Entries related to things political.

Merry Complicated, Vulnerable Christmas

It is early Christmas morning, and I should be sleeping, but I’ve been woken up by our canine alarm system. Most of the time, I am not pleased about being woken up this way. It is often false alarms caused by deer or other wildlife crossing our property. However, there have been a couple occasions were our large dog has alerted us of something wrong, of something that needed attention.

This evening, there was a strange vehicle in our driveway. No, it was not a sleigh. It was dark outside, so I couldn’t get the make and model but it appeared to be a large pickup truck. When I turned on the lights, the truck pulled out of our driveway and into a neighbor’s driveway. There have been a bunch of burglaries in our town so I called the local police department which sent out a patrol.

Things have settled down now. The canine alarm system has returned to its normal detect mode, laying quietly on the couch next to me. The holiday lights are on. Everyone else seems to be snoring, but I cannot get back to sleep.

Instead, I will write about Christmas Eve. I go to Grace and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Hamden, CT. It is a wonderful church and the Christmas Eve service was as special as always. The homily particularly struck home for me. It started off exploring the idea of God saving the word through sending an infant. If this had been suggested to a committee, the priest said, it would probably have been rejected, but God works in wonderful, unexpected ways.

As I thought about the sermon, a different verse from the Christian scriptures came to me. In Matthew 18:3, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”. This is the behavior that Jesus modelled for us.

Another verse also came to mind. In 1 John 3:2 we find, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” Usually, when I think of this verse, I think of the adult Jesus, speaking in parables, performing miracles, crucified and resurrected. I don’t think about the infant Jesus, vulnerable, needing to be fed, held, and changed.

2016 was a rough year for many of my friends. Many are very concerned about the incoming administration and how it will affect the poor, minorities, women, and other people that are supposed to be included in “Liberty and Justice FOR ALL”. They are talking about resisting, marching, and doing whatever they can. I hear that as a strong calling, but somehow it doesn’t feel right to me. It doesn’t sound like it will break the cycle of partisan hatred.

God came into this world vulnerable. Jesus conquered death by submitting to it. What if we were to become more vulnerable, instead of less vulnerable in this coming year? What if we were to admit our need to be fed, held, and changed? What if we allowed others to feed, hold, and help change us, the way we want to feed, hold, and help change others? What if, by seeking to imitate Christ, we sought to imitate the whole Christ, not only the risen Christ, but also the infant Christ? What if we found the light of Christ in our hopes and dreams, even as a small flickering light, and sought to grow that light within us into something new and unexpected?

Such an idea sounds like something that most of us would reject, especially many of my political activist friends, but it could also be one of those wonderful, unexpected ways that God could work through us in this broken world around us.

Merry Christmas.

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.

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