Post-election fears that haven’t gone away in two and a half weeks

I am white, straight, not a Muslim, not an immigrant, therefore not likely to be personally threatened by a Trump presidency. So why am I afraid?

******

They’re dying off. Among the living, some lean on walkers, others are stooped over. White men, all of them, veterans of a sort. Not necessarily ones who wore a uniform or fought in a distant land, but veterans of a struggle here at home. Since moving to North Carolina, I’ve had the honor to meet a few of them.

Pastors of white southern churches during the 1960s and 70s, they were among the few white Christian ministers who had the courage to stand against Jim Crow laws and the region’s resistance to racial integration. They invited black preachers to speak at their pulpits. They welcomed black members into their congregations. They preached sermons against racism. As a result they lost their jobs. Their lives were threatened. The lives of their families were threatened.

Meanwhile other white ministers placed peace and security over confronting the evil of racism. They sought justification in scripture.

A friend recently shared memories of that period. Her father, Morris Warren, was a minister in the Presbyterian Church (US). A son of the South, he had ancestors who fought for the Confederacy. Yet during the 1960s he found that as a man of conscience, he had to take a stand against white racism.

He served as pastor of a large congregation in Macon, GA. A local task force began to interview white citizens as to “whether or not every effort should be made to prevent integrated schools.” Understanding himself as a peacemaker, Rev. Warren wrote a letter to the editor of the Macon newspaper. He simply said integration was bound to come and would not bring calamity. Yet two church elders took offense and threatened to withhold money for the congregation’s financial campaign.

For several years he kept finding himself at odds with his church and community. The Macon congregation he served split over racial issues and Rev. Warren lost his job. Yet he never saw himself as courageous and downplayed threats against him.

To my knowledge he never got beat up or had his house fire-bombed. This might cause some to consider his stance not all that remarkable. But I’m inspired by him and other ministers who 1) recognized the evil and 2) risked jobs and reputations.

Today I fear what may be required of me during a Trump presidency. As a woman of my generation, I was taught to keep peace. Don’t upset your father, don’t irritate the neighbors. In school, strive for an A in deportment. In church I was taught, “If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone.”

Under a Trump presidency the time may come when the rights of sisters and brothers of color, of the Muslim faith, those who are immigrants or gay will be threatened. I ask myself, will I recognize the evil even though I’m not directly affected by it? I know it has a way of sneaking in and appearing normal. What risks will I be willing to take? My reputation? My safety? My life?

 

(An excellent book and movie along this theme is Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy B. Tyson. Tyson’s father was the pastor of an all-white Methodist church in North Carolina.)

After Election 2016, getting my life back–sort of

I’ve long wanted to blog about the challenge of selecting toilet paper—two ply, always, but do I get the extra strong or the extra soft? And how much should I take cost into consideration? I’ve wanted to use my blog to grumble about young people. I’m not sure what exactly I’ve wanted to grumble about, but aren’t old ladies supposed to complain about the younger generation? And what exactly is this mesothelioma that handsome older men in TV commercials have found relief from? Might it explain the pain in my lower back?

But political realities keep interfering with my light-hearted urges, and for several years now my attention has been on wanting Americans to take notice: notice the environment, the working poor, women’s reproductive rights, equal pay for women, to name a few concerns.

During the 2016 election I put my energy into helping Hillary Clinton get elected. I took a break from my personal blog to maintain a site for a group of “mature” women. When the election is over, I told myself, and Hillary is our President, then I’ll blog about toilet paper and the younger generation.

But that, as you know, did not happen, and I find myself at odds with a state government (North Carolina) and a federal government that feels oppressive and, frankly, ignorant.

So here I go again. Back to my old wordpress site. Back to what I believe really are life-and-death issues for our country.

I invite you to enter the dialog.

Donald Trump, sarcasm, and me

Donald Trump has my sympathy. I’m being sarcastic. But not that sarcastic, to be honest with you. For sarcasm is my default mode of humor too. Over time, though, I’ve learned that others don’t usually get it. Not because I’m more clever than they, but because the distance between sarcasm and truth is usually only a little wider than a hair’s thickness. After 50 years of marriage I still have to tell my husband, “Honey, it’s a joke.”

As a young mother I was often tempted to tell my kids, “Go play on the freeway.” If I had, my husband surely would have interpreted for me: “Mommy doesn’t actually mean it. She knows you like to ride your bicycles, and she’s joking that all that pavement—if there were no cars there, that would be a great place to ride. Believe me, Mommy really, really loves you.” He would have added, “Those Abbott kids, I’ve seen how they’re all the time cheating.”

But I didn’t vent. Well, not in that way. I’ve long recognized that once words come out, whether intended as humor or not, they can’t be taken back. And that my urge to say something sarcastic most often arises out of anger or frustration. A lesson Trump seems not to have learned.

Hey, Donald, if you have to tell everyone it was a joke, it ain’t funny.

If I were you, after you’ve lost the election, I’d move to the desert. You can buy all the land you don’t already own in Nevada. You’re so very, very rich. Invite your 2nd-Amendment disciples to join you. Build a wall around the state, a very, very big wall. But I predict the U.S. government won’t like that in the process you’ve stolen Great Basin National Park and Red Rock Canyon, and the Tule Springs Fossil Beds. The army will bring in its tanks and missiles, and… Just joking.

 

 

 

 

For those who have been Feeling the Bern

If you’ve been Feeling the Bern, I share your heartache over not winning. For I have memories.

1968. Images still clear in my mind: the film clip of a South Vietnamese officer putting a gun to the head of a young Viet Cong and pulling the trigger; a sign saying, “The Vietnamese didn’t fight in our Civil War.” President Lyndon Johnson had escalated a war in southeast Asia that many Americans, especially young people, demonstrated against. In opposition to the war, Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota had the courage to challenge the incumbent Johnson for the presidential nomination. Male students cut their long hair and shaved so they could go door to door rallying support for McCarthy. Largely because of young people’s passion, Johnson announced he would not seek reelection.

Who knows what might have happened had not the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., been assassinated four days after Johnson’s announcement? Or had Robert Kennedy, who had entered the Democratic race, not been shot and killed in San Francisco?

Hubert Humphrey became the Democratic candidate. Many young people felt so disillusioned they refused to vote. Richard Nixon was elected, and we all know how that turned out.

What did I learn from this period of disillusionment? That Americans will elect a crook before they’ll elect anyone veering far to the left.

This doesn’t mean we should disengage from politics. It means we need to find new ways to bring about change. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Work for progressive candidates down list. Even school boards are political entities. In North Carolina, where I live, our state representatives have enacted legislation abhorrent to anyone concerned about justice issues. A Democratic president and democratic governors need legislators who will work with them, not obstruct them as Republicans in Congress have done.
  2. Get informed on issues you care about and work for the candidates who share your concerns.
  3. By working I mean contact candidates through their staffs, ask what needs to be done.

In 1968 many of my generation lost our innocence. But we came out of the tragedies and disappointments wiser. And of course, older.

Is Hillary so dishonest?

Mom was the nurturer, greeting us when we came home from school, preparing our meals. Dad was the boss, the enforcer of rules, often with the palm of his hand. This clarity of roles gave us a sense of security.

Nowadays Mom goes to work and Dad has relinquished much of his authority. The old order has shifted in other ways. If we’re white or heterosexual we’ve lost assurance of our superiority. Black and white intermarry; homosexuals marry. On the global stage the clear issues of the Cold War have vanished, replaced with a militant Muslim enemy that strikes unexpectedly. Our lifestyle of big cars and unlimited use of electricity is affecting Earth’s climate, a science beyond our comprehension.

We older folks yearn for Mom and Dad—as they once were. Enter Donald Trump, the authority figure who’ll return our country to how it used to be.

But Hillary—she doesn’t behave the way a mother’s supposed to. She’s not a national nurturer but a trained lawyer who as a senator voted on complex issues; who as Secretary of State negotiated with leaders of other countries. She’s been hardened by battle.

Anyone who’s seen TV commercials, even if they’re muted, recognizes the little green creature advertising Geiko and associates the Statue of Liberty with Liberty Mutual. The purpose of repetition in advertising is to keep a product in the viewer’s mind, to repeat an idea so often that it’s finally accepted as truth

So it has been with Hillary’s reputation. Since 2008 Republicans have anticipated her candidacy in this election and committed themselves to eroding the perception of her character. They exploited the Benghazi attack, sponsoring multiple investigations and repeating the message that she couldn’t be trusted to tell the truth. They exploited her using a private email server, though other government officials have done the same. All the while the press allowed itself to be manipulated into continuously analyzing opinions about her integrity—until her dishonesty was taken as fact.

I’m not suggesting Clinton is beyond reproach. Her experience is so broad there’s something in her voting record or foreign policy actions to offend anyone. I am convinced, though, that public perceptions of her dishonesty are the result of a non-stop propaganda campaign.

Our job as voters in this election isn’t to choose the most nurturing mother or the most intimidating father. It’s to select an individual who understands and supports the Constitution, who appreciates the complex web of international relationships, whose knowledge is respected worldwide.

A person who firmly believes in “liberty and justice for all.”

A restroom war in North Carolina

So North Carolinians are arguing over restrooms again—what might happen if a certain segment of the population used the wrong one. Didn’t we go through this back in the sixties, when white folks fought to keep separate facilities for “colored” and “white?” Now the North Carolina House is distraught over the city of Charlotte’s ordinance expanding anti-discrimination laws for public accommodations. It’s the transgendered population our representatives would have us fear, how their choosing which bathroom they want to use “poses an imminent threat to public safety, ” (Speaker Tim Moore). The issue is worth the $42,000-a-day expense of meeting in special session, he says.

(I’ll avoid references to these elected officials who so boldly favor local control—except, it seems, when a city does something they disapprove of. )

A special session to make Charlotte’s ordinance illegal would supposedly contribute to the safety and well being of women and children. While I certainly appreciate Mr. Moore’s and his colleagues’ concern, let me remind him there are other issues more threatening to our safety. Granted none of them as scintillating as imagined drag queens such as what we see in movies pulling down their pants in front of innocent children and women.

Strengthening gun laws would do more to protect women and children, but would draw far less support. In 2015 there were 53 domestic violence homicides in our state (http://www.nccadv.org/homicides-20150. While mass shootings make headlines, suicides and accidental shootings in homes where there are guns take far more lives.

And what if our representatives announced a commitment to protecting women and children from air and water pollution? Yawns. Which has allowed elected officials to gut the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) http://www.indyweek.com/news/archives/2015/04/23/bill-that-would-gut-state-environmental-policy-passes-nc-house-committee.

Keep in mind these are the same people who try to control women’s reproductive rights, who reject climate science, who undermine the quality of our state’s educational system, who voted to allow magistrates to refuse to perform gay marriages if their religious beliefs opposed it.

With national primary races for President so entertaining, few are paying attention to state politics. Which could explain why Tim Moore and his cohorts are talking about transgendered individuals using public restrooms. His efforts though should remind us that statewide elections are as important, if not more important than national ones. Candidates who deserve our support need financial backing and a team of workers. Otherwise restrooms will be the big campaign issue.

 

Nancy Werking Poling is author of Had Eve Come First and Jonah Been a Woman and Out of the Pumpkin Shell.

 

 

 

The Christian Agenda

The 2016 primaries have come to the Bible Belt. Already politicians are competing for the evangelical vote.

For too long we progressive Christians have allowed evangelicals to be spokespersons for the Gospel. In fact, in the minds of many outside the Christian faith, “Christian” and “conservative” are synonymous. Evangelicals tend to preach against homosexuality and gay marriage, abortion, the evils of banning prayers in public schools, the war on Christmas. As a result, their followers block entrances to Planned Parenthood, write letters to the editor of local newspapers, run for office, refuse to marry gay couples.

Most importantly, they vote.

As a Christian, but—for lack of a better label—a liberal Christian, I’ve had the privilege to listen to the sermons of outstanding progressive/liberal clergy. At election time I’ve noticed they tend to be quiet, as if they don’t want to offend or use their position of influence to sway decisions. As usual they assure us of God’s love. We’re to help the poor and needy. We’re to confess ours sins. We’re to act with courage. We’re to speak out against injustice. All as if an election is not approaching.

In a political advertisement, Marco Rubio says voters will decide” what kind of country America is going to be in the twenty-first century.” On CNN Franklin Graham encouraged evangelicals to vote and to “stand for biblical principles.”

No doubt my list of biblical principles won’t correspond with Graham’s. Yet as a progressive/liberal Christian, I am one whose faith influences my voting. I will be looking for candidates who in their words and past actions have demonstrated the following: 1) a compassion for the poor, the refugee, the marginalized; 2) a concern for God’s creation, that is environmental issues; and 3) a commitment to justice—racial, gender, economic, criminal.

I’m not suggesting that liberal clergy tell us who to vote for. But we need to hear them apply ancient truths to current events. Together we need a more public struggle about what God requires of us as American citizens, what kind of country we’re going to be. Whether or not we liberals speak boldly about biblical principles, we can be sure our evangelical sisters and brothers will be promoting an agenda we do not share.

Nancy Werking Poling is author of Had Eve Come First and Jonah Been a Woman (Wipf & Stock, 2010), a collection of short stories in which the author imagines heroes of Hebrew Scripture as women; and Out of the Pumpkin Shell (Spinsters Ink, 2009), a laugh/cry novel about women’s friendship and family secrets.