Black Lives Matter

As I do every evening, I was walking my faithful collie right outside my home last night.  A pick-up truck drove–much too fast–past me, but because Tillie was safely out of the road, I barely noticed.  Until it reached the crest of the hill beyond my house, slammed on its brakes, and someone yelled back loudly and menacingly at me, “F##king N-word Lover!” then laid rubber and sped off up the road. 

My heart pounded as I raced back inside with Tillie and went around and locked all of my doors and windows.  In three decades of living here I’d never felt so unsafe before.  I was shocked, saddened, scared, but most of all, disgusted that such ugly public racism had invaded my peaceful little village.  It was an apparent reference to the “Black Lives Matter” sign I had in my yard about three months ago, until it was stolen (pictured above.)  The pick-up truck driver had apparently been carrying around his rage about my sign ever since then, which only made it more traumatic for me.  

It was terribly jarring to hear that highly offensive racial epitaph used after so long.  I used to hear it in my childhood, but never in my enlightened adult world of academia. How can anyone still be using that awful word in 2020?  How dare he defile my street, my neighborhood, and my home with his ugly hate speech? I alternated between fear and anger the rest of the night, and then slept badly because every time Tillie heard something outside and “woofed” at it, I awoke with a start and couldn’t get back to sleep.

Today I contemplated reporting it to the police, but then found myself wondering how they would react to an incident originating with a “Black Lives Matter” sign.  And then it hit me: I’d had the tiniest, most insignificant, dose of what our Black brothers and sisters live with every day of their lives.  Every damn day. I hesitate to compare anything about my privileged white male existence to theirs, but at the same time it taught me something that I feel like I need to write about.  I had one really minor incident.  Their experiences are inexorably bound to the generational trauma that has been inflicted on Black Americans. Their lives are affected every day and in every way by our deeply racist policies and practices. 

Imagine feeling fearful every time a car slows or stops near you.  Imagine the terror you feel when pulled over by a cop – every Black American is haunted by the possibility that any traffic stop gone wrong could result in their death.  That has never crossed my mind when I get pulled over.  I recently learned of a deeply distressing experience of our Black students at the University where I work: when they visit the local Wal-Mart, they are required to surrender their backpacks, even though the White students never have to.  When our Director of Diversity and Inclusion (himself a Black man) inquired about the policy, the Wal-Mart manager said “Yes, that is exactly what we do.” THAT is the air our Black students breathe.

The peaceful privileged air I breathe was disrupted by this ugly incident last night, and yet, I had the luxury of considering going to the police with my fears.  Few, if any, of my Black brothers and sisters would even consider that. By bitter experience they have learned that the police are there as their foes, not as their protectors.  Where are they supposed to turn?  

I had a one small very unsettling experience.  What if that represented my whole life?  What if I, my parents, my grandparents, my great-grandparents had been battling that racial hatred for generations?  I was terrified last evening as those hateful words hung in the night air.  But how terrified were Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Phillip Pannell and countless others in their final moments before having their lives snuffed out for the crime of being Black in America?

Having to live in that world is the reason the Black Lives Matter protest movement MUST exist. That is what Colin Kaepernick was trying to tell us. That is why I am an ally of that movement. That is why I will not be deterred by this incident. And THAT is why “All Lives Matter” is NEVER the proper response to “Black Lives Matter.”  Never say that to me again.


“I’m Just Different.”

In my six decades on earth, I have encountered a lot of sadness, tragedies, outrages, and injustices, and the pace of these events has decidedly accelerated since January 20, 2017.  Sometimes it feels as if life is but a tug-of-war, with hope and happiness on one side fighting against darkness and despair on the other. Which side will prevail?  Last month when I listened to the recording of sweet, gentle Elijah McClain pleading for his life, something snapped inside me.  I don’t think I can ever get it back.  It has become increasingly apparent to me that the darkness has won.

As 140-pound, unarmed Elijah struggled for his life, on the ground, handcuffed, with three cops on top of him, putting him in the carotid hold that ended his life, he lacked the strength and the weaponry to challenge his attackers. Bewildered by the inhumane murderous treatment–when he was entirely innocent–he was left only with words. He tried valiantly to use words to let them know what a non-threatening, gentle soul he was.  He told them he loved them for God’s sake!  He told them he was a vegetarian and would never hurt anyone, which of course, contributed to his astonishment about why he was being slowly and intentionally murdered by the policemen. (After several minutes elapsed of the cops watching him struggle to live and continuing to deprive him of oxygen, this went well beyond an “accidental death.”) Elijah also tried, tragically, to explain, “I’m just different.”

I was “different” in high school also: I did not play nor follow sports; I didn’t go hunting; I listened to ABBA instead of Led Zepplin.  I was the proverbial last one to be picked for the team in gym class. (Why the hell did we ever do that?!) I suspect Elijah might have been as well.  In What’s Up Doc, Barbra Streisand’s character, Judy Maxwell, says “I know I’m different, but from now on I’m going to try and be the same.” Another character asks, “The same as what?” Judy answers, “The same as people who aren’t different.” 

Along our way through life, we get socialized into not being “different.” We attempt to conform our quirks to the standard norm. Society eschews differences.  In 1961 Baltimore, Broadway character Tracy Turnblad triumphantly reflects the optimism of JFK’s New Frontier, proclaiming “Those who are different, our time is coming!”

Tracy Turnblad, Judy Maxwell, and I ended up being allowed to be different because we are privileged and white.  (Also, Tracy was wrong.) What did Elijah mean when he pleaded with the police, “I’m just different?” Would the world have eventually persuaded or forced Elijah to stop being different and be “the same?” Would his time have ever come to be embraced and celebrated for being different?  We’ll never know because the police snuffed the life out of him on that horrible night. Was Elijah murdered by the police because he was different? Or because he was Black? Our deeply racist culture would not allow Elijah to be both.

As a white, middle-class male, I was given the luxury in life to remain fairly different: I’m the liberal oddball in a very conservative family and am one of the few Democrats in a very red area of western New York.  Like Elijah, I’m a vegetarian.  I detest the unspeakable suffering of animals in our factory farms on their way to our tables, grocery stores, and restaurants.  Also like Elijah, I grieve having animals trapped in shelters. That was why he spent his spare time serenading shelter animals by playing his beloved violin to make their dreary shelter existence a little more bearable.  (That, by the way, was the life force that the Aurora police force felt needed to be crushed until it ceased to exist.)  He had after all, had the temerity to look “sketchy” while going to buy iced tea.  My great grandfather’s name was Elijah, is that one reason I feel his short life and tragic death so keenly?  Is it because I see him as a kindred spirit? Or is it because when I look at pictures of him before that awful night, I see my own children’s eyes smiling back at me?

My own precious children are what keep me going when the shattering darkness gets to be too much; I would lay down my life for any of them in a heartbeat. How can any parent of any color listen to the recording of Elijah’s final minutes and not have the same horrifying reaction of imagining our own child in his place?  How I wish I had been there to try and come between Elijah and those murderous cops.  I have lived a good long life: I would have sacrificed it to save his precious young one.  We are ALL Elijah’s parents and we have ALL failed him miserably.  And until we fix our dangerous and tragically broken system, we are failing all of God’s Black children who have not been murdered by the police yet, but who will.  For the love of God, join me in working to overcome racism and demanding change.  We begin by celebrating differences rather than fearing them, and by rejecting our own racism. Each of us must take a hard look at ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves this: “What part did I play in why sweet, gentle, different Elijah McClain is not still with us?”

#ImJustDifferent #FreeToBeYouAndMe #BlackLivesMatter #ElijahMattered #JusticeforElijah #SayHisName

One thing, every day

(cover photo credit: Matthew Weidenbach, Illuminated Shadows Photography)

This past weekend gave me the privilege to be a part of history: marching alongside thousands of others at the Black Lives Matter/Stop Killing Us Protest Rally in Rochester, NY. People of all races and ages met in Martin Luther King Jr. Park, listened to speeches, meditated and sang together, and then marched to the police station. After the murder of George Floyd, the most recent horror inflicted on the black community, I–like so many others–wanted to stand with our black brothers and sisters in outrage and to try to make this a human issue, not only a racial one.

The protest march was cathartic for me, but it was symbolic only. I hope it helps to shine light on the problem of systemic racism, but in and of itself, it doesn’t change anything. The harder work is what each of us needs to do inside ourselves, in a brutal examination of the role of racism and privilege in our own lives and actions. If I want to honor the lives and protest the brutal deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and so many others, that is what I must do, not just march.

Before I can become a part of the solution, I must stop being a part of the problem. I live in a small town in a rural area with no racial diversity and without a police force. I do not have investments to divest. What can someone in my situation do? I’ve determined that this is not a sufficient excuse. I am vowing to myself–and publicly in this blog–to do one thing each day to end racism in my life, in my work, in my community, and in my world. Most days it will have to be something small like reading an article, watching a TED talk, or even just listening. (Something that white men like me are exceptionally bad at.) But I hope that other days it can be something great.

Despite my setting and circumstances, I have a powerful opportunity for change that many do not. I am a teacher, and not just that, but a teacher of teachers. I have always striven to help prepare these students to be inclusive and celebrate diversity, but I now have a renewed vision and catalyst to go further than that. My teacher candidates will each encounter @3000 students during their careers. Education in America has always been our best engine for social change and has succeeded where government policy makers have failed. How can the dialogue and interactions we have in my classes help–even on a small level–move future generations beyond racism? A what do I need to learn from my students in the process?

I would ask my friends, colleagues, relatives, current and former students, my precious friends from the Long Civil Rights Movement Seminar at Yale, anyone reading this to help me in this quest. Of course it is not your job to educate me: that I must do for myself, and I pledge to do so. But I do need help with my blind spots. My students and my own children have been great at that over the years. Ever since graduate school I’ve been fascinated by the concept of the Johari window (below) As we self disclose and gain input from others, we expand the arena of what is known while reducing the other confining and limiting areas. This process occurs only through free dialogue with, and feedback from, others.

Please do not be afraid to give me input, to educate me about my blind spots and to tell me hard truths that I need to hear. I am only one small person–and an old one at that–is it even possible for me to make a difference? The problem of systemic racism and four centuries of oppression can seem so great, tragic, and deeply entrenched that we are tempted to throw up our hands and decide that change is impossible, or expect someone else, such as future generations, to solve it for us. But we must fight every day, until every one of us can truly breathe free. The change that is so desperately needed happens in each human heart, one at a time. I’m doing everything I can to change mine, I pledge that to myself, and to all of you. Join me.

Out of Many, One.

To My Conservative Friends & Family,

If you’re seeing this, it’s because you haven’t unfriended or unfollowed me on Facebook, and for that, I’m grateful.  Throughout this period in our history (one of many, actually) of deep and bitter political division, I have steadfastly refused to unfriend anyone based on our political differences.  A couple of times, regrettably, I have had to because of an individual who became abusive of my friends, family, or me.  Everyone else, I’ve hung in there with, because of a relationship we’ve shared, and because I continue to believe in civil discourse and in the intellectual significance of understanding both sides of an argument.

To be sure, these are perilous waters in which we swim now and I’ve frequently been tempted to–and indeed guilty of–broadly dismissing a whole category of people because of their political ideology. And Facebook has presented us with a strange venue to air and argue our political grievances, one with which I’m not particularly comfortable. These are often earnest discussions that should take place in person, face-to-face, between friends.  It can be too easy to hide behind a written, posted word or thought.  But there you have it, that’s 2020 for you, even more so now that we are all quarantined in our homes.

I’ve certainly lost friends since the wrenching 2016 election and it broke my heart to lose a couple more yesterday during a discussion about when and how we should reopen our economy.  So if you have still hung in there with me, and if you continue to see our commonalities as friends, family, and human beings as more important than our ideological differences, I’m deeply grateful to you.   My relationships are the most significant aspect of my life.  If I were making a list of the Top Ten Things that are important to me (my kids, my family, my faith, my friends, my work as a teacher, my community, my pets, I don’t think that my politics would make the list.  It’s probably somewhere down the list after cold fountain drinks and my VW convertible.) 

Why do we even have the Facebook fights? Does anyone’s mind ever change?  I will never understand your support of Donald Trump any more than you will understand my deep and bitter resentment towards him. Does that mean that this issue has to become more important than our relationship? Or can we peacefully coexist and still appreciate one another while holding onto our differing political beliefs? I have to believe that we can.  I have to believe that we can continue to have lively and yet civil political debates.  Occasionally I’ll have an old high school friend say to me, “I sure disagree with you, Tim, but I still like you and respect you.” And that means all the world to me.

I’d like to offer an olive branch.  I will do my best NOT to question your patriotism nor your Christian faith–if applicable–based on your politics.  And I would ask you to do the same for me. We have each earnestly searched our conscience and our life experiences to come up with our political positions. And I think in order to continue to be a community of Americans, we have to be able to respect that in each other.  We must find a way to keep the “united” in the United States.  Thanks for still being my friends and for reading this.  E Pluribus Unum

Education marches on….A letter to my students

My Dearest Students,

So now we are embarking on a new adventure in education.  Who could have foreseen this when we first sat down together in January?  Our world has turned upside down just since the last time we met as a class.  I looked sadly at the kitchen counter today because I had bought ingredients to make St. Patrick’s Day cookies for class yesterday, when I thought you would be returning from spring break.  Throughout my 20 years of teaching I have baked my famous chocolate chip cookies for every single class…up until now.  It is hard to believe that we will not be in the same room together again.  (You are all invited to come by my office and get a cookie whenever the world returns to normal and I bake again; they really are quite good, if I do say so myself!)

So, the remainder of the course does not look like what any of us had planned.  Reworking this course for online-contact-only presents a challenge for the Socratic teaching style I have always favored.  I like the give and take, the exchange of ideas, the synergy that arises among a group of learners.  I hope this can still happen, but it will be a greater challenge for all of us.  (It could be worse; we could be a pottery class.)

I have spent the weekend trying to consider how the remainder of our time together can be as meaningful for you as possible, while trying to be sure that you tackle the various topics and issues that are so compelling and significant for future teachers. It will take some dedication and creativity on all of our parts and it will–of course–be an exercise in “thinking-outside-the-box” which, fortunately, is an invaluable skill for everyone in education to develop.

The issues that we still need to cover, in one way or another, this semester include:

  • The experience of students with special needs
  • Educating for Social Justice
  • Checking our privilege – inequity as a recurring theme in American Education
  • How the Supreme Court and the Congress have affected our work, our schools, and our students
  • Cultural Miseducation – how do we, as teachers, pass along the collected cultural wealth of the generations without bundling it with cultural liabilities?
  • The world in which you’ll teach…. issues for the schools of tomorrow

At the time of this writing, I am still not quite sure what the remainder of the semester will entail.  It will be a combination of online meetings of the class, (but I would like to minimize my contribution to the “screen fatigue” you will doubtlessly be experiencing in the weeks ahead) using some online resources, posting responses to readings, and doing more contemplation, reflection, and writing on your own.  

I cannot promise that it will be easy, and there will almost certainly be problems, technical glitches, and irritating unintended consequences.  But let us covenant together to make the best of a bad situation and see what good can come from it.  Life rarely turns out the way that we had planned, so this will be learning laboratory.  To paraphrase Robert Burns, “the best laid lesson plans of mice and men often go awry.” Just imagine how someday you will have your own classroom and your students will ask you to tell them what it was like during the Great Pandemic of 2020.  How we respond to this and other challenges in the weeks and months ahead will determine what story you will have to tell them.  

Let’s plan to meet online on Monday during our regular class time.  Instructions to follow. Please read this article by next week (in addition to the reading assignments I gave you before break)

Stay home, stay safe, wash your hands,

With great affection

Professor Nichols

The judgment of history is on you, Senator McConnell: do the right thing.

Dear Senator McConnell,

I’m writing to implore you to carefully consider the judgment of history in this perilous moment.  I completely understand the intense party loyalty and pressure that you must feel. It has to be tempting to think about 2020 and the November election and to focus on doing battle against the Democrats. You would hate to give them the satisfaction of having been right about Trump.  But I am begging you instead to think about 1776 and 1789 and the brave, passionate sacrifice that the founders and revolutionary generation made to imbue us with freedom, to give us this system of government, and to spare us an imperial, corrupt, unworthy leader. The framers are looking over your shoulder in the Senate chamber this week, Senator McConnell.  You carry the mantle of their leadership on your shoulders. I would also beg you to consider 2076; our children and grandchildren will look back on this moment and what YOU did to either sacrifice or preserve the great American experiment in democracy.  

I have to believe that deep down, you–and most or all of your fellow Republicans–must realize how manifestly unworthy, corrupt, and compromised this president is.  I believe that you still have the moral compass that is telling you that Donald Trump cannot be allowed to infect the presidency and our political system in this way. The echos of this trial will haunt us forever; if he is permitted to get away with this, it will set a political and legal precedent that will become the standard for all future presidents – Republicans and Democrats alike.  You are intimately familiar with our government and have to know how deeply dangerous this is. If the Senate fails to remove Donald Trump, I am utterly convinced that our grandchildren in 2076 will NOT live in a free constitutional republic. The American president will have become an all-powerful demagogue with no restraints on his authority, and without the checks and balances that have preserved our system.  They will NOT have our fundamental privilege of free and fair elections.  

This is YOUR moment Senator McConnell.  What will you do with it? I’m not asking you to turn the presidency over to Hillary Clinton, I’m asking follow our Constitutional protocol for this situation and remove Donald Trump and inaugurate Mike Pence.  I’m not a big fan of Pence, but he must inherit the presidency to tell the world, and our children, that Donald Trump cannot be allowed to abuse his power this way. All will be lost. It will take considerable courage and fortitude for you to do this, but I believe that you, and you alone can do it.  In the moment that you stand up for principle, for country over party, for what is eternally right, you will become the great hero of American history. Please, Senator McConnell. You are our last defense. The America that we know and love–and that generations have fought and died for–is at stake and will end the moment that Donald Trump gets away with this.  In your heart, you know what is right.

Thank you, Senator McConnell

Timothy J. Nichols

If we had the chance to do it all again…

I came across a photograph of my high school graduation this week and was struck realizing that two of my friends in the picture and I are cancer survivors and the other two males in the picture, in line behind me, are both already dead.  It has me reflecting on the capriciousness of life. There was no way we could have known, on that warm breezy evening in 1977, what triumphs and tragedies lay before us. To be 17–as I was in the picture–is to be invincible. We didn’t yet know about mortgages and divorce and loss and cancer…and old age. We were shiny and new, like the 1977 Corvette I dreamed of — not a scratch or a ding yet.  The problems we thought we had – an Algebra test, finding a prom date, money for a stereo system, didn’t quite prepare us for how to support our families during unemployment, the death of a spouse, or a child. In 1977 the world seemed to be filled with only promise and possibilities; 43 years later, our lives are littered with broken dreams and relationships, creaky knees, and the foreboding sense of old age.  Many, or most, of the parents crowded into the auditorium that evening to watch our procession are now gone. 

To be sure, the intervening years have also been filled with the beautiful moments and memories we dreamed of: standing nervously at the altar; holding that newborn baby, being handed the keys to our first house; the clutch of a toddler’s hand in ours; running breathlessly alongside the two-wheeler as the child learned to ride; the guiding and sustaining warmth of friendships, particularly the ones that transcend decades and distance.

We were the generation that came of age during Watergate and Vietnam; we were products of a world that was shattered on September 11th; we were the last generation to remember life before technology.  We watched the advent of the personal computer, the internet, and the phenomenon of starting to be able to carry both around in our pockets.  We’ve inherited a world we could never have imagined in 1977; The Jetsons did a crappy job of preparing us for this. It’s been a wondrous age to be a part of.  And yet, across 2019, we all turned 60. And with it, came the unshakable realization that most of our journey now lies behind us, and that one of these days, the world is going to continue revolving without us. 

18th century English poet, Robert Southey observed:  “Live as long as you may, the first twenty years are the longest half of life.   They appear so while they are passing; they seem to have been so when we look back at them; and they take up more room in our memory than all the years that succeed them.” 20th century songstress, Barbra Streisand asked, “If we had the chance to do it all again, tell me, would we? Could we?”

I’m currently watching a Netflix series on time travel and it has me wondering, what would I say to 17-year-old Tim standing there in his cap and gown on the sidewalk in New Wilmington in the summer of ’77? And perhaps more significantly, what would he say to me?  What would he think of my grey hair and my surgery-scarred chest? What would he think of who I’ve become? Besides “Buy Apple stock,” what should I tell him to help his journey through this life? Have I even actually gotten anything significant figured out since that night? 

I’m not even sure what the question is, or was, but somehow the answer for me (as Curly explained to Billy Crystal in “City Slickers” “The secret to life is just one thing…just one thing. Find that one thing, and nothing else matters.”) is my three precious kids.  They are both my one thing, and my “chance to do it all again.” I was hardly the perfect father, and yet the pride and joy that I take in my adult children, and my deep love for them, is what will sustain me through the rest of the days of my life, and ultimately, they are what have given meaning and joy to my journey, from 1977 to here. “Don’t know much, but I know I love you.”

“It’s OK, Tim…it’s going to be a good life.”

Trump’s Ten Trillion Dollar Political Stunt

Upon entering office in 2017, one of the first actions by our vainglorious, inept, and petty “president” was to tear up our treaty with Iran, which had been working.  He did so in his besetting and woeful ignorance of foreign policy, motivated only by his all-consuming jealousy of his predecessor and his deep and irrational desire to undo as many accomplishments by Barack Obama as possible. 

Why would Trump have taken this reckless action, endangering us–not only the United States, but also the citizens of the world–with another protracted war in the Middle East? When you are a president under the threat of impeachment, who is historically under water in the polls and facing an uphill battle for re-election, what should you do to change the conversation from your deeply-flawed presidency?  If you are an honorable, patriotic, visionary leader, you keep your nose to the grindstone and work as hard for the American people in the time that you have remaining. But if you are a profoundly corrupt, narcissistic, self-serving demagogue, you pull a stunt war that will shed innocent blood and burn through untold trillions of the tax dollars that we are stealing from our great grandchildren.

Why does Trump insist on smashing all political safeguards? Did he consult with Congress prior to this raid (as he is constitutionally bound to do)? Did he consult our allies whom he has been systematically alienating for the past three years, while cultivating closer relationships with totalitarian dictators instead? Did he consult the former presidents who have expertise in dealing with Iran? No. Apparently he only consulted his moronic son, Eric, who tweeted about it before the attack. Our troops who put their lives on the line deserve a carefully considered foreign policy by a wise and competent commander in chief, not a capricious one by a desperate candidate.

Moscow Mitch would not allow President Obama to nominate a Supreme Court justice during his last year in office, and Obama had high approval ratings. Trump is the most politically vulnerable incumbent in a generation, and now we are going to allow him to plunge us into another endless, pointless foreign war?

When have we recently been successful in one of these wars?  And remind me, did Iran invade us? Attack us to provoke this response? If Trump’s recklessness leads to war,we will still be in Iran a generation from now and the untold trillions we waste there could have been spent on Flint’s drinking water, infrastructure, education, health care, high-speed train service, environmental clean up. But no, we will pump it into the military industrial complex. 

Ask yourself this: If your child dies in this political stunt by Trump, will it have been worth it?

A kinder, gentler lunch…and world

I’m a person of faith and yet I celebrate Chick-fil-A’s change in policy. Here’s why.

A generation ago I held most of the conservative Christian beliefs: I believed the Bible opposed homosexuality and abortion and I did not object to the church speaking out against both.  But these intervening years have dramatically changed my perspective.  The church I thought I knew–the one I grew up in–was not marked by what we opposed, but rather by the way in which we were the living vessels of God’s love to a hurting world.  I always believed the church to be a haven for sinners, a refuge for the needy, a place of welcome for all.  It’s hard for me to interpret the story of the good Samaritan any other way.

Somewhere along the way, the church I loved got into bed with a stern, exclusive, reactionary, conservative ideology that built an impenetrable wall between us and the rest of the world: the very hurting people that Christ came to save with His message of redeeming love.  Instead of being a safe harbor, the church became a battlefield: us against them.  As we embraced the moral majority, tried to tear down the Founder’s wall of separation between church and state, and became a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Republican Party and Fox News, we obviously alienated the very people who needed God the most.

I believe that had Jesus intended 21st century Christians to spend all of our political and social capital opposing abortion and marriage equality, He’d have gotten around to mentioning them during his years on earth.  Have we every really truly asked ourselves why Jesus gave us no guidance on these hot button issues?  Why He instead focused His message entirely on social justice and how we should treat the poor and downtrodden?

I no longer believe find it in my theology to oppose either marriage equality nor abortion. I know that many of my family and friends will immediately add me to their “Going Straight to Hell” list. There are no circumstances under which my wife and I would have aborted our own children, but I’m not a woman and have never faced the deep pain and anguish of an unwanted pregnancy. There are also no circumstances under which my faith should be able to dictate whether someone else can marry the person they love.

I want to live in a world where we celebrate love; where every child is wanted, where immigrants are welcomed to our land of plenty; where ALL people feel welcomed in God’s house. I want to live in a world where we build longer tables rather than higher walls; I want to live in a world where we care as much about a Mexican child in a cage as we do about a five week-old fetus.  I want to live in a world where neither our government nor our fast-food emporiums try to tell us who we can and should love and marry.  I want to live in a world where Matthew Shepard is still alive.  Think of all of the time and energy we waste on opposing one another.  Couldn’t we save it and create a kinder, gentler world of love and acceptance?  If you are still vehemently convinced homosexuality and abortion are wrong, why not just let God sort it out?  Let’s make the church a place of love and acceptance? 

(I don’t actually eat at Chick-fil-A anyway because I also want animals to live in a kinder, gentler world. But that’s my own belief structure – I’m not going to try to impose it on you.  However, the next time I’m in Erie I think I’ll enjoy peppermint chocolate-chip milkshake.)

The Calls are Coming from Inside the House

On September 11, 2001, the symbolic center of American capitalism and economic hegemony was chosen for horrific destruction to strike at the heart of our way of life.  18 years later, we are once again under attack, only this time, it is from within. The metanarrative of the American experience is immigration.  Unless your ancestors were native Americans, or were forcibly relocated here during the African diaspora, you are an immigrant–the Pilgrims fleeing intolerance, the huddled masses at Ellis Island, the desperate Irish Potato famine victims, the El Salvadorian refugees—we are immigrants.; Immigration has shaped and defined America.

  And yet in 2019, we have an individual, placed in the Oval Office by the Electoral College, who vilifies immigrants and refugees, and deliberately chooses divisive racist language to appeal to the very worst in us: fear, greed, selfishness, xenophobia and hate.  Immigrants are not our enemies.  Immigration has EXPANDED the American economy, not contracted it.  The pie gets bigger, not smaller.  And yet we have arrived at a new unrecognizable version of ourselves:  one in which Hispanics must fear going to Walmart; one in which the president suggests that American citizens/members of Congress should “go back where they came from;” one in which Heather Heyer was mowed down by “good people” at Charlottesville for daring to speak out against racism; one in which Muslims, Jews, and Hispanics must live in fear of being murdered for their faith or ethnic origin.

When the history of this dark era is written, what will it say about us?  That we stood by and allowed this to happen? When your grandchildren learn of these dark days, where will you tell them that you stood?  Maybe you stood by when he bragged about sexually assaulting women, when he mocked the disabled, when he mocked an American POW/war hero, when he called White Nationalists, “good people,” when he stood by the Russian dictator at Helsinki and rejected our own intelligence and law enforcement agencies, when he called African nations “shithole countries,” when he sat in front of the crosses at Normandy and mocked his political enemies, and even when he suggested shooting immigrants in the Florida panhandle.  But in the Summer of 2019, when he whipped his followers into an angry anti-immigrant frenzy and a home-grown terrorist took him up on it and gunned down 44 people in El Paso, ending 22 innocent lives, did you take a stand against him?  Did you say, “Enough!”?  There is a direct and bloody trail from Trump’s tweets and rhetoric at his rallies to the El Paso massacre.  If we do not speak out against this now,  When will we?  We are complicit in future deaths if we do not try to stop this. 

In the interest of full disclosure: this deadly and dangerous powder keg is deeply personal to me.  My wife and children are Hispanic.  My Hispanic son lives and works and shops in Texas.  Yes, he is a natural-born citizen, but your average crazed gunman doesn’t ask for birth certificates before he sprays the Walmart, movie theater, concert, church, synagogue, college campus, or elementary school with bullets from his weapon of war.  But if you can dismiss this because you and your loved ones are white, not brown, then YOU are the problem. This CANNOT be our new norm.  We CANNOT accept this.  Stop the madness.  We must come back together as a unified nation which celebrates diversity, before it is too late; it may already be: the calls are coming from inside the house.