Friday, July 31, 2009

Giving and Taking

Hey, it's me again.

I, like a lot of white people you've probably heard claim it a thousand times, have some Native American ancestry. Leaving aside the complicated implications of that (and what it really says about what happened to all these Native American women who got carried off to white settlements to have settlers' kids), I do feel I owe something to them.

I seldom can find anything to pay the debt that I owe to them for enriching our world at great cost to their cultures, their livelihoods, and their very existence. But here's something I feel very good about, and you should, too.

Oyate needs our help. I owe them my help, and if you think about it long enough... quite frankly, so do you. If you've ever said, "well, I have some Cherokee blood," or "I'm related to the Lakota," or "I try to integrate Native American spirituality into my life" (and Pagans, I'm looking at YOU here), you have gained something from Native Americans and you should give something back.

Well, it's not hard. And whatever you give has the potential to be doubled if you get it out there fast enough.

Oyate is a Native organization working to see that our lives and histories are portrayed honestly, and so that all people will know our stories belong to us. For Indian children, it is as important as it has ever been for them to know who they are and what they come from. For all children, it is time to know and acknowledge the truths of history. Only then will they come to have the understanding and respect for each other that now, more than ever, will be necessary for life to continue.

The great Lakota leader, Tatanka Iotanka—Sitting Bull—said, “Let us put our minds together and see what life we will make for our children.” The great Cuban revolutionary, José Martí, said, “We work for children because children know how to love, because children are the hope of the world.” Our work is to nurture in our children a sense of self and community. Our hope is that they will grow up healthy and whole.

Our work includes critical evaluation of books and curricula with Indian themes, conducting of “Teaching Respect for Native Peoples” workshops and institutes; administration of a small resource center and reference library; and distribution of children’s, young adult, and teacher books and materials, with an emphasis on writing and illustration by Native people.

Our hope is that by making many excellent books available to encourage many more, especially from Native writers and artists. Oyate, our organiztion’s name, is the Dakota word for people. It was given to us by a Dakota friend.

popelizbet has some progress information for us.

"Oyate has been offered a generous grant that will help them do a major website overhaul. (...) According to Beverly, the delightful woman I spoke to, as of ten minutes until ten central time, and including my little $10, they are now at $3,217.00 of the needed $5000. They must raise the remaining $1783.00 by Saturday, August 1 in order to receive their grant. (...)

To paraphrase something I once said to omnisti, $1783 is just 178.3 people with ten bucks each. But we need to find those one hundred seventy eight and a third people before Saturday.

You can donate here by phone, mail or via Paypal. To use Paypal, click the "Network for Good" link."

Please. Native Americans have lost so much, have given us so much both willingly and unwillingly. There's got to be something you can give back. Do something.

Even if it's tiny, remember that your donation will be doubled if you can give just a little by Saturday. Your support is worth twice as much to them as it is to you. It's something so small, but it matters so much. And you can do it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

An important email.

An email from an Iranian woman named Fayah about her plans for Thursday's protests:

"I love life. I love to laugh and be with my friends. There are so many books I want to read, movies I want to see, people I want to meet. I want to marry, to be a good wife and mother. I want to grow old with the people I love, to feel the sun on my face, to see the ocean, to travel.

My country is in a terrible state. People have no jobs. There is no money. People have no freedom. Women must hide themselves from the world, and we have no choices.

Our people--we are not terrorists. We hate terrorists. And that is what our government has become. They kill our people for no reason. They torture us in their prisons because we want freedom. They make our country look evil, they make our religion look evil.

We are fighting for our freedom, for our religion, for our country. If we do nothing while injustice abounds, we become unjust. We turn into the ones we hate.

I have to fight. I have to go back on the streets. I will make them kill me. I will join Neda, with my friends, and then maybe the world will hear us.

I never thought I would become a martyr, but it is needed. The more of us they kill, the smaller they become, the more strength the people will have. Maybe my death will mean nothing, but maybe it will buy my country freedom.

I am very sad that I will never be a mother, that I will never do the things I love, but I would rather die than do nothing and know that I am to blame for the tortures, the murder, the hatred.

Please tell the world how much we love life. That we are not terrorists. We just want to be free."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Christ in the hearts of men

I am sick of this apathetic lukewarm Christian shit. Christ was a fucking revolutionary, who did revolutionary shit because marginalized people were being treated like fucking ass.

Any Christian who doesn't care about social progress for people who've been marginalized is, in my book, a fucking disgrace.

I've gotten to the point that I don't care about being cuddly and sympathetic and enabling people who want to see themselves as people they aren't, who do things they aren't, who care about things that they clearly do not.

People who know what Christianity can do, what good it can bring to people, have the fucking sack to reject those who claim it while undermining it. Props to Jimmy Carter, who recently left his church--his allegiance to which having been somewhat famous--over its treatment of women. He wins at Christianity.

He has demonstrated that he understands what an engine for good Christianity can AND SHOULD be, and he demonstrated it by leaving... by refusing to allow harm to be done in his name. This is some of the ballsiest shit I've seen done in Christ's name in a good while, and it took someone leaving the church to honor Christ.

You can decide for yourself what that says. Not all Christians belong to misogynist and harmful denominations, so it's not a statement everybody needs to make. But if it did need to be made... would you? We're not all Jimmy Carter, with the fame and prestige to speak truth to power and do it as a powerful person in our own right. But we have a voice, don't we? Each individual has a voice.

We can't fight every battle or die on every hill. But for the love of shit, Christians, your religion is based around a man who died on a cross for you. Doesn't that set some kind of example that you can apply to your fellow man?

God damn it. So pissed. I have seriously had enough of this horseshit. I've had enough of Christians who claim the name of Christ but don't seem to use him as an example. They don't seem to know him at all, and these are the ones with the deep personal relationship that has--if you ask them--frequently "changed their lives."

And yet sometimes they don't think poverty is their business, that racism is their business, that the systematic marginalization of women is their business. They don't really think people in other countries are their business either, because by "neighbor" surely Jesus meant "the guy who literally lives next door to you with a similar lifestyle and values."

Sometimes I wish I could believe that Christians will really meet up with Jesus Christ someday, and that they'll be asked whether Christ was in their hearts. And then they'll ask a child, and a person of color, and a poor woman. They'll say, "Did you see Christ in his/her heart?"

Their answer will matter.

If your God is good and merciful, their answer will matter as much as yours. Their voice will matter as much as yours, because God won't care if you're white, or male, or had food on your table every night or wore the right fucking khakis. Only mortals care about those things, which is why mortals are so quick to excuse the privileged when they ignore those less fortunate because "it's not my business."

Well, guess what. Your voice doesn't count for more with your God. You were in a position to ignore others only because of your own privilege, because they sure as hell can't ignore their own problems. Why should your voice--so much more valuable here on Earth--be heard more loudly in Heaven as well?

I hope they are asked if they saw Christ in you, if they felt Christ's love in the touch of your hand or the generosity and mercy in your heart. And you had better hope to your God that they answer, "Yes, yes, I did."


Your religion can be a beautiful thing, bringing power within the reach of the disempowered, bringing connection to the isolated and help to those who need it. Your religion can do better than this. I expect it of a religion whose leader claimed that whatever you do to the least of us, you do to him. I expect better of Christianity, because I know that as a cultural and spiritual force this religion can do so much better.

I expect better because I know what the force of Christianity can do.

I wish more Christians did.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Got an email from Human Rights Campaign!

I have great news to share: the Senate has passed the Matthew Shepard Act!

The bill will soon be on its way to President Obama's desk, where he'll get a chance to make good on his promise to sign it.

This vote came on the heels of tremendous pressure from radical right-wing groups that used every trick in the book.

They called the bill the "Pedophile Protection Act" among other outrageous lies. They dismissed the barbaric hate crime that took Matthew Shepard's life as a "hoax." They flooded the Senate with hundreds of thousands of letters and calls.

But your calls, emails, and financial support for our work helped make sure the truth prevailed in the end. Without you, this victory for equal rights would not have been possible.

Will you do one last important thing? Click here to find out how your Senators voted then CALL them to tell them what you think about their vote!

Whether your Senator voted "Yes" or "No," they need to hear from you. Post-vote feedback puts lawmakers on notice that their constituents are engaged, and makes them more likely to pay attention when we need their help again.

This hate crimes legislation is a tremendous step forward for full equality for LGBT Americans, but we most certainly will need their help again.

Please take a minute from your busy day to make these two quick calls.

Thank you for all your help!

Yay! Both of Indiana's Senators were on board, which makes me feel a little better about my state. How did yours do? Let them know!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Political License Plate

So in all states, you can choose to get a license plate whose fees support the fight against breast cancer, environmental causes, a college or university, whatever. In Florida, there's a license plate for people who want to take a stand against this newfangled notion that the government doesn't control a woman's body, and the money goes toward so-called "Crisis Pregnancy Centers" (you know, those places where they tell you that you'll never be able to have a baby after an abortion, your abortion will give you breast cancer, you'll hate yourself for the rest of your life, and lie to you about the biological capability of an embryo to feel pain).

These people are responding by attempting to pull together support for a pro-choice license plate.

Here is where you can donate to help them along, if you have a couple of bucks. Florida needs it. Lest you think this cannot be done, Montana did it.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Personal Space: Are We Too Touchy?

Personal Space: Are We Too Touchy?

It's not easy being a private person in a hugger's world. Wall Street Journal writer Elizabeth Bernstein is, apparently, a "touch-ee": quite against her will, she's constantly being hugged, nudged, patted, high-fived and stroked by her coworkers.
"You're so friendly," said one. "You're always stressed," said another. "You're self-deprecating, and I want to give you a boost," said a third. "You're short," a close friend said.
Although the touching is platonic, it makes Bernstein uncomfortable, and she asks, why is this okay?
It's a weird irony that, even as sexual harassment policies have gotten stricter and more ubiquitous, the rules of personal space have become more lax. Whereas a generation ago no one would have gone beyond a businesslike handshake (unless, I guess, they were having a pre-sexual harassment policy affair), nowadays hugging, sympathetic pats and slaps on the back are commonplace. And it's tricky because, where some people are vigilant about personal space, others see touching as a natural way to express warmth and sympathy. And rejecting a friendly touch is rude.

Yes! For the love of dammit, I hate this!

I hate people thinking that just because they see, they can touch. I hate people thinking that me having boundaries is something I need to "get over." Newsflash, people. The fact that you want to grab me and I don't like it is not something that I need to get over. Get the hell over yourself and your perceived entitlement to engulfing me in your giant midwestern breasts.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

"Just a job."

I wonder what it would be like to be some kind of religious leader, like a clergyman or priestess, and "lose one's faith." I mean, it's one thing for me to say, "I'm part of this religion even if I don't believe in its deities any more than a Jewish person needs to be a Young Earth Creationist."

It's quite another for a religious leader who has staked their career on a spiritual calling, their lifestyle and their very livelihood, on a strong commitment to nurturing and furthering the religious group of their choice. I imagine there are priests who stop believing in the literal truth of God who stick around for the community-building and counseling aspects of the job, but how many more stay because they have no choice?

At that rate, I'm surprised that any clergy are willing to entertain even for a moment the possibility that they might be serving something/someOne that isn't there. The consequences for them of changing their mind are much heavier for the rest of us who may make some lifestyle changes but don't really lose anything.

Then there's the question of people who enter into a position of religious leadership without a belief in the literal truth of their religion's narratives. I mean, if people can make it through seminary school without a belief in six-day creationism, can they make it through without a belief in the God that did it? Provided they could, is there a reason to?

Questions I'm mulling over as I consider the implications of whatever degree of religious leadership comes my way now and again. I can do what priests do, but I wouldn't be what they are. This isn't a problem for me, but would my presence be a problem for them?

I don't think that my mere presence would cause anybody I "served" with to automatically and magically become non-theist practitioners of the same religion. But if it did, I worry that they would be unable to strike the same balance that I do between continued practice and discontinued faith. At that rate... I would hardly have done them a favor.

Perhaps it's better, then, that religious leaders try their damndest not to listen to me. It's all well and good for me to think about these things in the way that I have and come to the conclusion that I did. But my path would wreck what they've built. Even if I think that what I believe is better grounded in practical reality... I feel a need to acknowledge that sometimes people have built so much on something that even accidentally knocking them away from it would do them more harm than good.

I don't know. I'm just thinking about it. I know clergy who are comfortable talking to me or atheists of various stripes, and they're "secure in their faith," which may imply they're not really giving a fair hearing to the atheist or it may imply that they've already explored that path and decided it's not what their life needs.

It's just hard for me to escape the idea that clergy of any tradition have made a commitment that gives them a serious disincentive to changing their minds. I don't exactly run around trying to change their minds, but I wonder if this means I ought to be more careful not to cause such a change, lest I cause far more damage to them than the paradigm shift caused me.

I don't know how I feel about this yet. It's just something that was on my mind today.