A Minority Victory

(Column 41 – Published November 15th in the Warroad Pioneer)

It has been a tough week to stay positive. Trumpers everywhere are telling us to quit whining and to accept defeat with grace and dignity – in less kind words, of course, and just as they would have if Hillary had won, no doubt.

It was a cruel election season, and though the election is over the cruelty isn’t. It’s as if Trump’s indecency has given anyone who wants it the permission to be just as awful.

An acquaintance found out I was for Hillary and told me because of all the Trump flags and signage he had assumed “The Angle was safe” from the likes of me. A brother called me stupid for voting for her and said he was “pissed-off that I didn’t think like him.” A brother-in-law unleashed a whole smelly stream of vitriol on my Facebook page and when I asked him to take his negativity elsewhere, he flat out refused. He was the first person I unfriended. A sister texted me a propaganda video entitled The Clinton Pedophile Satanic Network with a cover photo of a presumably dead woman smeared in entrails and floating in a tub of blood. A sister-in-law posted dozens of cruel and hateful memes about Hillary Clinton and her supporters – as if there were still voting going on. She was the second person I unfriended.

These are all from what I would have called good, hard-working Christian folk. Golden Rule, much?

Being white, I haven’t been subjected to one of the hundreds of acts of blatant racism and violence happening around the country in the wake of the election.

It is not a good time to be anything other than white, Christian and conservative in this country.

So, fall in line, folks. Support our new president, Dems. Quit whining, bitches. Pull up your big girl britches and get back to work, sweetheart.

But I can’t.

And I won’t.

My little Hillary yard sign remains. Not because I think she should be president, but because I want everyone to know that I proudly did not vote for what is about to ensue in this country. And because I’m going to hold everyone who voted for him accountable.

You need to make sure that he “will create jobs like no one else.” You need to make sure that he provides something “better” than the Affordable Care Act. You need to make sure he makes life better for inner city blacks, where he assumes they all live. You need to make certain he fulfills all of his positive campaign promises. Were there any? Oh yeah, he’s going to bring the production of Oreos back to the States. That’s a good one. Let’s make sure we are making all of our sugary, fatty poisons right here in our own promised land.

If you wanted the wall and for Hillary to be locked up, sorry to disappoint you, but he’s already capitulated on those – just good campaign tactics, no doubt. They made for good rally chants, at the least.

After the election, I listened again to the book “The Four Agreements” by don Miguel Ruiz on my long and lonely daily drive to town. It’s a quick read and an even quicker listen; I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to live with integrity. It helped me remember to have hope in humanity, even the indecent ones, even the cruel ones.

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We are diseased, we humans. Sick in the head. We have all made a million little agreements about how to be and how to act. And, all our resulting beliefs stem from a fear that we will be judged for not meeting those millions of agreements. In truth, we are sleeping behind a functioning façade. But we can wake up, and I intend to.

The Four Agreements are:

  1. Be Impeccable with your Word

Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.

  1. Don’t Take Anything Personally

Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

  1. Don’t Make Assumptions

Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

  1. Always Do Your Best

Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

(The above summaries are not my own and I wasn’t able to find proper attribution as they are on numerous sites exactly as written.)

I break these agreements all the time, but with awareness I always come back to them and continue to grow in love and integrity. In a first draft of this column, I had outlined them using Trump as an example of what not to do, but that was not being impeccable with my word. I had to scrap it. I start over all the time.

Trumpers, you squeaked by in a minority victory. More people in this country voted for Hillary than for Trump. Please treat us with respect and dignity. You have extremists in your ranks, as do we. Let’s not judge the whole by the few.

If you voted for Trump, you now have a tremendous responsibility to hold him accountable, as we all do. I wish we could hope for a more presidential man, a man who would live by The Four Agreements, as if he’d magically change from campaign trail to Oval Office. But part of his appeal is “what you see is what you get.” He himself declared that he is very unpredictable, so that’s what we’ll deal with for the next four years. And believe you me, it’s only gonna be four years.

This too shall pass.

(Note: In print, the Pioneer substituted “horrifically graphic” for the phrase “presumably dead woman smeared in entrails and floating in a tub of blood.” They also edited out the profanity from “Quit whining, bitches.”)

“Don’t write about politics or religion,” they said

Column 34 Published in the September 6th issue of the Warroad Pioneer

Weeks come and go like the passing of a summer’s breeze. Tucked away in the happy hermitage of my Angle home, it’s challenging at times to remember what, if any, value the words I string together hold for anyone else.

Inspiration is everywhere, as a wise Warroad Pioneer editor once told me, and yet the questions remain in my ego’s mind: who cares? What is it all for? What does it matter what lessons any of us suffer through, what demons we wrestle on the quest for Truth?

Is everyone else on this same quest, I wonder. Are we born knowing Truth and then slowly forget as we are brutally “civilized” in whatever fashion our cultures dictate? Or are we born wicked and sinful – our inheritance – as the Bible’s Old Testament suggests?

I lean towards the former, of course. Any belief that fosters love over fear easily gets my vote.

If there is one truth I have come to accept over the past many years of searching and studying, it is that no one group of people or set of beliefs holds a monopoly on the Truth. Regardless of how fervently any religion defends their righteousness or for how many hundreds of years they have been doing so, it doesn’t change the fact that all of us have access to the Truth, to salvation, to the love of the divine. The opposite belief is the root of all wars, both individual and global. It has led to suffering and strife across all groups of people around the entire globe. And therefore, it cannot be Truth.

Only love can point to Truth.

I recognize this is not a popular belief to hold in the Midwest’s Bible Belt, nor here at The Angle where our only spiritual center is a happy little non-denominational, Bible-believing church. Many of us have been raised to believe that only our religion holds the key to salvation, and we can all point to our strict interpretations of certain passages from the religious books as “proof.”

Yet it is this imperialism that fosters intolerance, discrimination and outright violence – as it has done for centuries. Certainly Jesus didn’t teach exclusivity. His way was “the way” of forgiveness, “the truth” of inclusive love and “the life” of compassion.

I wonder if Jesus would have taught tolerance of intolerance…for that has been one of my hardest lessons: holding space and compassion for all those who fervently believe the rest of us are going to Hell in a hand basket because we don’t subscribe to their beliefs.

Certainly there is beauty and truth to behold in all faiths. And that is my pursuit now – learning all. I am fortunate in that the pace of life at The Angle allows me to both look for my life and for the Truth that all life holds.

I am also fortunate here at The Angle, because a small group of Bible-believing women put up with my “otherness” in their usually cozy Bible study. Yep, I am studying the Bible. We’ll read the whole darn thing in one short year and I’m on week 3.

At the same time, I’m studying A Course in Miracles, the principles of Buddhism and the wisdom of the ancient Toltecs, all interspersed with factual readings in contemporary science. I have not studied Aboriginal Spirituality, Islam or Hinduism in any depth, but those will be next on the great list.

My soul’s hope is that I will accept Truth in all its different forms and come to know peace. My ego’s hope is that I’ll open my eyes and the eyes of others to move beyond our limiting beliefs in order that our judgement of others will cease.

Peace most obviously cannot be ours while we judge others. A Course in Miracles teaches that the last judgement is actually “a final healing rather than a meting out of punishment.”

I like to picture all of us waiting beyond the veil of judgement, watching with love as the last one of us opens his eyes to a judgement he made of some other person or some situation or some poor inanimate object. When the false thoughts of that last judgement fall into nothingness, we will all finally see together the Truth of our beautiful reality and how it has had its loving arms wrapped around us this whole time whether we felt them or not.

Regardless of where we put our faith, we must believe that all things work together for good. And in fact, every single major religion and spirituality teaches this tenant. If we believe the opposite, fear will win. Peace will never be ours. And as such, until all of the world’s religions make peace with each other and work together for good, the world will never know peace. Another simple truth.

And so…here at The Angle, this tiny little forgotten pocket, there wrestles one child of God with all of the great questions of our time in search of Truth.

The truth in the fragile dust-covered wild flower blossom along our gravel roads. The truth in the wily smile of a three-year old when she answers common sense with perfectly wonderful nonsense. The truth in a commitment to a man, a family, sobriety, and this community. The truth in a metaphysical quest for open-hearted learning about forgiveness, inclusive love and compassion.

Come along for the ride. It’s sure to involve politics too.

Walk a mile in their shoes

Column 31 Published in the July 19, 2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

We zip around our little community here at The Angle on all types of wheels: strollers, bikes, golf carts and go-carts, three-wheelers and quads, Rangers and other branded ATVs. Our children ride on laps and learn to steer early. They are safe yet unrestrained, and are able to enjoy this unique way of life in many of the same ways adults do.

Once, when I admonished my 3-year old that she at least needed to be sitting down while we were moving, she looked back at me, her hair wild and wind-blown, her face alight with adrenalin and the summer sun, and said quite plainly to me, “But Mom, I just want to be free.”

Freedom is certainly something we take for granted in this little corner of the country.

It occurred to me while out boating on our Independence Day, July 4th, that despite where we live – with our backs to an international border – we are still relatively free to move in all directions.  I have felt very little “patriotic” pride of late, and yet there I was enjoying the sensation of feeling “American”.

For those of us who choose and/or were born into this way of life, being able to travel unimpinged, crossing international boundaries regularly and often daily or twice-daily for long stretches at a time, this freedom is hugely important.

What would happen to this freedom, if we as a country began treating (based on the actions of a few) whole nations of people, especially our next-door neighbors, like thugs, criminals or terrorists?

My daughter got to continue feeling the wind in her face that day, even though the parenting books collecting dust in my Kindle dictate that I should have enforced my “sit down” command, if only for consistencies’ sake.

But sometimes, …ok, a lot of the time…I just let her Be.

I let her Be, because I want her to have that and know it and live it as a Right. I want her to internalize what it is to feel absolute freedom of movement, of choice, of sensation, of joy and life. Yes, even at three. Her plea “I just want to be free” wasn’t manipulative or even whiny for once. It came from the seat of her soul, where all she knows is freedom.

I’ve written before that The Angle is a microcosm for the rest of the world. But that’s not true really at all. We don’t have much for variety in religion. We don’t have much for variety in culture. We don’t have much for variety in much of anything, except for maybe insects that bite or suck our blood.

Sure, yeah, we’re all beautiful, unique snowflakes, blah, blah, blah. But except for a brave few, we all look and talk about the same, follow similar political beliefs, and subscribe to the same old unquestioned self-righteousness.

The restaurants here all serve basically the same kind of frozen-then-fried American fat-food.  The resorts all bring in the same sort of sells-well stuff year after year after year. The work-force all makes our living by supporting tourism or supporting the community members who support tourism. And yes, in its own way, The Angle is a beautifully oiled little mechanism that runs well even when kinks are put in the cog, accidentally or otherwise.

But…Sameness.

After forty years of eating Manna, even God’s chosen people began to complain about the lack of variety.

Let me clarify that I’m not complaining about the Sameness.  I’m complaining about the lack-of-acceptance of Other. I would hope that I’m one more small headlamp shining a ray of light on a darkness inherent in every community, big or small.

Our transgender community member still has a tough time of it up here, but at least she’s having to “act” less and less. She chose this tiny, wayward community years and years ago because here she feels safe. And shouldn’t she have the right to feel safe, just like every other human being? (I wonder if men in general have any idea how often we as women fear for our safety. If they really knew, maybe they’d curtail the lewd stares and the rude catcalls disguised as compliments.)

Freedom aside, shouldn’t everyone have the basic right of safety?

And shouldn’t we all feel safe when we have the rare interaction with law enforcement?

Yes, all lives matter, but I think what this un-listened-to group of people is trying to say, and sometimes imperfectly, is that “hey, we’re people too and our lives matter TOO. We’re getting killed or receiving harsher sentences for causes that others don’t really have to worry about.”  The Black Lives Matter movement is yet another headlamp shining a light on a darkness that we’ve ignored for too long.

Our little community of freedom fighters, as I’ve labeled us before in this column, certainly hasn’t had to walk a mile in their shoes. We haven’t fought for anyone else’s freedom but our own, and someday that selfishness will come at a price. We have lived with white-privilege for a long time in this neck of the woods. Just ask our Native American and First Nations people.

It takes no small amount of courage to live true to who you are, to ask for your rights and your freedom in the face of fear and aggression.

This is my public apology for still calling you “Davie,” Nicole. You’ve told me your name is Nicole Annie and I will honor that from this day forward.

This is my public apology to everyone of color for letting those racist comments slide for fear of confrontation. I will honor us all as a people by remaining silent no longer.

We live on the outskirts of society here at The Angle and we feel different, special. For that and many other reasons, I expect better of us. We can start setting a better example for everyone in our community, for everyone who travels here, and for all the children who hang their heads out the window just to feel the wind and sky and freedom of this beautiful life.

Peace is Imminent

Column 29 Published in the June 21, 2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

 

This past winter, I had an irksome conversation with a relatively new visitor to The Angle. He was a guest of one of the larger resorts and has only been coming here for a year or two. Clearly, he doesn’t quite “get” this way of life and was joking about the naivety of our trusting nature and how he had “lucked out” as a result.

I can’t recall the exact situation that he was recounting or how the conversation came about even, but I do remember my reaction to something he said about “lifting.”  Aghast, I looked at him in disbelief and said quite vehemently, “Angle people don’t steal!”

“Well, I’m not from The Angle,” he countered, quickly.

That stunned me into silence, but the disdain must have soured my face because he said no more and left.

His words have stayed with me for months.

The proclamation that he’s “not from The Angle” was justification enough in his mind for whatever quasi-wrongdoing he was up to.

Sure, he spends a tidy sum to vacation here, and perhaps that left him feeling entitled to something we have that he does not. Or perhaps he’s a simple, sorry sought, an emotional vandal wherever he goes. Or maybe he’s aching to capture what The Angle is about in the only bully way he knows how.

Or more likely than not, he’s a lost child of the divine and lives a life run by the ego as most of us do.

I’ve come to believe that we have something to learn from everyone we encounter. In Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao Te Ching, one passage stands clear in my memory: “What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher? What is a bad man but a good man’s job?”

Slowing down and patiently waiting to receive the lesson can be the true test in today’s immediate gratification society.

Along that vein, my patience is being sorely tested by the reactions of family, friends and neighbors about the latest senseless mass shooting.  Instead of responding with love and sympathy, the fearful ones are gearing up to defend their right to bear military-style assault rifles. These are not weapons of self-defense or hunting; automatic weapons, like the Sigsauer MCX assault rifle used by Omar Mateen in Orlando, are designed solely for the mass slaughter of human beings.

I’m going to write those words one more time and then I pray I’ll never have to write them again: “assault rifles are designed solely for the mass slaughter of human beings.”

It’s disgusting, isn’t it?

Barring a zombie apocalypse, I don’t understand why any responsible gun-owner would insist that these be readily available to whomever wants them in our society.

And so, I wait patiently for the lesson, trying my best not to judge and giving love to those who live in fear.

The Beatles, the Bible, A Course in Miracles and a multitude of others all teach that love is all there is, that love is The Answer. Always.

To my family members, who are so certain the government is coming for your guns and equate assault rifles with freedom…I love you. I really do. I hope you will soon know that your fear is unfounded, that your fear is senseless, that in fact, your fear is in your mind, born of nothing.  Love is the only answer to fear.

To my neighbors at The Angle and in Warroad, who didn’t lower their flags after the POTUS ordered all flags at federal buildings and ships at sea to fly at half-staff…I love you. Even though you’ve lowered them before when federal flags were lowered, at the recent deaths of a supreme court justice or a former first lady, for example, I will assume you simply didn’t get the memo this time. I’d rather not believe you’re trying to make a statement about the lifestyles of the youth who were killed while dancing in a nightclub. Love is the only answer to fear.

To the bully Angle visitor whose face I don’t even remember but who thinks it’s okay to steal while here because you’re not from here…I love you. Please come back and let me show you the real Angle, beyond your big-box resort and the bars where you get your drunk on. You’ll grow to love this place as we all do. And then you’ll be a steward, not a vandal. Love is the only answer to fear.

Fear does not make us stronger or braver. Fear does not protect us from enemies. Fear builds walls between countries. Fear bans people of specific religions. Fear keeps you trying to control all minorities because you most fear becoming one yourself.  Fear makes you loathe people who are simply trying to get a foothold on life: refugees, immigrants, minorities of all sorts, shapes, colors, disabilities, preferences, and women (though we are the majority in world population and college education now). Ha!

You fear our presence because at the root of it all you fear the power of love.

FEAR.

Snap out of it. Go hug your pet. Go look in the mirror right now and tell your eyes “I CHOOSE LOVE.” We live in a beautiful world. Our lives are brilliant. We, as a people, are the most amazing, perfect creatures.

I’m so bored of the fear-mongering I could scream. Wake up, people! Wake up, Kellie!

And we all will, in good time. Peace is imminent.

Live with it.

Now.