This is a post that my mother put on her Facebook page. While I had written about the need to understand the context of Trump’s support and the shared responsibility we all have for enabling his rise to power, she…well, she is much more direct.
Today I gave $5.00 to a guy who was standing alongside the road and holding a sign. I don’t even know what the sign said, or if he was a professional panhandler, and never minded that he had a little dog tucked into his shirt (like, “…hey, if he can afford to have a dog, then why is he asking for money?”). I gave him $5.00 because I chose to believe that he needed the money, and because giving him the money says more about me than it does about him or his motives for standing alongside that highway. And I gave him money because I feel blessed not to be standing alongside that highway. And because I believe in human kindness.
For most of my life, I’ve tried to be a good person and to do what’s right. I’ve often failed, and sometimes miserably so. But I’ve had some successes along the way and I hope that I’ve had a positive effect on many of the people whose lives have intersected with mine. Yes, I’m white, but have never felt like I was privileged because of that. I have worked very hard to be where I am today.
My mother, God rest her soul, was not a prejudiced woman, and she put the feelings of others before herself. In fact, she had so much grief and trouble in her life, I think she was very conscious of trying not to bring pain to others. If we said bad things about other people, we were immediately removed from the room and got a good spanking. (Contrary to popular belief, I don’t have any psychological scars from those spankings, though. I did learn to try not to say cruel things to other people. Not always successful at that.)
My father’s people, on the other hand, were quite a prejudiced lot. When I was a little girl, every time my granddad came to see me, he would begin the visit by asking me how many little ni**er boyfriends I had…to which I always replied, “None, grandad.” He would cup his ear as if he couldn’t hear me, and then shout, “NINE?” I yelled back, “I said NONE, grandad!” He shouted even louder, “NINETY??” It wasn’t until I was much older that I understood the implications of that conversation, after my cousins told me that my (already aged) grandfather had assaulted a black man who walked by his apartment door, simply because he walked by, and then thrown him down a staircase for good measure. They giggled wildly while telling me the story, and I wondered why in the world granddad would do such a thing. My grandad, although I loved him dearly, was a prejudiced bully, who felt he had the right to harm others based upon his beliefs and values.
I was bullied as a child, throughout my elementary school years. On the playground, I stood on the sidelines and tried to be inconspicuous, so nobody would say bad things to me. I held my breath if they got close, and would let it out gradually when they moved away, once more safe on the sidelines. Still, sometimes they would surround me and taunt me, telling me I was ugly and stupid, and pull on my long straight hair, and tell me I looked like an indian because of it. I gathered that looking like an indian was quite a bad thing, and when I watched Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, or any of the other popular westerns of the day, it did seem to support that belief.
I never told my mother about the bullying since one of the reasons I was bullied was because she was divorced, which was almost unheard of in the rural area where we lived at the time. And we were also poor folks, and even as a child I knew she couldn’t do anything about that, and her feelings would be hurt if she knew. Besides, I reckoned that I probably deserved the bullying, because it was true, I didn’t have a dad at home, and I certainly was poorer than all the other kids. (We got our clothes by going to the dump on Saturdays, or if mom got some material, she would try to make us something pretty.) And when I looked in the mirror, I saw an indian looking back at me, which I already had been told was pretty bad. And I knew that I was also stupid, because all my classmates had told me so; and frankly, even a few of my teachers had told me so. Heck, I didn’t know I had a brain until I was almost twenty.
I tried to raise my own kids to always consider the feelings of others. When my daughter came home from school and told me that the other kids were taunting another little girl by telling her she was fat, I sat her right down at the kitchen table and said, “How do you think that made her feel?” It only took her a moment or two to reply that she suspected that it made the little girl feel badly. Lesson was learned quickly. I waited until she was out of the room before I called that school and raised all kinds of hell about how they needed to pay more attention to what kids were saying to each other. Caused quite the ruckus among the teachers, and some mothers, to this very day, haven’t forgiven me for reporting their kids as bullies. (I just saw one of those mothers in Target today, and still got the withering look.)
Anyhow, since this essay has a theme of coming out, I’m also going to tell you that I am a Christian. I’m a Bible-believing evangelical; yes, Jesus has saved me, and I do believe that when I die I’ll go to a better place. Hallelujah! I have very strong spiritually-based beliefs and values.
Now that the cat is out of the bag, I’m also going to tell you that I haven’t darkened the door of a church for well on 30 years. Even I am shocked by that statement. Do you wonder how and why I can say that I have such strong beliefs, but don’t associate with others who believe that way? It’s because I also know that “Christians” really don’t get the rest of the world, and in my opinion, a good deal of them actually are a negative impact upon others who don’t call themselves Christians (and often some who do call themselves Christians). A lot of them will be very offended by my saying this, and in full denial, and would lay out in great detail how wonderfully they have lived their lives and brought praise to Jesus’ name.
Let me explain why I don’t go to church. My sister was in a horrendous accident in 1986, while I was still very active in a local church. She was hit by a drunk driver. The impact broke open her skull, and the brains of her left temple were resting peacefully in her hair when they brought her into the emergency room. (I knew the doctor who was on call, and she told me that she put her hands in Sherry’s hair and pulled brain matter out.) I needed to know, and I made it my business to interview everyone and anyone who was present at the time of the accident, and told them it was because I was giving a speech, never letting on that it was my sister. By doing that I got every last detail of what happened, which haunts me to this day. I’m actually shaking as I write this, just in thinking about it, despite that it was 30 years ago.
As you can imagine, that time in my life was a major crisis. The good Christians in my church had all kinds of wonderful advice to give me, such as that if I prayed for her her brains would grow back into her head. And that I should be thankful that this had happened to my sister, and not my husband and kids, because that would truly have been a tragedy. And that she was being tried by God and would come forth as gold. And that nothing happens that isn’t God’s will, so God not only allowed the accident, but he willed it to happen for His glory. And that it was my fault, because I didn’t pray enough, or not hard enough, or that I hadn’t asked the “right” people to pray for her.
And as time passed, and she didn’t heal, it was because of her own stubbornness and if she really had wanted to be healed, she would be. This is where I feel compelled to say again… Her. Brains. Were. In. Her. Hair. Her left temporal lobe had burst, and there was no grey matter left there. There is absolutely no way that she could have prayed herself back to who she had been before, no way that I, or anyone else, could have prayed her back to her former self.
Eventually I was not only traumatized by what had happened to my sister, but also by the people in the church. I left the church and most of the good Christians that went along with it. Some very fine people then predicted that because I wasn’t going to church, my life would fall apart and be for naught. Despite this, I want you to know my kids grew up to be very fine human beings who are a real asset to the world they live in. I stayed married (45 years now) to the love of my life. I think that we’re still very happy together.
There is no desire to go back to church or to associate with most of the folks who went to my church. Some would say that I am “back-slidden,” and cold and callous, and I’m sure a few of them are still praying that I’ll see the light and correct the error of my ways. (Besides, I swear a lot now and the words roll off my tongue like butter, and I don’t even feel guilty when I do it. And I’m also rather well known for speaking my mind now, which tends not to sit well for women in the evangelical church.)
I went to therapy, and it really was one of the best gifts I ever gave to myself.
I went to college and got a master’s degree in social work. I specialized in acute and chronic mental illness, and for a good portion of my career I worked in acute psychiatry. (Nobody there thought that my sister’s brains should have grown back into her head!) For the most part, the people who work in psychiatry really do get what’s going on in the world. I loved that job; I loved most of the people I worked with, and almost all of the patients that came through the psych unit.
My world grew a whole lot bigger and also a whole lot better. Here’s something I found out in this world: there are really good people out here. I worked with really good people from all over the world. I’m friends with Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, atheists, agnostics and even a few Christians.
All that said, here’s something I can never, never do—I can never, never, never support Donald Trump as the Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America. I will not be silent and “heal and get over it,” as I’ve heard stated several times since the infamous election results. Mr. Trump (and I use the word Mr. very loosely), still thinks it’s alright to assault people of other races (and to throw them down a staircase for good measure). He excuses this same behavior in his “loyal followers,” who are currently having a field day threatening minorities and behaving like ignorant assholes who are entitled to inflict pain upon anyone who believes differently than they do.
Donald Trump is a reprehensible bully who, by his election as President of the United States of America, has granted license for the true bigots to do and say whatever they want to, regardless of whether or not it causes harm. People, you all need to get off your staircase to heaven and stop saying that everyone needs to respect everyone else’s opinions. Here is the truth: respecting an opinion stops the very moment that it causes harm to others.
And one of the worst things that I am seeing at this moment, that I am most disappointed with, is the horrible attitudes that I am now seeing displayed by people who are calling themselves good Christians. Like, since the election, on your Facebook pages, “Can you hear us now?” Why yes, yes I do hear you; but your attitude and your behavior are shouting even louder than your words. One of you said you couldn’t wait for that “motherfucker,” Barack Obama, to be out of the White House. (I hope you cringed when you read that, because I sure did.)
All you “good people,” your profound silence about the atrocities that have been and are still being committed is virtually shouting to the world that you don’t really care.
All you “good people,” your profound silence about the atrocities that have been and are still being committed is virtually shouting to the world that you don’t really care. Not one “Christian” has commented on the black church that was burnt down in Trump’s name. Not one “Christian” has commented on Trump’s statement about grabbing women’s pussies, although everybody heard it from his own lips. A former Facebook friend (who has now ceremoniously unfriended me because I don’t support the new order of things) said that there’s nothing wrong with Donald Trump talking about grabbing women’s pussies, because that’s the way men talk. (Alrighty then, I guess it’s okay to treat women as sexual objects, and when your daughters get sexually assaulted, you only have yourselves to blame.) Not one “Christian” has commented on any of the horrendous abuse that’s currently happening in this country.
There’s a whole lot of “we’re gonna’ pray about that,” because then there’s no responsibility and everybody can stay comfortable in your homes and your churches, with your heads in the sand, and just pretend none of this is happening. A whole lot of colorful slogans and colorful buttons for Jesus. Guess what…the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Jews, the atheists, the agnostics, the ones who you think need to come to Jesus… they are the ones who are standing up for what’s right.
People, your silence is condoning the horrors that have occurred in the name of Donald Trump. Your silence is speaking to the world, the same world that you say you’re making a positive impact upon, and it’s speaking pretty damn loudly. What I see in that silence is a desperate attempt to try and pretend that things are “normal,” and the world will go on and maybe even get better. As they say in Wayne’s World, “NOT!” Nevertheless, I will say that I have gained a personal insight from this election, so to speak. My choice to leave the church has been affirmed to me as the right choice. I see nothing in the lives of Christians that would cause me to believe any of them are trying to better this world.
It’s damn well time that we all put our money where our mouth is and stand up for the real underdog in this world. Here’s a hint in case it isn’t clear: the underdog is NOT Donald Trump, and neither is it likely anyone who has read through this to the end. And please, if you’ve read this far, and choose to disagree with me or are offended by what I say, then by all means feel free to unfriend me. I will not take offense. Do not offer me any platitudes, condescension, or explanations of why you think I’m wrong because I think differently than you do. I will delete them. If you have something to say to me, send me a private message. If you also have an epistle that’s dying to get out of you, go publish it on your own page.