Tag Archives: Oppression

How to Love Radically in the Era of Trump

6 Feb

radical-loveI have been struggling, along with 2/3 of the nation, since November. I have been fearful, hurt, and worried for ALL targeted communities. For those who insultingly made this about “Hillary lost, get over it,” you missed the point, quite sadly. This was about resisting a fascist regime, which we are now under, as evidenced by the over 20 Executive Orders delivered by Trump — as evidenced by the myriad lies spread by Trump and his team (please don’t make up attacks, Kellyanne).  This was about supporting a billionaire bully who makes fun of people with disabilities  and says it is acceptable to grab women by their genitals.

And so I struggle. I struggle with how to be loving to Trump supporters, some of whom are family members — family members who have decidedly voted against me, my family, my friends, and the earth. Yet I must maintain that we have to stay in community; we have to operate from our hearts first; we have to make space for those who are hurting us. I STRUGGLE!

I struggle every day to make this space for people who are deliberately oppressing so many. It is hard to love someone when they are punching you or shooting at you or sustaining systems of oppression. Moreover, I don’t want to become like those who are oppressing us! I think our individual and collective ability to RESIST with every fiber of our being and simultaneously love and make space for Trump supporters is Radical Love. I would love to take credit for this, but at least two of my friends for over 30 years, Jen, and DeShawn helped me here.

I feel obligated to share some survival tips and invite you to share how you are surviving a world gone mad.

  1. Take a break from news and social media.
  2. If you are able to, binge watch some tv that brings you joy. Here, I would strongly recommend the Netflix remake of One Day At A Time. My friend Gita recommended this to me, and Robert and I are loving it! It has a Latina cast and addresses social issues and is FUN! Rita Moreno is in it along with Justina Machado, and I think I am in love with Isabella Gómez. 
  3. With intentionality, seek out friends, family, and family of choice who feed your soul.

Finally, join me in a commitment to Radical Love! I commit to being in and operating from a place of love, while I know there are days I will fail at this. When I fail at this, I will not shame myself. I will continue to work towards building community, solidarity, and find ways to both resist this current fascist regime and love those who are engaged in supporting a world of fear, hate, and oppression. If this sounds or feels contradictory to you, all I can say is: I’m able to hold a lot of tension around being messy — this work we do towards social justice/transformative justice is MESSY! We don’t do this work in isolation and we will not complete it, but we must be engaged!

I invite you to share how you are navigating currently. What is working and what is not working?

Standing in love and solidarity,

Michael

MLK Day of Service 2017: Celebrate Rep. John Lewis

16 Jan

john-lewisMr. Trump’s attack on civil rights hero John Lewis certainly underscores and unequivocally proves the need to celebrate our civil rights pioneers. I had the great honor of actually getting to meet Rep. John Lewis when he spoke at the Atlanta Girl’s School at a convocation we held. While I had always loved and admired Rep. Lewis, and I was fortunate enough to live in his district for many years, after his speech, all I could think of was: I want all children to turn out like this man!

Rep. John Lewis marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and endured such physical assaults and hate during the civil rights movement. Yet he emerged as this beautiful soul who has done nothing but promote peace, love, and equity for targeted populations — this has been his life’s work. To see him attacked by Mr. Trump who only has a legacy of avarice, mendacity, and divisiveness, hurts my heart more than I can say. The old rules of human decency seem to no longer apply. The United States seems to only reward sociopathic billionaires now who tweet late into the nighttime how their feelings have been hurt.

With the ascension/anointment of Mr. Trump, we have seen how his supporters are emboldened to thwart human decency. Case in point, Biloxi, Mississippi has renamed MLK Day to “Observance of Great Americans Day.” Thanks, Biloxi. You have made it painfully clear that only white heterosexual men are welcomed to your white city. This new celebration will also celebrate Confederate General Robert E. Lee. I think I just spat up a little in my mouth. More evidence of how emboldened Trump supporters have become, we witness Republican Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter calling Lewis “a racist pig.” Mr. Hunter, you clearly do not understand the word racism. Please step down from your position of power.

I grow exceedingly tired of Trump supporters including Trump’s bitch (NBC) and famous idiots like Nicole Kidman who keep telling us: “We have to trust Trump and support him.”  Why on earth would any targeted person/community trust this man, when he keeps appointing White Supremacists, Homophobes, Misogynists, billionaires to his cabinet? Help me understand why on earth should we trust him.

I am inviting all of us in the United States to reflect around our own racism and encourage conversations around issues of racial disparities and systems of inequities and oppression. I also invite us to think about how we see our country. For all of us white folk, now is the time for us to stand up against racism — to speak out against and resist those who continue to participate in the system of racism. I am asking for us to become activists and NOT to speak for nor speak over black voices. Find out what it means to be an ally. If you are not speaking out against Trump and against racism then you are colluding with the oppressor. Mr. Trump just cancelled his MLK Day visit to the National African American Museum “because he is too busy.” What kind of message does that send to all of us about his commitment to heal a divided nation and to address systemic racism? If you need to cry here, please do. I know many of us are crying for what the future holds in store.

While I identify as a queer white man, I would argue racism in the United States is most definitely a queer issue, it is a feminist issue, it is a black issue, it is a trans issue, for the intersectionality here makes it an issue for all people living in the United States.

Taking Action: Here we have an opportunity as white people to leverage our power and privilege for black lives. I hope all of us are engaging in conversations that address issues of access, power, and barriers. Can we look for spaces where white people can stand back and stand in solidarity with black people? Can we look for spaces to ensure more black voices are being heard? Please resist and do not normalize a Trump administration. I leave you with this clip from a show called Black-ish.

Bigot of the Week Award, October 17: The Vincennes New Years Eve Ball

17 Oct

LincolnThank you to my friend and staunch LGBT ally Jennifer Carey for pointing me to this Bigot of the Week, a sad snapshot of just how far we have to go on the road to equality and why celebrations like National Coming Out Day are still very necessary.

Every year for decades Juniors and Seniors at Vincennes Lincoln High School in Vincennes, IN have been invited to participate in an annual New Years Eve Ball, with the restriction that the event is for “couples only.” Sadly, since 2004 the invitations have clarified that only “traditional couples” are welcome. Wow! That’s some harmfully loaded and coded language.

Just in case anyone was uncertain about that language, the charmfree Lincoln High School Super Straight Alliance has tweeted “We don’t cheer for queers!” and used the tag #StraightPower. So much for equal access at this public institution.

The group that organizes the party every year hides behind the fact that the Ball is funded by parent contributions and held off campus. Those facts do nothing to change the fact that the Ball is inherently bigoted and damaging to LGBT students. Invitations are distributed at school; the yearbook publishes pictures of couples at the Ball every year; the university that hosts the Ball is ALSO a public institution. Whatever defensive posturing and sickening sidesteps the hosts use, this event discriminates.

That’s the most important detail, making all the quibbling over who funds the event and where the students dance immaterial. LGBT couples are told they aren’t welcome, forced to accept that they are second class citizens. That damage is a lesson that will last for years after high school is just a distant memory. Bigotry is bigotry, even in fancy dress.

David Brooks: Raising Money For Homophobia

30 Sep

David BrooksNew York Times contributor David Brooks has decided to give the keynote address for a right wing Christian money maker called The Gathering. I admit I have never been a fan of Brooks.  While at times he is able to almost contain his arrogance and white privilege when he does his occasional spot with E.J. Dionne on NPR, his white, heteronormative, misogyny ekes out, as we saw in his book The Social Animal. 

The Gathering is not some ecumenical group. The Gathering is more of a collection of white, right wing “Christians” that raise money to proselytize, which might not be so bad, save that much of the money they raise goes specifically to hate groups that target LGBT organizations.  The Gathering has funded over 125 anti-gay organizations and ministries. This money includes funding such violently hateful groups such as Uganda and its anti-gay bill. Not a big surprise, but much of the money raised also goes to such nefarious hate groups such as the the National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council, both of whom have been recognized as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The irony is that Brooks purports to be in favor of same-sex marriage, a stand which clearly does not preclude violent homophobia. While I have never thought of Brooks as a self-aware human being, I am nonplussed by his decision to be the keynote speaker for an organization that does so much harm. I am also sad and confused as to why this is not getting more media coverage. Is it because there is a tacit agreement in major media that it is okay to be homophobic? Is Brooks the teflon man as so many Republicans are?

 

Fox News And A Silkwood Shower: An Ugly Face of Racism

29 Aug

FauxI was visiting a dear friend in the hospital yesterday and because it was a shared room, I was exposed to hearing Fox News blaring from the television behind the curtain next to me. After four hours of exposure, I was certain that not even a Silkwood Shower could wash that toxic slime from my pores, for Fox (Faux) News is just a dirt that won’t wash clean.

For almost a solid four hours I had to listen to what is tantamount to White Supremacist propaganda — a bunch of white people foaming at the mouth and spewing venomous lies about racism.  I’m sorry Fox (Faux) News, but you don’t get to tell us that racism no longer exists.  Your vilification of the late Michael Brown is more than just shameful, it is nothing less than unconscionable. Upon publishing Ferguson and the War on Human Rights, I was exceedingly sad to see the number of search engine terms for “Darren Wilson hero.” It weighed heavy on my heart that a human being would even search for those words together.  I will not vilify Mr. Wilson, but I do hope we have some candid conversations about race and racial equity.

The brainwashing machine that is Faux News would have us believe that we live in a post racist society and that those terrible awful liberal Democrats (two words used by the Fox network in every complete sentence) are forcing white people to think about race.  I was horrified that they are allowed to tell outright lies and mortified that the manure they are spreading only contributes to increased racism. Their violent, baseless rhetoric supports and tacitly encourages the targeting of other groups that do not identify as white, heterosexual, or Christian — the moniker of “Christian” is a tricky one because there are many progressive and critical thinking Christians who are in diametric opposition to the Tea Party flavor of “Christian”.  Of course when I reflect upon the many intersections of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, it is no wonder that the homophobic and racist Elizabeth Hasselbeck joined the team at Fox.

Sadly, this is the only source of information some people allow themselves.  We are losing the art of journalism and the implications are far reaching. If Fox persists and is the only source one allows, then one starts to believe the lies and propaganda, which means one is then colluding with racism, homophobia, misogyny, and all the other ways in which we target our other human beings. Faux News is worse than misinformation — it’s inhuman.

Happy Birthday, Howard Zinn

24 Aug

Howard_Zinn-Anniversary-2Howard Zinn would have been 92 years old today. Zinn passed away on January 27, 2010.  I remember listening to NPR and crying my eyes out. Zinn has been one of my heroes since I first read his People’s History of the United States in 1987.  Zinn has had such a powerful impact on my life that I would actually say he is, in part, why this blog exist and why I try to work towards global equity and equality.

Zinn was from a Jewish Austrian-Hungarian immigrant family.  He fought in WWII as a bombadier to try and end fascism.  His experience in the war influenced his anti-war stance. Zinn reflects on what some refer to as “collateral damage” and many of us call the loss of so many civilian lives in war:

I recalled flying on that mission, too, as deputy lead bombardier, and that we did not aim specifically at the ‘Skoda works’ (which I would have noted, because it was the one target in Czechoslovakia I had read about) but dropped our bombs, without much precision, on the city of Pilsen. Two Czech citizens who lived in Pilsen at the time told me, recently, that several hundred people were killed in that raid (that is, Czechs)—not five.

Zinn also influenced my energy around trying to unpack racism, sexism, homophobia, and all of the intersections of how we target and marginalize people.  In 1963 Spelman College dismissed the then tenured Zinn from his teaching position for his activism with students in the struggle against segregation.  I love Spelman College and I suspect this was a very messy and difficult decision. I try to look at the level of risk for the college and balance that with the amazing work being done by Zinn and the students.  Two of his students in particular are also heroes of mine, Alice Walker and Marian Wright Edelman.

If there are a few of you who are not familiar with Howard Zinn, I strongly encourage you to read People’s History of the United States and watch the amazing documentary, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train.  

Thank you, Howard Zinn and Happy Birthday! I can only imagine how the world could be a better place for all with his inspiration.

 

What Must They Think of Us? The Perplexing Human Species.

28 Jul

galaxy_universe-normalThe past few weeks have given me a great deal to reflect upon: the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 by Russian separatists, the continued war between Hamas and Israel (apparently there are now at least over 1,000 civilian Palestinian lives lost), and the not so covert racism and homophobia here in the United States.  When I think about these events and activities in conjunction with the weight of other horrific moments in the world’s history, I am left wondering: What must any existing intelligent lifeforms in the universe be thinking of humans?

While I am not certain there exist other forms of intelligent life in the universe, I do think it is a bit arrogant to think humans are the only intelligent lifeforms.  Lately, I have been thinking how I would hate to be judged by  some of the awful actions of other humans.  I think about how we treat girls and women around the world; how we treat the LGBT community, and people of color. Every time a James Byrd, Jr. is killed, a Larry King is killed, we have painful reminders that only certain people are safe to navigate the world.

While humans have only occupied the earth for the tiniest fraction of time in the over five billion years the earth has existed, we have managed to wreak an amazing amount of destruction.  I can only imagine what one might think as an observer from far away.  I would hate to be painted with the same brush as  Chairman Mao and his agents of the “Cultural Revolution.” Nor would I care to be thought of alongside the triumvirate of Hitler, Stalin, and Franco, or even the 21st Century’s collection of agents of hate and terror. Certainly there have been many wonderful people who tried to improve the world, but history shows us more bloodthirsty crusades than productive, peaceful assemblies.

I still would like to believe that there are more basically good people in the world than basically bad. Sadly, our systems are increasingly set up to let the greedy and jealous grab and hold power. Millions are oppressed and marginalized, unable to use their voices for anything other than basic survival. Millions more are exhausted by longer working hours and horrific commutes, and then we seem to only be able to find some salve by being anesthetized by television.

If we want those hypothetical viewers from distant stars to think kindly of us, we need to engage. My hope is we can take time everyday to reflect on how we work to create relationship with one another. How can we use kindness and generosity of heart? How can we use empathy?

When the dinosaurs — the last great “rulers of earth” — were wiped out, it was by a cataclysm that their basic brains and inability to use sophisticated tools left them unable to reverse or remediate. What will be our excuse?

 

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