Gathering Strength and Weathering A Storm

The drought this year has withered the flowers of my new gardens. I miss flowers. They bring such beauty and joy especially during such dark times. Today it is raining. Raining water for my flowers and hope for our state.

Hope is a funny thing. Many years ago, as a little girl, I planted flowers with an elderly neighbor. She shared why she grew them. They brought her beauty. Also many years ago, as a little girl, my grandmother told me about her husband the fire chief and bootlegger. During that time, The Depression of the 1930’s, my dad lined his coat and shoes with newspapers and stood in bread lines for him and his sisters. I find myself thinking about those stories as we live through another historically depressing and difficult time. One in which hope is evasive and so needed.

Many around us, especially our neighbors from other countries, see the collapse of the United States happening before their eyes. They grieve for us, and themselves. I tend to agree with them that we are well into this collapse. Rather than go into all the obvious clues and patterns, I think we need to focus on hope. Hope fueled with plans and actions to stop it in its tracks and reverse the damage. Now let’s be clear, this is damage that has been occurring for a very long time. Some say since Nixon. Some say since Reagan. Some say since slavery. I say since the first white European set food on this continent. Whatever the starting point; it has certainly escalated since men like Reagan and the Christian conservative movement took power. This administration is the climax.

Forever, men have tried to “keep women in our place”. White men have tried to keep Blacks, and Asians, Indigenous, and Immigrants in “their place”. Repressed groups share many similarities. It is these shared experiences that can help us come together, to see the systemic issues of white nationalism and supremacy at work in our country right now, and unite to end it. This isn’t going away willingly. Powerful white men who’ve held the power of our country for centuries aren’t just going to give it away to the rest of us without a huge uprising. That’s where we are now. While we’ve been here before (somewhat), we haven’t quite seen the convergence like we are witnessing today. The evil pouring out of those who see the power they are loosing is obviously them giving it their last desperate shot to hold onto it. But we don’t have to dance their dance.

It’s hard to step out of a dance. I struggle everyday not to dance with them. At times I succeed and at times I don’t. But it’s my north star. Don’t dance the dance. Make our own dance. Make our own narrative. Work with other like minded folks.

We are about to witness and experience the climax of this. I have a feeling it’s not going to look or feel good. And I am assuming I am not alone in my fear. We have a choice with how we handle our fear. We can give into it; let it win, or we can beat it down and rise up and use it to power us and overcome it and those who are actively trying to oppress us. This isn’t new. History is full of episodes when the people rose up against tyranny. Pull from that historical DNA to do “the good trouble” that is needed of every single one of us right now. Some of us are on the front lines working 24/7. I thank them. With every fiber of my being, I thank them. I am not there; yet. Fear has been winning with me. But I continue to get up every morning and fight that big monster, fear. An email I got last night helped me realize that I need a group. A group of like minded folks who will encourage me to keep going. And be part of a group so I can encourage others to keep going.

We can’t let the bastards doing everything in their greedy, cruel playbook win. When we back down; when we do nothing because of fear, they win. And their win will effect our children and our grandchildren.

So what can we do? Vote. Vote early and in person if you can. If you can’t vote in person, vote early and by mail. Early meaning your ballot in the mail box by Oct 20th. If you are not working, ask your town office if they need help with polling and volunteer to be a poll worker. Ask your neighbors and family if they need help voting and help them. Do they need help ordering a ballot and voting? Have you been reading about “The Red Line”? The red line of democracy symbolically stating that the thread of the stealing of democracy has been crossed. Be ready to act if the red line of democracy is crossed and it is clear a coup is being attempted. What will that look like? Not counting all the votes. That’s what it will look like. By not counting all the votes a coup of our government power and democracy are in active play. There are some guides to help with this. I will share these links once they become available. Several are in the works now.

Most important? Hope. Let hope infuse you with power and action. If you are in a state of depression or inaction (who isn’t!?) reach out to someone. We fall when we are divided; we stand strong when we are united. We all know that old saying. So unite with someone or some group to regain your power. Then use your power and voice to speak out in what ever way works for you. You do not need to feel like you are alone, because you aren’t.

Let’s summon power from each other to capture the amazing strength and determination that the flower vendor has. She is showing us the way.

In strength and solidarity,

Mary

When Capitalism Refuses to Die

“Hell is empty, Armand,” said Stephen Horowitz; is the opening line to Louise Penny’s newest book. After much anticipation and even more patience, it arrived in the mail today. As I opened it and read that first line, I closed it and poured myself a cup of chamomile tea. You see, I had just spent a part of the morning on the phone with my son.

My son is in Vietnam. He’s been there for 7 months. About a week after he arrived, they shut their borders because of the presence of Covid 19. Since then the borders have opened and closed again. On top of that, borders around the world are closed to those who carry USA passports. He can’t leave. He tells us that Vietnam is a beautiful country with beautiful people. But it’s hotter than hell. In our conversation he was telling us how he is trying to get to Hanoi to see the American War museum. He knows he needs to emotionally prepare himself to see the images of what our country did to these beautiful people and their land. I told him I was beginning to phone bank for Biden this week.

He cried.

It is important for us elders to stop and listen when strong youth sob.

“When I was watching the Democratic National Convention, I felt like I was watching my own funeral,” he said.

I didn’t need to ask him why. I knew.

We are in a delirious world when we celebrate a man and woman and the party they represent when none of them prioritize the climate and health of our planet as the most important, number one thing that needs to be addressed. That silence was clear during the convention and has been clear for 2+ decades. Rather than ramble on with references and footnotes to support this, I want to keep the focus on our youth.

About a week ago the New York Times put out yet another critical essay on the climate catastrophe that is unveiling itself to us all. It was beyond sobering. It was down right horrifying. Us elders will be dead when the worst of it comes to light. But my kid (and yours), the ones who sob because they rightfully fear their future, they need to be heard as they come to terms with this and grieve. While many of us are rightfully focused on the man who will more than likely steal the election yet again, there is a generation or two who look to the future with a deeper fear than anything we elders might feel.

I will vote for Biden. But I will do it with a heavy heart. I wish I could say that I think he will address the climate crisis that is unfolding as I type, but I don’t. I do however hope.

There is a lot of awfulness going on in our country and around the world right now. We can list any number of evils that scare the heck out of us, with Covid 19, the unwrapping of white supremacy, and the blatant inequality around us as high on that list. But as my son so viscerally observed, it all means shit if our climate goes to hell. And the thing is, it is well on its way.

What will it take for us to see our youth, hear them, feel their fear, and do something about this? Something drastic, major, and all encompassing.

When I hung up. I sobbed too. Because I know the answer to that. There is a very unique hell that runs our planet. It is called, capitalism. And capitalism just won’t allow us to put the climate where it belongs, front and center in all our deliberations.

As I hold you in my heart, please hold our youth in yours.

Mary

When We Bring a Little Bit of Home With Us

A few simple yet cherished items that helped me feel at home in my new home.

All around the world people are fleeing their homes. Some because of climate. Some because of war. Some because of gang violence and/or crippling poverty. But they all have something in common. They left their homes and items they cared for behind. Some even left loved ones behind. The sadness, guilt, and worry must be overwhelming. And what about pets? Surely some left pets behind. That would just crush my heart. I’d have to be pretty scared to leave my dog behind.

We just left our home of 20 years. We chose to. We moved back to the country and into a smaller home. As I was unpacking a few cherished items and putting them on shelves I found myself thinking of the families around the world who have left their homes. Since I’ve been to Matamoros and Juarez along the Mexican border, I think of those trapped there. Our country won’t let them in. Even after fleeing unimaginable violence and traveling for weeks through incredibly dangerous territory, we won’t let them in. Many are living in tents, in shelters, or on the streets on the other side of the border. They are scared, exhausted, and some are sick.

When we began preparing to move I got cranky and anxious. I wondered if we were making the right decision. I thought about the years of living there and raising our kids there. I felt a bit sad. Yet I knew where we were moving to was safe and the passage to my new home would also be safe. I am not an asylum seeker or a refugee. How must it feel to leave everything you cherish behind and head out on a journey you know will be dangerous? How scary it must be to head for a new land you know will probably not welcome you. Yet they pack up their meager belongings and leave. Because that’s how desperate they are.

Once we moved and I unpacked item after item my breath began to slow and I began to relax. I felt happy as I unwrapped delicate things and a safe feeling began to envelop me. Seeing things that are familiar to me was reassuring. Again I wondered, “How must it feel to leave it all behind?” I think I have an idea. Sad, so incredibly sad, and scary beyond belief.

As each day passed and we continued to unpack our things and our pile of boxes got smaller, my world began to settle in and feel safe. Again I thought of the families living in tents, shelters, or on the streets in a country with an unfamiliar language, and unfamiliar customs. A land that was unwelcoming and openly hostile. In the case of the United States, a land where men can take your children from you. I can’t even imagine that without feeling a gut punch of fear and overwhelming grief.

Today a hurricane is hitting the east coast of TX/Matamoros Mexico, right where the tent encampment is. How will tents hold up to the rain and wind that is coming their way? Who can help them? The children will be so very scared. The adults undoubtedly will be as well. Team Brownsville and The Resource Center of Matamoros and the Sidewalk School for Asylum Seekers will be there to help when the storm passes. They will need our help in rebuilding. Please donate what you can and be as generous as you can. Click on the blue words to go to links to their GoFundMe pages.

So many issues are tearing us and our country apart right now. It’s impossible to keep on top of all of them. That is part of the plan. Be gentle with yourself as you navigate the issues in front of us. But please, don’t drop this one. Don’t forget that there are still concentration camps on our border, and around our country, housing families and children. Children are still being separated from their families. Families are still living in unsafe and horrible conditions at our border. This is our WWII Germany. Please do not look away.

Peace, Mary

Saying Goodbye and Reinventing Hello

“…Hello, sun in my face. Hello, you who made the morning and spread it over the fields and into the faces of the tulips and the nodding morning glories. ” Mary Oliver, Why I Wake Up Early

Back in 1918, after WWI, there was a global pandemic. The world was turned upside down. Back in 1929 a Great Depression began. The world was turned upside down. Back in the 1930’s there were families and children in concentration camps. The world was turned upside down. During that same time fascism, nationalism, and hate spread across Europe. The world was turned upside down. Back in the 1960’s there was a Civil Rights Movement that responded to the centuries of hatred and racism. The world was turned upside down.

Today, we have a convergence of all those overwhelming events occurring at the same time over a backdrop of climate catastrophe. Do we wonder why we are struggling so?

During all this. All this overwhelming…ness, we continue to live our complicated lives. Trying to do good. Be good. But it’s hard. Because any one of the events we are living though would be enough to side track us and put us in a spin. So of course we struggle.

My husband and I are leaving our home. Twenty plus years of memories and the thought of missing the maple tree that has provided shade for us cause me to be sad. Yet I know it is time. A similar feeling occurred when I retired. It was time then too. Leaving something you love is never easy. And the notion that leaving our home and my job is my choice, doesn’t pass me by.

Schools across the country are talking about opening up. Not because we should but because we are being threatened by our own government. Like everything else in the past three years designed to divide us and enrich the wealthy even more, this is too. A friend of mine, and one of the most gifted teachers I know, wrote to tell me she thinks she’s done. I understand. I remember the very moment when I knew I was “done”.

What I see happening is our society’s tightening grasp on the notion of schools and life staying the way it use to be. That I think is natural. It’s what we know. But we aren’t going back to how it use to be. Not safely. This is where the art piece, The Flower Seller, and the poem, Why I Wake Up Early, stand out to me. With harvests come a sense of closure. And with closure comes a mixture of sadness for what was and an excitement for the beauty of what is and what can be. Like the birth of a new day providing us daily opportunities to reflect, start new and fresh, and redesign how we want to live. That is the opportunity we have before us. To redesign society to be better. Inclusive. Equal. Patient. Gentle. Kind. It is time to reinvent them. Let us not waste this opportunity.

So as Mary Oliver again asks us:

Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Please grieve what we have lost but be open to new possibilities. And always, be gentle with yourself as you work for the new.

Much love, Mary

Seeking Light in the Darkness

We are moving. After 20+ years in our current home, it’s time to move on. When our kids were little, we moved from a struggling city outside Boston to a hilltop in rural Maine. I loved it there. We could see for miles, many miles. To the west, we could see across the state of Maine, all the way to the White Mountains of NH. Mt. Washington, in all its glory stood out, especially during its first snow of the year. And to the north, we could see Mt. Katahdan. I can still see my kids, leaning on our deck, watching friends as they drove up the road and then our driveway. It always made us smile in anticipation. The night sky was like nothing I had seen before; it always reminded me of my father. He knew the stars and when I was little he would teach me some of them. But watching storms come through was the highlight, at least for me it was. It was the first time I had watched rain move across the sky. Large patches of clouds and dark streaks of rain traveling from one town to the next. So it is with excitement that we are moving back to the country.

When we moved from that hilltop to a small town we thought it was what our kids needed. It worked for them. They made friends, went to school, and are now independent adults. It is time to go back to the simplicity and quiet of the countryside.

My daughter sent me a text with pictures of solar lights for outside. She was asking if we’d like them. They looked nice but the first thing I thought about was their effect on the night sky. We will be living again where street lights and neighbor’s lights will be absent and thus able to enjoy a brighter night sky again. So solar path lights, lighting up the sky, probably not happening. This then made me think of my son, now living in a city of lanterns. And how lucky he is to be surrounded with such peaceful light. As I thought about lanterns, a dark night sky, and solar lights I thought of our country and the darkness we are living in. How long will it last? We we rise together into the light? I am hopeful but also realistic. This is an incredibly tenuous time for our country, especially for those who live outside the promise of “justice for all”.

May we all work to move into the light of peace and justice for all.

Mary

To 4th or Not To 4th

I guess not. Not while kids are still in cages. Indigenous neighbors still don’t have sovereignty rights. Systemic racism is still a thing and many people don’t get it or even try to. And a president gives a speech that divides rather than unites. I guess United States of America is a foreign notion to him.

So, no. No 4th of July “celebration”. When we can honestly claim to be “for all” as was stated, then, and only then can we celebrate.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. The Declaration of Independence. So no. We are not there yet.

Mary

March, March…

Finding small beauty helps. This birdbath has brought so many birds to our yard. They nourish me.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” – Marianne Williamson

While feeling incredibly overwhelmed and powerless yesterday I happened upon this video. I can’t stop watching it. It is literally feeding my soul the power I thought I lost. As I was watching it for the umpteenth time I remembered the quote above that was read in a movie about a little girl who’s community helped her win a spelling bee.

When I was a young mom I had some pretty heavy shit that I was dealing with. Sadly, it of course spilled over into the lives of my children. As my daughter grew older she had her own shit that she was struggling with. To be expected. I can remember a conversation where she said she didn’t want to do it anymore. It being the work. She responded well to visualizations so I used the old, you’ve got to march through the swamp to get to the other side analogy. She heard me and continued her difficult work. I often looked back on those words and wondered if maybe we could have gone around the freaking swamp instead of through it. I bring this up because today, in our country, we are at the edge of the swamp. Well, no, we are actually in it. A huge, all consuming, evil swamp. For years we have tiptoed around the edges. I shamefully include myself in this. Now because we really have no other choice, we have decided to grab each others’ hands and march on through because maybe we do need to cross through the swamp together to get to the other side.

For weeks millions of us have felt like our heads and hearts were going to explode. The cause of such feelings coming from our government’s masterful creation of chaos, division, hate, and fear. Because this is exactly what authoritarian governments do at the beginning. They create chaos, division hatred, and fear. It is what brings a people to its knees and then provides the opportunity for us to scream, “Save us”. Then, as planned, in comes the daddy authoritarian oversight. They save the day, or so they say. Thankfully, we did not scream that. Instead we lifted our fists and voices and we rose up. Finally.

While laying in a MRI machine today it all came tumbling down. My daughter’s possible exposure to Covid, our constant fear of that scenario, another murder of a young Black man by police, my son half way across the world, Siberia hitting 100 degrees, masks, moving, selling, packing, masks…. I couldn’t do it. I literally couldn’t do it. I pressed the panic button and came out of the machine sobbing. Sigh. So I write. Trying like anything to get it all out. I use to run to get it out. That was years ago.

So where do we go from here? We continue to “March, March to my own drum…March march to my own drum…hey hey I’m an army of one….” Keep marching. Keep rising up. Keep speaking up for injustices that our country was founded on and continues to this day. Grab someone’s hand, lift it up, and fucking march.

Mary

When Racism Surfaces in a Small Maine Town

Noose found in Deer Isle, Maine – June 19th, 2020

While millions around the country were celebrating Junteenth, this was hung on the electric wires in a small island town in Maine. It is yet another reminder that Maine is not exempt from the racism being uncovered and boldly proclaimed throughout our country.

When I first saw this photo I stopped what I was doing and found myself thinking about how frightening it would be to see this if I was Black. And then I realized that was exactly what it was intended to do, scare the crap out of our Black and Brown neighbors and those who have stood up to support them. Well, it has accomplished the exact opposite. It has united us in our stand together for justice and the erasure of racism from our state and country. It has caused many of us to contact our state reps and demand they speak out. It caused others to have vigils in solidarity with our neighbors. And it caused others to unite for justice. We will not be intimidated.

While many have risen up to voice intense objection to this exhibit of hatred some have responded with undeniable racist comments that take your breath away when you read or hear them. Our “president” has certainly unleashed hate that has been revealing itself since electing Obama as president. For many, a Black president was just too much. His intelligence, education, and eloquence didn’t matter to them. Only his skin color mattered.

We’ve seen the photos of the KKK marching down Main St in Milo, Portland, Rockland and other towns in Maine in the 1920’s. So this should not be surprising.

We’ve seen photos of the KKK burning a cross in Rumford in 1987.

We even saw KKK flyers passed around the state a few years ago. So while I was sad and angry to see the photo of a noose in a quaint island town, I wasn’t surprised.

I cannot share the reaction of our neighbors who this noose was targeted to, but I can share mine. After shock, outrage, and sadness came confusion. Confusion over how to respond to this in a way that is supportive, effective, and responsible. A friend of mine said it well when she wrote, “It is a symbol of hate. I think the best way to respond is with symbols and actions that promote justice.” Molly Resnik. Thank you Molly; I couldn’t agree with you more. And that is what we must do. We cannot be silent in light of this act of hate designed to provoke terror. We’ve been silent for 400+ years and look where that has gotten us; to the photo above and of course to much, much worse.

Our country was built on racism. From the moment the first white European man stepped onto the shores of this continent racism was unleashed in all it’s ugly, harmful ways. Beginning with the taking of Indigenous peoples as slaves, to stealing their land and outright killing them. It continued under the guise of crafting a Constitution that claimed to grant rights “to all” but in reality those rights were only granted to the wealthy, white, landowning men. In all its savagery, it continued with the kidnapping and transporting of millions of people from Africa as slaves with the only goal of building the economy that became one of the “greatest” in the world. And it continues today in the forms of a for profit prison system and unjust drug laws that enslaves so many people of color all over again as well as many economic and educational injustices. So why it continues to surprise me really speaks to my ignorance and white privilege. A “privilege” if that’s what we want to call it, that ensured that I never learned the truths and evils committed in the name of our country. Never. Columbus, Jefferson, and Lincoln were just three examples of “heroes of amazing character and intelligence” that we learned about though the lens of upholding white supremacy. We were only taught the stories that kept the racist narrative alive and well. As they say, “You have to be carefully taught.” And we were carefully taught. And I believed it all, right into my old age. To keep white supremacy reigning in our country the distortion of these truths were carefully crafted and taught. Well, the internet is a lovely thing, and racist lies are no longer what we have to believe. We can “google” the truth.

Last week at a BLM rally a woman tried to intimidate my friend and I by driving her car up close to us while yelling profanities at us. She kept coming closer and closer, yelling louder and louder, until a police officer intervened. I wondered later what would have happened if she had been just a little angrier and drove a little faster. What if the police officer didn’t support the march and protect us? We’ve seen lots of evidence of this in other police departments all over the country. After the march, people proudly proclaimed how peaceful it was. Peaceful = success. Yes, of course we are glad it was peaceful. But I found myself thinking about that notion too. We still don’t want to be uncomfortable. We still want things to go smoothly, easily, calmly. But after 400 years+ of harm and violence maybe that’s not what we should use to gauge success. I am not advocating for violence in any way shape or form. But can anger arise and ever be ok? Can we feel uncomfortable and be ok? The answer needs to be yes. And not only can we, we should. Uncomfortable leads to growth and growth leads to changes. Deep systemic changes that are desperately needed and long overdue if we are going to continue to proclaim justice “for all”.

So back to that freaking, disgusting noose. We must not be silent. White people, this is a pleading call to speak up. Our voices, so long overdue, are needed and the time is ripe for helping create a large and lasting impact. BUT…. and this is a big BUT… we are not to out speak the Black and Brown community. We must listen to them, hear them, share their needs and their long overdue demands. This is not about us. Do not make it about us. We are not needed to be “saviors”. But we are needed.

Please call and/or write your state reps and your national reps. Call/write your governor, mayor, PD dept, city/town manager, school superintendent. Ask them what they are doing/saying to support this moment. Demand they speak out and work on changes that dismantle systemic racism in our legal, financial, and educational systems. March, hold vigils, create art, blog, speak on radio shows or podcasts, write letters to the editor, go to city council meetings and school board meetings (demand they be available via Zoom so those who can’t attend in person can still attend). But do not be silent.

We stand together, united in love, light, and solidarity demanding that we come through this more enlightened and kind, and with real justice “for all”.

Mary

Conflicts and Ramblings

https://nmaahc.si.edu/about/news/national-museum-african-american-history-and-culture-releases-talking-about-race-web?fbclid=IwAR2E735VYsspaseyi7Kloyesaxe7-0HsVxpE0BzbzGvYcLGBXHbTRy_7GTU

The above website – The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture today launched Talking About Race, a new online portal designed to help individuals, families, and communities talk about racism, racial identity and the way these forces shape every aspect of society, from the economy and politics to the broader American culture.

There’s a lot going on lately. And while most of us are struggling through it, I can’t imagine the added anxieties and fears of being Black, Brown, Indigenous, Latinx, and/or financially vulnerable. The fact is that my struggles are nothing compared to so many others. Yet, they are real and at times overwhelming. So what do we do with such feelings?

Like many others, I’ve had some challenging conversations with friends and family. They usually end with everyone feeling pretty crappy. Yes they are needed. But everytime I wonder, “Could I have done something differently to have made it go more smoothly, more open, less threatening?” I know I could. Important stances seem so crystal clear to me but so contrary to some I speak with. There has got to be a way to meet somewhere that allows us to hear each other.

Speaking of hearing, my ears ring all the time. So when I woke up and they weren’t ringing, I was so happy. Whenever that happens, which is seldom, it is such a relief. I enjoyed the morning texting my son who is in a new place and one he likes (good feelings). I had my favorite bread for breakfast (good feelings). I knit (good feelings). We were getting a few things fixed in our home for the new owners even though we didn’t have to (good/proud feelings). Then I went online and noticed someone I care about left social media because of things being said. “Was it something I said?” (sad feelings). We got a letter from the bank that we needed more information and money to close on our home (scary feelings). I began to worry about my daughter who is back at work in very close proximity with the general public in a Covid 19 hotspot (petrified feelings). And then I noticed my ears were ringing to beat the band. Stress really does affect our health. As I started the self pity party I remembered an article I recently read on Black mama’s and the generational grief and fear they carry. They carry more societal and family weight on their shoulders than anything I can imagine (intense grief).

So I write. I write because I have no clue what the solutions are. I write because I feel like my head is going to explode. I write because I really don’t want to cry.

There is a phrase going around that has many people on edge, “All Lives Matter”. Sounds harmless enough. Even sounds obvious and logical. Until you realize it is said to counter, “Black Lives Matter”. Then you realize the racist implications of it. This is the phrase causing such difficult conversations online. When you think about it, it is a master gaslight phrase because it’s righteous sounding and insinuates that if you have an issue with it something is wrong with you. But it is not righteous. It is used by overt racists. I assume it is also used by people who are struggling to see the loaded and racist meaning behind it and so they “innocently” jump on the bandwagon and use it thinking they are being righteous? Maybe I’m giving them too much credit. I think I am.

So what do we do? Seriously, what do we do? I think of the phrase (Churchill?) that says something along the lines of, Bravery isn’t the absence of fear; but rather it is doing what is right even when afraid. So holding onto that guiding principal I guess we carry on. We continue to confront racism whenever we encounter it even if it’s by someone we care about. I just wish I knew a better way to do it.

In peace, love, and courage to continue to do what is right; carry on,

Mary

Can You Hear Me?

“Tommy can you hear me?” The Who

As I reflect on my first few days with new hearing aids, I find myself thinking about that line from an old song. It slowly becomes clear how much I was missing. It would be impossible to not connect that physical sense of hearing with the struggle we are having to listen to each other during this incredibly divisive time.

I had a talk with my older brother this morning. We don’t really agree on politics the way we use to. But we talk to each other about our thoughts anyway. And while I know when we hang up we still may not agree, I think we do understand each others thoughts and feelings a little better. Another thing that stands out is that underneath the charged vocabulary we may use, we agree on a lot more than we disagree on. So I found myself wondering why we are able to talk about these difficult and divisive issues when so many are not able to do so. It is clear that these talks are critically important.

The entire world is rightfully protesting the horrifying murder of George Floyd. Even during a global pandemic, people are willing to offer up their lives to have their voices heard in support of the critical message, Black Lives Matter. “Why this message?” is something I hear from white folks. “Don’t All Lives Matter?” many ask. Well, it appears that no, all lives don’t matter. You would have to be blind to not see that Black and Brown lives have not mattered for a very long time. So, in reality, we cannot say, “All lives matter” until Black, Brown, and Indigenous Lives Matter. I ask white folks to please not take away from the important message, Black Lives Matter. Listen to why it’s important. Listen to people who fear for their lives every single day. Listen to the mamas who fear each time their children leave home for school, play, or work. Listen to those who do not have equal opportunities in a country that claims to be founded on equal opportunities.

When my children were young I never had the “when you get stopped by police” talk that we hear many Black and Brown folks have with their children. I understand completely what a sense of privilege that statement comes from. Both my children were stopped by police when they were in their teens. Neither feared for the lives. They may have feared getting a ticket but they didn’t fear for their life because of the color of their skin. That was the only thing that safeguarded them. I’ve spoken with Black and Brown mothers who share their experiences of fear when their children, particularly their sons, get their drivers license. No one should have such fear. Not in a country that was supposedly built on “Liberty and freedom for all”. We realize that’s not true, right? We realize that liberty and freedom went to wealthy, white, male, landowners. It certainly didn’t include women and it certainly didn’t include people who’s skin was dark. And it continues today.

It isn’t a news flash to say that we have an orange menace in the White House who is doing everything in his power to undermine our democracy and that he is succeeding at alarming rates due to the blind support of the GOP. My son and I talk about this a lot. He shares his knowledge of history and geopolitics with me and explains how authoritarians rise to power. It is chilling because we are here. We clearly have an authoritarian wanna be at the helm. Will he succeed? I don’t know. I’m fearful he will and hopeful he won’t. But one thing is for sure and that is if we want to get him and the swamp slime he surrounds himself with out of power, we need to hear and listen to each other, even if it’s difficult and grates against all we believe in. But….. with that said, here’s the cognitive dissonance and question I struggle with (my son doesn’t struggle with it at all), do we give voice to fascists? Do we listen to them? With the symbolism that my new hearing aids give to this moment I cannot ignore the fact that when background noise gets too loud and uncomfortable I find myself turning them off. Is this what we do with racists and fascists as well? By listening to them are we empowering them? Or are we possibly uncovering issues that led them to such destructive thinking?

It’s important to share that I stand in support that Black Lives Matter. That is the message I want to hear and understand completely. This is the message I will focus on and listen to. I; we; must listen and understand even if it causes some discomfort. It’s not easy work realizing that racism has been a part of your entire life and that you have benefited from the systemic racism of our society. But we must get over that hurdle and see it and hear it and add our voices to the dismantling of it.

May we listen while we stand and may we use a supportive voice in solidarity,

Mary