May 20, 2012

Protest March

Wisdom is a funny thing.  Sometimes wisdom helps up to keep our heads in difficult circumstances, even when those around us are losing theirs.  Sometimes, however, wisdom is finally realizing that in order to effect change in the world, one must sometimes stand up for what one believes, even when it is often unpleasant.  Today was just such a day.

Actually, if I'm honest, most of this year has been like that.  Instead of being some passionate protestor in my twenties when I had little to lose, I find myself, at the "ripe old age" of 47, suddenly choosing to stand up for the things I believe rather than being content to follow a path of least resistance.   Rather than sitting around grumbling, as I have been wont to do in the past (and which ultimately accomplishes pretty much nothing), I am finding my voice.

For example, I have become rather vocal about TSA's abuse of civil liberties and its wild inconsistencies in procedure from airport to airport.  It's not that I have a problem with trying to protect American citizens from potential terrorist threats, because I don't.  It's more that I object to the methods being used to accomplish this supposed protection, and even more the general public's willingness to put up with any amount of crap from airport officials just so individuals can be sent on their way as quickly and with as little fuss as possible.  And yet one airport will pass me through with enough metal to build a small Death Star while another airport will frisk me for even thinking about the metal involved in orthodontia.  Things like pen knives and nail clippers are expressly prohibited, but I can bring a 12" SPIKE knitting needle, capable of piercing eyeballs and skewering hearts, with no questions asked.  All my containers must be less than three ounces for fear that I might be transporting materials which could be used to create a bomb, yet it occurs to no one that the 10 mini-shampoos I have shoved in my Ziploc bag could just as easily all possess napalm or liquid plutonium which could then be combined into sufficient quantities once I'm through security.  But as long as each is under 3 ounces and safely contained by a baggie, it's all good.  One airport will let me transport a large boxed birthday cake, but another will confiscate a single cupcake on the grounds that the icing might be a flammable gel.  One airport will scan me and recognize that the random beeping is from the rivets on my jeans, whereas another airport will frisk me TWICE and have agents shoving their hands down the front of my pants in case those same rivets are attached to a detonator.  And that doesn't even begin to cover the potential exposure to radiation, which caused x-ray scanners to be banned all over Europe.  The US, however, is adding more scatter scanners to airports all the time, making the old metal detectors nearly obsolete and removing the power of choice from passengers.  We are being subjected daily to "unreasonable search and seizure" or at least "remarkably inconsistent search and seizure," yet most of us stand by and do nothing about it.

Perhaps more surprising to me has been the change recently in my political viewpoints, which I have assiduously avoided voicing most of my life because I believed that my political opinions weren't really anyone else's business.  Were you to ask, I would probably say that I have always viewed myself as an Independent, though I've tended to lean right when voting because of my philosophical beliefs.  In truth, politics have always a bit problematic for me because I grew up in a very blue collar, Democratic household, but I married a very white collar man from a very conservative, Republican household.  Not surprisingly, my political opinions over the years have been fairly evenly split between the two camps.  Yet in the past year, I have found myself becoming appalled by the increasingly extremist views of leading Republicans, particularly regarding the current "War on Women."  It's one thing to have conservative beliefs based on one's religion, but I don't understand when it became acceptable to start using those beliefs to dictate the beliefs of others.  Wasn't religious freedom one of the cornerstones of our Constitution?  I have no problem with Democrats or Republicans or whomever having whatever religious views they like.  I do, however, have a big problem with elected officials forcing me to be bound to laws based on the moral and philosophical views of someone other than myself.    That is as un-Constitutional as much of what TSA does.  No one should have the right to imprison me for having a miscarriage just because somebody conservative doesn't believe in abortion.  Miscarriage and abortion are not the same.  I don't believe any government has the right to force me to submit to unnecessary medical procedures just because somebody conservative doesn't believe in abortion.  For the record, neither do I--that would be pretty hypocritical for someone who was adopted. I DO believe there can be extenuating circumstances which justify it, however.  But that doesn't matter.  Whether or not I (or anyone) believes in abortion doesn't change the fact that decisions regarding it are not the purview of the government but rather a concern only of the patient and her physician and any relevant significant others.  Politicians don't ask the medical community for advice on nuclear weaponry and/or the domestic economy, so why do they feel the need not only to offer their advice on medicine, but to enact specific laws demanding that we follow that advice?  Big brother indeed.

I could go on for days regarding things like contraception and equal wages and any number of other issues currently clogging the news media, but I won't, because that wasn't the point of this post.  The point is to explain how things such as the above have been leading me to take a more active role in standing up for what I believe to be right.  As Edmund Burke once said, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."  I understand that quote a lot more now than I did when I was 20; I guess that's what comes of getting older and theoretically more wise--or at least getting a little more perspective.  So today, I did something.  It probably won't make a difference in the grand scheme of life, but I did something.  I made a gesture.  I made a point.  I went on my very own protest march.

Not long after we moved here, I spent several weeks trying to find a new church home.  Through a bit of a fluke, we ended up at one that wasn't even on the original list.  In due course we made friends, found a place and settled in, eventually transferring our membership to the new church a year or so ago.  Sadly, however, within 2 months of having done so, I began to regret it.  I still love and appreciate the friends I've made there, but as time has gone on, I became increasingly more disturbed by the sermons and behavior of the senior pastor at the church in question.  Granted, I wasn't particularly star-struck by him in the first place, but he seemed to be struggling more and more and his sermons became more and more insulting and/or offensive as time went on.  It became clear to me that on a good day, our philosophical and moral and theological views were radically at odds.  I began to be aware of problems that most of the congregation wasn't privy to, things like his bullying of staff, an inability to delegate or work cooperatively with staff, an unethical manipulating of both people and attendance statistics, and firing staff he has no right to fire, as well as outright lying.  It was bad enough that the man had a rampant megalomania and messianic complex going behind the scenes, but worse yet that the one person who was most supposed to "guide the flock" was becoming the largest stumbling block to those earnestly trying to strengthen their faith and solidify their beliefs.

I could go on for days about some of the more sordid and intolerant things the man has done or said in the past several months, but I won't.  Suffice to say that the staff-parish committee has ardently been seeking his transfer for the last two months or more.  Today in service, it was announced that he would be staying another year and that the minister for our contemporary service would be going to another church.  I knew this was coming, and many of us "in the know" were despondent over the decision, not the least because we know the man is just petty enough to seek punitive action against those who crossed him.  In our anger and frustration, the girlie and I have frequently threatened to walk out of the service the moment the announcement was made.  After months of waiting for word about whether or not he'd stay, of deciding whether or not we would then stay if he did, etc., I became became exhausted and demoralized, and even this morning I didn't know whether or not I would do anything.  I just didn't want to deal with it.  I also didn't want to leave my choir friends in the lurch going forward, but neither am I interested in tolerating the world's most appalling and narrow-minded sermons for another year.  I knew that several people from the previous service walked out after the announcement was made or before the senior pastor began his sermon; eventually the service started hemorrhaging members.  But I still didn't know what I was going to do (or not do).  Then after the announcement was made in the traditional service I sat and listened to the minister flagrantly lie about how the contemporary service's minister had been "talking about going to the new church and was looking forward to it and really wanted to go" when he had, in fact, been ordered to request transfer by the senior pastor.  As I listened to the moral leader of my current church stand in the pulpit and lie his ass off, I started shaking.  At that point, my mind was made up for me; there was no turning back.  As soon as the choir finished singing its anthem and the minister stood up to begin his sermon, I stood up in the choir loft, walked out past the piano, then marched straight up the aisle, stripping off my choir robe along the way.  When I reached the back door, I slammed my hand into it hard to open it and strode out.  I wasn't the only choir member to leave the traditional service, but I was the only one to do so as definitively.

Afterwards, I went to the contemporary service, boldly wearing the "Get Out of Hell Free" card I'd gotten from the "Hey, Nunnie Nunnie" show at the RenFest yesterday (I figured I'd need all the help I could get...)  I found my girlie and sat by her.  My mouth was dry and my hands were still shaking enough that I had to have the girlie open up my peppermint for me.   When the contemporary service ended, several members found out what I had done and hugged me and even said they were proud of me, which made me feel a little better, but not as much as knowing that my girlie was proud of me for standing up against the intolerance and injustices being perpetrated by the minister.  I know others at the traditional service probably felt like following me but were too afraid, just as I know that others will probably not want to talk to me anymore.  But that's okay.  I made my statement, loud and clear, just as I did when I signed petitions against SOPA or voted against damaging legislation or spoke out against injustice or hatred.  It may make a difference or it may not; doesn't really matter.  Either way,  I will continue to support the congregation and the church (as opposed to the pastor) whether or not I am there, just as I will continue to support my country even while I exercise my freedom of speech against the tyrannical and/or damaging policies of short-sighted politicians more interested in serving their own ends than the people they were elected to represent.

So that's my "wisdom" for you today--stand up for what you believe, whatever that may be, however big or small.  Things won't always go the way you'd like, and that's okay.  But change will never happen while you sit on your backside complaining about the things you don't like.  And your children are watching you...what lessons do you want them to learn from you?  Today my child watched me protest ignorance and injustice; she saw me put my "money where my mouth is" as I stood up for what I believe to be right, instead of spewing meaningless and powerless platitudes.  Today I made her proud of me.  Who can ask for more than that?  What I did today may seem small in the face of all the political divisiveness and unrest fomenting in the US at the moment, but it was still a step forward.

Stand up for what you believe.  Do SOMETHING.  Because times?  They are a-changin'.



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