Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Vocabulary test

pa·tri·ot·ism
ˈpātrēəˌtizəm/
noun 
Patriotism or national pride is the ideology of love and devotion to a homeland, and a sense of alliance with other citizens who share the same values. This attachment can be a combination of many different features relating to one's own homeland, including ethnic, cultural, political or historical aspects.

na·tion·al·ism
ˈnaSH(ə)nəˌlizəm/
noun
Nationalism is a political, social, and economic system characterized by the promotion of the interests of a particular nation, especially with the aim of gaining and maintaining sovereignty (self-governance) over the homeland. The political ideology of nationalism holds that a nation should govern themselves, free from outside interference, and is linked to the concept of self-determination. Nationalism is further oriented towards developing and maintaining a national identity based on shared, social characteristics, such as culture and language, religion and politics, and a belief in a common ancestry.

pres·i·den·tial
ˌprezəˈden(t)SH(ə)l/
adjective
Having a bearing or demeanor befitting a president; dignified and confident.
 
dic·ta·to·ri·al
ˌdiktəˈtôrēəl/
adjective
 Having or showing a tendency to tell people what to do in an autocratic way.
 
 
Please consider the above within the context of the following statement, issued by the current President of the United States:
 
"The Philadelphia Eagles are unable to come to the White House with their full team to be celebrated tomorrow.  They disagree with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country. The Eagles wanted to send a smaller delegation, but the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better."  

Again: "He INSISTS that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the National Anthem."

For me this is not a debate about whether or not anyone believes people should stand for the National Anthem - I know good people with strong beliefs on both side of that argument.  Instead, this is an issue of the President issuing decrees - and meting out penalties, and publicly deriding individual US citizens - that are outside his scope of power.  It is not for the President to tell any of us how to freely express ourselves.  It is not for the President to publicly berate US citizens when he doesn't like their opinions, behaviors, or points of view.  It is not for the President to make comments about how publicly or privately held US businesses treat (or penalize) their employees.

NONE OF THAT IS OK.

I feel like it's important to be clear on what this particular President is doing right now.  He isn't fostering patriotism; he is promoting nationalism.  He isn't upholding Constitutional rights; he is quashing freedom of speech.  He isn't setting an example of honor and dignity; he is serving as a politically divisive figurehead.  He isn't making America great again; he is persistently bombarding us with ideas and behaviors that chip away at ideals we have, until now, held as uniquely American beliefs.  He is numbing us to his particular brand of authority so that we find ourselves pushing back against it with less and less enthusiasm.  He is making this our new normal.

NONE OF THIS IS NORMAL.

We can agree to disagree.  That is the beauty of this place.  And it seems like we need to remember (or learn) - with a fair degree of urgency - how to disagree with civility and grace.  I am working on this every day because I know that I've not always been a bridge so much as I've been a barrier to productive, honorable dialogue.  Let's not allow a perversion of "patriotism" further the divide that so many political leaders have widened.  Let's push back, every day, against these attempts to cow us.  Let's demand more from the men and women we've entrusted with the safety, security and prosperity of our country.  

Remember that they work for us.  Ultimately, the power and authority lies in OUR hands.  Keep pushing.  Teach your kids what it means to be free, to be a patriot, and to honor the values of our country.  Remind yourself everyday, too.  There is too much at stake to get tired now.


"Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism." 
- George Washington

Monday, February 19, 2018

Dream/Reality

I woke up the other morning from a dream that I’m still pondering.

Dreams seem very fluid in my mind but when I try to recall enough detail to string together a coherent retelling things get…  sketchy.  I guess what’s relevant is that I was with Becca, talking with her preschool SLP, asking questions about some new approach to help her with language development, looking for an opinion on whether or not she thought it would be beneficial.

She was kind but blunt, and said “look, you’ve done all you can.”

I remember feeling gutted in my dream, so much so that I woke up - still feeling gutted.

I have struggled for almost three years to find the balance between researching, fighting, and advocating for Bex and just letting her be…  herself.  Because as much as I believe that there is this fantastically inquisitive mind bound up in a swirling brew of fragmented language I also know that this kid is so special in spite of her challenges.  She is so happy, so loving, so kind - and at the end of the day, all of that is enough.

And yet.

There is a desperation in not leaving a single stone unturned, not giving every consideration to every intervention that might help Becca fully unfurl.  I want so much to strip away the burden of articulation and vocabulary and pronouns and verb tenses and articles so that she can just be.

Then I remember, again and again and again, that she is doing just that. She is being: loving, and curious, and naughty, and already entirely herself.  I remember that Becca doesn’t feel this same desperation; that it’s my sense of fear and sadness that drives me to keep searching and fighting and advocating.


And then I wonder when the day will come that someone finally says “look, you’ve done all you can.”

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving thanks

There is plenty for which to be thankful this year.

I have three happy, healthy children.  I have a kind and loving husband.  A warm house and a safe place to live.  A new (to us) car that gets us to the jobs we are blessed to have, the school we love, and the therapists who work their magic; to movies and adventures and countless trips to the grocery where we can afford the food that fills the bellies of our three happy, healthy children.

We have amazing friends, the ones who walk for us when our own legs fail and who do for us, even - or especially -when we are too proud to ask for help.  We have loving families who help us keep the wheels on the bus going round & round. 

We have the world's greatest dog, and this is not open for debate.

There have been challenges this year for sure.  But we endured them all and some of them, maybe, if I think on it hard enough, may have made us just a little bit better for the patience, faith, and efforts required to make it through. 

So yes, there is plenty for which to be thankful.  But this year, more than others, has been about one especially unlikely journey that took not just our middle girl but the whole family to places we didn't think possible.  This year we are so thankful for the promise of possibility and all the surprising ways it meets us along the way.

There are so many people who have our everlasting gratitude and I couldn't begin to recall each one of them even if my tired and scattered mind gave it's all.  But there are some who may not know what they've done for us and to them I say --

Thank you.

Thank you to Joe O'Neil, who has never treated my child but who has shown me such compassion and been such a help through the weeds.  Thank you for your kindness.

Thank you to Jamie, Becca's long-time OT, who probably didn't know that those five little words she said one afternoon would be the turning point for us.  "I think you should go."  And we did.

Thank you to the generous souls at UnitedHealthcare Children's Foundation and The FirstHand Foundation, who believed in Becca and gave so generously to help fund her program at STAR.  

Thank you to our pediatrician, Jill Mazurek, who always says yes.  Yes, I will help.  Yes, I will write. Yes - just tell me what you need.  Yes.

Thank you to our speech therapist Lindsay and our PT Miss Sue, who never failed to encourage during our long, slow walks through the valleys and who have marveled along with us as we climb  - and climb and climb and climb - to new heights.  You change lives.  You know that, right?

Thank you (you know who you are) for kindly offering to help us with Becca's treatment costs.  You've never even met her.  You offered anyway.  I'm still humbled and overwhelmed by your generosity.

Thank you to our coworkers and leadership at work, who let us leave our jobs and work obligations to tend to our family.  You didn't have to make it happen, but you did.  We are truly grateful.

Thank you to Mim, our SPD sherpa.  You said it would be hard.  You said we could do it.  You said things would change.  You were right about everything.

Thank you to every aunt, uncle, grandparent and friend who has shown up again & again & again.  Thank you for believing in this crazy plan.  Thank you for wanting to know more, wanting to do more.  Thank you for your prayers.  Thank you for being Becca's champion. Thank you for loving our girl no matter what.

Thank you to the advocates, who speak for those who can't, or whose voices are just too small to be heard.  You inspire me to become another voice in the wilderness.

And as our smallest children say every night: Thank you, Jesus, for loving us.  We love you, too.

Amen.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Togetherness

It’s been awhile since I’ve written an update on Becca and SPD.

Well, she still has it!  SPD is part and parcel of our fabulous middle kid, right along with her crazy curly blonde hair, sparkling blue eyes and insatiable love for music, dinosaurs and Midnight, our painfully loyal black lab.

But let me tell you this: Becca is a different child today than she was just three months ago.  Remember way back in July, when I first talked about engagement?  Well I’m here to tell you it is magical.  MAGICAL!  When we first took on the job of engaging with Becca it was hard, and slow, and most of the time it made me really sad.  It’s tough knowing that your kid is hanging out in a world without you, and that you have to work really hard to join her there because it is by invitation only and those invites are exclusive.  Early on, when those times that we engaged were so fleeting, it seemed impossible to think there would come a time when connecting with her would come naturally.  When you could really play together, almost effortlessly.

A few days ago, while Libby was napping, Becca and I really played together.  We laughed, both of us, together.  We had so much fun… together.  And while I may have initiated our play time, she perpetuated it:  she sought me out for another turn and another turn and then another; she responded to my tiny tweaks to change the game, not with her famous, nasal “noooo” but instead with the tiniest twinkle in her eye that said “ohhhhh…  I get it, and this is fun, too!”  If all of this has come naturally for your children then I know these may not seem like big things to you, but when you are working really hard and really intentionally to make it happen - well, I promise they are big things.

This has been our Fall Break week and oh boy, there hasn’t been a single break to be found.  Everyday we’ve been out and about, going and going and going.  I am so exhausted that the just thought of picking the girls’ books up off the floor brings on at least a 30 minute nap.  But still, Rob and I made a pact that our week off would be put to valuable use by spending time with our kids:  The Newport Aquarium, the Haunted House at the Children’s  Museum, a trip to the pumpkin patch, a morning at the zoo.  

Our last trip to the zoo was exactly one month before our trip to STAR.  At every exhibit Becca, in her typical fashion, sought out only the finest horizontal surface so she could lay down for a few minutes.  Hard and cold were her preferences, but hard and and bumpy would make do.  Benches, deep concrete window casings… she honed in on them like a pro.  But if you took your eyes off of her for even a second?  It wasn’t a big deal at all because she would still be laying in the same spot ten minutes later, if you let her.

This week’s trip to the zoo was a whole new ball game.  Becca never stopped.  Not once.  We chased her - four adults and her two sisters - the entire time.  As soon as we found the macaws she was ready to move on to the tiger.  Found the tiger?  CHECK!  Bring on the brown bear.  GOT IT! NEXT!   It was a complete about-face from our last trip.  And in case you are wondering, I’m not suggesting this is ideal, either.  One thing we learned about kids with SPD is that the pendulum swings broadly and that zone where they work the best - the place where the rest of us who don’t constantly wrestle with sensory dysregulation spend most of our time - is very narrow.  So while our zoo trip in June was at the one extreme, our trip this week was at the other.  But you know what I’ll take it, because at least now the pendulum is swinging.



For better or for worse, and despite everything I’ve learned about SPD and engagement, this speech therapist mama still can’t help but mark Becca’s progress by language development.  And here, without question, Becca still struggles - but also, she shines.  Sitting at the kitchen table in Colorado I was floored when Becca strung together two words to express a novel idea.  Now, we routinely get three or four, sometimes even five or more words.  Nouns and verbs.  Adjectives and locatives, even!  (Pronouns, articles and helping verbs?  Not so much.)

She answers questions and follows directions.  She comments on things.  She not only tells us when she’s hungry, she tells us what she wants (current faves include cheese and candy corn).  She tells us when she’s tired while simultaneously insisting that she doesn’t need a nap.  She laughs when things are funny.  She talks about dinosaurs and Midnight, initiates many a rousing sing-a-long, and refuses her parents like any other three year old worth their salt.  I have been known, once or twice, to wish she would just be quiet for a second.  (True story.)

So are we there yet?  Nope.  We are not.  And we still don’t know where “there” is, exactly.  But we are no longer parked on the sidelines, waiting for Becca to get up from her comfortable cold stoop to take a few more disinterested steps forward.  We are chasing her now, marching forward toward whatever comes next.  She has invited us along for the journey and all of us, together, are amazed by the adventures we are having along the way.

It’s a long trek but now we are making it together.  And together I know we will keep on going as far as this journey may take us.



Sunday, September 03, 2017

Racist apologia

A couple of days ago I was labeled a racist.

Now racism is an emotionally fraught topic and it's a loaded word.  I think there are vast divides in its use and understanding - which is sad, given how important it is for us to recognize it and root it out.  So here's a very basic definition, taken straight from the dictionary:
1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.
2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.
I don't believe that, given this set of parameters, I am a racist.  I do believe that as a white lady I benefit from entrenched systems that have racist underpinnings.  My perception of those systems isn't always very keen because they aren't always overt in nature - they don't explicitly state as their purpose the benefit of white Americans over others, although that is frequently how they function.  But identifying and discussing those systems isn't my goal today.

Today, I want to make clear that the actions I've taken to be labeled a racist aren't going to stop.  In fact it's safe to say that I haven't gone nearly far enough.  And maybe what I say today will lead you to agree that I'm a part of the problem, or maybe it will lead you to agree that more white folks need to be a part of the solution.  That decision is yours.  

So what earned me this label?  Speaking up.  Speaking out.  Pointing out that there is still racial injustice and imbalance.  Recognizing that white people have inherent power and privilege and trying to help other white people see that, too - and suggesting that once we acknowledge that privilege we are now responsible to do something with it.   

According to my accuser "it's the people that mention race the most who are racist. Even if they think they are somehow championing for a cause. It's not as bad as some would like you to think. Obama divided us and it continues. Let us now put it all aside and be united.”

And just to be clear, I didn't simply surmise my racist status by this statement alone.  I asked, very plainly, if I was in fact a racist (given this unique characterization) and the one-word response I got was "Yes."

I've spent the last couple of days trying to make sense of this and I can't.  I've tried to look for other reasoned and informed opinions that would support this view and maybe open my eyes to a new understanding of what it means to be a racist.  I wasn't successful.  I've stewed over the best response to this but words fail me.  So I finally convinced my head to shut the hell up and look for answers elsewhere, and turned to a brilliant a mind with words much more powerful and eloquent than my own.  Here they are.

Excerpts from "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.April 16, 1963 
"I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection...

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of "somebodiness" that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro's frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible "devil."
I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the "do nothingism" of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as "rabble rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies--a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.
Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . ." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime--the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists. 
I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality."


I can only hope to be an ally of quality, as Dr. King describes, and that I stop doing more harm as a person of "shallow understanding."  The only way I know to do this is to listen to what my black and brown friends are telling me and then speak up, speak out and speak truth to those of us with privilege - even to friends and family who don't care to hear it.

If this makes me a racist, then so be it. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Hits Just Keep Coming

Well, he did it again.

You don't really want to dignify his idiocy with any kind of acknowledgement but you can't let it go, either.

Our president stood at a podium, in the lobby of a building that carries his name in huge, gaudy gold letters, and called the people who marched in Charlottesville "fine people."

OK, OK - he only called some of them "fine people."  And that is his out - he left it there deliberately, in case you hadn't considered that.  He didn't call neo-Nazis and Klansmen and white supremacists "fine people," just the folks who are hell bent on protecting the monuments celebrating long dead white supremacists standing in the South.

Except that is exactly what the racists heard.  And he intended that, too.

All night and all morning Democrats have been blasting him and Republicans have been...  scolding, a little bit, sort of.  Quite frankly this is nearly as disgusting as what was said yesterday.  Many in GOP leadership have written pseudo-strong statements about how racism and bigotry are vile and cannot be tolerated, that there is no room for this in a civil American society.  (Again: there is no honor in calling racism vile and intolerable.) Those who possessed even the tiniest pair of gonads also said that the President must be unequivocal about this.  "It's time" they all kept saying.  "He must assume the moral leadership of the presidency."

Honestly.  Do they believe that he's confused?  Do they honestly believe that he doesn't know exactly what he is saying, how he is saying it, and to whom he is speaking?  He knows ALL of that.  If there is one thing this man is good at it is slick talk and verbal manipulation. He is saying exactly what he thinks he needs to say to rally his base - a base that, by the way, features neo-Nazis, the KKK and white nationalists of all stripes - the welfare of the country and millions of people who live in it be damned.

Do I know with absolute certainty that the president is a racist?  No.  Has he given me any reason to believe otherwise?  Also no.  And even if he isn't it doesn't matter - he is pandering to hate groups.  They are quite literally thanking him for his statements yesterday.  "The president told the truth," David Duke said.

This president is incapable of dwelling anywhere near the realm of "truth."

The fish rots from the head.  The head of the United States is rotten - putrid. He is a friend to men and women who wave Nazi flags, spew hatred against minorities and have left their white robes behind to hide in plain sight dressed in polo shirts and khaki pants.  They are celebrating him today.

Heil Trump!

Those pablum statements made by GOP leaders aren't wrong.  There is no room for equivocation right now.  The problem is that they are the ones who must be clear - their president has already made his ideology plain for all of us to see.  If they cannot, or will not, disavow his disgusting rhetoric then they are just as complicit as the bigoted cowards marching in Charlottesville.  If political power and ambition overrules human decency then they have aligned themselves, and identified themselves, as supporters of those "fine people" who spewed hate last weekend.  Sadly, I suspect I know where their allegiances will fall.

So it's up to us.  Will we allow this kind of so-called leadership to persist?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Cancer in Typical White America

Not sure what to say.

Lots of people are commenting today about what has happened in Charlottesville, VA.  I'm not sure I can add anything new to the conversation - no, actually, I'm sure I can't.  But I have also been feeling convicted by my silence, so...  no more.

I don't personally know of anyone who would say to my face that the white protesters in Virginia are the victims here, but I also don't know if there are people in my life who might hold that belief in silence.  I pray that I don't - but despite the common cry that "this is not typical!" or "those people do not represent the vast majority of white Americans!," all I have to do is scroll down to the comments section of any news outlet - mainstream or otherwise - to find cowards hiding behind their screen names, making vile excuses for racists.  Hundreds of them.  Thousands of them.  Pointing fingers, proclaiming the innocence of expressing pride in your heritage.

And they are all Typical White Americans.

So it's not enough anymore to say "those racists are not representative of Typical White America."  Those words are empty.  Completely meaningless.  It is easy to condemn overt, outward hate.  It is easy to cry racism in the face of a swastika or a Nazi salute.  (Unless, of course, you are the current president of the United States.)  There is no valor in calling an unabashed racist "a racist."  It's like cursing cancer or Alzheimer's disease.  Who would defend these things?  Who would call it brave to label a killer anything other than what it is?

I am terrified by the fact that these hate-filled bigots no longer feel the need to hide under white sheets anymore.  They are free to bask in the sunlight with the rest of us, speaking easily, proudly, unabashedly about their so-called White Pride.  They've taken their hate from a cloaked meeting in a far-off, secluded chamber and brought it to the streets.  They've lit up the dark corners with torches to throw light on their venom and proudly show the world the loathing in their hearts and minds.  They have no fear.  They are thriving in an American culture - a Typical White American culture - that has allowed even the smallest sliver of room for their putrescence.  But just like a mold that takes hold in damp, disgusting shadows, if left unchecked this too will spread aggressively, threatening the viability of everything good that surrounds it.

These bigots - these hateful, despised racists - are coming for all of us.  Count on that.

At work I occasionally have the honor of helping a family who has a child with a brain tumor called a glioma. Glios are particularly nasty, usually growing with a strong blood supply, spreading like tentacles throughout the brain and leaving dead tissue in their wake.  Because of this they are hard to treat: wide spread, well fed, and easily recurring because they are so difficult to completely remove.  Whenever I see that my patient has been diagnosed with a glioma I sigh, and pray, and give thanks for the good health that my children have, so far, enjoyed.

I view racism in American much like an aggressive and devastating glio, that's been well fed for centuries and allowed to grow because we have never been able to eradicate it.  But we can no longer simply ignore the malignancy that has been growing in the shadows, hoping that our meaningless words will wipe away the diseased thinking that is increasingly entering the mainstream.  It's time to burn it away - burn it all away, even the parts that may singe ourselves.  It's time to stop saying "that's not me," feeling offended by the notion that we, as white people, are being lumped in with Those People.  Friends - we are lumped in with those people.  They are a reflection of Typical White America.  We can resent this fact.  But it is not the targets of the racists - those with brown skin, or different faiths, or sexual identities you may not understand, those who have been pleading with us for generations to right the wrongs - who we should resent.  It is the racist.  It is the vile bigot shouting Heil Hitler! or Heil Trump! who we should resent.  They should be the target of our anger, our indignation and our action: the Typical White American who has taken off his white robes and walked freely down the street, shouting pride in his circumstance and declaring war on those who may threaten it.

But even this is not enough.

Because if you stop at denouncing the racist and refuse to look more closely at The Rest Of Us - those of us who truly loathe the proud bigot - then you are complicit.  You can't shout at the disease and make it disappear; you have to understand why it arose in the first place.  You have to look at the environment, at the factors that fed it.  You have to understand what allowed it to take hold and thrive.  Until The Rest Of Us can do that then we will forever fail.  Until we acknowledge that there is a mindset of privilege amongst not just Them but also Us, we cannot kill this diseased thinking.  Racism is a core belief that we are more than, better than, and solely deserving of power and authority, simply based upon our race.  "Black Lives Matter," the Anti-Defamation League and the LGBTQ movement do not assert this - they only beg us to acknowledge the lie of racism.  They shout into a void of deaf white ears who stubbornly refuse to believe that systems in America skew to serve White America.  You can believe that you are opposed to the mindset of racism, but until you examine your life and acknowledge that you benefit from it - and that others suffer from it - then the disease wins.

The racists are counting on us to avoid the painful work of self-examination.  They are using the discomfort we feel from hearing "Black Lives Matter" to keep us from rooting out the blight of privilege and hoping that it incites just enough resentment that we won't make room at the table for All Americans, not just Typical White America.  They are banking on us - and they have been proven right time and time again - turning the desperately angry voices of marginalized people into personal assaults; they know that we will continue to think of the black community's demands to strip away privilege and level the playing field as some sort of bizarre "reverse racism" (a laughable and twisted psychology if ever there was); they incite us to believe that marriage equality will forever destroy the fabric of American life; they scare us into believing that the Jew or the Muslim is engaged on an unrelenting crusade to destroy us.

The cowards marching down the streets of Charlottesville are the true threat to the fabric of America.  We can't avoid the hard work of self-examination simply because our white skin protects us - for now - from their hate.  I promise you, we cannot hide behind this skin forever.  Typical White America is vulnerable to this disease and our meaningless denouncements will not eradicate it.  We must also examine our own complicity in allowing it to spread.  "This cancer is bad" isn't enough.  We must take a long, hard, clinical look at how it has invaded our Typical White American body - and then we have to painfully and mercilessly cut it out, removing every trace of it so it can no longer take root and spread.

And so I find myself sighing, and praying again - but I cannot give thanks for escaping this disease because it is slowly, and ever more aggressively, attacking us.  All of us.  Hatred, like a devastating glio, only leaves death and loss in it's wake.