Monday, July 23, 2012

Dang It People, watch what you say!

So, since I am going to rant about something that was said on one of those 24/7 TV channels this morning, I should first issue a bit of a disclaimer. I used to be a broadcast journalist. A radio News Director/reporter, in fact.Of course this was a long time ago,before we had 24/7 'coverage' of  everything. I should also say that I honestly believe the 24/7 channels aren't good for us.We used to get news after the reporters had time to find the facts, and verify those facts-triangulation was the way we went about our business.

But now, we have 24/7, and quite frankly a lot of what is said has no basis in fact. This morning on one of those channels one of the pundits in talking about the tragedy in Colorado, decided to weigh in with his conjecture that the shooter was on the autism spectrum. Now this personality has no way of knowing whether or not this is true, and what is worse, this personality has a son who is on the spectrum. So, you would think he would know that it is hard enough to be different in this society, to walk around as a person with autism or aspergers without people judging your behavior, or treating you as less than a person.

It makes no sense to have said this and put the thought out there. Honestly, sometimes we are meant to keep our thoughts to ourselves. I have had to listen to people comment on my son being different for the last 25 years.  It happens all too often. We can be at WalMart or the grocery store and someone will say something ugly about my son. Loud enough for me to hear them, loud enough for several people to hear them.It was rude, it was hurtful, and it is totally unnecessary.We've been asked to leave churches because they didn't think it was good for people to see "someone like him" in the congregation. It's hard enough to deal with without the added linking to the tragedy in Colorado.

We're all reeling over the news form Colorado. Believe me, I get it. In addition to the sense of helplessness, disbelief,and shock we all feel when these things happen, it brought lots of memories up for me. I am a gun violence survivor. Not once, not twice, but 3 times. Twice I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was a random victim. The third time I admit, it was personal and may be the only time you will hear me say thank goodness he wasn't sober! I was riding in a car on  freeway nearly 40 years ago, and a sniper on an overpass was shooting people. Random, senseless violence. It leaves us all reeling.

But, nothing is served, by the 24/7 barrage of conjecture, opinions, misinformation and disinformation we are all bombarded with these days. When my husband was killed by a drunk driver I inadvertently caught the report on the local news the next day. I rocked me to my core. I can not imagine how the families and friends of the Colorado victims feel. I can imagine years from now how those who survived will feel.

I do know that words have power, and words can be used to heal or hurt. And the words this morning conjecturing whether the shooter might be on the autism spectrum or not were out of line,not based on any kind of known fact, and unnecessary. The only thing they can accomplish is make it even more difficult for those of us who live with the autism spectrum to be able to walk through the store or down a street without being looked at with fear and mistrust.This type of  irresponsible conjecture puts our children at risk. It is difficult enough to find acceptance in our society, but these comments give people reason to fear our children. Fear based in fallacy, promulgated by unwarranted conjecture.

Sometimes, we all need to keep our opinions to ourselves.

But then, that's just my opinion.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


There is so much talk these days about religion-who has it, who needs it, who lost it, who walked away from it, who religion walked away from. As a society there seems to be a huge divide, growing larger every day. I remember the first time I was ever 'challenged' because I supposedly lacked the proper belief system. I was a freshman in college. I chose to attend a small 'Christian' liberal arts college in rural Missouri for my undergraduate degree.

I was in a Freshman English class, and we were discussing a play by George Bernard Shaw. I gave my opinion to the professors question and the next thing I knew a guy a few seats away jumped in to say that my opinion was wrong because "She's from Los Angeles, she wasn't raised in the church like the other girls were." Now, it was the early 1970's, and rural Missouri did indeed feel like a different world than Los Angeles, and this west coast hippie chick looked, and maybe thought differently than most of the other young women in the class.He was right, according to his definition I wasn't 'raised in the church.' But, to say my opinion wasn't valid based on an assumption that I didn't have the proper religious upbringing because of where I was from seemed a bit presumptuous to me, and I of course said so.

So there I was, 18 years old, explaining to these 'Christian' young men and women that there are indeed churches in  Los Angeles. In fact, it can be argued that the Christian Fundementalism and Pentecostal movements began in Los Angeles at the beginning of the 1900's. Of course, Los Angeles has always been a cultural melting pot. When the pueblo was founded in 1781, two thirds of the original settler were of mixed heritage with Native American, African, and European ancestries.The towns were built around Catholic missions. With growth came many cultures and strong histories of religious  diversity. But, none of that mattered to the other members of that class. I didn't belong to their 'club', so rather than discuss with me why I had different opinion about the play than they did, they decided that I couldn't possibly understand correctly.

Now I often can't remember why I moved from one room to another in my apartment, but I remember that conversation in that Freshman English class 40 years ago because it was one of the many things that helped guide my journey.I set out to learn all I could about religions. In the decades since that class, I have earned 3 college degrees including  an M.A. in Comparative Religion.  I have attended many different 'churches', and experienced God in and out of those institutions. I consider myself a woman of strong faith. I have friends who totally disagree with my belief system, and probably pray for me daily because they are certain that I am doomed.  Many would term me an unbeliever-simply because my belief system doesn't line up with theirs.I am, in a particular type of religious vernacular, 'unchurched'. In that, I am not alone.

Now, I have nothing against churches.Spirit has sent me to church often. I have spent many hours sitting in many different churches over the years. Some of the best times and some of the worst times in my life have taken place inside a church, and even though I have been hurt, if Spirit were to send me to church again, I would go. But, at this time in my life, church is not where Spirit sends me. So, I have to believe that I am where I am supposed to be.

There are many others who have left the church these days. Not being in a church can be hard for some, and it can be daunting to be at peace with the situation. But, if we are open to Spirit, we can find that peace,and learn that sometimes we are called to a place we might not choose on our own.

Finding that peace isn't easy. Soemtimes we have left a place that is totally disfunctional, often we are leaving a place where we have been hurt, where the things of Spirit are used to abuse and misguide and control. When we find the courage to say enough, I don't accept this, we are often on our own. It becomes so easy to doubt ourselves and peace is hard to come by. We thought we had a relationship with Spirit, but now that relatinship looks and feels different, broken somehow. We often find it difficult to trust again.

It is hard to put a relationship back together when the trust has been damaged. Been there, done that. It may never be "like it was before", but that doesn't mean that it can't be a good relationship, rebuilding the relationship is perhaps about putting together a new thing, a relationship that was better than it was before. It is so hard to let go, but I think that is what forgiveness is all about. Letting of the past, and the hurt, and moving towards a new thing.
The dictionary says forgive is to give up resentment of or claim to requital for... to cease to feel resentment against.

I think that to forgive is to let go of any claims we have against the one who offended us. I think it is human nature to want to be the one who is right. To forgive means we let go of the need to be right, to let go of the need to prove our claim. To forgive means that we no longer expect to be compensated for our hurt or loss. AS in the forgiving of a debt, when we forgive our claim to compensation no longer exists.We no longer need to be right.By forgiving we choose to no longer live with the feelings brought on by the offense.We choose to no longer be weighed down by anger,or shame, or embarrassment. No more guilt or denial. We choose to let these things go, so that it frees us to move on with our lives.To move on and make a new relationship, not merely going back to the way it was before, but building something stronger on a solid foundation of newly forged trust.

When it comes to matters of our belief system, often the one we first have to forgive and build a new trust with is ourself. Sometimes we can feel guilt and shame for buying into something we no longer believe. So we have to earn to extend that forgiveness to us. Maya Angelou says "When you know better, you do better." So we forgive ourself for the time when we didn't know better, and as we learn to do better we move forward.

Spirit didn't mislead us, sacred literature didn't abuse us. People who don't know, and probably don't want to know better used these things to control and misguide us.So, we forgive, we give up any claims against ourself or others and we seek that place of peace. To seek that peace that can only come from Spirit. Try to stay composed no matter how agitated the world around you becomes.Seek peace. The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. Shalom means that people are in a good relationship with God, with themselves and their bodies, with other people, and with the earth. For people to be in shalom means that their life is balanced and that they relate to the whole of what surrounds them with a peaceful spirit.We can find that peace no matter where Spirit has sent us or sent us away from.