Thursday, January 19, 2017

My President Was a TCK

I don't think I've ever been as conflicted as I am about President Obama as I have been this past week, researching this post and reading everyone else's "summing up" articles. It's difficult to even remember what all has happened in the past 8 years, and of course there are mixed feelings, as well as a mixed record. All the same, I've done what I can to understand and then tried to work through some thoughts.

I've loved Obama from the very beginning, without always knowing why. I do not claim to understand or even be aware of all or even most of the politics that surround the Obama presidency and I am not writing to defend this or that thing that he did or said. I know he is merely a man, and I know that he made mistakes. I know that many people feel that he helped to ruin something they loved. I'm not writing to persuade you or to mock your feelings, I am writing because this is a significant goodbye for me, and I want to honor it.

"He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again".
- Hamlet

I am a woman intoxicated by words, and Obama was a master with them. As the prophet Muhammad was believed to have said, "verily eloquence includes sorcery." I know that we should choose our leaders based on a multitude of factors, least of which should be campaign promises or excellent speeches, but I do not know (nor do I believe it fully possible) how to know what can truly be known about another human being except their character, and for that reason, I often go by "my feeling" about politicians. My feelings are not infallible or unchangeable, but I never stopped admiring Obama and simply liking what I know of him as a person.

I believe he did what he thought was right as a leader and as a man, and I felt safe within that.

I'll miss his calm, steady voice on the radio. He is a man who showed compassion and emotion, yet rarely (if ever?) lost his cool when ridiculed or demeaned with the most base and false accusations. He never spoke thoughtlessly, hurtfully, or hatefully. He so often looks happy in spite of the gravity of his position, but he also cried in response to national tragedies and hugged those who were in pain.

He was cool. He was fun-loving. He was gentle. He felt accessible to me. He was free of personal scandals. His wife was the epitome of grace, yet real and warm; his daughters were respectful, yet fierce.

To me, Barack Obama has been worthy of respect and has played a substantial role in a formative decade in my life - my first decade in this country, my first decade of being old enough to vote, my first decade of awareness of politics.

One of the first things I heard about him after he became president in 2009 was that he was employing TCKs (Third Culture Kids) in places of prominence around him. This caught my attention, not only because I am a TCK, but because few people in the US even know what a TCK is, despite the fact that plenty of Americans are TCKs, even if they don't know it. To be a TCK is to be first-generation multicultural - it does not necessarily mean mixed-race, it just means you have multiple cultural backgrounds as a result of growing up on more than one continent. (Here's another article on Obama's TCKness.)

I recently watched the movie Barry on Netflix, about a year or so in Obama's life as a college student at Columbia. It wasn't remarkable as a movie, but it definitely drove home his struggle with defining himself as a young man who wasn't from any one place. Hawaii, Jakarta, Kenya, California, New York - he had long explanations any time someone asked where he was from, and I'm not sure that even he knew. That is the classic dilemma of a TCK. At the end of the movie, he had started to say, "I live here, now", which is in some ways the ultimate response of someone who has come to terms with their identity as a child of multiple cultures and places, belonging with no one race and to no single city. The best part of the movie was when he was launching into the whole explanation of his background to a mixed-race couple, who simply said, "well, that makes you American." That's part of what I admire about the Obamas, and part of what crushes me about Trump. I feel like Obama knows who I am and what makes our country truly great (strength and richness through diversity), and I don't think that Trump does. I realize that this sounds like "I like Obama because I am like him, and I don't like Trump because I am not like him", and I'm not ashamed of there being some truth in that.

Some people said Obama only got elected because he was black. I don't think that's true, but I also don't see why that should be a smear. I am proud of diversity in the public eye, and I'm proud that we had a black president. Although it shouldn't feel momentous, it did. The first post on this blog was about Obama having won the nomination in 2008, and it felt like I was standing in the middle of a glorious piece of American history.

Obama's blackness doesn't make me ashamed to be white, it simply makes me proud to be an American, proud to be a TCK who chooses a path of resistance instead of blending in when blending in would be the easier choice. His presidency felt like riding a wave of powerful goodness as young people of color and diversity were emboldened to continue demanding justice and respect. I don't think that wave has crashed for good with the election of Trump, but I think things will get much uglier before they get better (if they ever get better, which I pray they do), and I'm walking into this new era with some trepidation, even as I try and be brave and willing to stand up, myself.

In Ta-Nehisi Coates' series of essays, "My President Was Black" (from which I hijacked the title for this post), Obama is presented as a black man who grew up in very unusual racial circumstances that allowed him to have faith in white people. That factor of his outlook enabled him, sometimes to his detriment, to believe in the goodness of all Americans, even though not all Americans are good.

I find it hard to fault him for that. Just as we tend to overlook the flaws of those we are romantically inclined toward, I find that some of Obama's flaws endear him to me even more. When I look at him, I feel warmth and acceptance, and what a privilege to feel that way about my President (without feeling like that comes at the cost of other people feeling that toward him). I believe he genuinely cares for the well-being of all Americans, even the ones who hate him.

When I think of the things that I know of that Obama did, the first things that come to mind are international, because that's often where my heart lies and we relate to all authority figures on the basis of what they do/who they are that concerns us, in my opinion.

  • He made provisions for children fleeing violence in Mexico. (The illegal immigration of children may have ended less happily...)
  • He repaired relations with both Cuba and Iran, and stood up to Israel when necessary (though perhaps not enough, in my opinion - I can't find the example from last year that I was most pleased with). 
  • He didn't close Guantanamo, but he relocated all but 45 of 242.   
  • He cut back on military spending, brought many deployed soldiers home, and decreased our nuclear weapons stockpile (though apparently not as much as several previous presidents).
  • He enacted the Child Soldiers Prevention Act (am I crazy, or was there some momentous thing about this being the first grassroots bill to be signed into law by a president?! I have some memory of that, but can't verify it), though it's implementation has been flawed
  • He engaged with Southeast Asia, which is often treated as not important (or simply left out) in global conversations. 

Things I was not cool with:

And to be categorized under silly:

  • Winning the Nobel Peace Prize (not his choice) after less than one year on the job for a "vision" of what his presidency could accomplish.
  • Awarding your BFF (Joe Biden) the highest civilian honor simply because....? I think this cheapens the award. 

There are more good, shady, and silly things leaping to mind as I compile this list, as well as things I'm just not sure about. As I mentioned at the top, I felt very conflicted over my views of Obama's legacy in light of some of the things he did that I really didn't like. The deportation numbers felt like a betrayal of some of the ideals that I equate with Obama and admire him for. The results of Obama's policies are a mixed bag. This article is the best I've found in terms of comparison and numbers. Strangely, the international category is the least successful looking, though it's hard to say how much of that is Obama's fault. At any rate, in many ways, Obama is leaving things in better condition than in which he inherited them, and for that I'm grateful.

As I said before, sometimes admiration aids us in looking past a person's faults. Despite Obama's faults, I still believe he did the best he could with what he had, and he did it believing he was doing the right things. That does not excuse everything, but if we were to agree that both of those things are true of his actions, I don't think we could ask more of him, or anyone else.

I don't say this with inconsolable sadness, but I think American has been and continues to be in decline in terms of world power. We live in volatile times indeed, and even if Obama couldn't completely turn this ship around, he made a valiant attempt.

I'm not sad that Hillary didn't win, I'm not even sad that a Democrat didn't win. I'm just sad to see a president I admire go. And sad to see one I don't trust take control. On second thought, I do not wish Obama could continue being the president - change is good, though change is hard. It is just hard to see someone I respect stepping down to give way to someone I do not respect and who I fear will undo the things that brought me comfort and hope in the past 8 years (and even beyond). I know the same could be said with the candidates reversed for some of my friends, and although I don't understand that, I try and respect it.

One thing that I actually appreciate about Trump is that more than any other president, he has helped me to see that anyone can be president! That may be a backhanded compliment, but it's probably healthy that I don't idolize the position so much that I think the "little guy" doesn't matter. I feel like the little guy matters more than ever under a president Trump.

I am determined to have a voice in my community and in this country. As Nelson Mandela said, "may your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears".

To me, Barack Obama has embodied much of what I want to see in my country, and I will miss him greatly.

Mr. Obama, thank you for being my president.
Thank you for going grey for me; you have not gone unappreciated.

Photo sources: 1, 2, 3

Thursday, January 12, 2017

5 Lessons from 5 Years of Marriage

Five years of marriage (as of 1/14/17), 8 years of togetherness. In the grand scheme of things it's not very long, but it feels like a noteworthy accomplishment for multiple reasons. The beginning was so bumpy, the circumstances somewhat precarious. The odds so against us, in some ways.

If I did not have an extremely healthy awareness of the fact that divorce is not something you overcome once and then never are threatened by again, I'd say HAHA to everyone who said we couldn't do it and that we were too young...
(sometimes being right is still painful)

I used to think divorce was something that just fell from the sky on you one day and ruined everything. I used to think divorce was something that happened to people who somehow were never right for each other in the first place. Because perfect-for-each-other people never get divorced, right? Five years in, I know there are no perfect people, nor perfect-for-each-other people. No perfect unions. Sometimes the illusion that perfection is real leads to disaster. It's in expecting one person to fulfill every part of you that we are let down severely in marriage.

I never thought I'd have divorced friends - not because myself or my friends are above that, it just simply never occurred to me, despite statistics. I didn't know very many couples growing up who got divorced (a product of being surrounded by missionaries, perhaps, though they are not immune either). As it has turned out, several of my dearest friends have been divorced, and many, many acquaintances and schoolmates have been divorced. It is a heartbreak that I bear with me and a sobering reminder that none of us is too good or too strong to will a marriage into lasting. Divorce is not always a result of having done everything wrong, which is what I tend to think of it as. But no matter what the cause, it is a bitter pill to swallow, even as a friend once removed.

Now I see divorce as a storm that is always raging, always whipping at the cliffs. Marriage takes place on the edge of that cliff where we cling to one another bracing against that storm. Marriage is not a calm field upon which the storm attacks from nowhere. Marriage is the improbable eye of the storm, the defiant clinging to the cliff in the face of the storm. And our muscles flex and grow as we cling to that cliff. Sorry if that's cheesy.

I don't mean to be doom-and-gloom about marriage or to simplify marriage or divorce, or even to give the impression that I'm in fear of divorce. My views on divorce and marriage may not apply to the average couple, I'm not sure. For me, I have seen staggering numbers of people I know personally go through divorce, and because of that, it feels like it's closing in sometimes. My wariness of the possibility of divorce is not lack of faith in marriage, but merely that I've grown not to take marriage for granted. Making marriage work is not a decision you make just one time, as any married person can tell you.

With that in mind, here are my imperfect pearls of wisdom, thus far...

1. Relinquish control.

A friend asked me recently what the biggest lesson I'd learned in having kids is. After basically zero thought, I said "that I'm not in control". And I think the same is true about marriage. I want to be in control because I think that will make things work well, but apparently other people don't think so.

The only thing that comes from wishing my husband or kids were something other than what they are is resentment. Sure, I pictured some (most? all?) of the dynamics of our life and marriage differently before we were actually in the thick of it, but often times, what I focused on was what I wanted my husband to be, not on who my husband really is.

Jonas and I do not share every interest or goal or value, but we try and facilitate one another's abilities to explore our personal paths. It is better to walk my own path with my hand in his than it is to be pulled on to his path, or to try and drag him on to mine. The very concept of us having personal paths was not something I believed in at first, nor perhaps something that everyone will agree with.

I'm even learning to let go of my desire to control the very concept of control. Jonas is not the "driven" one between the two of us, which is what I've wanted him to be at times, but he is almost always the self-sacrificing one. And what is true leadership if not sacrificial? Leadership is saying "I'm sorry" first, it's forgiving first, it means reaching out, even when your partner is at their worst. Leadership is not setting a goal and making your spouse claw their way to it. It's so odd, looking back, how I could have missed that truth. As if I would have really enjoyed Jonas pushing me to hit such-and-such a goal instead of allowing me to create my own goals and enabling me to reach them.

2. GET COUNSELING. Communal and professional. This is the advice I give brides-to-be at showers (ever the downer...) - it is never too early to get help.

Plenty of people say not to air your partner's dirty laundry in front of others, but I say do it (with trustworthy, wise people). My one disclaimer is that my husband knows that I'm a giant blabber, and he's learned to spell out specific things he'd rather me not discuss (I don't do it maliciously, I'm just a very open person).

When it comes to communal counseling, I don't have secrets from my husband or my best friends, and that means they can tell me when I'm being an ass and they can comfort me when I'm struggling and they can send me back to my husband to patch things up when need be. Multiple divorced friends of mine never talked about their marital turmoil until divorce papers were drawn up. The one I can think of who was open about her marriage being on the verge of collapse did talk about it - it felt dark and heartbreaking and helpless, but that couple actually stayed together, and it was an incredible testimony in several ways.

I often think about that part of marriage ceremonies where the priest/pastor/officiant asks the congregation whether they will support the marriage and be their community of accountability. I think everyone says "we will" every time, yet we so rarely share or probe that deeply into one another's friendships, thinking "it's none of our business". I understand that there's a fine line, but let us at least give one another a chance to uphold our communal vows.

When it comes to professional counseling, WORTH. IT. It doesn't save marriages in every case, but it's very rarely totally useless. I think the cost of professional counseling would have been prohibitive for us, but I also know that we could have asked our parents (on both sides) for the money and they would have willingly given it. I probably would have been too ashamed to ask for money for counseling, as it was remarkably difficult to overcome the shame of going to counseling in our first year of marriage in the first place. Thankfully, it was free to talk to the pastor of our church (who also married us), who's not always the gentlest counselor, but he said some things that we needed to hear, and we had the added benefit of him knowing us a little bit. I'm so thankful that we went, as it was a major pivot point during a pretty rough stretch. Within the past few years, our church has begun offering free professional counseling as well.

3. Nurture your sense of self, as well as your sense of place in things other than your marriage; spirituality, community, society - if you need space to be a whole individual such that you can be a good partner, make it happen. The same applies to parenthood, in my opinion. I still feel like this advice rubs up against Christian cultural conventions, but I'm not saying "think only of yourself", I'm just saying don't let yourself be swallowed. Don't let your husband or your kids be what defines you, because then you will fall apart when they disappoint you. As an introvert, I need space to be alone or be myself. If you're an extrovert, you probably will need more than just your partner for social and emotional health, and it's better to realize that and cultivate those other relationships than resent your partner for not being enough.

4. Throw out conventions. I have trouble discerning between what is good about tradition and orthodoxy and what is truth that has become twisted by time. So often, I find that bucking convention really means carving away at the callouses that have grown over something that was once beautiful. Like the leadership issue - Biblical truth is solid, it's our cultural and sinful interpretations that have us operating in the opposite direction, all the while thinking we're doing it "right". Church culture tends to think that the man, in being the "head of the household", should make the big decisions and be the breadwinner. I've seen the attempt to stick to marital gender-norm expectations cripple relationships more than once, and I wouldn't be surprised if Jonas ends up being a stay-at-home or work-from-home dad down the road, while I have a more typical "career". Let's get rid of that stigma - doesn't it make sense that doing what we're suited to would make a marriage stronger rather than threatening it? Unconventional roles don't need to cancel out mutual respect.

5. Put down the phone. This one is hard for me. I use my phone and computer a lot in every-day life; for work, for school, for recreation. Even though I'm pretty good at setting aside media at events or in gatherings, being with my husband isn't really an event (unless it's a date), it's every day life! So, we have to make a very conscious effort to connect during every day life. Put down our devices when we talk to one another, and even schedule time to spend with one another at home. Otherwise, it is incredibly easy to drift apart or not appreciate your partner as anything beyond part of your mundane routine.

The first few months of our marriage were so happy, but the second year was hell. Since then, there are have been long stretches that just felt blah - sometimes so mundane that I forgot what being in love meant. Being in love is quieter with time, and parenthood complicates that, and now we battle busyness. I cherish the good and fun and intense times, and I plod through the not-as-great times, knowing that it can and will be vibrant again. I am not so naive as to believe that we will never go through hell again, whether self inflicted or as the result of tragedy that seems insurmountable (grave illness, loss of loved ones). But I'm also encouraged by what we've persevered through so far.

We're taking it slow - a day at a time - but I fully plan to be a gnarled old couple, a rarity in a sea of wrecked ships, though it is assuredly not by my own strength that such a thing has been or will be achieved. Maybe it sounds sad, but 5 years really feels like something to be proud of.

Top photo from our reception in 2012, by Kappen Photography.
Illustration by Wiebke Rauers.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2016 In Review & 2017 Goals

What a difference a year makes. I was looking at my year wrap-up post from 2015/2016 and my year-in-a-word was "content". This year, on the other hand was tense. Not in personal terms, but I felt so wrapped up in the pains of the world. I know that's a huge burden to bare, but its one that I dwell on often, none the less.  This is the first New Years that I don't feel as if the future will probably be better than the past, but I don't see that as an ultimately hopeless situation.

I suspect that life in the US in 2017 may be a bit more tumultuous than it has been (and it has been) and it doesn't seem as if international woes are dying down either. I realized that assuming that the future will be brighter goes against my fundamental view of humanity, which is that we're circling the drain. In Biblical terms, humans don't age well in any sense, but also in Biblical terms, we're not left to our own devices forever. So that's my take on 2017 and beyond - it will probably get worse before it gets better. The war in Syria, the truck attack/massacre in Nice, France, and the Tennessee school bus crash stood out to me as irreconcilably sad in 2016, though the entire year felt like a string of tragedies and injustices. 

Destruction is certain, but there is every reason to hope and push toward peace and reconciliation in the mean time. If that makes zero sense, I... realize that, too. Sometimes it strikes me as a great act of courage that anyone in this life can resist substance abuse in light of tidal waves of pain and sorrow. I'm predicting that my word of the year for 2017 is going to be my "...interesting", which is a PC way of saying, "holy poo, what is happening?!"

In the midst of all this, it's humbling to have had a pretty fantastic year on a personal level. 

Some highlights from 2016 for our family: Ishmael started preschool, which has been great for everyone, and has aided my general sense of having hit my stride in parenting (as much as that is possible, which is questionable). I turned 25 on the 25th of August and had an amazing birthday party at which my best pals presented me with plane tickets to Thailand! We took several mini vacations within California this year, but our favorite was Santa Cruz. Last but not least, Jonas wrapped up nearly a decade at In N Out and started a new job at a dental lab called Denmat. Moving on up! 

{some of my favorites from my Instagram in the past year}

I've not kept very good track of my favorite entertainment this year, but I also consumed less than usual. I occasionally share favorites on my friend's blog, The Conversation Collective. A few things I enjoyed that I didn't mention on there are the TV show The Killing (Netflix), and the book (nonfiction) Revolutionary IranI also made a playlist of the songs that will most remind me of 2016. 

I didn't do that well on my 2016 goals, but I'm okay with that:

  • Begin collecting art
  • Begin investing money beyond my 401K/IRA
  • Submit writing to a publication I haven't submitted to before
  • Read the Koran, at least in part, as well as read the Bible 
  • Become involved in my local Muslim community  (slow, slow progress on this front, am definitely rolling this one over into 2017)
  • Visit the CRM plant in San Diego
  • Jonas apply to Otis
  • Figure out when/how to get Ishmael started in school
  • Have $10k in the bank by Jan 2017

I'm not feeling the resolutions thing as much as usual, but my main goal for 2017:
  • Finish college!!! After 9 years of studying on and off, I'm on track to graduate November of 2017 and I CAN'T WAIT!
We have some other fun things coming up as well - Jonas and I will be going to Thailand in February, my first time out of the country in 9 years! In other momentous news, our 5th wedding anniversary is coming up in less than 2 weeks. 

I may or may not go right on to get my masters when I graduate later this year. I'm also looking forward to cooking dinner with new and old friends throughout the year. And not to jinx myself, but I think this is finally the year I will finish the painting I started in 2012 - I'm so close to done! 

{not surprisingly, these 9 photos on the right were my most "popular" on Instagram ;)}

Another small and highly unlikely to be fulfilled resolution is to watch more good movies. I mostly watch shows, but I miss seeing good movies within the same year that they come out. Like I said, this is a completely impractical goal to work toward given my school and life schedule and other much more important priorities, but none the less, I desire it! 

What's been on your mind as we ease into 2017? 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

One Truth in a Post-Truth Society

I first heard this trend/term of "post-truth/fact society" a few weeks ago and I was appalled. Almost the same day, I watched a movie called Septembers of Shiraz which opens with a beautiful quote by the mystic poet Rumi:

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there." 

I almost shared it on Facebook because it so swept me up in its imagery, but I suddenly realized it was more or less the same idea that I've choked on in the news this month. I do not want to visit any fields beyond what is right. I recognize that much of the space we live in falls along the wayside of right and wrong, and I believe that much of life is up for discussion, but being post-truth is nothing to be proud of. 

Believe me, from a scientific perspective, I realize that Truth is very hard to come by. If I wasn't there in person, my belief in any news story is putting my faith in journalists and corporations, who often make mistakes and sometimes outright lie. With the way that the human brain and memory works, we know that even witnessing an event in person does not guarantee that we will remember it accurately. 

I don't pretend to know very many things unequivocally. Perhaps disregard for even a veneer of Truth-seeking has never been so blatant in our country during my lifetime as it is under the influence and example of Trump, and that is a crying shame, but the murkiness of facts at least highlights the several things I know without a doubt that do not rely on fact. 

In light of what's happening in Aleppo, I've been wrestling with this burning, twisting question of what is the "right" thing to do. In our pain and our confusion and our helplessness, we (and news sources) blame each other, wailing "how could you? how could we? why is this happening?" The idea that "we let this happen" or we simply "turned our faces away" assumes many things erroneously, even if there is (and there is) some legitimate blame to be cast on the US as well as other players. 

It's not blindness or lack of care that we're suffering from. At least, that is not true for many of us. We, and the Syrian people, are suffering from lack of any good options. It's not that there was a good option that wasn't taken due to anyone's negligence. I am frustrated by the ideas of helping boiling down to giving money or protesting. Those things are not bad, nor do I discourage them in any way, but I do not believe that they will sponge out the hurt or the wrongs. 

It feels gross to talk about political strategies while cities and bodies burn. But I find myself baffled at what it is that we could or should have done to help prevent the destruction of Aleppo. I can and do blame the United States government and many of its citizens for debating whether to aid Syrian refugees over the past several years, before so many were trapped and unable to escape the violence. But I also realize that many Syrians can't or didn't want to leave their homeland. 

The "fault" of the situation in Aleppo is wrapped up in so many issues, perpetuated by so many people, namely the country's own president, Bashar al-Assad. I do not see what could have prevented bloodshed in light of the aims of ISIS, Assad, Russia, and Iran (the main players/backers in the war). The US has become slightly more careful about dropping bombs on bad guys willy nilly, partly because it often kills as many civilians as anyone else, but they have targeted ISIS with drones (sometimes with tragic consequences). The US also negotiated with Russia over Russian behavior in Syria, to no avail. Even the media, which is often criticized for covering one thing and not another, has been covering Syria for several years now. 

I could write at length about the misery-inducing results of the US having taken out dictators in other countries prior to the Syrian war, or the possible affects of "forcing" Russia to withdraw from Syria, or about the tragedy that is our immigration system. I devote a great deal of time to studying these things and am always willing to discuss it further. But in the interest of honest news stories and truth seeking in a post-fact society, I do not believe that Americans simply didn't care enough to keep Aleppo from turning into a bloodbath. It is numbing and it is heartwrending, but I don't know what else can be done but to sit with these people in their hour of devastation, even if we're half a world away. 

I feel very uncertain of what is factual, and that is a bitter pill to swallow because this is a mire that we have lusted after with our love of entertainment and our encouragement of open questioning of every idea that comes our way. In many ways, I count those American traits as virtues. The more I learn, the less I'm sure of, and there is a kind of bravery in being aware that you may not always be right. But at the same time, dispensing with all certainty turns out to be that quicksand we feared in our childhoods. For me, the bottom line is that treating people with humanity doesn't depend on my knowledge or interpretation of facts. Even if I was wrong about every single thing I've ever said about Muslims or immigrants, would that exclude them from being worthy of love and care? No. No it would not. 

I'm saddened by my perception that taking an interest in the lives and livelihood of Muslims is somehow a progressive stance, or even a political one at all. Every time I try and bring awareness to the attitude of our general culture toward Muslims, I feel like a main concern of people reading is to disprove me. Why do you, oh Christian, insist on fighting me on this? It's almost like you don't want them to hear about Jesus, at least from my lips or yours, and you should be ashamed of standing in the way of that. 

I realize that this will mean nothing to those who do not share my faith, but I think more and more people will be searching for Truth as we're told it no longer exists. Today, my Truth is this, Micah 6:8:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

What do I know that is true? To care for one another, to care for widows and orphans. Even Muslim ones. How can you argue against my paltry efforts to do that? How is that anything but hindering the hands and feet of Christ, if I may be so bold as to call my efforts that? Go stick your self righteousness and need to be right somewhere else. Do I have to write an academic thesis on my knowledge of the history and culture of the Middle East every time I want to care for someone? I hope your high horse kicks you in the ass. 

I'm not under the illusions that caring and being vocal on these issues is easy or comfortable. I am swift to anger, slow to humility, and the things I care about quickly incite the most remarkably ignorant and hateful remarks, and it never fails to hurt me. I call my sister and monologue to my husband and then get on with it. Because someone else died so that I could experience life, and the least I can do is put up with some trolls, irl and on the interwebs, in order to extend that opportunity to others. 

{artwork by Judith Mehr}

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

An Ode to 2016, A Hard Year

How do I approach you
Strange, Beautiful, 
Terrible, Shocking
Thing that you are 

Bombs on the ground
Drones in the sky
Exploded in my 
Pulmonary artery 

Flags of the planet 
At perpetual half-mast 
But I lift mine eyes
Up to the hills

To see where my help 
Comes from
I see a storm

I feel charged
Lightning bolt for a spine
Blood running in the streets
The fresh
And the coagulated
Life and Death mingling 

The pale horse 
Rears on its hind legs
I am small
Torn, Beaten
And in awe

I'm strangled by 
Beyond my control 
I'm laughing 

Written 12/3/16 
Image Source
I don't know if it's just the Christmas season or what, but I feel surprisingly joyful and hopeful at the end of this year, despite how brutal it was in many ways. I have much to be thankful for in my personal life, even as I ponder and grieve things on a larger scale. This summer, it felt like the flags were at half mast more often than not, and it broke my heart that I lost track of why most of the time, it was simply the perpetual norm. I think we always assume that a hard year will get a fresh start when January 1 rolls around, but I'm realizing that all of these years are hard. 2017 may be incredibly shocking and devastating in our nation and abroad - I don't doubt that it will be. I do not leave this year with a feeling of hopelessness, but I want to acknowledge that for many people, and even for myself at moments, "our skin was a terrible thing to live in" (Laura Mvula). Bunmi Laditan wrote, "I think when we look back at 2016, what we'll remember most about this year apart from that it clearly didn't care about any of our feelings, is that it exposed the truth. If you were willing to let it clean out your closets, it did. Ruthlessly. It burned down all of the shaky bridges and showed us, me, what we're really made out of." May 2017 be a year of Truth, even if it hurts. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Across Enemy Lines

Well, well, well. Here we are again (I started writing this about 3 days after my initial post-election post, but then finals happened). This presidency got me like:


But seriously. First, I want to thank each of my friends who answered my plea for help from my first post-election post. I've said yes to everyone who wanted to talk this stuff out, even though I haven't always wanted to, and I've gained something of worth from each one. One of the most touching things was a friend of mine who voted for Trump who reached out to me (even before my initial post) and said that she wanted to understand why I was so hurt. Even though it seemed glaringly obvious to me and I was tempted to be offended that she would even have to ask that question, her gesture was more than I have ever extended to anyone who I would have categorized as a Trump supporter in the past 8 years. I did not think their hurt worth asking about, yet to have someone genuinely inquire after mine softened me immeasurably.

Another friend (not a Trump supporter) encouraged me to search for the good in Trump. The internet says that it's almost impossible (seriously, I Googled it), but I must say that that frame of mind has led me to some little floating chips of open-mindedness in the sea of lava that is my indignant soul. The verdict is still out on whether there's anything good about him as an individual to be found on the internet, but one thing that at least peaks my interest is his relationship with his children. Not all of it has been outstanding, and I understand the concerns of nepotism in having ones children as business partners and advisers, but I also don't often see parents who respect their children's council to the extent that it appears Trump might.

I've been reading my brains out, but the piece that most helped me empathize with one of the largest groups of Trump supporters was this one from Cracked about the differences between world views in the city and rural areas. I'd highly recommend it, as it is both hilarious and insightful. I could go on and on about this article (many thanks to my friend Zachary for passing it along to me!). If you don't understand how so many people could find Trump an acceptable option, make this the one article you read of all the ones I link to. I've even been reading articles that I know will make me furious because even if I can't see eye to eye with the reasoning or politics, I don't want to shut out the voices of people who feel like liberal white elites don't give a damn about them. That seems to have been largely what got us in to this mess, and I don't intend to let it happen again if there's any way I can help stop it.

The Cracked article was valuable for me because it put something that I don't understand into terms that I'm familiar with. It does a good job of explaining the economic woe as well as the liberal ridicule that Trump supporters have faced in the past 8 years. it confirms that yes, their way of life is dying. And of course that is scary and painful. It also has some excellent illustrations of how we all excuse the yuckyness in people who we feel are accomplishing "the greater good." It touches on how we can be civil, or even kind, to people who are different when they're right in front of us, but still lump "those people in that group over there" into a category that we feel free to fear or hate or ridicule. It talks about the Church as a place where people in rural areas congregate for community when there are few other options for that sort of network and support. As a Christian, I believe that the Church should be available for that purpose, but church can quickly become more about culture and agreeing with one another inside of safe walls instead of focusing on Jesus's mission, which is to take love and community outside of the church walls. That distinction is at the crux of my heartache over the Church's support of Trump.

I've told plenty of people why I'm upset about Trump, but most of them already agree with me. As a writer, but also just as a reasoning person, I ask myself, "so what if I can make people who are like me nod their heads in agreement"? If that's all that I can accomplish with my voice, why bother? Nothing will really change. Instead, progress in my own mind and heart happen when someone else is able to present an idea to me without belittling my opposing view. That's what I want to be able to do too. While my grief over Trump as president is real, pitting myself against Trump supporters won't make it all go away.

Even though I wasn't a fan of Hillary, I think that if she had won, I probably would have privately rolled my eyes at the protest of Trump supporters and gone on with thinking that America was headed in the "right" direction, in many ways. For that reason, I'm thankful for Trump's presidency. He's provided a stark reminder to fight for what is right and to genuinely care about the situation of all kinds of Americans.

I must start by confessing that I truly did not care what argument a Trump supporter might come up with in his favor prior to his win. I said as much in my first post. Although my views on politics and even ethics have not changed, I've come to see that my complete disregard for the voice of Trump supporters is basically no different than what I perceived as their complete disregard for what I held so close to my heart in this election and considered to be of utmost importance to the fabric of our nation. I contributed to this rift, and thereby Trump's triumph, and I now see that very plainly. I try so hard to be "in touch" with what's going on around me, but somehow I managed to be very, very out of touch with what a lot of people were feeling. Clearly they have felt unheard, and I was one of many who thought they were better left ignored.

As most of us do, I broke my world and this election down into very simple terms: "I'm moving in the direction of good, and it's okay to be out of touch with what is bad." I've taken pride in surrounding myself with progressive thought and input, which are to me "good" ideas. Ideas that push me in a direction that I want to see myself go, because I view the gospel as fundamentally all-inclusive, which is what I want for America too.

But I failed to remember that all-inclusive means people that I don't like, too. People that baffle me and even infuriate me. People who've ridiculed me and people who make me feel stupid or say things that hurt me. God loves them too, and he offers them grace just as much as he offers it to me. Imagine that! Also, let us pause and thank God that I am not God. Because there are a lot of people who would not receive grace from me.

I heard part of an interview with Nadia Bolz-Weber, the heavily tattooed recovering alcoholic female pastor of the Lutheran church called House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver. She's a badass. She became ordained and started this church with the express purpose of making a place for those generally left out of the Church, and it's became a truly beautiful thing. In fact, it has been so successful that she gained national media coverage and "normal" people who heard about her church on the news started attending her congregation.

She said that it upset her at first because these "normal" people were messing up her demographic of outcasts and weirdos. She even called a fellow pastor to complain about it, but her pastor friend gently reminded her that perhaps these normal people needed the message of an all-inclusive God too.

In many ways, the Trump supporter - especially the Evangelical Trump supporter - is my mission field. Not because I am better than them and therefore I need to save them with my superior understanding of the gospel, but because they are the ones that I struggle to love, and therefore the ones I am called to love.

Something that disgusts me about my preconceived notion of the Trump-base is that they lump the immigrant, they non-heterosexual, the black or brown into these giant categories that they see as standing in the way of a better life for themselves. But that is how I've viewed Trump supporters too - if we could just cleanse "those people" of their brutish and twisted generalities, then America would be good.

I've read over and over about how "people without a college degree" are much more likely to have voted for Trump. Even to me, who is the "type" to have a degree (though technically I don't), there's a not-very-subtle message that, "smart people vote liberal" and "stupid people vote for Trump." When was the last time someone calling you stupid made you want to agree with them? I've unthinkingly gone along with the idea that because my side is better educated than the other side, I'm smarter and therefore righter. It's what John Oliver calls "a liberal echo chamber". I do happen to believe I'm righter on the issue of Trump, but I no longer think that the alternative to being right is being stupid.

Let me be the first to admit that over-educated white people are the WORST. You probably didn't need me to tell you that, because we all have at least a few of them in our lives. There are few things more miserable than being talked down to by an incredibly well-read philosophy or political science major. It wreaks of privileged and pomp, and it makes me feel like this (grumpy cat). Honestly, what was that expensive education worth if no one can bear to listen to you?

I apologize if I've talked down to anyone in that way. I am very snobby about what constitutes good literature (not Twilight), and I'm quick to write off any opinion if it's not stated eloquently, properly formatted, and error-free, rather than being able to set those things aside and focus on the message that someone is trying to communicate. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whosoever has bad grammar should not perish, but have everlasting life. Amen.

I'd also like to posit that "higher education" goes beyond book knowledge. What education does is provide us a way out of our bubbles. Exposure to new ideas and new people does help you grow, and in that sense, "more educated" can make all the difference. But you can get education like that in more than one way.

I may have actually gone a bit overboard with my quest to put myself in the shoes of the Trump supporter. I am, after all, a poor white person living in a rural area without a good job, not owning a house, on government assistance, with mostly white friends. If it were not for my childhood abroad and my elitist media leanings and my breakup with American Church culture long before this election, I might have voted for Trump.

I say this to other people all the time, and then sometimes it bites me in the butt: the easiest/best way to stop fearing or hating a category of people who aren't like you is to simply get to know one.

It's much easier to be disgusted by people I don't know and will never know than it is to completely write off someone I already have a relationship with. I confess that it was a small blow to realize that some people I know and love voted for Trump, but it immediately helped me too, because I already knew them to be loving and multi-faceted people and so I could not write them off as giant dummies without trying to understand how they could have come to this conclusion that I fundamentally disagree with. I don't want to be friends with Trump supporters, to tell you the truth, but I already am, and that's been an excellent reminder that I can and should loving toward Trump supporters.

I understand that many people have felt trapped in an America that is shifting, and perhaps it is true that America used to be Greater for some of us before we felt so much heartache or anger over issues of immigration or being reminded that there's a lot we can no longer say as white people without someone being upset and calling us racist. I feel like being reminded of those things and being pushed to change does me good, but change can also be hard and painful. I understand that many people see Trump and his lack of concern for whether he's saying "the right things" as the only path to something beside their misery and a collective sneer from progressives. My understanding doesn't change my politics, but I'm trying to let it change my heart.

The struggle is real, as they say, but we must remember that in many cases, the struggle of the immigrant and the non-heterosexual and the African American and the disabled has been even harder than the economically flattened working-class white person. So much of the what we love about America is only available to us because of the blood, sweat, and tears of immigrants who have gone before us. Actually, we owe literally all of it to immigrants, some white, some black, some brown.

I've been asking myself whether my dismay over Trump's election and his subsequent actions since the election are simply a reflection of my liberal-ish politics, but I'm convinced that there's more to it than that. I have many conservative friends and friends from various socioeconomic backgrounds who are as frustrated and confused - particularly by Evangelical support of Trump - as I am.

I've worried that maybe my public heartache will seem pathetic to people who felt relief that maybe their hardships would ease with a Trump presidency. Maybe I am being bougie for feeling so sad. But to over-empathize with Trump supporters would belittle the genuine pain and fear felt by all of my friends who are gay, Muslim, recently immigrated, and those who recoil at the support of the Evangelical church. I think moral outrage is allowed, it's just that it can be genuinely coming from both extremes at once and I've only been willing to see it as truth from my own end.

To many of us, this was a spiritual election as well as a secular one. The funny thing is that my spiritual values led me as far away from Trump as possible, and what I believe to be sincere spiritual values on the part of others led them to vote for him. Once again, only the fact that God is God and not man could account for such a thing.

I tend to fixate on the racist aspect of a vote for Trump. I read something that resonated with me, "not all Trump supporters are racist, but all of them decided that racism isn't a deal breaker." When I quoted this to a friend, he commented that "I get very hung up on the racism aspect". No shit. He further noted, "you are very saddened that many Trump voters did not think racism is a deal breaker. To a Trump supporter, they may not even see racism in the equation. To you that is inherently racist."

I would like to point out that I am right on that point (passive racism, of which I certainly take part in at times, is still racism), but I still have to wrestle with, "so what?" Ok, so someone I love (or even someone I don't know at all) is a racist. That doesn't let me off the hook for loving them as much as I love the immigrant. I don't think my bristling at passively (or openly)-condoned racism is wrong in the slightest, but I can admit that it's given me tunnel vision to the detriment of understanding the feelings (of which most are not evil) of the Trump supporter at times.

Some of these passive-racists that I truly love and even respect have tunnel vision about their own political stances. I can give you a well-reasoned rebuttal to every "Christian-valued" reason to vote for Trump (and be sure that I will froth at the bit to get them to you if you request them of me), but I realize that you probably don't care and/or don't agree. Instead, my goal is to LISTEN, and shut up about how I'm more right.

If even one of us thinks we're not a part of the problem, you, my friend, are mistaken. I'm still trying to learn to see the racism in my own ways that I've failed to recognize (I wrote a bit about this before). We must strive not to be offended when we are confronted with parts of ourselves that do not align with the gospel of our Lord.

This election and its aftermath has led to me a lot of outbursts (if mostly inward) of, "who are you to offend me?!" And it's true, I find Trump and support of Trump to be deeply offensive. But so what? My job is not to slam everyone who has offended me (ahem, Donald Trump re: cast of Hamilton). In fact, it takes a much bigger person to not only brush off the genuinely offensive, but to be humble and gracious and not plot revenge for the wrong said or done to you.

(not to put the actions of all listed above on equal footing, but simply that the people we fear the most, whether they are illegal immigrants, Donald Trump, or extremists, are all made in the image of God)

Every time I read something that calls me stupid or entitled or whiny, I want to fire back, but instead, I'm trying desperately not to feed the fire. I try and grit my teeth and understand why such and such an argument is so important to someone who thinks I'm stupid for not agreeing. And when I think that misinformation or misrepresentation is being spread (this seems to happen frequently in articles about how liberals are idiots for not seeing the frustration of the right-wing Church) I speak up as gently as I can. I urge you not to repost anything that calls people names. Don't repost things that dehumanize your opponents. Don't respond to other people's posts with "how lame" or "that doesn't matter". The more we're hurt, the less we want to listen. I've not always been guiltless on this front, but ridiculing (even in a joking way) never draws hurting people in, it only pushes them away.

Sometimes I start thinking that extending God's grace to everyone means liking everyone. But it doesn't. We can and should stand up and speak out against the wrong we see going on around us. I wish that I had spoken up more about what I disagree with about Democratic politics over the last 8 years, because then it would be a bit more balanced as I criticize Trump and his cabinet. Even though my emotion has died down slightly since the days immediately after the election, I probably will be talking and writing about life in America under Trump for at least the next 4 years. To let it go is to become comfortable in a climate (no pun intended) that may not be very threatening to me personally, but that others will have to struggle with every day for at least the next 4 years.

I want to take one more crack at what was so troubling to me about Christian support of Donald Trump. Even though I will never agree on the reasoning, I believe that some of my Christian friends who voted for Trump did so after much thought, and after coming to the conclusion that he was the lesser of two evils. It was not always in blind support of his hate speech.

From a gospel perspective, there was not a good option between Trump and Clinton. They are two sides of the same coin, as my dad says. One is careful and calculating in order to appeal to her base, the other is crass and loud in order to appeal to his base. I believe both of them are dishonest and self serving. In that light, I have to reexamine my disgust at the Church for voting so heavy handedly in favor of Trump. Would I be making the same argument if the Church had whole heartedly supported Clinton, with all her deep flaws and counter-gospel attitude? Probably not, because I lean left and her rhetoric of championing human rights appeals to me. But again, that's just politics. I realize that it is unfair to demonize Christians who thought Trump was the lesser of two bad choices. Still, not liking Clinton was not a good enough excuse to vote for Trump if we're talking in strictly moral terms. Hillary is staunchly pro-choice (which is not the same thing as "wanting to kill full-term babies", for the record) and militarily hawkish, stances that seem to me to be at odds, but incidentally both stances that I disagree with.  

What I can - and do - blame the Church for is not that they voted for Trump, but that they endorsed him and sung his praises. It's understandable to grit your teeth and make the choice you think is best (which is certainly how some people came to vote for Trump), but to sing the praises (I can come up with better "singing the praises" examples if you need them) of a demagogue who has specifically targeted groups of people that Jesus calls us to protect? THAT is anti-gospel behavior. As one reporter wrote, "I think Trump votes are the result of pain — but they’ve also created deep pain." And for the Church to cause pain without remorse is not acceptable.

The support of Evangelicals remains an issue much harder for me to digest than why the greater working-class white population voted for him. Even so, I've come here to say...

Dear Trump supporter. Dear friend, 

Forgive me for ignoring you because I thought I was so much righter that you did not even deserve my honest curiosity. Forgive me for thinking that being right meant I was excused from loving. Forgive me for always making you the butt of the joke. I pledge to learn your name instead of seeing you always as "those people", and I pledge to acknowledge your wounds. To listen to you and bite my tongue, even if I want to prove my capability of rebuffing your arguments point by point. I pledge to see you as a complicated person, not a single label.

I think I owe an apology to immigrants too. I do not know very many recent immigrants, but I use them as my battle ax against ideas that I don't like. I commiserate with their hardship for a moment, in intellectual debates, but I always put off helping them on a local level until tomorrow. As SNL and this prose piece noted, this sickness in American society was not news to the African-American community, and the fact that I'm shocked by it shows how I've failed to engage with the African American community or the immigrant almost as much as I've failed to engage with the Trump supporter.

It's funny, I always feel like I'm on firmer footing as a writer when I'm repenting instead of admonishing. It always gets a better response, too. I believe that both democracy and the kingdom of God need both me and the Trump supporter. We will reach different people and can serve in different facets. We must also challenge one another to keep our eyes on our common goal: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:30-3(NIV))

(artwork by Penelope Dullaghan)

Some other articles that helped me adjust my head and heart:
Why calling people racists doesn't help
Why some women voted for Trump
Empathy isn't a favor I owe white Trump voters. It has to go both ways.
A modern creed for those who can no longer call themselves Evangelical
(although I don't think "Common Good Christian" is quite the right alternative)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Let It Go, Let It Gooo!

As I wrote about in detail in my previous post, I have been a burrito of sadness this week. But I left the house with my sons today and the sun was shining and animals had no idea we have a new president and people were kind to me. I should probably turn off the news in my feed because it's a slap in the face every time I see reports of hate crimes and uncertainty and fear, but I've also seen many things that have helped tilt my chin up a bit. I haven't reposted very much at all because the internet is already overloaded with opinion and commentary right now, but if you're looking for laughs or comfort, I decided to just throw it all in here to share.

This embroidered koala

This poem, "Still I Rise" (1978) by Maya Angelou.
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.
Like I said, animals aren't affected by this election. Beauty goes on without us. This video leaves me in awe, and I can't wait to drink this in when the full series is released. Make it full screen and turn up the volume, if you can.

Some powerful reminders:

"The path to your greatest potential is often straight through your greatest fear." Craig Groschel

"The point is that the relative freedom which we enjoy depends on public opinion. The law is no protection. Governments make laws, but whether they are carried out, and how the police behave, depends on the general temper in the country. If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it; if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them." 
George Orwell "Freedom of the Park" 

Another poem. "Evil" by Langston Hughes.

Looks like what drives me crazy
Don’t have no effect on you —
But I’m gonna keep on at it
Till it drives you crazy, too.

Hipster Buddha

This playlist, "Ballads for Hard Times", I made of songs that comfort me. I've been adding to it for a few months and will continue to add to it. The song I've played the most in the past week is "Holy War" by Alicia Keys which has excellent lyrics, and "It's Alright to Cry" by Francis and the Lights also feels especially fitting.

This lady's protest sign (follow the link, contains minor language). Because cats and IN YOUR FACE.

My dear Bernie keeping it real. 

This rousing reminder that the pen I possess is mightier than the sword:

"If you aspire to write, put aside all the niceties and sureties about what art should be and write something that makes the scales fall from our eyes. Forget the tired axioms about showing and telling, about sense of place—any possible obstruction—and write to destroy complacency, to rattle people, to help people, first and foremost yourself. Lodge your ideas like glass shards in the minds of everyone who would have you believe there’s no hope. And read, as often and as violently as you can."

And finally, a mantra for me right now. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

My Shoulders Fall Like Teardrops

I know I have to get this out of me, but I don't know what's going to come out yet.

I think that most people who read this blog aren't excited about a President Trump, so I'm not sure that this is anything more than cathartic writing for me. I'm trying to explain to myself why I feel pain much more deeply than I expected to. I want to begin by saying that I voted third party in California (where there was no chance of Trump winning our electoral college votes), so my grief and stunned-ness is not because my candidate or my policies of choice didn't win. Please bare that in mind. 

Somewhere along the way in this life, I became more of an optimist than I can logically explain, and that part of me is in overdrive. I confront this new reality with silver linings in both fists, because without them, there is no....thing. No way forward. No hope. 

Yet, a lot of people who lost a lot more than I did in this election bounced back a lot more quickly than I have. So many people's response to being crushed and stunned has been, "more love." So quickly the sentiment of "we can do this, we can be better" poured out. I'm proud to be here, right now, surrounded by that, but it hasn't hit my own heart yet. Except for a slim, grim, feeling of willingness to at least consider opposing my own government if it allows or even commands the things that I fear it might. My response is certainly the less mature of the two, but I don't think it's invalid. 

I feel embarrassed about how stunned I feel. I want to slap myself in the face and growl "pull yourself together", but if for no other reason (and there are other reasons), it is appropriate to be brokenhearted in solidarity with people who don't have the luxury of not being *very* worried about our new president. I'm still grappling with the feel of that phrase, "our new President", in my mouth. I feel foolish. Like if I had just been smarter, I wouldn't have been blindsided. If I had just been shrewder, I wouldn't be so sad. If I hadn't been so hopeful, I wouldn't feel so helpless. I feel like I opened a door from a cozy room (my mind in a bubble) onto a precipice, where the winds are whipping and howling and lusting for blood.

Maya Angalou wrote, "my shoulders fall like tear drops" in her poem Still I Rise.
My mouth is full of cold sores and my neck and shoulders are like rocks. My kids are out of control because I've just been staring at my phone, periodically blinking at the ceiling, which is how I swallow tears. They know how to take advantage of my inability to be strong and present right now. So many wonderful people have proclaimed, "where walls are built, I will raise my children to tear them down". I'm trying to get there in my heart, because I believe in it, but I just can't yet. I don't feel fierce, I feel broken.

I do believe that God is in control. But I also believe bad and sad things happen and that it's okay to be sad, very sad, about them. Sometimes "God is in control" is used as a platitude to brush away real hurt, and it shouldn't be. The fact that God is in control does not mean that I have no fear. It means that I put one foot in front of the other in spite of that fear, keeping my eyes on him as best as I know how. Jesus himself begged his Father to spare him from the most painful experience of all, death on a cross and separation from God. I have yet to sweat blood over President Trump, but I know that Jesus does not scoff at my fears. 

Everyone should be sad today. This is not about politics for me. My fear of Trump's politics is merely the fear of the unknown. Given his wildly ranging record of policy statements, anything could happen, though I can't say I'm optimistic that the actual results will be excellent. He's been on both sides of most issues, including abortion, which I think some people chose to make the sole issue they voted on. What I fear is the sentiment and the trains of thought that have led us here. Even if you support Trump's policies, it's a sad day because he won on a platform of hatred, and that's not good for any of us. Those who feel empowered in their rightness today, could so easily have it turned on them tomorrow under the guidance of a man who refuses to condemn crimes committed in his name. There would have been things to mourn if Clinton were elected too, and I know many people who feel hugely relieved that she is not president (none of whom have cited her gender, for the record). I did not trust Hillary to tell the truth or make choices I'd personally agree with, but I'm confident that sexual assault and hate crimes within our own country would not have been condoned or ignored under her leadership. 

I am preparing myself to be brave in the face of policies and laws that conflict with my most basic sense of right and wrong. I brush a lot of things off as "the way things are", but I need to find out what the line is for me (would I allow a friend to be deported, or a family broken up? What will I do as a frail woman if I see a cross-dressed or scarved person being harmed?) and how far am I willing to go against a law that goes against God's law? I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that those questions may be in need of answer in the next few years, and I don't want to find myself unprepared to do the right thing or to know what the right thing is. I don't know whether my expectation of that possibility is blown out of proportion, but I can tell you that the concern is real and not simply a frantic, off-the-cuff one. It's NOT too dramatic to say that we're standing in the middle of history, and I want to be on the right side.

It's okay to be sad that the values you believe in got a punch to gut, no matter who you voted for, or whether that punch came for you in this election or a previous one. But this time IS different because there is more to mourn than policy. Obama wasn't always a gracious winner. He could have done much more to reach out across the aisle. He made a lot of people feel worried about our country too. But I believe he did what he thought was right and worked tirelessly to make the country a better place for many people. I do not have that faith in Trump.

This is not just politics, there are lives in the balance. Again, I know that "lives in the balance" was felt on both sides prior to the 2016 election outcome too, but I'm talking about physical life-and-death which has now become a concern for the "losers" in this election. I am mourning the fact that our leader, our elected leader, is setting a precedent of hatred, bigotry, divisiveness, and disrespect. Nothing seems sacred to him, nothing feels safe. Even for those of us who aren't immediately questioning their status in this country, validation of Trump's message feels like a huge step backward during a fragile time. So much violence has happened this year here, and I feel like it's begun to receive proper levels of outrage, protest, and I would hope, progress toward change. I fear that that progress will be erased. It feels like we've let a country that could be a safe haven slip through our fingers.

Why, oh why, did we see fit to focus on the empty promises of any politician instead of what was consistent and clear about them - their character? 

I respect the democratic process, but it is deeply disappointing to me today. I am less worried by Trump as president than I am by the fact that an unexpected number of my fellow Americans chose to put aside the cruel things he has said and promised to do, or failed to be remorseful for. I'm especially confused and disheartened by the apparent mass turn out of "white Evangelical Christians" for Trump. 

It's not for me to say whether someone is "a real Christian" or not based on anything they say or do. I've had at least one person say I couldn't be a Christian and vote the way I have in the past, and that's just not true. Still, I find myself crying, "why, sister, why?" to my fellow believers who helped Trump get to the White House. I want to understand, but I also don't want to understand. I don't want to understand what could possibly have been more important than standing up to all the things that our Lord has condemned (hating one another, in all its forms). Instead, I want to draw a line in the sand and scream, "how dare you." How dare you use the name of Jesus to marginalize and discriminate. How dare you put your political concerns ahead of the safety of others. How dare you look past this man's character. "How dare your 'strongly held religious beliefs' come before someone else's human rights". And even, how dare you choose "not to be political" when you could have stood up for the what is right, even if that meant a 3rd party. Quoting from several other sources (1, 2):
We white Christians have some explaining to do to convince our non-white brothers and sisters that our support for Trump was not support for his perceived racism, sexism or xenophobia.
The witness of the church is more important than any election, any public policy, any economic plan. And right now, many of our non-white brothers and sisters are deeply confused, and more than a little frightened. Do we really welcome them here? When 90% of black evangelicals opposed a candidate whom 80% of white evangelicals supported, can we really say the body of Christ is colorblind? 
I’m concerned for the witness of the gospel. We need to explain to our neighbors why our support for this man wasn’t a sign of our rejection of them. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what we think we look like to the alien, the widow, the orphan, the outcast. It matters what they see when they look at us 
[By voting for Trump en masse, the Evangelical movement has] 1) surrendered any claims to the moral high ground in electoral politics2) abandoned public solidarity with groups who considered Mr. Trump an existential threat to them, 3) failed to escape its partisan bias in favor of more principled and biblical stands and 4) made its evangelistic mission more difficult with many it wants to reach
That is what I'm mourning and why I can't pick myself back up just yet. Again, I know I could approach this with more maturity, but right now I simply don't want to hold hands or rally with people who can't or won't see that they've betrayed something I held to be sacred. I'm trying to be fair and loving toward those I disagree with, but that doesn't mean I'm okay with the fact that this happened. I don't want to be part of further division, but I also don't want to be part of "us" with people who don't find it necessary to answer for this uniquely brutal vote. 

I woke up on day 2 and didn't want to move. I pulled the covers to my chin and realized it was going to be another day of still-sad. Still stunned. Still wanting to turn to rubber on the floor. People going on with their lives make me mad, despite that it's the mature (only) thing to do. Day 3 is less stunned, but not less sad. 

The longer I've sat in this funk, the more I've realized that I don't believe we will come back from this. And that's why I continue to grieve instead of bounce back. I don't think this sadness is because of Trump alone, and it goes deeper than my anger and despair at the ability of so many to excuse his behavior. Since the birth of our nation, which in itself was an act of division and subversion for some, things have been going down hill. There was never some Utopian America that we've since lost. I think America has been, is, and will continue to be great in some ways, but for every issue we make progress on, a new trouble falls in line behind. That isn't something we can eventually put behind us. Instead, it's simply the essence of human interaction. Simply put, none of us make it out of this world alive, no matter how good or bad our surroundings are. If we think we'll somehow fix everything someday, we will always be disappointed because there will always be another figurative president Trump. 

I realize this sounds incredibly cynical, but I don't think that inevitable doom means that we stop standing up to it. Against all logic, fighting a loosing battle makes me fight harder, not give in. What can we strive for other than our own personal best effort?

I don't drink often or much (it doesn't make me feel better, it just makes me sleepy), but drinking just feels like the cultural ritual for when things are hard. That's probably a horrible thing, but I find myself insulating myself with ritual when I'm reeling. Like "treat yo self", apocalypse edition. Butter, sad songs, Tetris, massages, booze on the rocks, group texts full of memes and emojis and expletives, time with my encouraging, funny, unified-even-in-difference church family, complicated recipes that are soothing to labor over. I realize that my escapes are a luxury, but/so I hold to them tightly and am thankful.

I'm thankful that in the midst of feeling incredibly sad and worried, I'm psychically safe. In the broad scope of things, I have a relatively small list of attributes that Trump has attacked. Only (ha) my gender and my free speech, that I can think of. "The worst to come" is speculation for most of us, and that speaks to just how fortunate we are. In one of these comings days, I'll be ready to hand over this heavy load on my back for the easy yolk of Jesus. Soon, I'll remember that we as the body of Christ are standing on a foundation of stone in the midst of this very real storm. One day, the lion will lay down with the lamb, and won't that be a beautiful thing to behold, even if we never see it on this earth? My current sorrow is that I may not see it on this earth. 

If you don't agree with me in my reasoning or attitude, but you're better at being loving than I am, then let's talk. I need you to hold me up. 

(Images: 1, 2, 3)
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