Include (poem)

We are not being loving
or inclusive
when we exclude anyone
even
(and especially)
those who are themselves
not loving
or inclusive.

Can you be bigger than them?
Can you include those
who want to exclude others?
Can you listen to those
who want to silence others?

Can you rise above,
and show them
how it is done?

Color lines

I think the problem a lot of white people have with immigrants in the US is that deep down, unconsciously, they are terrified that the immigrants will behave exactly as the white’s ancestors did and displace them. That it won’t be a melting pot of peaceful coexistence but a radical and forced overturning of power.

The whites moved to America for a better life, free from religious oppression, and ended up using their religion to oppress those people who were already living here. Deep down, those who are opposed to immigration are afraid that they will become the new Native Americans and will be force marched on a new Trail of Tears to new reservations. They know karma is a bitch.

This doesn’t have to be. We can live together and work well together, but it takes a lot of work.

together

(“Together” art journal piece I made 11/16/16 – cardstock, Distress inks and stains, stamp, gold pastel, scissors, weaving) I like making art that shows how different colors work against each other to show each other off to make each other be their brightest.

Random

It isn’t just about cops killing black people. It isn’t just about cops being killed

.

It isn’t just all that which has gotten us all worried and concerned.
There is more.  We forget all the incidences of mass murders that have happened in this country. We forget the incidences of rape that have occurred that have had no punishment for the rapist.

The issue at hand is all the various examples of random and unexpected violence that have occurred in the past several years.  It doesn’t make any sense. It is violence that seems to come out of the blue. It is school shootings. It is shopping malls, it is movie theaters. It is anytime anyone out of the blue starts killing people who have done nothing to him. And that is the operative point.  It seems that all of these incidences have involved single men acting alone, and often young white men. They’re angry at something in general but not someone in particular and they don’t know how to express their anger, so they kill the person in front of them. The thing that is most frightening about all of this is that it could happen to any one of us at any time. It is nothing that we can control or prevent.

We feel helpless and constantly on guard, but even being on guard won’t do us any good. It is as if we can do all the right things and still be victims. We haven’t angered anyone. We’ve done all that society expects us to do and still someone, randomly, on their own, can decide to kill us. It isn’t personal at all – it is as impersonal as it could possibly be.

We were terrified by Ebola and then the Zika virus. These two things are seemingly random and they can forever affect your life (if not end it).  There was no way to avoid them. These incidents of random violence are the same.  There is no way to prepare or prevent them from happening.

This is why we feel so helpless.  We can’t legislate it away.  We can’t do anything.  Our “thoughts and prayers” seem to be falling on deaf ears.

 

To turn away from the newsfeed is to be accused of being indifferent.  It is to be accused of “white privilege”.  Tell us what we can do, and we will do it.  Otherwise, to continue to drown in these stories is to be psychically attacked over and over.

Poem – snow day

snow day

Remember that feeling you have
when you look outside
and everything
is covered by snow?

It was forecasted
but they didn’t know exactly
when it would happen –
what time of day,
or even if this day or the next.
But it was coming,
that was certain.

And while you were asleep
the snow appeared,
silently
making everything white,
everything new,
covering the world
with a silent calm,
a soft pure light.

Every prayer,
every reconciliation,
every bridge mended,
every addiction cured,
every honest conversation,
every deep listening

is a snowflake.

The world will change
because we will change it
because we were changed
one
by
one
by
one
a light comes on
and we share it, we shine it.

A new day is coming.
A new day is here.

A conversation at the YMCA

I was in the changing room at the Y when I heard the most amazing thing. This lady who I’ve known for a few years through my water aerobics class asked me what I thought about “The Trump thing”. She actually didn’t even give me time to give an answer. She started saying that “He has a point, that all the terrorist attacks were being done by Muslims and so it was a good idea to keep them out of this country.” She even said that she had some Muslim friends but she still thought that it was a good idea.

I paused and looked at her and shook my head a little. I said “I can’t believe that you’re actually saying this. I can’t agree with you at all.”

She said “What? All the terrorist acts have been done by Muslims.”

I said
“What about Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the Columbine murderers?
What about Timothy McVeigh, who blew up the Murrah federal building?
What about James Holmes, the Aurora theater shooter?
What about Sandy Hook massacre, by Adam Lanza?

These are all acts of terrorism
that have been perpetrated
by young white males.
They weren’t Muslim.”

Sadly, the list is much longer than these that I could recall off the top of my head, with all of them committed by young, white, males.

I then quoted this famous speech from Martin Niemöller, speaking about how the German people didn’t stand up against the Nazis during World War 2.

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.

I said “I can’t stand behind this entire idea of keeping people out based on their ethnicity. That’s racist.”

I repeated the word “racist” several times through the last part of my discussion. I wanted her to hear it for what it is. I wanted her to think about her support of something that is as dangerous, as un-Christian, as inhuman as racism. I’m sure she didn’t even think of herself as being racist.

At the same time I was thinking of the Rwandan genocide, where nearly a million people were slaughtered by their own countrymen over three months, simply because they were seen as “other”, as “lesser”. They were called “cockroaches” by the leaders, who encouraged average citizens to take up machetes and kill their own neighbors. I’m sure they didn’t think they were doing anything wrong either.

When we marginalize a group, when we group them together and say that the actions of a few represent the whole and propose eliminating the entire group, then that has moved from racism into genocide. We have to stop this entire way of thinking before it is allowed to get to this point. These are like weeds that will take over the garden, choking out all beauty in the world.

At the end of my speech, she said she didn’t know all of that. She recognized the names but hadn’t put it together. She hadn’t realized that in America, more acts of terror have been committed by non-Muslims than Muslims.

I’m grateful for all the classes that I’ve taken that allowed me to maintain my cool and answer her in a calm way to educate her. Years ago I would have thought she was wrong, but not been able to speak up. Now, I was able to not only take a stand against a racist but also to educate her.

We must all be lights in this world. We must all combat racism and ignorance no matter where it erupts.

Trunk or Treat

Why do some Christian churches celebrate “Trunk or Treat” rather than Halloween? It is because some denominations are strongly opposed to the idea of Halloween because they think it is honoring the devil. They also are concerned about the safety of their children knocking on strange neighbor’s doors asking for candy. So they want to find a safe alternative.

Instead of having “Trunk or Treat”, perhaps would be better not to have anything at all. “Trunk or Treat” still gives reference to Halloween. Perhaps have a harvest festival if you have to have something. To observe even part of a holiday that you are opposed to is still acknowledging it. Referring to it gives it credence. If they are truly opposed to it, then don’t have any festival of any kind on Halloween or in the week before.

But there are other things to consider. As to worrying about the neighbors, remember that part of being a follower of Jesus means that you should treat your neighbors as you would like to be treated. So you want people to be afraid of you and to never talk to you? If not, then why would you treat the neighbors like that? Why is it that Halloween is the one time of year where we are encouraged to talk to our neighbors? Halloween is a great time to be a Christian. You can meet your neighbors and make new friends.

Another problem is that there is no “trick” in “Trunk or Treat”. It is all “treat”. There is no risk of anything unusual happening. The risk is part of Halloween. Halloween is about things being different, where the unexpected can happen. It is about acknowledging that we aren’t in control of our lives. This too is in line with the words of Jesus, who reminds us constantly that God is in charge, and we aren’t.

Poem – Women are not things.

Women are people first.
We are not things.
We are not toys or tools.
We aren’t something to use.
We do not exist for your pleasure or fantasies.

Our bodies are just the vehicles our souls ride in.

We do not care if our bodies are
too tall,
too short,
too fat,
too bony
for you.

We do not care if our hair is
too dark,
too straight,
too kinky
for you.

We aren’t for you, you see.
We are for ourselves,
first and foremost.

We are our own guardians,
our own nurturers,
our own teachers.

We do not define
ourselves
in relationship
to you.

We do not need your permission
to vote,
to drive,
to work,
to feel.

We do not need your permission
to be,
period.

We are not
objects to be objectified,
possessions to be possessed,
or fantasies to be fulfilled.

We are people, pure and simple,
and if you don’t
start treating
us
like that
then you are missing out
on half
the human race.

Stop trying to
get our numbers
and
get into our pants.

Start trying to
know us
as fellow travelers
on this Earth,
at this time,
with you.

Jumping – on inclusion and exclusion

I was at a gathering once where there was an opening ceremony that was not inclusive. It was a breath exercise that had us chanting the name of Shiva, a Hindu god.

The group was mixed, and nobody was Hindu. Some were Christian, some had no religion, and some were openly pagan. Some people were quite opposed to Christianity, having been harmed by the church as they were growing up.

After the opening exercise, we were all asked what we felt. We were asked this after all parts of the event – not just here. Several Christians said that they felt uncomfortable with this exercise, because it sounded like they were being asked to pray to Shiva. Some Christians said that they said “Alleluia” instead, and one chanted “Do Re Me”. Some did it for a few chants, but then stopped. They were uncomfortable, so they didn’t want to participate.

I was one of those people, but I didn’t say it at the time. They were saying it for me. I didn’t want the participant who shared this thing which was important to him to feel like we were jumping on him. I did want him to be sensitive to the feelings of his audience, however.

What I did was pray beforehand. I thought of different Bible verses that would apply to this situation. I thought of how Jesus says that if we are connected to Him, nothing can harm us. We can be bitten by snakes and drink poison and we will be safe. This wasn’t that dramatic, but it seemed to apply in a way. Then I was concerned about giving the wrong impression to others. The apostle Paul tells us that we can eat meat that has been consecrated to gods – that it won’t harm us. But he also says that we shouldn’t, because it might give the wrong impression to new Christians. Our actions might cause them to stumble.

I chanted along for a little, but honestly it went on a lot longer than I thought it was going to. I got tired of it and stopped. I opened my eyes to see the teacher looking at me– she thought it was going on too long too.

We had a break immediately after our discussion and the lady sitting next to me stood up and started jumping up and down vigorously and shaking her hands and wrists. She looked a little manic. After a minute of this, I asked her what she was doing and she said that she was shaking it off. She was “so upset” by that discussion, and that it represents her “life’s work”. I got the impression that she thought the Christians were closed minded. She had said earlier that she participated in something called “Dances of Universal Peace”. Right then her “dance” looked like she was ready to jump off a cliff.

I am now very glad that I didn’t say anything before so I could see this happen.

Later we had a time where we were singing wordless sounds. We were given a few open chords, and we started adding in our own sounds – some drum, some shaker, some intoning. Eventually it all became the sound of “Alleluia” over and over. After that, we discussed it again. Several non-Christians said that they felt very uncomfortable with it. One even thought about leaving.

It seemed like an interesting counter to the opening. Now the other half of the room felt awkward. I didn’t notice any Christians jumping up and down, shaking off how angry they were at the non-Christians. Later, at lunch, I happened to sit with several Christians and we talked about

There seems to be an interesting dynamic happening these days. Christians are expected to be considerate of non-Christians feelings, but non-Christians aren’t expected to do the same.

I recall how I created a Thanksgiving dinner prayer that was inclusive and considered the feelings of relatives who were openly against Christianity. They don’t have a faith tradition – they have a visceral reaction against Christianity. The prayer didn’t mention Jesus or God at all, but did give thanks. I took quite a bit of time to make something that would work for both sides. Meanwhile, at all other gatherings, they don’t think about the fact that the Christians feel obliged to pray before a meal. I feel that to eat a meal without giving thanks for it is to act like a dog – just lunging in and devouring food. A compromise would be a moment of silence beforehand, where the non-Christians don’t have to hear a prayer, but the Christians can say one quietly to themselves. They don’t consider this.

I feel like this is happening more and more in our society.

Sure, plenty of Christians have been thoughtless. They have been pushy and aggressive. They have given people judgment and condemnation rather than love and service. They have not been Christ-like. We have had to soften our approach, certainly. But we also have to meet in the middle.

I’m OK with someone not being Christian, but I expect the same courtesy from them. If I’m OK with you living like you want to, I need you to also be OK with me living like I want to. I don’t need everybody in the room to pray to God, but I do need everybody to understand that I am going to. I don’t expect them to pray along with me. I’ll try to do it in a way that they don’t have to hear it. But if I have to participate in their belief system, then why do I have to be silent about my own?

In our desire to make a more inclusive society, we have to include everybody.

The center where we were meeting was a treatment center for addictions. It had elements from many faiths there – Buddhist and Native American being the most prominent. There were Tibetan bells, yoga mats, sage smudge sticks, and carved masks. There were books on mindfulness from Asian religions. There was only one thing that referred to Christianity, and it was a small painting of Mary. It was high up above the lintel of a door, and it was around a corner. There were things there that represented the wisdom traditions of the world – but with one prominent exception.

So much for equality.

Most of the people who were going to be coming to this center normally weren’t going to be members of those wisdom traditions – they were going to be middle-class white people from America. They were going to be surrounded by images of peace from cultures they aren’t part of. Meanwhile, their own culture wasn’t represented, out of a desire to not offend. Something seems odd about this.

I believe that we can share. I believe that we can all participate together. I believe that we can all get along. I believe that for one group to dominate the conversation is to change it from a conversation into a monologue. Yes – Christians have dominated the conversation for a long time. But the answer to that isn’t to silence the Christians and raise the voice of the non-believers.

We aren’t equal unless we all are equal. This applies to everything – belief, gender, race – everything.

Gender violence and gender harmony

This is about gender violence, specifically it is about violence against women performed by men. Yes I know that there are women who attack men. Yes, there are women who attack women, and men who attack men. This is not about that.

This is about the fact that there are way more women who are being attacked by men just because they are women. Just because they are seen as lesser. I speak about what I know. You always have to write from what you know and what you experience.

Simply being a woman is seen as lesser. We are seen as the weaker sex. We are not encouraged to do anything that is rough-and-tumble. We are not encouraged to do anything outside of our proscribed gender roles. When a woman does anything that is seen as traditionally masculine she is seen as is as butch. When a man does anything that is seen as feminine he is seen as effeminate and is considered to be weaker.

This is a shame. It is not fair for men to not be allowed to be who they are. It is not fair for women to not be allowed to be who they are. There is nothing specific about our genders that make us better able to wash dishes or better able to pay bills. There is nothing specific about our genders that make it logical that one is supposed to be nurturing and caring and the other one is supposed to be hard and aggressive.

Everyone can take care of the house and everyone can take care of the children. It is important that everyone knows everyone’s roles. The role has nothing to do with gender but with ability. And ability comes from education, not gender.

It is important that young boys learn how to cook and darn their own socks. It is important that women know how to balance a checkbook and how to do house and car repairs. It is important that everybody learns how to take care of themselves completely and fully.

If we only know half of our tasks that we are half people.

Perhaps this is why women and men think they have to get married. They think they have to have someone else to take care of them instead of being able to take care of themselves. Imagine how strong marriages would be if both people are independent and strong, so both together make something even stronger.

This is the source of healing. This is the source of peace. We have to stop being women and men. We have to start being people.

Do you stay or do you go?

It is easy to stay in a job, a friendship, a marriage when things are good. But it isn’t always good. What do you do then? Do you stay or do you go?

There are different ways of going other than actually leaving. You can stop participating. You can “go along to get along”.

You can write out your rebuttal and then say at the end that no reply is expected, and even if there is a reply it won’t be read.

That too is leaving, that too is running away.

But how do you stay? Staying is hard. It is being willing to listen to the other person. It is being willing to engage in dialogue.

Nobody likes a fight. Nobody likes to disagree. I’ve heard some people say that they are “conflict adverse”. Of course they are. Normal people don’t seek out arguments.

But arguments happen all the time. We see things differently. We like to be right. When someone speaks their mind and it differs from your mind, what happens then?

That is “where the rubber meets the road”. That is where things get real.

Do you stay, or do you go?

In part, it depends on your investment in the situation. Can you afford to leave? How much time and energy have you put into this relationship?

It is ok to cut out. It is ok to leave. It isn’t ok to do that all the time. If you make a habit of leaving when things get hard, when things get real, then you’re making a habit of leaving.

A life filled with leaving isn’t really a life.

Stay. Stay with it when it gets hard. Stay with it, because staying with it is all that stands between you and anonymity. Stay with it because to always leave is to disappear, to dissolve.