We Know Not What We Do, I Hope

Hello, dear readers and happy Monday! I know, I know, Mondays aren’t happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting to crawl back into bed.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s think of Mondays as a chance at a fresh start, every single week. Each Monday is our own personal reset button. Let’s take this opportunity to do it differently. Let’s make the changes we want to see in ourselves and the world, okay?

“No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.”

— Mary Wollstonecraft

I’ve been having a really hard time coping with the state of the people and politics here in the United State since the election. There are many of you, and many people I know in real life, who would tell me it’s long past time to get over it, but every morning I watch the news, I scroll my feeds and timelines, and I get progressively more afraid, more cynical, and more depressed.

It feels like there are so many people who want to hurt the poor, the lost, and the vulnerable. They want to hurt our environment. They want to hurt people who look and live differently from they way they look and live. They want to line their pockets and laugh while the world burns. I am convinced, but what I can’t understand is why.

I hear two voices shouting out at me through opinion pieces and blogs. One says not to listen to them, not to give them one moment’s consideration. They are the enemy and they must be guarded against at all costs. The other says to understand them. See the world their way. They are afraid, they are ignorant, listen and reassure them. They only need time and love to come around.

My heart likes the sound of the latter, but my anger tells me I am stupid and pushes the former course.

I’m highly suspicious of any calls to understand, and appeal to, people who refuse to understand or appeal to the needs of those less fortunate than them.

What I mean is, if you are angry because full equality under the law and fair and respectful treatment for immigrants, Muslims, women, and the LGBTQ+ community has become an important issue in American politics, I think the last thing we should be doing is giving you more time to explain why people who have suffered and fought for so long should slow down, take a back seat, and give you the floor. Sorry, I’m not sorry.

I am weary of anyone who says you can’t eat, you can’t feel warm, secure, and safe because they need more. There are real consequences for people when you won’t let go of your ego or a small amount of your money. When people say they need something, they need it. End of story.

But as weary as I am, as much as I don’t want to spend my time understanding and coddling, there is part of me that longs to understand and the only thing that makes sense is that people just don’t know any better. They can’t help themselves. They really think they are doing what is right.

We have so much privilege we have become so blind to it. We spend more time protecting our luxuries than we do protecting human life and dignity. We are all guilty of it. Some more than others, but every day more and more sees the light. There is hope, I hope.

I recognize that may be a lie I am telling myself too. Maybe part of me just wants to, has to, believe that the world isn’t that cruel. People can’t be evil for evil sake. Even if the universe doesn’t care and there is no rhyme or reason to any of this, we have to have reasons right? We have to, deep down, want to do what’s best, for love, for our families, for our country and our sense of right and wrong. Right?

So, this week, I’m exploring what lies are worth telling myself. What leaps of faith are worth taking. What aspects of human nature are not worth looking too closely at.

My instincts tell me none. My instincts tell me wherever humans are involved things are always complicated, and there are never easy answers. There is always a spectrum and it is rare we fall to one side or the other fully. People aren’t all bad, but they aren’t all good either. People’s intentions must follow the same patterns I suppose.

So, this week I guess I am exploring what that means to me and in these times, where we are so divided, so angry, and so willing to turn a blind eye or let loose our rage, we should all explore what that means for us, about us. How do we find common ground? How do we listen and teach? How do we change hearts? How do we do it without losing our own sense of right and wrong?

This week, ask yourself what are the value the value of rose-colored glasses and leaps of faith in humanity? Contemplate the motivations behind why we treat each other the way they do. Look within yourself and question how it makes you feel when another person says they need things that you cannot understand. In what ways do people who live differently from you make you afraid?

I want to know what evil lives in me and why I think it will lead to happiness. I want to know that about all people. I want to know how to fix it.

“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

— Anne Frank

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To Live in Righteous Anger

Hello, dear readers and happy Monday! I know, I know, Mondays aren’t happy. Mondays are for feeling tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting to crawl back into bed.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s think of Mondays as a chance at a fresh start, every single week. Mondays are do-overs, each one is our own personal reset button. Let’s take this opportunity to do it differently. Let’s make the changes we want to see in ourselves and the world, okay?

For me, this Monday is one of reflection and courage. I am thinking of the great Martin Luther King Jr., and I am facing some big fears and anxieties this morning in a doctor’s office. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to see a doctor. They frighten me, but I’m not sure why. It’s as if somehow seeing the doctor will be what leads to my death. It’s stupid and irrational, but that doesn’t mean my mind can let it go. Wish me luck in my morning of panic attacks.

“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

— Martin Luther King Jr., A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

I was thinking about forgiveness the other day, a virtue I have struggled with my whole life. I thought about how I had hardened myself against forgiveness, lumping it in with all the other parts of religion that aim to keep us weak, passive, and easily manipulated. Forgiveness erases the past and makes us easily controlled in the future. It makes your pain pointless and gives the abuser, oppressor, and manipulator the impression that they have no dues to pay or apologies to make. I do not forgive, not deep down, even if I act like I do.

Many people have told me, both face to face, through sermons, and through motivational quotes, that forgiveness was good for the soul. That forgiveness was for you and not them. That forgiveness was the ultimate test and proof of strength. Bullshit, I thought.

But the other day, out of nowhere I got it. Forgiveness isn’t saying it’s okay. It isn’t saying that the people who hurt you aren’t to blame. It doesn’t mean I have to like them, love them, or give them another chance. It doesn’t mean that my anger isn’t real or warranted. It means that I don’t have to live in that anger anymore.

I don’t have to spit cruel words, or go out of my way to make my anger felt by them, or myself. It doesn’t have to be a part of every day of my life. I don’t have to throw it out, I just have to put it in storage, and I only have to take it out when I want to, when it’s useful to me.

This felt like a real breakthrough. Like, there were parts of my psyche I never realized were so tightened up with anger and finally, a mental muscle that had been working, working, working, got to take a break.

Hatred is the same I suppose. I hope.

I don’t hate often but when I do it is a deep and mean kind of hate, all consuming. I have hated bosses, I’ve hated family members, I’ve hated celebrities, and, more recently, I’ve come to hate a whole slew of politicians, pundits, and swaths of citizens, voters, and non-voters. I feel it like a dark whole in my chest, painful, inflamed, and crippling.

My hatred lives on a nation level, and I blame one man for it all, Donald Trump.

Hatred is a strong word, a strong emotion, to center on one man, I know, but he has become the leader, the figurehead, of a movement of destruction. He has given power to those who people like Martin Luther King Jr. fought so hard to against. He has taken us back to a time and a moral standard that is devoid of compassion and empathy. He has made the worst parts of humanity into virtues and left those who needed protection out in the cold, to be ridiculed and hated again.

This week that man will become President of the United States of America and I keep asking myself: What would Martin Luther King have to say about the state of our country today?

I think he would be livid. He would be disappointed. He would never stand for this, and he would surely be reminding us of how far we have fallen from his dream.

He would be angry but would he feel hatred the way I do? I believe he wouldn’t and if I could meet him and speak with him he would tell me not to live in my hatred. HE would tell me to hold on to my anger but to make it a righteous and useful anger, not an anger rooted in meanness and revenge. I do not wish evil on those unwilling to do what is right, simply because they are afraid of inclusion and equality, but I am angry, and I will fight them.

I am learning to forgive by not living in anger. I am learning not to hate by fighting back with everything the opposition lacks. I want to fight with love. I want to fight for everyone.

All the great leaders I’ve studied did two things: They told the truth. They didn’t bother with insults or exaggerations. They didn’t bother with comeback or promises of punishment or revenge. They didn’t build themselves up at another expense. They only told the truth, and if the truth made you look bad, it was your own fault.

The second thing the did was push, pull, and drag everyone to the problem and the solution. Our true leaders didn’t just preach to the choir, the spoke to the very people who need to hear the truth. They spoke to the people who were part of the problem, not by action but by inaction too. They made it clear who was responsible and how the responsible could make a change. They laid the crime on the criminals and taught the victims how to stand up, be strong, and fight back.

So, I guess that is the kind of person I want to be. Not a pacifist, as Dr. King is often betrayed, but a righteous warrior. Someone who fights back in a way that my conscience can live with. Anger is ok, but living in it, never feeling compassion for the enemy is not the right way. Use your anger to never let them forget or make excuses. Use your anger to make them do better, not to make them fear you. Use your anger to uplift your community, not use them to make you feel important and god-like.

I will work on not hating the people who want to hold us all back, watch others suffer, and even kill for the pleasure of a win.

I will try not to hate people who are taking away healthcare from the people who need it most. I will try not to hate people who wish to take rights and dignity from people who have already lived in shame and fear. I will try not to hate people who want to keep people from America who need our protection the most. I will try not to hate people who want more prisons, more guns, more bombs.

I will try every day not to hate them, but I will never stop talking about their crime.

I will never let them forget.

I think Dr. King would approve.

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Learn the Meaning of What You Say

Hello, dear readers and happy Monday! I know I know, Mondays aren’t happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting nothing more than to crawl back into bed and escaping the world.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s think of Mondays as a fresh start, every week. Mondays are our do-overs, our reset buttons, our first days. From now on every Monday is a second chance, and this time, we might just get it right. Let’s make the changes we want to see in ourselves and the world, okay?

For me, this Monday is off to a pretty good start. I decided to set my alarm 15 minutes earlier in the mornings, which allows me to hit the snooze button and still get up on time. The extra time really made a difference. I didn’t feel rushed, and I got to work early. I think I’ll keep it this way. I like getting to ease into the day rather than starting it off with panic and chaos. Mondays are already hard enough, right?

“First, learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.”

— Epictetus

Ever since Election day here in America, there have been a flurry of posts, tweets, and think pieces looking to place blame for Clinton’s loss. Some would say that those who opted to stay home on election night share some responsibility. Some would say that Clinton and her strategy team deserved some blame. I would say for the most part the people who felt they could stomach Trump’s racism, sexism, and xenophobia on the off-chance that he might “make America great again”—whatever that means—are the ones to blame.

But there has been a new accusation coming out lately. Some believe that the real reason Clinton lost was that of “identity politics.”

Identity politics are the tendency for people to vote in the interest of a particular group they may belong to, for example, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc. Think of it this way: the same way that the media has replaced the terms “neo-nazi” and “white supremacist” with “alt-right,” they have also replaced “civil rights” with “identity politics.”

According to the new theory, Clinton and the Democrats lost because they continue to court and fight for POC, immigrants, the disabled, and the LGBTQ community. They lost because too many of us are talking about what matters to us, about what we need, and about the ways we are hurt and afraid. We are talking about ourselves, and straight, white, working class voters are feeling a little left out.

They see too many women, minorities, and queers walking around like they deserve something. They’d like to return to a time when those people stayed quiet and made themselves available every other second Tuesday in November.

(I would like to take a moment to point out that straight, white, men and women have been voting for their interests since the dawn of this country’s existence and it never seemed to be a problem for them until other groups started doing it. See also: Trump’s entire campaign strategy.)

This wasn’t meant to be a political lecture, I swear, but I have had great issue already with the right’s demonization of political correctness and civil rights, and I will not tolerate it from the left. I will not tolerate it from people who have the privilege of finding our needs trivial, and I will not keep quiet while we are shovel aside or back into our closets.

This is was not meant to be a political lecture but it is a lecture, nonetheless. This isn’t just about Democrat or Republican; this isn’t even just about America. It’s about understanding that what we say, who we blame, and who we defend means a hell of a lot to a lot of people. It’s about understanding that what is important to you isn’t important to everyone sure, but remembering that suppressing the needs of others for your own needs and gains is wrong. It about understanding that these words hurt more than you can know.

It’s about understanding that for some of us, these rights we are fighting for have been long denied and we will not let you belittle or postpone them any longer.

It’s about compassion, empathy, and goddamned human decency!

Before you speak of which Americans deserve representation, protection, and consideration in their government officials please take a few moments to learn the meaning of your words. Learn how it affects people when you are offending by being asked to use correct pronouns. Learn how it affect people when you are being asked to refrain from offensive language and problematic convictions. Learn what it means when you tell the people most in need of help and understanding, protection and care that it would be better for everyone if they would just let it go for an election cycle or two.

Take a moment to read something outside of your bubble and really understand the needs of people who don’t live, think, or believe the same as you. Learn about the meaning behind what they say, then examine the meaning of what you are saying. Take a moment to examine why you have such a problem with those people and their needs. Take a moment to consider if it were you being told to shut up and go away.

Words matter. Words mean things. Words hurt.

Use yours wisely.

P.S. Democrats do need to face the fact that they lack support from whites living in rural areas. The knee-jerk reaction is to take a page out of the opposition’s book, but I would encourage us to find another way. Do not let yourselves become what you hate. Remember, when they go low, we go high.

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Think About What You Are Thinking

Hello, dear readers and happy Monday! I know I know, Mondays aren’t happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting nothing more than to crawl back into bed and escaping the world.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s think of Mondays as a fresh start, every week. Mondays are our do-overs, our reset buttons, our first days. From now on every Monday is a second chance, and this time, we might just get it right. Let’s make the changes we want to see in ourselves and the world, okay?

For me, I had to wake up earlier that usual today, which I thought was going to be bad but instead gave me a jump start on writing and work. It felt really good, and I’m considering waking up a little earlier every day now so that I might enjoy some time to orient myself and start off on a better foot than usual.

“A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.”

— William James

Like the rest of the United States, I am still reeling from last week’s election results. I’ve calmed down quite a bit—I’m no longer outright panicking—but I am still angry and very disappointed in the American people.

I’m angry with half of them for choosing not to participate or vote at all. I’m angry with people who do not want to do the work of helping shape the world they live in. I am angry with people who will not search inside themselves to find out what they believe and what they think is right. I am angry with people for not taking a stand and for not showing gratitude in the choice they are allowed to make. There are so many who have no choices. There are so many who died to give you the choices you have. Exercise them!

I’m angry at them for voting for a candidate and a party that makes no effort to hide its hatred for women, immigrants, People of color, and members of the LGBTQ community. I’m angry at them for not being able to see that America was never great for so many of its citizens. I’m angry that they thought that lifting up the most vulnerable and marginalized among them was somehow an attack on their rights. America cannot be taken from you, and more equality is never a bad thing.

I am angry, and I will be for a long time because people who choose not to take a stand and people who stand on the side of oppression of others think they are different, but their choices so often end in the suffering of others. No one is absolved. Everyone is guilty.

What I have learned is that so many people think that their feelings are more important than the well-being of their fellow human being.

I know people who think their vote doesn’t matter and so they stayed home on election night. I know people who have voted Republican their whole lives, and while they found Trump to be an unsavory candidate, they couldn’t vote for the better candidate across the aisle. I know people who believe political correctness is ruining the country. I know people who think social programs are a strain on the economy, but we don’t spend enough on the military.

know people who swear they are not racist and believe that the reason more Black Americans are targeted by police and the justice system is because Black people are just more violent. I know people who think Islam is a religion of hatred and war.  know people who think Muslims only exist in the Middle East. I know people who think America is the greatest country on Earth and that we can—and should—do it alone. I know people who think it is us against the world and “us”—regardless of citizenship status—means only one kind of person.

These people think they are moving beyond the status quo. They think they are the only ones who see the truth and they are the only ones who will save this country. They think they have it all figured out, but they are wrong. They’ve only twisted up their real thoughts into excuses that make what they do less awful in their minds.

They have only rearranged their prejudices.

This week, and for the next four years, I encourage all of you to think about why you believe the way you do. Why do you vote the way you do? Why do you put your trust the politicians that you do? Why do you think this country is great? What do you think this country needs? Are your ideas, feelings, and beliefs your own? If not, where do they come from? Are your ideas, feelings, and beliefs rooted in wanting to do the most good for the most people? Are your choices hurting other people? Do you care if they do?

Think beyond your prejudices. Think with empathy, compassion, and faith in humankind. Do not think in generalizations. Do not think the worst of those you don’t know or understand.

Do not hold so tight to your privilege that you allow others to suffer so you may live an easier life.

I am encouraged by the solidarity I am seeing among the Liberals and Democrats on social media, but I am fearful of the Far Right and their new-found courage. I am worried by reports of bullying and abuse all over the country. I am fearful that this country, instead of learning from are mistakes, will in the coming years only find more people to blame and to hate.

I can’t bear it if that happens. I cannot recover from another blow of hatred from a country that has claimed to love me and want the best for me. I cannot go on trying to help and hope. I cannot believe that we are something beautiful and extraordinary in this universe if we keep pulling further and further away from one another.

We all are all we have.

Please do not forget that.

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It’s Okay to Choose a Side

Hello and happy Monday to you all! I hope your weekend was a relaxing one and that you were able to start the work week out on the right foot. Mine started out fine, despite me not knowing that this week was going to be a busy one until I was already being handed the work. Oh well, one for in front of the other and we’ll all get through it fine!

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

// Desmond Tutu

I am going to warn you, as we inch closer and closer to November this blog may become more and more political. I promise to try my best not to get too pushy or preachy, more than trying to get you to pick my side—I hope you do—but mostly I just want you to pick side. I want you to care about, and participate in, the future of this nation.

This election cycle is proving to be a very interesting one, and it feels more polarizing than either of the last two were. I think they are because of the results of the last two. I think a portion of each party is becoming more radicalized while the other moves to the center. I also think one party, in particular, is very bitter and endeavors to take this country back to some imagined time when they were the unquestioned privileged in the greatest country in the world.

I can’t help but feel that we are all on the verge of those people, who refuse to move into the future with the rest of us, turning the clock back on the right and respect that have been earned by women, minorities, and the LGBT community. We are on the verge of sliding backwards and making this country a hard place to live in for those of us who are a little different, again.

“The American people do not like neutrality. They would rather a man were on the wrong side than on neither.”

// Robert Green Ingersoll

Over the years, I have tried my best to lecture and nag my friends and family into exercising their right to vote. They hem and haw and make excuses as to why they choose not to. The don’t know about the candidates, they don’t know about the issues, they don’t want to get involved. It boggles my mind that people will know every stat and player of their favorite football teams, they’ll debate and even resort to threats and even violence over wins and losses, but choose silence and neutrality when it comes to the government of the United States of America. Like…what??

There is a belief that neutrality is somehow better than choosing a side, as if it is morally superior. When politics are brought up people get angry and people get hurt and so it must in order to avoid conflict or to avoid being wrong, we “stay out of it”. The thing is I don’t believe that anyone stays out of politics because they are trying to be nice, I think we are avoiding the work of learning about and becoming informed about the issues and because we don’t want to be responsible for the choices we make.

So let’s start over. I want you to know it is ok to choose a side. You don’t have to tell people that you have chosen a side, you don’t have to justify it, and you shouldn’t feel bad about it. I do urge you to discuss the issues and the candidates with those around you, only talking about matters that affect us all publically shouldn’t be this hard, but it isn’t necessary to share your feelings. Keep your opinions to yourself if you want but please, form an opinion, an informed opinion preferably.

Choose with both your heart and mind. Learn the facts and imagine yourself in the shoes of people who are different from you before you decide. And never forget that it is always okay, encouraged even, for you to change your mind whenever new facts surface or your moral compass moves more north or south.

Do not take your voting rights for granted, and don’t leave the rest of us to the mercy of those who ‘s intentions might not be good but who take this responsibility very seriously.

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”

// Dante Alighieri