Thursday, June 30, 2016

Trump on fire

Two weeks ago, I received a text from a fellow-mom sent to several parents from my son's soccer team, many of whom also happened to be neighbors in our little tight-knit subdivision. It explained that that very morning her 9-yr-old son had been approached on his way to swim team practice (pool in n'hood) by a stranger in a black pick-up truck asking if he would like a lift.

The boy declined and was fine and safe. But the whole experience not only shook up the 4th grader... It shook us all up. Like. A lot.

You must know that I don't create "safe words" for my kids when I arrange for a different mom to pick them up from this or that. I haven't had the keep-all-strangers-physically-at-arm's-length conversation with them. And by golly I keep forgetting to work up one of those ID cards with a recent photograph intended to be kept handy in the case that one goes missing. I don't teach them how to prepare for the worst. I don't prepare for the worst. The worst is not how I'm wired to think. I've alway been this way. It's a somewhat unhealthy combination of "I'm clueless" and "There's reason to believe that there are so few wackos and so many more trusting adults who would have my kids' back that I don't want to freak them out with this wretched fear of stranger danger."

Until this.

I instantly started judging myself, second guessing all of my err-on-the-side-of-trusting decisions about how to parent, how to treat my property, how to keep my family well and safe. I felt my naive tail needed a swift kick to begin actively guarding against wrong do-ers. I promptly slammed my front door closed and locked it the moment I received the text that morning. Normally it's wide open. I made sure my garage door went down immediately upon entry. Normally good chunks of the day go by before I remember to get it down. I was using every eyeball in all regions of the front and back of my head when my kids were kicking it in the front yard. Normally I allow them to (read: insist that they) roam with looser oversight.

As I prepped their pb and j sandwiches for lunch that day, I made all three (of the walking ones) sit at the bar, facing me, and I did it. I explained what happened. And we went through every scenario were something of the sort to happen to them... which way to run and how big of a voice to use to draw attention to the scene. The whole nine yards. I made up for every single day I had trusted that things were fine. And handed the little package of fright to my kids in one consolidated session. 

Then, promptly the next morning, I learned that the dude in the truck was a fellow swim team neighborhood dad friendlily asking if he could provide a favor. 


The kid felt silly. The mom felt silly. And we all exhaled, returning to our daily summer rituals...

Can I tell you, though, that I didn't? I couldn't seem to out-trick my brain into believing what I knew to be now true once it latched on to what it thought was true. I was still super uptight about what DIDN'T happen. It is only several days later now that I am finally letting that one day go. 

*   *    *   *

Now I've not handled my response to Donald Trump's popularity with voters very well. I want to admit this first, because it's important for me to own my own immaturity. I know I am not alone when I have allowed my disagreement with his views, his behaviors, his theatrics, his Trump-ness to winde me up emotionally, getting "my nighty in a tighty," as my mother would say. More than a tighty... I've wanted to take my nighty, dip it in lighter fluid, then Katniss-blazing-arrow it towards whatever state he was campaigning in, hoping it would land on his hair-spray-drenched hair doo.

I told you, my wise, mature self hasn't exactly been presenting first.

So, then, wanna know where my madness moved to next? 

Well, as mature people do, I found a different target. And effectively redirected my emotional charge onto a new, larger audience. I decided that it was ridiculous to make Donald Trump the singular enemy. He is just doing what keeps on working and continuing to feed him votes. Basically, he has been doing what candidates do when they want to win an election: brilliantly working the system and the polls. And, no matter how much I disagree with him, it was now THE AMERICAN PEOPLE I became discouraged about. Ha HA! That's better! Instead of being mad at one dude, I now get to be mad at the hundreds of thousands of people who voted in the primaries for that one dude.

My internal flame was now bigger. 

What's wrong with these people? Are there that many people in this country who have these types of beliefs? Why are there so many? Are they educated? Are they only hearing what they want to hear? Are they swayed by the way Trump talks? Is it how they talk and act? 

I had been wrestling with these questions, off and on, for at least a few weeks (but mostly the aforementioned hot-headed anger would just surface before I got any of the questions answered) when the boy-approached-by-random-truck event happened in my life. The boy-approached-by-random truck event happened additionally around the the time that my husband and I got invested in the "OJ Simpson: made in America" documentary. It chronicles many troubling events that took place in the city of Los Angeles involving wrong-doing by and therefore mistrust of the LAPD by the black community prior to OJ's trial, peaking with the Rodney King riots. The authorities interviewed (highly regarded journalists at the time, civil rights leaders at the time, LAPD officers at the time), in their own words, all seemed to convey the same point about why upturning cars and firing guns and setting neighborhood convenient stores ablaze was the method for the black LA community to respond to Rodney King's beaters' acquittal. They said it was because the average black gal, guy, family... they were watching angrily all the racist wrongness unfolding in LA - feeling unheard, feeling unvalued, feeling unconsidered - and getting discouraged that the circles of black activists going about improvement and change in the proper, respectable channels were either not reaching their goals at all or at the very least not nearly fast enough...

This bubbling rage met with the urgent need to no longer feel invisible. Fires aren't invisible. And entire blocks of a city on fire surely aren't either. It may not have been smart. It may not have been planned. It may not have revealed much forethought. And perhaps the very reason that the acts lacked reason (in approach, not in motivation) is why they had such a singular impact.

*   *   *  *
And here comes the part where I round third and bring this story home.

It goes without saying that I'm doing a dang lot of reaching to connect my measly little suburban safety-facade crisis and my ESPN 30 for 30 documentary obssesion with the current political climate allowing Trump to still exist on the platform, much more shine at the top. But reach, I am.

I have not felt desperate about much, but when I thought that my neighborhood was being threatened by those I perceived were intending to inflict harm on my nearest and dearest, I felt a distinct and panic-ridden desperacy. What I thought was safe was suddenly not anymore (and then returned to be safe again... but those 24 hours were long and real). What I thought was true was not anymore. What I thought I had done to ensure wouldn't happen (i.e. buy a nice house in a nice neighborhood - please know that I am aware of my privilege seeping out in this statement) didn't mean any guarantees anymore. And I was scared. If the mamma of the child hadn't assured us all in the original text that she had felt confident about the response from the police department when she called this in, I woulda camped out in front of their department myself and brought a boat-load of other parents alongside me. All my soft, sappy-sweet exterior was quickly swapped out for thorny, hard-ass stuff. I observed, just in those 24 long and real hours, a side of me rise up that was unfamiliar but primal. It's what fear does to a person. 

I think that's what is happening and has been happening for a big segment of American society. I think many Americans' ideals of what life is supposed to be like and what has been promised to them if rules are followed and good choices are made have resulted in unmet everything. Desperacy. Fear. Primal thorniness. And feeling the need to defend, defend, defend from the perceived enemy. Whether or not the perceived enemy is either the right one or in fact real at all doesn't stop the army from gathering against it. Sort of like how my internal fleet was all armored up against an imaginary enemy long after I realized it wasn't there.

And even though every soccer and basketball coach my kids have ever had has assured the glory-seeking rascals that defense is just as honorable as offense, we all know - in life or death matters - it is a whole heck of a lot more satisfying, safe-feeling, and secure to be charging on the offense, than shields-up in the defense. Which is where Trump comes in, in my opinion. He brands himself as strong and unwavering and authoritative. And all of that offense sounds good to a section of society living in the defense for long periods of a section of society who, presumably, have been feeling unheard, unvalued, unconsidered. Hundreds of thousands of votes from American people for an offensive (in more ways than one) leader who doesn't stand down to anything, even facts, sure is like neighborhoods on fire. It's going to get someone's attention. It may not be smart. It may not be well-planned or researched. It may not reveal much forethought. But perhaps the very reason folks are voting for Trump, even though the approach of selecting him as U.S. president is [in my opinion] unreasonable, is enough to show that there is reason in the motivation. And perhaps taking note of this rather massive fire will do us good. 

Or we could all watch fire-option-number-two from the aforementioned Aquanet-meets-blazing-arrow fiasco I cooked up. Either one will not be invisible. :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

I tried to be light and fluffy... really I did.

Today is Tuesday and since Sunday I have avoided my blog... even though there were some voices wanting to be let out. Well, that is not entirely true. Yesterday, Monday, I approached it with the promise-to-self that I would upload some recent family/kiddo pictures and keep everything nice and light. In attempts to do so, I was told by Ole Apple computer that my iPhoto program was somehow not compatible with the OS X Yosemite (I don't even know what Yosemite is??). Bottom line: I couldn't upload photos and therefore couldn't make my light-happy post.

So instead of researching how to update my iPhoto (or learn what Yosemite is), I let me thoughts continue to evolve on the inside.

Until today, when I am here. Writing. About not-happy things.

Sunday. I can't shake Sunday.

Orlando's shootings came a day after a rather deep conversation I had with seven-year-old Sullivan. We were walking home from the neighborhood pool Saturday evening, just the two of us, when he began asking what our Sunday would hold. He's a likes-to-know-about-tomorrow sort of kid. I let him know about our plans to attend church, which he interrupted with an impulsive, "WHEN AM I EVER GOING TO EAT THE BREAD???" Backdrop: Although our United Methodist congregation openly welcomes all people (and ages) to the communion table, Scott and I have made the decision to withhold that particular practice/sacrament until our kiddos are a tad older... old enough, we hope, that they can somewhat fully grasp the meaning of communion.

I know. We're being fuddy duddies. Although, in general, I am super-lax related to all things traditional or conventional, I'm sort of a stick in the mud about this. This seems big to me. This isn't about a couple extra carbs in the belly (Sullivan LOVES bread :) It's more.

So, on that walk home Saturday night, I went into a bit more detail that it was something Daddy and I would like for him to understand more before taking part in. That it means a lot more than bread and juice. And he needed to be older.

If you know Sullivan at all, you know that any statement lacking The Concrete places no meaning inside his brain. "How old?" he asked. I knew better than to say, "We'll let you know when we know." So I made it up on the spot: "Eleven." Forever the deal-maker, Sullivan says, "Four years is FOREEEEEHVER!!! How bout Ten?"

So ten it is.

A couple paces goes by and then the inquiry continues. "Well, can you just tell me what it means NOW?"

Now I know I am not the first parent who has come to discover mid-explanation just how R-rated the story of Jesus is. Not the born-to-human-parents-but-really-son-of-God part (although that's stinking confusing still for EVEN ME), not the ministry to the poor and the infringed part, not the people-in-power are starting to get mad part... it's what comes next, The Last Supper and the Crucifixion part that got me hung up. As I am saying the words, "They nailed Him to a cross," I realize that I would never talk about this graphic of an image to my seven-year-old buddy about anything else. He had been in listening mode until then, but suddenly put his head down with, "That makes me sad."

I already had the finale prepped and ready to go. And I could have busted it out right then. But I bit my tongue for a bit and just teared up myself, hugging the little guy and affirming his feelings. Yes, Sullivan, treating someone like that is dang sad.

But then came the moment I had been waiting for... The part where Jesus comes back, even after death. The part where we see that God can set all wrong things right. That love rises to the top of all human frailty and brokenness.

I gotta be honest, there were a lot of wrinkles in his forehead.

I don't think it made sense to him one i-oh-ta.

So I just over-simplified (read: it's the only way I as an adult can make sense of it): "Here's the take-away, Sullivan. This is the important part to remember... Love is always, always, always bigger than anything else. Love ALWAYS wins."

Then ensued the "What is bigger" game.

"What's bigger, love or meanness?" LOVE
"What's bigger, love or sickness? " LOVE
"What's bigger, love or thunderstorms?" LOVE

Then. Sunday happened.

I am happy that my kids are still little enough to have their heads below the information radar. So, Scott and I haven't needed to frame a total of 50 needless deaths for them. I am having a hard enough time framing it for myself. I am a crying mess over here. Even, as I well-know that human suffering, innocent deaths, and needless terror happen every day to thousands of people in a number of countries, this mass shooting is making me cry the most.

And I am so glad that my nut-shell theological debrief happened recently enough to be able to find solace in my own words, even though - just 72 hours stale - they still seem a little foreign and distant. Because believing LOVE IS BIGGER theology is certainly a whole hell of a lot easier when there's no meanness, sickness, or thunderstorms nearby.

Nonetheless, LOVE IS BIGGER than the illness of rage and hatred that I can only imagine must've run through the shooter's veins for weeks, months, probably years prior to Sunday morning. LOVE IS BIGGER than the recently-made-thicker lines of division between people who believe in tightening gun control and those who do not. LOVE IS BIGGER than homophobia. LOVE IS BIGGER than the paralyzing fear-turned-prejudice some people are now experiencing of immigrants from countries with histories of terrorism. LOVE IS BIGGER than extremism of any kind.

I don't know what to do with this belief, but I absolutely in my heart am committed to its truth.

Then, don't you know, I pass by this morning The Door Upon Which All Important Things That I Often Do Nothing With Are Posted (the basement door where flyers and notes and monthly preschool calendars from May are taped up). And something draws me to an advertisement for our church's adult Sunday School series, "Living the Questions." Of course, I missed week 1 and week 2. GUESS WHAT WEEK 3, June 19th, IS ENTITLED??? "Practicing Resurrection" I poop you not. "Practicing Resurrection" is the theme and the description is, "While much has been made of Jesus' literal and physical resurrection being the core historical event of Christianity, the Biblical texts themselves present conflicting evidence. For many today, the resuscitation of Jesus' body is less important than the idea of resurrection as a credible and meaningful principle for life."

Cannot wait to hear about that credible and meaningful principle... I sure hope the teacher says something to the effect, "LOVE IS BIGGER and THAT is what resurrection is all about." You better believe I'll be in the front seat Sunday.

But, seriously, does anyone know what "Yosemite" is?  :)