America

The Terrorists Are Winning

12107836_10207468604055373_992290273295544282_n-2Excuse me for stating the obvious, but we’ve got a problem in this country. But it’s not really a new problem. The problem isn’t Donald Trump and the rural working class. The problem isn’t Hillary Clinton and the liberal elite. The problem isn’t Washington. The problem isn’t Wall Street. And the problem isn’t Main Street. The problem, to put it one way I guess, is sea to shining sea. It’s from the east to the west. It’s from the Left to the Right. The problem is us. All of us. And what exactly is our problem? It’s uncomfortable to admit. And it sounds a bit like grandstanding. I think the problem is this:

The terrorists are winning. And we’re letting them.

Our nation changed on September 11, 2001. We know that. And it was a truly amazing time. We had just gone through the closest presidential race in American history. It was so close in fact that it took not until the next morning to decide, not even until the next week, but until the next month to decide. Ultimately George W. Bush became our president, and the left was scared. Where would this go? How would he lead? As I recall the usual Democrat vs. Republican arguments took place throughout the first few months of Bush’s presidency. Then terrorists flew commercial airplanes into the Twin Towers (ultimately toppling them) as well as the Pentagon, and attempted to fly one into the White House.

The nation changed in a moment, and we all knew it. President Bush’s approval ratings cvfspjk4hesmzts2bc0brgnearly doubled overnight, going from about 50% to 90+%. Some of my most liberal, Bush-hating friends even said, “we just have to trust that he knows what he’s doing.” It was amazing. The country was coming together like we had never seen it before. We were more the United States of America than I have ever seen. We were like an awakened giant, who was ready to rise and shine like never before.

It didn’t last long. As President Bush led us into war with Iraq less than two years later, the age old divide seemed to be back. Except it wasn’t quite to same “age-old divide”. Something was different. Since about a year into the Iraq war, we have been on, as I’ve experienced, the steepest, fastest, and deepest downward trajectory toward division than we’d been on my whole life, perhaps longer- perhaps going all the way back to the Civil War.

Friends, the terrorists are winning.

Oh sure we got Saddam Hussein, and we got Osama Bin Laden, and we got who knows whoever else. But have we ever been more afraid? We may have felt strong and united for a few months after the attacks on September 11th, but the truth is that since then we have been afraid. Politics has been driven by fear and it is killing us- in many cases literally. We’re afraid, and our whole political realm is operating out of that fear. And when people operate out of fear, generally bad things happen. We go into survival mode. We go into self preservation mode. We fight, we claw, we run, we hide, and, perhaps most tragically, we demonize and vilify anything that looks, sounds, and behaves differently than we do.

The terrorists have done, and are doing, exactly what they intend to do. They’ve made us afraid. That is not to say that there isn’t anything to be afraid of. But it is to say that when we there is something to fear, we have to be very careful. Franklin Roosevelt famously said, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”, but I don’t know that he was entirely correct.

There are other things to fear. ISIS is something to be afraid of. A president whose first order of action seems to be setting up a battle with the press is something to be afraid of. The increased disappearance of the middle class is something to be afraid of. Jobs fleeing the rust belt for other nations is something to be afraid of. Continued incarceration and execution of black lives is something to be afraid of. On and on it goes. There is a lot to be afraid of.

I think FDR was wrong in that fear isn’t the only thing we have to fear, but he was correct in that fear is the main thing we have to fear. This is how the terrorists are winning. Since September 11th, even with a two term president who ran on the “audacity of hope”, our driving motivator in this country has been fear. The Republicans made us afraid of a Kerry Presidency. Then they made us really afraid of an Obama presidency. This year, they stepped it up a notch creating a sense that United States would crack and fall off the face of the earth with a Hillary Clinton presidency. They tried to make us afraid of these people, as the primary means to convince people to vote on their side.

But before the democrats get too haughty, they did the same thing. They bred incredible fear in us about a second Bush term. They made us afraid of a McCain/Palin white house (“she’s one heartbeat away from the oval!”). They bred incredible social and economic fear in us over a Romney presidency, and look how the last 18 months went. Fear. Be afraid of that one. Be very afraid.

That being said, I do believe that there is more to be afraid of with President Trump than any one in my lifetime. Don’t hear what I’m saying as a “calm down, everybody” moment. The rhetoric in his campaign is not only incited fear but anger and violence (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you are either in total denial or are living under a rock). And, contrary to most presidents, he’s making good on his promises. If you ask me, this man is- to use one of his favorite phrases- a total disaster.

But even though I believe there is reason to fear this Trump presidency, letting that fear guide us is the worst thing we can do. It has gotten us nowhere in the last 16 years. All it has led to is a greater divide, and with that divide only comes increased fear, which only increases the divide. I believe that what led us to a Donald J. Trump presidency (something that was a punch line at best and mostly unimaginable 17 years ago) is fear. And what I fear now is that we will do what we’ve been doing these last two decades. We will continue to swing the wrecking ball of fear between us with increased force and in so doing continue to wreck this nation in which we live and which we call home.

Again, I want to be clear. A Trump Presidency appalls me. This man has made my flesh crawl since the early 2000s when my wife and I used to watch “The Apprentice”. I think he’s a clinical narcissist, and in that is entirely psychologically unfit for the presidency, and I genuinely fear where he’s going with this. So in no way am I saying that we shouldn’t resist, that we shouldn’t march, and that we shouldn’t have our guard up. We must.

But we also need to look at what led us to him. It’s fear. It is letting fear be our guide that has led to the increasing chasm between us, and I think the terrorists are now just sitting back on their barcaloungers with their feet up, sipping a cool drink and relaxing as we tear ourselves apart. Somehow in these trying times we have to rise above our fear and move toward one anther again. I’m not saying we need to accept pu**y-grabbing and whatever it was that Hillary did that was so horrific that no one’s ever done before. But I am saying that we need to move toward one another, get back to real conversation and debate, and in that rise above our fear. Fear is the terrorist’s means of control. It’s all they’ve got. Let’s not give it to them. Yes, we can and should be afraid, but we cannot- cannot- let it drive us anymore.

In this, the terrorists are winning. But it’s not over. The choice is ours, not theirs. There’s still time, but we need to make a radical course correction right now. We need to find a way to talk to each other again- to listen to one another- to, quite simply, not be so afraid of one another. That is not to say that we need to agree nor is it to say that we shouldn’t challenge one another, but we have to do it without letting fear be out pilot.

That’s how the terrorists are winning. They have bred such fear in us, that fear is driving us, and in driving us it has become our guiding value in policy, in action, and in how we relate to another in our day to day lives. The terrorists don’t need to attack us anymore, because we’re attacking one another (and let me be the first to admit that I’ve done this, even as recently as yesterday) . They put a giant chasm of fear between us, and in our fear, we are running away from the chasm’s edge, sheltering ourselves with only with those who think, act, and sound like we do, and in so doing we are continually widening the chasm until there is nothing left and we all fall in.

That woman in the hijab over there? She’s not hiding a bomb in it. That guy in the big truck with a an eagle and American flag in the back window? He’s not in the KKK. That women in the hijab? She just wants to work hard, earn a living wage, provide for her family, and love her neighbor. And the guy in the big truck? Same thing. She’s not your enemy. Nor is he.

Do you know who your enemy is? The voice telling you that she or he is your enemy.

It’s Time for US to Take the Hit.

img_7456It was just over a month ago that something woke in me and I found myself en route to the small town of Cannon Ball on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. I’m not sure what it was, but as I’ve said before, something simply lit inside of me and had to become active at some level in advocating for the Standing Rock Sioux on the issue of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

Over the last month I have found myself utterly disappointed in both the President of the United States (who, contrary to popular understanding is still Barack Obama) and the mainstream media. Both of them have had their heads in the sand on this issue, no matter what they say. They will cite that the election took precedent, but this is utter nonsense. The election has been over for nearly a month, and the mainstream media cannot stop playing into the President-Elect’s hand as it continues to be obsessed with Donald J. Trump. Let’s get real, media: You love him. You can’t get enough of him. You have been salivating over him for over a year.

As for President Obama: Well, it’s pretty clear where his loyalties lie. Yes, Obama’s silence is proof that we are indeed “one nation, under oil…”. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. We are one nation under god, and that god’s name is Oil. That is who our source of life and wellbeing is, that is who we serve, that is who we worship.

Over this last frustrating month, I’ve been doing what little I can to get the word out, but that’s pretty limited. Finally the media is starting to pick this up a little bit, and the story is getting out there a little more. I was struck today by a piece from the Washington Post that I thought is definitely worth a good look for everybody. It traces several different perspectives on DAPL. I think those perspectives- all of them- are important for us to listen to.

As I read the piece and watched the videos I heard some of the cries of those on the other side from where I am. I heard about how this pipeline has provided thousands of good jobs for people who need it. I heard about its economic benefits to all of us. I heard about the disruption of everyday work, income, and livelihood the protests have created for many hard working and even sympathetic North Dakotans. I heard about genuine safety issues for pipeline workers, law enforcement officers, and even uninvolved citizens. These are real issues, with real people, real faces, real names, and real lives that people like need me need to hear, see, and value.

But as much as I hear them, I simply cannot see any argument to allow this pipeline through. There is a side to this story that I think (and seriously, no pun intended) trumps everything else. It’s a side of the story that we all know, but we simply seem unwilling to do anything about, and of which we live in abject denial of. It’s this:

No matter the merits of any argument regarding the economy, the environment, or the process, what we now call the United States of America has been oppressing native peoples for 500 years and it’s time- for once- to give them what they want. And furthermore, it’s time to give them what they want at our expense. 

Yes, there may be some violent protestors, and yes that is wrong. Threats and physical attacks by protestors on pipeline workers, law enforcement officers, and government officials is wrong and should be condemned. It is not what the people of Standing Rock stand for, and it should be boldly and clearly condemned, and those people should go home. And, yes, this pipeline has created jobs, and, yes, this pipeline will likely benefit the US economy. All of that may be true.

But when we’re saying things like “these protestors are impacting people’s livelihoods who have nothing to do with the pipeline”, what we’re failing to recognize is the history in which we are still living today that violently took this land from these people and ruined their very way of being. We’ve been disrupting their livelihood and lives for 500 years. It’s our turn. Maybe it’s time that our lifestyle takes a hit so that we can begin to right the 500 years of wrongs we have inflicted on Native American cultures. It’s time for us to perhaps lose the job, see gas prices rise, and even watch our economy weaken so that we can- for once- do right with Native Peoples.

The minute these people said “no”, we should have stopped and said, “you know what: You’re right. We’re sorry. We’ll stop digging.” And we should have done this for no other reason than all we’ve done for 500 years is trample over and dig up Native Peoples’ land, culture, livelihoods, and lives. It’s time for us- the people of the United States of America- to take the hit. Enough is enough.

Two years ago President Barack Obama stood on the Standing Rock reservation pledging to have their back. I believed him. And I believed in him. I’m ashamed today that I ever trusted this man, and, quite honestly, any other soul that will sit in the Oval Office. I’m embarrassed that I believed him. When it comes down to it, we as a nation have never had, and appears will never have, the backs of Native People. President Obama’s silence is, to me, the sign, sealed, and delivered message that we really don’t care about Native American’s Lives. We don’t. Just look at our receipts for the past 500 years.

We will pay them lip service, but when it comes down to it, we will bow down to and serve our god ever faithfully: We will serve whatever it is that benefits us economically at the time, which right now is the god called oil. And we will, as we are doing right now, trample over whomever we have to in order to worship this god. Today, as it hs been for 500 years, it is those who are native to America over which we trample. Enough is enough, America. It’s time for us to take the hit. Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline now.

Have a Troubled Thanksgiving

tumblr_og7eoxyw5m1qd42iqo1_1280Yes, that’s right, I don’t want you to have a “happy” Thanksgiving. I want you (and me) to have a troubled- disturbed- thanksgiving. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for gratitude and calling to mind the blessings in our lives, and that is something we all should ado. So do that, but as you do, remember that there’s another narrative that surrounds this gluttonous holiday which we need to address, and which we need to condemn. It’s that narrative that tells the outright lie of pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock, meeting and shaking hands with Native Americans who all then sit down and have a turkey dinner together. We know this isn’t true. We know that what actually happened is one of the biggest and most long lasting acts of imperial dominion and genocide the world has ever known. That’s what Thanksgiving is, and we need to let that in.

The American story, for which we “give thanks” tomorrow, is one surrounded by the kinds of acts that when another nation engages in them, we fight wars and cry for a regime change. Yet somehow we still live in whispers of this false narrative of pilgrims and natives peacefully sitting down to dinner together. We dress our white preschool kids up in offensive native attire and put on thanksgiving pageants in our schools, we run 5Ks and put head dresses on cartoon turkey characters on the t-shirt, and we thank God for the freedom we have in this great country- a freedom we stole. A freedom that came at the cost of nations which we plundered, raped, and destroyed. So have a troubled Thanksgiving.

When it comes to what we now know as the Standing Rock Sioux, we came in, we took their land, we gave some of it back, then we took some back again. The land we’ve taken, which they hold as sacred, we’ve exploited over and over again. Today a massive black snake known as an oil pipeline is being laid right through that land we took, gave back, and took again, and the Standing Rock Sioux have had enough. And so have I. So should we all. It doesn’t matter what permits they have or don’t have. It doesn’t matter whether the land the pipeline is going through is technically the Standing Rock reservation or not. It doesn’t matter that water protectors may be “trespassing”. Trespassing? Are you kidding me? Our whole nation, this “greatest nation in the world”, was founded on trespassing- and that’s putting it nicely. This is an “enough is enough” moment. It’s time for this US Government to just once- just once- side with Native Peoples in a meaningful way. In a way that costs us something. But it’s not happening. Peaceful water protectors are alone, being attacked by law enforcement, and we don’t care. Why? Because we are “one nation under God” and that god’s name is Oil. That is who we bow to, serve and worship. So have a troubled Thanksgiving.

So, yes, I want you and me to have a troubled Thanksgiving, because while we sit down to turkey, mashed potatoes, “green stuff”, wine, and football, native peoples are still fighting for their (and our) well being. While we pull out the fine china and pretend we like each other, thousands of people, and more nations than have ever gathered before in history, camp out in the cold and snow on the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota trying to do everything they can to stop an oil pipeline from tunneling underneath the river that gives the people of Standing Rock life. And, quite honestly, gives all of us life. So as we fill ourselves on massive amounts of food and drink, have a troubled Thanksgiving.

As the Standing Rock people and their allies do what they can to stop it, law enforcement officers have proven to stop at nothing to stop them. Water cannons in freezing temperatures, concussion grenades, and rubber bullets have been launched on water protectors, severely injury many. Just two years ago President Obama (who, contrary to popular belief is still the President) stood on the Standing Rock reservation and pledged to stand with native peoples. Today, he’s got his head buried in the sand, proving that 500+ years later, this nation- the “land of the free and the home of the brave”- doesn’t care about native peoples. After all that we’ve learned, we still dress up our kids in head dresses on Thanksgiving, and we still move into native land to exploit it for our own economic benefit. We are still, right now, today, this Thanksgiving, taking their land and ignoring their cries as we were 500 years ago. So have a troubled Thanksgiving.

An oil pipeline running through sacred ground that we stole and tunneling underneath sacred and life giving water, combined with a militarized police force, and capped with a liberal president bailing on his promises with his head in the sand exposes that 500 years later this country, the United States of America, the “city on a hill”, is still an imperial oppressor, who views indigenous people as subhuman savages that need to be destroyed so that we can “be free”. This is a reality we need to let in and confess. This should be a national day of repentance, not a celebration. So have a troubled Thanksgiving.

This image (also above) is the most accurate modern day reenactment of the original tumblr_og7eoxyw5m1qd42iqo1_1280Thanksgiving you’ll see… except that it’s not a reenactment. It’s real. It’s happening. It’s now. So as you sit down to dinner tomorrow, as you doze off on the couch watching football, as you argue with your family about the election, remember the people of Standing Rock- that is, “Real America”- and the thousands of water protectors gathered there. Remember that the turkey you’re eating comes in memory of a slaughter and genocide of native peoples that is still happening today. And remember that their plight isn’t even really about “their land”. It’s about our land. Everybody’s land. It’s about protecting this earth for generations to come. The Standing Rock Sioux are our teachers in this, but we are treating them as enemies.

So… have a troubled Thanksgiving. May your soul be in a state of unrest. May your heart cry tears of sorrow with every beat. May your mind be distracted by the truth. May your body be built by a riot in your bones. Have a troubled Thanksgiving, friends.

Since “we the people” are the only help the people of Standing Rock will get, here are a few ways you can help:

Sacred Stone Camp: http://sacredstonecamp.org/supply-list/
Oceti Sakowin Camp: http://www.ocetisakowincamp.org
Sophia’s GoFundMe Page: https://www.gofundme.com/30aezxs

What Now? Stop Beating the Crap Out of Each Other.

what_now1I’ve been trying to find words. Words are how I make sense out of things, and all week I’ve been trying to find the words that will make sense out of the insanity that this presidential election has brought. But I’ve struggled to find them. I’ve been sitting in front of my computer all morning trying to find them, but they don’t seem to come in any coherent way. I guess because there is little sense to be made out of what’s taking place in these “United” States of America. Regardless my soul needs words (even if somewhat raw and unrefined as these), and my soul needs to send those words out somehow, even if it is merely like a message in a bottle doomed to floating on an empty sea for eternity. So here are my words…

We’ve got problems, America. As much as Trump appalls me (and has since I watched “The Apprentice” back when he was mostly just a blowhard reality TV star and real estate huckster), he is right about one thing: America needs to be made great. Now I won’t say “great again”, because I’m not sure of the time when we were great, but I don’t want to get into that history right now. Suffice it to say that whether it’s “great again” or merely “great”, what Trump’s campaign slogan got right is that we as a nation have work to do. A lot of work. And in saying that, don’t give me the “why don’t you go live somewhere else” crap, because all that is is a not-clever way of shutting down hard but necessary conversation. I say that America needs to be made great, not because I hate America, but because I love it. The sooner we come to grips with the fact that we have real problems, the better. I’ll be honest: After an entire morning of several attempts at analyzing those problems, trying to find their causes, and then drawing on some kind of hopeful solution, I’m stuck. That is not to say that there isn’t a solution, but I’m stymied.

But here’s what I do know. The fear, hate, and violence has to stop. I’m just going to throw this out there, because it’s all that I know.

Those of you protesting Trump’s election, don’t stop. It’s your right to publicly assemble 546508-20161111-highschool-protest02and make your voice heard. Especially those like the gathering of Minneapolis High School students yesterday who have no vote. Get out there and make your voice heard. Don’t listen to the “he won fair and square, get over it” rhetoric. I’ll confess that he did win, and won legally. We can argue the merits of some voter laws in some states, but he won. But that doesn’t mean you have to get over it and be quiet. To a certain extent, Congress does. They need to get over it and for the sake of our country get to work, but as a private citizen, you have every right to get out there make your voice heard. But when you do, don’t destroy and burn stuff. Violence is not the answer. It never is. That doesn’t mean you can’t shut down a highway. That may be illegal, and to a certain degree dangerous, but it’s not violent. I have mixed feelings about shutting down highways, but a non-violent protest does not necessarily mean only a legal protest. Just know that if you do choose to do things like non-noviontely shut down a highway, you may get arrested. You have the right to assemble, but if you break the law in doing so, you can get arrested. You’ll need to deal with that, but deal with it peacefully.

So, Trump protestors, stop burning things, destroying property, and above all else, stop attacking Trump supporters. That is happening, whether you want to admit or not (it’s happened and they are so horrific that I don’t even want to link it here. Google it and will have no trouble finding them). Stop doing it, and furthermore start condemning the actions of those who do. You don’t have to like Trump supporters, you don’t have agree with them, you don’t have to be their friend, but you have no right whatsoever to threaten or harm them in any way. Stop it, and stop it now. I know you’re angry, and it’s ok to be angry, but you must not manifest your anger in physical attacks or threats. Stop it and condemn it when you see it.

To you Trump supporters: Climb out of your holes and stop denying that your fellow Trump supporters are engaging in a rash of hate crimes, vandalism, threats, physical and sexual assaults literally in Trump’s name across the nation. Is happening and maple-grove-high-school-graffiti-2collectively, you have not only been silent about it, you’ve been in abject denial of it. Not only that, President-Elect Trump has been silent about it. What you need to understand about those protesting his election, is that they are not protesting the merits of the election as much as they are protesting that these hate crimes, threats, and assaults, which many of us believed would come because of a Trump presidency, are actually coming. Yes, Trump tapped into what we often call “working class” America in a particular way which Hillary Clinton could not, and which got him elected, but that is not what the protests against him are about. They are about the violence he incited in his campaign toward certain people groups in America. You cannot- cannot- deny it. We saw it in his rallies. He made a promise to ban all Muslims from coming into our country. This distinctly un-American. He promised to build a wall, when the Republican hero’s (Ronald Reagan’s) most famous moment was the call to tear one down. Furthermore he encouraged violence towards his protestors by saying things like “I’d like to punch him in the face”, and, “in the gold old days, he’d be carried out on a stretcher” (If you need me to prove to you that he said these things, then you simply have not been paying attention and were an uninformed voter- look it up). The President-Elect incited violence, and that violence is manifesting itself across the nation, and he, along with his supporters are hiding from and denying it. This is not a “well, we’ve all sinned haven’t haven’t we” kind of moment. This is the President-Elect of the united states endorsing hate crimes, threats, and assaults on other Americans, and if he is not going to condemn it, you need to do it, and you need to demand that he does.

All of this is to say this. Post election (any election) there is little that we can do about what happens in Washington. We should never stop making our voices heard, no matter where on the political spectrum we fall, but in the end- that is, post election- there is little we can do. But what we can do, and what we must do, is stop the fear, hatred, and violence toward one another. Our reciprocal fear of the other, our hateful vitriol toward those who think differently than we do, and our physical destroying of one another and property is something over which we do have control. I am not asking anyone to compromise your beliefs. Stand up for what you believe in, but do it peacefully. Do it boldly, but do it peacefully. Death, assault, hate crimes, destruction… these have to stop and stop now.

12107836_10207468604055373_992290273295544282_n-2I don’t know what the answer is for America right now, but I know that we have serious, serious problems. I love this country. I do. But I am ashamed of it right now and have been for some time. Right now, I am not proud to be an American. It is disingenuous to even call us the “United” States of America. Today we are the Untied States of America. I don’t know what the answers are for what will truly tie us together, but I do know that step #1 is stop beating the crap out of each other. You on the right may not like this, but Hillary Clinton preemptively condemned beating the crap out of each other in her concession speech. And I, as one who voted for her, will publicly and boldly condemn the actions of those who have assaulted Trump supporters. I am still waiting for even one Trump supporter and the man himself to do the same about violence, hate crime, and threats in his name. Trump was surprisingly gracious in his victory speech late Tuesday night, but since then his supporters have erupted in violent attacks and hate crimes on Muslims, women, black lives, the LGBT+ community, and so on, and he has been silent (again, look it up. If you can’t find it, you’re trying not to). We have to stop beating the crap out of each other, and that means that President-Elect Trump needs to condemn those actions, and if he will not, his supporters need to do so. If neither of those happen, the future is terrifying.

So, can we build a better country and world together? I believe we can, but it’s going to take work. It’s going to take trust over fear, hope over despair, mercy over condemnation, and love over hate. Let’s do better. We can do better.We can argue, we can have battles for the ages in Congress, and we can boldly support what we believe will be great for America even if it’s different than our friend’s belief, our family member’s belief, or the person next us in the pew’s belief, but for the love of God and one another, can we please stop beating the crap out of each other? I’m sending out an SOS. I hope that someone gets my message in a bottle.