Isolated: Where compassion falls short

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Photo credit: Lorie Shaull 

Since last week’s shooting in Parkland, Florida, several articles have suggested a seemingly simple solution to the epidemic of gun violence in our schools. Not tighter restrictions on who has access to deadly weapons, what kind, or how many. Not investments in mental healthcare access and intervention. Not fixing the broken system that allowed a tip reported to the FBI about Nikolas Cruz to fall by the wayside. Not even heightening security checks at schools or arming teachers to fight fire with fire.

These articles have simply suggested that we should all reach out to the lonely and ostracized among us. That we should encourage our children to counter their classmates’ isolation and disconnection with a friendly smile and an invitation to sit together in the cafeteria.

Sounds idyllic–all these shiny happy people holding hands at recess. No child left behind in a toxic stew of neglect, self-doubt, and revenge fantasies. Teens and pre-teens with the emotional maturity to not ridicule a classmate today because they don’t want to get gunned down while they cower under a desk tomorrow. Continue reading

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Adrift: One Year After

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It’s been one year since I last posted on this blog. I didn’t intentionally step away. I drifted. That’s a good descriptor of the past year for me overall, in fact–drifting. I’d just come out of a year of caregiving for my wife, undergoing grueling treatment for breast cancer. My family was reeling and rebuilding after a flood devastated my childhood home and much of my hometown. I felt unmoored in a new city where we’d relocated only months before my wife’s diagnosis, giving us little time or energy to settle and find community before all our attention turned to fighting cancer.

And suddenly, shockingly (though perhaps it shouldn’t have been), I felt unmoored in my country as well, as hate seemed to pop out of every tiny tear in our societal fabric and everything felt so achingly consequential. Suddenly the stakes were higher–for me at least, as a white person who’d felt little of the oppression others had lived with long before. Suddenly, the bend in that arc of history felt longer. Continue reading

I’m a product of public schools… and privilege

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Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Education

In the swirl of furor surrounding Betsy DeVos’ confirmation as Secretary of Education last week, many folks posted their public education pedigrees on social media, calling  attention to the importance of public schools as a woman who never attended one steps into the role of leading education for our country.

Like so many who posted throughout the week, I am a product of public schools. But it’s important to recognize that, more than 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, two students both educated in public schools can still have entirely unequal experiences.

I had the privilege to attend public schools that helped shape me, challenge me, and prepare me for the world. But privilege is the operative word there. Here’s why: Continue reading

Showing Up

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Credit: Twitter, Angela Peoples

As last Saturday’s marches unfolded across the country, I watched from the literal edge. My wife and I had committed to a weekend trip with some friends to the Pacific coast. I wanted to be multiple places at once, but I traveled to the ocean with the understanding that I would spend Saturday watching the marches, providing logistical support to any of my participating friends who needed help or information, and amplifying their voices by sharing their images and words on social media.

It was both powerful and unsatisfying. Powerful to be able to see from a distance what was happening in its totality across the country and around the world. Unsatisfying, obviously, in not physically being part of one of the marches.

I share that just to provide a bit of context for my own absence in the march.

What I really want to talk about is the role of white women in the march and in the movement we hope to sustain well beyond last weekend. Continue reading

Has it really only been a week?

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Photo credit: Ted Eytan

This is the One Week After post I hoped I would never have to write: a week since President Trump was inaugurated.

To be honest, since the election, I have wondered what role a blog that is designed to be delayed and reflective can have in an environment that feels so urgent, that demands action every day. That question has only intensified for me in the week since the inauguration, as I have watched executive order after executive order tear at the fabric of what I most value about my country. Continue reading

The Sustenance of Progress

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Photo credit: Joe Brusky, Veterans Stand with Standing Rock 

“Joy doesn’t betray but sustains activism. And when you face a politics that aspires to make you fearful, alienated and isolated, joy is a fine act of insurrection.” – Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark

One week ago, water protectors seeking to block the Dakota Access Pipeline won a major victory at Standing Rock. With news that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had denied the permit to complete the pipeline in the area, the celebration was warranted. But so was the skepticism that compelled many braving the winter weather to remain at camp, vigilant and waiting for the other shoe to drop. Continue reading

The Language of Liberals

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Photo Credit: Carolyn Tiry, “(Self) Censored”

In the two weeks since the election, we progressives have flown ourselves into a shitstorm of psychoanalysis, delving into the Democratic mind to try to dissect what went wrong and what we should do about it. Do we wear the safety pin or not? Do we call all Trump voters racists? Can we somehow pull off a nationwide book club discussion about “Hillbilly Elegy?”

We should be regrouping, contacting congressional representatives to oppose Trump’s horrifying cabinet and staff picks, and encouraging every damn voter in Louisiana to support Foster Campbell in his runoff election on Dec. 10. Instead, we are as caught up as ever in our performance as good progressives. And at the center of that performance is our language. Continue reading