Dumpster Fire Heating and Light

Warning: Pastor Pottymouth is at it again

Across the vast expanse of the horizon, darkness does not differentiate itself between earth and sky. Ominous thunder foregoes the courtesy of lighting strikes, which at least would provide a moment’s opportunity to acclimate ourselves. The only heat and light comes from this dumpster fire we’ve called 2016 for the past twelve months. It lighted itself on the first day, and then burned with a brightness and intensity that drove most of us to nausea. A majority of the time, it has been difficult to name things we like about the dumpster fire; for months we’ve been plotting its end, vowing to hold on with fingernails and knuckles while legs and feet kick and search to find purchase. Never have so many people wanted to hear Europe sing that song which need not be named but is now burrowing like a worm into your brain like something out of V. We’re good. We want out. This shitshow has got to stop. The light is growing dim and there’s a chill in the air. 

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In the church, we turned the page the first Sunday of Advent. Goodbye Year C and hello Year A. (Coincidentally, that’s the name of my Pink Floyd and Radiohead tribute band.) But as we move closer to being able to turn the page on this year that has, in no uncertain terms, been a steaming pile of guano from alpha to omega on an international and local scale, I reflect on it’s shitiness. I officiated and attended more funerals, performed more pastoral care, encountered more fear and fought against my own pessimism more than I ever have in my life.

So it is strange that I am afraid to let the year go. I feel like it is going to be the year that historians reference when they are explaining…well, whatever it is that will soon begin revealing itself, most likely through more intense, targeted suffering and injustice. Activists I deeply respect, like Shaun King and George Tekai, are encouraging activists to take the next two weeks to be with family and to make memories. For while we might not die tomorrow, it seems pretty fucking obvious that come January some serious shit is going to start going down. I am frightened, less for myself and much more for the most vulnerable among us. Absolutely horrific things happen every single day, from unjustified killings resulting in no indictments of those responsible, to people being screamed at in the name of Trump because they are not White, Christian, or adequately American. And we are surrounded by intentionally ignorant people who now have so-called intellectuals like Newt Gingrich giving credence to the spleen-produced vitriol and hatred that is countermanded by provable facts. We may have begun 2016 singing along with Bob that it isn’t dark yet, but a handful of sleeps away from 2017 we’re all like:

Now before you click away while thinking, Goddamn, Aaron, I’m depressed enough without reading this bullshit, give me a second. While this is not an optimistic post, it is not entirely pessimistic either. I am not meeting the new year with pluck and a sunny disposition, I am meeting it with determination and resolve. Frankly, I don’t think I could have been ready 12 months ago.

That might sound melodramatic, and perhaps it is. I have a penchant for the theatrical and romantic. But I turned 40 in 2016.* With that came a continued commitment to no longer drinking alcohol. March 15 will mark a year, but that anniversary is less about alcohol sobriety than it is about having given myself permission to stop lighting myself on fire so that others can feel warm. I successfully laid down some burdens I had been carrying for years and I have not looked back. I’ve lost some friends over it; some people have left the church because they find me objectionable, for whatever reasons. And while I do not have a callous attitude, at all, toward other people who have felt hurt or damaged by me, I no longer internalize those criticize to the point that I allow them to be written upon my body. I no longer carry other people’s baggage while I try to portage my way across the expanse. I dunno how, honestly, or why it worked this time and not others. I think it was seeing, really seeing, how important love is and how threatened certain others seem to feel by someone who loves as radically and honestly as do I. For better or worse, I’m me. I grew tired of apologizing for it.

I was in the chair yesterday with my amazing loctician, Rusty, who also happens to be a partner in the Beloved Community Project. The chair demands truth, and we respect that; in our flowing conversation, we both voiced that 2016 seems like a year that has been preparing certain people to know who they are and what they are called to do. That requires shedding what keeps a person from living fully into their call. I’ve written before that I can’t have Bonhoeffer and King as my Jesus-loving heroes, and not know what is required of me if the world continues to head in its current direction: I’m unfailingly committed to nonviolence and nonviolent resistance. I follow the Gospel, even when it is hard. Most especially when it is hard.

It’s not like I want for bad shit to happen. I have no desire to go to jail or to end up in some black box site because my commitment to Christ will not permit me to sit idly by in the face of injustice. I want to remain in The Shire, serve the congregation. continue teaching and learning, build up the BCPYS, and enjoy the company of my family and friends. But I can’t. I am blessed with a truly diverse group of friends, and people I love dearly are terrified. I read FB posts and receive messages almost every day by people I know who have been confronted, screamed at, threatened, targeted electronically, and a whole host of other things because they are…whatever these people “feel” is the truth, and then they act accordingly to seemingly little or no true consequences. Racists get to go back to work. And “liberal Hollywood” seems to be a continued safe haven for racists, sexists, homophobes, and other deplorables.

Sweet Jesus I almost forgot about The Deplorables. Right? Like, 2016 gave us a movement in which people proclaimed themselves proud to be deplorable. Hillary Clinton was very clear that she was talking about a segment of Trump’s supporters–like the White Supremacists who have not hidden their support or glee for over a year–yet people throughout the country gleefully wore T-shirts inviting Trump to grab their deplorable kitties, or some such nonsense. We are celebrating feelings of fear and anger, as long as they are White. Anything else requesting a space for expression is derided and ridiculed.**

It is dark af out here.

It’s time to develop our night vision and put on some extra layers–I apparently am doing this in fat, thank you so much bipolar meds–because it is dim and cold as we head into 2017. I have no doubt that we will soon light other fires, more hospitable and welcoming fires, but we may find that others light ones too and explicitly ban us from using its glow and warmth. It is up to us how we will stoke and tend our own fire. I find that love burns the best, as it relies on renewable resources. Let’s keep the fire in our hearts and in our heads, and take care of one another.

*I have written a lot on this subject; see the collection gathered under “On Turning Forty.” **I just couldn’t link any of the articles; they are deplorable, in the true sense of the word


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