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Divide

30 Jan

There are forces all around you who wish to exploit division, rob you of your freedom, and tell you what to think. But young folks can rekindle the weary spirit of a slumbering nation.                                                Wynton Marsalis

Do a quick search of “Criticism of the Women’s March” real fast.  Just do that favor from me.  I will wait here until you’re back.  Okay, good to have you back now.  Did you notice anything about the criticisms of the women’s marches that happened all over the world one week ago?  If you answered that most of them are penned by women themselves you are definitely starting out with your finger on something that has probably been the largest barricade for women in the fight for equal rights: other women.

We’ve got women of color talking (rightly so) about the many ways that this protest has been treated in the media differently than recent peaceful Black Rights Matter marches. We’ve trans women talking (rightly so) about how feminism is not owned by body parts and the underlying “womanhood is for those of us with biological vaginas only” message that the knitted pink hats seemed to say to them. And it seems we’ve come full circle in the critical mass. Because now we have white cis-women being critical of other white cis-women for participating in a march which was apparently not “intersectional” enough for these white cis-women.  

It is to these women that I heartily give a great big shut the ever loving up.  Because you are the one of these things is not like the other.  You’ve managed to take a term used to describe the acknowledgement of the latent racism in feminism and turn it into some kind of righteousness that is only held by a small (white) few of you.  No longer can our feminism be about the business of granting women equal status and rights under the law, (with a hearty acknowledgement that that equality comes at more effort for some feminists than others) it must now raise to some standard that you, a white cis-woman, have determined it must be.  No longer is any effort toward feminism a good starting place or jumping off point.  No, now you must feel extra special and decry millions of women for not being as smart as you with your college word.

If we truly mean to be a group of women who show up in both word and deed, then why must I meet some sort of definition of a word before my deeds can mean anything to you?

I was told recently that my feminism was not intersectional enough for the two of us to be engaged in any “sort of productive conversation.”  A quick moment for my own self righteousness yielded that this person’s friends list was even less diverse than my meager attempt at diversity in mine.  And when I came to my senses, I realized, “Why does this even matter?”  It matters because we are human and we always want to be the more special one in the group.  It is not enough that we showed up with millions of other people united behind a singular cause.  No, that singular cause apparently wasn’t good enough and we must quickly establish ourselves as the ruling class of feminism.  We’ve had a ruling class of feminism from the beginning.  It has been white, predominantly middle class, and has certainly stepped on the equality rights of others in order to achieve its prize.  And why shouldn’t there be more of that in this day and age?  We always need and have always needed the best feminists to tell the rest of us what our feminism should really mean.

Feminism is this crazy idea that women should be viewed and treated as equals here on the playing field.  And that means treating other women as equals as well.  Not just women of color, or of different genders and sex parts, but also women that somehow fall short of the feminist ideal that you’ve painted for yourself in your head.  It is this type of divisiveness that does no good.  It is this divisiveness that was preyed upon in the 70s and used by opponents to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment.  And we must do something differently if we are to do something more than just show up for the “white people march.”

We must encourage other women to not just say something about what they believe in, but to show up in spirit and body for these causes that we all believe in.  That is not done by demeaning someone and saying that their feminism isn’t good enough for your feminism.  It’s done by saying, “Hey, thanks for showing up.  Here are other ways to show up.”  Let’s quit devouring one another and actually figure out how best to move on down the road together.  Because surely our numbers are there, even if our ideologies don’t match.

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Photo taken at Civic Center Park, Denver, CO

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Who Am I?

7 Dec

“Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.”   (Maggie Kuhn)

So who the heck is this person?  I’m Heather.  I think I have some stories to share and some thoughts about how I view life, and maybe some thoughts which will help you see something new about how you view life.  I find it best to know a bit about who the heck it is I’m listening to, so here’s a little bullet point list.  The fancy word for this is that I’m trying to flesh out a bit of my paradigm for you, so you can see how I view our world.  Some or all of this stuff will likely get flesh put onto it later, but I feel like you need to know it.  20161203_155954

  • I reside, and have resided, in Colorado for most of my life.  Exception is 2 years spent in Ventura, California.  I have lived in our capital city, in the Four Corners Region, surrounded by mesas on the Western Slope, but mostly I’ve lived in a smallish city in the northeastern part of my state.
  • I am just shy of 40 years old.  I identify as Generation X even though some bump folks my age up to the Millennial generation, I do not identify with much of what that generation values and has experienced.
  • I am a white person who was raised in a primarily white church and school system.  My interactions with people of color were always limited, and even now as an adult, are not as frequent as I would like.
  • I identify as a cis-female (mostly) straight woman.  For those of you who don’t know what the word cis means, it just means that I identify as the standard gender of the sexual parts I was born with.
  • Up until recently, I would describe my class background as “middle class,” or even “upper middle class” at times.  Significant thought on this matter and realizations about my life and how I live it lead me to believe that my family was “house poor,” and quite a few of the ways I live my life are influenced by being raised in a blue collar class (meaning we were never at or below the poverty level but that we certainly struggled and did not have as many bonuses as children who grew up middle class did).
  • I was identified as “gifted and talented” as a child, educated in 2 above average school districts, and was able to attend 41/2 years of college before being forced to drop out due to financial reasons.  While in college I was a History major (emphasis Europe, but really from about World War I to 1950) with a dual minor in Black Studies and Anthropology (I was getting ready to just take the last semester I needed for this degree when I had to drop out of school.)  I am a person who takes knowledge seriously and continues to educate myself by reading about people that I didn’t know about and books by authors who have different experiences than I did.
  • As a baby I was baptized Catholic and then when I was 5 years old, my parents started attending a non-denominational First Christian Church.  (The ones without the cup and flame.)  My mother raised me to strongly value reading and knowing the Bible and to pray and discern what it means.  In high school, I primarily attended a charismatic Four Square Church, and in college found an Evangelical Free Church.  8 years ago, I helped found a non-denominational church plant, but left about 2 years ago.  I currently identify as a Christian, and struggle with the baggage that goes along with that.  I do not presently attend a church with any frequency.

So now you know where I’m coming from so we can go together.  Yes?

 

Dear Teenage Me

20 Jul

Yep. That’s me. Circa Fall 1995 with one of my good friends from youth group.(Class of 96!)

 

 

My friend Lydia over at On the Other Hand recently wrote her take on another blogger’s letter to her teenage self.  I thought it was a good idea, so I’ve decided to do it myself.  So.  Here goes.


 

 

 

Dear teenaged me,

Wow, there are so many things that get put into perspective now that you’re 34.  I know you’re just thinking about what’s happening this weekend or freaking about the new play in production; but really, there’s a lot more to it than you think.  I’m gonna let you in on a few things now.

1.) All those unrequited crushes that never lead to dating are okay.  It’s good that you’re not dating right now.  And some of the most awesome men are right around the corner.

2.) The nice guys do finally figure it out.  It’ll happen in your 30s.  Now, you might date some who seem like nice guys until they’re not.  That’s okay because of:

3.) You have a wicked sense of humor now.  Sometimes it surprises the folks you went to high school with, because it wasn’t there back then.  It’s pretty dang awesome.  It helps you survive just about everything that comes your way.  And also makes you a hit at parties, bars, and sports commentating.  (Yeah, you become a commentator, pretty sweet, huh?)

4.) Contrary to what you’ve been hearing at summer camps and in youth group, your body is beautiful.  It is not a one stop sin factory like they say.  The sooner you embrace this the more you will find you like yourself.

5.) Your greatest strength is always turning back to the Bible to check what people in positions of leadership in the church are saying.  Keep doing this, you’re on the right track.

6.) Your dad has started to finally come around to this whole being involved in your life thing.  Don’t cut him out of yours now.

7.) Pretty soon you’ll get your bestest childhood friend back.  It’s called the Internet, and it will revolutionize your friendship.

8.) Keep your flannels.  You’ll want them in about 15 years.

9.) You will be heading to college.  You will be taking out loans.  Do not do the stubborn thing when you hit a hiccup in funding.  Take that year off of college and re-enroll when you qualify for Pell Grants.  Seriously, teenage me, it will be the only mistake you end up regretting.  All the others you will learn from in one way or another.

10.) Buffy the Vampire Slayer is awesome, not stupid.  Pick it up right now, because when you watch it as an adult a bit of the “OMG they’re the same age as me” magic will be gone.

11.) You have an incredible core group of friends there in Durango.  They have taught you how to mellow out and not be a pharisaical jerkface.  Keep in better touch with them.

12.) On the other hand, getting out of Durango was the right choice for you.  Remember this when you become slightly jealous of your brother staying there in a few years.  You really did need out.

13.) No really.  It is incredibly awesome that you’re not dating right now.  I promise you.

Okay, I think that’s it.  Just remember, teenage me, that it’s not as tragic as you think!  (But your poetry is!)

Love,

Almost 35 year old me

How about you?  What’s in your letter to your teenage self?

Restoration, or How Westboro Baptist is Doing God’s Will

5 Jan

 

My Flag is Not Your "Fashionable" Sarong

You’ve probably seen them in your town.  Or you’ve heard of them.  Embroiled in Supreme Court freedom of speech suits for their frequent protests of soldier’s funerals, or standing on sidewalks outside of synagogues and colleges protesting the so-called “homosexual agenda” that’s making America go to hell so quickly we don’t have time to weave the handle on our collective hand baskets.  Their collective message?  “God Hates Fags.”  Their website is even named as such.

Maybe you are, or you know, Christians in your life who collectively smite their foreheads and swear up, down, and sideways that “real” Christians don’t believe those things; or if they do, they certainly don’t walk around with signs saying as such.  Naysayers from the Christian front will point to scriptures like the prevalent John 3:16 saying God loves the world.

And perhaps a little less used counter that He doesn’t wish His followers to profit from lawsuits to further His message.  1 Corinthians 6:1-11 That’s right.  Lawsuits.  The Westboro Baptist Church is funded for the most part by counter protesters who have been sued for interacting with WBC improperly during one of their protests.  They’re savvy, I’ll give that to them.

For a long time, the WBC just made me angry.  How dare they!  I marched around as if God needed someone to personally intervene on His behalf to defend Him.  I felt I needed to defend the Creator of the Universe.  Because if He wasn’t going to smite them immediately, I sure as hell was going to.  And then something happened:  I started to listen.

About 10 years ago, the WBC decided to grace my college campus with its presence.  A friend of mine who was a resident assistant at the time decided to be proactive: he hosted a panel including a member of the WBC, and various pastors and campus religious leaders of varying opinions.  WBC was put under the magnifying glass.  They had to give a reason why they were there.  In all honesty, this man was not the caricature of hatred and evil that I wanted him to be: he simply and very sincerely believed that he was bringing the good news of Christ’s love to the people he was protesting.  Don’t you hate moments when evil beasts become just a touch more human?  Yeah, me too.

Over the past 10 years, I’ve continued to listen.  But this time instead of judgmentally listening to the message of hatred, I started listening to the message being brought by the other side.  I began listening to my friends share stories and ideas: their coming out, their struggles with their own faith, their ideas of what the love of God actually meant.  I listened to my friends in the service and how gravely hurt they were that their fallen comrades in arms could not have a little peace for their funerals.  I met burly biker men who are members of the Patriot Guard Riders who counter protest in their own unique way.

I started to notice just exactly what the Westboro Baptist Church does when it comes to town.  Instead of seeing more hate crimes, I watch churches come out of their prayer closets to preach beyond others’ preconceptions: the true message of the Cross that all are loved dearly by God.  Instead of observing chaos take over, I see groups of people from many walks of life band together to show that love, tolerance, prosperity, and peace will reign in their community.  I see students at a high school show that they are behind their friends. I listen to a pastor from a small, insular community share a message of peace, reconciliation, and love.

I believe God is at work in today’s world.  That his message of love and restoration will come across, despite the imperfections of the messenger.  His goal is that this existence be changed, and as much as I would hate to acknowledge it, those changes come about as a result of the misplaced message of the WBC.  It humbles me to know that even when we get it wrong, God makes it right.

I Shall Not Fear

Photos borrowed from Comics Alliance