This Bird Does It

Librarian ramblings


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Midsummer pause

There’s no real break in the action, and technically, it’s nowhere close to “mid” summer. Actually, we don’t even hit REAL summer for another week or so. But it feels like school has been out forever and this is the first moment there has been to sit down and reflect.

I still can’t give you much about my job. With 10 days to go, I’ve been invited to apply for the job I already hold (though on a part time basis now), with a description I practically wrote, and that literally NOBODY else given the posting will be interested in. I’m rather hopeful about my chances.

Besides the insanely long and drawn out process of figuring out what will happen with Hamma Library and my job, other things are going on in the world. So many other things. My little corner of chaos is so insignificant. I am so saddened by the continued deep divisions in our world. Our country continues to dig deeper into our polarized habits. We constantly discount the experiences and opinions of anyone we disagree with, often without even thinking about what the person is actually saying. You voted for Trump? You must be a racist, rich, conservative with no empathy for your fellow man. What? You’re upset by what Trump’s tweets? You have GOT to be some kind of bleeding heart liberal snowflake. End of conversation.

Like, really, END OF CONVERSATION. Anything said afterwards is just platitudes if we’re lucky, and more likely vitriol. We are so ruled by social media. I heard someone describe how we get information today as “through a fire hose.” So very true. It’s so much faster and with way more force than we could ever actually absorb. Then, because we cannot accept the input in that form, we pick and choose what to accept according to the dreaded “confirmation bias.” It’s a real thing. A real, really powerful thing. Anyone who tells you they have NO bias should terrify you.

I don’t know what the answer is. I keep researching more about how our brains work, how we are unable to avoid bias etc. I’m unable to find a way to gather news myself that doesn’t leave me even more terrified about our future. Yeah, there’s no doubt that I land on the liberal side of the spectrum, but I’m nowhere near the most liberal person you know. I know some folks who are about as far from center on the conservative side and they seem so very rational. So ready to get things done. Why is it then, that the only thing we hear from politicians is the extreme? Nothing is ever going to get done this way. EVER. If you listen to the Republicans, then the Democrats are just blocking progress. If you listen to the Democrats, than the Republicans are turning back the clock. In the meanwhile the “forgotten folks” is becoming a larger and larger class. I’m feeling pretty damn forgotten today. I hope we can rally the troops like those “forgotten folks” of 2016.

Nothing I’ve said can’t be found on the Internet in a million other places. There are hundreds of thousands of other Americans who feel this way. Why are we only whispering on the Internet? Probably because we’re the folks who don’t want to argue with our neighbors on Facebook. We aren’t willing to be labeled in anyway for our social media usage. (Okay, if you actually follow me, you probably would label me, and I can live with that.) We’re going to have to speak up, or the polarization is going to get worse, not better.

My children know. They know that there are these incredibly split sides. They obviously parrot a lot of what they hear their dad and I say, but they do think on their own. They ask questions that make me proud. I pray every single night that they never lose that! When did the rest of us lose that? When did we pick a side and just go with it? These aren’t sports teams, folks. Undying loyalty is extremely dangerous.

So, that’s what I’ve been thinking about. Not exactly earth shattering, as I’m sure there are thousands of us thinking the same things these days. We are all dealing with it in different ways. Some have become unexpected activists, making phone calls and rallying their friends. Some have completely tuned out, just ignoring the news and avoiding any Facebook post with a political bent. But there are some of us who are listening, but doing very little. I feel a bit like a watched pot. I’ll still boil, and the boil IS coming, but it’s just gonna seem like forever before the bubbles roll.

PhotoGrid_1497659563228Meanwhile, summer rolls on. I take a child to work most days, the other two stay home and do chores and watch many hours of TV. I sit outside until dusk, then hurry everyone to bed before it’s obscenely late. I worry about school supply lists and summer bridge homework. We grill. Man, I love to grill. I’m a privileged member of a privileged society. So, there’s that, too. It’s a good life full of blessings, but I want to find more, not less, ways to spread those blessings around.

And any free time I find, I read about Lutheran theologians. You know, because who isn’t fascinated by these old, dead, white guys?¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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And lastly, I don’t want to close without acknowledging my friends in the LGBTQ+ community. I stand with you, friends. It’s Pride Week and I hope you feel celebrated! I’m still sad that such a celebration is even necessary and I look forward when being LGBTQ+ is just shrugged off like being a redhead, or a left hander. Different, but not so much. Just a different spot on the spectrum of human, of Child of God! My siblings in Christ, I love you, I see you, and I’m proud to be your ally.

 

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A letter to the other Trump supporters

Let me just tell you a few things I’m NOT saying. I’m NOT saying that everyone who voted for Trump is a racist, sexist, xenophobe, homophobe, or any other kind of phobe/ist (though, many of you are saying you aren’t and just saying it doesn’t make it so). I’m NOT saying that everyone who voted for Trump is a threat to the safety of any American. I’m NOT saying that Hillary was my first choice for president. If you continue reading and you come away believing I’ve said any of that, you are simply wrong and you have not really listened.

That said, there are a few things I want to say that I’m not seeing in the social media conversation. First, I want to validate the fear of my LGBTQ+ friends, parents raising LGBTQ+ kids, minority friends, parents of minorities, and anyone else who feels afraid today. We aren’t afraid of all the Trump supporters. That’s ridiculous. If you aren’t a threat, you don’t need to say it every time someone posts their fear. If you feel the need to show that you aren’t a threat, GREAT. One simple thing you can do to show it is to wear a safety pin. If you don’t know what I’m talking about with the safety pin, here’s some resources from Huffington Post and The New York Daily News.

So what are we afraid of? That tiny percentage of Americans who are simply horrible. We’re afraid of a tiny percentage who think that Donald Trump’s words (and words ARE important) about Muslims, gays, special needs people, women, and immigrants were not just okay, but great. There are Americans who think it’s not just okay to beat up that effeminate middle schooler, but needs to be done. There are Americans who think that those who have less muscular control of their arms or legs should be made fun of. There are Americans who have long wanted to be able to openly call out those with different ethnic backgrounds in their neighborhoods and schools, to harass them until they feel unsafe and leave, to run them off. If my description of these Americans disgusts you, than you might not be one of them. Chances are NONE of you reading this is one of them. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Not only do they exist, but they have been empowered, emboldened, and ENDORSED. It may not have been your intention when you voted for him, but it is the result nonetheless.

So all those people who feel fear are absolutely justified in feeling that fear. If you still disagree with me about that one fact, you are probably one of the few still denying that white privilege exists, and frankly, I’m not sure that our discussion can go much further. We’re speaking different languages and since that is such a basic tenet of my beliefs about this country,  I’m hard pressed to find common ground. We can certainly disagree about how much of a problem it is, how to fix it, even how it came about, but surely you can agree that it exists.

There are dozens of reports today, and over the last few days, about why that fear is justified. There are middle schoolers chanting hateful things at ethnic minorities, graffiti with obvious hate messages, people beat up for appearing to belong to the LGBTQ+ community, women harassed on public transportation. Is there an actual increase in these incidents, or is it just being reported on more often? I don’t know, and really it doesn’t matter. It’s happening. The fear IS justified.

I’m not going to hash out the issues that made me choose to vote for Clinton over Trump. It doesn’t matter. I’m going to assume that most of you who voted for Trump made your decision carefully, perhaps prayerfully, and simply chose different legitimate priorities. Clearly we disagree, but Trump has won the election fair and square, so we have to move from there. I consider America’s endorsement of Trump to be a challenge, and I am up to it. I have the beginnings of a plan. Would you like to know what it is? I  bet we can find common ground there.

wp-1478965011446.jpgFirst, I’m going to show all the love I can. On Wednesday morning, when my children were sad and disappointed, I instructed each one of them to dig deep within themselves and find all the extra kindness and love they could muster and show it to everyone they came across. I want us all to double our efforts in that area every single day. If hate and fear have been endorsed and even ONE person feels more comfortable spreading that, than I want to be part of those who will smother that hate everywhere it springs up. The news will cover the hate faster than the love, so we’ll have to patient and steady and back each other up with that love, but I want to be part of that movement. I’ll wear a safety pin every day as an outward sign. I will continue to teach my children that this is the most important thing they can do, and that God demands it of us.

 

Second, I will try to hear the rest of you. You Trump supporters who are angry at the liberal reaction to this election, if you can express your feelings without anger, I want to hear why you chose him. I will try to squash my own confirmation bias and read even-handed pieces from reliable, authoritative, non-biased sources about the issues you find most important. I have several articles in the queue already, and Hillbilly Elegy is already ordered and on its way to me. I will engage in rational discussion with anyone who is willing about which issues should be most important, how they should be handled, and what the consequences might be of those solutions.

Lastly, I will not endorse or be part of protests that involve shouting “Not my president.” I will not threaten to move to Canada. I will not feed the hatred of “the other side.” I will give Trump the respect of the office he was legitimately elected to. I will likely disagree with MANY of the decisions he will make as president, but I will find productive ways to express that. I will maintain my faith in the democratic system, and work harder within it to effect the change I believe in.

 

 

 


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#FightTheNegative, a campaign of positive

I’m still fighting the urge to rant. Here’s my non-rant for today:

I fight my judgemental tendencies every single day. If I see you in the grocery wearing pajama pants and flip flops when it’s 35 degrees and rainy, I do think, “What gives? Have you no pride. You don’t have sense to put closed toe shoes in this weather?” Then my brain snaps back, and I remember that it’s none of my concern if you choose to wear flip flops in November. I have no idea what’s going on at your house, and frankly, it’s none of my concern.

Most of the time I’m winning the battle. Most of the time, I have no problem remembering that everyone is fighting their own battles and just like me, they’re probably doing the best they can. I don’t jump to the conclusion that you’re a terrible mother when I see you doing the opposite of what I’d do. I don’t assume you don’t care about the environment if you’re using plastic bags. Most of the time I am able to remind my overly critical self that I’m not in any position to judge! I’m not getting any parenting awards, I’ve been to the store twice this week when I should have showered first.

But here’s the thing, see, sometimes you ASK me to judge you. Yeah. Sometimes you put something out there, or actually a lot of things, that you know you want me to use when forming an opinion of you. I’m talking about social media, of course. I’m NOT talking about that one picture of Bernie Sanders you posted last week. I’m not talking about that one FoxNews clip you reposted this morning. I’m not talking about how you changed your profile pic to a French flag. I’m AM talking about all of it. When you repost three, four, ten, twenty memes a day, and all of them are extreme, on either side, you are BEGGING me to judge you.

The problem is that whether you are convinced that George W. created ISIS, or Obama did, whether you think we should deport every muslim in the country or bring every Syrian refugee to our shores, if you are so adamant about your position that you need to post so often and so hateful, I GET to judge you. I HAVE to! Humans can’t really help it. Our brains are wired to put things into categories.

So, will your social media audience put you in the category of “lover” or the category of “hater?” Choose your political beliefs however you like, I’ll keep working on withholding my judgement on all of that. But when you express them, be careful.

This week has been brutal on social media! I have never experienced this level of hate and anger and fear, and I’ve been on social media since the early days of website message boards. This is different. And very concerning. I won’t rail against it, or try to tell anyone why they’re wrong. Instead, I’m launching my own campaign against it. Yesterday I pledged on Facebook to post one REALLY positive post every day. It might be original , or it might be a repost, but I will put as many positive things out there as I can.

So far the response has been lovely, but maybe because I made one other change. These positive posts will be public. And I’m a little overwhelmed by how far it’s spread. I want them to spread as far and wide as possible. Negatives spread farther and faster than anything positive, so it will take an army of positive posters. Repost mine, or make up your own, I don’t care, just spread some joy, or love, or happiness, or any other positive emotion you can dream up. Kittens, puppies, engagements, birth announcements, pretty cloud pictures, stories of people doing loving, accepting things. Any of it. Post it. Please. I need to see it!

Today, if you haven’t seen it, I reposted this story about a woman in an airport.  If it doesn’t make you smile, and maybe get a little teary, you should re-evaluate things.

 

 


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Prodigal Portman

Yeah, I know.  You thought I was just going to go on about my kids and what to make for dinner, maybe throw in a genealogy post every once in a while.  Nobody said I was going to start blathering on about religion or (gasp) social and political issues.  Well, I hadn’t meant to.  I didn’t start this thing to “get readers.”  I didn’t start it to gain a following.  I love interaction, especially on the internet, but I think of this as a sort of diary I leave lying out on the table.  You can read it if you want, and that gives me someone to “address” it to, but if nobody reads, that’s fine, too.  My kids will have something to look back on and see a record of sorts about what Mom was thinking when they were small.

But sometimes you have to tackle the tough stuff.  And when I tag this post, I’m sure it will be lumped into some piles with other ramblings and maybe folks will read it and be mad.  I hope so.  Get mad, and then lets talk about it.

If you’re my friend on Facebook the only thing you know for sure about my politics is that I believe strongly, and passionately, vehemently, even, that EVERYONE should have the same legal rights to the privileges and responsibilities of legal marriage.  If you need more background on me, know that I am pretty socially liberal in general, but also very fiscally conservative.  I’m Christian, Lutheran to be specific.  I think we all make our own American way, and the government should exist to keep us safe, protect our borders, provide some framework for education (only because it’s mandatory, and the more local the better), and to a limited extent, provide a safety net.  That’s pretty much it.  I mean, we can quibble about more, but that’s it in a nutshell.  So, now you know that.

We all woke up to Senator Rob Portman’s big announcement that appeared as an op-ed piece in the Columbus Dispatch.  While he was a co-sponsor of DOMA 17 years ago, today he has thought through his position “in a much deeper way.”  Awesome, I say!  Wonderful!  A member of the GOP, one who was seriously considered as vice presidential candidate, has come out and not just said, “My son is gay and I love him!” but “My son is gay and deserves everything I have.”

Immediately there were opinions all over the web.  This is the first one I saw, appearing in New York Magazine.  I was stunned at the judgement and unnecessary dismissal of Portman’s “deeper way” of thinking through his position.  Jonathon Chait said, near the end of his rant, “Support for gay marriage would be right even if he didn’t have a gay son. There’s little sign that any such reasoning has crossed his mind.”  What?  Did he miss the part early in Portman’s op-ed where he said that bit about the deeper thinking?  He didn’t say, “Oh, my son is gay and he needs to get married.”  Two years ago he found that his son was gay and since then he has thought about it in that “deeper way” whatever that means.  Well, what does it mean?  For anyone to say it means he only feels it because it affects him is to only see half of it.  It’s as selfish as it is accusatory of selfishness.

I’ll tell you what that “deeper way” is.  It’s prayerful.  It’s religious.  It’s about a man who had to go to his knees and tell God he was wrong.  I don’t know Senator Portman, but I believe he is what he claims to be, a Christian.  A Methodist, I believe.  So, no man who calls himself a Christian and means it is going to put himself out there as reversing his opinion about anything without a great deal of prayerful consideration.  I’m going to go even further and say that he has likely been praying about his son since Will was born.  If the accusers out there today have anything right about the senator, it’s that he probably didn’t give any thought to whether gay marriage was right or wrong until he found himself the father of a gay man.  He went along with his party and their agenda without praying much about that.  It’s easy to feel right with all the folks surrounding you repeating what you already think you believe.  So, he only began this prayerful consideration after his son came out.  I don’t care.  He landed on the right side, and I’m glad to have him here.

So, he goes along for ages, just completely buying the United Methodist Church’s teaching that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,”  He goes forward all the time accepting the GOP’s platform which we all know is decidedly unfriendly to LGBTs.  Now he has a reason to question it.  A good reason.  His son.  His very own son is gay.  Soooooo, prayer.  That’s where we go, us prayerful folks.

You know, I didn’t always see things the way I do.  I once bought that whole “love the sinner, hate the sin” crap.  I was a kid, and it seemed to be enough.  So many people were spouting that, and it seemed to neatly tie up a moral dilemma.  Plus, I was just kid.  What the hell did I know?  But somewhere along the way, I realized I knew a LOT of gay people.  (Though, oddly, not too many openly bi or transgender.  Sorry, irrelevant side note.)  I knew gay people who were out.  I knew gay people who were so far in the closet they hadn’t admitted their sexuality to themselves.  I knew gay people who were clearly and frighteningly aware of their sexuality and still painfully locked in the closet.  Everyone who goes to college knows these people, right?  Or at least everyone who goes to college and spends time in the theatre.  I began to wonder what God wants for these “sinners.”

I knew that I was no more, and certainly no less, of a sinner than these friends who happen to be gay.  I knew that God forgave me all my sins, those having to do with sex (and yeah, there were a couple of those), and those having to do with desires unacted on, and even those having nothing whatsoever to do with this discussion.  So, God forgives them, too, right?  Sure.  But while I’m willing to stipulate that pre-marital sex, or promiscuous sex, or any sex not part of a loving and committed relationship (marriage, but by who’s definition?) is a sin, what difference do the details of that sin make if it’s forgiven?  Dirty is dirty, but clean is clean, no matter how dirty you were.  So, even if gay sex is (and I’m not saying it is) a sin, I never could get myself to wrap my head around the thought that God would want anyone to NEVER experience the closeness of a loving, two-person, intimate relationship.  I just can’t believe that God would say, you must push away anyone who you feel drawn to in that special way because it will likely lead to gay sex and that’s bad.

So for a while I figured that gay people were born gay and had sinful gay sex, or they were born gay and DIDN’T have sinful gay sex.  But that doesn’t wash, either, does it?  We’re talking about changing WHO someone is.  Oh, I am so botching this.  Here.  Read Matthew Vine’s transcript.  You can watch the video from his site, too, but the transcript reads better.  He says it so much better than I do.  And he sites the arguments against, scripture and all.  I urge you to read it, whatever your stance.  He is measured and calm, and real.  He explains calmly and respectfully why those arguments that amount to “the Bible says it” or “God says it” are just not valid.  Or AT LEAST not any more valid than the other side.

Now?  Now I’m an adult.  I have even more gay friends, but most of them are out today.  And I’m so glad.  I’m glad for them.  I’m glad for those who love them.  I’m glad for my kids.  Two such friends are Matt and Ray Lees.  They were featured in a New York Times piece in the summer of 2011 about gay couples and adoption.  They have adopted eight kids.  That’s right, you read that right.  EIGHT children.  EIGHT!  They are the parents I think of when I go to bed exhausted after looking after my three.  They had three adopted children and when they found out that the five siblings they’d been asked to take would be separated, they said, “Bring it on!”  They remodeled and added on to their house, over improving it way beyond the rest of the neighborhood.  They have SEVEN kids who are third grade and younger.  It is beyond me how they get through the day, but they do. And they like it. (Well, most of the time, I’m sure they have their moments, too.)  They can’t even adopt as a couple.  Ray has three, and Matt adopted the other five.  They have “custody agreements” but how does that work?  And both parents have to work to keep health insurance for everyone.

I don’t want to make their case.  I want to tell you about what they mean to me and my family.  I don’t get to hang out with them, like ever, between the eleven kids we have running in different directions, my school, their jobs, all of it.  But when I run into them on the school yard, or in the grocery, I find myself gabbing until I’m late for something or a kid is melting down.  I am drawn to them because they are such good people.  I am compelled to share kid stories or laundry crisis, or whatever.  I can feel their love.  I can feel how much they love each other.  I can see how much they love those kids.  I can see how much they love their friends, me included.  Surely their children feel it.  MY children feel it.  I do not believe that God does not work through these men.  I do not believe that those men are any more or less created in God’s image than I am.  I thank them because not only is it harder for them to get the laundry done and the meals made and all the other drudgery of family life, but they have to deal with all the obstacles put in place by those who would have you believe that God doesn’t want their family to exist.  The obstacles put in place by those who believe that God wants them, through laws, to make it more difficult for their family to exist.  Thanks, guys.

But, again, I’m off on something else I didn’t mean to talk about.  I’m not out to convince anyone to change their mind about the sinfulness of gayness, gay sex, gay families, whatever.  I want to convince everybody to let up on Rob Portman.  He has a gay son, so that made him rethink his assumptions and his acceptance of what the groups he belongs to teach.  Should he have questioned them before?  Sure, but none of us can go back.  He can only go forward.  And because he has a gay son, he has gone forward with a reversal of his earlier stance.  It will cost him professionally, I’m guessing, but he’s made peace with that

I’m addressing this to the rest of you who agree with me about gay rights.  If you’re reading, if you’re STILL reading, please consider welcoming Sen. Portman to the right side of history.  Please forgive him his earlier silliness.  If you don’t, if we keep yelling about what he USED to believe, it will be that much harder for any other conservative leader to wake up and join us.  Don’t make it harder than it is.