I've been writing this post since January 22nd. I've debated posting it. I've tried to tone down my very strong opinions. In the end, I had to speak because to remain silent, well, it just isn't an option.
I try to not be political on FB. Everyone has the right to their opinions and beliefs. And that's fine when we can all respect each other and have empathy and compassion and an openness to understand. But I see so many people legitimately fearing for their safety and even their lives. That does not come from a society where there is respect and compassion and empathy.
I'm white. I'm a Christian. I have tremendous privilege because of these two things. I am female so I don't have the same privilege as white males. I have chronic illness. And I am fat so I also do not have the same privilege as white women who are healthy and don't carry a lot of extra weight, but I still have a hell of a lot of privilege I didn't earn.
Many of my friends do not have the same privilege. They are black or brown or LGBTQI+ or disabled or Muslim or Jewish or Pagan or atheists or agnostics. Or some combination of of these. They have been living marginalized lives, even if that marginalization is difficult to see. In a country where value is placed heavily on specific race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and a very specific standard of health, how could anyone who does not fall into the "norm" not be marginalized?
We who are privileged often pat ourselves on the backs when something is done to make life better for those who are marginalized. And often we do so with arrogance. Even ignorance. This post isn't about privilege and what is broken in white Christian privilege. But this plays a part in what I'm about to voice next. Why? Because all we have done since the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s is apply bandages to the ever increasing problems of racism, sexism, misogyny, homomisia, sectarianism, etc. These issues have not been resolved. If anything, this election and the machinations of the current White House and Congress have not only shown us the cracks in our society, it has blown them wide open for the entire world to see.
I did not vote for Trump. I'm not a citizen so I can't vote. But I would not have voted for Trump. My view is not just political or just about how government is run. It's because Trump is a man who is vile. Yes, I said it, vile. He does not love truth or honesty. How could I vote for someone who seemingly celebrates the exact opposite of the teachings of Jesus?
I heard the hate he was spouting during the campaign. I saw the rise of something I consider ugly at his rallies. I saw fear tip into hate and hate tip into something even more dangerous. But I hoped people would see the man and not the rhetoric and would not be complicit in putting such a person in the role of President.
Then I realized all my hopes were in vain. Because of white evangelicals. More specifically white women who identify as evangelicals (and don't get me started on American evangelicalism). Because it was more important to ensure an imaginary judge would be appointed to the supreme court in order to overturn the right to a safe and legal abortion. Because it was more important to bring a religious belief system even more deeply into government. Because apparently morality needs to be legislated based on "Christian" beliefs. Because racism is so deeply rooted it's a systemic issue. Because sexism is rampant in many white Christian circles. Rampant among white Christian women, not just men. Because pointing the finger at someone else as the cause of why I'm unhappy is the great American past time.
When my marginalized friends tell me they are more afraid now than before the election, I try to listen and understand. I haven't lived a marginalized life so I need to shut up and just listen to their fears, their stories, their anger. And draw upon empathy and learn to see the world through their eyes. We who are privileged need to do this. It's not enough to sit back and comment from our computers or couches or churches. We need to step out. And step up.
I saw this during the Women's March on January 21st. Women, and men, of all colors, ethnicities, sexual orientations joining together to protest against misogyny and hate. Not all men are bad. But this country is legislated and run primarily by men. White men. Women NEED to have a seat at the table when it comes to reproductive rights, to equal pay, to ending sexual harassment.
But more than that, we need to shut up so we can hear the stories of the marginalized. And we need to step aside so they can step in. We shouldn't be the white saviour who makes the world a better place for everyone. We aren't the answer. We are part of the damn problem. White women get in the way of black women, of brown women. White people get in the way of black people, of brown people. Able bodied people stomp over the rights of the disabled and chronically ill. Heterosexuals often belittle the plight of those who identify as LGBTQI+.
Why does my voice matter more than yours? It shouldn't. Just as my life experience shouldn't invalidate yours. My religious views should not run roughshod over your own. My privilege shouldn't take away from you.
It's going to take years to get this right. There is a lot wrong with this country. A lot of systemic issues that we need to take a look at. Apologize for. Change. Fears that are going to take decades of us trying to do things right, failing, and trying again before people can start to believe things are going to be different.
But we need to start. Congress and the White House, those people work for us. For we the people. We can't forget that. So continue to call, to march, to resist if you don't agree with what is taking place. That goes for local government as well.
And if you are sitting back and think the direction our politicians are taking us in is fine, that all these people who are pushing back are crazy, take a moment and listen before you pass judgment. Really listen. Set aside your ego, your beliefs, your own fears and listen. And don't let shame or guilt or anger keep you from listening deeply.
We've all screwed things up. Now we need to own it and work to make restitution and seek reconciliation. Isn't that what Christians are supposed to do?
- Patricia Briggs, whose husband Mike passed away unexpectedly in January. She is touring for her new book despite this. You are brave and kind and loved, Patty! Admired even. I'm so sorry for your loss. Nothing can replace Mike. And nothing should.
- Time to heal, as healing quite often takes time.
Photo by Liz Lemon