Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

conspiracies (and what we don’t agree with) ~

I saw a post on Facebook that said we all will have computer chips inserted under our skin if Obama isre-elected. Riiiiight….Right up there with the allegedly secret Muslim wedding ring he wears, and the death panels, and the liberal belief that Goldman Sachs intentionally created the bank debacle. Not to mention Obama gives cell phones away, and Tagg Romney is going to steal the election via his voting machine…

Where do these conspiracy theories come from? Who starts them? More importantly, why do we believe them? What is it that appeals to us in these impossible scenarios?

I have no answers… All I have is a dumb-founded, raised-eyebrow-look in response…:) But I know that  right & left alike, we believe far too often in what we fear, and not what the facts show. And yes, you CAN find out (for the most part) ‘what really happened.’ In this day of the Internet, you can find ‘truth.’ It just takes time, and wanting to.

My sister’s friend refuses to believe anything not verified on Fox News. I have other friends who swear by Huffington Post. An interesting exercise: read each website’s headlines for stories covering the same event. Both will show bias. These days, w/ American corporate media (six businesses own 900%  of American media), you have to WORK to get ‘fair’ news coverage: Reuters, the foreign press, a few ‘old-fashioned’ papers that still believe the reader needs only the facts…. This is one way.

What irks me most, I guess, is that when a news media does lack bias, or publishes legitimate (but unflattering) news, it’s seen as ‘unfair coverage.’ As if simply being of your  same political, or religious, or corporate ‘club’ should somehow render your candidate/ religious head/ corporate leader immune to critique.

This is still a free country. With a wonderful history of free press. AND democracy. Both of which used to ensure that news coverage was rational and balanced.

Today? Not so much… And the very men & women who should be reining us in egg us on.

I suppose this is by way of a small rant. Because really: it’s not bias if the news covers your personal favourite whomever screwing up. It’s news. And if your news channel doesn’t cover it, but you hear of it from others, LOOK IT UP. As I told many semesters of research students: VECTOR it – look at different sources on the topic/ event, and their agendas.

I believe in research. I believe in science. And I believe in the resourcefulness of intelligent debate. Yes, I know each of them can be compromised. But I also know that in today’s world of Google & the Internet & 24-hour news, you have to WANT to believe falsehoods. For instance: I don’t know lots about statistics. But if you criticise a poll you don’t like for its forecast, I want you to show me how the stats from that poll are wrong. I want you to know enough about math and statistics and demographic polling to help me understand why it’s incorrect. I do NOT want you to just tell me it’s a conspiracy.

Because here’s the deal: the MINUTE you utter that word, whisper it under your breath with its breathy sibilance (conspiracy), you’ve lost me. You’ve also lost any credibility in the discussion, whether you know it or not. Which means we won’t talk any further — even if you continue to think we are. Because I will have stopped listening…

 

naked hearts & sticks & stones ~

I am as tired of this election as anything in a long time. My heart is battered, bruised, held  together some days with tape and string. Even my ears hurt…

What happened to truth? And to the civil discourse that accompanies its pursuit? My training is in research as well as writing, so when I read things that don’t sound right, I look them up. It’s pretty easy to do these days — doesn’t require days in the dusty library stacks, as it used to. :)

But when I’ve found (& vectored) credible sources refuting the latest conspiracy theory (and liberals have them too, my leftist friends…), that’s when things can get ugly. I don’t mind that people have dropped me from their FaceBook feeds (well, sometimes I do, but I understand). It’s hard to see criticism of someone you admire as objective. We far too often conflate political rhetoric’s fallout with real bias.

So if I criticise Romney, I can understand if you might think I’m anti-Mormon. And that a complaint about Obama might be taken as racist. When neither of those (or both) might be true of critics of both candidates.

When did that happen? When did we lose the capacity to sit down at a table, over sweet tea & fixings, and really talk? I have friends with whom I disagree politically. I don’t see them as racist, or narrow-minded. I feel their religious views differ from mine, and I respect that. They respect me, in return. We don’t spend a lot of time discussing politics; it’s pointless, really. But when we do, we agree: sticks & stones HURT.

I don’t have answers. Once again, I only have questions. I’m not unfriending anyone, although I confess to muting a couple of folks who are given to vicious racism &  (verifiable) lies. Still, even those people have redeeming qualities. And I hope that, eventually, political elephants & donkeys (like lambs & lions) can get along. I’m not holding my breath, but I’ve also not given up hope… :)

listening to incense ~

Sometimes when you’re stressed, what you need to do is two simple (and at least partly practical) things: light a stick of good incense, and clean out a drawer.

Seriously, it’s that simple. I don’t remember where I heard the term ‘listening to incense,’ but it’s stayed with me. Because that’s what I do: my brain goes still, and I canhear the smoke soothing my fractious nerves. It doesn’t matter what started it. The incense’s calming tone sets it to right.

Couple that with the satisfaction of creating order from chaos, and it’s a powerful combination. Puts me squarely in the moment, and lets me (literally!) pitch clutter.

Just try it ~ you’ll be amazed. :)

 

of bullies, and victims, and what the rest of us can do ~

Bullying… It affects all of us — the bullies, their victims, and those of us who see it happen. Culture tends to frame it as an axis: bullies on one side, victims on the other. It’s not that simple.

Amanda Todd might still be here if someone had stood up for her. Stood up to her bullies. Put their arms around her and told her it would go away. There is a heart-wrenching still of her, holding up a note that says: I have nobody. I need someone. Instead, she voted with her life.

There are Christians who would have you believe that the anti-bullying movement has been co-opted by gay recruiters. This makes me sad and angry on so many levels. It’s so not the Jesus I grew up reading. It’s not my mother’s, or my grandmother’s, or my sister’s, or my father-the-deathbed-Christian’s religion… That’s deeply saddening…

And yes, one (possibly gay) anti-bullying activist came unglued at a meeting. And yelled at Christian kids. Not excusable to yell at kids, certainly. But let’s talk about the PTSD my gay friends (particularly the males)  struggle with. Let’s talk about ‘threat of injury or death’ for gay males, in the wake of Matthew Shephard‘s murder. Having done significant research on PTSD, it’s not always ‘controllable.’ That’s part of the definition. And let’s talk about how religion is too often a bludgeon used against gays.

Then let’s discuss gay ‘recruitment.’ As the aunt of a lovely lesbian, the friend & colleague of MANY gay men & women, I don’t know of ONE who wants to ‘recruit’ anyone to be bullied, hated, condemned, and denied entrance to many Christian faiths. I have a dear friend who can’t attend the church of his childhood because he’s gay. He’s a devout Christian, but struggles to find a church at home w/ both his personal life and his spiritual one. Who on earth, looking objectively at what gays in this culture endure in the way of discrimination and intolerance, can really believe in gay ‘recruitment’…? It defies reason, but then hatred & fear often do…

As I’ve written elsewhere, I find it incredible that Christian ‘family’ organisations are telling followers that the anti-bullying movement is homosexual activism. Amanda Todd wasn’t gay. Nor was the young Pentecostal girl I had to walk to school with in 8th grade to keep from being taunted. Nor were the black cleaning ladies who stood on my corner for the bus, and had to hear the taunts of the white teenage boys driving by in expensive cars.

These are real stories, and I acknowledge their anecdotal nature. But they happened, and I’m not naïve enough to believe I’m the only one with these experiences.

The young woman in my neighbourhood wore the long hair and traditional long skirts of many Pentecostal women. This made her fair game, apparently, for the bullies (male & female) at our middle school. She wasn’t my close friend, but I couldn’t stand by & do nothing. So we walked to & from school together. For weeks. Until the bullies moved on.

Same with the women on my street corner, tired from a long day of cleaning South Tulsa houses, waiting for the bus to take them to their own homes, all the way across town. Easy targets for bored white boys. I couldn’t do anything about the ones in cars, but the one who walked by? I could (and did) go after him w/ a broom. And beat the bully out of him. Skinny white girl whacking away with a broom, yelling.

And the same with the dear friend who for no good reason became the Amanda Todd of our middle school: targeted as a ‘slut’ without any support whatsoever. Supposedly the ‘prize’ of an 8th grade football party. No matter that a boy present DID stand up and say she wasn’t there. Rumour is stronger than fact, sometimes. I held her in a big hug, and together we sat apart from the girls who shunned her. The boys who jeered.

Every day somewhere in America a child contemplates suicide because of people like those in my middle school. Nice Christian kids, who probably go to Sunday School (these all did — mine).

So do not tell me that Christian kids are blameless. Some are, some aren’t.  I teach. And I’ve seen a LOT of Christian kids use their religion as an excuse to be incredibly rude (and that’s being polite) to gay kids, poor kids, black & brown kids. Note: that doesn’t actually address my question, which remains: why is an anti-bullying day seen as a ‘let’s all get gay’ recruitment? Because of a couple of gay anti-bully folks?

Considering how many churches see bullying as the face of their own homophobia, I am angrier at AFA than I can imagine. Bullying is NOT simply a gay thing. And the AFA is missing an important opportunity to reach out beyond liberal stereotypes of evangelicals. Don’t like gays? Your business. But do NOT use that as a reason to drop the ball on the horrific bullying of girls (‘slut’), blacks (‘nigger’), Latinos (‘wetback’), and others — rural, poor, single parent, etc.

There IS something we can do about bullying. We can stand against it in all its forms. And not (conveniently) forget its diversity.

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