“I am a Recovering Racist”

After the Mother Emmanuel shooting, I posted a sign-up sheet in my church explaining how I am a recovering racist; I was born in deeply segregated Charleston, SC, and was raised to see “colored people” as less than ‘us.’ I have worked hard to reverse that perspective. The sign-up sheet was to give others an opportunity to promise, “I Don’t Do Hate.”

I am now 62 years old and my job is to demonstrate every day, every opportunity, to every person different from me that there is more for them in this life than hate from people like me.

My fervent prayer is that we can soon stop all need to talk about ‘us’ and ‘them.’ It’s just ‘we.’

I responded to a Sojourner article not long ago that any suggestion to reverse trends or make the pendulum swing back the other way is misguided; the pendulum must stop. We are all on the same side…the side of humanity seeking fulfillment of its purpose. Jesus told us how to do that: Love God. Love your neighbor… because your neighbor IS yourself.

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, who met recently with the president, apparently found a President Trump who has thought better of his initial comments concerning Charlottesville. Senator Scott made some sober and important suggestions to the president (like get to know some black people) and I feel we should give prayerful support because prophets are the only ones effective in making change because they are speaking from within. Tim Scott is a respected member of the Senate and he also knows what it feels like to be summarily discredited for irrelevant reasons… i.e., skin shade.

Those of us who believe in and follow Christ can be the ambassadors we are called to be by behaving as He did:  When the crowd wished to stone the woman found in adultery, Jesus did Not have her throw stones back at them; He diffused the anger completely by pointing out how we are ALL guilty. All of us have hated; None of us is guiltless.

Those of us with faith and the strength of spiritual conviction can find love in our hearts for those who claim allegiance with a hate group; we can love those who hate. If we do not love those who are fearful and are resorting to hurting others, what example do we set? What are we asking them to do if we cannot do it ourselves? Racists, neo-Nazis, Antifas, etc., are acting out of fear. We are to hold them in love until their fear subsides. That is what is meant by loving our enemies. That is how we follow Jesus.

 

Racism by any other name is Fear.

I live in a community (neighborhood, county, state,…) where closed-mindedness is the norm.  I would say racism is the norm but the attitudes and fiercely-held beliefs are not limited to preferences in the shade of skin or ethnic group or even ancestry…although those are very strongly separated classifications.

People around here are deeply resistant to changing how they think but then so are people all over the world.  If it is not what they grew up with, if it is not what they are familiar with, if he is not like me in (you name it: dialect, clothing style, vehicle type, licence plate, food preference,…) then it is wrong and therefore to be condemned, resisted, and (if possible) destroyed.

Two years ago, Lawrence Krauss, “Humanist of 2015,” was quoted as saying Organized religion, wielding power over the community, is antithetical to the process of what modern democracy should define as liberty. The sooner we are without it, the better.”  I won’t venture (right now) into all that is scary with that sentiment, but he demonstrates my point beautifully; Lawrence Krauss rejects everything about organized religion because it is not what he knows, is not what he is familiar with, and people who participate in organized religion don’t sound like the people he associates with…or him.

My own beloved college-educated, successful business-man brother threw out hundreds of dollars worth of organic food from my sister’s house because he “didn’t recognize any of it; I don’t eat that stuff.”

The short-cut suggestion to remedy this issue is ‘education.’  Doctors in hospitals all over the world struggle with patients’ refusals to follow prescribed improvements in diet and lifestyle and have thought the solution was education.  Pamphlets and discharge instructions with pictures and pleas have done little.  Helps and therapies seem to have no sizable impact.  My next door neighbor was hospitalized for 10 weeks last year for complications from surgery.  During this time he was given patches and drugs to help him withdraw from his addiction to smoking.  He lived smoke free among others who were smoke free for several weeks and he even admitted he felt great off the cigarrettes. On the drive home he stopped and bought a carton and lit up before he got to the front door.

These people are not willing to face their fears of the unknown.  “You sound wierd!”  “I don’t eat that stuff!”  “I don’t think my nerves could take it.”

Some fears are huge.  “What if there is not enough to go around?  Somebody has to go without.  Why does it have to be me?”  “If we let them have their way, they are going to take over!”  “One day they are going to rise up and kill every white person they see!”

It’s fear.  That’s all it is…fear.  Fear of deprivation; fear of the unknown; fear of unbearable whatever.  But it’s just fear.

So what’s the solution?  How do you help people who have unreasonable fear?  You must help them one person at a time.  In the way a parent helps a child who is fearful of the monster under the bed, you show them over and over that there is nothing there to be afraid of.  You show the person different from you that there is nothing for them to fear from you.  You demonstrate that there is more for them from people like you than hate. You demonstrate that different is okay…and safe…and sometimes good.

I have two neighbors…brothers…who were both raised in this closed-minded community.  One went into the Navy and worked beside people of a different color and national origin.  His brother did not leave home and has never worked beside people different from himself.  One is not fearful of people who are different; the other one is …but it looks like hate, not fear.

There are specific things we can do that help get through to people who have closed minds, fierce preferences, and fear.  First, be gentle with them; they will not listen if you are forceful or you are yelling.  Second, get to a point where you see things at their level …so that you can understand why they are fearful.  Third, allow them to vent.  Hold them in a safe environment so that they will be open to revealing what causes them to be fearful,  (Sometimes, that’s all they need.)  Their venting might be scary for you but you are the stronger one here.  They need to know…to see proof…that the resolution is stronger than their fear.  In other words, you need to love them.

If you have ever been a parent and you were faced with a child who cried out, “I HATE YOU!” then you know the dynamic I am describing:  you allowed the child to cry out the unthinkable…and then you assured the child that everything between you was still okay; you still love the child ‘the whole thing…all of it…without end.’  (Yes, I’ve been there.)

One more suggestion:  use words that are not usually used in these discussions.  Avoid the cliches and button words; you know what they are.

This is how loving is done.  This is how healing begins.  This is the work of Jesus.

 

By the way, I commend Senator Tim Scott in the way he met with President Trump; Scott introduced Trump to himself….in all of the aspects with which Trump is unfamiliar and that is what is necessary for a change of thinking…

Call it ‘Resistance Aikido’

President Trump is intent on busting up bureaucracies and destroying regulations.  Before you protest, think.  Have you ever been hampered by a governmental rule, limit, or regulation when attempting to further your causes?  Although your interests and values may run opposite to Trump’s, you can benefit from his actions and momentum.

Here are some strategies I have recommended to local resistance movements:

When the regulations are dropped, push things through. Don’t wait. In the confusion, much ground can be gained.

Can you benefit from a reduction in ethics rules? For example, government employees are (or were when I was an employee) restricted from accepting fees for public speaking. If similar regulations get dropped, how can you benefit? What have you been prevented from doing because it may be misconstrued as being unethical? Are there people, agencies, or groups you can approach now that were off-limits before? Is there information or other assistance you can get now that was not accessible or was too-classified before?

What benefits, that Trump intends for the wealthiest few, can we get in line for? What about asking the wealthiest few to pass along to the needy what has now been lost. Are there members of the wealthiest 2% that support the weak, disabled, uneducated, marginalized, or poorly tended to? Would the wealthiest tech billionaires consider devoting the money and benefits that they will soon gain, by way of Trump deregulation, to (continue and further) the efforts to provide internet, cell phone, and digital information access to the poorest communities? Has anyone asked them to?

When bureaucracies are busted up, other agencies my be able to address issues (particularly if there is a law stating that said issue must be addressed) without lots of limits yet in place. For example, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the White House was restricted in what it could put on the internet (long approval processes) but a branch of NOAA had no such restrictions, hence my posting of data and analyses supporting VP Gore’s briefings on climate change. When we lose a government service due to the loss of an agency, try a work around. Ask someone else.

Will limits and restrictions on what is considered a non-profit be reduced or dropped? The ruling that political statements and endorsements cannot be made from a pulpit (because it calls into question a church’s non-profit standing) is going to be, or has been, dropped. Go to it. Start preaching from pulpits. Get church endorsements for legislation or community action. Take up collections for causes during the service. Both sides get to play by the change in rules.

Going back to capital punishment in schools may possibly be addressed. What works when kids act out? Is there a method that really works? Solitude? Time alone with music or inspirational messages? Counseling?  If school prayer is implemented, then try also school meditation. What about proposing teaching kindness as a required subject in schools? What about courses on cooperation and success? When they push pledging allegiance to the flag, make sure they emphasize “with Liberty and Justice for ALL.”

Play their game. Use their changes. Call it ‘Resistance Aikido.’

Trump and the Martial Art of Highway Resurfacing

I have done a lot of interstate driving over the past 45 years and applaud the advances made in the process of resurfacing the highways.  This morning, I watched the process of busting up the old surface with the laying down of new surface material immediately afterwards.  I was aware that there exists only a small window of opportunity through which repairs to subsurface structures can take place.

Imagine the delight of those agencies responsible for the maintenance of subsurface structures when the highway department schedules a resurfacing.  For a water department to bust up the surface of a highway is costly and they don’t have the right equipment; to be able to make improvements when someone else is doing the busting up is almost an opportunity too good to pass up.

What has this got to do with Trump?  A lot.

Trump is intent on busting up bureaucracy and regulation.  That bust up would allow a window of opportunity through which changes to old systems can be made before the situation crusts over again.

Regardless of our feelings about Trump’s goals and intentions…his reasons for busting up existing systems… all of us would agree that there are improvements that can be made to those systems. I would suggest that we not waste valuable time and energy focusing on his motives. Our goals should shift away from attacking Trump to being prepared to implement improvements  when the opportunity opens up.  This is where the martial art comes in.

“Aikido techniques consist of entering and turning movements that redirect the momentum of an opponent’s attack.”  (Wikipedia)  Don’t attack Trump; Use his efforts and energy to make improvements.  What is meant for harm can be used for good.

 

 

It’s all good

“45% of GOP voters believe God helped Trump get elected”

God helps me write. God helps me progress on my spiritual path. God helped Joseph’s brothers get him to Egypt.

I write from where I am spiritually to other people where they are spiritually. I have a ways to go; we all do.

President Trump’s actions and statements are jolting people from despondency and complacency. That’s good.

President Trump’s actions and statements are prompting people on spiritual paths to ramp up their practices. That’s good.

President Trump’s actions and statements are encouraging people to pray. That’s good.

President Trump’s actions and statements are causing people to think things through, to consider the consequences of their actions and comments, to consider who is ‘us’ and who is ‘them.’

“What you meant for harm, God means for good.”

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

That’s from Genesis.

Jesus said that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

Open your ears.