“I’m not racist,but…” I Am

Column 40 Published in the November 8 Warroad Pioneer

We had buried my grandpa earlier in the day and though many of us were emotionally spent, we gathered for living-room conversation of light-hearted fare, marriage, babies, the future.

An old family friend and self-made pastor was commanding the floor in his well-intended, often over-bearing comedic way. With my pregnant cousin and her hubby at the center of it, he steered the conversation from jokes about baby names to having all your babies with the same father to “those women down in the Cities who have 14 children with 14 different men” – his words.

Normally I would find a quick exit at that point. Words such as those collide with all my spinal sensory nerves, make my root chakra wince and then I flee.

But grief does funny things to filters, to nerves, to practiced patterns.

The speaker didn’t falter. “I’m not racist,” he continued loudly to the group, “buuuut…” and then, muting his voice with his hand he said glibly out of the corner of his mouth, “…but they’re almost always black.”

Without raising my voice, I quipped, “Anyone who says “I’m not racist, but…’ is most decidedly racist.” This got a laugh from my sister, who nodded her agreement. The pastor hadn’t heard me, nor, in my cowardice, had I intended him to.

He continued his tiresome schtick, but the group had quietly divided its attention. My uncle sitting near me turned and said in an exasperated tone, “I’d like to see ONE person who’s NOT racist.” We were still speaking quietly at the outskirts of the small circle, lounged comfortably on my grandpa’s worn living room furniture. Everything quickly got very uncomfortable.

It was one of those moments I wish I had practiced for; the kind that afterwards I would relive again and again, perfecting the response in my mind.

Before I could spit something out, he turned even more directly to me and asked, “What? You’re not racist?”

Though my first instinct was to blurt a vehement “No!”, I stuttered for a second, processing thoughts of all the current events and the volatile national conversation on race.

I stopped myself from a simple denial.

Absolute truth seemed infinitely more important in that moment than simply defending my moral character.

When words came, there was no righteous strength behind them. “I know I have been guilty of it,” I said slowly, cautiously. “I mean, I’m sure I’ve done things…but, I don’t think I’m better than anyone.”

My uncle turned back to face the group but he nodded to show that he was listening.

“I don’t think I’m better than anyone because of their ethnicity,” I continued quietly, “or because of where they come from.

“And I don’t think I’m better than anyone because of their sexual preference.”

I added that last part hastily after realizing that several other family members were listening, specifically one who had taken to Facebook referencing scripture in an argument against homosexuality and against marriage equality. (Note – this was all taking place in late fall of 2014, about a year after Minnesota became the 12th state to legalize gay marriage.)

In my typical passive-aggressive way of responding, I had quickly unfriended her. Now, this little verbal jab felt like vindication for having spent so much energy confused about who Christians purport to be and my perceptions of their intolerance for the very people to whom Jesus would have ministered.

The not-racist exchange ended there, and I got up pretending to be concerned about what my toddler was doing elsewhere in the house. In the moment, it had felt egotistically good to finally speak a small piece, but there was no feeling of glee or gloat, just an overwhelming sadness that compounded succinctly with the existing grief.

The thing is, these are not “bad” people, the not-racist pastor nor my extended family. They are hard-working, lower-middle class, Bible-believing people who try to lead good lives and are simply a product of their environment, just like me and just like everyone else.

Perceiving their ignorance only strengthens my own. I must forgive and I must ask for forgiveness.

But, I cannot and will not align myself with the likes of their beliefs, the limitations of their religion, nor their political candidates.

A recent funny but telling social media meme goes, “Another way to look at an election is to see who the Nazi’s and Klansmen support, and then maybe look elsewhere.”

Seriously.

November 8th, the day this paper comes out, is my 41st birthday. November 8th marks eight short month of non-drinking for Tony and me. And, November 8th will tell us if a misogynist or a feminist will take the oval office. Yep, it’ll be a big day in my house.

I grew up telling anyone who would listen that I want to be the first woman president of the United States. At the very least, I’m hoping I get to vote for one.

Back to the not-racist pastor, our old family friend … last week, in a subtly-threatening public post written directly to me on a NW Angle non-profit organization’s Facebook page, he called himself a “representative of God” said he had to love his friends’ kids, and told me I needed to get some help. On a photo of a quilt-raffle, no less.

When my flee impulse resided, I had to laugh. What else can you do?

It was the most bizarre outreach I’ve ever encountered. From a man who used to tease and tug on my baby blonde curls, sing funny songs and make me feel so special. Tony, ever the wise diplomat, said simply, “ignore him.” My decision, which clearly proves why I could never get elected to anything, is to write about it in the paper.

I don’t call myself a Christian, but I do learn from the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Dear one, you interpret your Bible and I’ll interpret mine. You vote your beliefs and I’ll vote mine. We are no different, you and I. We both cling to the beliefs of fear, because that is all beliefs are. Every belief, right down to the big one about a God that exists and resides outside of ourselves, takes us further from being Truth Realized and achieving Christ-consciousness.

Clearly, your Jesus would never send messages over a private email server.

And my Jesus? Well, he would never assault women and call names, build walls and deport immigrants, defraud students and mock POWs, make fun of the handicapped and make money owning casinos and strip joints. Jesus wouldn’t sleep with the wives of other men let alone brag it, and he wouldn’t cheat on his wife. In fact, he might stand beside his spouse through a very public, very difficult time of moral failings, not unlike a certain woman candidate who did just that and for which she is now harshly judged.

There are many more comparisons, but the election is over. My breath is wasted.

You don’t believe you’re racist and you do believe you are a representative of God.

I don’t believe I’m not racist. I don’t believe anything. Or at least I’m getting there.

I just Am.

My Dream about God and Donald Trump

Column 38 published in the October 25th, 2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

I woke early one morning from a dream in which I had given birth to an impossibly small baby who, for a short time, spoke with absolute clarity. In a motherly baby-talk way of sorts, I asked her/him (the gender wasn’t clear nor was it important), “how have you learned to speak so well?” The wee infant smiled kindly and said, “This is Source.”

It was quickly understood that we had a few minutes of connection to ask whatever we wanted. As all the great questions of “above and below” were tumbling through my mind, a man in my group blurted out, “Why Donald Trump? And will he win?”

Loud external noises suddenly interrupted us, but the asker was able to get very close and hear some of what was said. When the noise died away, the child had stopped talking.

“Well?” someone else asked, fearful anticipation in his voice.

“It wasn’t the answer we were hoping to hear,” the asker said, slowly. He mumbled on about the candidate choices.

The dream shifted then into a related scene of panic and chaos, as word of the “prophecy” had spread like wildfire. The country was quickly descending into terror as it was now certain our future was dire. We would approach third-world country status, and great poverty would overtake us.

Images of the wealthy Trump Family Rulers were everywhere in attempts to assure people that they were the saviors and everything would be ok.

Huge portions of the people would flee as refugees, carrying what little they could on their backs.

Right before I woke up I remember feeling a sense of absolute peace, even as I looked around at people scrambling to collect their last vestiges of precious memories and “stuff.” Sadly, most of us were not yet thinking about survival needs.

I knew I was witnessing an epic demonstration of the effects of fear on a sensory-numbed nation. But surprisingly, I felt safe and calm trusting in God’s will—a sensation very new to me—even while knowing that many of us, likely my newborn and myself, would perish. I felt accepting of the fact that at that point in time, there was no going back. This is what now had to happen in order for peace to finally overtake humanity, even though it would be a road of suffering and death to get there.

When I awoke, my daughter was dreaming fearfully and thrashing about. I pulled her close and grabbed my phone to write down the dream.

I thought of the ballot that had just arrived by mail this week.

While it is private matter, I will share that my vote is slated for Hillary Clinton for many, many reasons.

But in the dream, a vote for Donald Trump helps harken the destruction of a comfortable often immoral way of life in order to hasten humanity along the path of peace and connection to Source., i.e., an investment in the belief that great darkness must come before great light.

The dream also examined my own fears and the illusions of safety I hold on to by living in near-isolation here at The Angle. As people were scrambling in fear, I held my tongue about the safe place I knew of for fear that we would be overrun – just as the under-loaded lifeboats did as the Titanic was sinking.

I also got the sense upon waking that we had likely misheard or at least misinterpreted the wee child. The loud noise that interrupted us was a garbage collection truck across the street and surely represented the lengths to which our egos (or the Devil, if you prefer) go to keep us from hearing the truth, the voice of God. Our group was outside and comfortable in a makeshift shelter, so there wasn’t an option of closing a window to the noise. The similarities to the nativity scene become more obvious after the fact, including the group of unknown people who were with me and the downplayed physical birth.)

The dream seemed to be telling me that when we do hear God, if we’re not accustomed to the voice or do not have faith in the good will of what we’re being told to do, our egos will quickly twist anything into fear-gripping reality. God probably just sighs and waits patiently as we take the hard-road yet again. Returning to God, remembering our Truth, connection to Source (whatever you want to call it) is inevitable. God is infinitely patient, kind and loving, especially through the destruction that our own fears set upon us. The destruction does not come from God, and in fact, if you want to get down to brass tacks, we can even choose not to label it as destruction, since the final result will always be Peace in the end.

The dream also reinforced for me the idea that there are many paths to get There, some more “comfortable” than others. Indeed, a check in a ballot box here or there will both lead to God. We don’t get to determine yay or nay. We only get to determine the length of “time” and our perceived suffering along the way.

I’ve never really been one to take the easy way.

I seem to like the lessons that come from looking darkness square in the face and then decidedly choosing the light.

But now, with others to think of beyond just myself, lessons-hard-learned aren’t as appealing. I don’t want to watch my daughter suffer so that I can get anywhere more quickly. Still, our egos will always be attracted to fear, especially now in our shock-and-awe-seeking culture.

Two other interesting facets of the dream …

  1. in the pitch black of my room, I turned my phone on at exactly 4:20am.

One of the lessons I am learning now is that I have given everything I see around me the meaning it holds for me. Nothing has true meaning other than God/Source/the Divine because God is all that Is. God is the only eternal. Everything else is meaningless, despite all of the silly definitions and labels I have applied to things and people and ideas through my conditioning. ALL of that conditioning is fear-based.

4:20 has a subversive meaning in our culture, yet I must take no meaning with me, lest I turn to judgement, guilt, condemnation and thereby further separation from God. I can see that it was again the work of the ego trying to force a divide.

And 2) In our quickening towards fear in the dream, no one stopped to analyze the question asker’s response. When the distracting noise had quieted, he didn’t tell us what the wee babe had answered; he only said, “it wasn’t the answer we were hoping for.” The layers of filters and eons of implied meanings the Truth went through between his conditioned mind and mine played out as one would expect: fear, uncertainty and doubt. i.e., Chaos. I was reminded upon waking of the old saying “the finger that points to the moon is not the moon.” Surely, in our well-intentioned, self-perceived righteousness, we have glorified this or that path based on our own conditioning for far too long.

God has given us everything. Period. Everything we need to be still and realize peace. We are not just God’s adopted children, we are part of God as Christian’s understand that Jesus was. God gave us Jesus, not to lord above us, but to teach us. The job of any good teacher is to impart ALL they know and teach themselves out of a job. Jesus had to live the life of a human since we identify as humans and had to teach that he was also God, since we are also of God. His modeling of a life purely connected to Source was and is our key to Peace, to salvation. Know that we are of God, and it will be so. The fear and all the perceived destruction that accompanies it will fall away into the falseness that it has always been.

But, our egos still have a hold and a tight one at that. We fear being of God because deep-down we believe it will end life as we know it. We are attracted to the dramatic displays of our own sin, our own guilt, our own condemnation and crucifixion. It makes for darn good TV. And most of us haven’t left that teenage mentality that everyone is watching us and everything we do matters, hence the popularity of social media and the brashen displays of our pretend perfect lives or our overly real suffering dramas. Nowadays, it is especially entertaining to point at the guilt of others and condemn and crucify them even more harshly than we would ourselves.

Fear is everything we project onto others and the inanimate objects around us.

Love is what we extend. Love is of ourselves and we are love because we are of God.

When we assign meaning or blame or guilt or anything other than Love, we are projecting fear.

It is our egos at work. Not God. Somewhere along the way, I heard EGO as an acronym for Edging God Out. We’ve gotten really good at doing that in this get-and-take society, in this blood-bath of an election.

I dreamed that I gave birth to a vehicle for Truth, and it made me remember that God has already given me everything. Even Donald Trump.

The Long Division of Fear

Column 37 Published in the October 18th issue of the Warroad Pioneer

My dad saw a moose…a healthy one, here, at The Angle!

That statement, by the way, is The Angle’s version of name-dropping or celebrity-sighting.

But my little mind is on politics, not moose nor life at The Angle. How can I rest in the beauty of our changing seasons or delight in the wildlife on the move when there is a giant orange circus peanut train wreck on every media outlet known to humankind?

My favorite sister gave me a huge bag of soft, fresh circus peanuts for my birthday one year. I ate Every. Single. One. Sickeningly sweet, ungodly orange and a spongey consistency defying all that is natural, I’ll always hold a cavity-like spot in my heart for them.

Speaking of holes in my heart…the three-year old in my life now routinely asks me to quit singing, tells me whatever we’re doing is BORING, and has taken over command of the car stereo. She is also newly in control of her own wardrobe choices, much to the dismay of the matchy matchy dictator in me.

But like my long-gone love for high heels, I’ve learned to let the matching OCD go. After all, in the wilderness this time of year, everything gets muddy, and therefore everything matches.

Mud aside, I had planned a long, philosophical column about having compassion for the many millions of folks who live in fear, i.e., the Donald Trump followers of the land. They are my family members, my neighbors, my acquaintances and many more I’ll never meet. I wanted to lecture and cajole, shame and berate, and tell them the story of when I was sexually assaulted in almost exactly the way Donald Trump described.

I wanted to plead with them about reconsidering their made-up minds, whining about how my little girl would have to grow up in a country that elected a president who thinks it okay to grab women by the ***.

And then it hit me….

I’m acting just as fearful as the very people I thought needed compassion. In fact, every single one of us is afraid. And almost if not all of the time, too.

Better to write about the rain gauge.

Or the squirrel that drowned in the kiddie pool I am long overdue in cleaning out.

Or the gnome home we built near the road in hopes that people would interact with it, and finally they are.

Or the wolves and bob cat and bear and rabbits and deer and wood chucks and the majestic golden eagles I’ve been seeing lately.

Or the excellent crappie spots my favorite fishing guide has shown me.

But those are all distractions from the lesson at hand, which feels like another big one for me, and yep, here it is: What we perceive in others, we strengthen in ourselves.

I’ve been pointing the finger at Fear for some time now but without truly seeing my own fears.

One night when I was awake “wrestling,” as I’ve been a lot lately – six hefty books, a journal and my phone for research on my lap – I wrote down the baseline fears I found myself clinging to:

  1. Harming or “ruining” Iris (my 3-year old daughter)
  2. Not producing that which I am supposed to
  3. Never “knowing”
  4. Losing Tony

I share these only to show value in looking inward. If I’m seeing a fearful world out there, it’s because I’m holding on to fear in my heart in some form. For insane reasons, I must have thought fear would be a better motivator, a better change agent. I had put my faith in fear instead of in love. To me, this is epitomized in believing in the Devil. Our belief in his evil is the only nourishment he needs. Fear wants to survive, and like a malignant cell, it does what it has to do, grasping at anything to keep our belief in it alive.

My fear that I would harm my daughter’s free-spirit, self-esteem, and connection to Source is the very thing that kept me trying to be her dictator, which, of course, has only served to push her away into disconnection and independence.

My fear that I won’t create what I was put on this earth to create keeps me from getting started. It keeps me believing that nothing I do is good-enough, especially for the “grand expression” of whatever my life’s gift is supposed to be.

My fear of never “knowing” is what keeps me in perpetual Seeking mode, instead of resting into the stillness of peace that already resides within.

My fear of losing the man I’ve chosen to love turns my focus away from Giving to him and tailspins me into worrying about what I’m Getting from him.

A Course in Miracles teaches that anything that engenders fear is divisive. It divides us from our fellow humans and it divides us from God.

In the political arena, politicians who preach fear, i.e., “our country is going down the tubes and I alone am here to save it…” are not uniting us, they are dividing us and very damagingly so.

We can’t rest in the peace of God while we are divided, while we are hating Donald Trump, or hating anything, for that matter. The Bible says that God hates that which is contrary to love, but either I’m misreading it or frankly, I just don’t buy it. If God is One, God can’t know or hate that which is other than Him, because otherness, contrariness can’t exist in Oneness. Hate stems from fear, and God knows no fear. Fear was made up in our minds to keep us separate from God.

But whoa Nellie, let’s not go there just quite yet. I’m still new to the Bible and I probably shouldn’t preach what I’m wrestling about.

Hey, look! A moose!

To wrap up this not-so-round-about rant, I was afraid of Donald Trump winning, but I’m not anymore. Not because it seems less and less likely, but because I can choose to reside in peace. I can choose love over fear.

Whatever happens in the election, whatever happens regarding my four baseline fears I shared with you, I know that everything will work out perfectly. Fear may seem powerful because it leads to strong reactions, but it is in fact the ultimate weakness. Nothing built on fear can last.

Including presidential campaigns.

And circus peanuts.

 

(Photo by Lauren Garfinkle via her EdibleGovernment Project and Creative Commons content.)