The events of the last couple of weeks hit me harder than a splash of cold water on my face - really more a jump into the Arctic Enema of the Tough Mudder. Breathe. Slap. Eyes. Oh. Walk.
The world makes much less sense as I try to emerge. Recollections of disbelief, scorn, and contempt in my thoughts and words at times in this election cycle: it did not bring out the best in me. I found myself passing judgement on dissimilar people and ideas, whether spoken aloud or not. Strangely those dissimilar people look a lot look me.
Already, I am gaining insight into the complexities that drove people to vote on both sides. Time will undoubtedly reveal much more.
I have come to understand that the majority of the people who voted for Trump did not feel they were voting out of a sense of bigotry. The hardest thing for me to reconcile is how so many people were able to look past the dangers inherent in the words our President-elect spoke.
I bubbled in my vote for the candidate I thought understood the difficulties of running the country, and who I believed would listen to the voices of we, the people. A candidate who would not undo the progress we have made in improving opportunity, equality, and acceptance for people of every skin pigment, culture, religion, LGBTQ status, or forgotten class. My bubble and heart carried my understanding of the best interests of all these people.
I, too, desire change in our government. I want America to turn in a positive financial direction which will benefit everyone. I want my unborn children and neighbors to have more opportunity and prosperity. I want everyone to have safe neighborhoods and a quality education. But at what cost?
I recognize that the affect of Trump's win, seemingly emboldening racists and bigots, was not the intent nor is it the fault of those who elected him. The same words that emboldened these "fringe" elements do strike fear into all the people that they target. Trump’s election also gives the impression that the these actual fears for life, liberty, and safety were able to be overlooked by droves of voting Americans.
It causes me emotional pain when I try to empathize with the voices for whom the election result spoke that their lives are not a priority. That fixing a system that re-victimizes sexual assault survivors is unattainable as long as it can be laughed about in private. That terms like civil rights and unconstitutional may be reinterpreted.
I have enough difficulty figuring out how to live my own life, so I try and let people live their own: supporting them, loving them, and trying to give them the agency to make their own decisions. When this life is over, I believe we will each have our own conversation with our Maker. I suppose the Creator will know and decide whether voting for torture, militarization, and leaving refugees to die in their home country was more or less important than a woman's choice to carry a pregnancy to term.
Past. Present. Future. I am a sinner. I am a criminal. I am immoral. I am a hypocrite. If I was not privileged and lucky I would have been jailed. Like so many my voice would be diminished; most opportunities gone. But actually that would place me on equal footing with someone who had a name that sounded 'not white' and no criminal background. That is privilege.
America has been broken for a long time and has probably never been whole. It will not be fixed without everyone's hands and everyone's truth involved.
I came to Thailand to give, to ask, to learn, to understand. I am not better than you. I am not better than them. It is a privilege to have this opportunity. I came to Thailand to share my gifts to help people who are sick. I try to help them see they are important. I try to encourage their spirit so each person has the courage to have hope and to dream who they want to be.
God may speak through me, but largely not through my words. My God is no longer 'white,' and it has surprised me how much power that has to change the message. But She/He still tells me to Just Love and to push for change that helps everyone know they are loved.
about that confederate flag.
As the confederate flag is back in the news and sometimes on my Facebook news feed, I decided to look at a few scholarly articles to constructively deal with my frustration.
"Taking Down the Flag Is Just a Start Toward the Memory - Work of Racial Reconciliation in White Supremacist America” by Joshua F.J. Inwood and Derek Alderman is an article about how complicated dealing with these racist relics really is. But I know we can do it.
Deeper thoughts on how to get rid of the racism, not just the flag..
"As activists and others from across the United States recognize, challenging the legitimacy of publicly displaying Confederate flags and other symbols that legitimize the defense of slavery and white supremacy is certainly the right thing to do. Yet these calls should not be mistaken for a solution to structural inequality” (p10).
"This is the dirty secret of the recent Confederate flag debate that has been lost in much of the public commentary. Namely, that political violence works until it is no longer politically feasible, and when that moment comes the broader public and in particular their elected representatives find it more politically convenient to change the subject by simply cleansing the landscape of troublesome reminders of past injustices. Officials and other elites often invoke feel-good narratives of reconciliation rather than deal with the messy and contradictory realities of white supremacy, racism and genocide” (p12).
"This is true with forgetting as well. The conscious act of forgetting by erasing and avoiding Confederate inspired symbols allows one to seemingly move on from terror and violence while also whitewashing the culpability of certain perpetrators of this historic trauma. Perhaps more destructively, this style of forgetting that releases personal and societal culpability continues to deny the very material existence of an America born from the blood and sinew of a hundred million victimized peoples (p12)"
“...for people of color in the U.S., the geographic reality of systematically denied access to public spaces in the city through violence is central to understanding the socio-spatial politics that surrounds rights claims in urban contexts. The reality of racism to a large degree helps to explain the almost fifteen year battle to remove the Confederate Battle flag from the South Carolina State House grounds. The state’s defiant refusal to admit that the flag was a racist tool of intimidation and alienation says a great deal about the long-standing injustices that have limited African Americans from bringing successful claims for truth and reconciliation to their own state capitol (p13).”
TRC = Truth and Reconciliation Commission
"Most importantly, while the proposed TRC would not dismiss the gravity of Confederate symbols, its broader mission would focus attention beyond iconography to uncover and work to remember the memories and legacies of trauma and racialized violence that permeate almost every space within the United States” (p14).