I was driving to the store tonight to get a few things we needed, and heard about the shooting at the military base in Texas, allegedly perpetrated by an army mental health specialist who's deployment was imminent. I didn't even know where to put all the incongruous pieces of information to fit in my brain. Army psychiatrist/mental health specialist. Suspect. Shooting. 12 dead. Army base. Friendly fire.....
I got to the store, picked up my few items, and was staring at the endless array of wine wondering which would go best with Grey's Anatomy. I struck up a conversation with the man next to me, who appeared to be equally perplexed in making a choice. "You just gotta pick one," he said. "Actually," I replied, "I'm looking for a blend I like." "Oh," he said, "what's it called?" I took a breath and replied, "Menage a Trois." Awkward laughter. "I saw that. It's right over here,"' he said. I thanked him, got my bottle, and self-checked out with my reusable bag.
On the way home, there was a piece on the radio with a montage of voices with opinions about the Afghan War. The Afghan War. The phrase struck me. "Geesh!" I thought. "How did it get to the place where my country is in two wars?"
Listening to the people's words, which varied from "Bring 'em all home" to "Get more troops in there and get the job done," I was struck by how complicated the situation is. Just read Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns. Is it our moral responsibility to help the people of Afghanistan? Probably. Do they want our help? Depends on if they are Taliban or not. I'm sure many Afghans want nothing to do with Americans, and can you blame them? I mean, really? Perhaps they would think it just that one of our own military psychiatrists would kill our own troops. There's simply no easy answer.
Still, I wonder what it would take for us all to have compassion for each other. I believe that there have been horrendous mistakes that no amount of military intervention or community rebuilding will eradicate. Nothing we can do will make it all better. Often, that is the case in life.
Instead of trying to fix things, or giving up, I believe we need compassion. Compassion for those whose lives have been ruined, both in Afghanistan and in our own country. Compassion for those who believe violence is their only refuge, and compassion for those who want peace at any cost. Compassion for the leaders in Afghanistan and the United States and the United Nations and the countries who don't want to be involved.
Most of us don't have access to the powers in charge of the wars--so we need to practice compassion with those close to us. Those local leaders who make decisions we agree with, and those who don't. Those relatives we get along with, and those who drive us just a little bit nuts. Those drivers who let us in, and those who flip us off. Compassion. It's not excusing behavior; it's practicing the quality of what flows out of our hearts, and minds, and mouths into the world.
Anger and bitterness leave nasty tastes behind, like a wine who's blend has soured. Compassion is a smoother blend--understanding, tolerance, and love mixed together in the broadest sense of acceptance. We don't have to love everything that happens, but it will do our souls good to love the souls who share our planet.
I am offended by the yard signs that have popped up in the last few days on the roadside in my neighborhood. Urging people to reject Referendum 71 in our state is one thing, but with "Protect Marriage! Protect Children!" as their tag line? I don't think so.
First of all, the Referendum protects the rights the Washington legislature approved, which are commonly called the "Everything but marriage" provisions. Domestic partnership is what is legal in Washington. This provides protection for not only gay and lesbian couples, but also seniors in committed relationships who choose not to marry.
Protect marriage from what? Those of us heterosexual couples who have the right to marry, since we do such a bang up job of it? Current statistics put the divorce rate at between 45% and 49% of new marriages, depending on the source. And since this law doesn't even have to do with marriage, this is a moot--well, actually, a very misrepresented point.
Protect children from what? Parents in a committed relationship? We need more of that, not less. Being allowed to marry offers no guarantee that a couple will parent well. Child abuse rates attest to that. Simply providing biological material to create a human being unfortunately carries with it no mandatory knowledge, wisdom, or commitment in caring for that being during or after pregnancy.
What kind of protection is provided when a partner is forbidden from visiting a loved one dying in the hospital? Whom does that protect?
The question on the table is who is going to legislate what we believe? Should the state deny rights to people simply because of their sexual orientation or living arrangements? We need to approve Referendum 71 so we can protect people from the real issues on the table: bigotry and hate. I do agree with the opponents on one thing: they are encouraging people to pray for Washington State. Please do. Let's join the folks in DC and elsewhere and Stand on the Side of Love, not hate and fear. Contrary to what many on the dark side would lead you to believe, many Christians and Christian churches stand solidly on the side of equal rights for sexual minorities.
But you don't have to take my word for it. Listen to Stephen Colbert. Our state's fight made his national show last week. Yes people, pray. Pray hard for the people of Washington State.
This video is a performance by Eric Bibb of his song, Spirit I Am. I was introduced to this song this weekend at a Satsong at my favorite yoga studio. I think it brings it all home. We all live the spirit we are, in the bodies we have. Amen.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LTYmFMQ-4A
I had the incredible honor and privilege to be part of a group of faithful, religious communities joined in voice to promote comprehensive sexuality education last week in Washington, DC.
The 6th Annual SEAT (Sexuality Education Advocacy Training) was put on by the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalist Association and the Union for Reform Judaism. I am still processing, interpreting, coveting, and holding dear and discerning best ways to share all that I learned and experienced there.
Aside from the fact that 40 of us came from literally all over the country (Washington State, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Texas, New Mexico, California, Indiana, Delaware, Massachussetts, etc), the experience of joining together as people of faith to be a religious voice to our legislators about a topic so precious to me touches my heart deeply.
Lobbying was, how can I say this? Way cool!!!!! Empowering, inspiring, patriotic....
Being in community with people who are intergenerational (lots of youth and young adults there with us older folks), interfaith, advocates for sexuality education of the comprehensive variety seemed to be a match made especially for me. I love teenagers, I love my faith and learning about the faith of others, I love advocates and advocating, and I love sexuality education. 'Nuf said.
But what I really want to share is a prayer written and read by UUA Reverend Meg Riley at our closing time together. You can go here for her post, and I am also including the text of her prayer below. I hope it touches and inspires you like it did me. And you can take that inspiration into action by contacting your legislators and asking them to support the REAL Act (Responsible Education About Life), which is legislation that would open up a federal funding stream for comprehensive sexuality education. Please also ask that they DEFUND abstinence only education--those funds have already been allocated and must be defunded or they just keep on giving groups money to spread myths like HIV is spread through tears, and condoms failure rates are 30% (go here and here for some really entertaining presentation of some really startling information.
Here's the prayer, with my blessings added to Reverend Meg's, and in conjunction with my faith community in supporting us all to be healthy, included in community with one another, and loved always.
Sweet source of hope and healing, longing and life,
We know our first responsibility is to create a world which supports the growth of our world’s children
A world safe for them to explore, and to learn and grow, without being judged or punished.
A world safe for them to make mistakes, knowing there is nothing they can do to lose our love.
May we provide them with tools to protect themselves and those they love from decisions which hurt—information about the physical, spiritual, emotional aspects of sexuality.
May they know it is safe for them to come to us always, and we won’t make it worse.
We wish that life were simple.
We wish that unwanted pregnancies never occurred,
That no one engaged in any kind of sexual activity without protection and real choice, real response-ability,
That all people were equally valued.
We wish that every person knew his or her own beauty and worth, and thus that of the others with whom she or he interacted.
A child I love dearly, aged ten, was struggling with gender identity.
“Do you ever feel,” I prodded gently, trying to understand, “as if you were born into the wrong body?”
The young one paused for a moment of silence, and responded, “Nope, this is my body all right. I feel like I was born into the wrong world!”
We pray that we can make this wrong world a little bit more right for our children.
May they know and cherish their own bodies as sacred, beautiful, true.
May we create a world which reflects this back to them.
May we demand schools, governments, communities, which honor them
And in so doing, be worthy of this gift of life, this beautiful broken world.
Check this out: The Giving Game. I was so intrigued by this concept that I am dedicated to sharing it far and wide to see how it goes.
Here's the premise: you register on this site, download (free) or purchase "giving cards." You do an act of kindness or generosity for another person, give them the card, and ask them to pass it on. You log your act and the card number on-line. The card is registered on a website, and if everyone enters the card number as they pass it on, the card and acts can be tracked, so you can see your impact as it grows.
I think this is fabulous for many reasons. Here are a few:
I would love to hear from you if you do this. I will be passing out some cards this weekend, so be on the lookout!
This project ends is part of activities centering around "King Day," and ends January 21, so get your cards and get going today!
As the granddaughter of a man who, as a pastor, took on a prominent community member in the 1940's regarding racial discrimination of one of his son's friends at the local Y, and the daughter of another pastor who represented the Chicago Presbytery marching from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, I join the millions of Americans who are thrilled with the election of Barack Obama. I feel relief--like it's OK to be proud to be an American again. And I totally respect any of you who have a different opinion.
Several years ago, there was a retrospective on the life of Hank Aaron. It might have been around the time that another player was breaking his record. He talked about the death threats he received when he was about to hit his record breaking home run. I remember thinking, "Death threats? Really?" And that's when I sat down and wrote my dad and my grandfather letters thanking them for how they had contributed to my world view that I wouldn't have even considered in my growing up years in the 1970's that a black man would receive death threats for breaking a sports record.
I also learned that our own family received death threats when my father agreed to march in that historic march. His story is compelling and way too long for a blog post. He does a lovely presentation about it, and I am so very proud to be his daughter. My mom, sister, and I had to high tail it over to Fort Wayne, Indiana to stay with my (very conservative) grandparents while my dad marched. I can just imagine that homecoming.....But you know, when I watched The Secret Life of Bees last week with my girlfriend, I was in tears because it just wasn't that long ago!
I was fortunate enough to have adults in my life who encouraged and modeled tolerance, compassion, and a broad view of the world. I know that we all look at the world through the frames we are given and make, and I respect that. So, if you disagree, that's really OK with me. But I'm on Oprah's bandwagon--HOPE WON! Even more than Barack Obama receiving more votes than John McCain, Hope won. People were dancing in the streets, and I'm wondering if I should really tell my 18-year-old that doesn't happen after every election, because maybe it will start now.
As God would have it, I am scheduled to go on retreat this weekend. A yearly ritual, this yoga retreat renews my body and spirit and quiets my mind. I am very much looking forward to removing myself from phones and TVs and email and daily routine and paying a lot more attention to my breathing for a few days. I hope to solidify and sanctify the hope that is within me and to buoy up for the long road ahead.
I am so very proud that the country I love showed her true colors on Tuesday and used the precious right to vote to move us forward and to forge into new territory. God bless us everyone.
#5) She's a classic. Cinderella has been around my entire life, unlike some of the more modern Disney princesses. Even though I can credit Disney for expanding their traditional definition of "princess" by dealing with issues such as youth separating from closed-minded parents and falling in love with someone of different heritage (Little Mermaid--OK, it's a stretch, but still) and women's rights (Mulan), I still say there's something special and timeless about a classic princess.
Lesson learned for modern life: Remember those who came before you and sacrificed so you can have the rights you have now.
#4) She overcame much adversity. While other princesses share this trait, Cinderella had multiple doses--losing a mother, and a father, having relatives who used and abused her, poverty in the midst of plenty. Though the hand life dealt her was not kind, she remained kind.
Lesson learned for modern life: Life isn't fair. We all have to deal with adversity of some kind, and it's our choice how we let it effect our attitude and our interactions with others.
#3) She was ahead of her time. Cinderella was not only kind to other people, but (I'm talking Disney version here), she was also known for her love and kindness to animals. I'm pretty sure she must have been a vegetarian. How popular was that centuries ago? Today, she'd be in the forefront of the green movement, I'm sure.
Lesson learned for modern life: Don't get caught up in your own misery to the extent that you forget about others. Remember, we're all in this together, and we all share the same planet.
#2) The Fairy Godmother. Cinderella's Fairy Godmother is my favorite. She's portrayed in different ways in different versions of the story, but always is full of unconditional love for Cinderella and is charged with helping her see her inner princess in the midst of a moment of despair.
Lesson learned for modern life: Most of us have Fairy Godparents, whether we realize it or not. The trick is noticing. Who is it that has believed in you when the chips were down? Who has helped you channel your inner prince or princess? Give them some credit. Better yet, be a Fairy Godparent to someone else with your belief in them. After all, "impossible things are happening every day."
#1) The glass slipper and the blue dress. Totally unique. No animals were harmed in the making of those slippers, I dare say. And if the shoe fits....(I had to get that in there). Plus, the blue dress is a total bonus in my opinion. All the other princesses wear pink or white or yellow, but not Cinderella. Nosiree, she's got a beautiful blue dress. Gotta love that.
Lesson learned for modern life: Don't waste time in colors or shoes that don't fit. Be yourself.
Today marks the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. When I was thinking about what to write today, I realized I wanted to address white privilege. I hope I can do this topic justice.
This is not a popular topic among those of us who represent the dominant culture of our nation. Many people become defensive and polarized when the subject is brought up. I have been misunderstood, yelled at (at a church camp, no less), criticized and written off as a liberal idealist by fellow Caucasian Americans for some of my views on this topic. While I understand that it is probably true that none of us personally have intentionally caused the enslavement of an African American person or worked for genocide of the Native American culture, and that many of us work diligently to help those less fortunate than ourselves, I respectfully submit that that is not the point. Let me explain what I mean.
We live in a time when great gains have been made in our nation regarding civil rights. Yet, we also live in a time when white people have resentment about the privileges accorded to minorities, and many minorities still experience racism of some kind on a nearly daily basis. This is not politically correct to discuss, so many of these conversations take place in private, and in the safety of like-minded friends and family. I think we need to discuss it and keep discussing it openly, if we are ever to continue making gains.
Barack Obama is considered black because he has physical features and a skin tone that indicate his African heritage. I heard a man on the radio the other day who has similar heritage, but who "looks white" and is therefor privy to hear comments about black Americans that he would otherwise not have heard. There was proposed legislation in our state a few years ago to allow gambling off of tribal lands. The slogan was, "Just treat us the same." I remain flabbergasted at the audacity of a white public figure to use a slogan suggesting the government treat the dominant culture in the same way it has treated Native Americans over centuries, and at the ignorance and arrogance that went into creating that slogan. Native culture is full of people who struggle to regain its languages and traditional practices and pass them on to a generation that has difficulty caring after all the generational injustice. And then there's a man I recently met who is of Mexican heritage, who was out working in his yard one day and approached by a neighbor looking for a gardener to do her yard work, thinking he must be the lawn service employee for his own home.
We (and I include myself because I am constantly learning, understanding, growing, and revising my outlook and frame of reference around this topic) often don't mean to be racist or offensive with our language, our ideas, our jokes, our policies. But depending on which side of the issue you are looking at it from, it can look innocent or extremely racist. It reminds me of the story of the blind men who are each trying to decide what something is. They go up to feel it one at a time. One says it's a tree trunk, one says it's a snake, one says it's a vine for swinging on, one says it's a wall. Turns out it's an elephant, and they are all right in what they were perceiving; they just didn't have the whole picture.
I believe that we are at a point now in our history where the next step is to be able to hold seemingly opposing views together in our minds, hands and hearts. Until those of us in the dominant culture can come to terms with the fact that, like it or not, we are part of the oppressive culture in our society, things won't change as fast and deeply as they could. Even if I personally do not go around figuring out who I am going to oppress each day, my heritage as a white person in America is part of the culture of oppression just as much as the heritage of an African American is likely to be that of slavery; the heritage of a Jewish person is likely to be that of the Holocaust; the heritage of a Native American is likely to include genocide and boarding schools. I need to understand and embrace that my culture perpetuated those atrocities, either by owning slaves, waiting to go to war, or thinking we were somehow better than the people who had been here for hundreds of years before we arrived. I'm not talking about feeling guilty or shameful or embarrassed. I'm simply saying I need to understand that it's a part of my history, so I can move on and be effective in changing the future. If all of us remain defensive and "right" about ourselves and our views of the past and present, then we will stay right where we are. And personally, I believe we have room to grow.
I know I cannot possibly explain clearly and thoroughly all that I mean and believe in one blog post, so I encourage you to comment and keep the conversation going. In addition, I highly recommend the following article by Peggy McIntosh: White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack
In honor of today, I will share that I, too, have a dream--a dream that we can move beyond the past and look toward the future; a dream that we can use our diverse and beautiful strengths to come together and continue toward the dream that Dr. King expressed nearly 50 years ago-- that "With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day." A dream that echoes Barack Obama's words that, "But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union." And a dream that we can embrace the philosophy of the serenity prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.