The N-word, and A Friendly Pat On The Butt

Not too long ago, I was added to a Facebook group where Christians discuss politics. I’m not sure who added me to the group–they probably thought it was a good fit, seeings how I wrote about Jesus & Politics and whatnot–but I can assure of this:  It is every bit as much of a shit show as you would imagine it might be. There are a few good folks there, but for the most part, I feel like a missionary in a land where I’m not welcomed. Or particularly liked. A prophet in a strange land… A land mostly bereft of compassion and common sense. That place is my Nineveh. A couple weeks ago (a good week before Bill Maher dropped the N-word on his show), someone posted this picture:

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A robust discussion followed. Just kidding… It was mostly a bunch of white people who were mad that “THEY get to say it–why can’t WE say it?” And “People are just looking for a reason to be offended.” And “If they don’t want people to say it, they shouldn’t put it in their songs.” And “Reverse Racism” and “Snowflake!” and “Censorship!” and “First Amendment Rights!” And because of this, lately I’ve been thinking about how to explain to people the “WHY” of being careful with our words. Because–believe it or not–this is something that is up for debate with quite a few people in the world right now… Almost all of whom voted for our current president, and almost all of whom usually put some stank on it when they use the term “Politically Correct.” And I can’t believe I have to explain this, but here is why white folks using the N-word is NOT AT ALL DEFENDABLE.

So let me just start off with the claims about “First Amendment Rights.” The First Amendment basically protects people from being arrested and imprisoned for saying offensive or unpopular things… Specifically prohibiting congress from making laws which abridge a person’s right to free speech. Here’s what the First Amendment does NOT DO: It does NOT protect you from being called a racist, a bigot, or an asshole when you say racist, bigoted, and asshole-ish things. The First Amendment protects you from being arrested for calling for the deportation of all Muslims… It does NOT protect you from someone taking a screen capture of your words, sending that picture to your employer, and that employers firing you because they don’t want hate-filled, xenophobic, knuckle-dragging embarrassments working their company. See the difference? Good.

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Nope. You don’t get to say that, Bill Maher. You can say it without getting arrested, but you don’t have the “right” to say it without people demanding an apology.

A few years ago, I wrote a post titled “Letting Go Of The R-Word.” I repost this one a lot. I hear people use the word “retarded” probably five times a week, and if you tell people that their use of the R-Word is hurtful, they will often talk to you about their INTENT. They didn’t MEAN for their words to be hurtful, so that excuses it… It makes it okay. They don’t use it thinking of people with special needs… They just mean it to be a synonym for “dumb.” They might talk to you about how the “real” meaning of “retard” is “to slow.” And if you’re speaking to someone face-to-face, there’s a good chance they will apologize for offending you and move on. But in the artificially-bravery-inflating arena of social media, many people will bemoan how “overly sensitive” people are nowadays. They will equate this sensitivity with weakness, and they long for a simpler time… A time when you could insult whole groups of minorities without a bunch of “Social Justice Warriors” wagging their fingers at you every time you called someone a fag… A time when America used to be “great.”

NO.jpgAnd it’s a similar dance for people who want the “right” to say racially insensitive things without the discomfort of being called out on their douchebaggery.

“It’s just a word.”
“I’m not trying to hurt anyone.”
“THEY get to say it.”
“Don’t be so sensitive.”

But I want you to imagine a scenario with me: Imagine there was a guy who–when he saw people he knew–slapped them in the back. Pretty hard. Not like he’s trying to HIT them, necessarily… But hard enough that some people spoke up, and said, “Ow, man. That kind of hurt.” Maybe he assumes the first one might have had a sun burn, and he keeps on doing it. A few more people let him know, “Hey. When you slap my back like that, it really hurts. Please stop.” Maybe he works at an office, and people finally get together and confront him: “Seriously. There are quite a few people complaining about your back slaps. Stop doing it!” What kind of person hears this and insists that he should be able to keep slapping people because he isn’t intentionally TRYING to hurt people? What kind of person blames the ones complaining about him slapping people as being “the real problem” because they are too sensitive?

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“No slap ass?” No, Ravi… No slap ass.

Now, let’s take the analogy a bit further: Let’s say this guy played baseball growing up… And he and the other members of his baseball team used to give each other a friendly little pat on the butt when did something worth celebrating. “Nothing sexual,” he will assure you. Now, when he pats people on the butt, he means nothing by it. So if you get offended by it, that’s YOUR problem. Little does he know, he’s patting the butt of a person who has survived sexual abuse… And every touch–though it leaves no bruises or physical scars–harms her in a way that he could never understand, even if she tried to explain. And he’s all, “Give me a break. Get over it, snowflake.” Again, what kind of person does something like this? What kind of person defends these sorts of actions? And what kind of person complains about how he saw that woman’s SISTER slap her on the ass… “She get’s to do it–Why can’t I do it?” 

Here’s the answer: An awful, awful person. A certifiable asshole. And the question is not “Is this person an asshole or not?” He obviously, objectively is. The REAL question is this: Does this person have the same definition of “asshole” as the rest of us? In this person’s world, is selfishness part of the DNA of being an asshole? And at the heart of that is the question of whether selfishness is good or bad. Are some things better than others? And can we KNOW about those things? If “better” is a thing, is it “better” to take into consideration the feelings/emotions/beliefs of other people, or is it “better” to be almost singularly focused on our own feelings/emotions/beliefs? These are questions that–for many of us–have been settled for a long time. In corporate settings, in academic settings, these questions are settled. OF COURSE it’s better to consider others’ feelings, emotions, and beliefs. If we know that a course of action causes some people harm, and we have other options available to us, only a sadist would insist on the action that causes harm. 

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This lady defended calling the woman in front of her the N-word because of her right to “Free Speech.” She also has the “right” to wear a sweater with a belt buckle across the chest to the beach… And we have the right to make fun of that decision.

But a different narrative has seeped its way into the minds of many in this country… challenging the very definition of “goodness.” It is a disease which celebrates selfishness as a virtue. An Ayn Randian mental derangement which has even infected the Church with its disordered thinking… Where people–who claim to follow a man who constantly preached thinking of others first and loving even our enemies–have embraced a “Me First/Us First/America First” ideology as somehow being Biblical, when it is neither Biblical, rational, or anywhere close to moral.

One more analogy: Imagine a person brings a cat into a hotel lobby. And a manager comes up and says, “Sir, you CAN’T have a cat in here. We have guests who are deathly allergic to cats. This is a shared space.” Only the most selfish of people would ever argue their “right” to grab a cat and have it in there, despite the harm it could cause. That, or the sort of person whose privilege has them so blinded that they don’t even believe in the concept of a “shared space” anymore. As far as they’re concerned, EVERY lobby is THEIR lobby. And how DARE you tell me that I can’t grab a pussy in my own F*CKING LOBBY?!?! This is the kind of person who insists on using the N-word, even after being informed that his use of that word causes so many people harm. It is a community’s most hurtful word. It has been used for hundreds of years as a dehumanizing term, sneered through hatred and chewing tobacco spit and abuse. YOU. DON’T. GET. TO. USE. IT.

And if you do use it, and we hear you, don’t get all “snowflakey” on us when we call you what you are: A selfish, sadistic, knuckle-dragging, anti-Christ, racist, asshole who has been duped into believing that the shared space of this world belongs only to him.

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Thank you for reading. I know it’s been a few weeks since I’ve written… And I know it’s hard to stay hopeful these days… But rest assured that when we are on the side of compassion, on the side of equal rights, on the side of the oppressed and vulnerable, we are on the right side of history. Even if it feels like we’re outnumbered right now.

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Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics, 3) Bathroom Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What We Can Learn About People In Restaurants and Costco Parking Lots

I’m a server at a restaurant. And as a server, I am completely dependent on the goodness of strangers in order to make money. Nobody is forced to leave a tip after their meal… Not even large parties where the gratuity is added to the check. If someone complains and says, “Hey–I don’t want to pay this automatic gratuity,” they don’t have to. You can’t FORCE someone to pay a gratuity. I know this from experience… I have taken perfect care of a table before, and–for whatever reason–they declined the auto-grat. One of those times, people actually said, “I only give 10% to God… You think I’m giving him 20?” But despite the existence of these kinds of people, I have been serving long enough to know that it always seems to even out. For every unbelievably cheap person out there, there seems to always be someone who is generous enough to make up for them.

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For every person like this out there, there is someone with a soul.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the name of the game is trying to get people to leave me money. Sure–I want them to have a great experience, and have a really nice meal… But when that check goes down, if I have to choose between someone thanking me profusely for how impressive my service was, or someone quietly leaving me an extra $20 on top of their regular tip, I’m choosing the money every time. Sorry verbal tippers out there–We can’t pay our bills with your kind words. 

Different servers do different things when they bring the check to the table. Some people write little messages on the check… Like “Thank you!” or “Come back again soon!” I’m not one of those people. Here’s what I do: I leave the check without a check presenter. You know–those little fancy booklets that have a little slot for credit cards? I don’t use them. And here’s why: I believe that the best way to encourage people to be generous is to make it harder for them to keep their cheapness a secret. When people have those books, it’s super easy to leave a crappy tip–with half of the book in the air, like they’re shielding their answers from the kid sitting next to them in middle school–and then just close it up so that no one other than their server (as well as the rest of the service staff in the restaurant after we show everyone) will know what a jackass they are (if you’re interested, I wrote about “How To Not Be A Jack Ass” here, and I wrote about “What Christians Need To Know About Tipping” here). But without that very effective hiding place for their stinginess, their lack of generosity is on display for all to see. Sure, they can still fold it in half… or flip it over… or strategically place the pen across the line where they wrote in the tip… But they still have to consider the possibility that someone they KNOW is going to catch a glimpse of their tip. Or lack thereof. Like SCOTUS Justice Louis D. Brandeis said, “Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.”

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You can learn a lot about a person by how they behave in Costco. What you can learn about me is that I’m in love with that little onion grinder thingy they have…

You can watch this same test of integrity play out in the Costco parking lot. Some time, take a couple minutes and watch what people do with their shopping carts when they’re done with them (Well, I call them shopping carts… My wife and now my kids call them “Buggies.” I was certain that this “Buggy” nonsense was only some quirk specific to her immediate family… Until she showed me an ACTUAL SIGN in West Virginia that said, “Buggy Corral.” My mind was blown. Though for some time I suspected she and her kin might have planted the sign).

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Apparently, there are people who refer to them as “Wagons” and “Carriages.” In case your Kroger is located in the Old West.

Anyway, watch to see if people take them back to the the Shopping Cart Return/Buggy Corral. If you watch closely, you’ll see that people are a lot less likely to push two of their cart’s wheels onto some grassy knoll if there are other people around. Their behavior changes based on who’s watching. MOST people, that is. Some people don’t care at all… They wear their indifference for the people around them like some sort of badge of honor. But as far as I can tell, there are four main types of people… In Buggy Returns and in life. Here they are:

  1. The person who is going to push their buggy onto a grassy knoll while waving at everyone driving by and wearing a t-shirt that says “I don’t give a f*ck about your stupid buggy return areas.” This person also has a higher probability of having a gun in their glove box (next to a copy of something written by Ayn Rand), a red hat in their backseat (so to speak), and at least a mild sympathy for the Confederacy.
  2. The person who believes they ALWAYS have a set of eyes on them. Jesus’ eyes. Always watching… Judging… Ready to catch you doing something wrong–like not putting the buggy where it goes–so he can give you a guilt trip. Keeping you afraid of the possibility of being sent to hell like almost everyone else on the planet to be tortured for all eternity. You know… The “Good News.”
  3. The person who is going to look for a return, but if there isn’t one close by, they just might ditch it somewhere. They’ll look around to see if anyone is watching… If not, they will shove their buggy somewhere it’s not supposed to go. If they make eye contact with someone, they might walk the extra 30 steps to the buggy return. They have a sense that shoving their cart halfway onto a curb is probably making someone else’s life harder… But they’re tired, you know? And at least they didn’t leave it where it can roll away. Like SOME people. Ehh, they’re probably going to forget about it in a few minutes anyway…
  4. The person who–for whatever reason–is usually thinking of other people… No matter who is watching. Maybe he knows the feeling of having to to pick up after inconsiderate people who spend their lives thinking “Someone else will take care of it.” Maybe she has had a job where she watched people rationalize and hide and lie to themselves about their own selfishness, and–through some twist of fate–she now walks around with that compassion and empathy at the forefront of her mind. A person who is outwardly-focused… Focused on “loving neighbors,” one might say…

And before you get all “Plank and Speck” on me, I am well aware that I am not even CLOSE to functioning at a level four all the time. Maybe not even MOST of the time. While I’m serving, there are times when I see the ice needs to be refilled, but my feet are sore, and I’m tired… And I push two wheels of the metaphorical buggy onto the curb. Especially when no one’s watching. So don’t get me wrong–I have the capacity to be every bit as selfish and lazy as the next guy… The difference is that I’m just aware that when I have those times of times of compassion and empathy and action and integrity and selflessness, I am way closer to getting it right.

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The party of “Me First” with the ideology that turns selfishness into a virtue… A match made in republican heaven.

And this is the part I don’t get about some people right now… Politically, and even somehow managing to rationalize it spiritually: Some people seem to have talked themselves into thinking that a “me-first,” screw-everyone-else mentality is morally acceptable. Possibly even morally superior. And I think it’s morally repugnant. A me-first, “America First,” healthcare-denying, immigrant-excluding, refugee-banning, wealth-worshiping, poverty-demonizing, all-lives-mattering, privilege-protecting disease of the mind and soul has infected a disturbing amount of people in this nation. Things like compassion and empathy and selflessness are looked at as signs of weakness. Or a punchline. Or even an evil enemy with nefarious names like “socialism” or “political correctness.” So I have compassion for people who have been duped into believing #2… I have empathy for people feeling #3… But I cannot–for the life of me–figure out how people can’t seem to understand that #4 is such a BETTER version of themselves than #1.

Because it is better. It just is. It’s not that one is “right,” and one is “wrong” necessarily… There are always going to be exceptions and reasons for times when focusing on yourself has to be a focus. But as a balance… As a guiding principle… As a way of life, selflessness is just so clearly BETTER than selfishness. As a human guideline, as a spiritual guideline, and as a guideline of people who value anything at all about Jesus, it’s just better. It’s a better version of ourselves, and it’s a better version of a society worth having. But the disagreement over this basic starting point is what makes me wonder how we’ll ever get through this deep division we are in right now, where we have such starkly different concepts of something as simple as the Goodness of being outwardly focused. Oh–Wake up, world. Open your eyes, clouded by fear… And see your neighbor. See the virtue in taking care of each other. See the possibility of a better world, and start working on it like someone’s watching…

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Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Divinity School Drama, and Questioning Diversity’s Moral Goodness

You might not have woken up today and thought to yourself, “I wonder what’s going on in the Duke Divinity School.” Welp, too bad… Because I’m going to tell you. Here it is:

Drama–That’s what… Divinity School Drama.

So first I’m going to give you a short rundown of what happened, and then I’m going to tell you why I think it matters–even if you are one of the rare breed of persons who doesn’t normally care what happens within the walls of a prestigious Divinity School.

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You ever wonder if important theological work can be done in a pole barn? Or do you think it needs to be done in giant, ornate stone structures…

What Happened:
It started innocently enough… A Prof. named Anathea Portier-Young used a mass eMail to invite and encourage her colleagues to attend a 2-day training on Racial Equity. If you’ve ever worked in an office or in a college, you have probably attended “diversity trainings” like this before. Some are good; some are not. Some make you think; some make you think “I can’t believe we just spent four hours doing that.” Some feel vaguely like this scene from “The Office.”

Now granted–Different people feel different ways about trainings like this. Not everyone is excited to attend. Some of us might even groan or roll our eyes when hearing about trainings like these… But if your name is Paul J. Griffiths of Duke Divinity School, what you did was you wrote an eMail to the entire staff eviscerating the very concept of a Racial Equity Training in the sort of uniquely asshole-ish way that only a Doctor of Theology can muster. Here’s a segment of his eMail:

“I exhort you not to attend this training. Don’t lay waste your time by doing so. It’ll be, I predict with confidence, intellectually flaccid: there’ll be bromides, clichés, and amen-corner rah-rahs in plenty. When (if) it gets beyond that, its illiberal roots and totalitarian tendencies will show. Events of this sort are definitively anti-intellectual. (Re)trainings of intellectuals by bureaucrats and apparatchiks have a long and ignoble history; I hope you’ll keep that history in mind as you think about this instance.”

If you’re feeling like pulling out a dictionary, you’re not alone. Basically, he’s saying it’ll be an unoriginal waste of time to focus their time on a training combating racism… And if it gets any deeper than clichés, you will see these attempts at educating staff on racial equity for what they REALLY are: Thought Police trying to enforce communist ideals of “equality.” He goes on to say that what their REAL mission as theologians should be is to “think, read, write, and teach” about God (whom he–more grandiosely than could ever be needed–refers to as “The Triune Lord of Christian confession”).

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Is being “intellectually flaccid” considered a Pre-Existing Condition under the AHCA? And if so, can I get an I.V. for that? (Intellectual Viagra)

Well, Elaine A. Heath, Ph.D., the Dean of Duke’s Divinity School, didn’t appreciate Dr. Griffiths’ use of the list serve to dress down one of his colleagues and crap on something the school views as important. So she told him about it. She used the words “racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry” in her descriptions of his actions. And–as we have all seen unfold of at least 100 Facebook threads–them’s fighting words. The hubbub goes on from there… with a defender of Mr. Griffiths writing in, another lengthy letter from Mr. Griffiths laying out his case for the oppressiveness of a culture which doesn’t allow dissenting opinions, and photos of a letter detailing discipline for his actions and for refusing to meet with the Dean… All the way to Dr. Griffiths’ announcement that he will be retiring early. For those of you as nerdy as I am who want to read the whole exchange, you can read it all RIGHT HERE, but be aware that the information there is presented in a VERY biased and political-right-leaning way. Also, be aware that the reason you are able to read these eMails is because Mr. Griffiths decided to make them public… So we don’t know about other correspondences which might have taken place which–for whatever reason–he didn’t feel like releasing to the public.

Why I Think It Matters:
You might be thinking to yourself, “What does an argument between theological eggheads have to do with me?” Well, this argument is playing out all over the country right now. It is at the heart of the debate between people who want to let Milo and Ann Coulter and Richard Spencer use the stages at college campuses to spread their hate, and people who feel pretty good about punching Nazis in the face. It is what’s behind the debate about whether “hate speech” is actually a thing, or whether “hate crimes” should be dealt with differently. It is an ideology of “Sticks & Stones (will break my bones, but words will never hurt me)” versus “Words have the ability to harm.” And it’s why some people see a concept like “political correctness” as a clear evil, and other people see it as the good of simply attempting to treat people with respect…

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I am, most certainly, not an advocate of Punching a Nazi in the Face. Mostly because we shouldn’t be doing things to make people feel sympathetic toward folks like Richard Spencer. Although I must admit, I did watch the video more than once…

There are many questions behind these debates, but one of the main ones here is this: Are there some things which are objectively “wrong” or (in theological terms) “evil?” And more specifically to this situation–Is racism one of them?

Is sexism “wrong?” Is bigotry “wrong?”  To me, it feels like the main divide in this country is over this very “base” question of “What is good?” And conversely, “What is evil?” And where these broad terms of “good” and “evil” fail us, are we at least inclined to know what is “better?” And what is “worse?” Is diversity “better” than homogeneity? Is inclusion “better” than exclusion? Is equality and equity “closer” to the kingdom of God than the opposite? How we answer these sorts of questions determines MUCH about where we position ourselves both politically AND religiously… Because how we answer these questions reveals what we believe about God. What we’ve been told and what we believe about God influences our ideology. It’s the Transitive Property of Theology: If God = Good, and God = Exclusive, then Exclusive = Good… and then who the hell do you think you are telling me that an inclusive workplace is “better” than one which isn’t?!?

So what we see in the reaction to all this drama at Duke Divinity School is a reaction to the idea that these issues have been settled. In most of academia, these questions HAVE been answered. Inclusion IS better than exclusion. Diversity IS better than homogeneity. Sensitivity and compassion for other people’s feelings IS better than insensitivity and indifference to the feelings of others. Racism, sexism, and bigotry ARE evil… It’s been settled. And for many years it has been out of fashion to question the “settledness” of this issue. Even QUESTIONING the settledness of this issue would get them shouted down… So they would stay quiet, looking for ways their families could avoid places which assumed/enforced the settledness of these questions. They would put their kids in private schools or home school them, because they looked at public schools as “indoctrinating” their settledness. They moved away from the cities. They started to dislike things that smell “intellectual.” They sent their kids to Bible colleges. They went to churches with clear and firm borders on who was “in” and who was “out,” and they voted for people who promised those same clear, firm national borders. But all along, they still felt like they weren’t allowed to even utter the WHY of their ideology. We have shamed them into not being able to admit that for them, it isn’t “settled.” And they have grown resentful of those who keep them from being able to speak it.

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I am offended at the conspicuous absence of a often overlooked demographic: The Bald, Bearded, Progressive Christian Blogger. We shall overcome!

Now we live in two different countries, surrounding ourselves with people who have our same answer to the question, “What is good?” And this resent spike in racism and hate crimes has been encouraged by the unlikely ascension of a man who makes them suspect that their unsettledness is not as “out of fashion” as they once believed. So they vote for the same clear and firm borders–fearing the eroding boundaries that globalization brings–for their country that they need for their religion… They need to know who is in, who is out. Because if God is exclusive, and God is good, then exclusive MUST be good. And it spirals… The distance between us gets wider and wider. We talk past each other… Fear each other… Hate each other… Unaware that our inability to understand each other stems from the fact that we are holding different foundational ideas of something as basic as the concept of Goodness.

And so, back to Duke Divinity School, and why this matters. The question of “What is good?” is a theological question. It is–Even if you don’t believe in God. There are some seminaries and divinity schools who have settled on the goodness of exclusion… And–taken to its logical ends–the case can be made for the goodness of separation and segregation and even a rationale for racial purity. There are other seminaries and divinity schools which have settled on the goodness of inclusion… And–taken to its logical ends–the case can be made for a God who loves everyone equally, with no regard for borders, with no “in” or “out” to worry about… Here, OR in whatever the afterlife looks like.

I’m not sure if there is anything that can be done to change or influence a person’s sense of this foundational goodness… I don’t know if anything anyone writes or says or argues has any effect on someone else’s process. Maybe it’s just time. Or encountering people who are different than you. Maybe it’s education. It almost certainly ISN’T enforcing our “settledness” on others with a totalitarian control. Maybe there is no argument that can be made to affect anyone other than those people whose mind–through time, experience, and education–is already teetering on the balance between goodnesses. But one thing is for sure: Both of these things cannot be Good. And something tells me that the “movement” of this process generally goes in one direction. The movement of human consciousness is in the direction of understanding equality and equity and diversity and inclusion as Good. And even if we’re not certain enough to call it Good, we at least see evidence of it being Better.

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Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Tell Governor Haslam To Protect Tennessee’s LGBTQ Citizens

Here’s the thing: The Legislative process can be confusing. And a lot of the time, this is on purpose. The confusion is intentional. Take for example SB 1085… “SB” stands for “Senate Bill” (as opposed to HB 1111, which is a “companion bill” where the “HB” stands for “House Bill”). The people here in Tennessee who know about it have called it the “LGBTQ Erasure Bill.” Here is what the text of SB 1085 says:

Statutes and Codification – As introduced, requires that undefined words be given their natural and ordinary meaning, without forced or subtle construction that would limit or extend the meaning of the language, except when a contrary intention is clearly manifest. – Amends TCA Title 1, Chapter 3.

Road House (1989)

You might also be thinking, “What does Patrick Swayze have to do with any of this?” Well, I decided this week that I was going to make the word “Swayze” become a synonym for “Cool.” Anyway, the Tennessee legislature is definitely NOT Swayze…

Now, you might be thinking, “Where does it say anything about gay folks?” And you’re right–It doesn’t say anything specifically about people who are LGBTQ. Sounds simple enough. “Words mean their ‘natural and ordinary’ meaning.” Seems fair… But make no mistake, this bill is specifically designed to take away the civil and equal and human rights of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. It is one of SEVENTEEN anti-LGBTQ bills in Tennessee that have been introduced this session, and it is very closely-worded to a failed bill which specifically stated that “mother,” “father,” “husband,” and “wife” would all be given their “biological” meaning. You can watch David Fowler of the “Family Action Council TN” (a big backer of this bill) speak directly about how SB 1085 is a broader replacement for the failed discriminatory bill in this video.

Now this bill–probably largely because of how obtusely “harmless” the verbiage sounds–has passed, and likely the only thing that will keep it from becoming a law will be a veto from Governor Bill Haslam. Here is how this is designed to hurt Tennesseeans who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, or Asexual:

This bill would insist that federal agencies and courts would apply a “plain” meaning to language that mentions gender. So if there was a law of a policy which used the word “husband” or “wife,” this bill/law would prevent the understanding to be “spouse.” And what THAT would do is it would effectively exclude same-sex couples from many protections. They are basically trying to put as many things in place as possible to weaken the Supreme Court’s Marriage Equality decision. It can become law either with or without Gov. Haslam’s signature… The only thing that can keep it from becoming law is his veto.

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Bill–You don’t have to run for Governor again. LGBTQ folks in Tennessee are hugely outnumbered. Don’t do the popular thing… Do the RIGHT thing. Make those flags proud.

So if this becomes a law, it could do a lot of damageIt could keep a woman from putting her wife’s name on the birth certificate, it could prohibit confidential communications in court between same-sex couple, or it could even keep same-sex couples from using surrogates to have children. NOT ONLY THIS, but it could also have effects on straight folks as well (just in case you’re one of the folks who only cares about injustices done to YOU, and not about injustices done to people who make you feel a little bit “icky” on the inside). There are laws in Tennessee which speak of a “man’s” right, and if this horrible bill is signed into law, those can be interpreted NOT to apply to a “woman’s” rights.

And if that wasn’t enough, this law is going to cost Tennessee taxpayers A LOT of money. It is clearly unconstitutional, and Tennessee will spend all kinds of money defending it against legal challenges. Tennessee currently has a policy that “gender-specific words are to be construed as gender-inclusive.” The courts have sided with that opinion. This would be EXPENSIVE… Not only to defend legally, but when the rest of the country becomes aware of what actually happened with this law, and they understand the sinister, evil intent of its language, it will be expensive in other ways as well. We have seen the kind of negative economic impact that North Carolina’s disastrous and discriminatory “Bathroom Bill” has caused that state… When people find out how intentionally hateful this bill is, we can expect the same sort of blowback.

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Come to find out (a friend informed me), in the movie “Superstar,”–Mary Katherine Gallagher said the phrase, “He’s the Swayziest.” So it turns out I wasn’t the first to make it up. Anyway, long story short, my mom has always loved this dude. And I wish “Dalton” was here to “Roadhouse” this awful bill right out the front door of the Double Deuce.

Tennessee’s Legislature has spent an inordinate amount of time this year trying to hurt LGBTQ people in this state. There are an overwhelming amount of republican lawmakers in this state, and they all seem to have a boner for taking away gay people’s civil rights. If what you’re trying to do is send a message that says, “Y’all aren’t welcome here,” believe me… The queer folks in this state have gotten that message. For the life of me, I can’t seem to figure out why they stick around. What is so great about this place that would make them endure this continued harassment? Because I don’t see it. But for whatever reason, they do. They love this place, and they call it their home. And they just want to love who they love, and receive the same fair and equal treatment that other couples enjoy in The Volunteer State. Like me, maybe they know this place to be friendly and kind–despite what our legislature keeps doing. But that hospitable reputation will be HURT by this hateful bill being signed into law.

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Listen man, you’ve appeared on SESAME STREET! Did you not pick up anything while you were there about treating people right even if they were different than you???

So I… You… WE can put pressure on Governor Haslam to do the right thing. You can call his office at (615) 741-2001 and voice your opposition to this hateful and discriminatory bill. You can learn more about why keeping this bill from becoming law is so important by CHECKING OUT THIS PAGE. You can add your name to THIS PETITIONAnd, maybe most importantly, you can speak to your gay friends, and remind them that you are on their side. Let them know you love them. Let them know they are welcome, and that you are glad they are a part of your life. Let them know that–regardless of whether or not Governor Haslam ends his tenure with a discriminatory act of political cowardice or an inclusive act of political bravery–you will continue to fight along side of them until–someday–they stop having to worry about this shit anymore.

If you value this blog, you can help support it by becoming a Patron HERE. It’s easy, and it’s a Swayze way to help out. If you’d like to “boost” a post on Facebook, or if you’d like to leave a tip, you can do that on PayPal HERE. If you’d like to share this or follow me on Facebook or on Twitter, that would ALSO be Swayze. Lastly, I’d like to say a special thank you to my friend Jennifer Sheridan. You have been a rock star lately keeping the people in your life informed and active as to what these scoundrels have been trying to do. I know it has been exhausting. I also want you to know I am on your side. I see you, and I love you in all of your powerful lesbian glory. Keep up the good work.

Posted in 2) Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Story Of How A Woman’s Right To Vote Came Through Nashville–A Story Of Hope

Last night I sat in my driveway with tears in my eyes, and I listened to the end of a story on NPR (specifically a story on RadioLab titled “One Vote”). You ever hear a story that is SO AMAZING that you can’t believe that you haven’t heard it until that very moment? It’s a story about Nashville, Tennessee… A story I had never heard in the 16 years I’ve lived here. And it’s a story you should probably know about.

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Here’s an early 1900’s ad against women’s suffrage… Although spend ten minutes on Twitter, and I’m sure you can find something similar on Alt-Right accounts.

This story is about women’s suffrage… The right to vote. And I want you to know about this story for a few reasons.

  1. It hasn’t been very long since women have been able to vote. It’s been less than 100 years. There are a whole lot of people walking around who are older than a woman’s right to vote. So all of the sexism that women have to endure? It makes sense. Not saying it’s okay. Just saying that–given the time frame–it makes sense.
  2. Things actually ARE getting better. History is so very important. I know that it can feel like everything is going to shit. And viewed short-term, you’re probably right to feel that. But if you look from 30,000 feet… If you take a longitudinal view of human rights… If you know your history… Then it’s clear that things are getting better and better. Do not lose hope.
  3. Your vote matters. I can’t stress this enough. People fought…. People DIED fighting for your right to vote. And the ones in positions of power–the people with all of the money–these people WANT you to feel like your vote doesn’t matter. But it does.
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Translation: All the women for equal rights are ugly.

The 14th Amendment was adopted on July 9, 1868. It is a fascinating Constitutional Amendment, but one of the things it did was guarantee the rights of citizenship to people born in the United States. And one of those rights was the right to vote. The 14th was an Amendment that came out of Reconstruction. There were a whole lot of women who helped the cause of the abolitionist movement, so when the 14th Amendment was being written and debated, many women involved in the fight for equal rights thought that women would be included in the 14th Amendment’s language concerning suffrage. But at the last minute, the word “male” was inserted into its language, so the right to vote in 1868 was guaranteed to “MALE citizens twenty-one years of age.” But not women. Women would have to wait another 52 years for that right.

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More flattering suffragist imagery. That front tooth, tho…

Fast forward to 1919, when Congress voted for the 19th Amendment, which would give women the right to vote. But in order for that Amendment to become part of the Constitution, it has to be ratified by by three fourths of the states. And in 1919, since there were only 48 states, that meant that the suffrage movement needed 36 states. Thirty-five states voted to ratify, but it was being defeated in many of the other states. The pro-suffragist movement looked at all of the states left to vote, and the only state where the vote was close enough to having the possibility to pass was Tennessee. So in the summer of 1920, everyone from the pro-suffragist movement and everyone from the anti-suffragist movement descended  on Nashville when a special session was called. You really need to listen to the story on RadioLab… It’s so good (The whole podcast is good, but if you want to just hear the drama surrounding the vote, you can start at 30:42).

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Back when America was “great.”

So in case you don’t listen, just know it was a dramatic scene. Both the pro-suffragists and the anti-suffragists set up their headquarters at The Hermitage Hotel–In Nashville. In August. With no air conditioning. Everyone wore a rose on their lapel–Yellow for a Yes vote, and Red for a No vote on ratification–and it became known as “The War of the Roses.” They called the ones for ratification “rats.” There was wheeling and dealing, and there were dirty political tricks… Like forging letters and telegrams from lawmaker’s families telling them that their wives or kids were deathly ill, and they had to come home right away. When it finally came time for the vote, they counted the roses on the floor… 48 yellow, and 48 red. After two separate 48-48 votes to table the vote (essentially killing the Amendment), at the last minute the youngest member of the General Assembly, a 24 year old named Harry Burn–a young man wearing a red rose–considered a letter his mother, Febb Burn, had written him telling him to “be a good boy” and vote for ratification, and he changed his “No” vote to a “Yes.” And with that one vote, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, and American women won the right to vote.

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“I knew that a mother’s advice is always safest for a boy to follow…” ~ Harry Burn

Well… WHITE American women won the right to vote. Jim Crow laws were still strong in the South, and the Voting Rights Act was still another 45 years away. Even today, we still have gerrymandering based on racial demographics, we still have voter ID laws that are designed to make it harder for people of color to be able to vote, and we still have laws designed to disenfranchise people who commit crimes, while convictions and enforcement of those crimes is more focused on people whose skin in black and brown. But still… The 19th Amendment was a victory for human rights. And even though there is still much to fight for, it was undeniably a step in the right direction.

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“Because it means competition of women with men instead of co-operation.” ~ The person writing this had to be laughing.

There are times when something moves through the consciousness of the world… Times when the world–for whatever reason–starts to wake up a bit. And around this time, the world was waking up a bit to the full humanity of women. New Zealand passed women’s suffrage in 1893; Australia in 1902; Finland in1906; Norway in 1907; Iceland, 1913; Denmark, 1915; Russia, 1917; Austria, Canada, England, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Poland, Scotland, and Wales all gave women the right to vote 1918; Holland and Sweden in 1919. The United States is far from anything close to a “leader” in women’s rights. One of the main arguments against suffrage in the U.S. was that all women having the vote would do is either double a husband’s vote, or negate it… Either option being unfair to men. I’m going to end this paragraph while you think about that for a minute (And while you’re thinking about that, perhaps revisit this post titled “The Real Reason You Hate Hillary Clinton”)…

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Anti-suffrage leaders in 1913 “(from left): Mrs. George Phillips, Mrs. K.B. Lapham, Miss Burnham, Mrs. Everett P. Wheeler, Mrs. John A. Church.” Notice their names–It’s the men’s names that are important. Also worth noting, strip poker was an arduous task in the early 1900’s, sometimes taking 30-40 hours.

This story in interesting to me for so many reasons. While I was researching this story, one thing that was just crazy to me was how many of the anti-suffragists were women. It reminded me of the gross feeling I got when I saw females wearing “Women For Trump” T-Shirts. But there are always going to be people who are duped into believing they should vote against their own interests. And there was so much racism involved in the opposition to women having the right to vote… The last thing white folks in the South wanted was a bunch of black women canceling out their votes. There are so many interesting and inspiring parts to the story of women winning the right to vote. But again, one of the most interesting things about this story was the fact that I had never heard it before. Harry Burn was 24. When I see people who are 24, the look like KIDS to me now. After his vote ratified the 19th Amendment, he wrote in the House Journal, “I appreciated the fact that an opportunity such as seldom comes to a mortal man to free seventeen million women from political slavery was mine.” All the drama behind the scenes, the letter from his widowed mother (which you can see here), all of the years of hard work put in by the suffragists like Susan B. Anthony and Carrie Chapman Catt… It’s such an amazing story.

But back to my three reasons for sharing it with you. 1) This is NOT ancient history. This hatred for women is alive and well. Especially in the Church (if you don’t believe me, check out #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear on Twitter). There are still a bunch of powerful white men walking around trying to figure out whether they should be focusing their political influence on limiting women’s rights or limiting the rights of people of color. For many, many people in this country, any movement away from white-centric, male-centric United States is a threatening thing, and it will be met with anger and hatred. 2) There is reason to be hopeful. The fact that women earn 77¢ for every dollar that a man makes is unacceptable, but it is way better than things were 100 years ago. The world IS waking up… Little by little. Our impatience at the pace of progress is not the same thing as lack of progress. Progress often moves in “three steps forward, two steps back.” And when we are living in a time of “two steps back,” we need to tell the stories of “three steps forward.” And 3) You NEED to vote. If you are a woman… If you are a person of color… If you are a citizen of this country, you’ve got to vote. Inform yourselves, support good journalism, and then vote. Vote for what is right. Be willing to compromise. Don’t let the best be the enemy of the good. Your vote MATTERS. The ones with all the power and the money want you to believe that your vote doesn’t matter. It does!

I leave you with a video we should probably watch at least once a month…

I am filled with hope right now. There is goodness everywhere. Thank you so much to the people who give a little each month to help support me and this blog. Thank you especially to Terri Janke who recently became a Patron on my Patreon page. They make it really easy for people to help support the content creators they value. If you’d like to become a Patron, CHECK OUT THIS PAGE. If you’d like to leave a tip on PayPal or you want to boost a post, you can DO THAT RIGHT HERE. And if you want to follow me online, you can do that by clicking on Facebook or Twitter. In this time of darkness, let us tell the stories of the light.

Posted in 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The San Bernardino School Shooting, and Finding Hope Amidst The Trolls

I got on Facebook this afternoon, and discovered that there had been yet another school shooting. A man named Cedric Anderson checked in at the office of North Park Elementary School in San Bernardino, CA, he walked into the classroom of Karen Smith (a special ed. teacher who used to be his wife), he pulled out a concealed gun, and he shot and killed her before turning the gun on himself. Two students were also injured in the shooting. Jonathan Martinez, age 8, later died from his injuries. The other student is said to be in stable condition.

Now–I don’t want to write today about the fact that the shooter was a Christian pastor, and how that fact doesn’t necessitate other Christian pastors publicly denouncing this horrific act of violence… Almost everyone already knows that this is not what Christianity is about–Just like almost all the Muslims in the world already know that horrific acts of violence are not what Islam is about (I mean, if this guy were a Muslim, that fact would be in every headline… But for some reason, the fact that he was a Christian pastor is not getting a whole lot of press). And I don’t want to talk about the idiocy of the argument that some people have immediately started making already that “This just shows that teachers should be able to carry guns” (as if something like this could have been prevented by anything less than a teacher who had a pistol IN HER ACTUAL HAND as she taught). If someone is dumb enough to either believe or even consider something like this, there is probably not any rational argument I would be able to make to change their minds. I don’t want to talk about how the man who killed these people posted stuff from the “Father’s Rights” movement, posted stuff about gun rights and buying an assault rifle, and posted about his support for Trump here, here, and hereWhat I want to talk to you about today is the steady stream on “HAHA” emojis that flew across the video of the news coverage of the shooting.

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It’s hard to tell from the pixely picture, but I can assure you that my mustache IS as sexy as it looks.

If you’ve ever seen a Facebook Live video, as people react to the video, an emoji representing the person’s “reaction” floats across the video… The options are Like, Love, HaHa, Wow, Sad, and Angry. As I watched KTLA’s coverage of this tragic shooting, I was not the only person watching the coverage to notice an inordinate amount of “Laughing Face” emojis going up as they talked about the people who had died and the kids who were fighting for their lives in the hospital. I took a video of it here (it’s a video I took with my phone of a video on my computer, so it’s not the greatest quality):

I’m not sure how easily you can tell, but I took a random 30 seconds of video, and when I went back and counted, in that 30 seconds, there were 60 reactions. 32 them were the laughing “HAHA” emoji. As I continued watching, that ratio seemed about right. Roughly HALF of the faces that floated across the screen were laughing. You can see the Facebook Live video below.

Also, if you’re still confused as to how someone like Trump could get elected, just read some of the comments below this video AT THIS LINK… There are all kinds of important theological conversations going on there. Here are a couple examples:

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This is what so many Christians sound like… We’ve become a punchline. And the truth is, this kind of theology DESERVES to be a punchline.

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Something tells me the woman who made this comment was not aware yet that the shooter was a Christian pastor…

Anyway–Laughing emojis. Two kids got shot… Murder-suicide at a school… In front of kids… And it seemed like a whole lot of people are clicking on the Laughing emoji. People were making comments like, “What is WRONG with you people who are laughing at this?” and “This is why I hate humanity.” There is something about watching stuff like this that injures the deepest part of me. It hurts my soul… My spirit… My hope. So as I sat there in disbelief–watching all those people take a moment out of their lives to represent that they think school shootings are humorous–I decided to see what the actual totals were of the reactions. Here is what I saw:

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So. Of the 52,000 or so reactions to the video, roughly half were people who expressed sadness. And about one fifth were people feeling angry… But just over 800 people had thought to LOL at this tragedy. But as I watched, that didn’t seem to make sense. AT LEAST HALF of the total emojis coming in were laughing. So I checked the running tally for HAHA’s, went back to the video and counted out about 100 laughing faces in about a minute and a half, and then refreshed the page to see if those new HAHA’s were counted on the totals. But here’s the interesting thing: The running tally of the HAHA’s only went up by six. And here is what that MEANS: It means that there were a handful of A-holes clicking and reclicking on the laughing emoji… probably getting whatever F’ed up sexual thrill internet trolls get when they make people feel like the world is turning more and more into a shit hole.

And that is the narrative of the Troll: They have fallen for the lie that the world is a hopeless shit hole, and they’re trying recruit as many people as possible to live in their sad existence. When I clicked on a few of the first names of the list of people who decided to laugh at a school shooting, here are the sorts of memes I found on their pages:

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Poor little snowflake…

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Yeah… THAT sort of person.

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If only you knew…

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Ah yes… Back when America was “great.” Before “pussies.”

Here is what Trolls do: They try as hard as possible to hurt you, and then they make fun of you for being able to be hurt. And they pull out words like “snowflake.” And “pussy.” But being able to FEEL things IS strength. The ability to be offended is strength. Having compassion for people other than yourself is STRENGTH. The only ones saying otherwise are the ones who have already given up. And their misery LOVES company…

And the sad thing is, sometimes it works. Sometimes people see too many of these things, or they see how many people have “liked” pictures like these, or they read one too many comments, and they just… Give up. They lose hope that things could ever get better. It’s understandable… I consider it every now and then. The waves of bigotry and ignorance and hatred erode my optimism. Because Trolling is a disease of the soul… But HOPE is the antidote. 

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This is the picture I have in my head whenever people online use the term “Social Justice Warrior.”

So today I waded into the tragic shit storm that is an elementary school shooting. I found a bunch of fake christians making comments that blamed this tragedy on lack of prayer in schools and not having enough guns. I stumbled into a nest of internet Trolls–bereft of hope–who were doing their best to spread their misery. And somehow–I’m not sure how it happened–I’m going to fall asleep tonight feeling more hopeful than I have felt in a really long time. I guess I just saw them for who they are: Pitiful. And sad. And fake. And hopeless. The vast majority of the people in the world are filled with an appropriate sadness when they hear about another school shooting. So many of us are filled with a righteous anger that these things keep happening. And yeah–There are a few people who are so broken that they laugh at stuff like this. Even a few is way too many… But there aren’t nearly as many as it seems like there are.

Here’s the moral of the story: Sometimes the stuff that makes you feel like giving up… The stuff that makes you feel like hope is for suckers… The stuff that makes you feel like the good things about humanity are hopelessly outweighed by the bad things… The stuff that fills us with despair when it seems like every fight is a losing battle… SOMETIMES all that is is a bunch of little A-holes who are so invested in making the people around them miserable that they go out of their way to be as offensive as possible. Sad remnants of people, sitting around trying to inflate their numbers. They are the sort of folks who go through the trouble of creating a fake email address in order to harass perfect strangers, hiding their cowardice in their anonymity. They treat compassion like weakness, and poke fun of a desire for something as basic and good as Justice. They are the lonely, broken elementary school bullies who have now grown up, and–thanks to the Internet–have found a dysfunctional community of other lonely, broken bullies. But the world is not full of bullies… sometimes it just seems that way because they make so much noise. Yes–there are bullies out there… And just like in elementary school, most of us are just too scared to say anything. Too scared to stand out. Too scared to take a risk. But God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 

It can be easy to forget that people are not completely awful. On days like today it can be easier than others… Like when a small group of people who wear the term “deplorable” like some demented badge of honor spends their time posting laughing emojis just to piss people off. But the truth is we’re winning. History testifies to this fact. There are rights we have today that people 100 years ago wouldn’t have even dared to DREAM about. And even when we lose, our losses lay the foundations for our future victories. Yes, there are people whose fear and ignorance makes them long to go back to an often imaginary time which nostalgia and privilege turn into a time that was “great.” And yes, that same fear and ignorance often compels them to troll and attack people whose hope is viewed as a threat. But we are winning. LOVE is winning. The moral arc is bending. The Kingdom is coming. Hallelujah!

Let us hold each other up when the ones around us feel too weak to stand! Sometimes we are the ones doing the holding, and sometimes we are the ones who need help. Thank you so much to Anne Detraglia, my newest Patron. Thank you for helping to hold me up when I am feeling helpless and hopeless and I start to forget that Love is so much stronger than hate. You have done this so many times with comments on my Facebook page. Thank you. If you’d like to become a Patron and help support this blog, you can do that RIGHT HERE. Or you can also give on PayPal, if you feel like LEAVING A TIP. Otherwise, follow me on Facebook or on Twitter. Now let’s get energized… There’s work to do!

 

Posted in 1) Jesus, 2) Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

When Jesus Leaves Your Church, Follow Him

I believe that the colossal national failure that made the election of Donald Trump possible was a theological one. I mean, yeah, I realize that ignorance played a big role as well… And I understand that a lot of people were deceived–both by fear, and by propaganda posing as legitimate journalism, put out by media outlets that value ideology over the truth. But more than this problem of trying to figure out what we know and what we don’t know–more than the epistemological crisis that is caused when the people we are supposed to be able to trust LIE to us with such regularity, while simultaneously calling true things “fake news” when those facts don’t fit peoples’ power-hungry agenda–I believe that the real problem we are facing as a nation is due to the way we answer these questions: Who is God? And who are we? And who is our neighbor? 

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One of Jesus’ lesser-known miracles was a totally beefy physique. Also, if there’s not already a band named “Beefy Physique,” there should be.

Am I the only one whose theology has been affected by the election of Donald Trump? This past election has profoundly affected my faith in humanity. And even more than the election, what has REALLY darkened my view of people has been the continued support so many still give him, even in the face of such a clear and present douchebaggery. And when my faith in humanity falls… Well… It hurts me. It continues to hurt me. It hurts the deepest (and I think maybe the most important) part of me: My hope. My hope is not built on anything as solid as “certainty.” Some days it’s not even a word as strong as “belief.” A lot of the time, my hope is nothing more than a suspicion. It’s a suspicion that humanity’s goodness is stronger than our selfishness. It’s a suspicion that the light is stronger than the darkness. It’s a suspicion that the moral arc of history–though very long–is bending toward justice. And, if I’m being honest, my suspicion–my HOPE–has never been more under a daily attack than it has been since the people of this country elected one of its worst citizens as its leader.

And again–if I’m being honest–A lot of what I thought was disappointment in humanity was really just me grieving over the feeling of becoming a minority. “Wait… You mean most people DON’T believe the same things that I do about right and wrong?” But as hard as it is for a white, straight, Christian man to come to the fragile realization that he is no longer in the majority, Trump’s election continues to affect me. I’m not even close to over it. Because how we perceive humanity directly affects how we perceive God to be. And likewise, what we believe about God directly affects what we believe about humanity. This is one of the main reasons so many people give up on church. And religion. And God in general… Because in most churches in America, the god they believe in is nothing less than a monster. They might be able to ignore that fact for a while, but at some point, most thinking people realize that the “good news” sounds like a horror story. “Hey–GOOD NEWS! God hates everyone who doesn’t believe what we believe! Yup, he hates them enough to have them all tortured forever!” And we’re all, “Wait… You’re calling that god ‘GOOD?!?’ That god sounds like a total dick.”

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The fact that this Jesus is white makes him wearing the hat at least plausible.

Made In The Image Of A Monster

And so, the failure that allowed for a person like Donald Trump to be elected as our president is clearly a moral failure, but it is specifically a theological failure. It is what happens when the majority of the people calling themselves “the church” believe they are made in the image of a monster. And when you believe you’re made in the image of a monster, it’s not a very far leap to find yourself VOTING for a monster. It’s easy…

  • The god who is for “us” and against “them” is obviously the god who thinks we should be dropping bombs on those Muslims countries… And banning the ones who are running away from the wars from coming here for safety.
  • The god who is going to send everyone to Hell who doesn’t believe the things WE believe makes it easy to vote for a person who promises to do “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”
  • The god who requires firm lines of orthodoxy would certainly endorse a candidate who promises to build a wall.
  • The god who is–very soon–going to end the world in a fiery ball of judgment is not a god who thinks that taking care of the environment is a very high priority.
  • The god who does miracles when people pray does NOT need a church community who is committed to working–right here and now–to build a more equitable society by changing laws and policies.
  • The god who is in control of every little thing obviously WANTED those poor people to go without healthcare… and conversely, that same god WANTED those rich folks to have more than they could ever need.

Who is God? Is God a monster who eternally punishes everyone who doesn’t believe the same things that we believe? Does God only love the people inside of our boundaries… Both national and theological?

And who are we? Are we so utterly and hopelessly depraved that there is no bit of good in us? And if that’s what you believe about humanity, how easy is it to treat other people like a piece of shit?

And who is my neighbor? Are we built to love even the people who are different than us? Maybe even ESPECIALLY the people who are different than us? And might “loving” those different people mean more than just trying to convince them that 1) they are garbage, and 2) a monstrous god killed his own son so that a few people can avoid the eternal torture that he set as their punishment?

I swear… When I hear that 81% of white evangelicals voted for Trump, it fills me with so many emotions: Pity. And anger. And frustration. And confusion. And mostly sadness… It is such a bastardization of what the Church is supposed to be. When people lose their moral compass, the Church SHOULD be the voice of conscience. When people forget that we are better when we take care of each other, the Church SHOULD be there to remind them. And when nearly half the country votes for an openly bigoted, misogynistic, narcissistic shyster of a megalomaniac of a fool, the Church SHOULD be the first one to say, “WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS!” Instead, the church is leading the way. And now Trump is talking about “totally destroying” the Johnson Amendment–the 60 year old law restricting Churches from openly endorsing political candidates… GAH! Churches who are allowed to openly criticize and preach against a political candidate SHOULD be the scariest thing in the world for Donald Trump… But then, that only applies to the Churches who are more interested in the Truth than they are interested in political power and nationalism.

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If it wasn’t for the halo, they’d be hard to tell apart…

So if you find yourself at a church that preaches the kind of “good news” that even allows for a rational theological case for supporting and voting for a person like Donald Trump–A person who demonizes immigrants, who demeans women, who lies on a daily basis, who defends torture, and who is opposite in every way to the words, life, spirit, and person of Jesus Christ–know this: That church has no business calling itself “Christian.” Christians follow Jesus, and the policies and tactics of this administration are wholly incompatible with the Jesus of the Bible. I can’t say that strongly enough. The ideology of Trump and the ideology of Jesus are completely and totally opposite. Though if you’re having trouble telling them apart, maybe TAKE THIS AWESOME QUIZ.

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This one is one of the tougher questions…

When followers of Jesus love the people outside of our belief system as much as Jesus seems to think God loves those people, then we’ll stop worrying about the borders of orthodoxy AND the borders of nations. And the thing is, most of the time the chances are good that it will not be your church that changes… It will be your heart. One day, things that used to make sense to you just won’t make sense anymore. You will embrace the mystery of a benevolent universe. You will look around and notice people’s brokenness, but you will also see their divinity. You will experience God as the thing pulling us all toward GOODNESS and LIGHT and LOVE. And like Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” You probably won’t feel Jesus leave your church–You’ll just wake up one day and realize Jesus left a long time ago… I suggest you follow him. 

I have something to admit: I have been feeling hopeless. I have been feeling like the world’s problems are so huge that nothing I do or say or write matters. And that may be true–Maybe none of the stuff I write matters in the long run. But we don’t speak the truth because it’s going to change the world… We speak the truth because it’s true. I feel like this is true today, and even when the steady drumbeat of lunacy and depravity in the news breaks my heart and makes me feel like slipping into despair, I want you–the person who is reading this–to know that I love you. If you’re feeling any sense of the same despair that I have felt lately, I want you to know that you’re not alone. And there is hope. Also, if you are looking for a Church, here’s something I wrote. Anyway, thank you so much to my Patrons, who also give me hope. If you value this blog and want to support it, you can BECOME A PATRON or you can leave a TIP ON PAYPAL. Stay connected with me on Twitter and on Facebook.

 

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A Great Way To Spend Your “Day Without A Woman”

March 8 is International Women’s Day, and this year that day will be accompanied by the opportunity for women to take part in a nationwide protest called “A Day Without Women.” It is being organized by the people who put together the amazing “Women’s March” that inspired and encouraged so many of us. On the website, it says that…

“Anyone, anywhere, can join by making March 8th A Day Without a Woman, in one or all of the following ways:

  1. Women take the day off, from paid and unpaid labor
  2. Avoid shopping for one day (with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses).
  3. Wear RED in solidarity with A Day Without A Woman
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I love this. So much.

Here is a GOOD EXPLANATION of what is happening. I haven’t seen the same level of solidarity and enthusiasm that I saw in the lead up to the Women’s March. There are probably a lot of reasons for that… I think there is some confusion about what exactly is happening, and I think some people are concerned that it would only be “A Day Without Privileged Women,” but I think there is also a bit of fear involved as well. Many of us have never really even SEEN a real strike… One where people decide to not go into work… One where the people striking have DEMANDS. Showing up to march on a day off is simply not as big of a commitment as deciding to NOT SHOW UP TO WORK, and maybe even risk getting disciplined or fired.

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A day without women is a day without getting shit done.

Now, I am a man… So this isn’t my thing. I can stand in solidarity with women as they stand up for their rights, and protest, and flex their economic muscles to remind the world how truly powerful they are–ESPECIALLY when they are standing together. As a man, I will definitely be wearing red on March 8th to show my support as well. And as a man, I certainly don’t want to tell women how to do their protests… I am reminded of the strength and self-sufficiency of women on a daily basis (you’d understand this if you know my wife). Still, I have an idea. And this is my blog, so I’m going to share it. I’m okay with that, and I hope you are too. I have been published in Huffington Post’s “Gay Voices” and Huffington Post’s “Black Voices,” and I am neither of those things. I am lending my straight, white male voice to people who might not experience the same privilege that I do. Anyway, that being said…

On February 16th of this year, there was another nationwide “Day Without” protest that took place… It was “A Day Without Immigrants.” In Nolensville, TN (just outside of Nashville, where I live), there is a company called Bradley Coatings, Inc. that made national news when they fired EIGHTEEN OF THEIR EMPLOYEES after they took part in the “Day Without Immigrants” protest (This is not to be confused with Bradley Coatings Group in Gibsonia, PA, who received so many calls that they put a disclaimer on their website that said, “IMPORTANT NOTICE: WE HAVE NOT FIRED EIGHTEEN EMPLOYEES FOR PARTICIPATING IN A PROTEST! WE ARE BRADLEY COATINGS GROUP – LOCATED IN GIBSONIA, PENNSYLVANIA – AND ARE IN NO WAY AFFILIATED WITH BRADLEY COATINGS INC. OF NOLENSVILLE, TENNESSEE.”). It seems that nationwide, there were about 100 workers fired for taking part in the Day Without Immigrants… Eighteen of those workers were from Bradley Coatings. One of the fired employees gave this statement as a message to his former boss:

“I would tell him he was unfair, after working for them for so many years, giving him our best. They could not understand that it was just one day. We were going to make up that day on a Sunday, but they didn’t understand that, and it was not the best way. They didn’t give us an opportunity and just told us we were fired.”

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Just in case you’re wondering, BCI does NOT stand for “Better Careers for Immigrants.”

So think about this for a second… Bradley Coatings is not a giant business. They have somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 employees and an annual revenue of about $4.6 million. In a town of just over 9,000 people (where only about 2.7% of them are Hispanic), a small business relied so heavily on immigrant workers that–when there was a day to show people how important immigrants are to local businesses–this company ended up firing ALMOST HALF its workforce. And there might have been some Hispanic workers who DIDN’T take part in the strike. There are many painting businesses in the Nashville area, and almost all of them rely on immigrant workers to do the actual WORK of painting. They are the bodies who are laboring so that people pay them money, so that Brad Williams (President) can pay the salary of the standoffish lady who answered the phone when I called… And ended up hanging up on me when I asked to speak with someone who COULD answer any of my questions about whether they had rehired their workers.

Just to recap…

  • Only 2.7% of the people in Nolensville, TN are Hispanic
  • Nearly HALF of Bradley Coatings, Inc’s workforce are Hispanic
  • Eighteen of these employees took part in the “Day Without Immigrants” protest, to show how integral immigrants are to area businesses.
  • Bradley Coatings responded by firing all 18 workers.
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We are ALL immigrants…

So maybe you are a woman who is taking part in the Day Without Women strike and protests… Maybe you are a man who is supporting them… Maybe the thought of “striking” and not going into work makes you feel nervous because you really need to keep your job… Maybe you feel disconnected because the ones who can afford to take a day off probably are in a position where they can do so without a whole lot of risk, and more vulnerable women won’t be able to take part because of economic insecurity… Maybe you are a stay-at-home mom, and you taking a day off only “affects” your kids… Maybe you just have a weird feeling about the whole thing… But whatever your deal is, you CAN choose to lend YOUR voice to these 18 immigrant workers who were fired for taking part in a movement that asserted their own worth. 

There are a few ways which you can lend your voice to these workers. 

  1. You can call Bradley Coatings at 615-776-1910, and you can tell them to do the right thing: Hire these immigrant workers back, and compensate them for lost wages. Seriously… We can inundate their phone lines with demands for justice.
  2. If you are a business owner who needs a painter, you can let Bradley Coatings (as well as their president, Brad Williams) know that the reason you are not considering them for the job is because you are disgusted at the treatment of their immigrant workers, who are the lifeblood of their business.
  3. You can put pressure on the businesses who deal with Bradley Coatings, Inc. and let them know that they are dealing with a callous company who does not value their immigrant employees.
  4. You can organize a protest outside of their address at 7222 Haley Industrial Dr
    Nolensville, TN 37135 like these awesome people did.

These protests, the Women’s March, this Day Without Women… they are so important to this country. If you are a woman showing your strength during the Day Without Women (or if you are a man like me who is so inspired by that strength) and you are looking for a place to flex your collective muscles, maybe spend some time standing against this clear injustice, and stand along side these 18 immigrants who lost their jobs.

If you know of other companies who fired their immigrant workers who need to be reminded the difference between right and wrong, maybe put their info in the comments. ALSO, if you want to help support this blog, you can totally do that. You can BE A PATRON. You can leave a tip on PayPal. You can follow me on Facebook and on Twitter. You can just share this post with the people in your life. Or you can keep calling Bradley Coatings at 615-776-1910 until they decide that firing these workers isn’t worth the headache and the financial loss. We are NOT powerless. Together, we are strong.

 

 

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The Republican Party Is NOT Morally Bankrupt

A lot of people will tell you that republicans will abandon any of their moral principles for even the *chance* at just a little more power. This is simply not true. Take, for an example, the recent separation of republicans from Breitbart editor and professional Twitter Troll, Milo Yiannopoulos. Here is a person who has made a name for himself by leading targeted harassment campaigns. He was one of the key figures in “Gamergate,” where an “Alt-Right” coalition of racists and misogynists (who consider him a champion of sorts) rallied behind him to harass, intimidate, and threaten women and minorities in the video game industry. Along with women and minorities, Milo targets Muslims, foreign students, and people who are transgender–A group that is already nearly TEN TIMES more likely to attempt suicide–all while hiding behind the concept of “free speech.” He helped spearhead the racist campaign of hatred and harassment against Leslie Jones after she dared to take part in an all-female remake of Ghostbusters (which I wrote about HERE), and as a result of that (and other things), Twitter closed down his account. Think about that for a minute… TWITTER! Do you have any idea how many awful examples of humanity are posting things on Twitter? Imagine what kind of a special ass hole you have to be to get banned by Twitter. He is a genuinely despicable, objectively terrible human being who gets some sort of demented gratification out of attacking groups of people who are already at risk… And none of those things were enough to discourage the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) from inviting him to be a speaker for this year’s conference.

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A celebration of depravity and cruelty… A republican hero.

These facts might lead you to suspect that the republican party has no moral compass whatsoever… That they have no sense of common decency or concept of right and wrong. Well, I’ve got some good news for you! They WILL separate themselves and disavow some people, even if that separation might alienate some of that person’s adoring fans. There IS a line they won’t cross. Here’s all it took: It took him condoning PEDOPHILIA. It took an actual video of him defending grown men having sex with 13 year old boys.

That’s it. That’s the line. That’s what it takes for you to be “too awful” to be embraced by today’s republican party–DEFENDING SEXUAL ABUSE AGAINST 13 YEAR OLD BOYS.

Appearing at a college and targeting a transgender student BY NAME? No big deal. Verbally attacking rape survivors? Meh. Claiming all those “rape stories” from college campuses that involve sex are “all frauds and hoaxes?” We’ve got bigger fish to fry, people. And (as you can see in the video below) it seems that a person stating he believes that grabbing a woman’s breasts is NOT sexual assault, and that men groping women is “not that big a deal” is ALSO not particularly disqualifying…

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What are you gonna do about it?

I mean, I GET why some people night be tempted to think that republicans have no moral line they will not cross… That kind of thing is going to happen when CPAC has ALSO asked someone to speak who was caught on tape bragging about how being famous allows him to do whatever he wants to women… Including “grabbing them by the pussy.”

This might seem like a disaster to some–Especially for the party which so many Christians feel compelled to vote for–but I think it’s a good thing… You know? At least we have a line now. At least we know what is officially “out of bounds” for the party of “conservative values,” the “moral majority,” and evangelical voters:  It’s defending and condoning the rape of middle schoolers.

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Would this proposal include a certain orange narcissist?

As republican leadership has taken this brave stand against condoning pedophilia, we are already seeing other republicans start to distance themselves a bit from the former golden boy, Yiannopoulos. In Tennessee (where I live) a representative named Martin Daniel (click on his name for his contact information, if you happen to feel like calling him and letting him know what you think of him) was trying to pass “The Milo Bill” (created after protests kept Milo from speaking at Berkley) that supposedly “protects free speech” on college campuses. But now (after finding out Milo is a defender of pederasty), he has decided to add a few more names to the bill…

Yes, you read that right… He’s taking down the “Milo,” and adding the names of Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine, and Martin Luther King, Jr. to the bill. I will now pause to give you time to deal with the vomit that is almost surely in your mouth…

But make no mistake: These people are are not interested in protecting ALL speech… They are interested in protecting speech that they agree with. If a Muslim with anti-American leanings wanted to speak at the University of Tennessee, and student protests made it clear that his voice was not welcome on campus, it would be a clear case of “The people have spoken.” But when a mouthpiece for Alt-Right hatred gets shouted down, all of a sudden it’s a “violation of that person’s right to free speech.” But listen–Just because you have the right to say something doesn’t mean that I have to lend you my megaphone. And Milo’s right to spout his hateful lies does not include the right to use any platform he desires.

For years, Steve Bannon’s “Breitbart” was celebrated as the number one platform for the Alt-Right. And–until this recent controversy forced him to resign and cost him a $250,000 book deal–Milo Yiannopoulos was a Breitbart Senior Editor and a pet project of Steve Bannon… A man who now sits as this current president’s Chief Strategist, as well as holding a seat on the National Security Council. Bannon’s white nationalist platform now has a front row seat at White House Press Conferences… A LITERAL front row seat, since Trump’s team only reserved one seat for a member of the press: Breitbart.

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Milo to Hairdresser: “I’m looking for something that says ‘Hitler Youth.'”

There is no question of “Is this the right thing to do?” The morality of an issue is not a concern… Only the questions of “Will this bring us more power than we currently have?” and “Can we get away with it?” The GOP will GLADLY embrace white nationalists and avowed racists if it will give them more power. They are not bothered by Trump’s continued lies, they are not bothered by his philandering or his three marriages, they are not bothered by his wife’s nude photos (neither am I, but these same people seemed very disturbed by Michelle Obama showing her shoulders in a photograph), they are not bothered by his inflammatory hatred against Muslims, Mexicans, immigrants, and refugees, they are not bothered by his continued bullying, they are not bothered by his continued attacks on the American democratic process and the freedom of the press, and they are not bothered by his continued hypocrisy (as he attacked president Obama for playing too much golf, while going golfing SIX TIMES in his first month in office).

The closest thing today’s republican party has to a moral question is this: “How much will it cost?” The only criticism that seems to have any staying power with republicans right now is the criticism of how much all of his and his family’s travels are costing. In eight years, President Obama’s travel cost totaled $97 million… In one month, Donalds’s travel costs have already topped $10 million. In one month, Donald Trump has spent one tenth the cost of President Obama’s TOTAL travel costs for 96 months. At this rate, if Trump were in office for eight years (God forbid), the American people will have spent $960 MILLION on the Trump family’s excursions to Mar-a-Lago and his wife’s decision to stay in her gilded New York Tower. That’s over SIX TIMES the amount of the annual budget for the National Endowment for the Arts that republicans want to get rid of… But even now, it is grossing me out that I feel like this is the only criticism with any teeth. THERE IS MORE TO RIGHT AND WRONG THAN HOW MUCH THINGS COST!

So it turns out the republican party is NOT completely morally bankrupt. It might seem like none of their concern is with any issues of “right” or “wrong.” It might appear that they are concerned with one thing: More power. You might think they will abandon any moral compass they may have had for a chance at more power. I mean, sure… They don’t care about a lot: They don’t care about hypocrisy. They don’t care about attacking the character of rape survivors, or acting like all accusers of sexual assault are making it up. Here are just a few of Milo’s headlines from Brietbart:

  • “Male Students: Do Not Go To Consent Classes” 10/16/15
  • “Muslims Will Bring Lamb Chops, Yoghurt, and Gang Rape to America” 10/30/16
  • “‘Slut’s Remorse’ Is My Rape Suspects Should Be Anonymised” 6/23/14
  • “Islam Is The Real Rape Culture” 10/12/16
  • “Even If You’re Acquitted Of Rape, Feminists Can Still Ruin Your Life” 10/7/16

They also don’t care about baseless and unfounded attacks on the legitimacy of our electoral process.They don’t care about attacking the legitimacy of our courts. They don’t care about saying that “feminism is cancer.” They don’t care about bragging about sexual assault. They don’t care about mocking disabled reporters. They don’t care about a man who claims to be a Christian who hasn’t sought forgiveness. They don’t care about choosing white nationalists to be part of the president’s cabinet. They don’t care about attacks on our most vulnerable citizens, and they don’t care about demonizing refugees and prohibiting entry for women and children fleeing war zones. They don’t care about a president who brags about grabbing pussies, and they don’t care about “journalist” who brags about being able to give such good head today because of the priest who forced him to as a child.

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“Leaving it up to the states” to decide whether or not to protect trans kids is going to put lives in danger. It’s disgusting and shameful.

And as of yesterday, they don’t care about protecting the safety of transgender kids just trying to use the bathroom at school without getting harassed. They act like they care a *liiiiitle* bit about wasting money… Though they’ll waste ALL THE MONEY if it will keep them in power. But there’s one thing they WON’T stand for… There is a line they won’t cross… There is a character flaw in their leadership they won’t overlook… There is one thing that they will not sell out for… There is one value for which they will not abandon their moral center…. HERE IT IS: They won’t put up with people defending and condoning the rape of children. At least not on video. And at least not if people hear about it because that video gets shared a lot. Or unless that person says they are sorry for saying what they said… We’ll wait and see. AT LEAST THERE IS A LINE!

So that’s something… Right?

Right?

These are crazy times, my friends. We need to help keep each other sane and hopeful. If this blog is one of the things that accomplishes that for you, maybe consider supporting it. You can be a Patron… IT’S SUPER EASY. You can leave a tip on PayPal. Or you can just follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

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How To Tell If Black Lives Actually Matter To You

Last week in Nashville, a man named Jocques Scott Clemmons was shot and killed by a police officer after being pulled over for running a stop sign. When he was approached by the officer, he fled. As he ran away, he was shot twice in the back by officer Joshua Lippert–a man with a disturbing history of being suspended for excessive use of force. Jocques Scott Clemmons died in surgery, and his death left his two small boys without a father…

maxresdefault.jpgNow, before I go on, I’d like to say that–like many of you–I am friends with police officers. I know them to be good and honorable people. They are public servants who are doing what they do in an attempt to HELP people… And that fact makes any criticism of law enforcement very difficult for me. So–like many of you–when I hear about yet another black man being shot and killed as he was running AWAY, I want to believe that there was some sort of REASON this happened. My ASSUMPTION is that there was a reason he was killed… I feel I should admit that. Despite the many stories and examples to the contrary over the past few years–I am still part of a group of people who assumes that most police officers are acting appropriately. I grew up in a world where the cops were always the good guys. So when I hear that Jocques Scott Clemmons was a convicted felon (convicted of drug charges), and that he was carrying a gun, I have to admit–something in me is almost relieved. It comes as a relief to me (As if carrying a gun while being on probation is a good enough REASON to get killed as you’re running AWAY from someone who’s going to send you back to prison).

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Do they really?

There’s this thing that happens inside me when I hear of an injustice like this. It keeps happening, and it grosses me right out about myself. But I want to be honest about it, because I don’t think I’m the only person who experiences this. When Trayvon Martin was killed… there was this deep sense of SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!” But if I’m being honest, I kept waiting–kept expecting that some detail would come out that would justify this. We want so badly to believe that we live in a just society… We look for things to justify the taking of these lives. We LONG for those things. And so, as soon as there is news of another life taken, there are forces at work who try to give us those things. For example, with Trayvon, we had…

  • He was actually a pretty big kid.
  • That picture they put out was a couple years old.
  • He had been suspended from school for marijuana possession.
  • There was a picture of him flipping off a camera.
  • The man who chased him down and killed him had a bloody nose.
  • Why did he run if he wasn’t doing anything wrong?

There is an uncomfortableness that comes when we encounter injustice. And we don’t like that feeling, so we look for an explanation. We look for a justification. And when we find it, we let out a small, non-verbal, comforting, “Ah, there it is…” It can be frighteningly easy to go from “SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!” to “Ah, there it is…” And so people hear about a kid being shot while carrying nothing but Skittles and an iced tea, and their soul cries out, “SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!” But the uncomfortableness of that moment is quickly assuaged by stories of being suspended for marijuana use, or a picture of him sticking his middle finger up… And through the miracle of white supremacy, people let out a soft, “Ah, there it is…” It alleviates that uncomfortableness.

And those justifications–no matter how insignificant and unrelated–are RUSHED out to us. Think about it: Facts about cases like this come out slowly… Facts like “How many shots were fired,” and “The name of the officer who pulled the trigger,” and “Releasing any video evidence of the shooting.” But please consider this: There is one piece of information that NEVER takes long at all to come out–Please consider the BLINDING SPEED at which we are informed of any criminal record the person who was just killed may have had. The very first things released to the public are always designed to JUSTIFY the killing. Here is what Metro Police immediately tweets out…

 

He is not described as a man who was shot in the back as he was running away… He is simply “Gunman.” And so the information that is immediately available about Jocques Scott Clemmons is never “Beloved member of the community, and father of two.” The information we given are these things: “Convicted felon, and carrying a gun.” Not only that, but they released information that turned out to be false. Initial reports said that Clemmons “abruptly” charged at the officer and made “full contact” with his body… A claim that was proven false by the release of a NEW VIDEO of the interaction.

And yes–It appears Jocques Scott Clemmons had a gun on him (though it would not be unprecedented for a gun to be planted). And yes–It is illegal for a convicted felon to possess a firearm. But even if he hadn’t been previously convicted on drug charges, it would STILL have been illegal for him to have a gun. Did you know this? It turns out that it is illegal to carry a gun in federally subsidized housing projects. I didn’t know this fact until just last week. A lot of people are unaware of this… Which is surprising with all of the protests the NRA has made to this clear violation of the 2nd Amendment, right? What’s that? The NRA doesn’t really concern itself with the 2nd Amendment rights of People of Color? Weird… Here’s something true: In this country, if you are a white person, carrying a gun is your GOD-GIVEN RIGHT! If you are a black person, possession of a gun is all the justification that is needed for someone to shoot to kill.

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The James A. Cayce Housing Projects…

If you’re wondering why people keep saying BLACK LIVES MATTER… If you’re wondering why people keep insisting that BLACK LIVES MATTER… If you’re wondering why people keep DEMANDING that BLACK LIVES MATTER… This is it. Because even as a white person who considers myself an ally, I still look for the justification–I still assume there is a reason–for a black man to get shot in the back as he is running AWAY from police.

And what is frightening is how little it takes–even for me personally–to go from anger and outrage at the injustice of YET ANOTHER black life ended by law enforcement, to justifying the reason he was killed. It doesn’t take much. Because the amount it takes to go from “Outrage at injustice” to “Justifying inaction” is how much that life matters to you. I’m going to say that again… The amount it takes to go from “Outrage at injustice” to “Justifying inaction” is how much that life matters to you. So when you see people showing up by the tens of thousands to march for the Women’s March, but you only see a couple hundred protesters (almost all of them black) turn out to march for Jocques’ life–ended by two bullets in his back as he ran away–the reason for that is clear: His life didn’t matter. Not to the majority of the population, at least.

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An image from the Justice4Jocques march. Photo credit: Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean

I worked in this area of Nashville for years. I saw the kids who lived in those projects every week at their failing school. I knew fourth graders reading at a kindergarten level. When I talked with teachers about the daunting task of educating those kids, I was told that roughly one in three had a parent in prison. I tried to talk about “goals” with kids who–at ten years old–already had an understanding that their future involved them “ending up in prison or dead” (and as it was nearly 10 years ago that I was there, I can safely assume that many of those teenagers and twenty-somethings are probably now in one of those two places).  I watched as real estate and home prices around those projects SKYROCKETED in value… As white people moved into those homes. I watch as people in positions of power–instead of resolving to FIX those schools that are failing these kids–attempt to make cases for taking funding from those schools in order to pay for vouchers for private schools that most of those families could never afford. I watch as this killing comes mere months after a report (called “Driving While Black”) is released (and largely ignored), even though it showed statistical evidence of racial profiling within Nashville law enforcement.

When Gideon’s Army (the people who put out the “Driving While Black” report) went back and checked officer Lippert’s 2016 statistics, they found a couple disturbing facts:

  •  For officer Lippert, “90% of the stops he made were of black drivers,” a rate that was “disproportionate to the black population of any of the census tracts he patrolled” and was “20% to 50% higher than other officers in the same areas.”
  • Also, officer Lippert “searched drivers at astronomical rates. His rate for conducting any search (30.6%) is five times greater than officers patrolling the same census tracts (5.1%).”

Here is what those two facts look like in graph form. Again, you should READ THIS

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Listen. There are a lot of horribly racist people out there. When a GoFundMe page was set up to help cover the Clemmons family’s funeral costs, FIVE of the fifteen comments on the page were justifications for his death (while another attempted to inform people of a GoFundMe set up for Joshua Lippert). But we cannot think that racism is limited to the sorts of people who make comments on a family’s funeral fundraiser like “he was a thug asking for it” and “he should of listened to the police” and “Got what he deserved” and “Don’t make it sound like he was the victim.” We look for scapegoats, like Dylann Roof, to sacrifice. But the darkness of racist is not a “THEM” problem… It is an “US” problem. And the best way to solve an “US” problem is to focus on where it is a “ME” problem. What is wrong with them?” is an easy question to ask. “What is wrong with us?” is a little bit harder. “What is wrong with me?” is where the real hard work takes place.

So I want to confess that I am disgusted with myself. I am disgusted by how little it takes to relieve that feeling of “SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!” I am grossed out by how small the fault in a person’s character can be in order to begin to justify the unjustifiable. I am deeply disappointed by how much injustice I am willing to endure in the world and in my own community. I am saddened by my inclination to assume that there must have been a “good” reason why yet another black person was killed. And I am ashamed that there have been many times in my life where Black Lives DON’T Matter to me… At least they don’t seem to matter enough to possibly risk offending the friends I have in law enforcement. Do black lives matter to me? Well… Am I showing up? How easy is it for me to justify yet another life ended by a police bullet? Am I looking for an “Ah, there it is…” to ease the uncomfortable feeling inside me? How easy is it for me to ignore the voice inside me insisting that “SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!”

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Let’s hope so…

Over 10,000 people showed up to protest for the Women’s March in Nashville… And that’s a good thing. When a white officer right here in Nashville killed a black man by shooting him in the back as he ran away, only a couple hundred folks showed up to protest… We should probably ask ourselves why that is. Here is something true: White people need to show up in support of black lives. If the only voices saying “BLACK LIVES MATTER” are the voices of People of Color, then there are not enough voices saying those words. If you missed your chance to respond to the “SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!” welling up inside of you, the good news is you will have another chance tonight. There will be a Justice4Jocques event tonight at Legislative Plaza at the Capital. And if you can’t make it tonight, you will have another chance tomorrow to stand up. And the next day. And the next… A chance to RESPOND to (instead of silencing) that voice inside of you that cries out “THIS IS NOT OKAY!” We cannot allow small things to transform our OUTRAGE AT INJUSTICE into justifying inaction.

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