Tag: Love All Thy Neighbors

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.

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.

Just waiting for my Nobel Peace Prize.

Sometimes the things I want to say to you are so important to me that it’s paralyzing. I’m so desperate to string together the perfect words to make you act, that I don’t even know where to start.  It’s a heavy burden.

It’s ok though, because I SOLVED ALL THE WORLD’S PROBLEMS!

As I sat drawing at my kitchen table (and continuing to avoid writing), I realized that there’s really only one word you need to understand. One word could repair the fabric of our society the way no legislation, politician or protest can: DIGNITY.

If everyone started honoring the dignity in everyone else the way we deserve just because we exist as human beings, and if we conducted ourselves with the dignity we all posses by the same virtue, all of this ugliness would dry right up.

Here’s how it works: There’s no way you can mistreat someone if you aren’t willing to drag yourself down to that level, and you can’t be sexist, racist, homophobic or discriminate against anyone (or allow your elected officials to do so) if you consider their quality of life first, and how it erodes their dignity (and yours) every single time. The less you’re in touch with your inherent dignity, the easier it is to rob someone of theirs, perpetuating the cycle of mean people creating more mean people. Don’t be mean.

Sounds too simple you say? It really IS simple. It’s the other stuff that’s convoluted. All the ways and reasons we use to hold each other down are only constructed to perpetuate a false bottom. You see, we are all equal. That is a fact. No one starts out any better or more deserving of their dignity that anyone else, but some folks can’t stand not being at the top. You can’t have a top without having a bottom, so the bottom was created one stereotype and one ignorant assumption at a time.

It won’t happen overnight. Maybe it won’t even happen in my lifetime, but it starts with us being cognizant of the way we act, and teaching that to our children until there’s an entire generation that doesn’t remember anything different, and respect is the norm. They will read of our ignorance and prejudices in their history books and be appalled. Can you imagine!?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.