Browsing the blog archives for September, 2012
This blog first appeared in Huffington Post September 20, 2012
Denigrate, disdain and disparage the 47% all you like Governor Romney. Among them are my American heroes. I invite you to meet some of these inspiring, iconic and irreplaceable members of the American family. Your humility and character will be tested as they invite you to withdraw those dismissive labels of “dependent” and “victim”.
I’m not easily outraged but your comments successfully turned my evening TV meal with Anderson Cooper into searing outrage. A few weeks ago I was impressed by the testimonials at your nominating convention describing you as a kind, generous man with compassion for those in need or trouble. Even though I do not share many of your views I thought kindly of you, Mrs. Romney and your family. The video chat about the 47% made me wonder if this was the same Mitt. The compassion void was incomprehensible.
I’m outraged because for almost thirty years I have worked with people who are in your 47%. I’ve led initiatives to improve their lives and participation in the American Dream.
Many are people on the edge trying to survive, hoping and working for a better future – of course there are always a few who abuse any system –but the overwhelming majority are not “victims “. Who would want to be –how does it feel to not have a job or earn enough to do want you want for your kids, or worry about how to survive on Social Security, unless you have a family that gives you a home or start in life which is where much financial stability comes from.
The homeless I’ve worked with for 20 plus year, the Vietnam Vets with HIV, the single mothers putting their kids in day care because they don’t have grandparents who can care for the kids, the grandmother raising her grandkids and working three jobs to do it they are my heroes! I’ll stick by their side any day and count it and the as a privilege and blessing.
Governor, none of these people view themselves as a victim. They choose not to be. They do not have time to be victims. They are too busy trying to survive day to day never mind paycheck to paycheck. They have pride, joy, accomplishment, satisfaction just as you and those in the 1% do.
I came to the United States as an immigrant thirty-two years. The promise of America for us immigrants is way better than this. The American people are not like this, dishing people. I used to think that the once famously more moderate Romney might reappear if he was elected. Now I fear that you are capable of tearing apart our shared humanity by seeing some of us Americans as less than fully human.
As a partnered gay man I now understand that you have cast a wider net of exclusion than that revealed by your demeaning rejection of LGBT people. Your disdain, dislike and disparagement now embraces 47% of the American people – mostly the elderly, those on disability, retired veterans and the working poor who earn too little to pay taxes even while paying payroll taxes.
How about celebrating the people on social security who struggle to survive but who have worked hard with dignity, or the family that is receiving benefits because their child is terminally ill with no family to bail them out, or the disabled veterans who we sent to war and who employers refuse to hire.
The America I chose to become a citizen of and the America I love does not cast people aside or consign them to the rubbish dump of human history. We are better than this! I’m hoping you are too Governor.
I invite your comments below!
I came to the USA in search of freedom and in admiration of a country whose foreign policy in 1980 was viewed through the lens of advancing human rights. When voters in Washington State approve Referendum 74 this November giving lesbian and gay couples the freedom to marry, the moral and spiritual arc of the Universe will once again bend towards inclusion. New light will be shed on what human rights and freedom.
My husband and I have a vantage point of living both in Seattle and on a farm in rural Eastern Washington. Three years ago when we made that decision many Seattle friends worried what it would be like for us to be in what they labeled “Redneck country.” Surely, they said, it would be difficult to live outside the progressive liberal bubble of Seattle.
Yes there are differences between these two parts of the State. But our Eastern WA circle of acquaintances which includes farmers, cowboys and ropers as well as people in the wine industry, never makes us question our full inclusion as a couple.
Some whom we know will be voting for the Romney-Ryan ticket and to approve the referendum that will permit the legislation allowing same gender couples to marry to become the law of the State. While I cannot understand how someone can vote for a Presidential ticket so adamantly opposed to LGBT people as they vote to approve R-74, I have come to appreciate a factor that is at work for such people. In their eyes R-74 is about upholding the intrinsic values of freedom. For many of those, freedom to marry is colored by the loving relationships of gay and lesbian couples they personally know.
The latest tracking polls reveal that there is a statistical dead heat among voters in Eastern WA about approving or rejecting this November’s ballot initiative. To many in the Seattle area this is staggeringly good news about a part of the State that they had written off with dismissive labels.
Some religious leaders, including the notoriously homophobic Ken Hutcherson of Antioch Baptist Church in Kirkland WA, are promising to launch a new petition drive to overturn the law if the voters approve referendum 74. The organization Preserve Marriage Washington is actively recruiting conservative pastors with advice on how churches can avoid an IRS audit for financially supporting the defeat of the initiative.
Joining these groups, the State’s Roman Catholic Bishops opine that approval of freedom to marry is an assault on religious liberty. This, in spite of the fact that the legislation in question makes explicit exemptions for religious organizations retaining the existing conscience clause to choose whom to marry or not. In defiance of Seattle’s Archbishop, his own Cathedral and two parishes have refused to distribute materials from the Archdiocese urging rejection of the referendum.
I think of the couples whose unions I have blessed since the 1990’s and their joy in having their love and partnership receive a sacred blessing. I suspect most of them yearn for the day in which a second-class status gives way to the freedom to choose marriage. They, like my spouse and I, have no desire to deprive or infringe on the freedom of others when we know too well the costs of the journey to freedom.
Tiers of freedom in which some are relegated to a lesser status is no freedom at all. Alongside the great movements to end slavery, extend the vote to women and the successful struggle over Civil Rights, freedom to marry expands what it means to be part of the human family.
The radiant promise of freedom and human rights that drew me to the United States in 1980 will become brighter when the voters of Washington State affirm that freedom affirms the freedom to marry. It will be a celebration of the moral and spiritual arc that always bends toward inclusion!
I invite you to post your comments below!
Cultivating one’s voice addressed in your Sunday Wake Up for Life, means cultivating your sense of ego, specfically “to find one’s voice, one has to feel they will be listened to, and all it takes is one other person who does. If they won’t perhaps the next person you try will. It also means that we offer ourselves as listeners-to extend to our fellow men and women, the courtesy of attention and encouragement. If they perhaps do not speak of what you are interested in, extend the courtesy any way. You never know but that might offer you a hint to them or yourself, of what makes interesting or stimulating conversation. If not, you can always tactfully end the conversation in many ways. Remember the twords of the “Desidrtata” “.listen to others,.even the dull and the ignorant, they
too have their stories” Patricia
This blog first appeared on Huffington Post September 10, 2012
In the polite City of Portland, Oregon, it was impossible not to eavesdrop on the animated conversation at the table next to me. The first grenade among these friends discussing the Ryan budget was “You are an ass***e” quickly followed by, “No, you are an idiot.” Surely we can do better than this in? Our lives and future are at stake.
As the name calling intensified at the table next to me these business professionals were unable to navigate and discuss the deeply held Democratic and Republican positions that they each supported. I thought of the wisdom Desmond Tutu learned from his father, “Don’t raise your voice. Improve your argument.” Wisdom that my fellow diners and our country would do well to imbibe.
Labels of Despair? When we label someone we do two things. We exert control over another person and assume our own superiority and power. We also dismiss or relegate the person being labeled to a status that is less fully human than our own. It is a combustible mix. The need to label typically emerges from our own insecurity, despair about our situation or a perceived threat from another.
There is no shortage of despair among millions of Americans who are unemployed and apparently unemployable. But the friends at the table next to me were, judging from their comments, successful business people fully employed. Their labels of despair revealed the paucity of their arguments. Vibrant healthy discussions of ideas and policies are only possible when they replace labels of despair.
Silo Friends? As they continued to lob verbal grenades that were no match for the artful meals in front of them one declared, “I just don’t know if you can be my friend anymore.” The comment brought home the truth of the studies that reveal an increasing polarization among Americans. It is a lackluster way of being human to turn inward by choosing to have Red or Blue, FOX or MSNBC silo friends.
With silo friends we declare retreat from engaging with the world. It may serve to bolster the desire conflict avoidance but it also proclaims that we do not need one another in all of our differences. Instead it is possible to lower our voices and engage in the stories and experiences that lead us to positions on the budget, the freedom to marry, freedom of choice and immigration. It’s in the stories that we our common humanity is revealed because stories are authentic expressions of our humanness. It is that common humanity and citizenship that political policies enhance or detract from.
Parallel Universes? I wasn’t sure if the spicy food or dismissals would cause heartburn for those at the table next to me. When one declared yet again, “You are an idiot” it was rejoined with, “No, you are a f…ing idiot.” I wondered what parallel universes these supposed friends inhabit. Their apparent business successes revealed a strikingly different lack of willingness to find common ground and dignify difference.
The significant policy differences and visions for the United States laid out by the two Presidential tickets invites robust conversation. The unwillingness to honor a position with which you disagree is creating parallel universes instead of dismissiveness for many. That serves only those who would not like the full impact of their policies fully revealed. If the political goal is to limit the term and effectiveness of a President or elected official by creating and selling the notion of parallel universe’s we are in for sustained stasis and conflict. Such a churlish reality is not predestined if we make choices to not indulge it and expect real discussion of what it means to be Americans. The hallmarks of our generosity and democracy are at stake.
Happiness or Pain Virus? Those at the table next to me left the restaurant angry and fuming at one another. I wondered how their inability to have real conversation reflected on the collective pursuit of happiness as a national pastime collided with the pain and worry about the future that is on the minds of so many Americans. A pain and worry that we seem determined not to name, or at least not too often or publicly.
Boomers have a propensity for seeking happiness while Generations X and Y more freely acknowledge the realities of pain and worry and how that connects with happiness. Our American resilience and ingenuity is best served when those factors are addressed, not through the politics of disingenuous avoidance of them, but with compassionate respect. Those around me were resolute in their avoidance about what the competing experiences of pain, happiness and worry present as opportunities. Authenticity invites solutions which spark human hope. It is not too late for us to expect and demand that in this political season.
As those at the table next ot me got up to leave my relief at the prospect of enjoying the rest of my meal was put on hold as one of them said, “You know I can’t imagine how we can still be friends.” It’s time for us to imagine a friendship rooted in difference, respect and a oneness that we will keep reminding people of or a further tearing apart of our shared humanity. The “A…hole” politics and language diminishes all. It’s up to us to model something different that builds up.
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