Saturday, 31 December 2016

A Confessional and Aspirational Farewell to 2016

Haven’t blogged in quite a while.  
So much going on, so little “extra” time… 
and perhaps, I haven’t really figured anything out worth sharing.   But as the year comes to a close, I figure I should say something.

Apparently, 2016 sucked.  
A lot of bad things happened.  
Yes, they did.  
But, and this is not an blanket endorsement of the Federal Government, the politics of hope and possibility still stand above the politics of fear and division in our country.  I am disappointed in our Federal Government for a number of things done and NOT done, but in a democracy I expect to be disappointed  (if I got everything that I wanted, that would likely be a dictatorship.  Run by me.  And I don’t have time to blog, let alone run a country).     So, I will be glad that the Government has admitted many mistakes (rather than deny them); I will be glad that we have an inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women, we have and continue to welcome refugees and have begun some measures that will have a positive effect on our negative environmental impact.

2016 was terrible, but I am glad to hear the emerging voice of Black Lives Matter and the impact that they are having on public awareness and policy.

2016 was lousy, but I give thanks for the Water Protectors in North Dakota; their passion, resolve and a measure of victory (I don’t imagine that this is over, yet).   Non violent protests made a difference in South Korea – actually led to the impeachment of a president.  Non-violent!

The ozone layer is repairing. 
The tiger population is on the rise. 
There is peace in Colombia.
I got perform in a concert with my son and didn’t embarrass him. 
All three of my sons are excelling in the lives that they have chosen; I often find myself marveling at the great choices that they are making and I see real joy in their lives.    

Yeah, it was a lousy year, but I started a new ministry partnership with a minister who exhibits such grace and imagination, devotion and knowledge, imagination and insight that I feel like I’m just starting in ministry myself, rather than celebrating 25 years since my ordination.

It was hard year on all of those who lost loved ones, found their own abilities diminished and opportunities restricted.  According to the media, a lot of celebrities died in 2016, but so too, did mothers and fathers, children and best friends… partners and anchors.  And in the midst and wake of such loss, I have seen people shine.  I have seen love poured out to fill the spaces emptied by grief.  I have seen faith shaken and restored, rebuilt stronger and even made available to share and support others.  I have seen such light shine in the darkness, that I have had to avert my eyes.

As cultural icons have left us, I see the invitation for us to start writing our own songs, telling our own stories and shaping a future as inspiring as the past.  Culture is not meant to be a museum, new things have to be created, supported and celebrated.  I suspect that David Bowie has made me lazy and complacent, rather than just be satisfied playing my old vinyl, it might be time for Siggy Normdust.

Of course, through all of this I have ignored the elephant in the room
The great big red and blue elephant that escaped from the Republican Circus and hoodwinked a nation:   Donald Trump.  

I am not a fan.  

In the interest of full disclosure, I was not a fan of Hillary Clinton.  I found HRC to be too often dismissive of those upon whose support she relies; she is too much of a "hawk" for me to fully support. Having said that,  I would have voted for her repeatedly over Mr. Trump (if the Russians would have allowed it).    I also believe that had the DNC not been so duplicitous and manipulative with the Bernie Sanders campaign, he would have probably lost to Hillary, but his supporters would have stayed with her and swung the election.  Of course, I am also the same guy who bet friends that Donald Trump wouldn’t survive the February primaries.   So what do I know?

I know this: I learned a lot from Donald Trump. 
Watching and listening to Donald Trump, I became aware of how my humour, my tolerance and my language have contributed to a “rape culture” that appalls me. 
Seeing Trump’s bombastic example  has made me aware of my own, more subtle, contributions to an oppressive, sexist reality.   Watching him debate Hillary Clinton, I became aware of how I use my body mass to sway an argument or dominate an adversary, effectively bullying my opponent.  I honestly didn’t see it before… I recognize the language that I use that can 

But my learning is greater than that:  The election of Donald Trump has affected me at a fundamental level. I have watched a man, with very little substance, lie to the world and be rewarded for it. I have watched a bully win... even though all of the stories that shaped my youth assured me that bullies lose in the end.  Every western, every action movie, every detective story that I have read throughout my life, assured me that in the last chapter; in the final reel, Trump would lose.  Billy Jack might go to jail, but the bad guys would always lose!   It was so obvious that Trump had to lose… But he didn’t.  And this is devastating to me at an almost spiritual level.  (I am still hoping that Bruce Lee will defeat Trump in a hall of mirrors just before the inauguration). 

In my privilege, the historical narrative has always offered me a win.  I have had the comfort of trusting in institutions:  All police officers are my friends; doctors will always do what’s best for me; the Government will protect my interests… officials will always be reasonable and once they recognize the reality of my situation (whatever it may be) they will assist me.   

The election of Donald Trump, has brought all of that crashing to the earth. 

I can’t trust the institutions that shape my life.  For me, in my privilege, this puts everything at risk: Maybe my mother doesn't really love me... maybe chocolate doesn't really taste good... it's possible that a little dab won't do me. 

For the first time in my life, I begin to understand what my brothers and sisters have been talking about so passionately.   A great many of my friends have NEVER felt that institutions were on their side; they’ve had no reason to trust the police, or the government… they’ve never felt respected or supported by the “powers that be”.   I have sympathized and understood intellectually with what women have told me about their experiences; I have appreciated and nodded with understanding when racialized friends have told me about injustice – I have responded in supportive ways, but never really got it at a gut level.  I have always been able to believe that if we fixed this bit of corruption or accepted this small compromise, it would work out – because I trust the institutions my ancestors built and that I support.   
But that’s not reality for most people…   
  and I am beginning to come to grips with that.  

Right now, it’s still a kind of numbed shock… but I can fill the gnawing inside me; the unrest.  It’s kind of like hunger or quiet rage.  It puts you on edge and makes many social or official encounters a competition where you have to push to win and always watch your back.  Holy shit… how have people lived like this for so long?  To my brothers and sisters who have lived this way for most, if not all, of their lives... I am in awe of your strength and humbled by your patience and tolerance. 

So, I suppose that I am grateful for the election of Donald Trump, because it and he have certainly made me far more aware of the breadth and depth of my own privilege; the reality of living in the 21st century like a “normal” person.  It has awakened in me an urgency and a need to support others in my life.  When I talk about support, I'm not talking about providing solutions - I'm talking about listening and following; doing the things that are directed by and of value to those who are asking for my support.  They don't need my solutions - but they can sure use my trust, strength and hope.  

The American election, Brexit and the empowering of racist voices and sentiment in my own community, has also made me aware of my need for Grace and the persuasive love of God.  In my privilege and arrogance, I kind of thought that I could (or we could) figure this all out by ourselves:   We just need to make better choices.  Today,  I am more convinced than ever that I (we) need the persuasive love that bends the arc of the universe toward justice to be active in our lives and decisions.  I, personally, need more than holy teachings,  I need a sense of presence as I stumble forward into 2017  - ready to write new songs, tell new stories, shape my life and the life of my community.   My faith assures me that I will not be left bereft…  and  in that promise,  I have hope.  Real hope.   Because I am aware and awake… I am less complacent and arrogant… and most importantly, I am not alone.

2016 may not have been a good year for many, but it has served a purpose for me… so now, let’s get on with 2017 with a little more daring, a lot more loving, a fearless hope and the knowledge that we are not alone.   Together, we will make a difference... alone, we'll mostly post on Facebook. (not that there's anything wrong with posting on Facebook).  

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