Nope, this isn’t going to be my point of view on who’s right and who’s wrong. Don’t worry. There’s enough discourse out there about this issue, and nothing I say is going to be wiser or more timely, or have any more of an effect on anyone than what’s been said.
What I want to say is this:
I love you.
You are my sisters—daughters of the same Heavenly Father, inheritors of the same divinity, amazing and talented and wonderful sisters of my heart and my soul.
In reality, that’s something that needs to be said more LOUDLY and more often. I love you. I really do. It needs to be said without qualifications. No more, “I love you but….” just I LOVE YOU and that’s that.
I know—this is NOT going to solve the problems between us. They are complex. There is so much hurt on both sides, so much fighting and bickering, that regardless of anything else that happens, SATAN IS WINNING as he is driving a huge wedge between sisters. Because if a group of women gets together, hold the phone, stop the presses, things WILL get done. If that “thing” is “defeat evil and drive Satan from our midst” then by gosh, Satan is toast. So if he can get us fighting amongst ourselves, he can laugh and shake his chains and sit back in his recliner and watch us like the World Cup. All it takes is a little seed of contention, and wow. Look what it does. It makes me weep.
So no more of that from me.
I know that we may not agree on some things—and this issue IS awfully important. But so what? Does that make you any less my sister? Any less a daughter of God? It does not.
Here’s what else I need to tell you:
I don’t know what is driving you to make the decisions you are making. I can look at you and try to understand, but I will never understand. I haven’t been in your shoes, I haven’t walked your path.
You do not know why I feel how I do either. That’s okay. You haven’t walked my path, and I can’t expect you to understand my point of view, either.
We can try. We can reach out and seek to understand one another. But every single word we speak or hear, every sight we see, is always going to be colored by the lens of our own experience. We can come closer to understanding, but we will never truly understand one another. If we say we do, we lie. We only pretend. But it’s okay. We aren’t meant to comprehend each other’s soul, not completely.
Only one person can truly understand each and every human being, having atoned for each of us, having taken upon Himself our sorrows and infirmities. That One is the Savior, and this is the reason why He is the only competent judge. So let me say this:
The WHY doesn’t matter. The WHAT doesn’t matter. The thing that matters is that you are my sister. If you have made choices that have brought you to a place I would not think to go, my heart can break for you, I can pray for you, I can be your friend and your sister, but the one thing I CANNOT do, is judge you. I can be sad if you pull away across that invisible “line in the sand,” but I cannot and WILL NOT push you further. MY arms are open—no strings attached. Not for “when you come to your senses” or any of that rubbish—they are open NOW. For wherever you are on your journey.
I’ve been going through boxes in my family’s effort to clean and organize our home (a battle that has been going on for six years now). I opened a heavy cardboard box, the musty smell lingering in my nostrils. The box is full of pictures—hundreds, maybe over a thousand–from my Dad’s life. There are an inordinate amount of pictures of me, but also many, many pictures of people I don’t recognize at all. I have my work cut out for me.
Dad passed away when I was thirteen. He was 46 when I was born, and already had adult children, so there was a whole life there that I knew very little about. I won’t bore/sadden you with details of how just about everything pertaining to my Dad disappeared for the rest of my youth, but suffice it to say that this box is essentially all I have of him. It was given to me when I was about 24 years old. Since then, I occasionally pull things out and piece together what his life must have been like, and what HE was like, beyond the few memories I personally have of him.
My dad was many things: Teamster, welder, carpenter, salesman, bartender (I think–judging from pictures), terrible father, awesome father, good friend, genealogist, dutiful son….. and poet. I am going to put up one of his poems for all (my 4 readers) to see:
Restless Soul (by Lee Lay)
Like the winds that blow thru the high skies
and the waves that roll thru the sea
Like the shifting sands of the desert
is this restless soul in me.
Like the birds that fly thru the air so free
and the wild things that roam alone
Is this restless soul inside of me
that won’t let me stay at home.
To have the things that other men have
I know can never be
As long as this restless soul in me
keeps yearning to be free.
I’m like the wind and like the birds
I’m like the waves and the sand
To stay in one place very long
is more than I can stand.
All you happy people have pity upon me
For I can never be like you
My restless soul
Won’t let me free.
To me, Dad was silly, strong, mischievous, and devil-may-care–this poem, and a few others like it, taught me that he had a melancholy inside that most didn’t see. I wish I could have had more of an opportunity to know him.
The good news is that I feel him with me all the time. I also see him in the mirror, and in my children. Lastly, I know that I will be with him again when at last we all meet in heaven.
There needs to be more poetry in the world. So, to do my part, I thought I’d share some poetry. Sometimes I will post my own and sometimes others’ work. Then, I will talk a little about the poem. Today will be Hero, my own work: Hero A small word Such great meaning Used to describe those who run towards the sound of battle not away. Those who see need and answer with action Selflessly. Regarding others- the helpless, frightened, needy- more than themselves. Standing between us all and all we fear. Fearlessly? No- not without fear But understanding that their fear cannot stop their action Decisions made long ago brought to fruition in split seconds As they stand to face the devil- Knowing they may fall.
Hero A small word Such great meaning- Reaching out with its arms to encompass All those things we cannot say- The words we cannot get past The lump in our throat.
(For Bill, and Scott, Chris, Jason, Jeff, and Jeremy Our heroes)
I wrote this poem in the wake of an officer-involved shooting in the city where I worked. I was a police dispatcher, 9-1-1 operator, and supervisor at a mid-size department. Our squads were small enough that we personally knew all of the officers we worked with, and there was a lot of camaraderie.
The night in question, a home invasion and murder took place, and as we responded our officers became involved in a pursuit of the suspect. The pursuit ended with the suspect bailing out of his car shooting. One of my guys was hit and went down. The others protected him, returning fire while one of them dragged him out of the hail of bullets and then shielded him with his own body. The teamwork and sacrifice of the officers on the scene was inspiring and heart-wrenching–these were truly brothers willing to lay down their lives for each other, and for the city they protect and serve.
The officer who was shot was paralyzed, but came back to work as an investigator and continues to inspire others around him. He was named as the 2009 America’s Most Wanted All-Star, and to this day is a dynamo of service and strength.
The dispatchers who were working that early-morning couldn’t be on the scene to provide physical assistance. Their story often remains untold–but they listened as the incident was going down and had help on the way before the shooting even took place. Their actions were heroic in their own sphere of influence. I remain honored to this day to have been able to work with all of the members of my police department, they are all HEROES.
A couple of links to the story and what this hero has done since then:
Privilege. It’s a loaded word. Put other words in front like “white,” “male” or “American” and you can amp up the angst factor exponentially. “Check your” adds napalm and TNT to the fire. There has been much recent backlash against the idea of privilege and more specifically “checking” your privilege, such as in articles like this and this.
After reading Tal Fortgang’s op-ed from the Princeton Tory (cited above), I identified with many of the feelings he expressed. I am a seemingly plain ol’ white female (who actually is a member of the Cherokee Nation, has strong links to Mexico, etc.) who has also had “check your privilege” spat out at me as an ad hominem argument to shut me up as I expressed a thoughtful opinion. It stings to be told that I can’t possibly be intelligent enough to come to the correct decision about something, simply because I’m white. It’s racism—as much as me telling someone they can’t be right because they are of color. I posted the article, and various people responded. Most of the responses were like mine—commiseration for being piled into a group and discredited because of our race, heterosexuality, etc. However, one friend took me to task, and resulting thoughtful discussion made me eager to delve into the concept of checking one’s privilege, and the idea of privilege in general. Is it even something worth worrying about, or just something I can put to the back of my mind as another liberal idiocy (sorry, liberal friends)?
So. What is this “privilege” that’s got everyone in an uproar? The straight dictionary definition for the context I am addressing is “A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.” For example, I would say to my teen son, “A driver license is a privilege granted to those who earn it, not a right.” From the viewpoint of the “check your privilege” crowd, privilege is the idea that “some people benefit from unearned, and largely unacknowledged, advantages, even when those advantages aren’t discriminatory…. (Rothman).” Women’s Studies guru Peggy McIntosh is credited with popularizing the concept of white privilege in the eighties. She describes privilege as a sort of invisible, weightless backpack full of tools and supplies that one group carries, without knowing it, and other group does not. For example, if I turn on the television, for the most part I will see mostly my own race in starring roles in network shows. If I were male, I would never know what it was like to have to hold my keys in my hand as a weapon as I walked to my car in the parking lot of a grocery store after sundown. The ideas go deeper than that, and get more disturbing (men will never know what it is like to be sexually assaulted and then blamed for it because they were wearing their clothing too tight, etc.).
I get stuck between being angry at people who don’t know me, correcting me because they see my (insert anything here… race, sex, sexual orientation, hair color) and assume that I have certain privileges or advantages based on those things, and being concerned that I am missing some fundamental lesson in not recognizing my own privilege and thereby marginalizing my brothers and sisters of the human race. My friend used the analogy of two fish swimming, when another comes by and asks, “How’s the water?” to which the first fish ask, “What’s water?” By not acknowledging that I have certain advantages due to my own unique situations, and also that others have certain disadvantages due to theirs, I am not making those conditions nonexistent, I am merely denying them, and by acknowledging them, I am not saying either of us is better or worse than the other.
It’s a great concept, if that’s where it stays—I call it empathy, and seeking to understand others. It’s the “platinum rule”—rather than treat others how we would want to be treated, we take the time to learn how others would like to be treated, and then treat them that way. From a religious standpoint, it is to try and see everyone through our Heavenly Father’s and our Savior’s eyes—for who they are, for what they have been through, for who they can become—and then show compassion and love for all.
Here’s where it gets sticky, though. “Check your privilege” has gone from being a call to advance understanding and inclusion, to a cry to silence dissent from those who do not agree with particular progressive thoughts. If I am having a discussion about welfare, crime, gay marriage, or any of the many hot-button topics which have even a flavor of “otherness” from my own identity, my debate opponent can (and often does) cry out “Check your privilege!” as a means to say, “What you have to say doesn’t matter, because you are (white, female, heterosexual, whatever) so all of your arguments are null and void.” Proponents will say that is not the case, but I can testify that it is. It has happened to me. It is the equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and singing, “I’m not listening!” instead of taking the time to understand. Yes. Understanding can come from both sides of the argument.
What are my conclusions about checking my privilege? First and foremost, I believe that YES! Every person, regardless of your race, gender, size, sexual preference, marital status, shoe size, ring size, head circumference—EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. should be checking their privileges. What I mean is that everyone should:
1) Count your blessings. What has God given you that has helped you be who you are today?
2) Realize that not everyone has what you have. Try to bless others.
3) Be compassionate and caring, striving to understand others instead of condemning. Instead of drawing little circles around ourselves to keep others out, like some cosmic Venn diagram, why can’t we find ways to lift others so that our privileges, our blessings, can be used to bless others as well?
Lastly—while everyone should be doing the above, NO ONE should be sanctimoniously shouting at someone to “check your privilege” unless the person you are lecturing is looking back at you from the mirror. One of the reasons why the discussion on privilege is getting so much backlash is become it feels like an attack—it has been described as the Privilege Olympics—only the gold medal goes to the one with the most disadvantages, and the losers are made to feel ashamed, as if they don’t deserve success because they didn’t really earn any of it. “Judge not” has no caveats.
It occurs to me that the direction we are looking as we are checking privilege determines the effect. Honestly checking my own privilege, or counting my own blessings, will lead to a sense of gratitude and inspire me to help those less fortunate. It will help me to be empathetic. Instead of judging someone based on my own paradigms, I will begin to understand that they walked their own path to where they stand. That path began in a place they did not choose, and not having traveled where they did, I have no standing to judge them. Looking inward should inspire me to be a better human being.
The opposite—looking outward to check out the privileges everyone else enjoys that I do not, will engender a different result. If I look at male privilege, tall people privilege, skinny people privilege, what have you—I start forgetting what I have. I become ungrateful. What’s worse, in the world we live in, where we are being conditioned to believe that if someone has more than we do, then they owe us something, I run the risk of feeling entitled. I am behind in the game, so someone else should make it up for me. On a political scale, this has happened already, and it is what makes the discussion of privilege so testy in the national arena. It feels like an attack, because someone else is deciding who has more privilege, and wants to take from them to “even the score.”
Personally, I am fully aware that I am extremely blessed. First of all, I was born in the United States in a relatively technologically advanced time. Medically I had what I needed. I have never gone to bed hungry. School was awesome for me. I was teased, maybe not particularly popular, but I wasn’t really bullied. I have ALWAYS been blessed with wonderful friends. I had parents who were always around, always available. I didn’t have to worry about work instead of homework, and so I did well in school. I was raised with Christian beliefs, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I have excellent work ethic, which was taught to me by good parents. I have never had to fear for my safety while I slept. I could go on. You get my point. I know how many blessings I have that others do not, and I know that they shaped many of my successes.
What I have to do, then, is be compassionate of others who do not have those advantages. I shouldn’t judge others, because I don’t know what they have been through, what disadvantages or trials they have had, or to what extreme. For me, it comes down to truly living Christian principles as well as I possibly can.
I know that sounds extremely Pollyanna-esque to think that this will solve all of the “privilege” problems. I know that this is not the world we live in. But instead of all of these systems we set up to pit ourselves against each other, to compare ourselves and condemn each other, these pharisaical rules of political correctness, why can’t we just follow the great commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves? It’s simplistic, I know. I cannot make anyone else do it. But I will commit to do a better job of it, and in the name of doing so, I will “check my privilege” to see how I can better show that love to those who may not be as blessed as I know I am. I am just one, but I’m the only thing I have true control over in my desire to make the world a better place.
“Energy drinks like Red Bull contain an ingredient extracted from bull semen!” reads the headline on Facebook. After the 973rd Facebook link to a story I knew was false, I stopped replying with the www.snopes.com debunking link. People will believe what they want to. It’s called “confirmation bias” and it plagues each of us. Simply put, if you suffer from confirmation bias (big reveal: we all do, to some extent), then you will tend to place more emphasis on facts, statistics, stories, etc. that support your point of view. So, for the Red Bull story, those who want to believe that companies have no problem putting weird stuff in our food (worms in McDonald’s food, bubble gum made of spiders) will tend to believe that energy drink companies are out there getting “donations” from the bulls of the world and putting it in their products. My own personal view is that if it sounds really weird, gross, or otherwise “out there,” it probably is. So I tend to fact check all that stuff.
Weird Facebook stories are one thing, but what if we raise the stakes? Here are some other issues of the day. How many people are still arguing them, and what are the chances either side will change their mind? What’s the confirmation bias with regards to:
Obama’s birth certificate (either you trust that he’s been properly vetted, or you believe that somehow he shanghaied the system)
Climate Change (we are melting the world, or it’s all junk science aimed at government control of its citizens)
Bundy Ranch Standoff (Bundy is a nutjob, or the federal government is all about oppressing hard working citizens to give gains to a few elites).
That last one is the one I am having the hardest time with currently. The Bundy Ranch standoff started many years ago, and is essentially a dispute between Clive Bundy, a rancher, and the federal government, specifically the Bureau of Land Management. Recently, the feds confiscated cattle and moved to physically remove Mr. Bundy and his operation from the disputed area. Bundy refused to go. Contingencies of like-minded citizens responded to block the Bureau from carrying out their directive, and the feds backed down rather than escalate the armed confrontation. Things have gone in different directions from there, with different spins on every new development.
Depending on which side you talk to, both have extremely compelling evidence of the righteousness of their cause. Where does the truth lie? Where do we find the truth online—everyone claims to have the “real story” but there is so much to sift through to find little nuggets of facts.
Snopes.com, (insert other fact check sites here), all try to provide clarity to some of the issues, and in many cases (such as urban legends), we can trust what they say. Can we trust Snopes? Some say we cannot—but it goes back to the confirmation bias—if Snopes verifies something we believe, then it’s true. If they don’t, then they are commie fascists liars with their pants on fire.
With that in mind, I am going to dedicate part of my website to the search for truth. I want to research different sides to some of these issues—some silly, some serious—and try and provide a little clarity on where the truth lies (hint: it’s usually somewhere in the middle).
I have my own beliefs, and my own “confirmation bias” of course, being human and all, but for the sake of the discussion, I will do my best to lay all of that aside as I try to research and be as unbiased as possible.
What issues would you like me to research? Share them in the comments and I will do my best.