Loving Our Enemies

There’s been a little bit of hometown hell in Charlottesville this past week. Apparently, when the city decided to remove a Confederate statue, a group of protesters showed up with torches and Confederate and Nazi flags. Alarmed (by the torches and Confederate and Nazi flags,) a group of anti-protesters showed up to argue that symbols of White supremacy were not the way to solve this country’s problems. At some point, violence broke out between the two groups, ending(?) with someone driving a car through the counter-protester crowd, killing 1 person and injuring 19 more.

These are the facts, as far as I’ve found them. I don’t live in Virginia, and I don’t know anyone involved, so I’m relying heavily on news sources. But what’s clear is that there was a violent clash between two groups, and now the news (and social media) is exploding about it.

I can’t tell you who’s right here. Because, let’s be clear: I don’t think anyone was really “right.” I don’t think Nazis are a good group to join. But even Nazis have freedom of speech in this country, and I don’t think it’s a good idea to violently oppose a peaceful protest, even when the ideals presented are potentially violent. Hate doesn’t solve hate. At any rate, I’m not here to tell you what happened in Virginia, because I wasn’t there. I’m here to tell you what’s happening to my friends online.

As far as I see it, there are two kinds of people on Facebook right now: those who are talking about Nazis and those who aren’t. There would be more groups, except that those who are talking about Nazis insist there are only two. Because those who are talking about Nazis insist that if you’re not talking about the problem right now, you’re adding to the problem.

By remaining silent, they argue, you’re tacitly accepting it. You’re refusing to act on something that’s obviously wrong in this country. And I agree we should be talking about it. But there are a lot of people outside of Virginia who simply don’t know what they can do about it besides feel awful. And that still doesn’t solve the problem.

We need to address the problem. But that doesn’t mean remaining silent is acceptance.

Remember the women’s march in January? Everyone was talking about it. And every other post I saw about it was condemning those who weren’t participating in some way—why would you be betraying half the population of the world by not talking about Feminism right now? Why would you not be excited about this? What could possibly be more important than women’s rights?

My brother’s funeral was that day. That day, I had something to think about that was more important to me than women’s rights.

If someone you know isn’t involved in your troubles, maybe they have troubles of their own. Maybe they hurt, too. Maybe you should ask them, instead of accusing them.

Please, people. Stop calling people “the enemy” when they disagree with you on something. That’s exactly how the Nazis came to see good, hardworking Germans as “the enemy.” Because of small differences.

We know you’re hurt. We’re hurt, too. But if both groups in Charlottesville had just ordered pizza and sat down and talked about their differences, maybe we wouldn’t be in this mess. Stop lashing out. Start reaching out. ♥

 

Edit: I’ve been called out for doing shoddy research on the event itself,  for which I apologize. I stated the facts as best I knew them at the time. The worst of the violence clearly came from the Nazi protestor who ran his car into the crowd.

The purpose of my article,  however, was not to provide a substitute for the news.  I’m calling in people to stop calling each other bigots and Klansmen because they’re Republicans, because they’re Conservative,  because they voted for Trump, because they’re White, or because they’re not sufficiently outraged. I don’t want Nazis in my country,  because they thrive on hatred.  But hating people won’t solve that problem.   There’s a divide between Americans, and we need to work on healing the rift. Casting blame on our neighbors won’t do that.

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Zazoo

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I very seldom like a book enough to gush, but I’m probably gonna gush about this one.

I picked up Zazoo, by Richard Mosher, just before Christmas. My husband and I had an irresponsible amount of store credit at Pioneer Book, so we decided to buy ourselves books as Christmas presents. A lot of books. In fact, we weeded out our book collection, gave away a few, consolidated, and measured (with a tape measure) that we had something like 6 feet of shelf space. And then we went to the bookstore (with a tape measure) and picked out everything that looked remotely interesting.

Zazoo fell into the “This Looks Remotely Interesting” category. I had never heard of it, but it was just sitting there in the YA section, looking lonely, and it had an interesting cover and blurb, so I threw it on the pile.

Currently the best book I’ve ever read. You guys.

Zazoo is a Vietnamese girl growing up in France, raised by her “grandfather”—the French soldier who adopted her after her parents were blown up by a land mine. The book is a coming-of-age story about Zazoo’s poetry, romance, tragic lack of breasts (she’s about 13,) neighbors, and relationship with her grandfather. It also follows her emotional wrestling match with the truth when she finds out that her beloved grandfather was a killing machine in WWII and Vietnam. She slowly learns about her family, real and adopted, and about what horrible things were done by some of the most innocent people around her. And more than anything, it’s also a story of forgiveness. The book places pain and love so close together that they become inseparable.

Please go read this book. It deserves so much more attention, and it’s so beautifully written. ♥

Do You Hate People?

I don’t remember who told me this story – I think it was a friend of mine; I don’t remember who – but it impacted me deeply. They were talking with their grandma one day, venting. and told her how much they hated [that guy].

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Their grandma, who had been listening attentively, suddenly looked concerned. “I didn’t know you hated people,” she said.

I didn’t know you hated people. Not, “I didn’t know he was so annoying,” or “Tell me about it.” Not even, “Well, why do you hate him?” No. I didn’t know you hated people. She said it like it was a bad habit or an activity, like, “I didn’t know you smoked,” or “I didn’t know you did hatha yoga on Tuesdays.”

And it wasn’t a long, thought-out, calculated response, either. This woman had no reaction time to decide the best way to change her grandchild’s life. This was her first reaction. She had lived her life assuming that hatred was an activity – an attitude, not an emotion. Annoyance? Sure, that might be understandable. Hence the venting. But hatred? This old woman believed that hatred was a thing you did, not a thing people did to you. I didn’t know you hated people.

I’ve been thinking about forgiveness today, and frankly, I need to stop hating people. I need to realize that what somebody posts on Facebook – even if it’s completely out of line – isn’t the way they feel every minute of the day. I need to remember that when I do something stupid, I don’t need to hate myself; I need to change my habits and start over again. I need to let my husband air his thoughts and stop jumping on him for forming the wrong combination of words. I need to realize that political differences don’t give me the right to assume someone is a terrible person. And even if they are a terrible person, I don’t need to carry them around with me all day, hating them. They need to change their life, and I need to find someone else I enjoy spending time with.

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 I’m not resolving to like everybody. (There are some people who make that particularly difficult.) But we’re all human beings. Not a single one of us is perfect, but most of us tied our shoes this morning, and that’s more than any other species on this planet. We’re children of God, for crying out loud! And I’m done feeling bitter towards people because they’re flawed in different ways than me. I’m done with hating people. ♥

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Go Set a Watchman

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There’s been some controversy over Harper Lee’s new book. From what I understand, most of the controversy has been over Atticus Finch: in To Kill a Mockingbird, people found a character to idolize. In Go Set a Watchman, they found a hypocrite – and nobody wants to watch their childhood hero fall crashing down before them.

Ironically, though, that’s what the book is about. As Jean Louise (“Scout” to childhood friends) discovers her father’s involvement with segregationists and the Ku Klux Klan, she watches her childhood idol shatter before her eyes. She has built Atticus up to be a god, and as Atticus himself argues, this isn’t fair to her, and it’s certainly not fair to him. No human being can live up to that kind of adoration.

This book is something of a first draft. When Lee brought the manuscript to her publisher, she was asked to go write more about Scout’s childhood, and the result was To Kill a Mockingbird. The manuscript, recently rediscovered, was published as-is, as far as I can tell. And there are a few points where that’s clear; all in all, though, Lee’s rough drafts are better than my final drafts. This is still one of the best books I’ve ever read.

I also think it’s one of the most important books I’ve ever read, for the same reason some people don’t like it. Our society believes that all sins should be forgiven, except for two: hypocrisy and the refusal to forgive sins. And we’ve had forty or fifty years to build up Atticus Finch as some kind of merciful god who stands against the hypocrisy of his day, without ever being tainted or affected by it. In Go Set a Watchman, Atticus himself asserts that hypocrites have just as much right to live on this planet as any other human being. Harper Lee beautifully shows how even a man as level-headed as Atticus Finch can be affected by the constant stream of hatred around him, and even suggests that some of his reasons might have nothing to do with hatred at all. And while Jean Louise still disagrees with him, she has to learn to let him stand there and think what he will. I think that we, along with Jean Louise, need to remember that people have the right to be wrong. We need to watch our idols fall once in a while so we can be reminded to let them be human. We don’t expect perfection of ourselves; we need to forgive imperfections in others. ♦

What Is “Real Intent”?

One of my favorite scriptures is found in the Book of Mormon, in the book called Moroni:

“But as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven.” – Moroni 6:8

I love this verse. It points out that as many times as we do stupid things (some of us more than others…), God will forgive us. All we have to do to “earn” forgiveness is to repent, seeking forgiveness with real intent. If we ask to be forgiven, and we have “real intent,” we’re forgiven. The question I asked myself today was, “What is ‘real intent’?”

The obvious answer to me is that I intend to do better. Real intent means I’m sorry, I ask forgiveness, and I intend to earn it as best I can. But, because I’m a visual kind of person, that wasn’t quite enough for me to wrap my head around it.

Naturally, my thoughts went next to water sports. (For those of you who thought my blog lacked decent segues, I assure you, it’s the same way inside my head.) Anyway, I thought back to my youth group going wake-boarding every summer. I biffed it a lot. I got a lot of water up my nose. But I kept trying until I could get out of the water. And every time I got in the water, my intent was to stand on the board and stay there as long as possible. It didn’t always happen that way – but that didn’t change my intent.

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Once I got pretty good at standing, I started branching out: holding the rope with one hand instead of clutching it with two, or crossing the wake, or switching the direction of my feet. I usually fell. But I always meant to stay up.

I don’t think repenting with “real intent” means that you’re only forgiven if you succeed the first time. Some sins, like bad habits or addictions, keep coming back. If I have a weakness for anger, I don’t think God will hold it over your head every time you repent. It’s not like He’s going to say, “What, so you didn’t really mean it last time, then?” He knows whether you’re still trying – and as long as you’re trying, He knows you’re still learning. ♦

Related Articles:

Celebrating Repentance

Repentance Is Real

Repentance Made Easier 

I Have a Dream: the Most Christian Movement America Has Seen

On August 27, 1963, thousands of Americans – Black and White – marched to the nation’s capitol in Washington, D.C. in protest. They were protesting the racial segregation of schools, discrimination in the job market, police brutality, and inferior social treatment of African Americans. It was at this protest that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the “I Have a Dream” speech that still remains famous today.

This isn’t the most well-known part of this speech, but I’d like to share a part of it here:

“We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protests to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.

“They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. “

This is my favorite part of this speech – frankly, because I’m White. I was raised with the expectation that anyone of any race should be on level ground already – but I was also raised in Utah, where most of the population is White. So I grew up thinking I was racist, because I didn’t have any Black friends. It wasn’t until later on that I realized I just didn’t know any Black people. It took me, sadly, a few decades of life to figure out that being White doesn’t mean I oppress people like other White people have.

I love this speech because of its obvious, Christian doctrine of forgiveness. The nonviolence of the Civil Rights Movement shaped the minds of White America by showing a love from the Black community that most sheltered white people hadn’t seen before – they hadn’t spent enough time with Black Americans. The nonviolent protest showed the way society was supposed to work, and forgave and welcomed White Americans as soon as they wanted to join forces. There was no backlash or revenge – just a demand for equal treatment.

The purpose of the Civil Rights Movement, including Dr. King’s involvement, was to assume that “sneetches are sneetches, and no kind of sneetch is the best on the beaches.” (to quote Dr. Suess, if I may be so bold.) The movement was one of the finest examples of Christianity the world has ever seen, because it focused not on penance for sins past, but on forgiveness and improvement, offering to turn enemies into best friends. It is to fight hate with love, which is the finest thing humans are capable of. God rest you, Dr. King. ♦

You can read the full text of the speech here.

Reconciliation

Dear Self,

I’ve been a bad friend lately, and I just want to apologize. I’m sorry for all those things I said about you. I’m sorry for listening to all the wrong rumors and all the wrong voices. I’m sorry for calling you worthless and stupid and all those other things – I knew I was wrong, I just didn’t really know how to admit it.

Anyways. I should’ve trusted you from the start. I’m sorry it took me so long to figure it out – I guess I just didn’t see how far apart we’d drifted. But I want to start all over again, on the right foot this time.

So, what do you say? Truce? I’ll make us a smoothie. And I promise to give you the benefit of the doubt from here on.

Love, Me.

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