Saturday, September 30, 2017

Status Update: I'm Not Nice Anymore

10 months ago I wrote about the sacred importance of being kind to each other all the time. What do I think about that now?

Wow—what a difference 10 months in the Trump-era can make.

10 months ago I launched my "kindness project". I told us we all needed to listen, to be nice, and to embrace our inner Mr. Rogers.

Boy, was that naive. While I still believe in the basic theoretical underpinnings of my movement--a few things have come into focus for me since then.

The first is that there is no "right" way to react to someone you disagree with. A friend responded immediately to this blog and told me that it was wrong and downright controlling in an uncomfortable way for me to say that we should all be "kind" all the time. I scratched my head at that. Didn't make sense to me. Isn't being nice the best? Being nice doesn't mean not saying difficult things—it's just the correct approach if you want someone to listen.

I get it now. As our wise grandmothers have always said—"It takes all kinds." There is no "one" approach. As the good book says, "there is a time for every purpose under heaven." Sometimes we need diplomacy—and sometimes we need anger. It turns out getting things done requires multiple skill sets. People need to be pushed, people need to be made uncomfortable, usually, if they're going to change. All anger all the time alienates. All kindness all the time is easily ignored.

I really don't know what the right way is to talk to the "other side" right now. I still care very deeply about not alienating the other side, not retreating into a echo chamber. BUT—that's my second thing. I'm frustrated. I'm getting angry. I want answers. I want to know how you can support such a hateful, disgusting human being. I want you to tell me. But the thing is—I want to have my cake and eat it to. I don't want my conservative family and friends to go away—I still want you. And I don't want to ALWAYS make you uncomfortable; I don't want to ALWAYS talk politics...But, I'm a little needy right now—you're going to have to bear with me. Right now I don't understand how you can live with yourself. Right now I'm kinda stuck on this thing. I want to go back to inoffensive jokes and talking about movies and TV—but not right now.

Right now I'm Angry Jesus. Flipping over tables, making a whip of cords, shouting down the Pharisees. He wasn't very nice to them. He imprudently called them all a bunch of snakes (now now Jesus, you shouldn't generalize). He said the converts they were so fervent to make were hopelessly damned because of who the Pharisees were. That's where my head space is at. If Jesus was allowed to go there, maybe, just maybe, I can too. Maybe Jesus didn't make any friends that day, but maybe it still needed to be said.

I'm goin' Old-Testament-minor-prophet on some asses. I'm gettin' my yell on. It doesn't mean I don't love you—it's actually the opposite.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Why I Support Black Lives Matter

A number of friends have expressed bafflement or even anger that I would ever support Black Lives Matter (BLM). It seems so painfully obvious to me why everyone should, so I thought it might be helpful for me articulate the reasons why I see this is a no-brainer. I’m not here to claim a moral high ground. Shame or throwing the R-word (racist) around is only going to trigger you, not intrigue you or make you think. We don't have to disagree, but if I can get you to let your guard down a bit, you might have a thing or two to think about. That’s never a bad thing.

Here is why I support BLM—I was going to try to state it simply, myself, but I found a better, more succinct explanation on the lily white Ben & Jerry’s website:

“Black lives matter. 

They matter because they are children, brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers. 

They matter because the injustices they face steal from all of us — white people and people of color alike. They steal our very humanity. 

Systemic and institutionalized racism are the defining civil rights and social justice issues of our time. We’ve come to understand that to be silent about the violence and threats to the lives and well-being of Black people is to be complicit in that violence and those threats.”

I will not go to great efforts to lay out the impenetrable capital case that institutional racism exists—that’s not how people work. We don’t argue people into the ground until they put up the white flag and agree with us. Argument and aggression only make you double-down and retreat further into your point of view. As my man Jesus said, “for those with eyes to see, let them see.” The plain facts are there to behold, even though a thousand Sean Hannitys are bleating in unison to obscure, redirect and equivocate. But if you can read something like this and not be troubled, there’s no argument I can mount to improve upon these cold, hard facts.

Here’s the other, more selfish reason why I support BLM: Honestly it's embarrassing as an American that minorities have to fight for themselves. Americans have always told themselves that we stand up for the downtrodden and oppressed. We are liberators. A group of Americans not getting a fair shake should be an egregious affront to our national identity. Why is that not happening?

White folk tend to not get "freaked out" about institutional racism because it doesn’t affect us—we might be bothered by it, but we're also bothered by annoying TV shows, or how long certain items take in the microwave, and even STILL they are not hot all the way through. That's the level of anger that too many of us are at. However, if we had some skin in the game, if our son couldn't get a job interview in this roaring economy and his name was Jamal—we might be a little more concerned. This apathy towards systemic injustice is a fault to be repented of.

I don’t judge anyone for not reaching the same conclusion I have. That is the height of arrogance and a guarantee to turn people off. But I do wonder how much thought you have really put into it. If the subject comes up it usually is derailed very quickly, and it goes something like this—“someone who supports BLM killed cops,” “at a rally a bunch of BLM supporters chanted that they wanted dead cops.” Based on those examples BLM is clearly an evil and terroristic organization that warrants nothing more than instant condemnation. I applaud your moral bravery. And because your honor and consistency is at stake, I know that after you clickon this link you will disavow Christians and Christianity as a result of this disgusting and unforgivable display of hatred in the name of Jesus Christ.