So Why Am I Being So Nasty?

It’s all well and fine to say that being critical, calling out wrong doing, speaking against oppression and being rude are not necessarily impediments to love, prayer or peace. But the fact remains that I’m being particularly nasty about Trump and his election-on-a-technicality. Yes, there’s the Russian deal. And the fact that we’re in a scarier position than people want to admit (more on that later). But it’s also that I’m well aware of a dynamic described by Jonathan Chait in this weekend’s New York Magazine explaining how Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer is leading the Democrats to their doom:

Voters pay little attention to legislative details, or even to Congress at all. They make decisions on the basis of how they feel about the president, not how they feel about Congress. And a major factor in their evaluation of the president is the presence or absence of partisan conflict. If a president has support from the opposition party, it tells voters he’s doing well, and they then choose to reward the president’s party down-ballot. . . The actual dynamic, then, is:

Senate Democrats work with Trump → Voters conclude Trump is doing a good job → Senate Republicans and Trump win reelection

or:

Senate Democrats don’t work with Trump → Voters conclude Trump is doing a bad job → Senate Democrats win reelection.

I think that the election of Trump has put us in a terrible position. And we cannot afford to allow his behavior and tactics to become normalized nor can we allow him to create even the slightest perception that he is anything but dangerous without actually changing course in a way that dramatically reduces the danger he poses. (Again, more on this later.) Being civil and treating him like any other political opponent we have disagreements with will only strengthen him while neutralizing the voice of dissent as a threat.

So we need to keep yelling. We need to refuse to accept calls to peace when no peace has been sought, much less attained. We need to be down right belligerent. Because if even those who claim the man’s a danger go quiet, retreat into murmuring discontent and civility, how big a danger could he really be?

Being nice, being civil, being conciliatory and respectful are all very good things that we should strive for as much as possible. But everything has limits. As the book of Ecclesiastes famously says, there is a season for everything. And right now it’s a season of belligerent opposition. Which is why I am, and will continue to be, quite nasty about what is going on. It’s the least I can do right now.

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And the Loser Is . . .

marmot-trumpSo, the votes are pretty well tallied and Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by about 2.86 million. So consider this your daily reminder that this is not Trump’s country. He is serving against the will of the majority of American voters.

I’m thinking I need to do a series of these memes. This chair could have beat Hillary. This earthworm. This bottle of water. (And if you were a true, blue Hillary supporter who is offended right now, you’re going to have to let it go. You’re in the minority too and it’s not a battle worth having at this point. I’m pretty sure the Marmot could have beat Trump in a landslide too. And won the electoral college to boot. Let’s just unite around opposition to Trump and call it a day. We can be grown-ups like that.)

Let’s Get Something Straight

Praying for someone and being critical of them are not mutually exclusive things. Neither are loving someone and calling out their wrong doing. And, I know this is hard to believe, but speaking out against evil is not the same thing as sowing fear.

Right wing Christians understand all these things when they’re targeting the weak, the vulnerable and the oppressed, but seem to lose site of them entirely when it comes to the mighty and powerful. If one more person tells me that we need to pray for the president love our enemies and not sow fear in response to me criticizing the cheeto dusted Mussolini redux they just elected, I might have to start being rude about it.

(Also, for the record, being rude is not a mortal sin. If you can’t tolerate some rudeness without having a meltdown and withdrawing, you are damn near worthless to the Kingdom of God, anyways. Who’s he supposed to send you to minister to – comatose people? The demand for that isn’t as high as you’d think, I’m afraid.)

Just Define the Racism Away . . .

This morning on facebook, I commented on a post saying that we have not made nearly as much progress combating racism as we like to give ourselves credit for. One man responded by claiming (ie lying) that because of a disability, he had applied for government assistance. While there he saw a black family driving a luxury SUV get all the government assistance they needed but he was turned down for help because he is white. Another man included the phrase “ni**er loving ass” in his response to me. Both were arguing that my original claim was wrong. I’m 100% certain both would insist that they are not racist and have a special snowflake meltdown if you said otherwise.

Life in post-racial America; where you get rid of racism by simply defining it away.

“Trump Says He’s Going To Bring Steel Back . . .”

A couple of weeks ago I ran into an acquaintance who told me that work at his job was so slow that his hours had been cut and he was afraid that by Christmas they would be closing the shop altogether. He’s a machinist, which is one of those jobs which is usually in high demand; I know just a couple of years ago local shops were recruiting kids right out of high school for training. So I asked him about that but he just shook his head and said that it’s changed. Then, to my surprise, he said, “what we really need is to get Trump into office.”

“Why do you say that?” I asked.

“Because Trump says he’s going to bring steel back to America and that’s what we really need.”

Now, I like this guy a lot. He’s a little rough, but he’s a good guy who I have no reason to think anything bad about. But he’s never struck me as the very sharpest tool in the shed. So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that he took Trump’s words at face value. But I was. I still am. Trump’s such a transparent conman that I struggle to understand how people don’t see it.

Then again, I can also see how when you’re afraid and someone powerful says they are going to help you, it must be awfully tempting to just accept what they say and not think too hard about it. And obviously, if a man with two small kids and all the usual responsibilities is living in fear of not being able to provide for them, that’s not Trump’s fault. That’s the result of a long line of decisions made by powerful people from both sides of the aisle not that did not put the needs of regular people first. Trump’s just the opportunist who was bold enough to step in and take advantage of people’s fears and hostility for his own purposes.

I asked my friend, “you really think Trump’s going to bring steel back? I think he’s full of shit.”

He kind of shrugged and said, “well, I guess we’re about to find out.”

Before we parted ways, I told him I’d say a prayer for him and his family, for whatever that might be worth. I didn’t tell him about how my husband has lost 5 jobs and a business in the last 11 years, through no fault of his own. I didn’t tell him that there actually are worse things than losing a job. I didn’t mention that Trump’s election had caused my own family to fear for those worse things actually happening. The way things are going, he’ll probably learn those lessons on his own eventually.

I keep wanting to find a way out of this impending disaster. I am sickened that the most hateful among us now think that they have both the power of government and the will of the people behind them. But perhaps it’s just the nature of things that we’ll all have to be brought low before we can really understand that not even poverty is the worst thing that can happen in life. I guess we’re about to find out.

The Fragility of Our Dominant Culture

True story: someone I’m connected with on facebook just posted an article claiming that “radical leftists” were guilty of shutting down discourse by insisting on trigger warnings, safe spaces and calling out micro-aggressions. I responded that this was bullshit. None of those things actually shut down discourse. People disagreed. I stood my ground. So the person who claimed that “radical leftists” were shutting down discourse decided that the conversation was too heated and deleted it. I believe that the word for this is irony.

15135763_10208953533409178_5817473775491816140_nOne of the things which has become abundantly clear is that there are a lot of people on the right, but also among neo-liberals who are engaging in heavy duty projection. They are the ones who can’t handle vigorous discourse and shut down at criticism or pushback, so they accuse others of doing so, for example. I mean, you will never find a bigger whiny special snowflake than someone who complains about political correctness. All you have to do is say the word “racism”  or call out intolerance and they melt down, claiming that you’ve make discussions impossible. Meanwhile, let a black person be told that they are pulling the race card or want to be given something for nothing and that same person will expect them to remain calm and composed.

What’s really happening here is that people who have previously been marginalized and whose concerns were ignored are gaining a voice. And it’s an uncomfortable, unfamiliar, challenging voice for those who are ensconced in the majority culture to hear. The impulse is to get them to shut up. To mock and marginalize their attempts to be heard and exert some influence on public discourse in ways that address their own needs. I’m sure that many of the people doing this have no idea that they are actually the ones who are trying to shut down public discourse because they’ve never considered that public discourse which includes and is mindful of everyone will look and sound different than public discourse they are used to.

The other dynamic which I think we’re seeing is that as those who have previously been marginalized push back against things which are hurtful and harmful to them, it exposes the fact that the dominant culture has been callous, cruel and completely unfair to many people. No one wants to think of themselves as callous, cruel and unfair, of course. But instead of recognizing that they haven’t done the work required to ensure that they aren’t actually callous, cruel and unfair, a lot of people just retreat into denial and scapegoating. They blame the person who brings their inadequacies to light for making them feel bad and become hostile towards them.

The discussion surrounding things like trigger warnings, political correctness, safe spaces, microaggressions and the like is extremely frustrating. People who oppose and complain about these things consistently show by their own words that they lack any actual understanding of the subject of their ire. But the good thing is that people who have been marginalized, far from being fragile children and special snowflakes are quite accustomed to dealing with and persevering through hostility and opposition. Once the dominant culture figures out that they are capable of doing likewise and actually engage with the issue like grown-ups, reality will win.

Wait – I thought Racial Discrimination Was Illegal. Silly Me

Very early in his career, my (African American) husband was on a temp-to-hire job doing complex data analysis – something he excels at. He had a 60 day review which was outstanding and his boss commented on how quickly he was performing as well or better than long time employees in the same position. Typically the 90 day trail period they put new employees through was just to evaluate if they had the capability of learning how to do the work.

A few days later, someone left an extraordinarily racist cartoon of a “ghetto fish” on my husband’s chair at work before he arrived in the morning. While he was looking at it in shock, one of the other employees walked by, glanced at the paper and said, “that’s pretty funny” (as if he had already seen the cartoon). Then waked off.

My husband didn’t think it was funny at all and went to his boss to show him the cartoon and explain what had happened. The boss wasn’t alarmed in the least but just snorted and told him to ignore it. That evening, my husband got a call from the employment agency telling him that the company he was doing the temp-to-hire with didn’t need him anymore. That was all he was told – “they’ve decided that they don’t need you to return.”

At my insistence, he contacted an employment lawyer to discuss the situation. He spoke to two different people who explained that filing a discrimination complaint is a long, drawn-out process involving a review by the EEOC which must be performed before any lawsuit can be filed to attempt to address the wrong done. The lawyer for the person who claims to have been wronged typically works for little to no money upfront, so they aren’t particularly motivated to pursue individual cases with little hope of a large pay-out. They will take those small cases, but typically the company uses their lawyers to draw the cases out to the point that they simply aren’t worth it and the lawyer forces a settlement that leaves everyone no better off than where they started. Further, they explained, once it is known that you have filed an EEOC complaint or are involved in a lawsuit, it is almost impossible to get hired in the same field. (Lawsuits are public record and if the EEOC decides to take action on a case directly, they make a press release.) They recommended that my husband only file a complaint if he was already planning or prepared to change his line of work entirely or get training to do so.

After that, my husband only ever complained to management about racism in the workplace once. That was also early in his career when he was hired to be a manager of a small office and his employees left racist graffiti on his car and refused to attend his meetings. He was told to ignore it and give people time. Otherwise he just found ways to work around the racism he encountered. And years later, when he was in a position to hire someone, he was told that he couldn’t hire his chosen candidate because it was known that she had won a discrimination lawsuit against a former employer which allegedly made her a high risk hire. Confirming what those employment lawyers had told him. Imagine that – you get treated like shit, stand up for your rights and then become unemployable in some employer’s eyes.

So, that’s the state of our workplace anti-discrimination laws in this country. In case you were wondering why things aren’t better. (Don’t worry – there’s lots more where this story came from.)

In Which I Own the Libraturd Title

I’ve avoided nearly all hot-button cultural and political topics around here for many years now. And I don’t write screeds about how terrible other people’s theology or morality is. Yet, somehow, the overwhelming majority of people who have responded to my writing are not, shall we say, politically conservative. I used to be conservative, but reading the bible has a funny way of changing that, it seems.  These days I’m a pretty flaming progressive. I’ll go back to being a conservative when we’ve dealt with our problems and have better traditions to hold on to.

I’m not remotely an ideologue. Ideally I’d love to see conservatives, liberals, progressives and (I guess) libertarians have a seat at the table and hash things out together. But as I’ve been saying for years, conservatives have so totally lost their way from a moral and ethical standpoint, that frankly, they need to be removed from the grown-up table until they can get their shit straight. (Hint: what you want to conserve, has to be worth conserving and can’t come at the cost of denying the dignity of some humans.)

Which isn’t to say that if you are conservative, you are unwelcome. Far from it. If you’re willing to put up with me, I assume you are wise and have excellent taste and want to engage with you. But I do find it interesting that, absent any liberal teachers or the influence of liberal theologians, just by following scripture and praying, I came to hold a theology which apparently appeals far more to people who are not politically conservative than those who are. I’m thinking that means something, frankly. I wonder if Jesus would be a libraturd too?

Thanksgiving Family Survival Guide – 2016 Edition

Illustration of Mother and Children Carrying Thanksgiving Dinner by Douglass Crockwell

Such a pretty picture. Now imagine that they all hate each other.

An oldie but a goody! BTW, if you read these and know exactly what I’m talking about when it comes to family, you are one of the people I wrote The Upside Down World’s Guide to Enjoying the Hard Life  for. It’s a collection of enlightening essays for thinking better, being better and growing where you’re planted. Even if where you’re planted is a, um, lacking in certain nutrients required for proper growth. (I was going to say something much meaner, but I’m trying to be a good Christian here.) The book is only $6 on Amazon. Buy an extra one for your sister. Or a whole bunch for your friends. Also, if you are one of those people who has been experiencing an increase in interpersonal verbal and emotional abuse over the last couple of weeks, you can follow me on my personal facebook page where I’m sharing other bits of advice for keeping yourself safe and sane under adverse conditions. (I swear a lot more and talk about God a lot less on my personal page though. Just so we’re all clear. I hate to have to make someone look like a jackass in front of everyone. 😉 )

So, best of luck everyone. It’s a bit wild out there, but just put one foot in front of the other and you’ll do fine. Happy Thanksgiving, peeps!

Since I am a contrarian at heart and everyone and their brother is doing the “Let’s talk about what we’re thankful for” bit, I’m going to offer up something completely different.  Because as important as gratitude is, I also know that on Thanksgiving there are an awful lot of people for whom the answer to “what are you most grateful for?” is “that I don’t live any closer to these people.”  So for those of you going over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house which had damn well better have a well stocked liquor cabinet waiting, I’ve dug through the archives to create The Upside Down World’s Thanksgiving Survival Guide:

1. Develop an Appreciation for the Absurd: My grandmother once had to be dragged away by a horrified aunt from her very concerned inquisition into the causes of my obesity.  One of my cousins made a big deal out of being “sorry we didn’t get a chance to talk” after resolutely ignoring every smile, nod, wave or question we threw her way from the next table over at my brother’s wedding.  Where all of my other 7 siblings (but not me) stood up in the wedding. That was weird. Learning to laugh is a much better tactic for dealing with people being absurd than any other I know.

2. Learn to Tolerate Conflict: Wishing you would have stood up for yourself is only rarely less painful than the discomfort of conflict.  The determining factor being whether you hold it together long enough to cry in private or abruptly leave the table after bursting into tears in front of everyone.  Thanksgiving probably isn’t the best time to confront your family with a list of all the things they have done to hurt you, but being able to speak up for yourself is a form of self-care everyone needs to know.

3. Learn to Avoid Conflict: At the other end of the spectrum, sometimes we need to tone it down.  Not every confrontation need to happen and not every invitation to conflict needs to be accepted.  Learn to see the difference and how to stop it before it gets started.

4. Deliberately Look For the Good in People: Thanksgiving with relatives is the perfect place to put this idea into action.  One of my grandfathers used to corner us Continue reading

The Quiet Secret to Global Revolution

Well, look at me! Posting for the second day in a row. I told you I’d be back! 🙂

I actually have a guest post up at Dr. Chuck Crisco’s site that I wanted to invite y’all to go check out. It’s on a topic near and dear to my heart – overcoming the “us vs them” dualism of the past in order to embrace a more humane, holistic understanding of humanity as “just us”. I’m sharing the introduction below and I hope you’ll head on over to Chuck’s site to read the rest:

The Quiet Secret to Global Revolution: “Us vs Them” or “Just Us”

In talking with my fellow countrymen, it has become increasingly clear that there are two competing and seemingly irreconcilable mindsets at work in the conflicts being played out around us. On one side, you have people who see the world in terms of “us vs them” in which humanity is divided between those who are on our side and those who are not.  On the other are those who see the world in terms of “just us”, as in there is no “us vs them”, there is only a broad “us” which encompasses all of humanity. “Us vs them” thinkers see our differences as a cause for division, while “just us” thinkers seek to transcend our differences and recognize our deeper, shared humanity. READ ON . . .

Also, I am still collecting money to fund necessary surgery for a 14 year old Christian Pakistani who sustained serious injuries after being kidnapped and tortured by a man his father had a financial dispute with. I shared the story here yesterday. If you missed it, you can read it and find the link to make a donation here.