Politics

Entries related to things political.

The Sacrament of Animal Crackers

I open the box
of animal crackers
wondering
what they signify
to me.

I count them,
arrange them,
looking
at the different species
and broken pieces.

It is a writers’ prompt.
What do these crackers
represent?
What is their story?

I stare blankly,
waiting for inspiration
but all I can think of
are the forty nine
who died
at The Pulse
a gay nightclub
in Orlando.

Who were they?

I think of the nine that died
in Charleston,
the twenty six
in Sandy Hook.

I think of Columbine
and Aurora,
of San Bernadino
and Virginia tech.

Who were they?

I eat the animal crackers
remembering
the innocent days of my childhood
and those who were killed
because they were different;
because they were gay,
Latino,
black,
or simply
because they were in the right place
at the wrong time.

What if
every time
we ate
animal crackers,
or anything else
for that matter,
we remembered;
we remembered the victims,
the broken,
the grieving,
and those who sought
to bring love
and compassion
for everyone?

These are my animal crackers
broken for you.

Reflections on Orlando

Terms of Engagement

I seek to have open and honest discussions about what has happened. Fundamental to this is a willingness to listen to what others are saying and a willingness to change one’s own opinion. If you are trying to score points for your side, I’m not really interested. If you believe that President Obama is a Muslim or was somehow involved with the Orlando shootings, I cannot take you seriously. I cannot even be your friend on Facebook. The same goes to people who believe that the right to have a weapon that can fire over 180 rounds a minute or have magazines that contain more than ten rounds trumps the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Grief

My first reaction is grief and sadness. I recognize the desire to address the problems of hatred and gun violence in America. It is urgent. However, I believe it is important to own our grief, to sit with our grief, to not rush off to do something right away, as a means of not dealing with our grief. If you haven’t wept for the victims in Orlando, for those who loved them, and for our country, that may be the most important thing you need to do right now.

Solidarity

A friend posted on Facebook

Reach out to someone who is Latinx and a member of the LGBTQ community and let them know that you value and support them. If you don't already know someone like that, it's time to make a new acquaintance. Their heartache knows no bounds today.

Current estimates are that about .3% of the population is trans. What percentage of the people you know are trans? I have around 3000 friends on Facebook. Off the top of my head, I can think of seven friends that are transgender. To match the demographics, it should be about nine, so I’m about in range. There are probably others that are I just don’t know their gender identity.

Three to four percent of the population identify as LGBT. I don’t know what percentage of my friends identify as LGBT, but that sounds about right. A my friend above suggested, if you don’t know someone who identifies as LGBT, you need to find some LGBT people to become friends with.

Likewise, about 17% of the population is Latinx. What percentage of your friends are Latinx?

You need to show solidarity and shared grief with Latinx and LGBT friends.

Praying

Another friend posted

Don’t Pray for Orlando, Fight Against Hateful Ideology

As many of you know, I am exploring becoming an Episcopal priest. I understand the need for calls to action, but I believe saying “Don’t Pray…” is misguided. It creates a false dichotomy and promotes black and white thinking: either we pray or we do something.

If we say instead, don’t JUST pray, or don’t pray without doing something, or don’t pray as a political statement as an effort to avoid taking responsibility, then we are saying something much truer and more important. Prayer should change us. Prayer should move us to help make the world a better place.

Congressman Jim Himes framed it very well in his speech, No More Silence. Moments of silence are important to deal with grief and to show solidarity with others that grieve. However, if your job is to serve the common good and when you are asked what you are doing to address hatred and gun violence in this country, and all you offer is silence, you are not doing your job. “When you bow your head and think about what you will say to your God … there will be silence.”

Counter Narrative

Besides the obvious efforts of improving gun safety in America, there are other things that we can change. A good starting point is to think about counter narrative. Congressman Himes does a little bit of this in talking about the victims. Do you know more about the gunman or the victims? We need to know the victims. You can start with this list.

The official narrative talks about the gunman’s support for ISIS. The official narrative doesn’t talk about his interest in the New York Police Department, his posting selfies of himself in unofficial NYPD garb. It doesn’t fit the story that people are trying to tell us.

There is another counter narrative that people may mention in passing, but doesn’t seem to get as much attention as it should, the gunman’s history of domestic abuse. This counter narrative jumps out at me because of a Muslim woman I know who was a victim of domestic abuse. In Muslim communities, too often women who suffer domestic abuse are told to be quiet about it, to not speak out. We need to encourage all people, and perhaps especially right now, Muslim women, to speak out against domestic violence.

Religion

Some of my atheist friends are quick to blame the violence on religion. They claim that no one kills people in the name of atheism. They may even be so bold as to claim that atheists have no beliefs. They may believe that, but it sounds self-contradictory to me. Blaming people of various different religious beliefs, include a belief in “No God” and the religion of “atheism” is just as bad as blaming people of various sexual orientations, gender identities, races, or ethnicities.

In the discussion about the “Don’t Pray” post, a friend wrote,

in this country, right now, religion has been playing a dangerous role in promoting hate speech and violent acts against those who don't fit the mold. So right now, religious organizations across the country need to take a hard look at the part they have been playing in the outbreak of gun violence and mass murders.

This is something many of my religious friends have also been saying, especially my Methodist friends lamenting the lack of support for LGBT people at their General Conference which recently ended. It is something many of my Episcopalian friends have been talking about as they celebrate the decision of the Scottish Episcopal Church at their synod to pave the way for allowing same sex marriages, despite threats from others in the Anglican Communion.

Father's Day 2016

Father’s Day
Juneteenth
two thousand and sixteen:
The Psalm asks
“Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?”
and I respond
because no one heeds the epistle
“There is no longer Jew or Greek,”
and I think of Orlando;
straight or gay,
Muslim or Christian,
and all the other
false divisions
for we are all one in Christ Jesus.

Then I read the Old Testament lesson
and the news headlines,
but the Lord was not in the news headlines,
and I read the social media posts
but the Lord was not in the social media posts
so I sat quietly
and wept
for Stanley
and Amanda
and Oscar
and Cory
and Tevin
and Javier
and the list just goes on and on
and the Lord was in
the sound of sheer silence.

So I read the Gospel
and the news headlines
and found our woes are called
Legion
for many demons
have entered our political discourse.

Then I returned to the Psalm
“Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?”
and I replied
“I will yet give thanks to God.”

Blame

If you blame the gorilla
you’re part of the problem
If you blame the parents
you’re part of the problem
If you blame the child
you’re part of the problem.
If you blame the zookeepers
you’re part of the problem.

If you blame
a former first lady,
a senator,
or real estate developer
you’re part of the problem.

If you blame
the refugees
the immigrants
single young mothers
struggling to get by
you’re part of the problem.

If you blame
the victim
the system
the lawyers
or press
you’re part of the problem

If you blame yourself
but do nothing
to address the wrongs
you’re still part of the problem.

We are all part of the problem.
Too often
we don’t love
our neighbor as ourselves
especially
if the neighbor seems
blameworthy
marginalized
or simply
different from ourselves.

We find
those parts
of ourselves
we don’t like
in others
and blame them
instead
of seeking to repair
what we don’t like
about ourselves.

Asking Questions about Race

“Sometimes what matters is asking the question.” It was a comment made at a conference on Christian mission I was at a few months ago that particularly caught my attention. After the conference I gathered with a group of people who had attended the 2016 Trinity Institute conference on Racial Justice. We have been meeting to find concrete ways in which the Episcopal Church in Connecticut can help work for racial justice.

Based on my experiences as a Health Leadership Fellow with the Connecticut Health Foundation and as a candidate for State Representative in 2012 and 2014 who tried to talk about race issues, especially around health disparities, it seems like one of the biggest challenges is to get people to stop and think seriously about racism.

Many people I’ve spoken with seem to think that as long as they don’t have a Confederate flag on their vehicle and as long as they don’t say certain offensive words, racism doesn’t really have much to do with them. To me, an important starting point is to get people to think a little more broadly about racism.

I like to start by talking about racism in terms of prejudice and power and exploring different types or aspects of racism such as individual or internalized racism, interpersonal racism, institutional racism and structural racism. A good explanation of some of these concepts, together with some important links can be found in Race and Racism

How do we raise awareness about these aspects of racism? Often, I find myself a white man in groups that are predominantly women of color. The discussions about raising awareness seem mostly to be preaching to the choir. How do we get folks going to predominantly white churches on Sunday morning to confront “the sin of racism”, what we have done and left undone, in thought, word, and deed, not loving our neighbors as ourselves.

I hope the group of Episcopalians I’m part of can help get this message beyond just the choir.

How can we do this? It seems like an important starting point is simply listening. Where do we see racism? Where do we see opportunities to talk about racism, to raise awareness?

A concrete request from our last meeting was to ask one person how racism impacts their lives.

“Sometimes what matters is asking the question.”

So, I asked that question in a blog post a little over a month ago. I didn’t get a lot of replies, although one good friend, another Health Leadership Fellow with the CT Health Foundation, shared my post and broadened the discussion a little. Perhaps a lot of people aren’t comfortable talking about race. It sure seemed that way when I was running for State Representative. Perhaps a lot of people aren’t even able to think about how racism relates to their own lives. Trust me, it does.

So, the question is still out there, how does racism impact your life? Where are the places we can build bridges and work together for racial justice? Can we draw together urban and suburban churches? Episcopalians, Methodists, AME, and others?

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