For the love of guns and flooding

The typical thing would be to say, “I’m not looking for a debate” when posting about a touchy subject. The reason we’d state that is because we just want to speak our minds without being challenged. We want to believe what we already believe and nothing more, nothing less. It’s our right, I suppose, to our opinion where things like this are concerned.

The river is flooding the town here.

I look at this flooding, around the issue of mass shootings, gun violence in general and the specter of “gun control” in this country and I think, This is the river and the river is flooding the town.

We are drowning, one by one. The fields are marshy. The cars cannot move. The water has risen to the point where we forget where it ends and where we begin. The water is cold, but we’ve been in it so long that we have forgotten the cold. It’s tempting, perhaps, to speculate that it is the water that’s warmed to our skin, rather than to recognize the truth of it. We’re losing touch. Our skin is numb. We cannot feel our feet or hands. Extremities have no more information to give us.

We cannot leave it all to the civil engineers. This is our town, after all. It’s important for us to keep moving, to support the work of the people who are meant to help us understand what’s happening. When they look at the river, we want to know that they see the river bed, the water, the boundaries, the tributaries, the ocean that feeds it. We want to be sure they see the weather patterns, the global implications, the wheat fields and strip mining. We want to support the clean-up efforts, the burial rites, the grief process, the replanting along the riverbank.

We are drowning here.

Come up to the high ground. It’s a sacrifice to leave the trenches dug out to protect long-held beliefs, property, fears that have been inlaid since we were young, injured, fortified. It’s not enough to dig the trenches. The water is too much. The river is too swollen. The factors are too many and too powerful.

And we are drowning here.

It’s time to come up to high ground. We all want to live.

love and marriage and legislation…

It is not long ago that large numbers of people in our country viewed people of color as “less than” human, less than white humans at the very least. It is in our recent past not our ancient history. It is even more recent that the idea of a black person marrying a white person was not only unsavory but in many places it was illegal. When I tell this to my children they are puzzled and they ask me “why.” I always find I’m a little stumped at that. I don’t have the long answer about cultural shifts and attitudes and misread narratives. All I seem to be able to find is the word, “fear.”  I tell them that people were afraid. I tell them that we are always afraid of the “other.”  Anyone different from how we perceive ourselves can seem a threat. Anyone who presents a different way of understanding the world, a different narrative, this scares us and we begin to question our own beliefs.

In the face of that we have two choices. We can be accepting and loving, possibly risking losing the sense of who we are altogether or we can shut down, take power, exert ourselves over the “other” and seemingly lock down our sense of self, which of course, leads exactly to the place we fear the most, losing the sense of who we are.

Is it as simple as that? Is it as simple as “fear?” Perhaps not. I’m sure many a PhD out there has studied this and written books and scholarly papers. There are cultural factors and economic conditions and charismatic people who lead the fearful into places they never thought they’d go. For slavery to have lasted in this country as long as it did and for attitudes and tensions to still exist, still seething under the surface, on the surface, above the surface, I have to confess my limited understanding of the human race.

North Carolina became the 30th state in the country to approve a constitutional amendment (at the state level) which defines marriage as strictly between one man and one woman. The selling point on the bill for a number of voting people in North Carolina is that it would make same-sex marriage (already illegal in North Carolina) finally out of the question. The fight over the bill became religious right versus the LGBT rights. It’s a simple fight then, at least as far as the Press was concerned; It is a struggle between those who want the right to marry the person they choose and those who view their choice as inherently wrong.

Unfortunately, it’s not a simple fight between individuals or even groups of individuals. There are powers at play and shifting dynamics.  There are cultural factors and economic conditions and charismatic people who lead the fearful into places they never thought they’d go.

It is not only the religious right that is fearful, make no mistake. We are all led into places we never thought we’d go. In this digital age it’s easier than ever to express our doubts and our judgements and our opinion just about anyplace sporting a comment box. We jump to conclusions, we say hateful things and make broad generalizations on both sides of the political aisle. I’ve read too many dismissive comments about North Carolina today around this, comments about low intelligence and cousin marriage and fundamentalist Christians,  comments that as a friend pointed out, we did not hear when California passed Prop 8.

Today is a good day then to take a step back and reflect a little. Today is a good day to lay off the comment key, no matter how you feel about the passing of Amendment One. At the very least, give a little pause before pressing “send.”

For the people who voted “yes” to Amendment One and who support this type of legislation I’d ask that you consider the greater implications of the bill that has just passed, about the effect it will have on all civil unions in your state, the effect it will have on people who are in abusive (but not legally married) situations, about the children of those people. I’d ask you to check into how this ban has effected the other 29 states, especially Ohio, who carry similar amendments. There was not a great deal of press about this part of the newly minted bill. It’s too late to change your vote but it’s never too late to open your mind wider and see a bigger picture going forward.

For those of us who profess to follow faith traditions, whether we judge homosexual relationships to be “natural” or not, it’s probably wise for us to find our sense of self rooted then in our narrative regardless of what the state legislates. Laws cannot make us better people or better Christians or better humans. Laws are meant to help us to be better citizens in my estimation. Asking ourselves going forward, “what will this law do?” is not questioning our faith, it is being a good citizen of a diverse nation.

For the population of people who hope for marriage equality, there should be room for disappointment and anger. Many people worked hard to stem the tide of press on this issue. The bigger question before you today however is not how do we tear down the people whose belief system and attitudes led them to vote “yes” but rather, how do we go forward productively and with integrity? What is the next step in this quest for equality?

people behaving badly…

We can’t avoid it. People are going to behave badly. I’m going to behave badly. It’s in our nature, it’s in our bones.

A few days ago Rush Limbaugh went on a tirade, like he does, calling Georgetown student, Sandra Fluke all manner of nasty names. We’ve come to expect this sort of behavior from Rush. It’s his job and he seems to like his job quite a bit. Rush Limbaugh has had no reason to quit doing exactly what he’s been doing year after year. He is not motivated by being praised for his lofty thoughts or good deeds. He’s motivated by his paycheck and his notoriety. This isn’t new information. He is simply being the person he says he is.

I don’t like that person much and honestly, I’d love for him to stop saying the horrid things he spouts off day after day. I’d love for the media to cut him off but I doubt they’ll do that. His listeners are not waning, they are surging all the time.

But listeners are not the reason that radio stations keep personalities on the air. Advertising revenue is what keeps personalities on the air. This most recent dust-up, though, has yielded Rush a lot of press and has lost him at least 7 advertising sponsors which begs the question. Why now?

After all these years of saying outrageous things I keep wondering what tipped things so drastically this time? Is it the condition of the GOP’s image? Is it the scattered Republican Primary season? Is it the rise of social media?

It’s a fascinating question.

This post isn’t about Rush Limbaugh though, not really. This post is about the rest of us; the people who post online about the things happening in the world. This is about those of us who tweet, who stumbleupon, who get linkedin, who make Facebook go ’round. This is about those of us, regardless of political or religious affiliation, who are the ordinary people with computers.

It’s the ordinary people with computers who are signing petitions about things like SOPA and PIPA to stop legislation that might have floated by us in the past. It’s the ordinary people with computers that send up the media signal flare when injustice and violence happen around the world. And it’s the ordinary people with computers who digitally barrage the sponsors of outrageous radio hosts when he steps over the line three days in a row and continues to pummel a Georgetown co-ed about her testimony before a congressional oversight committee.

Ordinary people who have discovered the power of their voice and have found a way to express that voice can be a force for change. This is important.

There’s something else though. We have a responsibility here. We have a voice and we have a means to get it out there. How WE behave in the wake of events such as this has the ability to define us, for better or for worse.

This is on my mind today in particular because in response to the Rush Limbaugh debacle, actress Patricia Heaton decided to jump on the bandwagon. Ms Heaton has been a vocal conservative Christian for a long time so it is no surprise that her politics would fall in line with the cloudy underlying point beneath Mr Limbaugh’s rant. What surprised me, though, was that she resorted to his method of expressing that point. She began a series of tweets maligning Ms Fluke’s character and she retweeted those of her followers.

I don’t care about Patricia Heaton’s politics and I don’t actually care that much about her method of expressing her opinion. I was more surprised by the piling on that happened, by the ordinary people with computers who co-signed this. And I was surprised by Patricia Heaton’s tweet rampage because she professes to belong in my own faith family. I have followed her in the past on Twitter. She speaks about faith quite a lot. She tweets about helping people in need and about her own journey. I can appreciate that. But when I read then this landslide of injurious commentary I’m sad to say it unseats her positioning herself as Christian. What is worse, though, is that it reflects badly on the rest of us and that makes me sad. Ms Heaton has since apologized for her behavior both to the “twitter verse” and to Ms Fluke herself.

We’re all allowed our bad moments, our misplaced rants, our idle chatter, our bad behavior. We’re human, of course we say and do things we ought to avoid. In our “real” lives, the lives in which we engage 3-D rather than with a screen I think grace is possible. I think forgiveness comes in time. I think we are better able to forget the transgression and the trespass. But as I think Patricia Heaton may discover, the internet has a short attention span and a long memory. Grace is an elusive prize.

Finding the sweet spot of having integrity while speaking our minds is a skill that many of us have yet to master. We have to at least be trying to master it.

People are going to behave badly. I’m going to behave badly. None of us can avoid it. It’s in our nature, it’s in our bones. It’s in our computers. It’s in our churches. It’s in our tweets and our retweets and our status updates. Whether it is in person or on the internet, we have a responsibility to one another. No matter what your political or religious leanings, no matter what your twitter follower count, no matter how many blog readers you boast, let’s be careful out there. Let’s remember who we are.

blame…

Is Sarah Palin responsible for the fatal shootings in Arizona that took place yesterday?

If you are reading me today and you do not know me in person you have probably reached this post because of a google search. I mean, it’s possible that is how you arrived here. Welcome. I’m glad you’re a person who is looking for the answer to that question.

I’m sorry that I cannot answer it definitively for you. I’m afraid that no one you find, writing about it on the internet, in the paper or speaking about it on television or in person, will be able to answer that question to any satisfaction.

Yes, we can all point fingers. It’s easy to point fingers. Point ’em if you got ’em seems to be the resounding chorus in our country these days.

It is a disturbing trend. Perhaps it’s not a new trend, perhaps we’ve lived this all throughout our history and I’m just beginning to notice it and subsequently, loathe it. Placing the blame has old roots in young parts of us, doesn’t it? When I was a kid I blamed a lot on my younger brother (sorry, Ed.) I may have gotten away with it for a little while but once he started to really be able to articulate things I’d be challenged on my finger pointing and then it would come down to character. Who is more trustworthy? Who is less likely to lie?

See, here’s the thing. I believe I do know who is responsible for the tragic events of yesterday and so do you. We are all responsible. We are responsible when we fail to speak out against acts of violence anywhere in the world, not just our own backyard. We are responsible when we fail to speak out against hate talk, violent imagery used to get a point across, extreme anger masked as righteousness, discrimination disguised as piety. We are all to blame.

The winds are always shifting, make no mistake. We are always and will always be the culture of change. We will fall, as a nation, when we stop taking responsibility for our actions, our words and even our thoughts. Is Sarah Palin responsible for the injuries and deaths of yesterday? Does she have some culpability?

I’m not a Palin fan, truth be told but I also have no ill wishes toward her. What I want most for all people is not failure but growth. I’d love for Sarah Palin to lead the way in being responsible with words and judgements and actions. I, for one, would like to hear her “woman” up about it…come to the table and speak the words, “this tactic was a mistake…” and perhaps “we need to change our national vernacular in political discourse…” She did not put a gun into this man’s hands any more than I did but we all are responsible when we cultivate a culture of fear and hate, violence and anger. I know I am guilty of buying into the rhetoric and the hyperbole and I confess my desire to slam down anyone who thinks differently than I do, I know this about me and I admit it. I am working on it. I don’t want to be that person and so I am not going to defend a wrong and hurtful position when I take it.

All I’m asking of all of us is to move out of our prospective corner toward the middle ground. Let’s meet there and talk about the bigger opportunity we have here. Put your finger pointing and proof texting and blaming away. We’ve had quite enough of that. Come forward and join this human circle where we all understand loss and grief, where we practice words of love and peace and integrity…and see where that takes us.

Garments of Faith

True Confessions…I have never been able to write a “Worship” song. I have tried to do it for church and such…it’s just not in my songwriting nature I suppose. The closest I have come is this tune. I wrote this for the soundtrack of my DoxaSoma DVD (available here for those interested parties….)

And now for your enjoyment, here ’tis:

Garments of Faith

How can you love me
as I am right now
broken
and torn
waiting for hope

How can you want me
as I fall too far
broken
and empty
waiting for hope
to return

Now will you come to me
Lift up my face
Offer glimmers of grace
Garments of faith
Then will you mend my heart
lift me from pain
Offer glimmers of grace
Garments of faith.

How can you love me
as I stand
before the throne
left with no home
nowhere to turn
waiting for hope

Will you return to me
in your good time
Glimmers of grace
Garments of faith
Then will you
mend my heart
lift me from pain,
Offer glimmers of grace
Garments of faith