Empathy, Getting Real, Wisdom

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?

Disability, Getting Real

“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!

Empathy, Wisdom

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.
Empathy, Getting Real, Wisdom

Hey white people!

I made you a list of excuses (some of you call them “reasons”) for racism that seem to come up a lot. It studying these ideas, I’ve been consistently shocked by the number of otherwise educated and intelligent people who subscribe to them. I’m left with the conclusion that haters are gonna hate because that’s what they want to do. There’s no reasonable, logical basis for it. They just want to hate, or be superior to someone bad enough to forego all their common sense to do so.

  • You’re elderly, and back in your day it was just the way things were.

Trust me, I know it can take a lifetime to deprogram the lessons we absorb in our upbringing. However, how much common sense can it possibly take to know that treating human beings any differently, especially cruelly, based on NOTHING but the color of their skin is immoral. Just because it was common doesn’t mean it was right. It’s not and never has been. You need to adjust.

  • That’s just the way it’s always been done.

See #1. History has gotten a lot of things wrong. Beating one’s wife, shunning divorcees and persecuting the mentally ill have all been common practices in this country. None of them are fair or humane, and now we prosecute people who do those things. The same should be done with racism.

  • That’s just the way it is where you’re from.

(I’m beginning to see that #1 really sums things up) It’s way past time to look around and see who does what differently and why. Maybe everyone else is onto something and you need to get on board. There’s nothing wrong with loving your home, but make sure you really have something to be proud of. Recognizing that we have some problems to fix doesn’t make you unpatriotic. It means you love your country (or state) enough to want to make it truly worthy of your pride.

  • You just don’t know anyone who’s a different ethnicity from you, so you inadvertently say racist things out of genuine ignorance but would never hurt anyone.

Being from a small, rural community, I know a lot of people like this.  This excuse might have held water at one time, but now we have reliable vehicles, good roads, phone service, the internet…It’s never been easier to get connected with anyone from anywhere. Go make some new friends.

  • You pulled yourself up by your bootstraps, and they can too.

This one could be its own book. I’ll sum it up by saying that if you are not a person of color, a woman, a disabled person or an immigrant, you already got a head start. There are people in this country who have achieved great things by overcoming obstacles so far from your experience that your brain doesn’t even have a place to process them. Just because it’s not happening to you doesn’t mean it’s not valid. No one is saying it’s your fault, but your willful blindness is a luxury the world can no longer afford. Being part of the solution starts with appreciating the advantage you were born with and being empathetic to those we weren’t.

If you’ve been taught, or managed to convince yourself that there’s any acceptable degree of, or reason for racism just remember this:

Ray Charles attended a  SEGREGATED school for the BLIND!

 

Getting Real

So you “have to” vote for Trump because Democrats are baby killers?

So, you think you have to vote for Trump because the Democratic party tends to lean “Pro-Choice”? Consider this:
1.Politicians don’t care about abortion; they just know you do. It’s a buzzword that’s long been used to manipulate a huge chunk of the population, especially conservative evangelicals.
2.If it was a priority to them, more progress would have been made by now. That’s not happening because it’s working for THEM (See #1). You know who it’s not working for? Poor women. You know who’s not poor? Congress.
3.These people are not dumb. They know one single piece of sweeping legislation would never pass, and they aren’t willing to tackle the many small changes that would actually make a difference, like:
A. Creating social programs that help strengthen relationships, creating fewer single-parent homes, preventing domestic violence and abandoned children
B. Teaching men and boys how to be fathers. Little girls get to play house and care for dolls from the beginning. Boys are handed toy guns and then we wonder why they don’t know what to do with their kids.
C. Make sure women are getting paid fairly and have more solid economic opportunities, so that when #3A doesn’t happen, they can support their families. More often than not, women are solely responsible for the kids because #3B is not happening.
D. Make healthcare, childcare and parental leave affordable and accessible to everyone.
4.Teach kids the truth about sex and make sure they can access birth control. If your family values discourage premarital sex, then it is your right and privilege to instill that into your children. It’s also your responsibility to give them a back-up plan. Our best intentions are often battered by the reality of human nature. My parents grew up smack in the middle of the Bible Belt. If abstinence-only sex ed was a sure thing, I wouldn’t be here.
5.Create comprehensive welfare programs so women have the resources to care for the baby after it’s born. THEN create a clear path to self-sufficiency (see #3C). You can’t ban abortion without providing a realistic alternative and you can’t claim to be Pro-Life if you only care about a child until it’s born.
The word “choice” gets thrown around in this conversation, as if it were that easy. Often women terminate their pregnancies because they feel they have no choice. It’s the kind of “choice” you make when there’s a gun to your head. The only way to prevent abortion is to empower women.
Side Note: I couldn’t help but notice as I typed that list, that it contains ideas that might be considered “liberal”. So that means that Republicans (voters, not candidates) want to eradicate abortion, and Democrats tend to favor social programs that would result in fewer abortions? No one is “Pro-Abortion”. Everyone knows it’s a desperately sad ordeal.
There IS an answer: Empowerment – Poverty = REAL choice.
COULD IT BE?!!? Is this common ground?!
Disability, Empathy, Getting Real

I’m not sick!

I had a fairly deep conversation with myself this morning, over a steaming sink of dirty dishes. I realized myself was making a pretty decent point, so I decided to let you in on the chat.
I grew up in a church that subscribes to practice of the laying on of hands in prayer for divine healing. For more than 20 years of my life, I attended youth camps and prayer meetings. I was in church every time the doors were opened, and sometimes I just used my key.
Countless times while in those services, I’d make my way to the altar by way of cane, walker, wheelchair or under my own power to seek prayer for a range of ailments and trials.
More often than not, I’d immediately be surrounded by my fellow believers who were praying, not for the encouragement or guidance I was seeking, but strictly for God to deliver me from my wheelchair.
Just to be clear, Friends, this talk doesn’t really have anything to do with religion, and I’ve got no grudge of any kind. It’s about the prevailing idea that all people with imperfect bodies want to be normal, that we’re anomalies in the spectrum of humanity that have to be dealt with some how.
If typical people didn’t perpetuate that ideology, we would have more ramps and fewer stairs. Ramps work for everyone. Stairs don’t. If there were fewer accessibility barriers, there would be less unemployment among disabled people. I could go on and on…
When people assumed I was seeking healing because I have a visible disability, it feels like A) that attribute of myself is totally unacceptable, and B) they’re disrespecting the way God made me, not even considering it might be for a purpose.
           
Don’t get me wrong, for the most part, they’re good people doing what they sincerely believe God wants them to do, but why didn’t occur to anyone that God made me exactly the way he meant for me to be? My whole life I’ve heard talk about how we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”, but then we pray for the deliverance of people who were somehow made incorrectly?
People will line up all day long to tell you your plight was God’s will, unless it’s something that makes them uncomfortable, then you need to be delivered from it. Who gets to decide where that line is?
Choose Your Words Wisely, Wisdom

(At Least) 6 Steps to Evaluating Information.

I interrupt my originally-intended blog post to bring you this emergency post about how to evaluate the information you are constantly bombarded with on the Internet and elsewhere. This is by no stretch a conclusive list, but it’s a good jump-start to our common sense.
  1.  Is it a tabloid / gossip page? Tabloids are those trashy magazines in the supermarket checkout that rely on sensationalism to draw you in. If you answered yes, just throw it out now…all the way out. If not, move on to step two.
  2. Is it fact or opinion or fact? Some sources are really sneaky about trying to pass off opinion pieces as fact. If the writer uses first-person pronouns such as “I”, or otherwise injects him/herself into the story, it’s opinion. If it resorts to name calling, it’s an opinion. I personally believe it’s wise to consult the opinions of reliable sources, but even then they should be considered suggestion, not fact. Opinion is the spice of your research, not the meat. Approach it with caution and an open mind. Go to step three.
  3. Step two should also be applied to personal blogs, even this one. I only list blogs separately because they sometimes requite a bit of additional discernment. Arise Ink has a bit of a homemade feel, but there are plenty out there that have a slick, news-like aesthetic, and are still just someone’s opinion. You could also happen onto the professional blog of someone who is a legitimate authority in the subject you’re researching. Just pay attention to what you’re really dealing with, and go to step four (Apply the remaining steps to non-opinion pieces).
  4. Is it biased? For the sake of discussion, let’s use politics as an example. Does the article or website criticize or condemn one party or candidate exclusively? Is it written or owned by a specific party/candidate or anyone who is affiliated with, employed by or donates to them? If you answered yes to one or both of these questions, remain skeptical and go to step five.
  5. Look for sources that use specific language.  For example, “The CEO earned $500,000 in 2015”, instead of “The CEO makes a lot of money”. The more specific the information, the easier it is to fact check and the more likely it is to be true. The most reliable material will cite sources, which you should also evaluate carefully.  Go to step six.
  6. Factual sources will generally not use overtly emotional language, like name calling or finger pointing (unless accompanied by documented facts. See #5). This kind of writing is intended to manipulate you. It’s relying on using your emotions to cloud your judgment.
My only intention is to give you some tools that will help you make better decisions about what you put into your brain and what your inflict on the people around you, on and off social medial. I’ve seen good people do so much damage with misinformation. You don’t want to be that person. Remember the truth seldom exists in extremes. The gray areas are always your best bet.