Monday, November 14, 2016

Across the Great Divide


After a good, hard discussion with my daughter who spoke to me about the need to stop dismissing and start dialoguing with the people who made this happen, I decided to engage in a dialogue with one of the few people who crossed my path who was exultant about 11/9. He was on my Orff mailing list and when I sent something out advertising our Ghana concert with this opening paragraph, his response surprised me. Here’s part of what I wrote:

Dear Friends,

Where to turn to for guidance, comfort, lessons in keeping a strong spirit in times of deep sorrow? If you’re feeling the pain of recent political events, one strategy is to retreat, hunker down, try to take care of your wounded spirit. But another strategy is to get out and connect, look to those who have been through this before and not only survived, but emerged joyous. May I recommend the African diaspora and its music?……

His response:

Really Doug?
Great sorrow?
God bless Trump and God bless America

Mine:
A God that blesses cheating on taxes, assaulting women, mocking the disabled, condoning violence against blacks, walling out neighbors. What religion are you following here?
Please think a little deeper about the model the children we teach deserve.


His:
The one true faith :) 
My 58 year old mother was beaten by members of la raza in the streets of San Jose six months ago. All the while shouting racial slurs about white people.
So don't preach to me about racism and violence. 
Respect yourself as an educator and the children you are supposed to be serving. 
Please, do not project your politics on everyone else around you. Keep your misguided anxiety to yourself instead of projecting it to people on your email list.
Claiming a single faith is the correct one does not dismiss other faiths, it objectively distinguishes belief systems from each other. If all people truly had a divine spirit and we only differed in the mechanics of our faith, then all religion would be meaningless. I am no saint nor do I persecute others for their religious convictions, within reason. 

However, there is a very real difference inherent in every religion. To equate them all is to marginalize the diversity of these billions of people around the world. 

As for the list, we could go through each one individually and never agree. The accusations against the man are generally reactionary ad hominem. At the end of the day, how many people have died from Trump's words? 

Yes, if my mother was assaulted by whites shouting white slurs I would condemn them just the same. I never said anything against "Latinos," I prefer the less political term Hispanic. My complaint is over the violence of la raza, a brown supremacist organization, which committed an act of aggression that the San Jose police department refuses to recognize as a hate crime. 

Many have been killed and physically beaten by true racists of all colors. Calling false racism on people, as in the case of Trump and his supporters, undermines the real tragedy of racial division and crime. How many lynchings have occurred by white supremacists in the last half a century? If we don't put the racial rhetoric away we will never live MLK's dream. If we say vicious remarks like Trump hates Mexican's and blacks, we are never going to overcome the small minority of real racists. Instead we will create more division.

I agree about the teacher statement. That is why I took offense to your presumption of a great sorrow in the minds of everyone on your email list. It struck me as unprofessional to mix your personal politics into your role as a teacher. Especially when you see principals leading marches out of school in this country protesting the democratic process. Our anxiety and fears are passed on to these kids, if we constantly paint the president elect as a monster from our position as adults, what good will that do? 

I appreciate the invitation to meet in person, but I don't often care to travel even half way across the bridge. Though, I do appreciate your willingness to speak civilly regarding the generally uncivil topics of religion and politics. 


Mine:

I truly appreciate the tone of your letter and the possibility that we can have a real discussion. At the same time, I would have been a lawyer if I wasn't a music teacher,so it is very hard for me to leave an argument unanswered. So bear with me as I just mention two points:

1. It's the word "true" in "true faith" that explicitly depicts others as false. If all religions claim theirs is true, where does that leave us? Exactly where we've been from the Crusades on through the Inquisition on through Hitler's Germany and Islam terrorists—mine is right, yours is wrong, and I will kill you to prove it. What feels better is "true for me." And if you're intrigued, read Joseph Campbell as he reveals the common threads that run through all religions. 

Your sentence "If all people truly had a divine spirit and we only differed in the mechanics of our faith, then all religion would be meaningless." Joseph and I disagree. And it seems like you're not sure that all people truly have a divine spirit. But if you spend some time looking at the words and actions of people like Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, the poet Rumi, Joshu Sasaki Roshi (my Zen Buddhist teacher), Martin Buber and got to know some other folks who are atheists, pagans, practitioners of traditional religions, you might get a new perspective on what religion might really mean. People who have done extraordinary work making the world more peaceful, sane and beautiful, yet all with a different name for their God. 

And then remember "Christians" like Hitler, the Ku Klux Klan, Columbus, Andrew Jackson and others who caused unfathomable suffering through their campaigns of terror in the name of their God. In the face of this, simply professing oneself as a member of "the true faith" does render religion meaningless. What makes religion come alive is the determination to live by the word and spirit of visionaries like Jesus. You may consider him the Son of God and I may consider him an enlightened human being, but at the end of the day, what matters more is how we are living the truth and spirit of his teaching and his life's actions. As I recall, he rejected no one, lived a life of benevolence and charity, spoke out strongly against money-lenders more interested in Caesar's coin than God, taught to turn the other cheek instead of perpetuate revenge, suggested that the meek would inherent the earth and the rich man have as much trouble as threading a camel through the eye of a needle. Which brings us to Donald Trump.

2. It's hard to convince me that the accusations against the man "are generally reactionary" because we have the video footage right in front of our eyes. I saw him mock the disabled reporter, I heard the tape of "grabbing women's pussy," I heard him say in the debate that cheating on his taxes "made him smart," I heard him say in the next debate that it was okay not to pay the people he contracted to work because "maybe he wasn't satisfied with his work," I saw and heard him offer to pay the legal fees of anyone who got in trouble for punching black people at his rally (right after someone did), I heard him say that "Mexicans are lazy and rapists," I heard him threaten to jail Hillary if he was elected (an illegal misuse of presidential power), I heard him lie that he didn't know Putin after hearing him say in earlier interviews he had met him and they had a "good talk." I didn't have to make any of this up or interpret his words. They were pretty clear and available to watch again and again at a button push. Is this someone Jesus would admire? Is this someone of the character and moral caliber that we can trust to lead our country? People admire that he is so honest about who he is, but I continue to be astounded that intelligent people like yourself are willing to overlook all of this and not only excuse him as a fellow human being, but think him qualified to lead the nation. 

I don't have to—and I didn't— paint the President-elect as a monster to the kids. He showed them himself. He made kids afraid their parents would be deported, he gave boys permission to disrespect women, he made it okay to publicly lie on TV and never apologize. As you say, no one has died from Trump's words, but that's because he had no power to implement them. Now what? 

And finally, who has he helped? Who can name one kind thing he did for another human being outside of his family? Who heard an ounce of concern in a year-long campaign for anyone suffering from injustice, poverty (partly caused by people like him being excused to pay taxes), sexism, racism, able-ism? Where was there ever a moment when we could see him step out of his narcissistic love for himself and try to truly listen to someone in need or feel compassion?

Okay, I see I'm unable to keep this short and simple and I'm sure you checked out long ago. But maybe you can at least understand why myself and so many others are terrified with his finger on a nuclear trigger, despairing that he will help people in need, qualified to do what leaders are supposed to do—to serve others.

Don't feel compelled to respond, but if you want to take one or two of these points and continue the dialogue, I'd be happy to keep engaging. Apologies if this felt too much, but none of these thoughts came lightly or thoughtlessly. It came from a long process of developing my own moral compass of caring and looking for the same in a candidate.

And that’s where we stopped. On one hand, I sincerely appreciated the changed tone of the discussion and may I suggest that in the future these dialogues begin LONG BEFORE the election? Create a pen-pal system with someone who thinks differently and try to come to some level of understanding. Call me arrogant, but still I feel the lion’s share of education comes from those who can actually see both sides of the issue, but come to an educated, conscious decision. But then it is our job to educate and bring people beyond the media-hype and deliberate clouding of the actual issues. (More on this in a post I’ll write called Losing Three Ways.)

While going through all of this, a friend posted the following relevant exchange.

On the first leg of my flight today I sat next to a man who supported Donald Trump. We talked about the election. It was a polite, respectful conversation and we parted with a warm feeling for each other. He had no idea that Mr. Trump lies so often. He did not know that there are places one can go to find reliable non-partisan fact checkers. When I mentioned a few of Trumps whoppers , including the one about babies being ripped from their mothers wombs,a kindly ob/gyn in the row ahead turned around and explain that that never happens. My seat mate was surprised. He also does not feel Trump is a racist. He is very hopeful that Trump and Congress can bring back good jobs and fix the infrastructure. He had no idea where that money would come from, except that Trump might get it from other countries.
He was a good hearted, caring, tremendously ill-informed man. 
We need to fix the process by which information is disseminated in this country.

Amen.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not alone in wondering what in the world just happened. In the deepest parts of me I never thought that this would happen. That Donald Trump would be president!?!?!? I spent the last 4 or 5 months rejoicing at the seeming implosion of the republican party. It had to be karma. They brought this on themselves. I happily voted Hillary, how could one not?
    But now here we are and I think that the best thing for us now is silence. What is done, is done. If liberalism is to remain a viable option and opposition then it is time to do some quiet thinking and measured speaking. That isn't to say that we lie down and take whatever unfair crap is dealt but the time for explaining is over. A surreal coup just occurred. What do we really know? About our country, our fellow citizens?
    Indeed the sun will continue to rise and maybe one day it will inspire truth and hope again to grow. Air is what we need. And quiet. Maybe it's just too loud in the world and when liberals yell and rage, like I can, then conservatives can't hear, and it works to their advantage. I don't know. And I don't understand what happened. I don't think that there is an easy solution.

    ReplyDelete