Category Archives: progressive politics

Absolutes Suck

Okay people, I’m about to go on a rant. As a feminist I would like to introduce you to the concept that two seemingly opposing ideas can both be true or right or correct.  Take a breath. I know it’s difficult to give into the idea that you are not absolutely right.

I want to add to that that one can be passionate about what they believe to be ‘right’ and still hold room for other views. For example: straws. I am part of the ‘let’s do away with them’ club. They multiply. They infest our landfills and more importantly, our oceans. They threaten  and kill wildlife. Straws are a bane to our society and we should make way for alternatives. So yay, Starbucks!!!

I refuse straws when eating out and if they bring me one already in my drink (because I didn’t anticipate it- learning curve!) I bring it home and cut it into small pieces. I have my own straw. It is a pyrex straw that I clean every day. It is one of the small acts I do to make a small difference, to begin the change. And though I no longer buy canned drinks with plastic rings, but when I did, I made sure to cut them up so they would not choke dolphins or constrain turtles.

Everyone should stop using straws! Now! the future of the earth depends on it!

… Well, except… there are people with disabilities who clearly NEED straws to survive. That is if we consider the ability to eat and drink survival. Which I do. So is there room in my passion and my ‘rightness’ for understanding that my ‘universal’ has exceptions? I really hope so. Because I have friends with disabilities for whom I would also make a stand for their continued ability to use straws.

Is this really so hard? Can two things that seem to be contraindicated both be true? If  you can’t answer ‘yes’ to that question, you may need to look more closely at your belief system. My hunch is that if you don’t  it will tie you up into bitter knots.

And here’s my final shot at ‘absolutes’. They keep us from being reasonable, compassionate people. Whether we are talking about legal absolutes, moral absolutes, political absolutes, or theological absolutes.
What I get when I hear someone propounding an absolute is that I am in danger.

Remember the Revolution!

This 4th of July many of us may be wondering what it is we are celebrating. Here are some things to remember when we kick back with a plate of ribs and a bottle of beer:

  • There is a difference between nationalism and patriotism. I will never stop loving the radical principles upon which we are founded. For all our many flaws, the idea of the rule of law and our ever-expanding understanding of who is included in the call to liberty and equality remain a beacon as we move toward the future.
  • We can be better than this. We have faced our demons before. We can do it again. May we never stop for there have always been demons in human history.
  • The clarion call to a continued and new revolution has been sounded. It is sounded in every generation and it is once again for the current generation to resist authoritarianism, autocracy, and fascism. A tall order, but one we cannot refuse.

So this 4th, after the cook-out, after the fireworks, after the bands march down Main Street playing John Philip Sousa, RISE UP.  Be ready to do the seemingly small tasks. Speak up. Stand up. Call. Write. March. VOTE. Organize. Be involved. The revolution we celebrate cannot, must not,  die with us. If it does it will be to our great shame.

It is easy, if we are too cushioned in our privilege, to ignore the urgency each day brings to people of color, immigrants, women, children, elders, queers of all stripes, the poor, and the disenfranchised. We have ancestors that supported the British and we have neighbors and family that support the current administration. It is time to choose the side of history on which you stand.

So this 4th celebrate the revolution that began this nation and celebrate that we are joined together, standing against unbelievable odds, in this revolution. Don’t give up. We’ve done it before. We can do it again.

HAPPY 4TH!!!

The Red Hen: Civility and Resistance in the Age of Trump

Here are my desires:
that we are able to come together as a nation,
that we share our founding values of justice, freedom, and the rule of law.
that we find a way to civilly debate our differences.

It is also my hope (unrealized) that we agree on a few basic premises. Like the ideas that racism, sexism, and homophobia are evil, that people of differing abilities are of equal value, that immigrants are the building blocks and backbone of our nation, and that our government exists to protect the weakest of those among us and provide for our mutual welfare.

My desires are unmet and my hopes seem almost inconceivable at this juncture in our history. Not that it hasn’t always been a struggle for us but somewhere enough of us have clung to the idea that, while our approaches are different, we are essentially on the same team. Today, it is clear that lines have been drawn to such an extent that it is assumed that some, if not most, of us will be losers.

We argue about human decency while faced with the ignominy of a wannabe dictator who incites hatred and violence against brown people, black people, yellow people, red people, poor white people, women, and queers of all sorts. Part of us knows that maintaining civility is urgently important to the state of the union. Another part knows that evil unresisted multiplies.

So what are good and decent decisions we need to make about the how of our political discourse? I’d like to suggest there is no one right way and that each way has its shortcomings.

Take the Red Hen Restaurant in Lexington, VA. A plethora of talking heads have taken sides. They shouldn’t have refused service to Sarah Huckabee. It was an overreach. Against our values as a nation. And yes, it is true that it is not an expression of one of our values – but it is an expression of other values. Namely that we will not participate in that which demeans another. It is called civil disobedience and Sarah Huckabee, as a representative of this regime, having fashioned herself as a symbol of Trump policies and values, is fair game.

This is an unusual time and our ideals and morals are called into question every day that Donald Trump and his cronies remain in power. How are we supposed to participate in public discourse when no one seems to be listening to one another? And then let’s raise the question, “What is a Christian response?”  Some answer that it is building bridges. Some believe it is staying open to those with opposing views. To, as Paul of the New Testament says, heap burning coals of love on their heads.

Others answer with a refusal to participate in or validate a system of hatred and oppression. Dietrich Bonhoffer, a Lutheran pastor,  wrestled with the same issues during the reign of Nazism in Germany and ended up actively working for the resistance – even being  privy to attempts to assassinate Hitler. His writings from the time remind us that  “Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.”

I have come to believe that any way we resist the present culture and the forces of intolerance and hatred is the right way. What is right for me may not be right for you. The more important question is:  what is right for each of us? Figure out how you are going to exercise your freedom to speak and act and stand against the devolution of us while we still have those freedoms.

Are you ready to speak? Are you ready to act? Are you willing to resist and to support others who resist this horror show? Can it be okay what we are not perfect at it? Can it be more important that we take responsibility for what is going on in the choices we do make? Can we support one another’s efforts as we challenge something none of us have been up against to this degree before?

The theologian, Martin Luther, would encourage us to “sin boldly” – that is, to do the best we can and then be bold about it.  I support the Red Hen Restaurant because they did not insist that their workers participate in their own oppression. I am glad they did it civilly.
I am glad they acted at all.
Their actions call us to action.
May we all step up and take responsibility for what is happening.
One imperfect act at a time.

 

What Fresh Hell

I

What fresh hell is this that we have entered into as a nation? No one can be neutral now. No wait and see. No thinking that we are insulated from the atrocities our government is committing.

Is this the legacy we want to leave the world? No longer a ‘shining city on a hill’ we have become our worst nightmare. Do not be lulled into complacency. Only pray that there remains some chance that we will be able to retrieve what we have lost.

Add my name to the thousands and millions who believed we, as a nation, were immune to  authoritarianism and fascism or that our institutions could be infected and destroyed from within. We are not immune. And we have entered a fresh hell like none we have encountered before. I am reminded of this famous statement:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”   

                              -the Rev. Marin Niemöller, referring to the rise of Nazism in Germany. Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

These children, mothers, families detained  by ICE are our Socialists. Our queers. Our trade unionists, our Jews.  If we were to rewrite this for our time it would begin: First they came for the immigrants…
But please, please, do not let what follows be “but I didn’t not speak out because I am not an immigrant”.

Stand now.
Speak now.
Write now.
Call now.
VOTE NOW.
Add your voice to the thousands who speak for these children and their parents. Who speak for people of color throughout this nation. Who speak up and out for women. Who demand that our rule of law remain in tack. Who refuse to bend to the dissolution of all we hold dear.
It is as bad as we think it is and most likely, even worse than we can imagine.

 

 

 

Naming the Evil of Donald Trump

I saw Hamilton the other night (it was fabulous!- from the cast to the lighting, the music to the musicians- but I digress) and I remembered something it took me a long time to learn: our heroes have clay feet.
No one is perfect. Everyone I have ever looked up to has been flawed.
Yet somehow we demand perfection from our leaders, certainly those in politics or religion. A not-so-secret part of me  demanded it of myself as a pastor. But perfection is not possible, or even reasonable. Who we strive to be and who we are sometimes diverge. Sometimes by intent and sometimes, because we are just plain flawed.

Until now  we have held our politicians (and religious leaders) to unreasonable standards. I am not saying this to give people a pass but to suggest that there is a difference between making mistakes (we all do) or having blind spots (also true of us all) but to say the hope is that we are able to learn from our mistakes and acknowledge it when our blind spots are revealed.

The term “feet of clay” is understood to mean a weakness or hidden flaw in the character of a greatly admired or respected person. We are disappointed when someone we admire falls off the proverbial pedestal, when a flaw or weakness is revealed. Like when we grow up and find out  that the founding brothers of our nation were less than perfect. That’s one thing. It is different from downright evil.

Donald Trump does not have clay feet. Clay feet assumes a weakness or flaw in an otherwise decent human being. Say the word with me: EVIL. I will not prance around the word. We cannot excuse behavior that demeans any human being. We know racism is evil. Sexism is evil. Heterosexism is evil. Ableism is evil. ‘Other-ism” is evil. And Donald Trump perpetrates evil everyday with the people he appoints to oversee the very institutions created to protect us, with the lies he tells about himself and others, with the decisions he makes about world politics, and with the words of hate and dismissal spewing from his anal mouth.

Donald Trump is evil. I wish he had clay feet. I wish he had a conscience so that he could have clay feet. But there is no indication that it is even a possibility. Donald Trump is evil with power. And if ever there was a time we needed to recognize the truth about this man, it is now.

Evil is being normalized and the more we accept or allow his actions to continue the more complicit we become. Now is the time to call our clay-footed leaders, our representatives in government, in the churches and synagogues and mosques, in our neighborhoods to remove the scales from their eyes and see the urgency of the tasks before us.

Even if you have been called evil by the un-saintly religious, even if the use of the word troubles you because of how it has been appropriated by right-wing fundamentalists, even if you haven’t considered the concept of evil to be relevant  in the 21st century, say it: Donald Trump is Evil.  If we don’t say it. If we  continue to normalize his words and actions, evil will take stronger and stronger footholds in our institutions and our population.

I don’t  know how to end this. I don’t know where to go with this. I only know that this is an urgent time and we are a vulnerable people. I believe we must begin with speaking the word. With acknowledging what is going on for what it is. For the past two years we have repeatedly said to one another, “We cannot normalize his words or actions.” That is true. But now is the time to name them. It will give us a clarity of focus. Say it:EVIL


.

 

 

 

Call His Name: Anthony Hill

Anthony Hill

I sat in the courtroom for over six hours listening.
Visualizing.
Imagining.
Crying.
Clinching my fists.

Once again in  awe of our system of laws.
Once again fearful of people failing them.
Failing us.

I cannot fathom any sane reason
an unarmed, naked,
clearly disturbed man
should be shot in the chest
three times.

Three times.
You couldn’t figure out any other way?

This man.
This veteran of Afghanistan.
This gentleman.
Traumatized by combat
deserved better than that.

You didn’t know that
he was a veteran
well-liked
congenial
I get that.

But you didn’t ask
didn’t get follow up information
didn’t consider
that you might not have enough information
to make a good decision.

Though how can it ever be
a good decision
to kill an unarmed, naked man
point blank?

Surely it was apparent
he was struggling with
mental illness.
Clear as day
as the nose on your face.

Was your judgment colored
by his blackness?
Did the hue of his skin
give you permission
to use deadly force?

The defense council
helped us to see the perpetrator
as human
As you should have been able to see Mr. Hill
as human.

We await the verdict
that will allow
or disallow
prosecution.

In the mean time,
join me
call his name
and pray for justice.
Add his name to the endless list
of black men dying at the hands
of white officers.
Remember this man,
grieve this man,
who did not deserve to die.

ANTHONY HILL.

 

Every ‘ism’ We Resist is Hostage to the Hatred of Women

Because we love so many men, respect so many men, work with so many men, know so many men,  it’s hard to imagine or believe there is a systemic hatred of women in our culture. Unfortunately, it is not only men. Sometimes women, themselves, buy into the devaluation of women.

I am not covering any new territory here, just reminding us of the basics. Women are taught to believe themselves to be ‘less than’ rather than different. Weak rather than possessing strength that manifests in ways different from men. So much so that men displaying what are thought to be ‘female’ characteristics are also despised.

My good friend, Erin, a transgender woman, recently posited that real change will come the  more broadly gender fluidity becomes the norm. Absolutely. Yes. But every time I step outside my milieu (whether physically or when reading the newspaper or watching television) I recognize that my reality isn’t completely in sync with the larger society. In other words, gender fluidity is likely the key to transformative change in how we value all gendered people but we can’t wait for the organic evolution before we act.

Our culture suffers from gynophobia: the fear, hatred, and distrust of that which is intrinsically female. Case in point: Hillary Clinton. I am still hurt and disappointed that a newsperson I respect, Chris Matthews, spoke so disparagingly about her. That and angry. He disrespected her in a way he would never have spoken about a man. The sustained Republican onslaught on her character from the moment she emerged in national politics is unlike that we  have seen for ANY male candidate ever.

An old but still relevant fact: women make less than men for doing the same job.
One in four women is raped or sexually abused. I don’t have any facts on this, but I have yet to meet a woman who has not been subjected to unwanted verbal or sexual advances. I don’t know any woman who has not at some/many times had their opinions overlooked, devalued, or co-opted.

And if we thought it was bad before now we have the so-called ‘incels’. Involuntary celebates. The incel movement is growing. It is filled with angry men who bitterly hate women and believe they are entitled to women’s bodies and lives. Women are being murdered. This is one of the best posts I’ve seen about them and it is definitely worth a readhttps://www.villainesse.com/no-filter/i-spent-evening-incel-forum-what-i-learnt

What will it take for the rest of the country to realize that sexism begets racism, religious rigidity, and homophobia? We must convince our culture that the hatred of women is real  and address the systemic evil of misogyny,  personally and culturally. Until women’s issues are seen as important and women are not seen as disposable, change will be incomplete. Every ‘ism’ we resist is hostage to the hatred of women.

It matters that we confront sexism not only for women, though it would be enough if it were. It matters because the hatred of women is a root cause of oppression. It matters that we challenge misogyny internally, socially,  and politically.  Every time someone devalues or dismisses women, jokes about rape, or treats women as disposable, we need to speak up. Each one of us male, female, or gender-fluid, must respond to systemic expressions of sexism in our personal and political lives. Not as an afterthought but with forethought.  We have to speak up even when it is difficult, even when we are uneasy with the idea of speaking up. Because we who believe in the freedom must speak out to make elemental change at an elemental level.

Trump’s Rise to Power


It prays on my mind that ordinary Germans allowed a man like Hitler to rise to power.
Even taking into account the economic depression that hit Germany, how could they let a man like him take power?

Now I know.
First, some are seduced because their fears are played to:
fear of people of other races and nationalities
fear for their safely
fear for their economic future
fear of change

Then the fears
normalize hate
normalize misinformation
normalize our worst impulses

Trump has played all those cards.
Like the master grifter he is,
who many thought was just an act,
that he would rise to
the “occasion of the Presidency”

He rose, alright.
Like Hitler on Krystallnacht
He plays to people’s fear
to deconstruct the government
to violate the rule of law
to turn us against one another
for his own benefit.

He is tearing apart our nation
so that we feel divided from one another
He is tearing apart our global relationships
disconnecting us from the many who share
our democratic values

He despises freedom.
of the press
of the people to protest
and as he rises he is attempting to devalue
both the press and the people.

He is carved from the same stone
as Hitler
and too many of us are blind to this rise,
to the possibility of a holocaust beyond our imagining,
somehow feeling safer to normalize
than to challenge.

This is Trump’s rise to power
and we are letting it happen
If there is a history left to record,
how will it judge us?

It’s the Patriarchy, Stupid!



 During his first run for president Bill Clinton’s ‘war room’ was dominated by James Carville’s hand printed sign “It’s the Economy, Stupid!” It reminded them not to get off message. It worked. Focus on what is important and people will respond positively. It’s a lesson we would do well to learn from.

Patriarchy is the problem. Fighting the patriarchy doesn’t mean fighting men, disenfranchising men, or eliminating men.  Fighting the patriarchy means fighting the system currently in power. The system that defines what it means to be male and female and values what is assumed to be male over what is assumed to be female. Bell Hooks reminds us, though, that patriarchy has no gender. It is a system  imposed on our theology, politics, and social interactions.

Institutions are embedded in the patriarchy. They get their power and ‘legitimacy’ from shoring up patriarchal values. The church elevates those values to ‘sacred.’  Political systems are so entrenched that resistance to change is concretized.

Here’s the thing: you can’t be a part of the world and not be subject to the patriarchy. That includes everyone: male, female, transgender folk, and gender queer, gender non-conforming. Everyone. Everyone is limited by a system that elevates one gender expression over every other. Everyone is limited when barriers are put up that keep people in or out. Everyone suffers when their expression of humanity is constrained by a system that perpetuates racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, ageism and all the ‘isms’ that define us as ‘less than’. Men are limited by the patriarchy, too. The only difference is that their gender grants unquestioned power and superiority. Most men don’t realize that it is a constructed and unquestioned system that dispenses their ‘superiority’.

Smashing the patriarchy means that men would necessarily relinquish their assumed superiority. They would need to share  power and challenge assumptions about their values. That process could open them to accept parts of themselves they have felt the need to reject. Cis men have been confined and injured by the patriarchy, too. The perks of it are seductive, but the price is disabling.
                                   So what is the point of all this? It’s the patriarchy, stupid.

I am a feminist, a Christian, a lesbian, a minister, and a mother. I have worked construction, waited tables, and served a congregation. I do not let the patriarchy define any of those things about me.
When I talk to my sister about religion and politics she often refers to ‘the church’ in disparaging terms. I get it. My daily traffic with people hurt by the institutional church is endless. It is important to me to claim my path as Christian. Which is very different from the institutionalized patriarchy of the Church. Politically, I am a Democrat. But I disavow the systemic patriarchy of the way the party works as an institution.

Here’s the invitation in two parts. First, become and stay aware of the patriarchal system and how it affects you as you live in the world. Then listen to how others are affected by it. You will begin to see it everywhere. And you should, because that’s where it is. And when you see it, don’t be afraid to name it. We need to stop assuming it is some cosmic or human norm.

Second, resist. The politics of resistance is not complete unless we are working to undermine a system that diminishes and elevates people without regard to what makes us truly human.

Every act of resistance begins from here. Put a sign up on your wall or over your desk, a post-it note on the dashboard of your car, scratch it out on the cover of your notebook, prop it up over your TV:
It’s the patriarchy, stupid!

 

 

 

Update: Clarification and Rant

DAMN. DAMN. DAMN.

After a vigorous conversation someone I respect,  I now realize that terms I used in my last blog may have been less than clear. So let me start with what I meant by the use of the word ‘conservative’. To do that I must also talk about what I do NOT mean by the term.

I am of an age where conservatism is not equated with White Fundamentalist Christian Triumphalism. So when I ues the word conservative I am referring to another breed. One I still disagree with vehemently but one that is based on political and economic theories (however misguided to my mind) rather than religious and racial “truths”.  I am not talking about the gullible, the fearful, the intractable, the ignorant, or the white supremacists who people much of the conservative landscape nurtured at the teats of Gingrich, the Tea Party, and Trump .

I want to respect conservatives. I do respect conservatives. I want to discuss ideas with them but have no desire to engage politically with those whose minds are locked in a steel tumbler that circles endlessly with no entrance or exit.

I DO believe what I said in my last blog:
We need to be political athletes that can compete with one another, respect each       other’s strengths, and identify each other’s weaknesses. In the end we are both necessary to play the vigorous  game of democracy.

To have those conversations requires critical thinking skills, an acknowledgment of facts, and an agenda free of religious doctrine. Please note I said ‘doctrine’ and not ‘influence’. Because some of our best impulses come from core ideals present in all religions: love, peace, and justice. To have these conversations means that  we begin with the shared  values upon which this nation was founded and the direction toward growth to which our principles point. That slow arc toward justice means that racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia and all the exclusionary phobias must be acknowledged and then addressed based on our shared political principles, not personal religious ones.

White Fundamentalist Triumphalist Christianity is not the final word on the definition of conservatism. It is a small subset of conservatism that ,instead,  is the opening word on fascism. It is anti-democracy and anti-republic. It is exclusionary, built on the myth superiority, and wrapped in a cloak fear.  Those are the folks we must fight tooth and nail, put our lives on the lines to overcome, and resist with all our beings.

I am NOT saying “LET’S MAKE NICE”. I am trying to say, “Let’s remember who we are, folks, and do what we can to make it work. Our differences do not make us enemies. Our enemies are abundant enough. And they are in the White House, the Senate, Congress, and even the Supreme Court.