Okay, So What Now?

The last few posts have been about hard truths that I don't think a lot of people wanted to read. Maybe I've been hidden from a few Facebook timelines. Maybe somebody I haven't spoken to in a while just because time drifted us apart is now deliberately not talking to me. Then again, maybe everyone just accepted what I had to say and moved on.

Either way, we need somewhere to go from here. We need hope, and that's not just because of how an election turned out. We need hope because we just simply do. 

The phrase that keeps repeating in my head is "It's time to write." It's why you've seen more blog posts in the last few days than in the last six months. I'm trying out new story ideas in my head. A friend of mine even joined NaNoWriMo, a program that challenges you to write 50,000 words of a novel in just the month of November.

Now is the time, friends, to recommit yourself to the things that most make your heart leap from your chest or beat too fast. Now is the time to be brave and bold.

And for me, it's time to write.

 

Seriously, Just Stop

I hadn't planned to blog again so soon, but for the past few days, I've been on Facebook more than I ever am. This is a weird, historic time that we're in and I'm valuing reading everyone's opinions. There are a lot of messages about hope, and frankly, that's incredible. Let us look forward to the future with the belief that it will be better.

I don't write today because of the hopeful ones. There's another type of post I've seen and it demands I put pen to ink in hopes that I can do something to change it. I feel as if I'm probably shouting into the void (which would arguably be the most fitting slogan for Facebook), but I don't think this is time to sit on the sidelines.

The type of post I'm seeing that makes me absolutely boil is the one that says "I'm tired of being judged for voting Republican." I saw two of them just yesterday and they weren't just Facebook statuses, but full blog posts. The premise is rather simple. The writers of these posts believe that people are silencing them from rejoicing about their Republican vote. They believe, in some way, that there is an oppression happening and that it's unfair.

They voted Republican and they demand that you know that it's not because they're racist, sexist or any other type of -ist or -phobic that's typically being associated with leaning that way right now. I think it's important that we believe them. I think, in a divided time, that we have the obligation to trust them that there was no evil in their hearts when they cast their ballot that day.

But, and yes, there is a big but, that doesn't make me any less upset about their blog posts. There's the whole "I don't agree with what you're saying, but I'll die for your right to say it" thing, but the lovely thing about freedom of speech is that it's not the same thing as freedom from consequence. 

The consequence, here, is that writing about not wanting to be judged, silenced, or oppressed because you voted a certain way puts your privilege like a stamp on your forehead. I read a post, again by a probably incredibly well-meaning young woman, where she argued that both candidates struggled with character so she had to vote on the issues, however you want to define that.

This person could vote for whichever party she wanted because neither party was attacking her. Do you know who didn't get to just put character aside when they cast their ballots that day? Muslim Americans. Latino Americans. The LGBTQ+ community. Immigrants. Potentially even women.

These are not all of the people groups who struggled with this election and struggle even more with the outcome, and I wouldn't argue that everyone person defined by those characteristics even voted against Trump. Some probably voted for him and I think it'd be wonderful to hear why, exactly. 

Again, this is not about who you voted for. And again, this it not an accusation that anyone who voted Republican is any of those -ists or -phobics.

What it is an accusation of, and I pray that you hear this clearly, is of privilege and lack of empathy.

The man these people voted for campaigned specifically on a platform of all of those -ists and -phobics that these people are so quick to distance themselves from. I will accept no argument on this point. There were other issues, sure, that were mentioned, but it doesn't even take a skilled hand at Googling to find examples of racism, sexism, even mocking of the disabled, from the campaign trail.

All of these things had to be ignored in order to vote Republican and that is an action for only someone in a place of privilege. 

I am willing to grant you, again, that you are not racist, sexist, homophobic, or any of those other many things, but you need to own that when you cast your ballot, you didn't just not condemn those things, you didn't just say those things were okay, you agreed that those traits can be active qualities of the leader of our country.

And our leader reflects who we are, for better and for worse.

Now at this point, maybe you're feeling attacked. That was the whole point of your blog posts, right, was that you felt attacked for believing and being what you are? You felt oppressed, silenced, marginalized.

I empathize. I really do. It can't be a good feeling, believing that people don't respect who you voted for, what you voted for, who you are.

Maybe there are a few other groups of people who understand what that's like.

This Is Not Who We Are

When I danced with my mom at my wedding, I picked what is probably not a common song. There were the obvious ones about relationships between moms and sons and probably even songs about weddings. They're all, frankly, a little corny. I couldn't do it.

I picked a song called "More Like Love" by Ben Rector. You can listen to it on YouTube here, though there's no telling if that link will be taken down. In case you don't listen, the chorus is simple:
Now I just want to look more like love.
I just want to look more like love.
This whole world is spinning crazy; I can't quite keep up.
It's the one thing around here that we don't have quite enough of.
So I just want to look a little more like love.

I picked the song not because I thought it applied to that particular moment in time but because it applies to every particular moment. I want that song to be in my head every time I think about doing something stupid, something selfish, something that helps me but hurts another.

That song is in my head this morning and I'm struggling with the feelings that come with it. Something has happened and I didn't cause it, but I'm afraid of where it could be taking us.

I've been of voting age for three elections now and this one has been immeasurably more nasty than the other two. This election thrived completely on an Us Vs. Them mentality and I think it was probably won on it. The more compelling side seemed to better project the need of protecting an Us from a Them and that's where we're left.

What worries me is the definitions of Us and Them. Will people I care about be considered Them? Will people I don't even know but deserve rights just the same as you and I be considered Them? And if so, who will protect Them?

These are questions we don't know, but there is one thing I think I can say with certainty: This Isn't Us.

America is acceptance, and this is straying a little to things more personal to me, but Christianity is acceptance too. Don't believe the scary people you see on TV that tell you they're for something or that they believe something. There are good Americans that want to protect the rights of all people. There are good Christians who want to love all people.

It is now, of course, on us to reveal what we are, if this is not us. It is up to us to love and protect and fight and rally and cry together. I hope that we'll actually do it. I hope this churning in our collective stomachs last more than just today, and this week, and this year. I hope we move forward and find something like healing for a broken people.

I hope we learn, every day, to look a little more like love.

I Think We All Know This Isn't Working

I've got to admit, I got a little caught up in it. I think I fell for what they were selling without even realizing I was in the market. It wasn't until I realized how much I was talking about it, how much I was googling it, how often I clicked on links in Facebook that I knew I'd be suckered.

Of course, I'm talking about American politics.

I've always been of the opinion that anyone who makes it so far as to be up for election for public office is probably too far removed from my needs to ever care for them. There's a reason things get so regularly better for rich white men and everyone else just has to cope. (Before we get into it, I realize I'm a white man and probably share in quite a few more privileges than most. Maybe that makes it all the worse if even I can see the system is rigged.)

This year, though, there seems to be a clear villain, or maybe even villains, painted. There are Bad Things happening this year and I don't think anyone would disagree with that. I got caught up in the story of Good vs. Evil, however good can be defined in this particular tale. I forgot that evil, essentially, is the system anymore. Evil is the thing that's doing good only for itself and ignoring the needs of so many.

I still got caught up in the normal reality tv drama that an election always turns into. It was exciting, in a way. I could come into the work in the morning and have something to say about current events. That's not always true of me. I usually don't care.

I think, after falling into their trap and now, slowly trying to pry it apart and wiggle my leg free, I have an observation. I don't know if it's worth anything, but I have one.

You are never, ever going to hate someone into believing what you believe. There is no amount of yelling, demanding, bullying, or even tricking that you can do that's going to swing someone to your side of an issue. It's not that it's unlikely. It's impossible.

Instead, be kind. Be unfailingly kind. Love people too much. Listen to their stories, even if it's so much unlike yours that it makes you squirm in your seat and need to step out for a moment to collect yourself afterwards. That's okay, really. You should be uncomfortable once in a while. 

I think, in a way, we're all born glass vases. We're pretty and we're delicate and before long, someone's going to break us. Even a perfect life has a shattering moment or two. So we collect the pieces of ourselves, maybe even leave some of the worst ones behind if you're lucky, and keep moving. After a while, we're all just these sharp parts of vases, jagged shards walking around and cutting each other each and every time we make contact. 

Now you wouldn't tell a child, or anyone, to go collect a pile of broken glass off the street with his bare hands, but collecting beach glass is something I remember doing as a little kid. That's because, through years of contact from the ocean's waves, these shards have been changed. Their sharp edges have been dulled.

We too can change ourselves and each other, for the better, through contact with one another. It's uncomfortable work, but it's so necessary.

Because right now, it doesn't seem like the stabbing each other, with our political opinions or otherwise, is getting us anywhere but hurt.

I Broke Myself, I Think

It's probably a combination of a lot of things, but I don't like that since I wrote about writing on here, I've been having more of a problem with it than I have been in a long time. The old idea that if you talk about your work, the chemicals in your brain make you believe you've already completed it keeps coming to mind. Usually that's related to someone praising you for what you've done, but the idea is still there.

Did I break my good streak of writing by talking about it or are these just the normal hills and valleys that stuff like this go through?

Admittedly, I'm writing something long-form in a new format with absolutely no plan of where it's going, so there's going to have to be bumps. I'm aware of every time I use a "be" verb. I don't always know how to do what I'm trying to. Sometimes, like that, I end sentences in prepositions.

So again, I wonder, is it because writing is hard or did I actually break myself?

I guess time will tell and until my fingers fall off or something, I should probably just keep writing anyway. Any step forward is better than standing still.