Saturday, February 23, 2008

Cultivating Hatred 1

You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught
Before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people
Your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught

~ Rodgers & Hammerstein, South Pacific (1958)

October 12th will mark the tenth anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming college student who was brutally murdered because of his sexual orientation. This post will be the first in a series exploring how we learn to hate.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

"Warrior Mom"

A few days after her 16-year-old son, Ari, told her he's gay, Colette Beighley gave him a book, "Coming Out: An Act of Love."

He read it, then came downstairs to the kitchen, where his sister was hanging out with a friend. "Thanks, Mom," he told Beighley, then put the book face down on the counter, hiding the title. "I flipped the book over, title facing up," Beighley recalls. "I said, 'Ari, that's not how we're gonna live.'" Her life hasn't been the same since.

Read the Sunday, February 17, 2008, Grand Rapids Press article on the Beighley family. Photos from the online and hard copy of the article.
Above David is cooking, and Chloe (16 and incredible) and I are reading the recipe .

This photo was taken on the campus of GVSU at a panel following the film "Anyone and Everyone" -- stories about how families of varying faith traditions as well as ethnicities have handled their child's coming out.

My Ari at eleven months old (drooling all over me), right after we moved to Michigan from the San Francisco Bay Area.

And my handsome Ari now as a sophomore at St. Johns College in Annapolis, Maryland.

This article may be entitled "Warrior Mom" but there could easily be a story on each on of my amazing family members. We have a "Warrior Dad," "Warrior Brothers," "Warrior Sister," "Warrior Sister-in-law." Each is so brave! This story may be about me but consider it in this context: I couldn't have done any of this without the full support of this family.

I love you guys!

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Love is Not Enough

"If you have come here to help me,
you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine,
then let's work together."
~ An Aboriginal woman.

I have the privilege of joining 2,000 other activists from around the country for the "Creating Change" conference in Detroit this week. The first day's agenda was devoted entirely to anti-racism/anti-oppression sessions.

It's startling to me how often we approach helping others with only ourselves in mind:

WE want to help you (whether you have asked or not)
in OUR way
using OUR definition of what's helpful
with OUR worldview
on OUR timetable
to achieve OUR desired outcome.

How little that has to do with the other person! If we look at that process honestly, it's completely arrogant. It sends the message to those for whom we are "caring":

WE know what's best for you
WE'RE smarter and more capable than you are
OUR way is superior to yours
WE can take better care of you than you can of yourself

A couple of years ago, I was completely distraught over the treatment we were receiving after Ari had come out from someone very close to us. (I'll call this person "Frank.") I spoke to a great teacher in my life who then asked me a question and sent me on my way:

Who is Frank?

I puzzled over that question for several weeks. Like a coin, I flipped this person's life story every way I could and thought constantly about what it must be like to be Frank and to have had his life experiences. In the process, I understood this individual in ways I never had; and, as a result, the negative feelings I had been experiencing were replaced with compassion.

The answer to the question, "Who is Frank?"

I am Frank.

Each person's life and suffering is inextricably linked to my own -- including the person who is causing me the most difficulty or the person who makes me feel uncomfortable because he or she is different from me. We are interconnected. And, as a result, I am diminished when others are diminished. I am marginalized when others are marginalized or oppressed -- or any treatment other than being celebrated for the fullness of their unique individuality.

Loving someone isn't enough. It isn't enough if your action or your silence is causing another to be oppressed. Love is intentional. And, it's a lot of work . . . I'm rollin' up my sleeves!

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing,
there is a field.
I will meet you there.”
~ Rumi

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