Thursday, March 11, 2021

One Year of Covid

It's been real. 

I’m the English professor whose class went on spring break in 2020 and never came back. When we left, none of us knew we were gone.

Only two students stand out now (I have the uncanny ability to remember names during a given semester and then instantly forget them when I turn in the grades). One, a very pretty and fit-looking girl who reminded me of Skipper, Barbie’s younger sister, and another, the Best Writer in the class, who was gay and in-the-closet when it came to his parents. 

Skipper’s dad was an epidemiologist and she was too rightwing for me—but I liked her confidence and sass. She didn’t take my leftwing bull crap, but I felt like we tangled constructively, as if we really were in college. Skipper began March 2020 with tremendous flippancy—telling us that she’d fly abroad for spring break and her dad wasn’t worried about Covid. He knew how these infectious diseases were, and she wasn’t going to get all worked up. 

The Best Writer told me that he was raised in a religious home, and he thought he’d always stay in-the-closet with his parents. This was way before Covid. I thought he must’ve had a great high school education, because he wrote so nicely. I liked him.

Then, we all left for the break. I don't know what I was thinking. No one really told us anything. 

We never returned to that classroom.

Skipper wasn’t blasé when I next heard from her online. She finished the course without much pizzazz. Nothing about her online presence stood out. None of us finished with pizzazz, really.  

The Best Writer disappeared altogether. He went home, and that was it. I got one email after I asked how he was, where he was. Privacy laws stood in the way of me pushing it. I was a professor, on institutional email. I couldn’t say, Are you okay? Do you need to talk? You know you’re smart? He went from an "A" to an "F." End of story.  

I only think about these two kids. None of the others. 

Did Skipper go home? Did she give up her European vacation plans? Was she one of those non-mask wearers? Did she think we were nuts when we later went to a George Floyd protest? Did she call for “Law and Order” when Portland did its thing? Did she watch Tiger King

Was the Best Writer suicidal by June? Did he have a good friend? Were his parents loving, sensitive people? Did he decide to talk to them? Why did he end up doing so poorly? What caused him to give up? Where is he now? What did quarantine—that Sartre-esque No Exit State—do to him? 

(All of this may be true, but it might also be fiction. I'm a fiction writer first.)

I didn’t know I’d be Zoom Savvy in a couple weeks. 

I didn’t know I’d spend that first weekend of “spring break 2020” (notice the quotes) rushing from Winco to Fry’s/Kroger, from Trader Joe’s to God-forsaken Walmart (I have a strong aversion to Walmart) with my husband and kids—to stockpile toilet paper, pet food, and frozen pizza. It was a blast, in a macabre way, the four of us, mask-less because masks weren’t yet in. I’ve always loved a good Zombie Apocalypse, and this was my adventure. My family life, imperfect of course, was pretty damn good—and I loved the Us-Against-The-World Vibe. As long as I could use toilet paper and feed my pets.

It was all fun and games. Until it just wasn’t. 

I don’t really remember exactly when it lost its glamour. 

My kids started getting unhappy about school on Zoom and not seeing their friends. 

George Floyd’s death was all-encompassing, and we broke our quarantine. 

The election got out of hand, and the tension was so bad that we all took sides in this extreme way, as if we had moats surrounding our own individual and well-fortified (stocked) castles. The polarization was so real. My relationship with family members went from close-knit to shallow. 

One of my best friend’s dad died from Covid. Like, his dad really died. The first casualty I knew. 

Tim’s uncle passed away in a nursing home, without his wife and child even allowed to see him. 

Another friend’s dad died. 

I know of at least one marriage that seemed to crumble. 

A few addictions made resurgences after times of recovery.

And Covid continued.

It continues. 

Listen, I had a good time, but I know I’m among the few—and I won’t ever dismiss the grief and pain of others. I have been privileged, and I’m aware that unexpected things happen still. Do I count my blessings? I try. 

I do try.

As of this writing, my husband and I are both vaccinated. We both have jobs. We had jobs throughout, and I can only imagine how devastating it might’ve been if that were not the case. We get along, and I can’t imagine how badly it would’ve been to be unhappily married or alone—just all alone. You and that Internet, telling you stuff, whispering in your ear, seducing you, providing the only company you get. What might the effect of that be on a soul? I’ve actually turned into this GIANT introvert in middle age, but how might that alone-ness have played out in quarantine? No one in my immediate family got sick. And I know that everything would be different if one of us had. I survived, so far.

And there were these amazing treasures to be had . . . 

I had this unexpected gift of time with my kids. It’s personal. Cancer in 2015. I guess they say I’m okay (but I’ll never believe them). If you must know, I live permanently in that shadow. I do not count on my survival or my longevity. I’m not sure I’d recommend this mindset, but it’s mine.

And if I could have one thing—one thing only—I’d want concentrated quality time with my kids. With Tim too. 

I had it. I’d like more and I’d like better

But I’ll never ever forget or take for granted that Quarantine Bonanza, in which my children were forced to be with me 24/7. 

Was it “Quality Time”? More or less, more more than less

And I’ll never take for granted those unlikely vacations we did in which we drove in the Honda and spent all of our time as a foursome, eating takeout or walking in the woods, counting deer (really!) or watching Netflix. It was—dare I say it—idyllic. I finally made it to Bisbee, Arizona! I stayed in a haunted hotel in Jerome! We hiked in Pine! I saw so many amazing things.

I also felt grateful for my friends! I feel, maybe, a tad guilty about how it all played out. I didn’t mind the seclusion or the working-from-home or the slicing up of my social calendar (um, more like its elimination). I had this actual, TANGIBLE relief in having no plans! Man, Tim and I were so married

Yes, I think I’m saying that I’m an anti-social stick in the mud. 

But I kept in touch with people. And I think what happened is that I actually valued them in a real way. Also, you know what? Social media sucks, but—damn it—I had connections with friends and I’m thankful for it. 

Gradually, though, this thing happened. Did it happen to you? This stripping? This revamping? I began to see a select group of people in person--and it hit me hard that I had inadvertently hit “Refresh” and I sat more than six feet apart, outside, over coffee from very particular people. I want to be clear; I have others that I have not "seen" who I love dearly--but, wow, pandemic-be damned, I'm still sitting across from these few people I've been sitting with for decades. Wild. How are friends made? Why do some last? Why do some fade? Why did some persist throughout a global pandemic, and why did others halt? 

This is not to even mention the amount of TV I watched. 

(I think I love TV too much.)

It was an historic year; I tell my kids this all the time. I mean, we remember things. We remember the Challenger exploding. We remember 9/11. We remember Elvis’s death and John Lennon’s death and O.J. Simpson’s trial.

We will remember this hotbed of a year—the year that Covid spread in the mist of our breath and the year that a Black man died on the ground in Minneapolis and the year that a presidential election impacted our very beings. 

This was the year of the Pandemic, and none of us will be the same.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Cancel Suess?

Self-appointed cultural critic? Didn't I just "win" some other battle? Is this my new warfront? 

I'm very upset about Dr. Seuss.

My collection with the clean laundry. I have three of the six "bad" Seuss books.

I have a ton to say. I know my evangelical friends want to blame Biden and the Left. I know it.

First, this is a cultural shift and politics are really secondary, so Biden is seriously only symptomatic.

Second, the compromise was made initially by the Right FOR SURE when y'all embraced porn with Trump (and Melania--I could post the photo below, but . . . ).

Third, the compromise was ALSO made on the Right when y'all got high and mighty about, of all things, Harry Potter (and its "witchcraft") and the Left picked it up by blasting JK Rowling for her comments on trans-folks--so he who casts the first stone, Right- and Left-wingers. . . .

In summary, the problem is not political. Please don't be daft. It's cultural, and the Church needs to take responsibility for failure to develop a philosophy on and a value of Art.
Plus, Twitter is so much better without Trump. It's not freedom of speech. It's decency and morality.
Here are some random "cancel culture" notes:

  1. I'll always sing of my love for The Office--even that scene in which Michael stands over Stanley and tells him Barack is president.
  2. I just read some Sherman Alexie in my creative writing class and, man, he's good.
  3. I'm pretty much through with Woody Allen, mostly because I think his art has devolved into nihilist meaninglessness for the sexually-obsessed.
  4. I once got in trouble for teaching a James Baldwin book.
  5. I once got in trouble for teaching The Book Thief.
  6. Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom Cabin might've been the book that most turned me left-of-center on race issues.
  7. I'll really go to battle over Mark Twain.
  8. My kids read all of the Harry Potter books. I only made it through the first one.
  9. My kids loved The Hunger Games. I did too.
  10. I actually did prevent my kids from reading Judy Blume.
  11. I wish my kids wanted to watch All in the Family, like we watch other shows--but I can't get them to do so.
  12. Same with The Jeffersons.
  13. I did lose my desire to ever see Bill Cosby again, so there's that.
  14. I kinda have a problem with Tom Cruise, so there's that too.
  15. I don't seem to have a problem with Elisabeth Moss, though.
  16. Didn't you think that Ibram X. Kendi was a little over-the-top on Chris Rock in How To Be An Antiracist?
  17. I watched Guess Who's Coming To Dinner? with my kids this summer, and it's racially dated, you know. Not racist, but not right. What will you do?
  18. Disney's Peter Pan was super racist.
  19. When I think about Michael Jackson, I only get sad.
  20. I'm totally okay with re-naming streets and schools, and removing statues--though I'd do it peacefully and I'd stick them in a DC museum.
  21. Oh, and I still love Hamilton.
Please feel free to add your thoughts!

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Trump, the Anomaly

The last time I went publicly crazy about politics was on November 5, 2020.

It’s just, well, we need to get over this already. It’s time. Get a grip.

I’m writing to my GOP friends, especially the Christian ones. I’m talking to the Church-folk. 

Dare I say this: I believe, frankly, there’s a serious need for corporate repentance. 

Please don’t think I’m doing a holier-than-thou routine or some kind of cocky high-falutin pseudo-intellectual talk from my liberally-educated pedestal. I’m just a writer with a foul mouth and strong religious convictions.

I’m trying to be thoughtful about this, and here’s what I’m thinking:

1. The current situation, In a nutshell: Trump was an anomaly that the GOP bought into. Had they recognized him as an anomaly, they could’ve gotten past this—but because people on the Right cling to Trump, they lost. Had Georgia not been contested, Biden would’ve been forced into a moderate position. Now, because Georgia flipped, anything goes in the Biden administration. Loyalty to Trump screwed the Right over. It’s very easy—too easy—to take no responsibility for this, to blame the culture for leftist or socialist or whatever tendencies without recognizing the role Christians played by upholding falsity. 

2. And here's my undoubtedly TRUE political theory to get us past this unruly era of egotism and radicalism . . . 

The very first important tenet of my theory is this: we are never objective or free of our own biases.

The second important tenet of my theory is this: Trump is an anomaly, and the current (not most basic) downfall of the existing GOP and Democratic parties is to NOT SEE him as such. It’s a problem for both parties. The country may or may not be going blue. Wait till the anomaly is cleaned up. Recognize the anomaly for what it is. GOP, pick better candidates. 

I'm 100% convinced that my GOP friends don't understand how Trump has departed from GOP tradition; I'm 100% convinced that my Dem friends see Trump as representative of GOP beliefs. He is neither. 

He's an anomaly--closer to a Nero or a Hitler or a Stalin or . . . a JFK!!!! See, I'm NOT going to suggest it's the monster-dictator thing he has in common with these guys!!!! It's the CULT OF PERSONALITY thing. It's the personal politics thing. It's . . . a personality disorder, most likely narcissism. THE SOONER ALL OF US RECOGNIZE TRUMP AS AN ANOMALY AND NOT AS SOME KIND OF STANDARD-BEARER, THE BETTER OFF WE ALL ARE . . . 

The third important tenet of my theory is this: making the media the scapegoat and that constant "mainstream media" bashing is anti-intellectual and smacks of ignorance. The media is a mirror; journalism is an Art. Of course, it's biased. If you want to freak out, freak out about the rise of and polarization fostered by social media, on which division is promoted and group-think to the exclusion and demonization of others is fostered. THE TRUEST FILM THIS YEAR WAS NOT ACTUALLY MY FAVE BUT IT WAS The Social Dilemma (Netflix). Going after the media is so secondary. Get over it.

The fourth important tenet of my theory is this: It's social media/the extreme polarization of the day/the chaos of elections and 2020 and the rise of Covid coupled with the death of George Floyd that drowns out the moderates, which is what we mostly are. We are not Bernie Sanders. We are not AOC. We are not Mike Pence. We are moderates. And it's the moderates on both sides who pick up the pieces of the wildcards and make America not-great-again-but-working-towards-justice-and-mercy. SO, MODERATES, STOP THE TRUMP-NONSENSE AND GET TO WORK. 

We need the wildcards . . . The Abraham Lincolns, the MLKs, the George Wahingtons, etc. But it's the moderates who build on that work, "restoration" periods, "recovery" periods. It's us. Sadly, this time, we're not picking up the pieces of a beneficent wildcard, like Bobby Kennedy; rather, we're picking up the pieces of an anomaly. BUT IT'S OUR WORK. Joe Biden is a moderate. Kamala? Not so much. Nonetheless, it's us . . . 

And that's my theory . . .

First Order of Business: Corporate Repentance.

For further reading . . . 

This piece on Christian nationalism by Matt Maler. 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

I Think It Was You

And now it's time. 

It's November 5, and this blog post will possibly be dated by the time I go to bed with him

Story, my cat. He's plush. A walking allergen. 

Not him:

My husband, Tim. 

When Story and I hit the hay, Trump will probably be suggesting that Dr. Fauci sabotaged millions of ballots. Rest assured, Fauci was wearing a mask. 

We still don't actually know the official results, but we kinda know. At the risk--a risk I've already taken more than once--of offending people, I'll expose myself by acknowledging publicly my political and religious affiliations. It is a risk; I've known it and felt it for a long, long time. I can, in a few sharp words, alienate both Conservatives and Liberals, both Christians and Non-Christians. It's amazing this power of alienation I have. If only I could market it . . . 

If I acknowledge that I'm a Christian Conservative, will the Secular Humanists (who are the ones who primarily read literary fiction) read my books? 

If I acknowledge that I voted for Biden, will I be told that I'm, um, not a real Christian or I'm not seeking God or I'm not interested in Truth (I've been told all of these things--by family)?

Okay, I'm a Christian and a conservative and I voted for Biden. 

I'm in a bind, really. And then I remember this: I'm not exactly selling books right and left anyway.

So, without further adieu, I'm just sharing immediate election reflections. And my favorite photos and memes so far (they're coming in fast). . . 

Can you read the signs? Do you see Kanye?

I didn't want to acknowledge the reality of this photo. My family is divided. Let's not discuss my mom. My husband voted for Trump. 

I could deal, but it wasn't easy. Tim has certain traits that allowed for our harsh disagreement: he never defended Trump's repugnancy, he's not a conspiracy theory fiend, and he shut up about it outside of the house. 

He's just a serious Republican, not a Trump defender. 

I accepted this, though I admit we quarreled a lot. We spent hours this summer discussing systemic racism and how to be against abortion and our views on the role of the president. We ultimately disagreed, mostly on the role of the president. There were at least two very ugly battles. 

We've survived worse

After this photo was taken, I wrote this to my Christian friends on November 1 and I personally think it's important (!):

My opposition is spelled out, and I stand by it.

That was fun. 

Then, election night 2020. 

I mean, it's in the middle of a global pandemic. What can we possibly expect? Yeah, it's all messed up. 

Seriously, if you're a teacher or college prof, you know perfectly well that it's all messed up . . . and you put on your Big Boy and Big Girl Pants and deal. 

You freakin' deal. I mean it. Man, do I mean it.

Here are my favorite photos from the night. 

This is my friend, Scott. I've said this before, but I'll say it again. We've been friends for over 30 years and he's the brother I never had. The problem is that we're both a little nuts and so our friendship might feed our nuttiness. Amazingly, we each married people who REALLY balance us out. As you might imagine, we did go crazy this election. We each did some wild things that I'm not willing to discuss. 

This is my other friend, Scott, who will be mad at me for not saying he's like a brother. I mean, You Are, Lin. But You're My Out-Of-State Brother. Though I think you read more of my kind of books, and I'm kinda impressed by that. Really, I am. Is Megan responsible for this???

This is Jackie with her fam. Like us, they gathered the kids and got take-out. I was thinking, Jackie, that the boys resemble John Taylor of Duran Duran. 

Toni and her husband. Toni's a crack-up. If you're so inclined, add a comment for her on my post saying, PUBLISH YOUR BOOK. She's funny and she writes about these family escapades in a David Sedaris/NJ/Italian/Obviously-a-Mom way. 

My mom and Scout. She voted for Trump, and we're barely speaking. I love you, mom! 

My boy, Snickers. Best dog ever. Can't believe this dumb-ass election.

My sister, Tracey. I always say this too: she's the good-looking one. She introduced me to the Rolling Stones. Even though we are so very different, we share certain key things. 

My friend Siobhan in Boston. The energy was sizzling in the air from coast to coast, from Eugene to Boston, all of us eating, our children watching. Our children watching . . . 

Never forget: our children watching . . . 

Jackie's cat, trying to figure out if it would be worth it to stay up all night to watch TV. (It wasn't.)

\My cat is on that table. 
And I'm reading American Dirt right now, which compels me to say to some people, Shame On You. I mean it, I'm afraid. For shame.  

Laura's cat watched, of course.

I love Kate. I think I see her cat in the background too. I just know a lot cat owners, guys.

My Trumpster friend. P, offered me her chocolate stash. Both of us, regardless of politics, fully accepted the need for chocolate

I have some great memes coming up too.

But here we are. Arizona, apparently, flipped this election--going from Red to Blue. The day after the election, with results slowly accumulating in Biden's favor, was not happy here. I wish I could say it was. I was happy about Biden, undoubtedly--though, even right now, I don't underestimate Trumpster machismo. If that's what it is. I think Trump could still finagle a win, by sheer confidence and conspiracy. I'm nervous. I am.

It was also unhappy because Arizona went Blue. I'm telling-all. I'm a Cconservative. I'm always moderate My mom disagrees. I think she thinks I'm part of ANTIFA. But whatever.

But it was hard watching my husband because I think he took it as hard as I've been taking Trump for FOUR YEARS. I can truly appreciate his despair. I saw him upset, though, and it had this profound effect on me. I thought to myself, 

I've taken this too far.

It's not worth it.

We'll move to the South, even though Tim tells me I'm a Great Big Yankee. I'll move to a Red State and shut up for the rest of my life.

That night, I wrote this to mostly Christian Facebook Friends because my house seemed too tense:

I want to say this again: We went left, because you forgot right. 

And again: We went left, because you forgot right. 

I want to tell my friends who voted for Trump that it was you. I hold you responsible for Arizona flipping. I hold you responsible for confusing Trump with conservatism. I hold you responsible for thinking that you'd ever achieve noble conservative policies by supporting the ignoble. I hold you responsible for the failure of conservatism in America. 

This is bold and unkind.  I say it again: We went left, because you forgot right.

It was an unhappy day. It's still an unhappy day. Trump ruined conservatism. He needed to lose. Let the GOP take a breather, get its act together, divorce itself from him. 

I told you that Scott is like a brother to me. I'll lose more friends over this. Our texts are, um, unsavory. I told him I'd edit this out because the language was a tad raw, but  I built my non-career career on candor, so here we go . . . Yesterday, Scott and I texted about how we were sad. Today, we texted that we were mad. Our sorrow stewed, and turned to anger. Brace yourself (I'm the first text; remember, I was REALLY mad):

Boom. You see why my readership is mostly made up of secular humanists and a few scattered Christians. But the point is worth making. Trump damaged the GOP. Bernie and AOC damaged the Democrats (Scott later added Pelosi too). I think I'm wanting to step away from my rage, but I feel like I possess a kind of righteous indignation. Political extremism and Cults of Personality never work. 

Why do I not hold Biden to the same standards as I hold Trump? Because I was never on his team. I was on the other team, the Republican one. And I lost hugely. I'd move to another state if it made my husband happy. I'll pack my bags tomorrow. I'm being honest. I may move. I actually have grown to like Arizona, though I sorta prefer the East Coast--but I'd go for him.

Alas, I'll leave you with a link to a book review that especially influenced me (my mom called it vile, and I'm dealing): 

And some memes: 

Thank you, John. Tim did think this had a lot to do with Arizona flipping. I'll tell you this: he influenced me. As Tim noted with Arizonans: You Don't Mess With Our John McCain. 

We went left, because you forgot right. 

We went left, because you forgot right. 

We went left, because you forgot right. 

We went left, because you forgot right. 

We went left, because you forgot right. 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

The Last Thing I Publicly Write Before November (which is really a book review)

On The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump: 

30 Evangelical Christians on Justice, Truth, and Moral Integrity 

edited by Ronald J. Sider

I want to write this book review, but I don’t. 

I’ve been pretty good this election season, which is to say that I’ve been lousy. Besides my daily scorekeeping on Donald’s dalliances, I’ve avoided public rants—for the most part. I mean, sure, I’ve de-friended and re-friended my mom on social media three times. And, yeah, Tim and I have this ongoing conversation on highfalutin topics that touch upon systematic theology and media theory, but then eventually land on Biden’s public gaffes and Trump’s small vocabulary. Oh, and one person said to me (with some patronizing pity), “People are praying for you . . .” 

This, finally, will be my one and only direct and public commentary on the topic of the 2020 election. I read this book of essays, published in June 2020 and written by thirty Christian scholars of diverse political persuasions, with a fair amount of voracious fervor. I was intrigued. Hungry. Enlightened.

Um, affirmed

Before I get into that, I do think it’s important to note that the book is very contemporary—seemingly written a moment past the January-February 2020 impeachment trial of Trump—but maybe only on the cusp of the Covid Pandemic and prior to the death of George Floyd. And I know, having witnessed it in my own life, that those two events hit the world hard, influenced the forthcoming U.S. election in November, and changed many voters’ opinions. And, well, little did any of us know that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg would also die on September 18, 2020—causing a big stir. I don’t know if the authors in this collection would have shifted in their thinking had they written following these events (I think not), but it’s a conversation that I’d personally love to have with each of them.

Okay, affirmation.

I’ll acknowledge my own biases, so you may choose to read on or not . . . 

Here we go, in one concise paragraph: 

In 2016, I aligned myself with the #NeverTrump movement, which is a Republican thing. I’d call myself a moderate who’s right-of-center. I’m registered as an Independent. I’m pro-life, pro-DACA, and I kinda prefer hanging out with Democrats because, no matter what my GOP friends insist, I see way less racism (which I really hate) on the left and they’re kinda nicer. I’m told this is unfair. I think building a wall is dumb. I did not vote for Trump in 2016, and I will not vote for him in 2020. 

Frankly, at this very moment, I feel admiration for Mitt Romney of all people. Once upon a time, supporting a Mormon dude who once drove for twelve hours with his dog, Seamus, tied to the roof, seemed CRAZY UNLIKELY. And now I’m a big fan of his.

I like the idea of getting a Conservative woman on the Supreme Court, and then seeing Trump lose. 



Pro-civil rights

Not into guns

Pro-private education

Supports DACA

Pro-international cooperation

Hates when people go crazy on “fake news” riffs because it fails to understand that every perspective is biased

Opposed to “Cancel Culture” because it jeopardizes artistic integrity

Understands the wariness over BLM, but thinks it’s vastly overblown and shameful to be callous about the outcry

Fear over Antifa warrants a shout-out like this, “Get a life!”

Thinks the Dems really blew it with that “Defund The Police” bit

Believes that Trump will win

Can’t believe anyone would support that Wall stuff

Gets that the Left has to abandon the notion of moral absolutes in order to promote relativism

Wishes this were over

Was that more than one concise paragraph?

Bring on the hate mail. 

I do not pray for Biden to win.

I do not pray for Trump to lose.

I pray that our system is robust enough to survive the next presidency.

On The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump. What a book!

As I’ve thought about this—nonstop since 2016—I’ve tried to consider where exactly I stand. As I see it, a Bible-believing Christian has the following options:

I can vote for my positions. If neither represents my positions fully, I’ll choose the one that best represents my views. If I dislike both, I’ll choose “the lesser of two evils.”

I can abstain from voting altogether, arguing that all I’ve got is my own personal integrity and I do not want to support either candidate.

Are these the only positions? Is this a question of Christian liberty? Is there a correct stance?

The idea of voting on the basis of character seems like a misnomer. Though I’m more likely to want to hang out with Joe Biden, I’m not willing to make a case for his moral superiority (but, well, it does seem like he’s the nicer guy to have at the family BBQ).

If there is Christian liberty, dogmatism and anger and trying to “shame” people into thinking you’re right, doesn’t sound so hot.

If you’re a personal integrity/abstainer person (and I might be this person, which will anger every one of my friends on every side), consider this. Do you boycott the following?

Netflix (over Cuties)

Target (weren’t they going to let transgender folks choose their preferred bathroom? Do I have this correct?)

Starbucks (aren’t they big libs on everything, right?)

Apple was mentioned to me yesterday

But, then, say you’re a Democrat. Do you, for the purposes of personal integrity, boycott the following?

Hobby Lobby


Now, if you’re like me, you pick and choose, and—if push comes to shove—and someone asks you about this, you’ll say: I go to all of them. I do, however, refuse to go to SeaWorld and Jimmy John’s, because I once saw a picture on Facebook of their bigwigs posing over the dead bodies of animals in Africa (lions or elephants or something like that, and I was, like, I’m done.) A day in which I went to both Starbucks and Chick-Fil-A, followed by an evening of Netflix, sounds pretty good.

In other words, I lack integrity?

If we accept that we live in Babylon (I heard someone say that), we just deal with these compromises. As someone else I know said (I’m paraphrasing), We separate the meat from the bones.

And here is where this mighty book of essays unhappily resides: What are we to do in the face of Donald Trump?

I wrestle with this question acutely, friends. Is there Christian liberty (a mucky topic I think about)? Do we choose the lesser of two evils (seemingly everyone’s favorite phrase these days)? Do we vote along party lines? Do we take some kind of notably inconsistent stance on personal integrity?

These were the questions I was mulling over when I read this book. 

And here’s what I have to say about this collection of essays: I found this book deeply moving. The world is better for it. I am better for it. 

I marked up my copy, and I feel that reiterating their points in my feeble tongue will not serve my Christian Reading Audience. If you are both a Christian and a reader, I would urge you to check this book out. Arguments have been flying around, oft inarticulate, and here is a comprehensive, biblical, earnest, convictingly kind discussion (I have been unkind). 

Yes, it’s about the spiritual danger of Donald Trump.

Yes, you’ve heard much (but not all) of this before—but probably not delivered in this manner, because the book exudes the Fruit of the Spirit.

Yes, the writing does not take into account Covid or Black Lives Matter or Biden (there is no mention of him whatsoever.)

Before I make some closing remarks, I would offer one fair criticism. The book makes a very strong case for what I shouldn’t do. It doesn’t make much of a case for what I should do. Is this, then, leaving us in some kind of Black hole of Cultural Despair? A vacuum? Am I back where I started?

I believe that the Amish don’t vote?

Is that where I’m at?

Is that what these authors are advocating?

Well, they do think Christians should not be supporting this guy. 

I have to say that this book was everything I have wanted to say, but it was all said better than I could ever say it. I’m grateful to know that these Christian men and women are with me. I want to be on their team. I was, in truth, thankful for them. 

Mark Galli, the former Editor-in-Chief of Christianity Today, bravely, fiercely, honorably penned an editorial called “Trump Should Be Removed From Office” in that heralded magazine that probably, at one time or another, landed in your house like it did mine. It came out in December 2019, and—somehow or other—it landed on my radar that December. I loved it. I thought, Here it is! Finally! 

But, well, dissidents are dissidents.

It’s my understanding that Galli then retired right after its publication, and this was (no doubt) his grand finale. Grand, indeed! 

Galli, though, writes the first essay here. It’s a tight and convincing collection that might require a strong dose of humility in approaching. 

You can read Proverbs 6:16-19 with Chris Thurman: 

16 There are six things that the Lord hates,

    seven that are an abomination to him:

17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,

    and hands that shed innocent blood,

18 a heart that devises wicked plans,

    feet that make haste to run to evil,

19 a false witness who breathes out lies,

    and one who sows discord among brothers.

You can ponder Stephen Haynes’s thoughts: “His [Trump’s] evangelical supporters may have given up on Christianizing Trump; yet no one can dispute that he has succeeded in Trumpifying American Christianity.” 

What do we make of all this?

I guess I read this book with sadness. Dare I say, profound sadness.  I’ve talked about this in other forums. Cancer attacked my identity as a woman and as a writer. I wrote as if that was my battlefield. Sword of the Spirit stuff.

This Trump Era has been another kind of attack on my identity. My identity as a Christian. You know, I’m fiercely anti-abortion! I’m so pro-private education! I’m not going to tolerate racism! But where are my people? I’ve been sad. Is this where we’re at? Is this how it’s going down? I mean, are these my people? What are my Gen Z kids thinking? Will my own mother go to her grave in a MAGA hat? What would you say if you were a fly on the wall and you heard Tim and I debate politics? 

As I’ve debated with myself, I know my stance might be aesthetic. I think I’d need to devote a separate piece to this, but I’m sure that part of my #NeverTrump stance is aesthetics. Individuals might place different value upon language. Even though my politics are probably right-of-center, my aesthetics are at work! Language matters. Words matter. Truth, Beauty, and Goodness required.

Do you think God, upon arrival at the pearly gates, will ask, "Did you ever vote for Donald Trump for President?"

I doubt it, but just in case, I'm not doing it.

He might actually say, "Did you ever call 'Truth' a lie and a lie 'the Truth'?" (I'm not sure how God would punctuate that.)

And that's what this book is about. By the time I hit page 6, I was thinking that this is the book I've been craving since 2016.


Monday, July 6, 2020

Because I Love HAMILTON

            Here’s my unpopular opinion/stream-of-consciousness rant to you  . . .

and you . . .

and you . . .

(and for sure, you . . .)

but not Tim . . .

because (a) he gets enough at home and (b) it’s not that we agree, but I get him—and I don’t freakin’ get you, or maybe I do get you, but I think you’re screwing things up.


            So I’ll speak from my bookish pulpit, my place of moral superiority, my multiple Damn-Girl degrees, my white privilege (yes, I’m feeling all revolutionary about Hamilton). I already admitted to being a double agent—you can go here if you don’t know what I’m talking about—and I’ll probably be forced to retire early after this.

I didn’t even try to post this on a church blog, though I’ll attempt to hold back on my cussing nonetheless—resorting (unhappily) to freakin’—but I’m going to be rude, just you wait. As for the heathens or secular humanists or whatever-the-freak we’re calling people nowadays, I’m sure they’ll be mad at me too. I already said that this will force me into early retirement, by which I mean, I’ll retreat into fiction. I’m a freakin’ awesome fiction writer.

            Rant time. Basically, I’m, like, guys, girls, you’re blowing it, collectively blowing it, colossally blowing it. I’m floored and devastated and angry and I want, from my pedestal, my place on the couch before my dog and big screen TV, to tell you how so very wrong you all are. You may never read me again or blow me off or stop inviting me to your endless soirees and cocktail parties. But don’t take out the bad taste I leave in your mouth on members of my family who try and restrain me but fail miserably and love me still.

            MLK, first.

Like, you realize, Libs—that’s what I’ll call you (identifying myself as a moderate, but usually thought of as a lefty), you would’ve hated Martin Luther King, Jr.!

He was a freakin’ Christian!

His whole premise rested on a belief in Jesus!

You seriously think you guys would go for that?

            But before the Christians get all puffed up like they do, I sincerely doubt you’d all like him either.

Inevitably, you’d get hung up on one phrase he said. Like he’d say, Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. And you’d go, Is this All injustice or some injustice or anywhere or somewhere? Is this Marxist? Revisionist? And is he suggesting that we cut the drinking fountain industry in half? Like if we get rid of the Blacks Only drinking fountains, won’t the drinking fountain industry lose 50% of its business? I mean, I think that’s what he’s suggesting!

            What I’m saying is that, if I see one more freakin’ article or social media proclamation on the dangers of saying Black Lives Matter, I’ll probably sink to my knees and start wailing.

Okay, Boomer.

This is what the kids meant, after all.

Do you not understand that the mantra, the riot garden, the panic attack, the peaceful stuff too comes from pent-up, longstanding hurt, a hurt like a head wound you inexplicably survived, from pain so deep that our random heartbreaks that still make us comatose pale in comparison . . . and yet we have the gall to stop, to draw attention from the hurt, to question the verbiage?

            But, libs, not so fast.

Just because the Christian folk are stumbling over your slogans, don’t think for a minute that you’ve got this. Because you so obviously don’t. I mean, really. The Christians will, like, never, ever, not in a thousand years, stand behind the BLM movement. It’s that whiff of Marxism, the anti-family scent. Listen, I, Double-Agent, can work my way around your verbiage. I can do it, having been trained up in the secular humanism at major universities—but you’re gonna lose some good people. I also gotta tell you a dirty little secret that I will utter and then resort to silence because I HAVE CHOSEN MY BATTLES. I think it has done People of Color a disservice by combining systemic racism with sexual/gender politics. The enemies are not the same; the battles are different. I am NOT saying that one is more or less real than the other; I am saying that there is a distinction.

By the way, say it again, MLK was a pastor, a praying man, a Bible-thumper.

Nonetheless, I can and will say, Black Lives Matter.

If you’re not confused yet, let me carry on vigilantly, tirelessly, brazenly, before my husband—the saner one—tries to shut me down. Libs, guys, the systemic racism stuff? You’re so right, of course you’re right, but if that’s true—and it is—why are you going after the police?

The police are symptomatic, if racism is systemic.

I mean, yeah, I get the need for reform (I’m reading The New Jim Crow, I’ve read Just Mercy, and I just watched a week of TV on the Central Park Five—and I am utterly convinced that the legal system is MESSED UP, undoubtedly, mortifyingly, and I’m sure I couldn’t live with myself, like I really couldn’t live with myself, if I were involved in the prosecution of those five boys)—but this dismantling of police is so symptomatic, so short-sighted, so self-defeating. We freakin’ need the police!

And I just saw Hamilton for the second time, but this time I actually understood it—and I once tried to read Ron Chernow’s book, but I was, like, I don’t think so. But Hamilton! Surely, Lin-Manual Miranda is a genius. Are we going to hold him responsible for portraying history incorrectly? Libs, it’s going to get crazy.

Don’t ruin a good thing.

But I guess we’re being forced to consider history . . .

Mount Rushmore?

All of the freakin’ Confederates?


I get the sense that the Libs are trying to dismantle stuff they don’t really get and the Christians are backing off because they’re all into the Greatness of America and Such—and so we’re all going to end up, well, screwed. First blatant use of profanity.

Christians, come off the Make America Great Again Train.

I mean, seriously.

It’s like throwing salt in wounds. Who says that if one has actually read a book?

I mean, really!?!

But, Libs, do you get the idiocy of shredding history as if it’s somehow rectifying past wrongs—because it’s so not?

Besides that, I think there were some intriguing messages in that Hamilton knockout. I don’t really know the hearts of the Founding Father Dudes, but I’m tempted to believe because I get the writer-vibe that Hamilton and others gave off, that they might’ve felt the weight of history upon them, the unprecedented nature of their work . . . and they, flawed—so deeply and horribly flawed—still managed to create a nation founded on amazing principles.

Artists, I’m talking to you now, aren’t you sometimes stunned by your own work? Like you know you suck in your heart of hearts—but you just created this freakin’ Work Of Art—despite your own flawed humanity?????

I wonder if the Founding Father Dudes, while they were talking out of both sides of their mouths on slavery and cheating on their rich-ass (second blatant use of profanity) wives, were sometimes stunned by their own genius that led to the founding of the United States of America?

I mean, they were just lousy human beings who created something revolutionary!

Which leads me to the second-to-the-last point in my rant. I’m thinking, and I’m not really being cautious here, that SO MUCH OF ALL OF THIS is due to a failure in education, the decline of the Liberal Arts.

Now, before I carry on, I gotta acknowledge that Christians love to rail against liberal education immediately after they rail against Black Lives Matter.

I mean, when I brought this up with my pretty “woke” husband (I still don’t know if I’m allowed to say this or if I just committed a grave sin), he immediately wanted to deliver a tirade against liberal education. Christians love—and I mean, love—to rail against Higher Education. I know this intimately, being a product of its unruly agenda. Liberally educated, right here, folks.

I have problems with education. In the last two decades of teaching college kids, I’ve been positively heartbroken by their reading habits (which are nil), their artlessness (basic illiteracy in things like recognizing Renoir or Monet), and their disinterest in history. At this point, I’ve met eons of kids who never go to museums. Kids who aren’t sure about the difference between World War One and Two. Kids who really aren’t sure if Edgar Allen Poe or Alfred Hitchcock wrote “The Raven.” Lib kids and Christian kids alike.

Dire consequences, either way.

Monuments get destroyed.

People freak out about Hamilton. 

Artless people—people who have never stood before the quietude of a Van Gogh or people who have never felt their jaws drop open upon hearing Nina Simone or people who have never taken deep breaths after reading a passage written by Fitzgerald or people who have never been in awe of the epic nature of Lin-Manual Miranda’s work—cannot really empathize with struggles outside of their immediate experience. 

Read a freakin’ book.

Learn some history.

Would someone ask Donald Trump if he ever went to the Met for fun?

Oh, Trump. I just don’t get it.

It would be a bit easier if all of this wasn’t happening in the midst of a global pandemic (that only Trump could SUCCESSFULLY make partisan—good job on that!) and an election year. I mean, yeah, I’m, like, Biden is the best you can do?

Poor Biden! I don’t dislike him. I just think, well, he’s too old for this shit (I lost count of my profanities).

But Trump? Are you serious? Has the man ever said, I’m wrong? I was wrong? Forgive me? I made a mistake?  

No, rather, it’s this: Make America Great Again, which translates into this:



Rant over. I loved Hamilton.