Thursday, October 1, 2020

B159. White Man Secrets



The Cosmic Clash of 2020. The perfect storm. White Male Supremacy finds its savior, but the savior is an outsider who knows nothing about protecting the fraternal secrets. Suddenly centuries of seemingly separate struggles make sense, and everyone wonders how we overlooked this critical piece of the puzzle. How are systemic racism, sexism, religion, politics, and attitudes toward LGBTQ and abortion all interwoven? Pour yourself a cup of coffee, and sit back to explore with me this important piece of the puzzle that’s been hidden in clear view, a piece that links it all together.


Once upon a time, white men sailed to this “new world” from Europe with dreams of being free of the oppressive governments and religions of their native lands.They came from different countries and many different life circumstances. Many of them were members of secret male societies which they continued on their new soil, fraternal brotherhoods built on tiered secrets, opened one level at a time, and on brotherhood loyalty as the supreme guiding virtue. The vision was a masterful one of guaranteed power, and it worked for centuries until that chosen savior exposed the secrets.


The basic vision was this: The brotherhood was for men only, and all white, with such an intricate network of leadership that whatever need one had, legally, professionally, or maybe a career position for his son, someone within the network could meet the need. The levels within the organization began with shared ritual as the new members developed and proved their loyalty, then progressed to multiple successive keys of power, intricately woven into each other’s power to form an unbreakable power network. The organization was for leaders and laborers of all kinds: elected officials, attorneys and judges, business owners, ministers, police, entertainers, writers, military personnel, landowners, slaveholders, even framers of our beloved Constitution . . . all white and all male.


The fraternal loyalty, which took precedence over everything else including religion and family, was a cemented commitment to each other’s power and to white male power in general. Only white men would be decision makers in this constructed civilization. They alone would vote. They alone would be allowed a college education. It was the law. They made the laws. They were the courts. They were the police. They were the controllers of what children were taught in school and the framers of religious indoctrination.


Another brilliant part of the plan was that hundreds (Dr. Robert Forrey says thousands) of organizations would spin out from the original, each taking new names, thus ensuring that if one organization should get into trouble or fall into negative reputation, it would not soil the name of all the others. These ranged from seemingly unrelated fraternal lodges like The Kiwanis, The Shriners, and The Grange, to organizations like The KKK which began as a "respected" and "Christian" organization.




What They Needed from Black People


From black people they needed manual labor. Large landowners needed their crops planted, their cotton picked, their dinners prepared, their houses, businesses, and churches built; and because they bought and sold slaves as if they were work horses or mules, their wealth was very literally tied into them. Female slaves were regularly used for sex, which had the added benefit of creating more slaves/property.


After slavery was abolished, the black population became a threat to the white brotherhood power. The last thing in the world they ever wanted to see was black people getting to vote.That could threaten the white male systemic control and design of society; so throughout the nation’s history to now, laws have been forged and lines drawn to keep black people from voting or obtaining any other power, even including owning a house or land.


Between 1877 and 1950, more than 4000 black people, mostly men, were lynched. These murders were events that sometimes brought 4,000 - 5,000 white spectators, sometimes with souvenirs and even postcards made of the hangings, and spectators often lined up to pose for photos with the hanging dead man. Often it was no secret who the mob instigators were, but they were protected by their brotherhood. After the Civil Rights era, white on black murders changed in nature, becoming fewer and more discreet, but they never stopped.

In 2008 when a black man became President of the United States, the white supermacist arms of the white brotherhood came out in full force from their hiding places; and in 2016 they were instrumental in the election of one who would give them whatever they wanted in exchange for their loyalty to his own personal power. This has unleashed a culture of black murders like we haven’t seen since the lynchings. With the motivation consistently to keep black people from getting to vote, the loyal brothers are turning a blind eye to the most egregious and heinous of murders, most noted by police officer brothers, but also by blatant white supremacists who are literally hunting black people as if they were deer, shooting or running over and disposing of any who are spotted alone. I’m making no assertion here that the mainline fraternal lodges condone such behavior, but the protective network of each other is there nonetheless. “Self defense” they say, or “he was just a lone wolf,” to divert any thought of a network. Then they might put him on leave, maybe even suspend his pay for a time, maybe even let him go to jail for a couple of years, but ultimately the network has his back.



What They Needed from Women


From women their needs were twofold. They needed sex, and they needed a wife to cook and care for them at home. It would seem their strategies could be simpler here, right? But they aren’t. 


In order to keep a woman at home, she must be dependent on her husband for survival. Thus the early laws that only men could attend college and the cultural expectation that a woman’s place was in the home. Outside work was a threat to that dependency, giving her money with which she might support herself.  A sinister aside to this education strategy is that now, because there are more women than men graduating from college, there is a white male strategy to disavow college education, making it meaningless, and encouraging instead church schools, some of which are being named “colleges” without any credentials or legitimate accreditations. The goal: men remain in control.


The best way to keep a woman from working outside the home is to keep her pregnant and busy with child-raising. Read that again. The biggest blow to this strategy was the birth control pill in 1960. Anything that can stop pregnancy is the enemy to the brotherhood power. Thus the current political manipulation of religious groups about abortion. Taught that “liberals” are “baby killers,” rather than that “liberals” are against elected men making decisions that control women. Nobody, by the way, is pro-abortion; and the “partial-birth abortion” propaganda being shown and touted in churches comes out of right-wing politics as a manipulation of the vast population of so-called evangelical voters. Real pro-life and pro-choice are not mutually exclusive of the other.


Now stay with me here. This gets deeper. What better way to keep women under control than to convince them that it’s God’s idea. Southern Baptists, for example, have an annual preaching and Sunday School teaching rotation that regularly reminds women that the man is the head of the home, that wives are to submit to their husbands, and even that they are to say yes to sex anytime their husband wants it. God says so, because the men wrote and designed the doctrines and the study curriculums.


Women are not left completely out of the fraternal orders. They have their own companion organizations, often called auxiliaries. Auxiliaries by their very name are supplements or add-ons to something else. They don’t stand alone, and their teachings are controlled by the main (male) organization. The role of women’s (or ladies’) auxiliaries is subordination, support, and assistance to the main (men only) organization. This distinction begins early. In Southern Baptist mission training of children, for example, the boys’ organization was originally named Royal Ambassadors (RAs) and the girls’, Girls Auxiliary (GAs). 


Until 1920 women also were not allowed to vote (and then, only white women). Just as with black people, voting is power, and women had no business with that kind of power. When the women’s movement won the women’s right to vote, another of the learned white fraternity strategies came into play. Intimidating. Manipulating and belittling woman into believing that only men need to care about politics, and only men can properly understand it. Then, not only does the woman’s vote not make a difference, but it can even be two votes for the man as he instructs his wife in how to vote.




Take-overs


In the 1970s a power marriage took place between conservative politics and fundamentalist religion. This was a carefully conceived strategy led by Jerry Falwell Sr., father of the Jerry Falwell of recent “pool boy” fame. This union would be a boon to the Republican Party and a political infusion to denominations like the Southern Baptists, who would be led to focus their religious fervor on the white fraternity political issues of abortion and homosexuality, both threats to white male control. 


Although the brotherhood members were in the framework of the establishment and on-going organization of the Southern Baptist churches from the Convention’s 1845 inception, in a fierce denominational battle that spanned from the 1970s through the 1990s, the male power network officially gained full control, one entity at a time, of all the SBC resources, boards, and seminaries. Control of the seminaries, the educational grounds for future church leaders, ensured perpetuation of the political takeover. All administrators, leaders, and individual churches that refused to embrace their ideology, were ousted from the Convention. With the SBC being the largest Protestant religious denomination in the country, with currently over 14.5 million members (2019), this was no small victory for the white brotherhood network


Despite its large membership, the SBC was in some ways an easy target. Already, with few exceptions, only men were allowed to be pastors or deacons, and denominational education materials indoctrinated church members to believe that God set men in power over everything. Still the take-over was a huge undertaking; but it would not be their biggest.


2009 saw the beginning of a spin-off extreme right political group that called itself the Tea Party, set out to take over all the local, state, and national politics. The ultimate power grab. And, although the Tea Party name didn’t hold a respectable reputation for long, they successfully overtook the mainstream Republican Party, much of which was already a part of them.




Election 2020


Therefore . . . Are you still with me? . . .Our current political storm. It’s not an isolated battle of black vs. white, or men vs. women, or even Republican vs. Democrat, in any traditional sense, as neither the president nor the Republican party is traditional Republican. Rather, it is a war, and quite a nasty one, between white male control for absolute economic, political, and social power, and Democrats who are fighting against that complete power grab.


I’m not sure there’s any such thing as a “normal election,” but this one is definitely not that. The thousands of white power brotherhood organizations will be voting for the Republican Party, which now belongs to them until traditional Republicans can find a way to take back the party. The rest of us MUST vote Democrat. Not because Democrats get everything right, but because, in this particular moment in history, Democrats are trying to save our very Democracy from an internal white power terrorism like we cannot begin to imagine.


Friends and family, we have all been manipulated and brainwashed. Yes, white men included. So many white men in the lower levels of the fraternal organizations, or in leadership positions in their churches, are not aware that they are being played as pawns on a chess board, perpetuating a worldview completely contrary to that of the biblical Jesus that so many of them profess and passionately desire to follow. Maybe pride, or too many decades of indoctrination, or maybe the fraternal bonds themselves, will keep them from hearing this alarm, but the rest of us must break away. Vote Republican again after the Republican party reclaims itself, but this November, all true US patriots must vote against this takeover, even if it means voting separate from your husband, son, or pastor.




White Brotherhood Strategies


Allow me to shift gears here. For the sake of your reading time, I will skip here the analysis of the current president and how he fits into this whole white male power system. He doesn’t fit neatly into any party or any fraternity or lodge. The strategies he brings to his corrupt politics overlap but are not identical to the institutional strategies of white male power. I will highlight here six major strategies that are easily recognized if we begin to watch for them. These are not new strategies, but tried and true strategies that have manipulated and controlled people like us across many centuries and cultures.



1.Gaslighting and Intimidation take many forms. The idea is to question the speaker in such a way as to make them question their own intelligence or sanity. Gaslighting might be overt or very subtle, making us doubt ourselves or feel like we are less intelligent. It can be as simple as the criticism of “women drivers” (coined because driving was another way women gained their independence), or as deeply woven into us as religious doctrines of depravity and guilt. Now we are seeing it constantly in social media in the laughing emoji to intimidate / laugh at those who post anything “liberal.” 


One strategy that has worked effectively for centuries is name calling. If we give a group of people a label and use that label derogatorily, we dehumanize the group, making them less intelligent, less important, or less human than “us.” Women drivers. Old wives (and their tales). “Baby killers.” “Feminist” and “Feminazi” are the names pinned to women who don’t accept that women are subservient to men. Vietnamese soldiers were brainwashed to call their enemies “gooks,” making them less human and easier to kill. And the N word


The current president uses this strategy constantly: the Chinese virus, Crooked Hillary, Sleepy Joe, Pocahontas, nasty Women . . . Perhaps the greatest current example is the word “liberal,” which comes from the same root as “liberty” and “library,” meaning free or open to views different from one’s own. It has become a derogatory word, though, used to describe anything or anybody that disagrees with extreme white male politics. It works as a dehumanizer because we have fallen for the gaslighting.



2.Terrorism and Threats are the ultimate intimidation. Cross burning. Lynchings. Church shootings. Cowardly anonymous threats on the lives of People of Color and/or Women running for office or speaking out in power. Ask any of them. They have stories.



3.Truth has no meaning. Lying has no meaning. Say whatever might save you at the moment, whatever might get you a vote, whatever might keep you out of trouble, whatever pops into your head, no matter how ridiculous, no matter if you said exactly the opposite yesterday. For example: Following the 2020 Democratic National Convention , the president tweeted that the DNC left “under God” out of the pledge of allegiance. Then later the NC Republican Party mailed cards to households across the state repeating this blatant lie. Why? Because if people see it in writing, they will believe it without question, and it will anger them against voting for “liberals,” and if anyone were to sue them for blatant lies, they know the voting damage has already been done, and also that the case would take longer than the election.


Denial fits into this strategy. Just deny every accusation, even if it’s right there in plain view; even if you just said the opposite to a different group of listeners and it’s on record for all to see.


Another form of this is Accusation, accusing the opposition of the corruption you yourself committed, before they can accuse you. Then, when they do accuse you, it becomes a “he said, he said,” farce, as if neither is truthful. This is another favorite of the current president. Want to learn his secrets? Listen carefully to the out-of-the-blue accusations he makes about his opponents.


4. Another strategy, especially of our current presidential administration is Bombarding, or shooting so much corruption without pause so that it’s impossible for opponents or outsiders to keep up with or to react to all that needs reaction.


5. Strategy number five: Distraction or diversion. When something damaging is being exposed, it’s a strategy to distract attention from it, with whatever might divert people’s attention.


6. Finally, Education is critical to the longevity of any ideology, especially through the institutions of school and church. If we wanted to perpetuate the superiority of white men, we could fill children’s history books and curriculum with photos and stories of mostly no one except “dead white men,” particularly those the secret societies know belonged to their own. The best way to perpetuate any thought into the future is to make it a part of every child’s education, including the important job of textbook writing. A quick Google search, for example, will bring up innumerable shamefully whitewashed textbook descriptions of American slavery and “happy” slaves.


Second only to schools, places of worship are the most strategic institutions for perpetuating whitewashed history, politics, etc. Especially in the denominations in which leaders have little or no educational requirements, or in which their educational institutions are self-contained (i.e. taught by their own), this is a relatively easy target now, thanks to centuries of carefully laid groundwork. Find an isolated passage in the Bible that appears to make your point, and preach/teach it repeatedly as coming straight from God’s mouth. In the SBC, for example, all 47,500+ churches celebrate a Sanctity of Human Life Sunday every year, in which they reiterate the evils of abortion, using two verses (Psalm 139:13-14) for which the writer had no thought whatsoever of abortion. Yet, because of the indoctrination, the mere mention of the verses automatically takes the more than 14.5 million Southern Baptist minds to their politics of abortion.  Any teaching can perpetually and repeatedly be spread to thousands of churches through the Sunday School curriculum, and through the training curricula of future ministers.


The deteriorating quality of educational testing has also made indoctrination (or brainwashing) simpler. When a unit on the Holocaust, for example, is tested objectively with “How many Jews died?” rather than “What could make an entire nation follow the orders of such a corrupt man?” the higher order levels of thinking are not being trained. Memorization, not analysis, synthesis, or problem-solving, becomes the goal.


And, because public schools teach science, which is a threat to some of this brainwashing, many church groups are being encouraged to open their own church-supported or home-based schools, in which they can perpetuate and control their own church teachings, similarly insulating what the children will be taught.




Summary and Final Thoughts


We are living in a frightening time of unprecedented political divisiveness. We see voices of color crying out. We hear young voices and women’s voices yelling to be heard. We identify the politics and sometimes the religion. These cries are not separate from each other. The connecting thread is the centuries old white male fraternal network, the brotherhood of white male power and loyalty, divided into many names for its own posterity, but no longer secret.


The white fraternity lodge culture is losing ground in American society  as the younger generations of men are finding their relationships and identities elsewhere. Freemasonry in the US has declined from 4.1 members in 1960 to fewer than 2 million at this writing. While this is good news to “liberty and justice for all,” the fraternal mindset is so woven into our nation’s framework that we rarely recognize its face when we are looking squarely at it.


Fraternal orders have made great contributions to our communities, states, and nation. For much they are to be commended and appreciated. Against the insular hoarding of wealth and power, however, the time has come for us to take a stand, to finally make good on our American dream of “all humans are created equal." Daddies, brothers, and uncles, will you join us, side by side, in this movement for change? Your mothers, your sisters, your daughters and granddaughters, your black and brown and Jewish and Muslim coworkers and neighbors are watching for your courageous response.













Disclaimers


1. This article is not saying that white men are bad. This article is not saying that members of white male secret societies are bad. This article is not saying that all members of white male secret societies condone the evil racist acts and ideologies of the KKK and neo-Nazi organizations that use much of their ritual and teaching. This article is not saying that white male fraternal organizations do not also use their wealth and power for valuable contributions to society. It IS saying that the most threatening terrorists and the greatest danger to our democratic republic are white and male, and that they are not “lone wolves” but a long and strongly established network of intentional power.


2. Most of the mainline fraternal organizations have made valuable contributions in the building and framing of our culture, and some have abandoned the racist and sexist philosophies embedded in their beginnings. The writer of this article says thank you for both, and adds a strong challenge that those lodges that now know and do better will openly own their past and intentionally work to tear down and rebuild what has proven detrimental to our national, spiritual, relational, and political health.





The Writer


The writer of this article is a Republican-turned-Independent and writes out of love for our country and our democracy, not for any political party, although in this election she will vote almost entirely Democrat. She grew up in a rural one-stoplight town and has always lived in the South. Her religious background and seminary training are Southern Baptist.


Through several decades she has been in close relationship with freemasons and other fraternal lodge members. She has read a number of books and magazines published by the organizations themselves and by men within them. The information within this article, however, can be found on-line freely accessible to all.




Suggested Reading

1984, by George Orwell, 1949. Sometimes dangerous warnings have to be presented as fiction, to protect the author

When Everything Changed, by Gail Collins, 2009. HIstory of Women 1960s to 2009

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, 2018. Why it’s hard for white people to talk about racism

White Too Long, by Robert P. Jones, 2020. White American Christianity’s shockingly intimate relationship with white supremacy


Suggested Watching

13th 2016 documentary about the 13th Amendment and how law enforcement, the courts, and the prison system by design perpetuate racial inequality

The Handmaid’s Tale 2017 TV series based on Margaret Atwood’s novel; society where women are property







Thursday, September 10, 2020

B158. Simple Views and Ponderings from a Morning Walk


Oh the treasures within our reach at every moment. How I love the coolness of a September morning walk. The lazy chirp of a single bird. The neighbor in his pickup truck who stops to chat. The many hints that Fall is coming soon.

I'm thinking this morning of how little of God's creation we ever see or understand, of how each of us is such a tiny yet giant part of the vast universe, of how our own life experiences, unlike those of anyone else, give each of us wisdom and knowledge and skill that make us valuable to the whole, to each other, all intricately woven into nature's tapestry.

Like Pastor Lara's recent sermon illustration about the giant sequoias in Yosemite Park. Some are almost as big around as the church sanctuary, she said, and reach high into the sky. Yet the roots are not deep. Their strength instead comes from their roots intertwining with the roots of the others, so that the whole forest works together, giving strength and protection to all.

We need each other's differences, each other's wisdom, knowledge, skills, and perspective, to make us all One as God's creation, to make us whole. I will share myself, but in humility, acknowledging that my understanding on its own is flawed in its incompleteness.

Look back at the top photo. Nothing but road? Here's a closer view, still not easy to see, as nature has so designed. A baby kingsnake, about 10 inches long if stetched out straight. Often food for hawks and other large birds, but those that live to adulthood  will eat other snakes including venomous rattlesnakes. Kingsnakes, just because they are snakes, are often feared and harmed, but they are helpful, not harmful, to humans. What/Whom else do we fear to our own detriment?



Consider the acorn. Hundreds beneath one tree, they feed the squirrels. And inside each acorn is a mighty oak tree. Not every acorn will become an oak, but every oak tree was once an acorn, an acorn that went through numerous struggles and changes, dying, burying underground, reaching for the sunlight, sprouting, enduring even the most threatening of storms . . . Who are the mighty trees around you? Are you listening to them? There is often great wisdom in those who have known great struggle.




Many morning glories greet me on my walk, mostly bluish violet, with a few white like this one.  Not planted by any human, they open up every morning to greet those passing by. Then they close back up until the next break of dawn. Those who walk during the afternoons probably miss them, as I miss what only they might see.

With all the recent rain, I encounter various shapes and sizes of mushrooms. It was an accident, but this photo is an optical illusion. You might see the mushroom shaped as an open flower facing slightly right of the the direction of the above flower, or you might see it toadstool-shaped. It's possible to see it both ways; and while we focus on the mushroom, what might we be missing in the surrounding clover?

Alone, we will never see everything, and even what we do see is incomplete without the views and experiences of those who see things from other perspectives. In God's vast universe, a first sign of wisdom must be the acknowledgement that "I see and understand so very little," and a second, that "we all need each other."






Saturday, August 15, 2020

B157. How College Made Me Smarter



 I grew up in a Southern one-stoplight town. Was always a good student who learned to win at the academic game. To my memory, I rarely read my assigned readings, but I learned to intuit what my teachers expected, I took notes in class, I memorized what I needed to give back on tests, and I became a master at multiple choice, matching, and fill-in-the-blank questions. That got me through elementary school and all but a few high school classes. (I did have to read in a couple!)


I resonated with every answer being the right one or the wrong one, and I worked for those rewards of getting it right. The top grades, the praise, the sense of being on top, in control, at least of that part of my young life. Every question had one right answer and several wrong ones. Just like my home life. Just like my Southern Baptist church life. Right and Wrong. Black and White. No unanswerable questions. No gray. That was life as I knew it.


It’s funny now, but I also recall  participating in subjects and classes without ever thinking about what their names meant. What did “Social Studies” mean, and “Language Arts”? What was “World Cultures,” and “Western Civilization”? I signed up for Drafting my senior year at the suggestion of my guidance counselor, with no idea what “Drafting” meant.  I took Economics and Sociology with the football coach and still had no idea at the end of the year what either of those words meant. 


Nevertheless, I chose enough of the right answers on the tests and graduated from high school with honors, then headed to college without any knowledge of the new systems that would then frame my days. I remember trying to understand what “credit hours” meant, why it was recommended to take only 15 when I was used to all day school five days a week, and, much bigger, how did majors and minors translate into future jobs? Even in my own majors, I don’t think I grasped the meaning of “Liberal Arts” (see footnote 1) or “Romance Languages” (see footnote 2) in my full four years there. Some concepts I never really understood, or some even questioned, until years later.


None of us ever knows what we don’t know. Instead we imagine the world from our own experiences. College, I thought, would be more right and wrong answers, more of what I knew education to be, but it was a different world, which can’t be fully imagined without having been there, any more than I understand my plumber’s explanation yesterday, or my veteran student’s memories of Afghanistan. I can listen and read to better understand, but until I go to plumbing school or to war, I don’t have a framework in which to fit them.


When I hear people talk about going to college, whose lives took them to other paths, the misconceptions are like mine were. Often they seem to picture college students sitting in classes all day being fed information that they memorize to give back on right-or-wrong-answer tests. Instead, college is a different kind of world altogether. What I began to learn in college was not more answers, but more questions. I was challenged to read, to question, to wrestle, to process; not that that was always the assignment, but that that’s what was necessary to push me to the new kind of thinking. “Critical thinking,” we call it. Another of those tricky terms, having nothing to do with criticizing anyone, but about considering multiple views of a situation or question, realizing that so much of the world is not black or white but varying shades of gray. 


And contrary to what anyone would be expected to understand without having been there, I suspect most of my college education did not come from the classroom. College was my first time living away from my parents, away from my church, away from my small town. It was a first time for freedom, to explore who I was, to make my own mistakes and pay my own consequences. A first time sharing a dorm hall with a person of color and coming face to face with my own questions of why she didn’t fit my unconscious expectations.  A first time, having been placed in the International House dorm, to be surrounded by people from all over the world, with all kinds of cultural habits and philosophies. A first time surrounded by people of all (and no) religions. A first time my accent, which matched every person I had ever known before, would be worthy of an entire room’s laughter. This kind of learning was far more alive than books and tests, which, by the way, gradually changed mostly to research papers and projects.


College years are such an important time of learning. In class, yes. Psychology, for example, was an important general course for helping to understand our own selves. And of course we need our major classes to prepare us for our careers later. But more than that, college is a time that stretches who we are and our concepts of who others are, a stretching that, once begun, continues for a lifetime.


Let me tell you a funny story. If you aren’t familiar with the Myers-Brigg test, it’s a “type indicator,” a kind of personality test that asks a series of questions and places you in one of 16 “types.” I now love this test and have used and studied it on several occasions, as it relates to vocation, relationships, religion, etc. But the summer between high school graduation and college freshman year, when I was herded into a large auditorium to take this test I knew nothing about, I hated it. We were told there were no right or wrong answers, but that made no sense to me, so I took the test in frustration, attempting to choose the “right” answers. Oddly it still “typed” me in what I consider now my correct type. But here’s the funny part of the story:


When we returned to campus, prior to freshman year, again we were taken to the auditorium and given the results of our tests. Now, this was a great idea. What they did next was divide us into our sixteen “types” so we, incoming freshmen who knew no one on campus yet, could meet others like us, as potential new friends. My “type” was ISTJ, Introvert Sensing Thinking Judging (again, misleading words until you’re familiar with the test), so all the other ISTJs and I met in one corner of the large room. The room was bustling noisily with energetic introductions and new relationships being forged. But in my corner there was silence. I was frustrated and thinking “I have nothing in common with these people. What a stupid test.” Yet, in my silence, I was exactly like the others around me - silent introverts processing this ridiculous activity inside our own minds, as any ISTJ in such a situation would do.


I share that story as a picture of my 18-year-old understanding of self and tests and right and wrong answers, all of which would soon begin to change, not primarily because of college assignments, but because of new experiences and freedoms and contradictions I had to work out for myself.


After college I would return to school twice more for two Master’s Degrees, each of which stretched me in their own ways, quite differently from that first time. Academics was/is my education. It’s not for everyone. Nor is it superior or inferior to other paths of education, like those of the plumber and veteran mentioned above.The world needs my gifts, and the world needs theirs.


The Myers-Brigg test taught me later that there is no one right path for all lives, no one right answer to life’s questions, and no one “type” that is better, smarter, or more valuable than any other. We are all different, and we all need each other’s differences.


My definition of "smarter" (or "wisdom") has become this: 

  1. realizing that we know so very little,

  2. finding peace in the unanswered questions,

  3. and choosing respect and compassion for all of humanity.













Postscript: Thank you, Mom and Dad, for the wonderful gift of college. College is not for everyone, but I can't imagine where I might be without it, or any life I'd rather have. Forever grateful!



Footnotes:

1 The word “liberal” has recently been kidnapped by politics as a derogatory synonym for “Democrat,” but the word itself is neither negative nor political. It comes from the same Latin root as the words “liberty” and “library,” meaning “free” and “book.” “Liberal Arts” refers to a broader scope of general courses, often required prior to beginning one’s chosen major. Courses like: Literature, Philosophy, Math, Science, and Psychology.


2 “Romance Languages” are not about “romance” but about “Rome” and “Roman.” They are languages that derive from Latin, the ancient Roman language. These languages include Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, and Romanian.


Friday, March 27, 2020

B156. Staying at Home: And That's an Order



I've been practicing this for 16 days now, so if you're thinking we just can't do this, I wrote this for you.

This afternoon North Carolina's governor joined other states in mandating a statewide stay at home order to go into effect Monday at 5:00 PM. Hopefully none of us will wait for that time.

Here are the basic rules:
No gatherings of more than 10 people. (8 or 5 or 2 or 1 would be even better.)
Keep a "social distance" of at least 6 feet at all times. (20 or 50 would be even better.)
We can still go outside. We can still buy groceries and meds. We can still help family.

We are all affected by this and all the previous mandates leading up to this one. Many are stressed financially, uncertain where this might leave them and their families. Many are out of work. Children are out of school. Those losing loved ones are having to postpone funeral services or have only small graveside gatherings.

Others are sick and afraid to tell us, because we have come to fear this virus as the Bubonic Plague of the Medieval Period or as the leprosy of  Bible times. It is neither. Still many are becoming seriously ill, and many who are older or who have other respiratory or autoimmune conditions are dying. Most get sick and get well, like the flu.

I am very fortunate so far. This is affecting me mostly as an inconvenience. I had to clear my calendar of friend visits, a family birthday celebration, various church events, etc. I continue to make adjustments to how to navigate this new and daily changing normal.

By the time this stay at home mandate comes into effect, I will be 19 days into practicing it, so here are some things I've begun to learn:

1. The gym. I miss it, but it's springtime, so it's perfect for walking, running or biking. I've been walking daily, usually in my neighborhood but once or twice a week in the park, which is not off limits as long as we keep that social distance. I've also enjoyed choosing random exercise videos on YouTube and stretching or jumping around in my living room with the online instructor. Maybe your regular exercise instructor has an online option through this time.

2. Food. Restaurants have been closed to inside dining, but many are still offering take-out or curb service. Grocery stores will remain open and are definitely thriving through this pandemic, with a challenge of keeping their shelves stocked fast enough. I have limited my grocery shopping to twice a month and am using Food Lion To Go, via InstaCart. Other grocery chains use this or a similar service. It's a fun way to shop. You place an order on-line, then drive there and pop open the trunk for someone to load it all into the car. You've already paid online, so there's no social interaction, and you don't even need to get out of the car. One warning: prepare yourself for unavailable items. If the store doesn't have it in stock (and that includes a lot right now), they can't give it to you.

3. Church. Again, I've been fortunate. My church was ahead of the curve on all of this. We cancelled services before it was mandated, and then all face-to-face meetings. Our ministers videotape the worship service every Sunday, and those of us on various committees and meeting groups have learned to meet via Zoom. I miss the face-to-face interaction, but I'm glad we are able to stay connected online and that we are caring for each other's safety. I'm learing to enjoy "going to church" in my sweatpants, and this past Sunday I "attended" four different churches.

4. Family and Friends. This one has been the most difficult for me; worrying about loved ones who are "high risk," especially those who are not taking the mandates or the virus seriously, and those who understand with their heads why I'm keeping a distance, but not with their hearts. Again, technology offers some solace. Phone calls are helpful, Facetime is the next best thing to being there, and, I haven't tried this yet with family and friends, but for larger groups, Zoom would work great socially.

And all of us have loved ones who might need some extra help during this time. Definitely call regularly to check on them. Then help connect them to services of the church or community. So many services are popping up to help with grocery shopping and other tasks, especially for those in the high risk categories: those over 65 or those with respiratory or autoimmune diseases. Those of us with helping hearts might struggle at not volunteering to do all the helping ourselves, but if we are high risk, we are not just putting ourselves in danger but also the ones we're helping, and their families, and our families, and everyone else with whom we (and they) continue to interact. What we can give though, in addition to connecting them to help, is love, through calls, notes, or whatever other safe means we have.

5. Alone time. Normally I'm great with alone time. Admittedly I've been less so these past 16 days. I've kept too close a watch on the news, wondering and worrying how this might all play out. I've stayed unsettled, but my immediate goal is to settle in and focus on other things as much as possible. I read books, journal, work on projects . . . watch movies, work puzzles, play Words With Friends online . . . I email, call, and Facetime with friends . . . I walk in the park and take photos . . .

For those of us fortuante enough to have online access (and I'm guessing you do, because here you are), I've been extremely impressed with the variety of entertainers and entertainment venues that, having had to close their doors to the public, are now offering concerts, plays, etc. on-line, for free, or as a means of keeping some income coming. There are free ebooks, free movies, and/or curbside services for books and videos at the public library.

Think of all the things you've said you'd love to do if you only had the time . . . We have the time now.

6. Health, Some of you are going about your lives as usual. Some of us are heeding every precaution even to how we handle groceries or mail being brought into our houses. Most are somewhere between these extremes. We cannot know who of us will become sick, or which of us will recover most easily. What we know we don't want to happen though is watching loved ones die because the hospitals were too full to take them in, or because all the ventilators were already in use. "Flattening the curve" means keeping everyone from getting sick at the same time, so there will be space and resources for all who need them. What we also know is that the confirmed cases are multiplying quickly now, and that we are likely heading for the worst.

Do you care about yourself? Do you care about anyone? Me too, so let's stay at home. Even if there are other good things we want to be doing, and even if we don't think any of these precautions are necessary. For us, for someone else, for everyone else. We can do this.




Monday, March 16, 2020

B155. Coronavirus: Emotional Care Across Social Distance



Across our nation and beyond, the coronavirus “curve flattening” measures are detrimentally
affecting many of our older adults who don’t understand the seriousness of the threat. These
are nursing home residents who don’t understand the no visitors rule for their protection. They are people recently hospitalized for trauma or illness unrelated to the coronavirus who also cannot understand the isolation restrictions. They are the salt-of-the earth rural church attenders who find comfort and sensibility In their preachers’ insistence that all they need to be concerned about is being in church and trusting God.


This pastoral advice to avoid panic is wise advice, but we also need a healthy balance of fear, fear based on the scientific and mathematical potential of this pandemic. We are living in an unprecedented moment, a moment that may well become a defining moment of our history. The world has changed so much in the past two weeks that none of us knows quite how to process it or what to expect from here, except that it seems likely things will be worse before better.


Are the leaders calling for social isolation considering the domino effect of devastating loss of
revenue to local businesses and restaurants? Seemingly unending cancellations, postpone-
ments, and closures have meant great stress to those having to make such calls. How much money has Disney lost in closing its parks, and the sports leagues in cancelling their seasons? Were these decisions made lightly without consideration also of the waves of disappointment from ticket holders and from families with hotel reservations and happy plans?


And the churches and organizations that have cancelled all their services, meetings, and events
until further notice? They too will lose needed income, as well as funds already spent for events
that now won’t happen, and they too will disappoint many. Did they make these decisions lightly
without considering the predictable consequences? And the widespread school closings. Did those decision-makers consider the many families with no childcare, or the many students
who depend on schools for their food? Yes, I think they did, and the decisions were heart-wrenchingly difficult. Every single one.


These are confusing times for all of us, but more so for those who are not hearing real expla-
nations they can understand, or worse, those being intentionally or unintentionally misinformed.
Besides that the lack of factual information might be putting them in physical danger, it is also
damaging them psychologically and emotionally. Their own children and grandchildren are
“social distancing” from them, and they, as they continue all their regular church, shopping, and
visiting activities, are feeling unloved, forgotten, and unimportant. Their own world has changed little, so they can’t understand why they are being abandoned. This in itself is detrimental, but we can help.

First, pastors and others who have a voice of power, acknowledge to your congregations/
groups that you don't really understand all that's going on. Avoid feeding them hoax stories, and avoid oversimplified "God is in control" messages. While "God is in control," you and those under your guidance also have some control that could save both dignity and lives. Cancel your gatherings, even if you just preached a sermon against such cancellation. Humility is a Christian virtue. “Maybe I was wrong. God is indeed in control, but I really don’t understand everything” is a good start. Yes, you will lose some needed income. Perhaps that's where the trust in God comes in. Do not further divide your flock from their family members who are trying to “social distance” for everyone’s protection. Do not take your position of power lightly. Your word is often taken as God’s, which is both privilege and enormous responsibility.

Second, for those of us who are "social isolating": Stay intentionally connected to those who are listening to other voices. They are confused by all that's happening, and they don't understand how a virus that hasn’t yet affected anyone they know could keep their own families from wanting to visit them. Explain, yes, gently, but realize that your one-voice-in-many will not be enough to give them peace. Call them more often than usual, to check on them and just to talk and listen. Facetime if they have that access.

None of us knows the end of this story. We never do while we’re living through it. Fortunately
though, even from a distance, we can offer our loved ones the peace and assurance of our love. Social Distancing has given us more free time. Can we intentionally give a little more of it to the emotional well-being of those we love?