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.