Politics · Society

Oh, Alabama.

It still hurts every time. I will never get used to seeing qualified, experienced, hard-working candidates defeated by people who seem, at best, weak and unqualified, and at worst, outright corrupt. I don’t understand why the majority of people in Alabama are okay with the way things are.

I love my home state. It is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Generations of my ancestors farmed here, taught school here, ran businesses here and are buried in ancient, shaded cemeteries here. All of my precious childhood memories are of the dirt roads, creeks, cotton and hay fields and pine trees of Alabama.

My childhood homes are gone. The high school I attended burned, as did the church where I got married. A tornado decimated the pecan orchard where my grandmother used to earn all her Christmas money. The things that tie me to this hot, backward state are not existing places, but the combination of memory and belonging that makes me who I am. I have never completely fit in here, but this place is part of me, nonetheless.

I am trying to understand my neighbors. I know they love this state, too. But how can they not want better for it? How can they be content with our underfunded, unequal, under performing system of public education? How can they be okay with politicians who claim to support blatantly unconstitutional establishment of religion? How can they believe that poverty, ignorance, and inequality is what God wants for us?

At times like this, I am grateful for the energy and faith of those who don’t get discouraged. They are young and old men and women of all races, who simply keep going. They don’t allow themselves to feel that nothing they do matters. That is not an option; they know it matters. They continue to teach, minister, volunteer, march, help, write, and plan for next time. I am thankful for them, with their heads unbowed and hearts strong.

I want to be like them.

Inspiration · Life · Society

Giving Grace

A few months ago, I watched my niece moderating as her young sons played a game. They were doing the usual banter kids do in competition: calling each other out on the rules, watching to make sure the other didn’t gain some advantage in a way that was not “fair,” often with the admonition, “You can’t do that!” And finally, “Mom!”

She intervened gently, saying, “Why don’t you give him grace for that? Remember, he gave you grace before on that other turn?”

I could tell that this is something they had talked about before. Both boys understood “grace” as part of their family dynamic. Sometimes you give it and sometimes it is given to you. It keeps the peace and keeps the game going.

I have thought about this often in the context of our adult relationships. There is power in the ability to give grace. Most of the time, it costs nothing, sometimes, it costs a lot. Sometimes it is easy to give, done almost without a second thought. Other times,it is very hard, and we wonder if our grace is being taken advantage of. It takes effort, and trust, and something like love to give grace with no expectation that it will be returned, or with the certain knowledge that it will not.
Continue reading “Giving Grace”

Politics · Society

Sick and Numb

Reading the headlines and the tweets, it is clear the search is on for a reason why this particular guy planned and carried out a mass murder with guns. Same as always.

Was it his religion? His race? His mental health? A grudge? Was he just a bad guy with a history of violence or run-ins with the police? Nope. Oh, wait. His father was a bad guy.

What a stretch. A contortion to explain away the most recent horror, and make it about the man and not the guns. He’s a lone wolf, you know. An aberration.

Except he’s not. He joins a very long list of people who have used guns to commit mass murder of strangers. There is no useful profile of these murderers. All we can know is at some point, they came into possession of one or more guns that can kill a lot of people quickly, and the ammunition to do so. And they made a plan and carried it out.

We also know that no amount of locked doors, metal detectors, security personnel, school resource officers, or space and distance can keep the innocent safe from such a murderer with the right weapon. He can drive long distances across state lines to kill, or he can walk down the street to the local elementary school or church. He can kill on a military base, or from a tall building, or in his workplace, or a shopping mall.

Our elected representatives are powerless to keep us safe from gun violence. If they advocate for any laws whatsoever regulating guns, they will lose their seats to someone funded by the NRA. Gun stocks rise after a mass murder because speculators know that the NRA will attempt to raise fears that this time, Congress might do something, triggering a spike in gun and ammunition sales.

This is how we choose to live. Recently my city was forced to hire a police officer to monitor the entrance to the public library. This is because the city posted a sign that notified patrons that no firearms are allowed on the premises. Our state legislators insisted that the open carry law allowed open carry in all public spaces, even libraries, unless entrance to the space was restricted at all times. So, in order to keep guns out of our public library, where people are reading books and working on computers and children are listening to story hour, our city has to hire an armed police officer. Because the state of Alabama insists.

I saw an armed man when I was buying a new muffin tin in Bed, Bath and Beyond the other day.  My brother who just retired from a long career in law enforcement, has taught me to check how a person secures his openly carried weapon. A loaded, unholstered gun carried in a pocket, or a purse, or stuck in a waistband is a danger to the owner and all those around him. In my opinion, a person who takes his gun out and waves it around for show, as our Republican nominee for United States Senate, Roy Moore, did at a recent campaign rally, is a danger to all those around him.  Some people do not have the training necessary to safely carry guns in public. But our elected leaders are afraid to even mandate training.

Congress just announced that they will be looking at a bill to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. That seems completely unrelated to the massacre in Las Vegas but it is not. It is a message. “We are so very sorry about all the dead and wounded in Las Vegas, and our legislative priority right now is … preventing abortions.” In other words, don’t worry, NRA.

This is how we choose to live. There is no “common sense” solution anymore. After Sandy Hook, where the murderer shot each of the six and seven year olds three to eleven times at close range, nothing changed. If we are powerless in the face of that horror to make even the smallest changes to protect innocent lives from gun violence, then this is who we are.


Inspiration · Society · Writing

Project: Letters to my heroes

I have many heroes, and reading their writings, or speaking with them, or seeing them interviewed has been very important to me, especially since the election.

It occurred to me recently that it is important to tell people that their good work means something to me, specifically. Some of my heroes have gained recognition for their work, some have not. Either way, I want to let them know that they inspire me and lift me up.

So, I am starting a project to write a letter every day or so to a hero who has inspired me to do better, to give more, and to keeping fighting for a better world.

My first letter went to Jimmy Carter. He has been a hero of mine for a long time. I cast my first vote for President for him in 1976, in an old fashioned lever-pull voting machine in a country store in Red Hill, Alabama.

I am not going to publish my letters, but I will keep a list on this blog of who I write.



Politics · Society

The Fight

Apparently, the allotted time for shock, sadness, mourning, anger and fear has expired and my Facebook timeline is starting to fill with “likes” and “shares” of assorted Trump-supporting asshats who are eager to explain to all us elitists why Hillary lost and why we should get over it.

Well, the strangest thing happened while I was debating whether to unfriend or just block the gloaters. I got Over It.

I don’t mean I’m not still deeply pissed off, worried, and aghast at what America has done. But I’m not wasting another single minute of my time reading about what percentage of what demographic in what state went for Hillary or Trump and why. The freaking Ku Klux Klan spread fliers around neighborhoods near me on election night. The KKK. In Birmingham, Alabama. In 2016. The most evil hate groups feel emboldened by the election of this unqualified, narcissistic, sexually deviant braggart. This is not the way I thought my country would be at this point in my life. I thought the battle for basic human rights for all people would be over. I thought constitutional rights won at the Supreme Court level would stay won. When I was twelve years old, I saw a man walk on the moon, sent there and brought home again by brilliant men and women using slide rules. I thought by the time my children were grown, we would, at the very least, have figured out how to get clean drinking water to children all over the world, but we can’t even do it for America.

I just read a headline on Twitter, and it grabbed my attention. I haven’t even read the article, because the headline alone was inspiration enough. It said, “Welcome to the Fight.”

If I offend you with what I am about to say, and you feel you can’t talk to me, that would make me sad. But this needs to be said: please do not quote Franklin Graham or Mike Huckabee or James Dobson or other privileged, politically connected and influential white Christian men to me.  They are hypocrites. Yes, exactly the kind Jesus cautioned us not to be. They are “seen by men.” They hold influence and power, and they have their reward. I don’t want to hear from them about Jesus’ plan for this country. They excused horrible speech and actions so that their tribe could win the election. Now they want to tell us that this was God’s will?  Nope. I’m not listening to that rubbish.

What I am doing is joining the fight. I will stand with all whose freedoms are threatened by Donald Trump and the GOP. I will stand with women, the disabled, people of color, people of ALL religions, athiests, agnostics, LGBTQIA people, indigenous people, undocumented people, children, artists, prisoners, the homeless, care-givers, teachers and all who are marginalized and treated as “lesser than” by the patriarchy.

To those of you who were just elected to office here in Hoover, Alabama, your actions in the first council meeting made me wary, but I will stand with you. I will have your back while you do the right thing. I will go through fire with you to recognize and serve those who are most in need in our city. I will push you toward transparency, because I understand transparency is hard.

I will call out bs and anything that smells like bs. And I will shout the word of your successes from the hilltops.

I am joining the fight that I expect to last the rest of my life. It is the fight to do whatever I can to bring peace, create greater equality, ease suffering, and leave a livable world for the next generations.

Bigotry, authoritarianism, oppression, patriarchy, you’re on notice. I. Am. Over. It. I am putting on the full armor of a pissed off woman warrior. There may be more tears in the future, in fact, it is very likely. But not today.

The pin is mightier than the sword.