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Category: Relationships

Post Election Thoughts

Just when I thought that maybe my contribution wasn’t needed, that there were already plenty of people fighting with and for the marginalized, that we had already become so progressive that I was probably on the tail end of the movement…

Just when I couldn’t believe that there were enough people in this country who could openly embrace, hesitatingly acquiesce, or even willfully turn a blind eye to tolerate misogyny, racism, and fear-driven hate toward the LGBTQIA+, immigrant, refugee, Muslim, and black communities…

Just when I had begun to realize what it would mean to elect our first female president – how it would prove that we had made progress towards gender equality, how it would prove that at least the majority of our country is ready to be led by the most qualified individual rather than the most male individual…

Just when I thought we were past the worst of it and ready to coast in to a happy and inclusive society…

The country proved me wrong and elected Donald Trump for president.

The laws that will be passed (or repealed) under the new administration are not my primary concern. As a friend pointed out, we have a government with checks & balances for a reason. Even if we suffer setbacks in that area, we will recover.

What does worry me are the changes to our social climate. Offensive and hateful rhetoric will now be more acceptable. There will be less incentive to evaluate internal and ingrained racism and sexism. There are many who must carry a burden of caution when they should feel safe in their homes and communities.

We now have a president with whom I would not want to be alone in a room. How will we make progress on the concept of consent and combating sexual assault? How will I be treated in the workplace now that I know so many doubt a woman’s ability to lead? What will happen if I’m not considered attractive to my male colleagues? What will happen if I am? These are my fears as a woman.

And yet, while I am a woman, the privilege I experience is so much greater than so many others who are minorities by their race, religion (or lack of it), gender identity, sexual orientation, or some combination thereof. When I imagine myself in the shoes of those minorities, I am broken again and again. Documented and undocumented immigrants alike are worried whether or not they will be able to remain with their families and in their homes. Black Americans have even more reason to fear that their lives don’t actually matter to the authorities and many of the country’s citizens. LGBTQIA+ individuals fear that they may be abused and ridiculed or even have their marriages revoked. Muslims can’t be certain that they won’t be treated like the Jews were during the political climate that led to the holocaust – added to registries and labeled as dangerous. And women must worry if “no” will be enough, if it will be a risk to say no, or if they’ll even have an opportunity to say no before being “moved on like a bitch.”

This feels personal. I found myself wondering in the supermarket if each individual I saw was someone who voted for Trump. Do they believe that my gender makes me less than? Do they believe that my most important asset is my beauty or lack thereof? Knowing how personal it feels, I also empathize deeply with all those who have been marginalized by our president-elect. To you who feel uncertainty and fear because of Trump’s words and the reality that the nation elected him as our leader: I love you, you matter to me, and I will do everything I can to fight for your rights, your dignity, and your opportunity to live life peacefully without threat of harm.

As grief and tears have been near the surface all day, sometimes bubbling over when I’ve paused long enough from the day’s distractions, I am reminded that I must continue to learn, speak, and fight. I have a renewed resolve to work towards a better world for all individuals.

Today it is even more important that we teach the next generation of males, females, and non-binary individuals that all people deserve to be treated with respect, welcomed to our society, and valued as contributors to the world. We must work to prove that women are more than their looks. We are not objects whose function in life is to serve and please cisgender, heterosexual men. Indeed, we are strong, capable, and worthy. [And we will see a female president one day.] We must lead (in word and deed) our children and others to be sensitive to the oppressive histories that have created inequality, to welcome the refugee, to affirm the rights of minorities, to respect the autonomy of others, to be kind in the face of hate, and to work for the success of our neighbors as much as our own. We must teach those with privilege to recognize their privilege, to listen to those who do not have it, and to use that privilege to lift others up.

We are not stronger when we fear those around us on the basis of race, sex, or religion. Diversity makes us stronger. When we embrace those who are different from us – when we open our minds and hearts and allow ourselves to learn and be changed by those around us – this makes us stronger.

We must not quit believing that a better, more inclusive, more loving world is possible. And above all, we must not give up. We’ve been given a check point – a wake-up call, if you will. As it turns out, we haven’t made it as far as we thought we had on the road to equality. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get there. We just have more work to do. So let’s get busy.

“Leave safety behind. Put your body on the line. Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind – even if your voice shakes. When you least expect it, someone may actually listen to what you have to say. Well-aimed slingshots can topple giants.” -Maggie Kuhn

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Of Those Who Have My Admiration and Respect: Tony Bedora

This is the part of my blog where I talk about people who are not only great friends but people of the highest caliber. I write about them because they deserve to be honored and because it reminds me of the type of person I aspire to be.

I have known Tony for almost 4 years. His enduring friendship, along with the friendship of several others, are the redemption of what was otherwise a very painful situation. I always think of it as Romans 8:28 happening in real life – working out all things. I don’t believe God wills awful things, but I do believe he redeems them. It’s not possible to have enough gratitude for something like that.

Tony and I got to know each other through the accelerated method: turmoil. It’s the best way to get to know someone if you really want to know them. Don’t get me wrong, there were wonderful experiences involved, too. We’ve had a lot of fun. But struggle is where you learn who someone is whether you want to know or not. It’s also where a friendship is either forged into permanency or not.

During difficult times, Tony is the best conversation partner because he’s the best listener I’ve ever known. People often describe other people as great listeners because they are silent long enough for you to speak your mind. But Tony does more than give you space to talk. He eliminates any preconceived notion of who you are or what you’re going to say. THEN he listens, actively seeking to understand what you’re thinking so he can respond accordingly. It’s simple but extraordinary. Listening well sets the stage for responding well. Tony is just as thoughtful with his responses as he is while listening.  He knows that when you’re processing difficult things a good response is not one that evaluates the accuracy of your statements or answers all of your questions. I’m actually not entirely certain how he does it, but I always walk away from conversations with Tony feeling confident and at ease. He has helped me set aside fear and intimidation by valuing who I am. I owe a lot of growth and change to Tony’s refined conversation skills.  It’s pretty much my favorite thing about him.

People have said that I can be too impressionable. They’re right. But hopefully they’re less right these days because I’ve been doing my best to follow Tony’s example. Tony can be who he is without being around people who are exactly like him. He peacefully and gracefully maintains his identity and beliefs even when those he cares about may disagree all while maintaining strong, healthy relationships. Not that he isn’t open to other ideas or deep conversation (see paragraph above). But he’s found a balance between transparency/authenticity and keeping things close. I’m still learning that.

Something I know for certain is that Tony’s going to be there. He’s the guy that is steadfast even when life seems to derail. Even when life is terribly confusing and painful–he acknowledges that it’s awful, he feels the pain of it, but he’s still ok.

Tony has a great laugh. He can talk to anyone about anything. He’s just got that kind of personality. He’s intelligent and well studied without being intimidating. He’s  wise, humble, and strong. While I don’t get to have very many intellectual and theological conversations with him anymore, he’ll always have my utmost admiration and respect.

Here’s to you, Tony. Thank you for all the ways you’ve made me better. You’re top notch.


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I Don’t Want to Change the World

I don’t want to change the world. I used to think “changing the world” was the epitome of noble ambitions. Everyone theoretically wants to change the world, but only those who are the most talented, have the most motivation and opportunity, have the most determination and resilience are actually successful. That, most certainly, does not describe me. I’m pretty average. And I hate to fail. So I’ve always kept my ambitions a bit more realistic. I mean non existent. I’m not a planner. Ok… this is derailing quickly. Back to the point.

There are a lot of people out there who want to change the world. Whether they’re politicians, social activists, or religious people, the ultimate goal is to make the world a better place. To improve upon what is by changing the status quo. It seems like a good idea. But I’ve decided that even if I had the talent and ambition to do it, I don’t want to.

An aspiration to change the world implicitly means that one desires to imprint the world with their ideal reality. Most of the time that includes some sort of moral code. Most of the time that moral code has a very specific agenda at its foundation.

Conservatives want to change the world and accomplishing this means that no one is ever gay, no one ever immigrates illegally, and everyone has guns that are used for hunting and killing bad guys. Liberals change the world and everyone can be whatever gender/sexual orientation they want, everyone can get abortions, and no one is poor. Fundamentalists want to change the world and women have (and faithfully stay in) their place, no one drinks alcohol, and everyone does what they are told. Environmentalists want to change the world and no one throws anything away, no one drives, and no one uses hair spray. I could go on. Lots of people have agendas around which they want to change the world. This post is not about the merit or lack of merit in any of those ideas. I can get on board with some of them. I disagree with some of them. It’s also not about debating the stereotypes that I am obviously utilizing to demonstrate my point.

When people talk about wanting to change the world what they really mean is that they get to make the world look exactly the way they want. I’ve lived on this earth long enough to know one thing–I know nothing. Well, maybe not nothing. But I definitely don’t know enough to decide what is right for everyone else. Not only that, but my perspective is just too small. A perfect world is not going to be one where everyone has the same ideas, morals, and goals. I have my set of values–the foundation on which I live my life. But as I’ve said before, I’m constantly changing. As I read, meet new people, and learn about life, I discover truth and change accordingly. I don’t believe there’s anyone in the world who does not need this type of change. But it can only occur when we are challenged by people and experiences outside of ourselves.

I have a very dear friend who teaches HS Spanish in a tiny town in rural Missouri  where a large population of hispanic individuals are an unexpected cultural dichotomy to typical rural America. She has fought to create a mindset that recognizes diversity as strength. Instead of a school where two cultures are largely segregated in the lunchroom and hallways, she wants students to cherish the unique opportunity they have to learn and experience a culture outside of their own. She’s a very wise woman.

On the other hand. there’s a group of people that I know, love, and care for deeply, but they have some problems. They think they’re on a great mission to change people’s lives. The thing is, they are successful at helping some people but in the process they’re hurting others. They often treat people as though they’re disposable. They manipulate people into conformity. It’s not working. It’s doing a lot of damage to a lot of people. They have good intentions. They think they’re doing what’s best for those individuals and the world in general. In the meantime, they’re oblivious to the damage. The ends are not justifying the means. Not at all.

I don’t want to change the world. But I do want to be an engaged and productive contributor to the world. Instead of trying to remake the world into my perfect creation, I want to interact with it in a way that is honest, genuine, and friendly.

I think the first step is to stop being afraid of what would happen if things don’t change. The media poses this rhetorical question all the time (as do a lot of religious people and politicians).  I wish they would stop. They’re trying to convince us that things HAVE to change OR ELSE. What will happen if we don’t tackle global warming? What will happen if we don’t defeat ISIS? What will happen if we don’t solve the social security deficit? What will happen if Donald Trump becomes president? What will happen if Bernie Sanders becomes president? Some of these are real problems that need to be solved. But not everything is this imminent and fear is not a kind motivator.

So what will happen if things don’t change? Here’s what I think (and this is just my guess): Time is going to move forward. The world is going to continue to have problems. Bad things will happen. Good things will happen. Life will happen. I don’t want to miss the life that is happening because I’m afraid of what’s going to happen if I don’t change the world. It’s not worth it. So I’ve decided stop being afraid–to stop worrying about what everyone else is doing that’s wrong, to stop assuming that things that are different are bad. Of course there are bad things, but through experience I’ve learned that some of the things we put in that category aren’t actually what we think they are. (More to come on that topic.)

I want to interact with the world in a way that is honest, genuine, and friendly. So I’m going to spend time with my family, go to work, have fun, challenge myself intellectually and physically. I’ll help people that I have the ability to help, who need help, and who want help. That’s all. That’s enough.

I don’t want to change the world. But I do want to make the most of my time in it.