Sunday, May 24, 2015

Cognitive Dissonance (or The Real and Dark Reason Otherwise Nice People Will Not Admit to White Privilege)

Imagine that you have a bank account.  Now, imagine that every month of your life, an extra $50 is put into it.  You don't know where it comes from; it's just always been there.  It's yours to do with as you please.  Sometimes, you have really depended upon it to get you through those tight times.  Sometimes, you have used it to get something you need or want. And sometimes, you just save it up for something big.  But you always know it will be there, month after month.

You talk to your friends and you find out that some of them also have this additional $50 every month.  Then, you talk to others and find out that their account are missing $50 every month. It doesn't take long before you put two and two together and realize that you get this gift every month at the expense of someone else.  They lose every time you gain. 

Now, you didn't set this account up, and neither did your parents.  It's just been always there.  But, damn, it's been helpful.  That time you were short one month?  The $50 helped you to make it.  That time you wanted to go on a vacation?  It happened sooner and you were able to take a longer vacation because you had a bit extra.  And that time you got sick?  You were able to get the expensive medicine you needed.

You start to think about one of your friends who had $50 taken from their account every month.  You remember how they had to take a second job when time were a bit tight.  You recall that another friend got sick, but couldn't afford the treatment and got worse, missing months of work.  You think back to when you heard about when that same friend lost their job due to missing so much work.  And their house.  You sent them a casserole.

But your $50?  You've come to depend on it.  It's part of your budget.  If you were to give it back, that would mean giving things up, things that you've gotten used to having, like a nice house, a nice car, and being able know that those things are stable.  Surely, you should not have to give up your nice life for a mistake that wasn't even yours to begin with?  Besides, you still work hard.  You still deserve all your have...right?

But, the problem is, now you know.  You know where it comes from.  You know that you didn't earn it, even though it has been such a fixture it your life that you cannot help but still think of it as yours.  The rational part of you tries to think of the reason you think this $50 is yours, but some inner part of you just keeps repeating, "Because it always has been!"  And when you ask that inner part of you, but WHY has it always been and doesn't the money really belong to the person whose account it came from?  That inner part just reminds you that you'd really like that new smartphone next month and your budget won't handle it without that $50. 

You don't ask again.

And that's why some white people won't admit that white privilege exists.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bullies for God

Okay, anyone living in this town knows what is going on. A single person decided to stop living a lie, but because another person decided she didn't have the right to do it quietly and brought it to the media, there was a shitstorm.

Yes, shit flew in a giant storm in my town.

Now, I don't know the person this storm was about. But, all I need to know is that her living her life in the gender that she feels is most appropriate is none of any one's goddamn business. She is not hurting anyone or breaking any laws. She is not being purposely disruptive or attacking anyone else. Therefore, this is no one's business but hers. She gets to make this decision, and should not have to leave town or her long-term job in order to do it.

I just wanted to get that out of the way before I got into what my main beef is. I don't know this woman, and I don't have to. I don't care about her politics, whether they are like mine or the opposite. All I need to know is that she wants to live her life and she not hurting anyone in the way she is doing it. Period. Leave her alone.

This is my problem: deliberately stupid people who don't think they are stupid. You know, the ones that come out of the woodwork whenever matters of the naughty bits come up.

I won't bore you with the details, but here are the highlights from some of the letters that they wrote in:

God's wrath, sin, lies, fantasy world, religious (i.e. Christian) persecution, moral downturn, and the explicit statement that we were allowing evil to happen and doing nothing to stop it (Yeah, they pulled out the Edmund Burke quote). And my personal favorite: what about the children??

Then there were the Facebook comments. Basically along the same lines as the letters. Only now I get to rile myself up chatting with them.

And it always came down to this: God said it's bad.

That's it. That's their whole argument in a nutshell.

You know, I don't care one bit if you believe in a god or not. I don't care what you think God wants you to believe, but the second you start attacking others for living their lives they way they see fit, the moment you start rallying the troops to hurt another person, simply because YOU would not live your life that way, and the instant you bring children into the mix...I am going to go angry mama bear on you. I do not suffer bullies lightly.

Make no mistake. These are bullies. They may hide behind their cross and their freedom of speech, but they are bullies. They are no different than those that yelled at and threw things at children just trying to go to school a generation ago. They are no different than those that attacked women just trying to vote. And, I don't pull this card very often, but someone will have to explain to me how they are different than those that promulgated anti-Semitic ideas and propaganda once upon a time.

They deny science and call it “opinion.” They deny facts and call it “faith.” They deny people and call it “hating the sin and loving the sinner.”

And they do it all with a smile.

I cannot take it anymore. I cannot be nice. I cannot pretend that their words are worthy of discussion. I cannot pretend that their “opinion” matters.

Do they have the right to say it? Of course. But, do I have the right to call them on it? Damn straight.

I am sick of letting them have the offensive position in this “debate.” (In quotation marks, as I do not see this as a debate, but a fight for reality.) I am sick of letting them piously proclaim that they believe the Earth was created in six days, six thousand years ago, that dinosaurs and people co-existed, and that Jesus is coming to take us all home in the Rapture. I am sick of letting them denounce a person's existence and proclaim them as evil.

I am sick of letting them get hate all over everything and then turn around and cry that they are the victim.

Oh, yeah. That's the best part. As soon as you challenge them with science, facts, and reality, they then decide that THEY are being persecuted. I mean, how dare I interfere with their God-given right to hate people? Yes, I am so horribly intolerant that I do not allow them their Christian right to ramp up the bigotry in an already homo/transphobic town to torch and pitchfork level.

Like I said, it's only when it concerns the naughty bits. I mean, where were they when we went to war? Where were they when the banks were robbing us blind? And where were they when protesters were being pepper sprayed while sitting with their arms linked? Where was their God then?

Apparently, God only cares if there is a crotch involved.

Well, I only care if you are hurting people. Believe whatever you want, but if you are going to castigate a person in the public arena, especially when that person didn't do anything to you or anyone else, I am going to care a LOT.

But, the one thing I am not caring much about is being nice to you. If you don't have enough sense to rub two brain cells together and see that you are being deliberately stupid, then I don't have enough patience to argue with you about it. So, grow the fuck up, read a real book, and join the 21st century. It's YOU who are holding the human race back...YOU.

Not a small town science teacher who wants to wear a dress.

Friday, January 17, 2014

An Ecclesiastical Intervention

Dear United Methodist Church,

I think we need to have a talk.

While you are an organization that I respect greatly for your work in hurting areas around the world, I feel you are making some troubling choices lately. As I think that these choices are going to take you down a path that you might not be able to return from, I feel that an intervention is necessary. 

Please sit down.

You are going down the wrong path, UMC.  You are taking what precious little resources you have and using them to fight against a group that has done you no harm:  gay people.  You are hurting people in this futile fight: gay, straight, and everything in between.  You are driving them away.  You are tearing up families.  You are breaking their hearts.  

People trusted you, UMC.  They trusted you to be there for them.  They trusted they could lean on you when times were hard.  They trusted they could depend on you to do the right thing.  They trusted they could bring you their troubles and their joys.  Their births and their deaths.  Their marriages...well, apparently that came with a caveat.

You know, while it's going to sting, these people will eventually be fine.  They will go on to live their lives.  Maybe they will open up enough again to find another church...maybe not.  But, their livelihood does not depend on you.  Yours, however, DOES depend on them.

Do you think there will be an infinite number of people who think it's okay to discriminate against love?  Do you really think that your numbers will grow with every pastor you convict and fire just because they officiated in their child's wedding?  Do you really think that there is not a point where even the most loyal will simply shake their head, walk out that door, and never come back?

Because, there's not.  They won't.  And there is.

Just pack up these bigotries and tear that stupid page out of the book.  Stop putting pastors on trial for love.  Stop firing people for love.  Just tear that page out, burn it, bury the ashes and salt the ground.  It doesn't deserve a place in a house of worship, it doesn't deserve a place in a teaching, and it doesn't deserve a place in your future.  Get rid of it.

We want you to survive, UMC.  And, not just survive, but to thrive.   Put all your energy back into relief and healing.  Put your energy into uniting, not dividing.  Stop diluting it with these petty differences.   You really don't have enough of it to keep doing that.

UMC, you are on a bad path.  Many have given up, and many are considering it.  Even those who love you have limits.  Why would you want to risk everything to find out what they are?  There will be a point of no return.  Is this really what you want to be remembered for?  How many pastors you fired for marrying their children?  How many people you closed the doors on?  How you pointed to the words on a page, written by you, and claimed it was divine policy?

Just tear that page out, UMC.  We can start over, but you have to tear that page out like you mean it.

Also, I have some rainbow wristbands, if you are interested.

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” -John Wesley

Sunday, November 17, 2013

I do not think that word means what they think it means...

I listened to the radio for a bit this morning.  I had to turn it off.  If I hear one more news anchor refer to the problems with the ACA website and implementation as a "crisis," I will break my own eardrums.  I simply cannot listen to such hyperbole and, I'm sorry, STUPID anymore.  IT'S NOT A FUCKING CRISIS.

A war, a hurricane, a typhoon, an earthquake, a mass shooting, an outbreak (a REAL one), or a precarious nuclear reactor on the other side of the ocean...THOSE are worthy of the term "crisis."  This?  This is a hiccup.  This will be worked out (if SOMEONE will get out of the way).  This is NOT the end of the world. 

One day, this will all be a distant memory in the past.  Do you want to be remembered for your actions towards the good of the people?  Or, the good of the insurance companies?

Because, if you don't know that those hyping up the problems (and most likely causing them) are the insurance companies and their paid whores, then you don't deserve the brains in your head or the money in your wallet.  They had THREE YEARS to fix these problems with their junk plans, and they chose not to.  They could have chosen to improve those plans, and they chose not to.  They could have chosen to be partners in the healthcare industry, rather than the enemy...and they chose not to.

The REAL problem here?  That we don't have single payer.  Medicare for all, people.  Medicare for fucking ALL.

You want a crisis?  Check out the new voting laws in the states that were previously on a short leash.  Then you come and tell me that some glitches in a website and people being required to be responsible for their own healthcare are a crisis. 

I just hope you don't mind it I break my own eardrums when you do it.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The 2014 Promise

Dear House Republicans,

I write to you today with the knowledge that my husband, a federal employee, is sitting at home on furlough.  He will not get paid for this time, and we don't know when it will end.  We had only just started catching up on the bills that amassed through the years of the recession, when I could not get a job.  I went back to school and found a job as a paralegal.  We have a daughter in college and a son in high school.

With our two incomes, we realized we were the lucky ones.

There was no deciding whether or not to hold a bill for an extra month anymore.  There were no more meals where beans were the main ingredient.  When our children needed something, we could say "yes," not, "Maybe, if someone left one at the thrift store."

Not that there is a single thing wrong with shopping at a thrift store.  (New Community United Methodist Church Thrift Shop in Oakhurst, CA is my case in point.)  But, not when the answer is then no, if they don't have what your child a winter coat.

But, like I said, we knew we were now the lucky ones.  We both had jobs that, when put together, gave us an existence that didn't include the stress of trying to figure out how to feed four people on $50 a week.  Think it's so easy?  Then you've never tried it. Oh, and never mind gas for the car, electric, propane, water and insurance.  Never mind all of the extras (broken water heaters, flat tires, blown transmissions, dead a/c's, braces, etc.) that just pop up in life.  We had to figure it ALL out.  But, like I said, we knew that now, we were the lucky ones.

And now we are back to one salary.  Now, we are back to all that.  Now, we are...what?  The unlucky ones?

Nah.  You know why?

Because we will make it.  And, we won't make it because of you, but in spite of you.  We will make it, not because we are tough (although, don't discount that), but because we share.

That's right.  We are going to make it through this by sharing.  Maybe we don't have a lot right now, but we have more than most, and we have a little something to fall back on.  And we are going to make sure that we get to be someone else's cushion.  And, if we need it, someone else will be ours. 

You know why?

Because that is how a civilized society works.  Not by screwing each other out of savings, pensions, or salaries.  Not by holding the most vulnerable hostage (Just what IS the average salary of the federal employees that are being furloughed?   Oh, and what is yours?).  And not by being a big, fucking baby when you lose TWO ELECTIONS IN A ROW to a guy that you have some weird, obsessed, crazy fixation on.

You definitely don't kick the poor guy down in the data entry department because YOU are upset that said guy is kicking your ass in the polls and trying not to facepalm when he says your names. 

Dudes, you lost, it's law, and it's even fucking precedent

But, for some reason, that didn't stop you from deciding to take the rest of us down with you.  Oh, except, YOU aren't really going down the same way as us, are you?  No, we will be a bit broke, we will struggle to hold onto our possessions, and we will even worry about feeding our children.

But, we will get past this together.  We will recover from this mess you created.  And, we will vote in 2014, I promise.

The hole that you are going down?  I am pretty sure it is preceded by a flushing sound.


P.S.  The Republican I married still considers himself a Republican, by the way.  He just doesn't consider YOU one.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

...One Giant Leap for Equality

Today, the United States Supreme Court said that the proponents of Proposition 8 that appealed Judge Walker's decision did not have standing.  In other words, they told the Prop 8 proponents:  this doesn't affect you.  You have no personal stake in the defense of this law.  To paraphrase:  general "ooginess" at the thought of gay marriage does not count.

The Court also struck down section three of the ironically named Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional.  No longer will marriages between same sex spouses be unrecognized by the federal government. 

I suppose it is the pessimist in me that had to first mourn the fact that the Prop 8 ruling was not farther reaching.  I will admit that I had hoped they would go all 14th Amendment on them and make this ruling apply to all the states.

I had to get over the fact that they did not overturn DOMA completely, but only one part of it, the section regarding federal recognition of gay marriage.  Arizona is still not required to recognize your California (or any other state) marriage.  No state has to recognize it.  But, that was not the question before the court, so they really couldn't.

I wanted to scream, "This isn't enough!"  I wanted to shake those robed wanna-be gods (who were already on my list after yesterday's Voting Rights Act ruling) and ask them why they couldn't have snuck a little bit more into the decision.

And then I step back and realize, we ARE a step closer-not farther-from full equality.  I hate that it is only a step, but it IS a huge step.  More than a step, it is a giant domino, ready to crash down on the next one, and the next.

Because, I am sure you all had the same experience I had if you were on Facebook just after 7 am this morning.  It exploded in celebration.  These times...they ARE a changing.  53% of people now support gay marriage.  Compare that with the 52% that voted for Prop 8 just four and a half years ago.  People just don't agree with equality and backslide into bigotry; they more FORWARD.  WE will not lose ground; we will only gain.  That is the benefit to using love and justice as your argument.

Prop 8's proponents are floundering, and they know it.  Their arguments have become desperate and shaky. And you know what?  They're not so popular anymore.  No one of any intelligence really believes that gay marriage hurts families or children.  To publicly promote that idea that being gay is wrong is becoming less and less acceptable, while being gay is becoming more and more just another normal way to be.

I personally love the idea of bigotry being forced into a closet, while love stands in the sunshine.

Because, to my mind, there was not other right way for the Supreme Court to decide, except for the side of equality.  Anything else would have been a lie.  Anything else would have been a mockery of our judicial system. 

Anything else would have been un-American.

This is an historic day, to put up there with Brown v Board of Education, Loving v Virginia, Lawrence v Texas, and Griswold v Connecticut.  All decisions that signaled positive turning points in our county.  All historic stepping stones to bigger and better things.  Including this one.

The United States v Windsor.  Hollingsworth v Perry.  We were here.  We all watched as we moved up one more giant step, closer than ever to that goal of complete equality.  We were witnesses to history today.

So, tonight, we celebrate.  Tomorrow...let's plan our next step.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Witness

Honestly, I was not excited about going to Ash Wednesday service.  I was worried about how to gracefully decline the ashes without making it obvious.  Usually, we all go up to the front, just like on Communion Sunday, but since this service would be small, it would just be more obvious.  Not really a big deal, it's not like anyone gets upset, but I just didn't want to draw attention to it.

One might wonder why I even went then.  Fair question.  I sing in the choir.  The choir was singing tonight.  I could have just not gone, but that's not really my style.

The service is always very quiet, and very small.  Some music, some readings, some meditation, we get the ashes and we go home.  It's usually a nice service, but I will admit that I don't get much out of it.  I feel my atheism more strongly in it, which doesn't bother me, per se, but I wouldn't call it comfortable, either.

Tonight had about twice the people that are usually in attendance.  I didn't realize it until we stood up to sing, as I was in the front.  Pastor Helen commented twice, "We weren't expecting this many people!" although, clearly delighted by the numbers.

In the beginning of the service, Pastor Helen had set up stations.  I wish I could tell you more about them, but the options were:  stations or sit in silent meditation.  I sat.  I wanted to meditate, but I will admit to not being able to.  I am lucky to get my mind to shut up enough to be able to notice what is going on around me, never mind to work on what is in me. 

I am trying to set the scene here, trying to make it so you can picture it, so I can try to explain what happened.

Pastor Helen explained that we were going to do the ashes a little bit differently tonight.  Rather than all come to the front, with her administering them, she was going to take two bowls of ashes and have us administer them to each other.  It reminded me of the flame they pass at the end of each row on Christmas Eve, where the person next to you lights your candle, and you light the next person's candle.

I didn't object to the idea, only to the fact that, now, I was really going to be obvious.

I waited until the bowls were being passed.  I thought that people would be less likely to notice then.  I quietly went to the back of the church and sat there, watching.  I thought it was going to be an awkward several minutes. 

I was wrong.

As I watched from the back, I could see the couples holding hands, holding each other.  I could hear the people saying the words (a prayer?  I am not sure what to call it) to each other as they gave each other the ashes.  As the ashes made their way towards the back, I could see faces with smudged crosses.  I could hear the words more clearly, even though they would overlap as more than one person said them:

"Let these ashes on your head remind you that you are broken, but Christ will make you whole.  Let these ashes remind you that, one day we will all be ashes, but we love a God who has overcome even ashes."

The words by themselves would probably do nothing to me.  But, to hear them said so reverently, by people who believe that the call to love one another is Jesus' loudest made them into beauty. It made them true.

I wished for a moment that I believed.  I wished that I could be in the thick of that, accepting the ashes, and believing that there was a deity that could (and would) make me whole.  Trust me...not the first time I have wished that I believed.  Life would be a LOT easier in this town if I did.

But, as I kept watching, I realized that if I had been up there, I would not have seen this beauty.  I would not have been so moved by the gentle hands applying ashes, the soft words of hope, and the music playing delicately in the background.  I would have been too much a part of it to be able to see it in its see it whole and to feel its truth.

Sometimes, someone has to be the witness.  Someone has to be the observer, able to see the big picture in a way you cannot do when you are IN the picture.  When you are in the picture, you see your part; it is YOUR experience you remember.  It's hard to have your own experience and to notice your neighbor's, too.  That's not a bad thing; it just is.

Tonight, though...being the witness was an experience in and of itself.  Not everyone gets to see this kind of beauty.  The kind that inspires you to spread it around, to make people smile, to make what you put out into the world good.

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day.  I hope you witness beauty, too.  If not, then let someone witness yours.  Be their big picture.

Go in peace.