To the Imams Khan: I Have Sacrificed Nothing

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Like a vast majority of Americans who are not terrible people and have a soul, I watched the appearance of Khizr Khan and Ghazala Khan, the parents of fallen U.S. Army Captain Humayun Kkhan, a patriotic young man who lost his life owed to the reckless policies of the Bush Administration, with tears in my eyes. Anyone who questions if the American dream is still alive need only look at these dignified, proud people who understand what true political oppression feels like. Looks like. They know what it means to go to another country and seize opportunities, such as Mr. Khan has done as an attorney. As their son did as a soldier deploying and redeploying as called upon by his country. And the image of Mrs. Khan, standing silently but proudly, wearing a hijab, providing strength for her husband as we imagine she has done for family all her life, is now seared into the American consciousness. Watching them, I felt proud to be an American. I don’t say stuff like that a lot. False patriotism is ugly. I have sacrificed nothing for my country. I am not a veteran. I have taught at private institutions. My community service and work is not a sacrifice. It is a great joy. A privilege. My religious freedom is not as the result of anything I have done; it has been given to me. While I am a lifelong, dedicated pacifist I have friends who are Marines and soldiers in the Army; sailors and Air Force. Veterans and active duty. One of my dear friends’ father is a retired Air Force Colonel. Another friend lost her brother in Afghanistan. I live a stone’s throw away from the second largest AFB in the country, and there are armories to the south and east. I know lots of people who have sacrificed by serving in the Peace Corp or Teach for America.

I have sacrificed nothing.

The splenetic, infantile responses of the Orange Baboon are a perfect illustration of what is going on in this country right now. Really, if we are honest, it has been going on for hundreds of years. Rich men who never serve a day of their life in the military continually decide to send our volunteer forces into impossible situations with suspects motives to seeks amoral outcomes. See also: History. Drumpf, who is woefully unaware of geopolitics, including dangerously inaccurate statements about Crimea and Ukraine, claims that he has made sacrifices by working hard, creating jobs, and building “great” buildings. One is reminded of his statement that his love for the differently-abled community can be seen in his spending millions of dollars to

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comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Sacrifices abound.

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We cannot ask for a better situation to demonstrate the macrocosm through the microcosm. Here we have an immigrant family who are fiercely proud of their adopted country; who raised a son with a sense of devotion and service that I have never even approached; who laid bare their own pain and suffering out of concern for their fellow citizens, to offer as an example an American who never would have existed had The Donald been in power when the Khans left Pakistan; who passionately used as their defense for having such fundamental questions about Drumpf’s qualifications, knowledge of the fucking Constitution of the United States. And as John Oliver has said, it seems the first time that noble document has been used as a middle finger.

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I felt proud because I see, in a small way, that we are inching closer and closer to fulfilling the maxim that all persons are created equal. A Muslim couple who still speak with accents, proudly and courageously challenging the odiousness that is passing for GOP policy positions. And, of course, the response is no longer a surprise. The asshat with “one of the great temperaments” reacted like a foul-mouthed parrot that has learned how to tweet. And, seriously. What the hell is with that sentence construction? One of the great temperaments? I must have missed the day in school in which Ms. Davis, the legendary history teacher from my high school alma mater, went over the Great Temperaments. As I am a man who likes to know things, I spent the morning doing deep research on the Great Temperaments (one cannot recommend enough the seminal work of Monsieur Derriere-Chapeau) and I found rare footage of Trump’s noble forbears:

I have written before (and before and before) about the darkness and irresponsible vision of the country the GOP nominee is presenting. But I am asking people to look very closely at what is happening: Drumpf wants to be president, but he can’t even fulfill the most basic tasks. He will send armed forces into areas of the world he knows nothing about, and will be unable to comfort the families when our heroes return in boxes. The man is a walking id, as I’ve said before. He is a blight on humanity.

But I’m about solutions. Positivity. Rejecting Trump does not happen just at the ballot box, it comes with the actions we engage in each day. Because this is what we are facing:

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This was left on a female friend of color’s FB post. I reported it and alerted my friend, who is out of the country. But this is what Drumpf is stirring up. We can be reactionary and go into word battles with them–which, actually, can be fun, so go ahead an inundate them with tweets and posts–but we can also engage in action. And that’s what this post is ultimately about. I feel like Mr. and Mrs. Khan have been our Imams. They have presented to us a challenge.

Pastor friends, Christian friends, friends who teach Sunday School. Join me. Join me as I continue to teach the children of First Presbyterian Church of Yellow Springs the Five Pillars of Islam. I connect each pillar to Christianity, highlighting similarities and differences, but they are learning about Islam. We are then going to a local mosque, and in return we will invite members to come to the church. My hope is that we can become sister communities, coming together every year to share. To support. To love one another. I’m asking you to do the same, or to do something to connect the congregation you serve or attend to a local Muslim community. It is time to make sure that as many microcosms as possible shift. That this be the end of a major politician being able to stoke fear and xenophobia.

The Khans are doing their part. Are you doing yours?

 

What Would I Have Done?


Can you believe that this agency gets work?  The five year old in me can’t stop gigglin’. 

I met James Farmer when I was eleven years old. I participated in a walkout over the Persian Gulf War in 8th grade (which I don’t know if I would have done as an adult, but I am still a committed pacifist). I’ve been involved in some form of activism to a greater or lesser extent for most of my life. But I have always wondered what I would have done had I lived through this:


Or this:


I have written about the six degrees of Godwin’s Law within online and political discussions, but it seems obvious that the Trump/Pence ticket will provide an opportunity to answer both questions simultaneously. What will I do? To be sure, there are incomplete comparisons between Trump/Pence and Hitler/Mussolini. Hitler had a clear platform that focused on promoting Aryan supremacy and eliminating all other political parties. We have two parties in this country, and while they are both beholden to corporate interests and corrupted beyond description, there are salient differences. Click here to do your own comparisons. But with the nomination of Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, we see a political marriage of two extremists much like history saw with the signing of the Pact of Steel in 1932. Mussolini, some historians argue, was not as extreme as Hitler in terms of antisemitism; recently published documents suggest that he was fiercely anti-Jewish. Either way, he did nothing to stop the spread of Nazi policies throughout Europe. Mussolini first influenced Hitler, but by 1940 Hitler was clearly the alpha. Their relationship (along with participation in the Spanish Civil War) shaped Europe and pushed the world toward war.

So how does that relate to now? Donald Trump will say anything to get elected, even if that means contradicting himself within minutes. Mike Pence, though, is a committed hard right Republican. Seriously. Go down the rabbit hole with that last link. The man is terrifying for women, GLBTQ+ communities, POC, and basically anyone who does not adhere to his extremist views. While Trump is clearly a narcissistic opportunist only interested in advancing his brand, Pence is pure ideology. Trump has sent a signal to the Evangelical and Tea Party folks that they will have a place at the table. Trump has sent out the WASP-signal.

We don’t have to wonder, friends. A time of accountability is upon us. But here’s my pledge. I am going to be about hope and love rather than fear and hatred. I will not back down from confrontations and will not be silent because I am concerned about physical safety, but I will not allow the extreme beliefs of others impact my life to such an extent that I do not live as fully and as joyfully as possible. I am committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and if you read this blog you know how my faith functions.

I’m also going to support others in the things they are able to do; not all of us have the same call, the same gifts, the same responsibilities, the same contexts. Let’s affirm each other in the parts that we are able to play, and not push unrealistic expectations on others or ourselves. If LOVE WINS, as we often say, that means that it wins now. In this moment. It is not a goal to which we aspire, but rather is a philosophy we embody in what we do and how we relate to others.

We’re all in this together! Now watch this gorgeous man and feel better about the world

Color me confused: Abortion politics in 2012

I take umbrage when people call me pro-abortion. Personally, those are fighting words. I, and no person I know, is “pro” abortion. Such a charge is little more than invective meant to cast an aspersion upon those who are pro-choice: You are pro murder, this charge intimates. You wantonly take life and think nothing of it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

But I also find the moniker pro-life to be equally problematic. Believe me, I understand the issues people have with abortion. It is not a pleasant topic, and it is one that elicits a great deal of emotion. From the very terminology–fetus versus baby; mother versus pregnant woman–we find ourselves engaging in coded speech that, by its very nature, is meant to engender a response. But more and more, I wonder how “pro-life” are many of the opponents of reproductive choice. Take, for example, the most recent bill that passed the Arizona Senate by a vote of 20-9. According to the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/09/wrongful-birth-bill-arizona-senate-abortion-bill_n_1335117.html), this bill will allow for a doctor to withhold information from a pregnant mother and not face future lawsuits if/when a child is born with disabilities or birth defects. Indeed, similar bills are already law in nine states, and are known as “wrongful birth” or “wrongful life” laws. These laws allow for an individual doctor to place his or her personal opinions regarding abortion at the forefront, and thereby color the medical information that is provided to the pregnant woman. This doctor may not know the financial situation in which the woman finds herself; this doctor may not know the way in which the woman came to be impregnated (by rape or incest, for example); and this doctor may not know if the woman is emotionally capable of caring for a child with severe developmental issues. None of these factors need to be taken into account. Nope. If the doctor is “pro-life,” then this doctor can withhold whatever he or she decides is worth withholding, especially if it means that the fetus will be brought to term.

How does this support the life of the mother? Or of the child, once it is delivered and is no longer in the sanctity of the womb?

Color me confused, though, as to what is going on nationally. With the most recent law in Virginia, women who are seeking an abortion must submit to a medically unnecessary ultrasound (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-57392796-503544/virginia-gov-bob-mcdonnell-signs-virginia-ultrasound-bill/). While the doctor cannot force the woman to look at the results, one wonders: if the ultrasound reveals that the fetus will develop certain problems, will said information be withheld from the pregnant woman? Let’s suppose that there emerges a perfect storm in which the Virginia legislation and a “wrongful birth” law both pass in the same state. A woman comes in for a legal abortion and is forced to submit to an ultrasound; she views the ultrasound image and decides that she will carry the fetus to term. Unbeknownst to her, the fetus will develop a myriad of developmental problems that will require tens of thousands of dollars a year to treat, and around the clock care. This woman has no insurance, no support system, and works a minimum wage job. My questions is: Who will be willing to help her? Where are the programs that have adequate funding to provide consistent, dependable care for both the child and the mother? Where are the pro-life groups when this woman loses her job because she is caring for a child who will never mentally develop past the age of three? While I do not mean to say that there is not nuance to the pro-life position, and I know that there are good groups out there which do provide some assistance after the child has been delivered, the fact is there are not enough such groups. Many organizations focus on seeing that the child is brought to term, and then abandon the mother in order to “save” other babies.  Most often, the mother who has delivered a child with developmental disabilities finds herself alone, having to fend for herself (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13857062/ns/health-childrens_health/t/more-disabled-kids-living-single-women/#.T1p9F3mcySo).

Don’t get me wrong. I am NOT advocating that all fetuses that are identified with developmental issues be aborted. While respecting the privacy of my friends, I will say that two of my lifelong friends have a child who has a severe developmental disability. This child is one of the most beautiful, energetic, amazing human beings I have ever met. This child brings a smile to the face of everyone. It is difficult to imagine the world without this wonderful, amazing little girl. But I see how they struggle, and the challenge it has been for them, the strain it has put on them both financially and emotionally. Luckily, they are surrounded by love and support. I have other friends who also parent children with disabilities, and I cherish these children as well. In all cases, though, the parents were provided information about their situation. It was not hidden from them, so they were able to go about preparing themselves. Not knowing, one parent told me, until the day of delivery would have been so much worse than finding out beforehand.

To me, being pro-life is about respecting both the quality and quantity of life. It is about respecting how the lives of the parents and those close to them will be changed by the reality of a disabled child. It is not about eugenics; it is not about wanting to do away with those who are not “normal.” Yet, I do not see how keeping vital information from a pregnant woman is the right of a doctor, and I fail to see how a government can have the ability to reach into an examining room and allow for a trained professional to use his or her own personal feelings as a measuring stick for administering medical advice. How is that being “pro-life”?

In the end, I see this onslaught of laws concerning women’s health to be paternalistic, condescending, and hypocritical. A person who supports the Virginia legislation on the basis that it “provides the greatest deal of information” cannot logically support the Arizona bill, which allows for information to be withheld (http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2012/0223/Abortion-wars-Virginia-retreats-on-invasive-probe-in-ultrasound-bill-video). Despite what talking heads like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Rielly say, I do see a war on women being unleashed. More to the point, though, if we want to be a society that values lives, why not be honest about the needs of the children and families that live with the challenges presented by severe disabilities? Even Rick Santorum, who has a child with a disability, acknowledges how expensive it is to care for such a child (http://www.christianpost.com/news/rick-santorum-explains-his-low-rate-of-charitable-giving-70799/). Mr. Santorum has been blessed to make a very good living and can provide for his family; a vast majority of Americans who have disabled children do not have the financial or family resources available to the former senator. Is that an argument for abortion? Not necessarily. I believe that it is the right of each mother (and father, where applicable) to make that decision, but we should have a serious conversation about how insurance companies, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations need to provide cradle to grave assistance (financial, emotional, services-based, etc) if we really want to advance “pro-life” values in this country.