All Shouting at Once

This journal page was done yesterday.

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And then today, I witnessed yet another disturbing incident on facebook.

A friend posted an opinion on another friend’s post.

A differing opinion.

And she was attacked.

Hateful vitriol.

There is no other word for it.

And she wasn’t wrong.  Her comment had merit.

It just wasn’t the “popular” thing to say.

It brought light to the fact that the issue is not black and white.

There is no easy answer.

And I have to wonder…

Where is conversation?

Where is discussion?

Where is respect?

And in this instance, where is the Christianity?

Have your opinion.  Have a strong opinion.  Believe you are right…

March, gather, protest, follow your heart and work for change.

But never forget that the person you are sharing words with

OR

throwing words at…

Has an opinion.

And is a living, breathing, feeling human being…

With their own story and beliefs.

What about being quiet for a moment and listening…

Where is the love that you profess to have for humanity when you can’t treat a differing opinion with respect and dignity?

And all that I can think and believe is that when hate is the response to a differing opinion there is no winner.

We all lose.

Love loses.

Peace.

 

On the Fence

I staged my first organized protest against “injustice” when I was 16.  It had significant ramifications  that I have carried with me and used as guide when I feel righteous anger against anything, anywhere.

I was a leader in our church youth group and a member of our congregation invited us to their neighborhood pool for a swim party.  This was in the Rio Grande Valley in the late 1970’s.  There was another pool in our town…a city pool.  It was in a part of town that my father refused to let me go into to.  “That” part of town.  My father is a story unto himself.  We won’t get into that right now.  Getting invited to go to that pool was a big deal.

Then I found out that this pool was for only certain people.  People who were white. Remember this was the 1970’s  And the Rio Grande Valley.  Be outraged if you like, but please finish reading this.  Understand that I was outraged too.

Our pastor and his wife at the time had adopted a little girl from Bolivia.  In my mind, because she was not “white” she would be excluded from this swim party.  Unacceptable!

I started talking…loudly.  I demanded justice.  I canceled the pool party.    I interrupted a church service to stand up for her rights and the rights of everyone else who were being denied the right to swim in that pool.  I felt pretty good about myself.  I was working for social justice.  That’s what my church taught.

Only it turned out that nobody had any intention of keeping that little girl out of that pool. And if I had initiated a conversation about my concerns, it could all have been worked out peacefully…and I would not have made a complete jackass of myself.

That pool was not actually a neighborhood pool.  It had been built by a few residents in the neighborhood with their own money and they shared it with others who owned house in the neighborhood.  Because they were neighbors.  So it was a private pool.  It was “their” pool and they could do with it as they wished.

Was it “right”?  That’s a really big question.  Was it legal?  Yes.

Was I wrong to be on the lookout for injustice and all things unfair?  Nope.

Did I handle it incorrectly with extremism and a total lack of concern for everyone around me?  Absolutely.

I was forgiven by most.  There was a lot of head-shaking by quite a few.  After all, I was young and “didn’t really understand how the world worked”.  At the church’s senior luncheon, I was voted as the most likely to end up in jail as a result of a demonstration or protest of some kind.

I don’t regret this incident.  It’s contributed greatly to who I am.  I believe in fairness and equality.  I also believe in peaceful protest.  I believe in honoring the law.  I believe in making a decision about a person by the character he exhibits and I understand that we are all flawed and make mistakes…sometimes big mistakes…in our efforts to make things better.

I condemn violence and hate speech and the harassment of anyone who disagrees with you.  I can also understand some of it.  That doesn’t mean I endorse it.

I tend to sit on the fence and watch.  There’s a good view from there.  I’m not so far on one side of the pasture or the other that I can’t see far enough.  Sitting on the fence doesn’t mean I don’t ever get off of it.  I’ve gone left and I’ve gone right. I just try to sit on the fence and get a good lay of the land before I go running off in any direction.

When I was 16, I learned that I didn’t know everything.  I learned that listening and asking questions and initiating rational discussion is important.  I learned it the hard way.

I am 55 now.  I still don’t know everything.  I still believe in trying to make things right.

I do know that I’m as sick of the fear-mongering by some who are fighting for social justice as I am of the hateful speech and violence being promoted by some on the other side.

The view from the fence right now is unpleasant no matter which way I turn.  And the fence is getting pretty damn crowded as an increasing number of folks are speaking up and saying the extremists are not speaking for them. Being the loudest is not always the best.

I learned that when I was 16.

Making Art

First of all – since my husband so very kindly shared this on facebook already – the broom has been found.  It was right behind the very desk that I typed the missing broom post at.  It was leaning against the wall.  If I’d simply turned around, I would have seen it.

I suppose there is an entire post or commentary there:  what we need (or want) is often right there with us, but we keep searching far and wide for it, unaware of it’s proximity.

But, that’s not what today’s post is about.

Today, I want to take a moment to reflect on an important lesson I have learned (am learning) this week.  It’s a bit about who I am, where I belong, and what I need to be doing…

The world is a mighty big place.  There are a lot of things wrong in it.  There are a lot of things right about it.  There are unlimited causes to fight for.  Injustices that are great and small.  Some exist on a world scale and some are in our own homes.  Some we know about because they are “in our face” on the news, in social media, in conversation at every turn.  Some we never hear about for whatever reason.  Some we embrace and some we ignore.

Sometimes we choose to fight for a cause because it is deeply personal for us.  It affects us directly or someone we know.

We might be drawn to an issue for reasons we don’t understand.

In any case, I believe it is important to work for social justice – to stand for something – to work towards making the world a better place.  For everyone.

I try to do that in my own little way.  I often believe that I don’t do enough. That I should be doing more and trying harder.

But, we can’t all do great and powerful things.  We aren’t all going to make the news carrying protest signs.  We can’t all be heroes (for lack of a better word).

Kudos to those who do.  We need heroes.

It’s equally important to have those who work behind the lines.  Those who do the little things that make a difference.  Some will never be known for the work they did – a  small act of kindness that multiplied into something much more for example.  Every person plays their part – the laundry always has to be done, the dishes washed, the trash picked up, and the meals prepared.  I don’t know that there is any honest work that should be downplayed or deemed less important than any other.

My lesson this week is as follows…

I “jumped” into social media this week and made a statement.  The issue, the statement, the consequences or lack thereof aren’t really relevant to this discussion.  I don’t regret doing so.  But, I am suffering the consequences.  Maybe suffering isn’t the correct word.  Perhaps I should say, I am experiencing the consequences.  Old wounds have been opened and I am dealing with old hurts and pain that I thought I had already dealt with and put to rest.  This isn’t totally a bad thing.  I believe that we need to deal with our emotions and feelings in order to grow and fully develop.

I’m just weary, anxious and somewhat depressed. I’m tired and stressed.  Dealing with the emotions (mine and others) is exhausting.  Thinking carefully about what I want to say and making sure it is clear and to the point – and that it won’t be misunderstood.  Considering both sides of the situation and being considerate and compassionate about those involved.  Playing nice when others don’t.  Letting the angry words go because I understand the anger is rooted in hurt and pain. Dealing with the frustration when someone can’t see that their words are unfair and just plain mean.

Sometimes something will seem so obvious to me – and it seems like nobody else can see it.  I try hard to be open to the fact that they are thinking the same of me.

I’m feeling out of place, exposed and vulnerable.

I just want to wrap myself in a safe cocoon.

I just want to go into my studio and make something.

And that, more and more, seems to be where I belong. Behind the scenes making art. A more solitary existence.  Speaking through my work.  Sometimes it makes a statement.  Sometimes it illustrates a story.  Sometimes it makes me feel better.  Sometimes it makes a point.  Sometimes it just is…

I’ve been told that I write well.  That I speak well.  That I argue/discuss/debate well.  Maybe so.  I don’t know for sure.

I do know that just because you can do something – doesn’t mean that you necessarily should.

Just because you can say something – doesn’t mean that you should.

And it doesn’t mean that I never will again.

But for right now, I’m going to go into my studio and make some art.

Packaging

  • I’ve struggled with whether to write this post or not.  With how to word it so as not to offend anyone.  Considering all the possibilities of what might go wrong, whether it needs to be said or not, does it matter…

But, the thoughts just keep swirling in my head, refusing to be quieted.  It’s my blog, my little space in the world, and nobody has to read it or like it, but maybe I’m not the only one feeling this way.

Here goes…

What I’d like to say is please don’t package me.  Don’t look at me and make assumptions about who I am and stick me in a box and put a label on me.

I’m a complex person – because I’m a human being.  It just goes with the territory.  I make decisions, I change my mind, I make mistakes, I try to learn from them and I dream of a better world, but live in this one.

I am not a Democrat or a Republican or any other “party” for that matter.  I make my own decisions and prefer not to follow the crowd.  I don’t even know for sure what those party labels mean anymore.  So many issues and so many decisions – how can it all fit under one umbrella.

I guess I’m not a liberal or a conservative either.  I’m uncomfortable choosing one or the other.  Once again, it depends on the issue, the facts, my belief system and how it all fits into the very real world we live in.

I am a follower of Christ although I am not actively involved in a worship community.  I’ve become uncomfortable with the “Christian” label for much the same reason as any other.  So many extremes within the “Christian” community and a lot of directions and movements that don’t appeal to me.  I’ve chosen to go back to the Bible and my understanding of Jesus’ teachings and make my own way from there.

Here’s the tricky one – skin color.  White, black, brown, yellow, red, or whatever.  I’m an artist.  Two of those aren’t even a color and they are all wildly inaccurate depictions anyway.  Millions of people in each group and one label to identify them all?  What the hell?  That’s a pretty simplistic view of the world isn’t it?  White culture.  What does that even mean?  Black culture?  Same issue.  Who made up those categories and made it the standard by which we identify each other?

I suppose that it would make life easier if we could categorize everyone so easily and know what someone believes, thinks and how they will act based on appearance.  I’ve never found it to be true though.

I live in a manufactured home community out in the country in Texas…the South.  I’m a stay-at-home Mom and homeschool.  What assumptions are often made about me?  I’m an uneducated redneck because I live in a “trailer”.  I’m a religious, right-wing zealot because I homeschool.  I’m a back-to-earth, hippy, granola mom because I stay at home with my kids.  Or, my personal favorite, a gun-toting, survivalist, racist because I live in the country, in Texas.  These have all happened, for real.

Maybe it would make more sense to get to know me rather than stick a label on me and call it done.  Let me help you out…

  • I live where I live because it worked out economically and fits in with the lifestyle choices we make.  In short, we’ve got a big-ass house that we can make the payments on.
  • I stay at home because I love my kids, and my husband and I felt that it was the right choice for our family.  No judgment from me if you work outside the home.  Your life, your choices…we all need to make decisions that work for us.
  •  I homeschool for a number or personal reasons…it works for my kids’ learning styles, our family, and fits in with the lifestyle choices we’ve made.
  • I’ve got two Bachelor’s degrees and started on my Master’s.  I’d probably still be in college if I could.
  • I’ve got a garden and we eat a reasonably healthy diet. Nothing extreme though.  I’m not a good enough gardener that we could ever live off the land.  And I’m not sure that I could ever give up Cheetos or Oreos forever.

I could go on, but maybe I’ve made my point.  Let me sum it up for you…

If you’re ever in the neighborhood, please stop by for dinner.  I don’t care what “color” you are, where or who you worship (or if you worship at all), where you come from, what you wear (I prefer some garb of some kind please) your occupation, your life-style choices, your economic level, your political affiliations, your mental health diagnosis, your heritage, your decorating scheme, your gun-carrying status (or lack thereof), or your dietary restrictions (just let me know ahead of time).  If I’ve left anything out, let me know.

I do expect two things:  Respect and kindness for me and everyone else around the table, and lively discussion that does not degenerate into labeling, name-calling, belittling or generalizations.

I don’t hate anybody.  I also don’t love everybody (I know I’m supposed to, but I haven’t gotten there yet).  And honestly, there’s some people I don’t like very much.  I don’t feel the need to apologize for anything someone else has done, but I will empathize with your hurt.  I will try to apologize when I screw up if I realize I did so.  If not, please tell me what’s wrong so we can work it out.

That’s the best place to start…me and you.  One on one.  One discussion and one friendship at a time.  I can’t fix the whole world.  Nobody can.  But we can each work together.  Just don’t stick me in a box and put a label on me…and I’ll try to treat you with the same courtesy.

Unfriended

“Unfriended” – is that even a word?  I suppose it is because it happened to me…on facebook.  Today.

Honestly, I’m the type of person who just wants everyone to like me.  Insecurity?  I don’t know what it is, but I get really upset when I realize that someone doesn’t like me.  I immediately start to question my behavior, my attitude, myself – and conclude that I must have been in the wrong.

This time, that didn’t happen.  Maybe I’ve been making progress in silencing my negative critic. Maybe I’ve changed a bit in the last year and am more confident in who I am.  In looking over what happened to cause this “unfriending”,  I don’t regret what I said.  In fact, I don’t even think that I should have remained silent.

In short, she posted an inflammatory comment and I responded.  She was offended. She suggested that I unfriend her.  I replied that I don’t unfriend friends because we don’t agree 100% on something.  She unfriended me.

I don’t want to turn this blog into a rant on controversial topics.  I try my best to be a kind, considerate individual who respects everyone.  I may not agree with you.  There may be subjects we agree to disagree on.  There may even be topics that we mutually agree to never broach.

Am I perfect? Hell No!  Do I have my share of prejudices?  Yes.  We all do.   I love this quote from Holy Cross Primary School in North Belfast Ireland for that very reason:

If we had been born where they were born and taught what they were taught we would believe what they believe.

I try to be open-minded and think (and re-think) through issues.  There are times I find it necessary to redefine what I believe and there are some things that I stand by steadfastly.

I believe we live in a scary world where bad shit happens.  Sad, tragic events that leave me afraid, depressed and weary.

And I firmly believe that the journalists (and their corporations) can be biased and exploitive.  Bad news sells better than good news.  They are in a rush to break a story and by the time all the facts emerge, it’s old news and we never hear of it.

I also know that we live in a world where good is happening…all the time.  Change is occurring.  Slowly.  But, we’ll rarely see it featured in the media.

People are complex, glorious creations.  We will never agree on everything…and we shouldn’t.  I wouldn’t care to live in a world where individuality was sacrificed on the altar of conformity.

I believe in human rights.  There are some things that all should have…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness come to mind.  But…you can’t provide someone their human rights by taking away the rights of someone else.  That would be like building up someone by criticizing someone else.  Equality is equality.  It must be balanced and fair for all involved.

I believe in the American dream.  But that was founded on the precept that you work for what you get.  No one handed those first pioneers anything.  They struggled and worked for it.  Some succeeded.  Some didn’t.  Life isn’t fair.  Bad shit happens.  To all.  There are good times…and bad.  If you’re looking for perfect…being a human being may have been the wrong choice.

I believe in one race.  The human race.  It’s what I write on every form I fill out.  Race?  Human.  I’ve had a clerk tell me that’s an incorrect answer.  I replied that it was the only answer.

I could go on and on citing specific situations and offering my opinion, but I think I’ve said enough.  In short, we all have our opinions and there are going to be differences in our thinking.  Sometimes it’s a good thing to keep our mouth shut.  Sometimes it’s important to stand up for what we believe in.

My opinion will occasionally be expressed here.  That’s probable.  I hope it will always be well thought out and rational.  But…I have been know to mess up…a lot.

I don’t want to live in a bubble where everyone around thinks the same way I think and believes the same way I believe.  Diversity is a beautiful thing.

Let’s agree to this…if something is ever written here that bothers you or that you disagree with strongly…let’s discuss it.  Let’s see if we can meet in the middle or agree to disagree.  The world needs more friendship, more conversation, more civilized debate, more open-mindedness, more positive interactions…

“Unfriending” is not the answer.

Is it Me?

…is it my belief?  Have I consciously and intentionally thought it through and adopted an ideal.

Or…am I thoughtlessly perpetuating the belief system that I was raised with or adopted from a group of individuals that I associate with or have associated with in the past?

What do I believe?

These questions could (and do) apply to just about every aspect of my life.

Let’s just pick a simple (and non-controversial) topic.

A controversial topic got me started on this rabbit trail, but I’m not going “there” today.  In brief, I read something on facebook in a group I follow, and was moved to comment and take a stand.  I don’t normally do so, as computer-land can be a dangerous place for serious discussion.  I find that folks will quite often “say” things on the computer that they would never say in a face-to-face discussion.  Quite simply, with the human factor removed, they just get down-right rude and ugly.  That’s not conducive to intelligent discourse.

Anyway, back to simple.

I’ve quit looking at decorating magazines.  You know, those “Better Homes and Gardens” type periodicals.

I love them…at first.  Then, I start looking around at my little environment and dissatisfaction starts to set in.  If I had the sofa that’s in that photo…and that rug…maybe just some fresh paint?

I conveniently forget that it took a team of 15 creative consultants to stage that photo.  And that everything that made it a real life lived-in home is just out of view of the camera.  Nobody lives there.

I don’t live there.

I can’t have all that stuff laying around.  I don’t have a crew of 15 people decorating, organizing and dusting. I don’t have the financial resources to remodel, redecorate and accumulate.

What I do have is a home…an imperfect, sheltering home that I’m grateful for.

I’ve had to figure out what works for me and not try to live in someone’s else’s life.  I must constantly be aware of outside influences and stay true to myself.

I have to choose my own style and live in a way that fits with my belief system.  I have to define a set of “rules” that I live by.

Like I said –  my house is just an example.  Perhaps a metaphor.

This discussion could just as well be about politics, or religion, or life-style choices.

But that’s for you to decide .