News Flash – I am a southern Christian woman. I am a student of history. My educational focus was southern women’s history during the civil war era. I care a lot about what happened here in my homeland and what tore our country apart at the seams. And now it seems to me that radical, loud, highly opinionated yet uniformed people are allowing history and current political maneuvering to tear our country apart at the seams again. Don’t buy into it people. This is just rhetoric and posturing.
I grew up and was educated in Birmingham, Alabama. I know racism is real and ugly and prevalent. I know that bigotry is not a respecter of skin color. If a child is taught to dislike, distrust and malign people because of the color of their skin, culture or other distinguishing characteristic a bigot is created. I am a foster mother who was blessed to foster a child of a different race. I saw first hand that this taught bigotry happens in the black community towards white people, in the white community towards black people and from culture to culture. I have had people hate and distrust me because I am a white woman. Once they got to know me and learn there is no subterfuge, they remarked that they were surprised by my genuineness. That made me sad. I was taught to take people as they are, not to judge them. I am always shocked when others judge first then allow actions to change their judgement. Who can really know the heart of a person? Not me. So why not start off with the position that they are good and go from there?
Honestly, you can feel it in my town. You can feel the animosity and hate. You can see the fear and the division. In this city of great beauty and deep history perhaps the wounds of the past run too deep for generations to have allowed love and grace to come in. As a white woman proudly working at an HBCU I hear it from my neighbors. I’m told things like “watch your back” and “don’t let them beat you down” when folks find out where I work. And yet I also feel the ostracism from my co-workers and leaders.
Please don’t take this as a slam on my city or even my region of the country. I have experienced racism in all kinds of places. As a college student in Utah in the late 80’s I saw firsthand how Pacific Islanders and Native Americans were profiled by police. I felt the disdain because my friends and adopted community while I lived in Utah were a family of Pacific Islanders; white “upstanding” people of faith would not give me the time of day. My social life outside that group ended because I was “dating” outside my race. But I also heard these people who were so welcoming and great to me, use derogatory terms when talking about white people. Bigotry is no respecter of persons. Even traveling abroad – I was in England right after the Gulf War began. We were in London vacationing when “the world’s largest peace rally” was held. We were afraid to speak in public because our accents gave us away as Americans and that was not okay. We were denied service at restaurants. It was ugly and frightening and took us all completely by surprise. Bigotry is no respecter of nationality.
This weekend’s events made me turn off the news, turn off social media and just enjoy my family because that is really what matters. Yesterday I was scrolling through FB and getting so angry. How dare people desecrate Lincoln Memorial – seriously someone does not understand history to believe tagging it was appropriate. Then there is all the debate about historical monuments and their place in our world today. As I was about to respond to a really stupid post I asked myself, “how do these monuments impact your day to day existence?” Well they don’t. As a student of history I love perusing the historic town in which I live and love reading all the historical markers. An afternoon exploring an old grave yard and reading all the headstones and wondering about the lives of the people they memorialize is ideal for me as long as it isn’t gnat season. But at the end of the day, the monuments are just carved stone, molded metal, inanimate objects that mean nothing. They don’t change who I am, Who I follow and how I live my life. In the discourse on social media this week there is an elevation of these monuments to be something other than what they are. Are we not making idols of them if we put so much importance on them that we fail to follow the second commandment, to love our neighbors as ourselves?
I personally think it is stupid to take down monuments that honor our countrymen that died in battle on our soil no matter what side they were on. I think it is silly to take down monuments of senior statesmen and people that built our country and shaped our government because they did not live a life that the filter of this century sees as good and honorable. I think it is totally silly to rename a bridge because now we are offended by the words spoken by the namesake a half century ago. Removing the monuments and earmarks of history does not change history. I think it does however make it harder to learn, harder for the next generation to have their interest piqued and a desire to read and understand what happened before them.
What is happening now in our country happens when there is a regime change in a totalitarian state. We don’t live in a totalitarian state. But the discourse on both sides of this ugliness is sounding more and more totalitarian to me. Thankfully, because of these senior statesmen and others, we live in a country where we can stop this. We can shut out and ostracize those that promote hate. We can insist on transparency and honesty from those feeding us information, from those educating our next generations. We can accept that our past is our past, some of it ugly, some of it flawed but all of it always with a promise of hope and a better future. This is the greatest country that I have been in. This is a place that people die to support, to defend and to promote. Many are the generations of people who live and work and celebrate in this country because one of their great, great grandparents decided America’s promise of hope was worth giving up a homeland and venturing out on a grand adventure.
Let’s not get distracted from what really matters. This post is for me more than anyone. When I read of destruction for destruction sake; when I see people incorporating actions previously reserved for our enemies to take out fellow countrymen; when I hear irrational, uninformed and dead wrong rhetoric screamed from the platforms of those wishing to incite violence I can get caught up in it. I can lose it when a family member posts some inane piece of political garbage. But when I do, I am losing the battle. I am allowing hate to enter and anger to fuel a response. As I process all this I am realizing the real power, the real strength in times like this is to be like Jesus Christ, to offer mercy and grace and forgiveness in the face of hate and bigotry. To focus on my relationship with God instead of the political winds blowing around me and to be thankful for those blessings that mean so much to me. It’s hard to do. Love is the answer, yes, but it isn’t easy. Thankfully I know that when I screw up and let my emotions take over, the God I love offers grace and mercy. And since I know that, I should offer that same to those whose emotions have taken over their moral compass and good sense.
God bless America, even the stupid people.