The Dreaded Season of Goodwill

Here we are again, the dreaded season of hope, goodwill and glad tidings. I was quite young when I realized how few were the genuine well wishes and how quickly they evaporated. Before you decide I’m jaded and cynical, please understand I’ve never disbelieved in Hope and Goodwill. I’ve built my life around them. Yet the conundrum persists. I want to celebrate the hype of the season, but the realities of our society come crashing in. How can we who hold the sweetness of love and kindness, and still allow the most hideous acts of inhumanity?

As I write I’m reminded that December 14th is the 10th year since the massacre of children at Sandy Hook. 

How do we go from the sacred to the profane so rapidly? And more importantly, why? 

I’m convinced the answers lie in the inauthentic ways we live. 

Prayers are often wish lists to a god we have not taken the time to know. Acts of kindness are accumulated points towards some heavenly reward. And the real tell is that our beliefs are taught to us and seldom do we make them our own.  If they belonged to us through effort and acceptance, we wouldn’t need assurances from anyone. 

Those who express doubt are hushed. Yet doubts about superficial beliefs may be a most genuine expression of our humanity. The need to know, not simply believe, may be an essential prerequisite. 

Perhaps societal ills are a reflection of this silenced need. And while reliance on belief may pacify some, it’s harmful to many.  Life calls us to celebrate our uniqueness. But that uniqueness is something we must know. Belief will never cut it.

My wish for all of us: May our doubts become our knowing. 

We Are All Blessed

If you are celebrating a day of gratitude with family or friends with eyes wide open to the violent history of the United States and that awareness is bringing you to some form of compassionate activism, this is not for you.

If you are aware the riches of our society come from the history of stolen lands, slavery, poor laborers and extreme extraction of natural resources, this is not for you.

If you have come to understand that we live in a society that continues to propagate and champion violence in the name of peace and are readying your self to transform it, this is not for you.

For you, may Peace, Love, Joy and Clarity stay alive in your heart.

Today is Thanksgiving. Apparently someone thought we needed to mandate a day for gratitude. Expressing gratitude has been a fundamental human trait throughout time. Many Indigenous people offer gratitude as a daily practice and in truth many of us do, too. But somehow our culture has found a need to celebrate Thanksgiving as a day of opulence and telling antiquated lies about pilgrims. And of course it’s followed by a day of hedonistic consumerism, which demonstrates the lessor god we choose to honor.

If you ever wonder why people consider atheism, look no further than our hypocritical version of piety. Recently, someone reflecting on his families’ good fortune told me they are blessed. After bristling at the implied notion that wealth is a blessing and the poor are blessed-less, I responded, “We are all blessed, some of us simply don’t know it.”

There is a lot we don’t know, but we are great pretenders. 

I know this may seem very uncharacteristic of my writing. But what is not uncharacteristic is my need to confront ignorance head on. 

So when this great Christian nation bows their collective heads I hope they ask for forgiveness for all the hate and violence they have allowed and continue to allow. I hope they pray for strength to become accountable for the beliefs that continue to make “others” targets of derision. Because we all know children are not born with hate or division. They are taught, either by word or by example.

The white crowds that gathered for lynching and murdering of Blacks often did so in a celebratory manner.  And when someone at your feast cracks a joke about gays or flat out lies, please remind them of the terror that was brought upon human beings in Colorado Springs. 

We are ALL blessed; some just don’t know it.

Discarding Straitjackets

My wife and I binged watched Heartstopper, a British coming of age romantic comedy. I was touched by the openness of the teens regarding their gender questioning, but startled by the hatred and fear that remains towards those not status quo.

In the fifty years that have passed since my own teen-age questioning things have changed. Youth who refuse the straitjacket of heterosexuality can more easily find support. Gender fluidity and non-binary concepts have replaced the need to take on stereotypical labels. Organizations like PFLAG have helped lessen the sting of abuse. Yet abuse remains

The morality police have made it their business to beg local school boards to prohibit any displays of gender questioning. How absolutely foolish this is on so many levels. 

I understand learning that gender is not binary and that gender fluidity has always existed in the human race must be hard for some who’ve been raised with blinders on. But to insist that your ignorance be law is a bit much. We are crawling out of the hole dug by puritanical thinking, and I’m sorry for your discomfort. But march on we will.

Perhaps your discomfort will be lessened if you learned about different cultures and their acceptance of the reality that gender is a spectrum. It would be kind of you to drop your shock and fear long enough to understand the pain caused by bigotry. 

Bigotry: noun

  1. obstinate or unreasonable attachment to a belief, opinion, or faction; in particular, prejudice against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular group.

I can assure you from my own personal experiences, that your momentary discomfort over things that are not your business are nothing compared to the struggle and pain of being gender fluid in this culture. And the statistics on suicide and suicide attempts by gender questioning youth confirm this.

And to youth daring to be: Don’t be robbed by ignorance. Dance on.

Books Unite Us…

In recognition of Banned Books Week, September 18 through 24, I took a deep dive into the list of Classics that are banned or challenged. Unsurprisingly I found some of my favorite authors: Faulkner, Hemingway, Morrison, Steinbeck, Alice Walker, and James Baldwin. Seeing Richard Wright’s Native Son on the list took me back to a high school English class and the horror I felt at the shocking truth it taught me about race. 

I’m forever grateful to the teachers who encouraged us to step out of our parochial view of the world. Through books they opened the door of our mutual humanity, in all of its complexities, glory, and ugliness.

I learned I had nothing to fear in words or ideas. I learned that the free will to choose is a powerful tool and that the ability to discern right from wrong is an inherited strength. In reading about diverse people, empathy grew. In understanding history from those who lived through wars and the Depression, I recognized the wisdom of not allowing ignorance to rule. 

Those who fear books and the ideas expressed within them cling to a worldview as skewed as the ones they fear. Those who would ban books are afraid to open minds and hearts to a broader humanity. They curtail understanding and are a curse to upcoming generations.

Fear is not what we need to propagate. Censorship is not a game to be played. Self-reflection is a worthy art and when we understand we are a fraction of the human kaleidoscope, life becomes a wondrous journey.

No one should have the right to clip the wings of freedom. In truth no one can. Ideas are born within the breath of every unique individual.

And that cannot be banned.

You can Support the Right to Read by signing the petition from the American Booksellers Association.

From ALA.org

What Part Do I Play?

Many are weary of hearing the phrase “systemic racism”. They don’t want to think about racial inequity. They’re sorry for the loss of life brought on by white supremacists but are not ready to call them domestic terrorists. Ok, you can keep playing your word game, but I’m more than ready to call out the disease for what it is: white christian nationalism.

What is christian nationalism? It’s the twisted ideology that arrived on these shores and allowed the attempted genocide of Native people and the enrichment of capital through slavery. It gave wealthy men like Carnegie and Mellon king-like status and continues to glorify extreme wealth even as many suffer. It was and is used to promote imperialistic wars with the claims of American exceptionalism.  

It is the thought process that disavows anyone who is different. It is the steadfast belief that white ethnocentrism is superior and “others” may harm their “way of life”. 

It has reduced a gospel of Love to a gospel of abundance and power. Perhaps the most deplorable of all, it has people believing there is nothing to be done, just sit back and wait for your heavenly reward.

But christian nationalism has nothing to do with Christianity. 

When an 18 year old walks into a grocery store and kills ten people because of the color of their skin, it’s time we ask ourselves: What part did I play in this? Is my silence worth the suffering of those victimized families? Does sheltering myself from hate fulfill my divine destiny? Or more importantly, how can I help my human family end this division we call race?

Christianity taught me about Love, not fear. It was hopeful and inclusive. Anything else, my friends, is illusion.

Wake up and call it out.

The photo is public domain from the Library of Congress.It is entitled Cross Burning, KKK from 1925.

How far have we come? Where are we going? And while the 18 year old killer proclaimed he is not a Christian one only needs to look at the beliefs that radicalized him to see the root of the disease. White christian nationalism. Hopefully White Christians will stand firm against this ignorance instead of turning away and ignoring it. Call out your pastors who preach hate. Stop supporting the fear mongering on your radio stations and virtual forums. Stop voting for racists. End this human betrayal.

Socrates and Spring

Just when you think Spring isn’t coming, up pokes the proof that you were wrong again. Nettles, Angelica, Motherwort and Daffodils are poking out of the ground and even though temperatures are far from inviting, they are ruthless in their desire to emerge.

I’ve given up on facts when it comes to knowing. Facts and reason, as our old friend Socrates told us, are slightly above belief and opinion, but still don’t cut it if what you really want is to Know. 

We live in an era of facts. We beat each other up with facts, because we have not understood that facts change. Politicians are very good at manipulating and dividing people through facts. And science, well, a good scientist will tell you as science learns, facts change. The use of facts in day-to-day living may serve as a guide to mundane choices. How much water should I consume in a day? How much alcohol, how much fiber? If you live more than three decades, I can assure you these kinds of facts will change.

These are harmless facts. But there are the not so harmless facts that govern war, economics, health and environmental destruction or protection – take your pick. How do we gauge what is fact, or what is truth in this sea of duality? 

I have only found one way to arrive at my knowing. I have to stop thinking and feel. Sure I can take in the news and all the facts thrown at me in a day, but at the end of it, when I must chose, when I must decide what will provide the best outcome, the only certainty I have is what I feel. Not emotion; not thought; but a bit of a deeper dive. 

Socrates called it “Know thyself”. I call it “Being human”.    

If you want encouragement to take a deeper dive I suggest reading Prem Rawat‘s book, “Hear Yourself”.

Enjoy Spring as it comes!

Ubuntu

If the past few years have shown us anything it’s this: it’s time for us to rediscover the meaning of the Zulu word Ubuntu, “I am because we are.” I say rediscover because I have a firm belief that Ubuntu is rooted in every human being. It’s just that some of us have forgotten.

A society that has lost its ability to care for one another – that holds individual freedom, wealth and ownership as top priority  – has lost its way. And while we may be top heavy in wealth we are lopsided in humanity.

A society that does not support the welfare and goodwill of all will fall short of its dreams of equality. A people who refuse to acknowledge the sins of our forbearers and do not act to correct them will remain divided. A house divided will surely fall.

People boast of patriotism. Flags are waved. The Pledge is affirmed. The checklist is checked and then we go on our individual way. But the celebration of individuality is a curse unless it’s rooted in the understanding of oneness.

People demand freedom. We have fought wars with “freedom” being the carrot that drove our youth to their graves – not to mention the blood of countless innocents.

The word freedom should not be used lightly. It demands a reawakening to Ubuntu, and the resurgence of our collective humanity and our strength as individuals.

That reawakening is internal. It cannot be taught; it must be felt. It cannot be found in useless debates of right and wrong. It won’t be felt in the endless game of judgment. 

But there it is. Waiting. Tied to our compassion and our empathy. We are worthy of this reawakening and we are capable.

For a look at Ubuntu as inclusion.

Diversity, Inclusion and Equity

Our local paper reported on a recent school board meeting. During public comments a representative from “Education, not Propaganda” explained that words like “diversity, inclusion and equity” should not be taught to our children.

Hmmm. I always thought those words were used to champion our collective humanity. You know the “one people, one race” ideal. It appears that brotherly love is taking another hit these days, as is the notion of learning from our past so as not to repeat it.

The new bandwagon is demanding that school boards whitewash our history replacing facts with fiction. They have taken a page from Steve Bannon’s playbook and are punishing school board members who violate what they consider to be conservative principles. They are threatening members, shutting down school board meetings, and forcing their propaganda wherever they can. 

My father was a conservative. He fought the Nazi’s in WWII. He honored freedom of speech and applauded my willingness to explore critical thinking on all subjects. I don’t think he would look kindly on this ill wind blowing across our land. I think he would fear it. I know he would fight it. 

But since he’s not here, I’ll honor his legacy by taking up the fight. There are numerous statewide organizations leading the way towards reconciliation and equity. Among them is a Christian interfaith organization called Wisconsin Counsel of Churches. Their latest effort is called “Taking a Faithful Stance for Equity”

And although I do not profess a faith, I signed up to take a stand. 

The time is long gone to sit idle thinking everything will be ok. It is not OK. But it is within our power to make it right.  “Diversity, inclusion and equity” should be our mantra until they are understood and until they are lived.

Check out these Wisconsin faith organizations countering ignorance and hate:

Wisdom

Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice

The photo is from “Taking a Faithful Stance for Equity”

Rethinking Progress

Our township is quaint. Most people have lived here their whole lives. Many were dairy farmers before the time of “Get big or get out”. They’re first hand witnesses to the shortcomings of that adage. To some the small family farm die off of is “progress”. But progress shouldn’t have to come on the backs of people or in the destruction of the earth.

It was progress that drove most indigenous people away. Had they been encouraged to stay, or allowed to teach their ways of stewardship of the earth, things might be different for all of us.

But as it is, I hear the bulldozers cutting new paths for the loggers who are going to cash in on the land. There is no regard for animal life. No regard for the fellowship of the trees. Freshly cut-logging roads in these hills will add to heavy spring runoff and an increase in floods. There’s little regard for life when money is at stake.

In the beginning of autumn colors we will watch the trees come down. It ‘s dark now but I can still hear the bulldozing. There is no legal recourse to stop it and talk is futile when you’re a woman telling men there are better ways.

“This is how we’ve always done it”, ends the conversation. Maybe you have always done it this way, but there are people who understand their relationship to the land and to one another. 

The Menominee are internationally heralded for the way they harvest their forests.  Care is taken to ensure an ongoing healthy ecosystem. It is never too late to learn.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. I’m weary of living in a world driven by ignorance. Money will not heal unconsciousness.

A Pathway to Peace

I was thinking the other day how good it would be to stop shackling our children with beliefs we inherited. The innocence of a child is delicious to behold. Then we lather them up with all kinds of crazy ideas. We teach fear instead of instilling in them the possibility of consciousness. We teach hatred and alienation as we rob them of the sanctity of being human. We teach conformity in our desire to have them walk lock step with the status quo. And we let them fall prey to the same ideologies to which we unwittingly succumbed. 

For instance, since 1493, when a Pope issued the Doctrine of Discovery we have supported the idea of conquest and have used it for appropriation and colonization of indigenous people. And it can be argued that the subjugated role of women in Christianity combined with the notion of conquest makes way for the ongoing missing and murdering of indigenous women.

We teach, “Thou shall not kill”, making exceptions of war and capital punishment, and expect others to do harm on our behalf. This slipping away of our humanity did not come all at once and it will take a deliberate effort to retrieve it. 

But what is our recourse to reclaim our humanity? Conquest and violence are failed principles. Fighting fire with fire has does not work. Creating a culture of peace is the path we have yet to take. Understanding that our need for peace is as vital as breathing will give us the impetus to act. 

Cultivating our personal peace quickens the soul and cuts the chains of ideology. A recent international conference on Peace Education highlighted the good works of people world over towards this end. It was hopeful and inspiring.This is our moment to shine, bring on the peaceful.