“We have met the enemy…and it is us”. I think that is a quote from an old comic strip called Pogo, and who knows if it predates that strip? Almost certainly it does, as Solomon said so long ago there is nothing new under the sun.
But yeah…we are the enemy, our own enemy. Here is what I want to get at in this post:
I have been so discouraged lately at the voice that is emerging inside circles of advocacy that I have been frequenting…maybe it was always there (likely), and I just had not heard it. But it is a voice that sounds just like the voice that I used to hear in other circles that I grew up in and advocated for during earlier years before I grew and became more understanding of myself and others.
It is clumsy and has arthritic hands when it speaks and cannot hold small fine brushes or move with nuance, and so it paints with a broad brush in generalizations and caricatures…it is cartoonish, buffoonish…it is guffawing and backslapping…
…and the absolute worst is that it advocates the very hatred and othering and policing against others that has wounded and killed so many in LGTBQ circles. Somehow, hatred and othering is okay because “they have it coming”.
I would say that I am embarrassed for the individuals to whom I refer, except that I am so deeply dismayed embarrassment is too embarrassed to show her face. I think it is clear that hatred is a human heart problem…and will never ever be conquered by more hatred…ever. Hatred can only be driven out by love, and when love is met with more hatred, the only secret weapon it has in its employ is grace, as displayed by forgiveness and then more love.
Constance: if you fail to grasp this essential truth, then you will be doomed to circle the constellations in this galaxy of ideas and ideologies that provide us with cosmic meaning and orientation, and you will dwell in one thinking it is finally the one with no idiots or haters present inside it…until you hear the voice of hate and bigotry emanating from within the very halls you hallow and inhabit!
I am going to pick two things for examples:
The first was a simply post about a man who had taken his 2 children in a custody dispute…all we really knew was that this had happened, and there was some evidence of drug use and/or mental illness and distress…and there were pictures.
A picture of the man…and a picture of the lil guy he took, and one of the lil daughter he took…and all I saw was eyes.
Haunted eyes, each one. Sad eyes, desperate eyes…eyes that cried out like Bartimaeus “Son of David have MERCY on me and LET ME SEE!” The oldest of these children (the dad) had a whole history in his eyes, no, a legacy…of pain, of confusion and sorrow, of despair served in daily doses as the only draught to drink in horrible deserts bereft of love…and the youngest of the eyes (the kids) were in pain as well, but still innocent enough to hope and believe that it would pass, the horror, like a rain storm, and momma and daddy would love each other and love them.
I burst into tears and began to beg…literally beg Mama to fly to them and rescue them all three…
…and then I began to read the comments about the article, with gleeful jibes thrown, and schadenfreude running rampant as the demise of this dad was held up as “getting what he deserved”.
Oh Mama…may I never EVER get what I deserve…Son of David, deliver me from what I deserve and let me see!!!
The second example is from a long post, written by an obviously intelligent, sensitive and aware caring young person…earnest and passionate, and on fire to move against injustice…and so absolutely certain that all it takes is her voice and the voices of her compatriots who just say “No more” and call out the offenders and the haters and the (fill in the blanks)…and I think this post dismayed me more than the first example, because she was so blind to her own broad-brush strokes, generalizations, and culpability in being an exact mirror to the sort of behavior she decried.
She led with the typical sort of introduction that I encounter when I am defiled by the comments from my haters:
“…I am compelled, for several reasons, to respond to you. Please know that I do so out of a desire not to attack you, but for you to hear something that needs to be heard…”
Of course it goes without saying that she was not addressing LGTBQ people or individuals, or members of a group that experiences discrimination…she was addressing the people of power and privilege…people who should know better (or should they? Are they not mere imperfect people? Do they not have the same issues and struggles we all have in their beings, in their ontological journeys?).
She is compelled. Constance, none of us is merely compelled…there is also the issue of will and choice…we feel that something is absolutely essential for us to comment on…and then we cross the Rubicon and say “compelled”…or “have no peace until I tell you this”…oh I have run the gamut of what excuse people devise in order to unload. And there is also the assurance that there is not a desire to attack.
Did you see what she did there? What is always done when we are going to go on a hunt for specks in our sister/brother’s eye? It is the way we attempt to look around the beam sticking out of our own, and it is always the same: I do not want to attack you or hurt you, oh NO! But I am “compelled” to…I have no choice, and Ima bout ta unload both barrels on your ass, so it is your own fault for being such a (fill in the blank)…
…and then we warm to the task.
“…What is sobering and disturbing to me is that you’re so wholeheartedly standing with these men who say that so many people out there, who just want to be loved and cared for equally, without fear of persecution, like everyone else, are less than you, less than me, less than anyone else who is…”
Generalization…broad brush. “These men who say” … “…like everyone else” … “less than anyone else who is” (and another place to fill in the blank with whatever issue is pressing on the compelled one’s heart.
And then the rest of the letter unfolds…paragraphs written passionately, eloquently, and for the sake of the forum just washing over the individuals who comprise any group on any side of an issue. I found myself stopping during each paragraph and chewing on the nuances lost, the ways that history was condensed down to make some tired old point, and worst of all, the ways that the very audience to which she wrote was treated with the same disdain and othering that she decried was happening from them.
And I cast my own mind back…to not so long ago…when I was unconscious of myself and still ripped in twain by dissociation and societal policing from childhood on up…when I myself held to the things I had been taught and thought I never had reason to question much…when I had a Christian ideology that said homosexuality was a sin…even though I interacted with many people in churches who had confided in me their struggles with their orientations and desires and their love of God.
While I never believed that God was going to send them to hell, I did cast a jaundiced, privileged eye on mentions of this issue of homosexuality that are in the New Testament and gave a casual shrug and not much else, no study really, no research into cultural context or hermeneutics…
…during this time of my life the trope “hate the sin but love the sinner” was my attempt to somehow reach out and love my fellow humans struggling in this life.
I see now how deeply othering this attitude was, how privileged and unwittingly high and mighty this was of me in what it actually communicated…
…but my motive for doing so was not…NOT what is so often accused: an excuse to hate…it was a weak, half-hearted attempt to love and reach out to them in spite of our differences.
I knew thousands of people just like me in this regard…truly interacted with thousands…conversations, shared meals, shared prayers and tears, even shared sweat and blood…and they are people who love God, and love people too…and are whether they know it or not just like old Blind Bartimaeus crying out to Jesus as He passes by.So when I read things like this, and there are many…I remember these people (some of them even read here though they are not among Constance…they are Reader, because they still think that sexuality and gender orientation are synonymous) and my heart recoils when I feel the rage and intensity of articles written about them, to them that are written to an individual but aimed at a whole group.
I invite you over to read this article for yourself, and what scares me the most is that I might in my inadequacy and my own clumsiness misrepresent the writer or conjecture what is in her heart…and if I do, dear sister, PLEASE forgive me in advance.
It is not her writing it that I am disturbed by…but rather the way that the very tools that are used against me daily I see being used against people like so many that I know…and I imagine that those words will do no more to change their hearts than the words of the haters here at Grace Notes change mine.
What is tragic is that this article has appeared in other forums authored by a voice that is unusually balanced and deft at writing about these things without generalizations and broad brush ad hominum attack…without resorting to trope and cliche…it has appeared because there are a lot of really good topics that this writer touches on and I am sure that he wants those things to be noticed and contemplated.
But the comments…oh Mama, save us. Gleeful…piling on…and centering each and everyone of us back in the skin of…
We have met the enemy…and she is me…the enemy is us.
Oh Constance…how about this? Simplify it, and do justice. Love mercy. And walk humbly.
It’s okay to love people…even the ones who despitefully use you…yes, even “brunette” who writes here to hate on me. I bet my bottom dollar that “brunette” truly believes that the words sent to me will somehow “jolt me awake” and draw me “back to the Lord”. And I know that the letter I was sent by a friend for over 3 decades was written with a truly heavy heart and accompanied by the firm conviction that they were wounds from a friend, better than a thousand kisses from an enemy. And the man who said that I was demonized literally believes in his heart that he spoke to me “the Word of the Lord”, and rests secure and yet sad for me. I know he feels like God gave him an unfair task that he took on in love.
He is wrong of course…and yet that has NOTHING to do with his intention and motive…and so that is what I look for, search for…in justice and mercy and humility.
Imagine the shock and surprise of Blind Bartimaeus when Jesus gave him sight, but instead of seeing what normal people saw…he saw thru the eyes of God.
In deepest love, and true sorrow if I have hurt or wounded anyone in this writing…please…let us truly be of a different ilk than those who we feel are wrong.
It’s time to shatter mirrors, and behold Him and be transformed.