Make Room for Disagreement

All my heroes are problematic.

All my enemies are loved by someone.

I struggle to know who the villains are. Activism, at least the successful kind, almost always requires a villain be named. We define ourselves and we label the opposite “evil”. I see this in politics on the right and left. I see this in conversations about poverty, disability, race, education, gender, status, location, and diet. If we come to a conclusion about what is “right”, we no longer feel a need to listen to anyone with a different opinion.

I don’t share (as in literally click the share button) a lot of other people’s disgruntled posts, blogs, or commentary. The usual reason is that, even if I agree with it 90%, there  are moments when the opposing view is misrepresented. If we can make the opposing view seem really, really, really terrible then we have an easier time convincing people to agree with us. And doing this is not a calculated plot by manipulative people. This exaggeration of the “bad” guy is internal. We do it subconsciously because it simplifies right vs. wrong. We feel comfortable knowing we’re on the right side, so the broader the line between the two, the easier we will rest in self-righteousness.

You know, sometimes people really want to uplift the downtrodden. But they also want to throw some punches just to be punching. It’s easier to lash out when you have dehumanized an entire swath of people you’ve never met based on a single label.

Vilifying others is effective, both mentally and socially. But it is a foolish thing to rely on. It prevents us from reaching consensus, growing individually and collectively, and it discourages others from critical thinking.

So many people are afraid of “seeming” a way if they engage in discussion. We are afraid to point out one flawed part of an otherwise perfect idea for fear we will be labeled the “bad guy” or one of “them”. We put people on pedestals because their outrage is so passionate and persistent. We become convinced that, yes, finally this issue has no gray area. It is clearly black and white, good guy vs. bad guy, pick a side and block the other, it’s time for war. Then no one is allowed to question these people on high. Discussion dies. It becomes an arena where we shout “amen” and “yes” and if someone in the room dares to demonstrate doubt about *anything*, we punch them in the face.

Oh, you think I’m exaggerating just because you wouldn’t hurt a fly. But, people in groups do things people as individuals would not. People representing social righteousness and/or religion behave a little differently than people representing only themselves. The internet has made it very easy for us to form these groups, and the formula for becoming a prominent spokesperson in them is pretty simple for anyone to follow.

I engage in this behavior sometimes. I am flawed. I see that I have done the exact thing I am complaining about now. But every day I do it less. I realize that the people that have been in my life longest have not been there because they agree with my activism. They have been there all this time because despite our very different opinions, we see the good in each other. We see the other person’s heart first and filter their ideas through what we know of their heart. I want to surround myself with more people like this, and give less credibility by default to people only wanting an echo. Maybe that means my circle gets smaller. I’m okay with that. Actually, it may be exactly what I need.

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Epiphanies for Losers

Epiphany: a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.

When I hear people say they had an epiphany, it usually involved a solution to a problem. Epiphanies are generally positive things.

But not always.

What do we do with the epiphanies which expose the lie that goodness brings rewards and badness brings punishment? I am not the first person to have these revelations repeatedly popping up in front of me.

Some of us take these epiphany moments to reverse the equation. Some of us will say, “Well, if they are rewarded it is because there must be goodness I don’t see. If they are being punished there must be badness I don’t see. The laws governing good and evil remain true.”

Some say we’ll get our rewards after death. But they’re usually asking for donations in the same breath just before they take their private jet to their beach house (no the other beach house, no that’s the mountain retreat, they mean the beach house they bought last February).

Some of us take these epiphany moments to say, “Well, if there is no reward for being good, why be good? The end justifies the means.”

Some of us try to disprove the epiphany. We try to be extra good, extra brave, extra vocal about the need for goodness and bravery. And just when enough people hear us for change to begin, someone more powerful steps in and takes over just in time to reap the highest rewards.

Some of us try to say rewards don’t matter. We are good for goodness’ sake. Wanting rewards feels wrong deep in our bones. But, goodness does not feed our kids, and watching them go without weakens our resolve.

How does goodness survive?

I’ll let you think about it, because I have no answers.

When Not to Become a Mother

I am a mother of four. I have always wanted to be a mother. I value motherhood. Notice the keyword in these statements. Hint: It is not “mother”. The keyword in these statements is “I”. I am speaking for myself, not all women. Not every woman wants to be a mother. Is that okay with you?

This topic has been on my mind for quite some time. But before we discuss it further, let’s take a moment to watch this video by Elizabeth Plank, “The truth about women who don’t have kids”, which prompted me to go ahead and write about this topic today:

There are a few points I want to make here. I hope you stay with me through them all.

Mothers play an important role in society. Raising children, no matter who does this job, is an important job to do correctly.  We should not scare teens into believing motherhood is a form of torture which will ruin their lives.  We should not speak about babies as burdens even though it is a very difficult job to care for them. But, motherhood is a lifetime commitment. The outcome is the quality of the next generation of humans, for better or worse. Those humans will shape the future and be our caregivers when we are old.  This thing, being a mother, can be done with joy and satisfaction, but it is never not a job. Women who choose this role should be respected and supported by the community because we all have a stake in the outcome.

Now that I’ve expressed my love for mothers, let me make my next point.

I am 42. I have many friends who do not have children. For some of them it was simply a matter of circumstances. For others, it was a choice. But regardless of what brought about the fact that they do not have children, I often hear them say, “I would have made a terrible mother.”

Oddly, men who do not have children do not usually make this proclamation. I’ve known a few men to say they would make terrible dads because their childhood was filled with abuse (which I don’t agree is necessarily the case, but it is their choice not mine). But generally speaking, childless men like to point out what a nightmare babies are, the little snotty, poopy monsters.

But women turn on themselves. Sometimes I think they do it because they feel society demands it. Do they think I will think bad of them for not having kids? Do they think the only acceptable reason not to have kids is if they would turn into child abusers?

Women need to stop this.

It is fine not to want kids. You can love kids. You can have the potential to be an amazing parent. And it is still fine not to want kids. There are plenty of people who will populate the earth. You are not hurting anyone by opting out for whatever reason.

Here’s the thing: Mothers are not saints by default. Non-mothers are not child-haters by default. Our ranking on the scale of good and evil does not rise as soon as we pop out a baby. Whatever good or evil existed within the woman before becoming a mother, it will likely still be there after birthing or adopting a child. Yes, because of hormones and instincts and obligation, motherhood has the potential to change a person in remarkable ways. So does climbing Mt. Everest, joining the military, charity work, and a plethora of other paths. Regardless of the journey, changes do not happen by default to every person on the same path.

So let’s just do this, can we? Let’s all agree to these points:

1. Mothers play an important role in society.

2. Women who are not mothers play an important role in society.

3. The decision to accept or decline the job of motherhood is up to each woman individually.

4. “I don’t want kids” is an acceptable reason for choosing not to have them.

5. “Motherhood is the best thing to ever happen to me.” is an unacceptable reason to pester childless women.

6. You get one life. Make it count in whatever way your heart pulls you.

7. Having a child does not make you a saint.

8. Once you have a child, you can not unhave it. Love it the best you can or let someone else do it. (Hint: there is no guarantee there will be “someone else”.)

9. God does not bless women by giving them babies. God does not punish women by making them sterile. A female’s ability to give birth is only relevant in livestock, dog breeding, and in saving endangered species.

People-magazine-cover-Duggars

10. Love yourself so you can love others. Every bit of love you put into the world will originate from within your own heart. Love does not come from your uterus.

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Dear Well Meaning White, Ableist Friends

It happens every time the media highlights racist comments made by “good” white people. Every time.

Those friends I have who don’t care much for social media, who don’t post a lot, and generally like to do other things with their time, suddenly come out of the woodwork to post things similar to this:

“So the media says wealthy and good Bob White is a racist because he said something in private that should have never been made public. But, the media never want to tell you about Joe Black, hater of White people who shot 14 White babies with a stolen gun, called the judge a Looser-Face Cracker before showing his underwear all the way down to there, and he even had an iPhone that I know he bought with FOOD STAMPS!”

And then, after they make their There-I-Said-What-Everyone-Was-Afraid-To-Say post, I see all these well educated, kind, and meek friends LIKING that post.

Dear Well-Meaning Friends: WTF!?

Where is your pain? Show me your pain and I will punch you right there so you can feel what it’s like. But, I don’t even know if they have any pain, not like that. Most of the people commenting things like that just borrow pain from someone they heard say something one time about a Black man getting something that should have gone to a White man.

You don’t get to say what should and shouldn’t hurt somebody based on what does and doesn’t hurt worse than their complaint. If someone is hurt by something and all you care about is that it might make you look bad, then your flaw is bigger than racism. And trying to excuse “good people” racism by pointing out a few assholes from the offended race is, yes, IS racist. No race is short of jackasses, check the mirror.

Do you actually intend your message to be: “It’s okay for Bob White to say bad things about Black people as a whole because there are Black people worse than Bob White?” <<<<< News flash: There are also White people worse than Bob White AND worse than Joe Black! A-ha! What did I win? (nothing… see that? I won nothing.)

I run into this same disconnect with the word “retard” as well. Such-Good-People will throw that word out there as a punchline and cackle with laughter, then turn right around and share a meme about “Disabled children aren’t weird….”. I just laughed so hard at the joke about “When I said I wanted a man to make me feel special, I didn’t mean for him to hand me a helmet and some crayons.” No, actually, I didn’t laugh… That’s right, now I remember. What I did was think about my autistic son and his disabled peers. And I thought about the reasons why some kids wear those helmets. And I wanted to hurt people. So, come on and show me your pain so I can punch you right there. And I won’t give you a helmet first. Laugh with me, people!

Did I mention just how kind and loving these people are? Family people. Christians. Good American Citizens. Loving Parents. All That. THEY ARE SO SUPPORTIVE OF CHARITABLE CAUSES. There are no better people on Earth.

And oh, Hell yes, you can say whatever you like. You can say so much offensive crap that you’ll earn yourself a “Free Speech Gold Medal”. You can hang that baby up right beside “World’s Biggest Asshole” award. You Rock!