on election night, chanted, “We hate Muslims, we hate blacks, we are taking our country back.” You voted for pollution, because Trump wants to enable all pipelines and ALL drilling and mining (including in our National Parks.) You voted to deny medical care to millions of people. You can’t say, “I’m not in favor of those things!” because whether you like it or not, your candidate and his supporters ARE. And you enabled all of it. 

I am so angry right now, that I can’t even comprehend how to move forward. I know that we will have to come together and fight for what is right, and even reach out to Trump supporters to understand what drives them. But right now I can’t. I am so angry at those who voted for Trump, because they have unleashed a monster. Because the GOP also controls Congress, there will be no “checks and balances” on Trump. He can run roughshod over the Constitution and get away with it.

I’m terrified. Terrified for my black friends, my Latino friends, my Muslim friends, my gay friends, my sick and disabled friends. I’m terrified for myself, as a person with disabilities. 

And I’m dismayed. Dismayed that so many people - some of whom I called friends - chose to elect a hateful, bigoted sex predator because he was the “lesser” evil. I have unfriended people on Facebook, finally, because seeing their posts made me sick, knowing that they don’t care about my gay friends, my black friends, my Muslim friends, my Latino friends. This is not a political difference - this is a fundamental moral and ethical divide. How can I call someone a friend who wants to deny the civil rights of my other friends? Because - let me make this clear again - a vote for Trump was a vote for all those things: bigotry, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia. 

As a Christian, I know I should have hope, that I should trust that “God is in control.” But right now I’m struggling even with that. I’m too angry and hurt and dismayed to hope. I fear for our nation and the world. God help us all.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Election 2016

It’s November 7, 2016 - one day before the US elections. And I am fighting tears. My heart breaks for our country, for people so blinded by ideology that they are supporting a self-confessed sexual predator.  This man, who constantly demeans and belittles women, who brags about grabbing them “by the pussy,” who judges women by the size of their breasts, is the presidential candidate for the Republican Party - the party that defines itself as the party of “family values.” But this man not only demeans women, he has cheated on his wives (and bragged about it) and has been married three times.

This man has also publicly mocked a person with disabilities: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PX9reO3QnUA

He wants to institute a program requiring all Muslim American citizens to register with the government. Does no one see the parallel with Hitler and the Jews? Or the heinous part of our own past when we rounded up and incarcerated Japanese-American citizens during WWII? Can you imagine the outrage if he had suggested requiring Christians to register? If you think it would be wrong to do that to Christians, then it’s wrong to do so for Muslims - or any other religious group. He wants to require this registration because he thinks all Muslims are terrorists, or at least support terrorism. Does he not know that it was the Muslim community that alerted the FBI to the Pusle Club shooter (whom they decided not to track further)? Does he not know it was a Muslim who led to the capture of the NYC bomber?

He wants to build a wall to keep out Mexicans, whom he describes as rapists and murderers. Does he not know that there are actually more people returning to Mexico than entering the US?

He wants to revoke marriage equality for homosexuals.

He thinks MORE countries should have nuclear weapons.

He doesn’t see why we don’t just use nuclear weapons on our enemies.

He wants to INCREASE the torture of suspected terrorists.

He wants to KILL the innocent families of terrorists.

He mocked the parents of a US soldier who died serving his country.

He is endorsed by the KKK and the American Nazi Party.

He is endorsed by the leaders of the Alt-Right (white supremacist) movement.

His supporters regularly use the N-word, and yell “Hang the bitch!” in reference to Hillary Clinton. (Video here and here.)

He has encouraged his supporters to intimidate voters at the polls.

He slyly hinted that his gun-loving supporters should “take care of” Hillary Clinton.

The only world leaders who endorse him are Vladimir Putin, Russia’s dictator, and North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-Un. All of the living US presidents (including the Bushes) have come out in favor of Clinton. Many prominent Republican leaders (including Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell) have come out publicly in support of Clinton.

Numerous women have publicly come forward accusing him of sexual assault. In December, he is facing a trial for CHILD RAPE.

I could go on and on and on, with examples of his completely outrageous behavior and words. Not to mention his pathetic lack of self-control, and his ignorance regarding foreign policy. 

Any ONE of the previous items should make any reasonable person disqualify Trump as a presidential candidate. The fact that people are willing to overlook these disturbing and damning FACTS just completely boggles my mind. I truly do not understand how anyone thinks that a presidential candidate who brags about grabbing women by the “pussy” is ok!! NONE of this stuff is OK!! How can you just sweep it all under the rug??

Look, I get that Hillary Clinton is a flawed candidate. She wasn’t my first choice. But in comparing her faults (and Benghazi and emails are not counted against here because SHE HAS BEEN EXONERATED EVERY SINGLE TIME SHE WAS INVESTIGATED) with Trump’s faults, there is no comparison. Trump is a bigoted, homophobic, Islamophobic, misogynistic, xenophobic narcissist. Hilary is just a politician, with the usual baggage. The fact that there is even any debate about the qualifications (or disqualifications) of these candidates is ridiculous!! The KKK and the American Nazi Party??? Really? REALLY? You’re ok with that? You’re ok with that whole list of disqualifications, above? Then I really have no idea how you sleep at night, how you tell yourself you care about people. Seriously, I beg you - take a LONG, HARD look at that list, and look in your heart, and vote against hate. Vote against fear.