Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Our Sacred Duty ...

Image Source - America's Library - Original Draft of Declaration of Independence

As citizens – as patriots – we have the obligation to be educated and informed: to come to our civic responsibilities with seriousness, with our homework done and in a thoughtful manner. We’ve allowed our political process to take on the most despicable aspects of a sporting rivalry. Too often we don’t think, we just scream our team’s name and talk trash about the “other side.” The problem with this is that it’s the kind of thing that leads to the horrors of history. If we vilify and dehumanize one another then we run the risk of repeating those histories. We create an environment where people feel justified in participating in the Kristallnacht, the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing or the attacks in Dallas or Orlando.

Bear with me –

We’re responsible. We allow and propagate shaming and hate baiting.

If we don’t want body shaming or people derided because of how they look, then we can’t participate in that. If we say we believe in religious freedom then that means for everyone. If we want our candidate or our ideas considered on their merits – then we have to do the work.
If we ridicule Trump for his appearance we perpetuate this practice.

If we accuse Obama of being a secret Muslim, …

If we deride someone through memes or ugly pictures – we perpetuate that practice. I’ve seen terrible pictures of Melania, Michelle, Hillary and Donald.

If we demonize, if we vilify, if we use foul terms to refer to one another, if we engage in name calling and lose sight of our mutual humanity, we perpetuate, cultivate this kind of culture. When we lose sight of our individual humanity, when we demonize groups and refuse to engage in the harder work of taking us each on the content of our characters (King) – then we lose our empathy. Empathy is what holds us back from violence. Empathy knits us together and cultivates caring. Let us try to imagine into one another and understand where we are coming from.

I beg you to take a pledge to not participate in hate baiting – to be a bit more forgiving, a bit more kind …

Do the thinking. Discuss what bothers you, your fears, your hopes, how we can together achieve a better world. Do comparative research. Do the work of having real exchanges. Let us privilege a conversation of ideas and policies. Let us take seriously the future of our nation. Let us cultivate the “angels of our better nature.”

Friday, July 08, 2016

From many - One.

The difficulty in talking about racism is that racism is predicated on gross generalizations, sweeping statements and a dehumanizing set of biases. It’s difficult to talk about racism – particularly as a white southerner - because one runs the risk of becoming an apologist or a na├»ve denialist or even worse, slipping into gross generalizations that, even when well-intentioned, turn to an “us vs. them” point of view.

The public space where this conversation should happen, our political sphere, has become a shit show.

The rhetoric of hate, the politics of exclusion and fear mongering have dominated our public discourse.

Money, and we are obsessed with money, Money is speech. Every conversation we have of the public good is underwritten, undercut, by money. As a people we seem so fearful that someone might take something away from us.

Many of us claim to be people of faith. Many of us say we are Christians, Muslims, religious Jews or any number of other religions, and many more say we are committed to the ideals set forth by our founders, and yet, many of us practice an intellectual laziness that undermines everything we say we believe in. Many of us do not question whether or not the positions we take are in keeping with the principles we say we hold. For many of us our biases are so deeply rooted that we cannot muster compassion for our fellow human beings.

What is our responsibility as guardians of the principles we hold? – There is so much cynicism around the things we “say” we believe in. Too often it’s enough to say it or use it as a position from which to condemn others – but to actually practice what we say we believe … This is the hard work that we’re called to do – to put aside our selfish concerns, to look past fear, to hold our nation to the highest examples of those principles.

I get so frustrated when people who claim to hold to these ideals, who claim for instance to be Christian, can justify in their own minds the selfish and meanness that produces the very atmosphere of fear and hate that contributes to the violence we’re seeing now. The great leaders of history were philosophers, they thought deeply about ethics, about how the world should be and if we are to follow any one of them we must do the same.

How to we comfort one another? How to we take care for one another? How do we fulfill our responsibility to the ideals of our nation: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? that we are all created equal? How do we ensure that we are worthy of our inheritance, of those that we say we come after? Love one another - and part of that work is to dwell on what loving means.