Oh Say Can’t You See what’s going on here?

To pray

To propose

To show reverence

To beg

Every single one of these activities involve getting down on one’s knees, and not one of them is associated with arrogence or disrespect.. In fact, just the opposite. Unless you’re not white, then how dare you envoke a humble gesture to respect a symbol of our country while drawing attention to it’s illness.

It seems the powers that be are still more comfortable with black men kneeling in front of cop cars than on the football field. The NFL has now reinforced that message by banning the practice of taking a knee on the field. Instead, players have the option to stay in the locker room during the anthem If they can’t bring themselves to stand.

If you consider yourself so patriotic as to believe the stance so commonly used to talk to GOD Isn’t even good enough for the Stars & Stripes, then you should be sad and disgusted by that ruling. An elite collection of wealthy people have once again taken it upon themselves to “solve” society’s problems as quickly and conveniently as possible, leaving the consequences for someone else.

Protests are not about entertainment. They are to shed light on things we have to fix. It’s hard to get people concerned about a problem if they don’t feel its direct impact. There are SO many facits of this issue that should incite action. Unarmed men dying at the hands of authority disproportionately by skin color wasn’t enough to get us going, so they had to make some people squirm a little at a sporting event. You should be uncomfortable!

 

You probably know by now, dear Reader, that I’m not in the habit of excusing bad behavior, but I am a fan of mercy and second chances.

Most NFL fans (and owners, etc.) are probably not racists. They are not so caloused to the blight of police brutality that the players’ protests are nothing more than an unacceptable annoyance. I suspect it’s quite the opposite. Like most of us,they see horrible things happening  and feel helpless because the are just one person. They’re overwhelmed because they lack the knowledge, resources and support to make a difference. This has become such a divisive topic, they fear reaching out will hurt more than help, and those fears are not unfounded.

It’s human nature to avoid action when we’re not sure how to proceed or what the consequences might be. We all do it every day, but stakes are way to high on this one.

It’s way past time for those of us who fear for anything less than our lives to responsibility for the kind of people we want to be. We have to get honest with ourselves, and our children, about difference between the great potential of this country vs. its current reality.

Your alarm is going off.

Writers’ block tries to get at you like hypothermia. You cycle through bouts of determination and frustration until y`ou become lulled into a warm, sleepy complacency and almost convince yourself that you don’t even want to be a writer that badly, and you’re totally fine with sliding through life being a regular person who never suffers from blog anxiety and can enjoy a conversation without pausing to compulsively take notes. Writing is HARD. What kind of lunatic does that to themselves? You just need some rest. You don’t have to live like that…

Except you do. You do have to live like that, because it’s the only way you can live. Your heart beats to the rhythm of clicking keys. You don’t just write; you are a writer. It’s what you are.  As long as the stone cold fear of life passing by unnoticed and undocumented still jerks you awake, you’re going to be ok.

Do you know your neighbors?

Mr. Rogers had a life-altering impact on me.

I’m a 38-year-old woman with cerebral palsy. I’m not necessarily what most people associate with CP. I can walk and participated in mainstream public schooling as a child, but having a disability definitely played a formative role in shaping my life and the person I am.

My family made sure I had the best health care they could find, but never talked to me, or asked me about being disabled. I obviously knew I was different from my peers, but I only knew I had CP from listening to doctors speak with my mother.

I was (and still am) a huge fan of PBS, and watched Mister Rogers every day. I was probably 5 or 6 when I saw Jeff Erlanger on the show, and vividly remember thinking “ok, I’m not exactly like this kid, but this is what I am”.

I’m so thankful to Mister Rogers for confirming something so fundamental about myself and that there was nothing wrong with being like Jeff and I. I adamantly believe that my life could have taken a much darker turn without that experience. I still take a second to thank Mister R. every time I advocate, educate, speak or write about disability issues, and every time I remember to stop and realize how lucky I am to be living as a whole, happy and complete person with the right to acknowledge disability as a part of what makes me who I am.

Ok, but why?

PRP

There’s always a reason for how things are, and it almost always falls into one of these categories:

 

1. It’s a good reason, and you need to understand it before you go messing things up.

 

I remember hearing something once about not tearing down fences until you know where all the cows are at. I wish I had a more clever example, but this one gets the job done just fine.

 

2. Someone is benefitting from the way things are, and usually at the expense of everyone else.

 

I’ve worked more than one job at which I thought “no one would run a business this way on purpose, they must want me to fix it”, only to find that things were that way because someone, usually someone at the top, liked it that way. Maybe the books are a bit fuzzy so no one notices someone skimming the bottom line. Maybe employees are systematically criticized so they won’t notice they deserve better, and it’s a distraction from where blamed truly lies. Those are the tactics of a bully. It’s insidious and far-reaching. Smoke it out and shine the light on it.

 

3. We’ve just always done it this way.

 

I’ll refer you back to #1, and if that doesn’t apply, then fix it! That’s the dumbest reason to do anything. Maybe it worked back then, but it’s just smart to re-evaluate from time to time. Changing your mind because you’ve got more information doesn’t make you wishy-washy. It makes you wise. Always try to be wise.

Come on, be real with me.

I got my first visible tattoo recently, and interesting assumptions were made. Assumptions about my lifestyle, my priorities, the salvation of my soul, you get the idea. Few of these concerns were voiced directly to me, of course, but the ones that were all mentioned how I’ve “changed”.

There was a time I would have felt tortured by this and compelled to delve into every facet of that comment, but I’ve been relieved of that impulse because now I realize it doesn’t have anything to do with me. I’m still the exact same person I was when I got my first and second tattoos, the only difference is they are under my clothes. I’m still the same person I was when I had no tattoos at all. What they really mean when they say I’ve changed is that I’m different from their perception of me.

That got me thinking. There’s a lot of pressure on us to “find ourselves”, as though we’re not really living, but merely existing in some kind of holding pattern until we can tick off the right boxes.

I’d like to propose that the real you has been there all along, it’s just covered by a layer of gunk like expectations, misinformation and false obligations. As you begin to live consciously, and get honest with yourself about what you want, how you feel and what’s important to you, all that fake stuff will begin to fall off, and the person you were meant to be will shine through.

For example, my tattoos are deeply meaningful to me. They feel like badges that represent aspects of the real me that I’ve come to love and respect. In a way, I feel like getting them revealed a bit more of my most authentic self. It feels like they’ve always been there, and I finally gained the wisdom to knock off what was hiding them. The reason others will think you’ve changed, is because some people just haven’t developed what it takes to see through your shell yet. They actually think that’s who you are!

 

 

You’ll never read anything more honest than this.

We don’t have political problems, Friends, we have human problems. We are privileged with the responsibility of choosing our own leaders, so doesn’t it stand to reason that our leaders reflect the kind of people we are? That should scare the hell out of you right now.

The overt hate, selfishness, ignorance and general shamelessness that permeates American politics right has so many of us pointing fingers at our neighbors. The powers that be are well served by the distraction created when we turn on each other instead of turning toward them to see where the blame truly belongs.

What we must first do is turn inward, and evaluate the moral and ethical shortcomings within ourselves that not only allow this wretched state of the Union to exist, but nurture it like a favored parasite.

We have to get really honest with ourselves about the lies we’ve decided to get comfortable with because they support a prejudice or a grudge that we want to justify.

We have to jump off the bandwagon of discrediting the experiences of people who are of other colors, ethnicities, religions and social classes, and own that our denial of the well-documented, systematic injustice and that holds them back makes us complicit in their oppression.

We have to acknowledge that America does have a class system, and that what we think we know about those different from us, may be based on a convenient lie.

We must stop pretending that our hatred and prejudices are some kind of code of ethics, and realize that morality is something we are to measure our own character by, not something to impose on others and then excuse our bad behavior with their perceived failures.

We have to stop degrading our neighbors who depend on government assistance, as though they don’t pay taxes or have anything to offer society, as though everyone in this country actually has equal opportunity to improve their situations, and that sexism, racism and greed never contribute to poverty.

We must discard the notion that our country is inherently superior, and realize that it merely has the potential to be. It’s up to us to insist that potential is reached. This self-delusion will only make us blind to the problems that will ultimately destroy us, like doting parents ignoring the misdeeds of a beloved, spoiled child. It’s easier to be defensive or offended than it is to admit you just don’t want to acknowledge there is something wrong.

Those of you who are still insisting that this country was founded on Christian principles have to get serious about the glaring discrepancies between what you honestly know of Christ and the policies and politicians you support.

The only way things will ever get better is if decided to be better people, and take responsibility for making sure our policies, and the people who make and enforce them reflect that.

It’s like peeling a snail from its shell.

Unless you’ve been under the same rock some of our lawmakers undoubtedly crawled out from under, you can’t help but have a strong opinion on the state of the healthcare system. I’ve got a lot to say about it myself, but for now I want you to see this video. It’s not an easy watch, but it is important

It’s not unusual for the police to restrain protestors, but what’s the equivalent of handcuffing or shackling a wheelchair user? I suppose I removing them from their chair gets results, but it’s NOT the same. It’s not restraint, it’s dismemberment. It’s excessive force, and a gross abuse of power to further reduce our weakest citizens, especially when they’re exercising their constitutional right to peaceably assemble. I thought the GOP was all about the Constitution! Denying the poor and disabled access to healthcare is just slow genocide.

My Hero!

I come to you from my recliner, where I’m researching bohemian clothing (or curating my ideal wardrobe on Pinterest, whatever). Mike is watching a comedy in which two well-known actors discuss writing a screen play about super heroes who can control the world with their minds, and it occurs to me we all have that super power.

The world we live in is a culmination of every single thought we choose to act on, and the ones we don’t. The impact you have on the world around you, and often it’s impact on you, reflects what’s going on in your head. The contents of our minds manifest into our behavior.

Every moment of every day, you get to decide if you’re going to use your powers for good or evil. Are you going to be the villain or the hero?

“Reactionary” is not an insult!

I’ll be the first to admit I have a lot of “buttons”, triggers that set me off, and apparently society has a lot of fingers with which to push them.

Recently, I was involved in a conversation with someone was obviously trying to bait me into saying how inspirational a certain wheelchair user is. Feeling a bit of pressure, I proceeded to explain all the ways the person is inspiring that have NOTHING to do with physical ability or the lack of. That exchange is still gnawing at me. I’ve been reminding myself how the misuse of people with disabilities as the warm, fuzzy, puff pieces of society is a particularly sensitive button of mine, the person I was talking with probably doesn’t have the life context to understand that, and I have to take responsibility for my own “issues”.

I’ve often been called reactionary and sensitive. I’ve taken a lifetime of mostly good-natured teasing about it and been routinely dismissed because that’s just “how I am.” In the middle of making excuses for myself, I realized if “how I am” is “sensitive” to the fact that people in this country are being marginalized to the point of near invisibility, being “accommodated” as though it’s a special favor and not a legal right, and summarily subtracted from public life as though their tax dollars don’t fund it, then I’m proud of that. The same goes for sexism, racism and every other kind of discrimination humans inflict on each other.

Trying to make someone feel bad for reacting to their own mistreatment (or the mistreatment of others) is a proven, documented tactic of abusers and bullies. It’s wrong, and it’s REAL. Anyone who tells you otherwise is benefitting from the status quo. They might be perfectly good people who are so blinded by their own privilege, they sincerely don’t see it. Have a chat with those folks about empathy, but don’t accept the excuse. Even the most innocent misconceptions contribute to the problem. It’s unacceptable, it’s dangerous, and it’s systemic. Call it out!

I’m a red state refugee.

I have a vivid childhood memory of playing under a table at the local burger joint while the adults discussed what I now understand to be politics. That’s when I learned I didn’t want to be a Republican, because they’re mean.
I spent the next couple of decades or so (and maybe the rest of my life) trying to reconcile what I was taught in Sunday School, and the fairly ….some might say strict…standard of conduct set forth by my family and teachers with the exclusiveness, misogyny and judgement I saw in the world around me, and by world, I mean the 3.6 square miles of Iowa Park Texas, pop. 6,000ish. I’ve had to separate myself from everything I was certain about to be the kind of person those same people taught me to be.
My world is much bigger now. The distance and years have allowed me some perspective. I’ve come to understand there are categories of Republicans. Of course there are your “Mr. Burns” types; greedy, self-interested business people and the standard bigots, but then there’s this enormous chunk of people who are simply trying to make it to Heaven.
You see, in the Bible Belt it’s hard not to absorb the idea that you are inherently evil, and need someone to instruct you on the straight and narrow path. The respect for leadership that’s so intrinsic in their values also makes them susceptible to manipulation, especially when it’s been twisted to not only discourage questioning authority but trusting one’s own motivations.
Even among the nonreligious, being a respectable, honorable person is deeply rooted in the culture. It’s obvious to me at some point, many years before now, an evil politician realized how easy it could be to say just the right words to activate the powerful loyalty of a large demographic whose desire to do the right thing would keep them voting against their own interests for generations. For you see, some people feel they deserve to be on top, and for there to be a top, they have to create a bottom.  It’s a fallacy that has perverted everything pure about their faith and way of life, and it’s so insidious they can’t even see the major moral conflicts that are so glaring to the rest of us.
I want to be very clear that I will never make excuses for anyone’s bad behavior, especially the mistreatment of any other human being. I just want to offer some insight. I want to do my part to promote the practice of, not only researching the opposition’s agenda, but trying to understand WHY they feel that way, and where our common ground might be. That cultivates empathy, without which there will never be peace.
I hate that rest of the country will miss out on the good things about my culture because the bad has become so pervasive. I continue to mourn the stability, community and relationships I’ve lost because I can’t make peace between my values and the current political climate. There are no words to convey the intensity of my frustration in this matter, but if I lose my empathy and compassion, then I’m as complicit in the problem.