Category Archives: people
Truth and Consequences
When I was twelve years old, these were some of my truths:
- Being a college graduate was not a life goal, it was a life requirement.
- If you were “on welfare,” you were lazy.
- People who never left their hometown were under achievers.
- Getting anything but an A on a test or a report card was a failure.
- A woman who isn’t employed outside the home isn’t living up to her potential
These weren’t really truths at all.
They were assumptions that I had formed based on a variety of circumstances. Both of my parents were college graduates, both had travelled widely before getting married, and both lived thousands of miles from their hometowns. My mom had always worked at least part time, and much of her identity was wrapped up in her job. My parents’ friends were also transplants from all over the country, and very few lived in the same community where they grew up.
They were also inferences based on my limited life experience. If I applied myself and studied, I was always rewarded with an A. My classmates who lived in public housing and came to school unprepared did poorly in school, and my parents always talked about where my brother and I would go to college not if we would.
They were opinions based on conversations I overheard when a group of adults got together. My young brain still thought that adults who were “successful” knew everything.
And so, I entered my adolescence armed with what I thought were life’s truth and with an attitude that anyone could get A’s, graduate from college, and earn a good salary if they just applied themselves.
That’s how I entered adolescence.
I left adolescence a much different person. I had sometimes done my best and failed anyway. I had been exposed people who had different ideas and different backgrounds but whom I respected. And, maybe most importantly, my simplistic ideas about right and wrong had been challenged by people who were smarter and more experienced than I was. My truths hadn’t been rooted in reality but in a warped sense of judgement that people who weren’t like me or my family were in the wrong.
On Wednesday, I was reminded about the importance of not only admitting you have been wrong, misinformed or just plain ignorant but of also being willing to change.
I was having a conversation with an acquaintance whose adult child had recently come out as transgender. We were talking about the challenge of accepting and loving our children while still trying to grasp the reality of who they are. We talked about how, when we were younger, our only exposure to people who were transgender was through pop culture when it was generally used as a device to generate humor. My most vivid memory is of the Bud Light guys who dressed up like women so they could get drink deals during ladies night at the local bar.
What we didn’t talk about was the vitriol, blame, and hate that was currently circulating on social media. Only two days earlier, an individual who was raised as a female and had recently started identifying as a male killed six people at a Christian school in Nashville Tennessee. This fact allowed judgmental, narrow-minded people with a reason to blame the transgender community. “It’s not about guns,” they screamed. “It’s about mental illness and a lack of morals.”
Last time I checked, a lot of very mentally healthy people are transgender. In fact, making the change has greatly improved their mental health. Also, the fact that I was born female and identify as female has absolutely nothing to do with my morals. Morals are about how we treat and provide positive opportunities for other people. That’s it. It’s that simple. And yet, for many people it’s not. They hold on tightly to what they know to be true: transgender people are sick, drag queens are a danger to children, and exposing young students to a statue of a naked man will create lasting damage to their psyche.
I know those aren’t truths at all. They are simply consequences of being misinformed and fearful of something that’s difficult for many to understand. It’s about being resistant to change and growth. It’s about thinking that the way you live and the choices you make are the best way to live rather than just one way to live.
I admit I get angry when I see and hear narrow-minded people making hateful comments about others’ sexual orientation, or gender identity. I struggle at not lashing back and saying “these are real people you are talking about. They are someone’s child, someone’s sibling, someone’s friend. You are the one with something morally wrong.” And then I remember who I used to be and that people can grow, change, and learn to accept our differences.
If I can change, so can others.
It’s a truth I have to hold on to tightly.
I turned 56 yesterday.
I am now closer to 60 than I am to 50 and closer to the end of my life than to the beginning. I’m not trying to be morbid. Its just a fact. Even though my brain still thinks I’m in my thirties, and I certainly don’t feel mature (in any sense), the math doesn’t lie. And yet, the older I get, the more I enjoy my birthdays.
I used to hate my birthdays because I felt they represented all I should have accomplished but hadn’t. Now that I’m older, I don’t necessarily worry about what I have or haven’t accomplished. Instead, I celebrate all I have learned and all of the tough lessons life has taught me not because I was accomplishing something but because I was living, making mistakes, and simply being human.
Several years ago, I celebrated my birthday by listing all of the things I had learned in almost five decades. I haven’t gone back to find that post, but I have once again been thinking about what age and experience has taught me, especially in the past few years when, in the middle of the pandemic, I was also struggling to survive an unhealthy relationship.
Don’t worry – I’m not talking about my marriage. I am fairly certain I married the most patient and tolerant man in the world who, despite all of my faults, is always there for me. I’m talking about an unhealthy work relationship. It wasn’t until a co-worker told me I was in an abusive relationship that I began to recognize it for what it was. (My co-worker made the observation as I stood holding a vase of recently delivered flowers – an apology for being treated horribly the previous day, although the card didn’t say that. It said “I hope you have a better day today.” There was no acknowledgement that the sender was the reason my previous day had been so horrible.) Up to that point, I hadn’t even considered that the cycle of abuse can occur in a work relationship – not just a romantic one.
Now that I am out of that unhealthy relationship, I can look back on it as yet another experience that made me wiser, stronger and more self-aware. I guess the same thing could be said for all of my 56 years. My life has been one long continuing education program that’s provided me with the following nuggets of wisdom (five for each decade plus six for the balance of years):
- Don’t ever, ever, ever let anyone else define who you are. Don’t let their negative words sound louder in your head than your own self talk. No one else spends 24 hours a day with you. No one else knows all of struggles you have overcome or the tough decisions you have been forced to make.
- Sing out loud every single day. Trust me – it always helps. Just last week my co-workers and I broke into a random round of camp songs, and it lifted my spirits for the rest of the day.
- Don’t let someone else’s moral code influence yours. If you feel you are doing the right thing, don’t worry about what other people think. We are all just doing our best.
- Forgive others but hold them accountable. People who are abusive or controlling are reaching for something they can’t seem to obtain. They think that pulling you down will bring them closer to what they want. It won’t.
- Don’t confuse being kind with being a doormat. When people are wrong, call them out even if people say you being unkind. There is a difference between being mean and standing up for what right or what is best.
- Spend time outside every single day. I mean it. Every single day – even if it is really cold or really hot. Walk out the door, look at the sky, breathe deep, and appreciate all God has created.
- Don’t confuse organized religion with spirituality. Organized religion was created by men trying to make sense of a confusing world or, unfortunately, often to control others. Spirituality is about connecting to a higher power and a finding a meaning greater than ourselves in life.
- Learn to laugh at yourelf and forgive yourself. I do stupid things every day, which is why my motto is “the day I don’t make a mistake is the day I’m dead.” I also amuse myself every single day. My thoughts are often ridiculous, and the things I say can be completely goofy. I am a complete klutz and I regularly fall down or trip or break something.
Instead of beating myself up– Wait, strike that, I’m always beating myself up because I’m uncoordinated. Instead of berating myself for my mistakes and misteps, I’ve learned to turn my life into an ongoing, and hopefully, entertaining anecdote.
- Don’t let other people’s desire for power be a reason to let go of yours.
- Surround yourself with people who don’t need anything from you other than your genuine, true self. If you are always trying to prove yourself, hide your negative attributes, cling to an entity or organization for validation, or pretend to be someone or something your aren’t, you will never be truly happy.
- Don’t sell yourself short or compare yourself to others. Don’t think not knowing how to do something is a reason not to learn how to do it. Don’t limit possibilities. And don’t ever, ever think getting older means you should stop dreaming.
I turned 56 yesterday, and I can’t wait to see what I learn next.
How to Shut Up a Man
I was doing one of my least favorite things last week: sitting in a dental chair with a numb mouth with what felt like an interogation light in my eyes while my dentist and his assistant hovered over me with various scary looking implements.
I recently read that people in jobs that involve touching their clients need to create a bond or connection with the person for whom they are providing services. I get that when it comes to the person who does your hair. Sara, my hair dresser, is a better therapist than most therapists I know, but I have absolutely no need to pour out my heart to my dentist.
And yet, here he was, trying to make a crappy moment more chummy by inserting himself into my personal thoughts – or, in this case, the podcast I was trying to listen to in an attempt to tune out my real life situation.
“What are you listening to?” he asked.
Here’s the thing: when someone has their earphones in, that is a signal that they don’t want to engage in conversation. It’s the human version of putting a “do not disturb” sign on the door handle of a hotel room. I can understand if my dentist couldn’t see that I had them in, but I had specifically asked if it was ok to use wireless earphones in the dental chair and was assured they were fine and would not interfere with any equipment.
But even if he couldn’t read that I had absolutely no interest in engaging in small talk, I didn’t want to be rude to someone who had the potential to really hurt me. So I turned off my podcast and told him I was currently obsessed with the Murdaugh Murdaugh trial in South Carolina.
He surprised me with his knowledge of the case. Thankfully, he didn’t expect me, with my numb and drooling mouth, to explain it to his assistance, who said she loved true crime but didn’t know that case. I missed some of what he said as I pondered how anyone would be interested in true crime and NOT know about the Murdaugh saga, But then he drew me back into the conversation, “I can’t believe that in this day and age, there are still good old boys who get away with so much.”
He was looking at me for a response, and without thinking I said, “That’s because you aren’t female.”
He actually seemed shocked as though he thought I should have appreciated the fact that he was calling out the good old boy system. He reacted as though I were saying he was part of it. He even stopped trying to make small talk.
In truth, I really hadn’t made the comment to make him feel bad or call him out on anything. I was simply making an observation that he has never been affected by the good old boy mentality in a way that I, and most women I know, have.
I’ve quit a job because the male CEO never even asked his female employees if they were interested in his position when he retired. Instead, he came to us and said, “I know the perfect person to take over the organization when I leave.” Of course it was a white guy just like him who didn’t have nearly as much relevant experience as the women who already worked at the organization. I have had sit in silence listening to the verbal back slapping and one upmanship of men who have turned to me and asked if I could get them something to drink. I’ve even had to tolerate a community leader who insisted on calling me Mrs. Snyder (my husband’s last name) even though he knew that wasn’t my last name. It was his way of putting me “in my place.”
And none of that even touches on the sexual harrassment and discrimination I’ve endured in a system built by and for white men.
My dentist never followed up on my comment, but if he had, I probably would have said something like this: people in power want to stay in power. Until a few decades ago, doing favors for each other while ignoring wrong doings was how men got what they wanted. That doesn’t change in a few decades, especially in communities where that power generates fear and keeps everyone “in their place.” Even worse, in the past few years, I’ve seen women using the same tactics to gain power and control over others.
I think that is why my immediate reaction to his disbelief that the good old boy network still exists was to tell him that’s because he doesn’t have to see it.
I can only hope that maybe, just maybe, the reason he was so quiet during the rest of my appointment was not because he was upset with me or my reaction but because instead of talking, he was thinking about what I’d said. And hopefully, he also understood just a little bit more than he had before.
A few years ago, a former colleague commented on a photo of my daughter. “She is so pretty and talented, she won’t have any problem finding a husband.”
That was literally my reaction: “Huh?”
The comment about my daughter wasn’t made in the 1950’s. It was made in the 2020’s. Who the heck cares if my daughter ever gets married, or if she does, if she marries a man?
I knew responding to this person with a “huh?” wouldn’t have mattered. This same person’s whole identity seemed to be wrapped up in her husband to the extent that she rarely went anywhere but work without him. In fact, even when she went to work, she often dragged him with her as a volunteer.
My internal reaction to her prattling on about her husband was usually “huh?” To clarify, this wasn’t because she was talking about her husband. I mean, I talk about my husband all the time. That’s what you do when you are in a relationship. What bothered me was the way she talked about her husband. She obviously didn’t think she was a complete person without him and that her marriage to him was what defined her.
Even though I internally rolled my eyes at her backwards beliefs, there was a part of me that felt sorry for her. She had never outgrown that myth that many of us were fed as young girls: some day your prince will come and you will live happily ever after.
Thank goodness my mom told me early on that was a load of crap, and thank goodness my dad encouraged me to always be able to take care of myself. That was how I was raised: get an education and never expect that you can rely on anyone but yourself. I thought that was normal until I discovered how many of my peers were raised differently. There were numerous times that I was shocked when a smart, talented young woman put a relationship before education and career.
Of course, these women usually didn’t have a mom who told them that needing a man to be complete was a load of crap or a dad who championed his daughter’s independence. Their parents had actually told them they didn’t need to worry about getting a good education if they found a good man or that going to college was a great place to find someone to marry.
In hindsight, I was extremely fortunate to have parents who had the same expectations of me that they had for my brother. Even though I am very strong willed and I can’t imagine thinking I needed someone else to define me, but who really knows. Maybe I would be a completely different person if my parents had encouraged me to wear makeup instead of encouraging me to be my own person.
I know I shouldn’t judge women like my former colleague who see marriage (and then children) as what makes them successful. If they are truly happy, then good for them. What bothers me is putting that old-fashioned ideal on the next generation, which is what actually prompted me to write this.
Recently, I saw a Facebook post from someone who is the same age as me. Her daughter, who is is in her very early twenties, was getting married, and the post was “I always prayed that “Mary” would meet a wonderful man one day. God is working in her life.”
Should she be happy and joyful and celebrating? Absolutely. But praying that your daughter would marry a good man? Really?
How about praying that your daughter will give back to the world more than she takes? How about praying your daughter will learn to navigate the tough world with the knowledge that she is strong enough to handle difficult times. How about praying that everyone will treat your daughter with the same respect and expectations that they treat your son? How about praying that your daughter has a such a sense of self that she will never consider getting married as something she needs to do to be a complete person.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not against marriage, or relationships or motherhood. I think they are all great. I just don’t understand how some people still hold on to the belief that women have to have these to be complete or fulfilled or happy.
In other words…
The chair on the side of the road gave me pause. From what I could see, it was in great condition, but the logical side of my brain told me that no one could possibly throw out a perfectly good chair. So I didn’t seriously consider stopping, checking it out, and, if it seemed ok, throwing it in the back of my car because one of my kids might be able to use it. Yet, something about the abandoned chair niggled at the back of my mind.
I couldn’t help but wonder if it actually was a perfectly good chair that someone just didn’t want. Maybe it was the wrong color, or the wrong shape, or the owner had just gotten bored with it. People do that with pets, so they would have no problem abandoning inanimate objects for the same reason.
Regardless, I felt an unexplained empathy with the chair. Yes, I have probably seen Beauty and the Beast too many times and automatically personify inanimate objects, but I have also developed a deeper relationship with chairs after spending a significant amount of time with them a couple of months ago. The organization where I work had an online auction, and a donation of new furniture, including chairs, provided numerous items to offer up for bid. I had the responsibility of photographing and researching each chair to determine its retail value. Of course, I did this as part of a team, and I quickly realized people can have really strong feelings about chairs.
Everyone loved the rockers and recliners, which were mostly in neutral tones. But the accent chairs were quite controversial. Some people loved the bright, floral ones. Others thought they were obnoxious. I was particularly fond of a paisley chair that my co-worker deemed “absolutely ugly.”
It was simply a matter of taste, and no one tried to convince any of us that we were right or wrong. Because of course, no one was right or wrong. We just liked different chairs. Yet, I felt oddly hurt that someone thought a chair I liked was ugly, and I momentarily questioned if maybe I was wrong. We live in a society that tries to define beauty for us and reminds us on an annual basis what is “in” and what is “out.”
I will be 56 years old next month, and, when I’m honest, I admit that I still worry that my wardrobe isn’t cool enough and that there is something wrong with me because I have nothing to contribute to a conversation about the latest trends in interior paint colors. I tell myself that I don’t care, but a part of me does care. I tell others “you do you,” and “the only person you have to make happy is yourself,” but I worry that they may be putting themselves in a position of ridicule. I feel the constant hum in the background of daily living is telling me what I should look like, how to decorate my house, what music I should enjoy, and even whether or not my kids choices are normal.
The constant pull between being true to myself and true to the dictates of society is a struggle. A part of me will always be that kid whose peers made fun of what she wore when she started a new school in a community very different from the one she had left. I will always be that young woman who downplayed her intelligence and pretended she liked music she didn’t because she thought that’s what she had to do if people were going to like her.
Over the decades, the part of me that needs to fit in has grown smaller with every year while my allegiance to my true self has strengthened and grown. I may still worry about what others think of me, but I rarely make decisions based on that. And every day, I strive to be a champion for individuals who don’t feel they can be true to themselves without being discarded and isolated.
Maybe that’s why the chair on the side of the road made me so sad. It was a reminder of how easily anything – or anyone- can be discarded when they no longer meet someone else’s wants, needs, or sense of what is right and wrong.
I didn’t go back for that chair, but I hope someone else did. I hope they saw its beauty, and purpose and uniqueness and that it’s now sitting in a place of honor in someone’s house or apartment.
Everything and everyone belongs somewhere.
I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts the other day, and the hosts were bubbling with excitement about having just received their 2022 year in review from Spotify. Since I had just received (and of course shared) my year in review from the language app Duolingo, I realized that these reviews are just another marketing tool to suck us in so we share our results while providing free advertising.
Because they are intended to make us feel good about ourselves, these fluffy, feel good, reports don’t capture a realistic snapshot of what really happened over the course of the past year.
I’m always up for a challenge, so I decided I’d try to create my own (realistic) year in review.
Here’s my best shot with the disclaimer the following may or may not be based on valid data:
Hours I spent listening to true crime podcasts: 836
Hours I spent cleaning my house: 12
Phrase I said the most: “The day I don’t make a mistake is the day I’m dead.”
Phrases I never said, “I’d like to live in Florida.” and “I think Texas would be a good place to live.”
The number of times I went to Google to make a diagnosis based on my symptoms: 18
The number of times I went to a doctor to get a diagnosis based on my symptoms: 0
Pounds I lost trying to get healthier: 8
Pounds I gained from stress eating: 10
The number of times in conversation I said, “I have a story about that:” 422
The number of times in conversation someone said “Trina always has a story:” 421
Minutes I spent doom scrolling the internet: 3,523
Minutes I spent reading serious literature: 0
The number of times I’ve stopped my car in the middle of the street and gotten out just to pet a neighbor’s dog: 43
The number of times I’ve stopped my care in the middle of the street and gotten out to help a neighbor: 0
Tears I shed from dealing with a narcissistic bitch who was gaslighting me: 2,530
Tears I shed from laughing so hard I cried: 3,403
The number of times I’ve said “I feel like I’m a bad mother:” 46
Number of children I have: 2
Number of children who are college graduates: 2
Number of children who have been arrested or gone to jail: 0
Number of children who are gainfully employed: 2
The number of times I’ve fallen down while walking the dog, or going down the stairs, or carrying something heavy: 19
The number of black eyes I had: 1
The number of bruises I had: 1,748
The percentage of words that I uttered that many people would consider inappropriate or swear words: 18%
The percentage of times I regretted not telling someone I loved them: 0.
(If I love you, you will know it – especially if you are a dog.)
This year I’ve learned that sometimes justice isn’t possible, and you just have to walk away from a bad situation even if it means also walking away from unachieved goals and people you care about. I’ve learned that if you are a genuine person who cares about the underdog, you will attract genuine people who care about the underdog. And, most importantly, I continue to learn not to take myself to seriously. I’m the only person who has to spend 100% of their time with me. I might as well enjoy that time.
So here is to 2022 and an even better 2023. Here’s to the people who listened to me cry and rant and to the people who I never want to see again but who have taught me important life lessons. And here is to you. I hope you are your own best friend and that you take care of yourself regardless of what others think. It’s a challenge we can all continue to pursue.
The Cover Up
I had an unexplainable flashback to my early childhood the other day.
For some reason, I was thinking about an object that sat on the back of our toilet when I was barely out of diapers. The object looked like a beautiful doll with a large, crocheted skirt, and I thought she was stunning. So stunning, in fact, that I was devastated when my mother told me that I couldn’t play with her because she wasn’t a toy but instead was a toilet paper cover.
She said the skirt was so full because it covered an extra roll of toilet paper.
Her explanation confused me. Why would someone waste a perfectly good doll on toilet paper? But even more curious to me was why we needed to hide the extra roll since there was already a clearly visible one of the holder next to the toilet. If toilet paper was that embarrassing, shouldn’t all of it be covered?
My mom couldn’t answer my questions, and, in hindsight, she probably had the same questions I had. The doll/toilet paper cover thing was definitely not my no-nonsense, practical mother’s style. I’m guessing that it was probably a gift from someone, so Mom felt compelled to use it. My hypothesis is backed up by the fact that the thing never resurfaced when we moved a couple of years later.
I’m not sure why I remembered the mysterious toilet paper cover more than fifty years after I last saw it. But I do know what it represents to me: the tendency for some people to hide what they don’t want others to see by creating distractions. These individuals also shut down anyone who asks questions about what is actually under the full skirt.
Hiding anything is generally problematic, but it can also be particularly traumatic for people like me who question everything and who value transparency.
Over the past few years, I had to deal with a person who wanted to shut down my questions while simultaneously surround herself with people who would swear the object on the back of the toilet was simply a doll with a big skirt and was most certainly not covering up something like toilet paper.
It took its toll on me. I questioned my questions, my self worth, my skills, and my expertise. I could clearly see the toilet paper and wanted to know why it was hidden. But when I asked, I had my hand slapped again, and again, and again and had to deal with a chorus of the hand slapper’s loyal followers who practically chanted “There’s nothing to see here. Just go along to get along.”
I know they probably all saw the toilet paper but were in self preservation mode. I just can’t do that. It’s not who I am. If I don’t call out the hidden toilet paper, I’m fairly certain my brain will explode.
Thankfully, the people I most respect affirmed my questions about the toilet paper and my integrity. They held me up when I would have otherwise crashed. They are what kept me sane.
As I write this, I realize that individuals who don’t know anything about the situation are probably wondering why I am writing something so cryptic, but I have my reasons.
First, a lot of people have asked me why I haven’t been writing. The truth is, when you are beaten down, it’s hard to do anything but survive. For the past three years, I was just trying to survive.
Secondly, I want to emphasize the importance of surrounding yourself with people who build you up instead of tear you down and are willing to look under the big full skirt with you to see what is really there.
And most importantly, I want to publicly state that I have put that entire situation behind me. One of the people who didn’t let me fall actually offered me a path to get away from the toilet paper deniers. I am now walking down it, starting to heal, and starting to write again.
Soon, the situation I left will just be a memory like the weird toilet paper doll cover thing on the back of the toilet, It will continue to fade as more important and current issues occupy my brain. But I know I will still take out the memory from time to time, brush it off, and keep asking questions. One of those questions will always be why so many people denied seeing the toilet paper because, if they had, it could have been used to clean up the load of crap they were also ignoring.
In the weeks leading up to the 2020 presidential election, I noticed a trend on Facebook. Trump supporters were posting false information and then complaining when the Facebook administrators called them out. Apparently, some of these individuals were even getting private messages telling them about the consequences of posting false information. When discussing this, one person said, “everyone is getting that message.”
I wanted to comment, “I haven’t received that warning because I don’t share false information.” I didn’t though, because I was fairly confident I would have been called a lying libtard or told that Facebook was targeting conservatives and protecting progressives.
The irony of all of this is that the people who kept posting false information were the same individuals ranting about “fake news.” While they were definitely projecting (unconsciously taking unwanted emotions, traits, and behaviors they didn’t like about themselves and attributing them to someone else), they were also acting like spoiled children. In their delusional brains, something is only a fact if it justifies their beliefs or meets their needs.
Before the election, I rolled my eyes at their temper tantrums and self-centered posts. After the election, I realized that this twisted thinking, encouraged by President Donald Trump, was dangerous. When Trump and his allies told his minions that the election had been stolen, they believed them. Even when every avenue was pursued to ensure the election results were accurate, including re-counts in Republican-controlled states and court cases, these Trump supporters were convinced, or pretended to be convinced, of some grand conspiracy to steal the election. In an attempt to get their way, they filled busses and airplanes during a global pandemic and went to Washington D.C. to demand that Trump remain president.
The mayhem committed at the capitol building in Washington D.C. on January 6 is unforgivable as are false assertions that members of “Antifa” disguised themselves as Trump supporters and were the actual perpetrators.
Following the events on Wednesday, Trump followers are now complaining that actions taken by social media and technology companies to address hate speech and violence is fascism. Considering the education level of most of the people I’ve witnessed saying this, I’m fairly certain they would be unable to define fascism without being given a computer to Google it. These are, after all, the same people who call any policy with which they don’t agree socialism. The icing on their hateful cake is that many are proclaiming themselves Christians while calling people with different beliefs evil.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe people have the right to different opinions just as they have the right to organize and participate in peaceful protests. What they don’t have the right to do is demand that our country revolve around their belief system. And for those who say that’s not what they want, I have five questions:
- No one disputed that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016 but that Donald Trump won the electoral college. If Hillary Clinton had proclaimed the election was stolen, filed multiple lawsuits trying to get the results overturned, and tried to convince a secretary of state to find 11,000 votes, what would you have done and said?
- In Italy, the birthplace of fascism, people noted that the scenes at the United States Capitol on Wednesday were reminiscent of events in Italy in the 1930s under Mussolini. You call people who have taken a stand against police violence and for basic human rights as “Antifa,” which is short for Anti-fascists. Does that mean that you are pro-fascism?
- In America, where the economy is rooted in capitalism, the wealthier you are the more access you have to political power. Donald Trump used his wealth and celebrity to win the 2016 presidential election but has yet to publicly share his tax returns. Since taxes are used to pay for public education, public safety, roads, and numerous other services that are equally available to all citizens, the amount he pays in taxes is one mechanism of demonstrating how he much he has or hasn’t contributed to the public good. Taxes are a contentious issue for many conservatives who constantly worry that their taxes might increase (even though they are benefiting from those public services). If the amount people pay in taxes is so important to you, why haven’t you held Donald Trump accountable to ensure he contributes his fair share?
- This week I saw a heartbreaking post from a young woman whose father berated her for not supporting Trump. He told her that college was giving her the wrong ideas. This isn’t unusual. I’ve witnessed numerous Trump supporters complain that colleges are turning young people into liberals. A college education is intended to expand a young person’s knowledge, expose them to different ideas, and teach them critical thinking skills. Are you afraid that people who think for themselves or are better educated than you are a threat who will challenge your belief system or demonstrate that your way of thinking may not be for the greater good?
- A vast number of Evangelical Christians have continued to support President Trump even though he has never been actively engaged with the church or behaved in a Christ-like manner. Among his many behaviors, he has bragged about grabbing women by the genitalia, engaged in name-calling, endorsed policies that separate families, and lied on a daily basis. He cheated on his wives. In order to gain the support of Evangelical Christians, he chose Mike Pence as his vice president, but last week put him in danger when he didn’t “follow orders” to disrupt the electoral process. And he has supported a health care system that operates on the principles of making money rather than on ensuring all Americans have access to it. None of these actions are in the least bit Christian. And yet so-called Christians have supported him in part because of his ability to put in place conservative judges. How do your reconcile the Golden Rule, the beatitudes, and the Ten Commandments with supporting a man who has demonstrated he worships wealth and power more than anything else?
If any of Trump’s supporters read this, they will probably be angry. That’s fine with me. I’ve been angry for four years and during that time the most controversial political action I took was to wear a pink, knitted hat. And, for the record, I didn’t even have to purchase it thus contributing to a politician’s coffers. Someone made it and gave it to me for free because that is what genuinely nice, not evil, people do.
My soul hurts when I think about the incident at a local church. Apparently, the minister provoked a member of his congregation with a sermon about racism. The individual was so offended, he actually left in the middle of the service. As he walked out, he loudly muttered, “George Floyd was a criminal.”
This happened in a Christian church.
I may not be a Biblical scholar, but the last time I checked, the Christian church is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. You know, that guy who taught about mercy, forgiveness and taking care of each other? I’m fairly certain that Jesus wanted us to interact kindly with all human beings – not just the people we like or respect or who make us feel comfortable.
I know that’s not always easy, and sometimes I feel as though it’s almost impossible. But labeling someone a criminal and then using that label to rationalize their mistreatment hurts all of us. That’s because we are all connected.
No one lives and shares that message more loudly and bravely than Father Greg Boyle. Father Boyle is a Catholic Priest who founded Homeboy Industries, a gang intervention and rehabilitation program in Los Angeles. I had the privilege of hearing him speak a few years ago, and his words resonated. Like him, I am incredibly fortunate to have a job in which I can learn from people who others might dismiss.
There is the woman experiencing homelessness who once proudly told me she was featured in a documentary about women in prison. She was, and I’ve since watched it. I’ve had her bags of medication for various mental illnesses in my office. I unintentionally taught her to beg in Spanish when she asked me how to say “I’m hungry” and “I need money” in Spanish. She recently stopped by the office to tell my coworkers and me that she had a place to live. When I opened the door, I had to firmly tell her she couldn’t hug me because of COVID 19. I don’t call her a criminal. I call her a fellow human being.
There is the man who showed up in our office lobby loudly declaring “I just got out of prison and I don’t know where to go for help.” He had grown up in foster care and is functionally illiterate. He is demanding and difficult, but he was also sweet and helpful. He’d give staff cards and help clean our offices. After he went back to jail for rape, he still called the office on a regular basis. I don’t call him a criminal. I call him a fellow human being.
There is the young man with no place to live because his family kicked him out. Before COVID-19, he would stop by the office almost every day to make a cup of coffee. Occasionally, he would use the shower and do his laundry. He was always polite and followed the rules. When my co-workers and I hadn’t seen him for several days, one of us would look on the jail site. His mugshot would be there, and his charges ranged from battery to robbery. He stopped by the office last week to ask for a tent. I don’t call him a criminal. I call him a fellow human.
These individuals, like thousands of others, have stories to tell about what they have endured and survived. These individuals, like thousands of others, don’t have the support, resources, and connections that many of us do. And these individuals, like thousand of others, are so much more than a label or a criminal record.
Do I believe they should be held accountable for their actions? Absolutely! But I also believe that I should still care about them.
As Father Greg Boyle says, “There is no us and them, only us.”
I care about us.
And Now For Another Lie
When I was growing up, my mom baked a cherry pie every February in honor of George Washington’s birthday. The tradition was tied to the story about how, as a child, the first President of the United States chopped a cherry tree with his new hatchet. When his angry father confronted him, young George admitted what he had done because he couldn’t tell a lie.
The story was the basis of many elementary school lessons, and only as an adult did I learn that the story of the cherry tree was itself a lie. Author Mason Locke Weems added it, along with other heartwarming stories, to the fifth edition of his book The Life of Washington. Historians believe that Weems included the story to make Washington a virtuous role model that could influence the behavior of children.
He wasn’t alone. The history I learned in school almost always portrayed honorable men who built a perfect country on unquestionable values. In truth, the men were imperfect humans who built this country on the backs of others.
But for more than a century, history was written by people like Parson Weems, who wanted to shape it into a tool that could be used to control what people believed, and therefore how they behaved.
My elementary school classmates and I were taught that Christopher Columbus discovered America. We used crayons to color pictures of the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria while reciting “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” No one taught us about the genocide he perpetrated on the people of Haiti.
In Junior High, I had to memorize the presidents of the United States and their accomplishments. I was taught that Andrew Jackson was the seventh president, was nicknamed “Old Hickory” and founded the Democratic Party. I was an adult before I learned how he abused his power to remove Native Americans from their homes and was responsible for what is now known as the Trail of Tears.
In high school, the lessons about World War II covered how America helped defeat Germany and end the Holocaust. There was never any mention about the Japanese internment camps on U.S. soil.
For the most part, what I was taught was factual. It just wasn’t truthful. America may have been established on the principles of equality and freedom, but those principles only applied to white men. When the south tried to leave the United States to preserve slavery and its economy, the Confederate message was clear: equality and freedom weren’t the most important values; power and money were.
As a nation, we are still struggling with those conflicting values.
On Thursday as I was leaving work, a pickup truck stopped in front of my office. A large confederate flag with the handwritten words ‘heritage not hate” was flying from the back. I winced. I wanted to stop and ask what heritage meant to the driver, but I knew that would be pointless.
Some people think they have to hold on to relics of the past to justify their belief system.
Instead, we need to distinguish between erasing the past and learning from it.
We can still eat cherry pie on Washington’s birthday because we like eating cherry pie. We just shouldn’t eat it because we think it makes us more patriotic. Taking care of each other and honoring our true history is the only way to do that.