Politics

Entries related to things political.

Praying for Milton

Yesterday, a friend posted on Facebook about a review of a church his wife works at that starts off, “These people are Zigeuner trash. These Gypsies should be all be rounded up and exterminated”. He said he had reported the post to Facebook, but they were not taking down the post.

I’ve shared my friend’s post a few different places suggesting others request the review be taken down or that the review gets drowned out by positive reviews. I am not a big fan of removing content, or of trying to silence other people’s speech, even if it is hateful or promotes violence. I’ve had to do it for work, and I often wonder if it is the best approach.

Who is Milton? What has happened in his life that fills him with such hate and hurt? What has gone on in his life that makes him think it is okay to post stuff like this. I set these thoughts aside, and got on with my day.

Throughout the day, as I read articles about the anniversary of Sandy Hook, the conviction of Dylan Roof, and the latest news about President-Elect Donald Trump, my mind went back to Milton.

I believe it is a sin to refer to any person as ‘trash’ and I wondered about the word “Zigeuner”. Wikipedia says this is a racist term most likely from a Greek word meaning “untouchable” used to describe Romanians and Gypsies, especially by those, like the Nazi’s, intent on genocide. My sense of Milton as a broken person, a sinner in desperate need of God’s love became clearer.

I did a little searching online. Milton’s Facebook page talked about going to various elite schools, but the times didn’t make a lot of sense. He posted a very positive review of a church in New York.

He posted on the page of a Bar “I hope you die.” about a week ago.

All of this made me think of Evan. What are we supposed to do when we see someone posting about death, hatred, and genocide? My first reaction is to pray for Milton. To this, I’ve posted a comment on many of his posts that I am praying for him.

I am sharing this post as a question to all of us about how we respond online.

Collective Trauma

A few articles caught my attention over the past couple of days. The first is in the New York Times by Neil Gross, a professor of sociology at Colby College. He asks, “ Are Americans Experiencing Collective Trauma?

He starts off by providing references to “collective trauma” in sociology and goes on to look at the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Last month’s presidential election has collective trauma written all over it.

Many of my liberal friends are sharing this article. It resonates with them. Those who have conservative friends are seeing comments like a quote from the Op-Ed in Wall Street Journal’s, Notable & Quotable: Trumped-Up Outrage

Perhaps the most perceptive comment on this tsunami of anguished and vituperative incredulity came not from a traditional pundit but from the cartoonist and blogger Scott Adams, who suggested that the whole anti-Trump fraternity “look as though they are protesting Trump, but they are not. They are locked in an imaginary world and battling their own hallucinations of the future.”

Yet I believe that the responses on both sides are missing what is really important about the article. The trauma is not the Trump election. The trauma is much greater, non-partisan, and underlies much of what has been going on in our country over the past few decades.

The Times article talks about the Polish transition out of communism and the loss of American manufacturing jobs. The article also talks about the collective trauma of Hurricane Katrina. The real trauma is of society moving from an industrial society to an information society. It involves aspects of globalization and free trade, of changes in the way we communicate, and the impact that industrialization has had on the environment.

This is not an American trauma over the election of Donald Trump. Trump’s election is just an after-shock, just like Sandy Hook, and many mass shootings, Hurricane Katrina, and many other great storms, 9/11, and many other terrorist attacks, all are after-shocks of the tectonic shift from industry to information.

Reflecting on the global nature of this trauma, I shared an article from The Sydney Morning Herald, Former prime minister Kevin Rudd receives honorary doctorate from ANU.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd has used the platform of receiving an honorary doctorate to criticise the state of Australian public discourse, saying "civility is lost".

"We have lost a little of our national bearings, lost a little in a national culture of learned helplessness," he said on Friday at the Australian National University, where he accepted the degree.

He spoke of an unnecessarily "vicious public culture, well beyond the realms necessary for robust disagreement and debate. Where civility is lost and where to admit error is to admit weakness and therefore yield to defeat."

I’m not sure how we heal from this global collective trauma and all the traumatic after-shocks. We need to find places where we can work together. In a discussion about the Times article on a friends Facebook timeline I spoke with a person who shared the Wall Street Journal Op-Ed. One of my comments attempts to shift the discussion based on the sermon Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry gave at the Episcopal Church in Connecticut’s annual convention:

I'm not interested in blame. I'm interested in making America Great Again. Blame does not do that. Name calling does not do that. Liberty and justice for ALL, like we say in our pledge is what does that. Unfortunately, too many, on both sides of the divide have forgotten those two words, FOR ALL.

Introductory Guide to Newspeak 2016

I am starting to compile a dictionary of Newspeak 2016. Here are a few:

Fake News: Propaganda
Alt-Right: Fascism
Second Amendment Solution: Assassination

What should be added to the list?

White Privilege, Safety Pins, and Dinner

Friday evenings I try to help out with a community dinner our church hosts. On a typical Friday we serve about forty people. Some come because they are hungry. Others come because they are lonely. They all get a great meal and community interaction. Last Friday we had a Thanksgiving meal; turkey, fixings, desert, the whole deal. We had about twice the normal crowd, and it was one of those rare events where a few people didn’t act appropriately.

The director of the community dinner asked one person to leave because he was drinking and told a few others to leave as well. A couple of them started talking back to the director, asking who she thought she was. I don’t know if it was simply because they were drunk, because they didn’t respect women, because they didn’t respect black people, or some other reason, but I felt pretty sure that they would not be talking back to me, an older white man, the way they were talking back to her. I have a privileged place in our society because of my race and gender. I have a responsibility to use that privilege appropriately.

It is why I wear a safety pin and have spoken about it a lot recently online. I believe I have a responsibility to speak up for those who are being disrespected because of their race, religion, gender, or any other reason they might be marginalized. I believe it is something all of us with privilege are called by God to do.

We must be thoughtful about how we use our privilege. We must seek to use it in ways that don’t reinforce cycles of disrespect for marginalized people, but instead challenge that disrespect.

So I stepped in, and answered the question. Who does she think she is? She is the director of the community dinner. What she says goes. I was there to assist her in any way she needed. Perhaps they just needed to hear that in the voice of a white man. Perhaps they just needed to see that the community was supporting the director of the community dinners. Whatever was needed, they heard the message and left.

Perhaps in the greater scheme of things, this little incident doesn’t make a lot of difference in political discourse with recently empowered people who do not act and believe in the words of our Pledge of Allegiance, “with liberty and justice FOR ALL’. Perhaps it was only a little ripple of hope for a few people.

Fifty years ago, Robert Kennedy said,

Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

So, I will continue to help with community dinners. I will wear my safety pin. I will speak up and do whatever is needed to make sure that we love our neighbors and have liberty and justice for all. With God’s help, I will make as many tiny ripples as possible, and I hope you’ll join me.

Do Safety Pins Matter?

Yet again, I’m seeing lots of meta-discussions about the latest symbol of solidarity. Today, it is the safety pin.

I’m seeing posts like, Dear White People, Your Safety Pins are Embarrassing. I always get a little suspect when a white person addresses other white people like this, and I think the article is pretty far off base.

A much better article is So You Want to Wear a Safety Pin. Instead of sounding like a teenage saying, “Mom, you’re embarrassing me”, this article has really important points. If you’re going to wear a safety pin, think it out carefully. How are you going to help a marginalized person be safe? Do you know how to de-escalate a situation? How much risk are you willing to take?

This article was shared in a Facebook group for Episcopalians. The group is supposed to be non-political and many people took offense to the post, claiming it is political. Yes, the first paragraph does not speak favorably about the President-Elect, but the core message is not political, it is very practical.

The response does beg the question, what does the safety pin really mean?

The Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford, CT posted, a Latina Episcopal priest posted,

A dear friend just asked me what the safety pin means. As I explained it to her, an analogy came to mind : remember the fish used to identify early persecuted Christians...

I think that captures an important essence of the safety pin.

Yet another friend of mine, a woman of color, posted on her Facebook wall,

Just so y'all know, it takes way more than a safety pin for us to feel safe. You don't get to choose how marginalized people feel safe. Put your pins away and go undo the damage that's been done. Don't be a social media protester.

One person responded that they feel the same idea, but dodn’t know where to start. I responded,

Let me suggest a slightly different take on this. One of the issues in politics today, it seems to me, is either/or thinking. I encourage people to wear safety pins, but not to stop there. Use the pins as a starting point for conversations. Use the pins as a way to find others to connect with. If you see someone wearing a pin, tell them that's great. Ask them what things they are doing to address both immediate and systemic safety issues. Maybe you'll learn something from them. Maybe, you'll get them to realize that they need to do more. This can be especially powerful for people who really don't know how to get involved.

Some may dismiss my comments as being ‘nitpicking pedantry’, but I believe this is important for a few different reasons. One aspect is that this is not just about one oppressed group. It is about many different oppressed groups and different people need support in different ways.

Another aspect that needs to be considered is that potential allies are coming from many different places in their journeys. I’ve often talked about this in terms of electoral politics. There is a continuum. Some people need register to vote. Some people need to become informed. Some people need to get out and vote. Some people need to become involved in campaigns or committees. Some people need to run for office. We need to help each person become more involved, wherever they are.

Similarly, we need to get people engaged after the election at so many different levels. Some people just need to stop saying and doing blatantly racist, sexist, misogynist, and so many other oppressive things. Some people need to start off by learning about institutionalized and systemic racism, sexism, and so on. Some people need to step up and make a statement, maybe as simple as a social media post, or wearing a safety pin. Some people need to get involved, or step up their involvement in various social justice activities. We can all do more.

Yet when it comes to the discussion about whether or not to wear a safety pin, the story of the tax collector and the Pharisee comes to mind. Here is my twenty first century translation.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two people were checking social media, one a social activist and the other a low information voter. The social activist posted: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people - racists, misogynists, homophobes - or even like this low information voter. I go to social justice committee meetings twice a week and contribute to many social justice organizations.’
“But the low information voter read other people’s posts quietly. It occurred to him how his vote had contributed to racists and misogynists becoming more aggressive. He could not even post on social media, but beat his breast, put on a safety pin, and said, ‘God, how could I have done this?’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

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