Monday, October 28, 2019

Your Grades Don't Matter (sort of)

Dear Kids,

When I was in the fifth grade, in 1985, I participated in something that has come to be known as "the Mad Libs incident." A group of us (self-proclaimed) super smart kids always finished our work quickly and therefore we were permitted to hang out in the back of the room and do Mad Libs or play Scrabble. Some of the words we chose for Mad Libs on the day of "the incident" were newly learned and not at all school appropriate. The teacher found out. We all got "Bs" in Behavior on our report cards that quarter. (Yes, we used to get actual grades in Behavior.) And our parents had to sign copies of the offensive Mad Libs page. Fortunately, copy machines in 1985 weren't so great and half of the words didn't even show up on the copies. My point is, the trajectory of my life was not greatly altered by the B I got on my report card, even though my ten-year-old self lamented that Harvard now would never give me a serious look.

And my greater point is this - in ten years . . . actually, even less . . . no one is going care whether or not you got straight As in elementary school or even middle school. Or high school. Or college. I promise. They are stepping stones and they serve a purpose. But they are not permanent markers on your being.

This does not mean I'm not proud of you. I love when you bring home fantastic report cards. I also need to be careful sometimes. Do I love your grades because it feels good for other people to see how well my kids are doing? (Thanks, social media) To an extent, I've been guilty of that. Yikes and yuck. I'm sorry about that part. But mostly I'm proud of you because you work hard and because it makes YOU feel good to do well. I love when your grade isn't where you want to be and you take it upon yourself to focus and bring it up.

Sometimes I'm even more proud of your friends! When I go to your awards assemblies every quarter (which seems excessive, but that's another matter), and I see your friends who stand up there time after time with no awards and then finally get handed a certificate for Honor Roll, I think that's awesome. Sorry for running up and hugging them first sometimes. It's a huge deal.

But know this. If you finish high school and get nothing but As, I will be disappointed. (Fortunately, disappointment already is averted for both of you there.) That means that school did not challenge you enough. When I was in high school, I took a lot of super hard classes. I also got every possible grade on my report card at some point (thanks, AP Calculus and Microbiology and AP English and even that one quarter in AP Biology and admittedly some pretty drastic senior-itis).

I want you to struggle in some of your classes. That will serve you well in college or whatever you do after high school. Don't take the easy classes to avoid the challenge. Ever. Get the B or C in the class that made you stretch instead of an A in which you barely exerted effort. Even the valedictorian at my very difficult, top tier high school had at least one B. He went on to some fancy college and probably is dividing electrons into ten pieces and I'm sure no one ever asks him in which class he got a B in high school.

On a related note, I could not tell you if my most trusted doctor or my favorite writer or the amazing attorneys at my law office got straight As or Bs and Cs in school. No clue. Because their success comes from so much more than a report card. And so will yours. And beyond professional success, I have NO idea what kind of grades my girlfriends got in high school or even college. It never comes up. But they are amazing women who have meant more than I can express to our family and to the communities in which they live.

Does having all As open doors to more opportunities after high school and more scholarships? Absolutely. And this single mom of yours is all about you getting some scholarships and having lots of choices in front of you. But please don't be silly like I was when I was ten years old and worry that Harvard will overlook you. Know that you can get at least as good of an education at your state school as you can an Ivy League school. So much of your college education is what YOU decide to put into it. So much of what happens to you after you graduate from any college is what YOU decide to put into it. Grades are one piece of an amazing puzzle that you craft for yourself as you grow and make decisions about your life's path.

Having great grades should be a source of pride for you. It is important. I don't want you to think otherwise. But more important that the letters next to each class is the effort that you put into your work. Be it with academics or your sports or your relationships with your friends, I always want you to give your best effort. Every day. It's when I see that effort, when I see you really care about how you are representing yourself and investing in yourself and others, that I'm most proud of you.


Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Silent Moderate Majority

Labor Day 2019 is behind us. A year from now, we will know who our Republican and Democrat nominees will be for president. The spectacle of the nominating conventions will be winding down and our nation will be in its home stretch to elect our next president.

I have voted for Republican and Democrats for president, senator, mayor, state rep, etc. I tend to vote for more conservative candidates at the federal level and more (relatively) liberal candidates at the local level, which I believe to be consistent with an adherence to federalism and keeping power in the states. I have not yet decided how my ballot will look in 2020 when it comes to my presidential selection. Perhaps, like in 2012 and 2016, I will find myself selecting a third-party candidate.

I know I will not vote for President Trump. My love for the Constitution and limited government and freedom and elected officials who have some knowledge of policy will not allow me to do that. Not to mention I'm a fan of diplomacy and basic human decency and rallies that don't make my stomach turn. I don't believe Trump to be a Republican at all, be it of the moderate or conservative variety.

But, I watch the Democrats debate and I cannot see myself voting for most of them, either. We are a capitalist republic with an electoral college and (ideally) power held primarily in the hands of state and local governments. And I like it that way. I'm not comfortable with the fact that the three leading candidates for the Democratic nomination are pushing each other ever more left and they are doing their best to bring the rest of the field with them.

How do you think this leftward push is going to work out for the Democrats come the general election? (Spoiler alert - not so well aka four more years of Trump aka yikes)

One of the more moderate voices who had declared his candidacy, Gov. John Hickenlooper, already has dropped out of the race. Fellow moderate Rep. John Delaney is struggling to get any traction and currently is not poised to make the cut for the debate stage next month. They are voices that need to be heard. In fact, we need to bring moderate voices back to the podium for both parties. Because that is where most Americans are. And that is how, through compromise and actually valuing different opinions and ideas, the best progress in our country is made.

The four most popular governors in our country, as gauged by approval numbers, are Republicans who lead states that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and three of those four states are super blue (Massachusetts, Maryland, and Vermont). What does this tell us? We WANT bipartisanship and compromise. We like it when it works.

I do not care if the person for whom I vote is Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, straight, gay, white, black, brown, yellow, male, female, young, middle-aged, or old. I don't really care if that person is labeled a Democrat or Republican or something else, because those affiliations have lost all significant meaning. I do want that person to know why he or she is running for office. I want that person to understand how government works. I want to be assured that whatever demographic or political labels that person uses, the rule of law and other government machinations are used consistently and equitably. I want that person to be curious and want to learn and find value in those around him with different opinions.

We should be able to bring different opinions to the table concerning gun control and abortion and the environment and education and foreign policy and immigration and not have them dismissed by the other side of the aisle because we have become accustomed to drawing party lines and calling out as traitorous those who dare to step over those lines.

I LOVE the Constitution. The number of times I read it every year likely would be found excessive by most. It's a beautiful and lasting document. It was crafted out of compromise by (white, landowning) men who came to the convention with wildly different ideas about how our new country should look. But they listened to each other without automatically defaulting to whatever the late-18th century equivalents of name calling like "RINO" and "libtard" were. And we are a powerful and dynamic and always striving to be "more perfect" nation because of it.

I have to believe that we really want the state of political discourse to be better than the sewer in which it finds itself these days. I have to believe that we really want to respect, protect, and hear our neighbors. Multiple sociological studies will tell you that we are feeling more isolated than ever, despite all of our digital connections, and that we are CRAVING community. I have to believe that we are willing to travel out of our philosophical or physical comfort zones to make that happen. I have to believe there are still electable leaders out there who want to take that journey with us.

Can you relate to how I'm feeling? Do you believe there is a moderate majority that is being ignored by the media and many of our leading political contenders?  

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Even Sadness is a Reminder to Celebrate

I have a confession. I haven't been very enthusiastic about the idea of celebrating the Fourth of July this year. I told my daughter that I look at the American flag these days and I get sad. I'm sad that we are so polarized and that this division goes beyond arguing over policy but extends into every facet of our lives. I'm sad that words like "bipartisanship" and "moderate" and "compromise" are seen as evil, traitorous words when actually those notions are important cornerstones of our republic. I'm saddened by the person who occupies the Oval Office right now as he runs counter to so much of what makes America great, and also that those who wish to replace him in the election next year are far from inspiring alternatives.

But I realized something this morning over my coffee and my re-reading of the full text of the Declaration of Independence, which I take time to do every year on this holiday - the sadness and the ache that I feel is exactly because I love this country so much. I'm in awe of her origins and her growing pains and her endurance. And what great love doesn't come with a little bit of heartache at some point, right?

I also realized as I reflected on those powerful and shocking words penned by Thomas Jefferson 243 years ago that my love for and celebration of this country does not need to be, and in fact should not be, contingent on how I feel about the politicians we've elected to watch over our bureaucratic machinations. We are so much more than that.

We are farmers and merchants who risked everything to defeat the most powerful military in the world. We are explorers who surveyed a diverse landscape unparalleled on this planet, with its mountain ranges and deserts and oceans and prairies. We are soldiers who fought to end slavery on our soil and to end genocide across the ocean. We are people of color who faced fire hoses and police dogs just to attend schools and sit in restaurants. We are women who participated in hunger strikes because we deserved the right to vote. We are aid workers who will be the first on the scene to provide food and comfort after an earthquake or flood. We are still people who deserved the gift of the Statue of Liberty more than a century ago as we embrace the huddled masses and wretched refuse who are simply yearning to breathe free. We are strangers who hugged each other and stood in lines for hours at blood banks when terrorists attacked us. We are neighbors who look out for one another. We are baseball games and lemonade stands. We are protestors and agitators. We are still all of these things.

And we have faced heated division in this country before. You all remember the election of 1800, right? Adams and Jefferson and their respective supporters were downright nasty to one another, each side convinced the other's ideology would ruin our new country. Years later, these two founding fathers reconciled and both died on July 4, 1826, exactly fifty years after our country was born and extolling the virtues of the other on their deathbeds. That's some intense history right there.

Oh, and there was the time that our country split in two over the notion of slavery (let's not kid ourselves that the motives were anything else). Though a painful process (and seemingly still an incomplete one as some people inexplicably continue to fly confederate flags), our varied states with their diverse economies and demographics and politics managed to come back together as one nation. America came back from THAT horror and, I think, was better as a result.

And how many people who lived through the late 1960s felt that perhaps our nation was at its breaking point, with assassinations of King and Kennedy, protests over the Vietnam War, and a general unrest as the baby boomers reached adulthood and shook up so many of the traditions and institutions held dear by their WWII veteran parents. That was fifty years ago, and we are still here.

I can look at the more than 200-year history of our still young nation and realize that periods of division and hate are nothing new - it's just that before we've always experienced these differences without Facebook and Twitter and misspelled memes filled with false information and this technology is a new and magnified hurdle to overcome.

I can think our president is ridiculous and embarrassing and that the politicized parade of tanks that he has planned for today is counter to what really makes America great. I can think that senators like Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz are cowards because they once spoke up against Trump but now kiss his feet. I can think that far left politicians like AOC and Elizabeth Warren are dangerous in their desires to make fundamental shifts to our political institutions and economic systems. But I also am thankful that I live in a country in which I openly can say that our president is ridiculous and embarrassing and that legislators are cowards or misguided in their ideology without fear of persecution. The First Amendment is pretty awesome like that.

I can decide it's OK to be a little sad when I look at the flag and know that this ache is borne of a deep love for a nation that has survived difficult times and trials before. I will celebrate that, because love is worth celebrating. And there is still nowhere else I rather would live.

In my celebrations today, I will focus on what really makes America great . . . hardly perfect, but great. There are other countries in the world in which people live free. We are not alone there. But, America has been tasked with being a beacon of freedom and cooperation and civility with a population intentionally constructed as a beautiful melting pot of different ideas and experiences. The fact that we endure and do our best to learn and improve through all of the restlessness that can occur when people who do not share the same skin color or religion or culture occupy the same space is what sets us apart. The fact that our flag is there for ALL of us, along with the freedoms and protections it symbolizes, whether or not we agree at any given time with what is being done in its name is special and important. 

Within walking distance of my home, right in my neighborhood, there are Christians and atheists and Hindus and Muslims. There are those who are "red and yellow, black and white." There are stay-at-home moms and working two jobs moms and lesbian moms. There are Democrats and Republicans and those without a political home (hand raised here) and those who are apathetic. There are active service members and veterans. There are families who send their kids to public school, to private school, and who teach their kids at home. Any of these various labels have the potential to cause division, and often do. Today, however, we will play at the park together and swim together and watch fireworks together. Maybe we will enjoy conversations over burgers and beers. It is during those everyday moments between neighbors, in which we decide to be invested in one another and know we are more than what happens in DC, that America shines its brightest.

We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor. - TJ, July 1776

Happy birthday, America! I love you so much!

Monday, April 29, 2019

The President Executes Harmful Redirect

“The baby is born. The mother meets with the doctor. They take care of the baby. They wrap the baby beautifully. And then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby.”

These were the words President Trump spoke at a rally on Saturday night in Wisconsin in reference to late-term abortion legislation that is being debated across the country. He then proceeded to make a throat-slitting motion. 

That's our president. I shouldn't be surprised anymore. I guess I'm not. But it's still troubling (just place that sentence on repeat for pretty much every day of his presidency).

The president's words were dangerous. They were inflammatory. They were lies. I have talked to medical professionals who run the gamut regarding their personal stances on abortion, and read mutiple articles by others, and they agree.

I understand the rational arguments against abortion. I understand the passion felt by so many to pass legislation that further restricts a woman's ability to have an abortion. I deeply feel the matters of life and of faith that are involved. But, when the president makes obscene comments like the ones he delivered over the weekend, he does a disservice to those who are capable of having a thoughtful discussion while holding differing perspectives. I think he harms the anti-abortion movement. Truth has to play at least some role in our policy decisions. 

(Side note - Speaking of truth on this issue, my thirteen-year-old daughter recently was told by an adult that Democrats want doctors to be able to kill babies right after they are born by delivering them, placing them on a metal table, and stabbing them over and over again.)

More importantly and painfully then just typical games with the truth, the president harms and belittles those women who have dealt with the trauma of a stillborn birth. He minimizes the grief of mothers who are told their babies have fatal conditions and will not survive outside the womb. He makes it sound like women and their doctors swaddle the baby in a fuzzy blanket, stare at the infant for a moment or two, and then, if the woman decides she doesn't feel like being a parent after getting a good look at the kid, the doctor cuts the baby's throat. 

I doubt the president has taken the time to understand what happens in these situations. Like his tendencies to whip a crowd into a frenzy by leading cheers of "BUILD THE WALL!" and "LOCK HER UP!", Trump just wants to strut on the stage and get a reaction. He wants people to chant and scream on his cue. I really don't think he cares whether abortion is legal or not. Or, for that matter, if that silly wall actually gets built. Truth is, I think if Trump could stand in front of a crowd and yell "I WANT OPEN BORDERS NOW!" and be met with the same adulation and raucous applause, he would say it.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle who remain silent while Trump spouts his dangerous nonsense are complicit in the lies. Guilt by association. This is a time when someone like pro-life Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) who has been beautifully consistent in his opposition to a Trump presidency and who also sports a 100% rating from National Right to Life, should speak up. Or maybe just anyone with a bit of human decency would do. 

Monday, March 25, 2019

I Was Called a Demonic Murderer, So I Went to the Gym

Earlier this month, I wrote a blog post about sneaky (shall we say "swampy") activity being done by my local government in Mount Juliet, TN. I won't rehash the details here, as my original post is expertly crafted by a very humble author. And you can Google my town and "abortion clinic" and find all kinds of journalistic offerings.

Quick summary, though - Abortion clinic arrived. People got mad. The mayor called a special meeting of the city commission on a Sunday night to propose rezoning surgical abortion clinics to industrial areas. The mayor insisted this special meeting had nothing to do with the new clinic, as I'm sure the city attorney advised him that using zoning to target a specific business is illegal. I went to the next regularly scheduled city commission meeting and asked why the special meeting was necessary if there was no specific threat. I got no answer other than I would have to ask the mayor and he wasn't there for the first time in a year. I also got no concrete answer when I emailed my commissioner (just that the mayor asked him to show up for a special meeting and he had no idea why until he got there . . .). And when The Chronicle of Mount Juliet reported on its front page that the meeting was called WITH the purpose of limiting the efforts of the new clinic, I asked the editor if she meant to refute the mayor's claims that he was not targeting a specific business but I never heard back.

This brings me to tonight. The commission met once again and part of the agenda was a second vote on the rezoning. It was approved quickly and unanimously and without discussion. I thought about going to the meeting and speaking up again, as I'm still looking for answers I don't think they want to give. I decided to go to the gym instead. Why? Not because I've given up. Not at all. But I prayed about it and lost sleep over it and asked several friends for advice about it and realized that the members of the commission who smirked at me the last time I showed up don't care what I think. I imagine they know full well that they are not being straightforward with their intentions, but that's OK because they have a majority of constituents who think they are noble and brave for their efforts.

Here's the thing. A cornerstone of what makes American government different and special in how it operates, from the federal to the local level, is that we have a system in place that was designed to protect opinions and people and businesses we do not like. Adhering to the rule of law and restrictions on government power is difficult to do when the consequences are unpopular or you personally find them abhorrent, but that is EXACTLY when it's so important. The Federalist Papers tell us so.

What if one of the commissioners in my city moves to a liberal town in California due to a job transfer and decides he wants to open a church in an abandoned K-Mart because there is nowhere to worship within thirty miles? And then, what if the local officials of this California town, all of whom are atheists, suddenly call a special meeting to rezone houses of worship to industrial areas due to made up traffic concerns that supposedly would happen when everyone leaves service at the same time? Clearly, these politicians are changing the zoning to target a specific K-mart turned church building. And that would be wrong. But, if my commissioner is not willing to do things the right way when it comes to restricting abortion clinics, he would have no leg to stand on if my hypothetical regarding his proposed church ever comes to pass.

When my elected officials ignore established legal precedent, when they decide that limitations on government don't apply when they want to have an activist government to meet their own moral agenda, I get really upset. I stay awake thinking about it. My jaw gets tight. Yes, I realize I'm in the overwhelming minority with this problem.

People who seek office should act with integrity and with a consistent respect for our system. I know . . . how naive of me. But I love our country and its promise and we deserve nothing less.

So I've been asking myself this question a lot this week - how do I best use my frustrated energy? I decided that I should use it to write to people who care about being aboveboard with their politics and want to help. I should use it to talk to my neighbors and to begin the groundwork to bring in new representation. The town has grown in ways that make it unrecognizable from just fifteen years ago, with people from across the country moving here to be a part of all that is happening in Nashville. They bring a diversity of experiences and perspectives to our town and they are not being represented. We all know that voter turnout in local elections is pathetically low. I am compiling a list of determined men and women in my district who are frustrated by what is happening. We are out there. You give us a couple of years to talk to those around us and we will be ready to work with conviction and purpose by the next election in 2022. I'm patient and I have a long and impressive memory.

And, in closing, here is one more reason that I am stepping back and refocusing how I exert my efforts at the local level . . .

Earlier this month, because I spoke out about wanting my government to act with transparency, I was called a "demonic woman who murders babies with poison pills." I don't think I'm possessed by a demon and I'm quite sure that I've never murdered a baby, by poison or any other means. When I made the mistake of engaging this fine gentleman and telling him that my advocacy is not for abortion but for consistent adherence to the rule of law and limited government, he responded, "I don't care how they did it. I'm just glad they did it." When I did a bit of internet research later, the irony that this man had the Constitution as the cover photo of his Facebook page was not lost on me.

I thank this lovely fellow because my exchange with him made me realize that some interactions are going to be fruitless. He is convinced that I'm demonic and he is willing to overlook his supposed Facebook-worthy love for the Constitution when the inconsistency meets his desired end. And, the mayor and members of the city commission also are convinced that they are doing the right thing even though it skirts around the law, when it's actually quite wrong. So, for the sake of personal time that is so scant in my single working mom world and for the sake of that whole "accept the things I cannot change" piece of the serenity prayer, I lifted weights and did so many squats that walking make prove challenging in the morning instead of metaphorically beating my head against a political wall tonight. I made a good choice. It will make me stronger for the work to come tomorrow.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Abortion Clinics, Shady Politicians, and an Ego-Driven Pastor

Over the past several days, some shady and depressing business has gone down in my town of Mount Juliet, Tennessee.

Quick background. One month ago, there were no abortion services available in the greater Nashville area. Women would travel to Knoxville or Memphis or even Atlanta for the procedure. This week, Planned Parenthood has announced it will resume the practice at its downtown location and another for-profit abortion clinic called Carafem put its name on a door inside a medical building where I live in Mount Juliet.

What has transpired since then has been disappointing. I write this not as an advocate for abortion. Debating the morality of abortion, while important, is not the point of this post. Instead, I want to focus on the galling way my city government handled its response.

Carafem did not advertise its arrival to our town. The business did not ask for permission from the surrounding residents. However, when word got out that the clinic's opening was imminent, the reaction was swift and passionate. Many people wondered how such an establishment could be allowed within our city limits. In his response to the multiple inquiries, Mayor Ed Hagerty responded as follows:

The city nor the planning commission has no role [sic] in approving/disapproving specific businesses/operations. The city and the planning commission do have a role in approving a new structure. In this case, the structure was approved many years ago and various businesses, many medical related, have come and gone since then . . . Operations of this type do not even need to get a city business license to open. They are issued a license by the state. They then contact the owner of the building and rent space. No one at the city knew about this. 

Well, there you have it. A majority of residents in Mount Juliet are appalled by the presence of an abortion clinic in their town, but Carafem moved through the correct legal channels so there's not much you can do.

Enter Ray Justice and Greg Locke.

City Commissioner Ray Justice wrote:

We are pursuing every possible legal option to stop this "organization" from being in Mt. Juliet. To a man, our city commission is Christian Conservative and will not just "let this happen" without fighting. The question is, "is this the hill you're prepared to die on?" The answer is an emphatic, YES!

You are welcome to conduct a quick internet search of Commissioner Justice and reach your own conclusions about his character. And apparently, if you are conservative but also Christian, then the traditional notion of conservatives advocating little to no interference in private business is moot.

Pastor Greg Locke, who leads Global Vision Bible Church in Mount Juliet and who is a super big fan of himself, posted videos for his 1.5 million Facebook subscribers in which he vows that the abortion clinic will not last on his watch. Locke has quite the devoted following and has received national attention for his inflammatory messages because, like I've mentioned, he really likes himself and touts his own accomplishments . . . because humility as a follower of Christ is totally overrated.

You are welcome to conduct a quick internet search of Greg Locke to reach your own conclusions about his character and watch some of the name calling and redirect he employs. There are plenty of videos from which to choose. Even that fake news organization CNN has noticed him! Lots of people think he's awesome - maybe you will, too!

With the wheels set in motion to oppose the arrival of the abortion clinic by any means necessary, the City Commission held an emergency meeting on a Sunday night. Pastor Locke was invited to speak. The City Commission quickly passed an ordinance, unanimously, requiring all abortion clinics performing surgical procedures to be located only in areas zoned as "industrial general." Yeah, lady . . . the front door to the clinic is over there between that pile of recycled tires and those metal pipes. While Carafem does not offer surgical abortion at this time, only birth control and the abortion pill, its owners have indicated that the office may expand to a surgical option in the future. So clearly, this was an attempt to throw a wrench specifically into Carafem's business before it could get started.

Then, the mayor and all of the city commissioners played dumb. They insisted that the emergency ordinance was not passed with the intention of targeting any particular business, as no business wanting to perform surgical abortions had even applied for a permit with the city. The mayor even said to the media, "I don't even know what business you're referring to." Huh? Abortion clinic? What abortion clinic? Come on.

This is ridiculous, of course, because if this was just another ho-hum zoning ordinance with no targeted purpose, why was it an emergency? Why couldn't the proposed ordinance wait until the next regularly scheduled meeting of the commission on Monday, March 11? Of course the vote was directed at Carafem. But please, play us for fools.

The commissioners even said the measure was passed for the "health, safety, and welfare" of the citizens of our town, but also were emphatic in their responses that the zoning ordinance would affect no other ambulatory surgery procedures other than abortion when people asked if ear tubes for their kids or their upcoming carpal tunnel surgery would be affected. So I want to know - how does restricting only one type of ambulatory surgery to an isolated industrial park show a consistent concern for the "health, safety, and welfare" of our residents?

This effort was clear in its purpose but yet the "brave" elected officials who scurried to hold a meeting danced around being forthright about their goal.

I am sure this story is far from over. There will be lawsuits and protests and fun comments on social media pages like "women need to keep their legs closed" and, in response to the hypothetical scenario of an eleven-year-old getting impregnated through rape, "God doesn't make mistakes." Precious and grace-filled, to be sure.

As a voting and informed constituent, I am angered by the backhanded way that my local representatives have handled the situation. My frustration would be the same if any issue was dealt with this way. Their actions show a lack of respect for transparency and the rule of law. I also am uncomfortable with the notion that we should be cool with government being heavy handed only when its efforts align with our own moral agenda.

And, as a Christian who clings to the love and grace of Jesus, I am saddened by the cruel way others who hold the mantle of Christianity are treating some of our brothers and sisters.  For a town that touts its Christian credentials, we can do better.

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Comfort of the White, Christian Moderate

There are many amazing quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that have been posted across social media today. This is good, as all of Dr. King's words warrant attention and reflection.

I wonder, though, how many people are sharing his words today but also just recently condemned those who chose to kneel in silent protest at the start of football games? How many deemed these athletes as "ungrateful" or "disrespectful" before taking the time to listen to why they were kneeling? I'm not even stating that everyone had to reach the same conclusion after the conversation - it's a complicated situation - but how many really listened or tried to see the protest from a different perspective before issuing a verdict?

How many want to believe that this country's "real" racial problems are behind us and that we are all hanging out at an equal spot along life's starting line now and that those who proclaim otherwise are just making excuses?

How many of us today are the "white moderates" who frustrated King and whom he considered the biggest impediment to progress?

I heard a white radio talk show host today say that Dr. King would be outraged by the protests and the demonstrations that are taking place these days. He said that Dr. King would not recognize the racial justice movement of today as something in which he ever would take part. Really? I'm not so sure.

I have not, today, seen many people share excerpts from a letter that Dr. King wrote while detained in a Birmingham jail, dated April 16, 1963. I want to share a lengthy portion of it here, while also recommending you read the entire letter.

I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. 

There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators."

The same talk show host who I mentioned above also shared his love for Dr. King today because King's marches were always "respectful" and "done the right way." By that, I believe this host is meaning to say that Dr. King didn't seem to push things too far. He respected the boundaries of proper protest behavior. He followed "the rules" of how the oppressed were supposed to call for justice.

But, here's the thing. Dr. King didn't operate with the approval and embrace that this talk show host and the rest of us learned in school. Dr. King was vilified. He was told to be quieter by many of those who claimed to support his efforts, though thankfully he did not listen to such requests. He called out whites as being "the oppressor race." He put a mirror in front of the church establishment and told its members that they are failing the call of Jesus!

How do King's words strike me half a century later?

We, (generally speaking) as Christians, are not being extremists in the name of love. We, (generally speaking) as white people, do not want to disturb a position that is safe and comfortable. We just want everything to be OK.

I am guilty on all counts of my own complacency.

I place myself at the front of the line of those who fall short. I know Dr. King is calling me out more than fifty years later from that prison cell, much as Paul called out the early Christians from his own shackles over 2,000 years ago. I am not always willing the be an agitator when I see or hear injustice on my own block or on my television screen. I don't want to be uncomfortable when confronted with my own biases.

I am going to read Dr. King's letter a few more times this evening. And then I need to read more from others whose voices aren't as prolific as that of King. And I want to be able to admit when I don't understand or I don't agree. And I won't always agree with those I read or to whom I listen, but I need to stand in that conclusion as well. I want to WANT to be more uncomfortable. I am really reading this letter with conviction for the first time this year and now it's up to me to do something with it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Which Part Didn't You Like?

Two days ago, Gillette released a piece just under two minutes in length entitled "We Believe: The Best Men Can Be." It has been viewed millions of times. The short film also has received a great deal of backlash from men who think that Gillette is trashing masculinity.

To the men out there who were offended by the ad, who have proclaimed that they never will buy another Gillette product, I have a question - which part of the piece did you not like?

Was it the part where a young man stops his friend from ogling and catcalling a woman on the street and tells him that such behavior is not cool? Was that offensive to you? I get it. There isn't much masculine about defending a woman's honor, I suppose.

Or, was is the part where a man stands in front of a mirror with his preschool daughter, holds her tight, and tells her that she is strong? I guess that was pretty gross.

Maybe you did not like an actor testifying before Congress and declaring that "men must hold other men accountable." You're right to be upset by that, I suppose. If you hear a dude near you bragging about hitting his woman to keep her in line or detailing his latest sexual conquest with a drunk stranger at a party, you need to stay quiet. That's just "locker room talk" and guys are allowed to do that. It's not your business.

Did it upset you when the dad took his young son's hand and ran to the scene where a boy was being beat up by a group of tormenters? Would you have preferred that dad model for his son that standing up for those weaker than you is stupid? That boy stared at his dad with admiration and respect as he helped the scared child, when really he needs to learn that his intervening dad is a pathetic excuse for a real man. Am I right?

I know . . . you didn't like it when the chant "boys will be boys" was portrayed as a bad thing. Guess what? It is bad. And for two reasons. First, that ridiculous phrase has been used to justify awful behavior for generations. Grab a woman's ass at a crowded bar? Pick on or beat up the kid who looks different or acts different? Oh, well. Boys will be boys! Second, the phrase often is used when male children get rowdy or get filthy in mud while playing outside or leave messes all over the house. But here's the thing. I have plenty of evidence to show my daughter is just as capable of such behaviors. (Corollary point - this is why I never have liked the phrase "boy mom" - what does that mean exactly? And what does it mean if your particular son doesn't fit the stereotype? Your son is very tidy and quiet and his feet never smell bad and he never has played with a Lego in his life. Are you then not a "boy mom"?)

I am a single mom. I spend a lot of time thinking about who my son's role models are as he progresses into manhood. (And, while we are focused on Gillette, I will be looking for volunteers in a few years to show him how to shave.) I want my son to know that "being a man" includes being strong and compassionate and protective of those he loves and respectful and kind. I saw nothing in the Gillette piece that made masculinity out to be anything different than that.

If you haven't seen the short film yet or want to watch it again, here it is. I think it's fantastic.