Thursday, July 28, 2016

New Rule


New Rule:
If you're voting for Trump (or a third-party candidate to "punish" the DNC) you have to meet with your Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, Black, Muslim and Hispanic friends and explain why your need for spite is more important than their right to live free and happy lives.
You have to look them in the eyes and tell them why your anger at a 238 year old system, that didn't dramatically change in a few months, is worth more than their safety or security.
You need to meet with every mother, father, sister, brother and parent who has lost a loved one to gun violence and tell them why a lack of Bernie supporters at the polls is enough reason to support the RNC's love affair with guns and their hatred of common sense gun reform.
You have to tell your female friends that you're furious about Benghazi and other vague incidents that are somehow Hillary's fault and that the de-funding of Planned Parenthood is worth enduring as long as she isn't in the White House.
You'll need to take time away from PokemonGo and Netflix to talk with the youngest generation of Americans who will live with the legacy of non-existent environmental protection that your vote promised them. An environment we tossed away, because Hillary is pro fracking. A position far worse than Trump's pro fracking policy and one she assuredly can't be persuaded to change.
You'll be expected to go door to door and apologize to all the people who will lose their health insurance when President Trump dismantles Obamacare. Access to medical services may be important, but they'll need to understand you were expecting free college.
You'll be requested at several LGBTQ events, where we'll patiently listen to your reasons why you voted for a President whose party just stated they'd work to reverse marriage equality. I would do this one quickly however, before we get too comfortable being treated as human beings, worthy of equality.
Of course, you'll also need to offer your time checking genitals at bathrooms around the country, as your vote ensures the Right has the political power to continue punishing and demonizing transgender people who simply want to pee.
Sexual assault survivors will want to know why their attackers walk away with a slap on the wrist, after being found guilty, but all the failed investigations and fruitless legal hearings in the world will never prove Clinton's innocence.
Your African-American friends will most likely expect a solid reason why you supported a party that sees no problem with police brutality or the militarization of their local law enforcement. Black Lives Matter, but not nearly as much as sticking it to the 1% percent. I suppose this seems like a problem we can continue to kick down the road.
I'd also prepare a few remarks for officers who go to work everyday terrified that they'll be the next ones punished for the ignorance of those who share their uniform, an ignorance that's been encouraged, normalized and weaponized by a news cycle that rewards the loudest jackass in the room and punishes the thoughtful introspection of empathy.
You'll also want to start growing your own food, because once President Trump sends his goons to deport "All dem illegals", you'll find a remarkably non-existent workforce of Americans willing to pick the nation's food for pennies a day.
This would also be the best time to pick up a few stuffed animals. It's the least you can give to the immigrant children whose families will be ripped apart by your anger. What's Spanish for, "You'll get a new mother ,but I won't get another revolution."?
I imagine a few mosques would love to sit down with you as you poetically pontificate on the ills of "Crooked Hillary" and all the crimes she's mysteriously never been convicted of, even if it means the Muslim community continues to be targeted and blamed for the actions of 0.0001% of their religion. (You won't need to do this for the white "lone wolf" shooter, as it's clear they're acting alone and clearly don't represent Christianity. He's just "sad and depressed.")
Skype will be a great tool when you need to video chat with the Syrian refuges who have seen their homes and entire lives destroyed by both American and Russian carpet bombing. Language barriers aside, I imagine they'll understand that your frustration is a fair trade for their entire lives and continued homelessness while we scramble to fix the mess we created, the mess Trump is happy to abandon.
If you could set aside some time to sit down with your fellow Americans with disabilities, I am positive they would love to hear the many reasons you helped empower a man so fond of mocking them. A man who delights in stepping on the weak, struggling and often forgotten. A coward enriched by rolling over people who many of us don't bother to recognize and even fewer take the time to empathize with or relate to. I imagine their daily struggles pale in comparison with your need to label a Mother and Grandmother as a "Lying whore."
In the end, you won't have enough time to meet with all these people and it's probably for the best. Once you start humanizing those most affected by your flippancy ... you risk seeing the bigger picture, which only assures your eventual return to reality. Once that starts to happen you'll be forced to accept that Bernie Sanders was ONLY able to get the DNC to change, because of the tireless efforts of his supporters.
Supporters like myself. Supporters like you.
You'll soon realize that few "Berners" love Hillary, but they understand their support of her is necessary to ensure this country survives long enough to give Bernie's policies time to take root. Suddenly you'll be forced to admit that political revolutions don't happen in a year and that dramatic changes are going to take time, time that will not be afforded to a country torn apart by an egotistical madman with a penchant for indifference, pettiness and revenge. By the time this realization solidifies, you'll find yourself looking around at this beautifully diverse country, your family, and loved ones and you'll wonder why you ever considered risking it... all because your hatred of a woman was more powerful than your love of country, freedom, humanity and basic decency. You'll question your friends who are cursing the man they just recently considered their savior and you'll have to look at yourself from the outside in.
There it is. Perspective.
This is bigger than you, or me or Bernie Sanders. This isn't your typical Left vs. Right political nonsense. This is real, this is happening and you can join your fellow men and women in opposition or you can damn the country to trillions in debt, a shattered NATO, racial hatred, homophobia, war, isolationism and a world destroyed by Trump's assurance that Climate Change is a "hoax".
What world will you leave for the next generation? What amount of anger is worth destroying everything and empowering the proud intolerance of the know nothing base? Which politician can be pressured by environmentalists and those who wish to foster peace? Which candidate will listen to the professionals, experts and leaders in their field? Which politician adapts and evolves their political opinions based on the will of their constituents and presentation of new evidence?
We all get to choose how to shape this world and your choice will forever define the person you are and the America you want.
Pragmatism can be a terribly bitter pill to swallow, but change can be found in compromise, progress in patience. As a gay man who only recently felt the embrace of equality, I know all too well the hopelessness of frustration and the righteous rage of disappointment, but I refuse to abandon progress or those still waiting for their seat at the table, because I dislike the host of the party.
I am not voting for her, I am voting for them.
Don't burn down the farm, because the crop wasn't what you had hoped. Enrich the land, ensuring an even better crop next season and help his supporters secure a world welcoming and willing to see Bernie's goals come to fruition.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Orlando

I’ve struggled yesterday and today not to be so angry over the events of the last 48 hours but I’ve failed miserably. I know that my anger is born out of sadness and a feeling of helplessness. Sadness over the loss of life and helplessness over not being able to positively impact the current atmosphere of hatred and bigotry that so permeates our society. Our politicians say the polite things that are expected in the media of how sorry they are, how we must stand united against hate, and then in the next breath continue to discriminate against the LGBT community.
There have been many supportive and touching posts. However there continues to be those who in an attempt to offer support, say things that although well meaning, touch a nerve indicating that they really do not understand what the LGBT community feels. One such post I read today said: “To my friends in the LGBTQ+ community, you are so loved. I grieve with you. This is hate, and this is wrong. I'm so sorry you are feeling fear today. You are not alone. You are dear and precious and so very loved. “ Very sweet, very heartfelt, but at the same time, the person posting does not understand that although the LGBT community is indeed feeling fear today, we in the community feel fear every day. Many if not most of us, have felt the fear of being assaulted for showing the slightest affection for our partners or spouses. Many if not most of us have felt the fear of being humiliated or worse because of the way we speak or carry ourselves. Many if not most of us have feared for our safety each and every day. Of course, most of us have not had the fear of being shot while in a nightclub or bar, but if a poll was taken, I’m sure an overwhelming majority of gay individuals would admit to being fearful in some respect when walking from their cars to a club, or from an event back to their cars. I have. In college one of my most cognizant memories is of the skepticism of simply walking from my car into the gay club in Greenville. Why? Because it was not rare to be accosted while making that 50 yard dash. The same was true when visiting Raleigh or Charlotte or Greensboro. In 2012, while I was more than happy to demonstrate in front of the NC Legislature building in opposition to Amendment 1, I was also fearful of the walk back to where we parked. 
Comments from religious leaders have also been abundant today. But I ask them, what have you done to quiet the atmosphere of hate that is permeating our society and your pews? Do you simply ask for prayers for the victims and their families and friends? While I do believe in prayer, we cannot pray the hate away. Have you made your voice heard publicly? Have you made your presence known? Do you actively seek out those in our community to help by offering a shoulder to cry on or a sounding board for their angst? If prayer for the victims is all you are doing for the LGBT community, then it is simply not enough. It may make you feel better, but it isn’t helping them.
I don’t know a single gay person who if asked, has not known some hesitancy or fear about being attacked, either verbally, physically or both, at some point in their lives. It’s something I’ve lived with for most of my life. In elementary school, I was ridiculed. In high school, I was assaulted. Why? Perception of being gay, perception of being different. 
While I appreciate all the nice things said and the heartfelt wishes of unity, and while this is a horrific event, gay people have always lived in fear. Fear of discovery. Fear of being ostracized. Fear of assault. Please don’t think we are surprised by the events of this weekend. We are distraught. We are in shock. We ARE afraid. But we are not surprised.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Goodbye UMC

Well it's official.  Today I sent emails & letters to the Bishop of the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Capital District Superintendent of the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church and the minister of Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church, requesting that my name be removed from membership in the UMC.

May 24, 2016
Re: UMC Membership

Bishop Ward, Rev. Fairley and Rev. Minnick,

I write this today after listening to the UMC General Conference 2016 as often I as I could the past two weeks, along with following the feeds on Twitter on a nearly pathological scale during the same amount of time.  My feelings on what was or was not accomplished at General Conference 2016 will probably seem simplistic at best.  I know that the issues that were before this conference were many, much larger and of greater scale than I could imagine and that the few issues that were of greatest concern to me possibly did not warrant as much attention from the body of the conference as I feel they should have received.  My greatest hope however since the 2012 General Conference was that the language in the Book of Discipline regarding homosexuality and thus the attitude of the United Methodist Church would be altered to the point where everyone would not only be welcomed to the Table, but would actually have a Place at the Table.  This has not happened.  Non-acceptance of LGBT individuals as they are, as God made them, without allowing them to openly express who they are, is not acceptable to me.  My hope for the UMC was that it would truly be transformative into the Body of Christ in the world by first acknowledging the harm that the UMC has done in the past to the LGBT community and secondly, move forward with open arms to embrace ALL of God’s children equally.  I’m sure there are those that feel that is what the UMC is doing.  I however, along with a large number of others, do not.  I have not been a Methodist for that long although my father was a Methodist his entire life.  My mother was Baptist and I was raised Southern Baptist but left that Church in my late teens due to the intolerance I was seeing around the denomination.  I steered clear of organized Christianity for most of my life after that until finding Pleasant Grove UMC.  The ministry and sense of community I found there truly did become a part of my family.  PGUMC saw me through what was easily the worst period of my life.  Since General Conference 2012 I have had many conversations with my minister about the direction of the UMC.  Through hope, commitment and prayer, I pledged to see it through to the 2016 General Conference.  During the last four years I videoed a message to the Connectional Table in 2014 about “Why should I stay in the UMC?”; I contacted the Reconciling Ministries Network to become a member of one; I sent letters and emails of protest during trials of Pastors who I felt were actually following through on being Disciples of Christ by ministering to the LGBT community.  Most recently, I emailed Bishop Ward to please make a statement about North Carolina’s HB2 legislation.  I have remained faithful to my pledge to see it through to General Conference 2016.  But the UMCGC came and is now over.  All votes on human sexuality were deferred and the Council of Bishops suggested that the topic be referred to a special commission to review & discuss the language in the Book of Discipline with regard to human sexuality.  After 40+ years of struggling to be heard and waiting, the UMC is now asking the LGBT community to wait until 2018 or 2019.  Nothing substantive changed.  They entertained motions this time, but in the end did what has always been done, deferred to later.  The UMC once again has chosen unity over justice and equality.  Holding together a denomination is more important than living into the teachings of Christ.  It is time.  It is time for me to admit that I cannot in good conscience remain a member of the United Methodist Church as it is at this time.  It is time for me to respectfully request that my name be stricken from the membership rolls of the United Methodist Church.  Given that the UMC lost more than 52,000 members in 2015, it is realistic to say that judging by the outrage over this General Conference, the number for 2016 will be even greater.  My absence will just be one but I know I’m not the only one.

I pray that the UMC will one day live into my understanding of the teachings of Christ and the vision of John Wesley.  I am but one lay person.  I leave the Methodist Church with a heavy heart.  I know that I will always be welcome at Pleasant Grove UMC regardless of my membership or any future church/denomination affiliation.

Thank you for your time.  I will continue to hold you in my prayers.

Jeff Holland

I did receive a response from my minister expressing appreciation for the email.  He went on to say "Of course I am saddened by the entire situation but I can understand your need to look elsewhere for a community in which you are welcomed wholeheartedly for who you are--period."  He is a wonderful and caring man and pastor.  Thank you Jay.

Friday, May 13, 2016

And the beat goes on...and on...and on

Yep, the beat and everything else goes on.  HB2 is still the MONSTER in the state and wreaking havoc on all things progressive.  But no one is going down easy on this and we have some wonderful allies, including the federal government.  But no reason to rant about this on here as you can see my daily, sometimes hourly rants on Facebook & Twitter.

Last weekend was Out!Raleigh 2016 and it was wonderful.  The estimated attendance this year was 50,000!  Last year was 25,000 and everyone thought that was incredible.  There were so many people streaming in and out all day long.  Steve and I were there for about 2 hours.  First down one side of the street and then back up the other looking at all the exhibits, making a couple of purchases (who doesn't need a new rainbow flag?), talking to friends and past acquaintances and generally having a good time being out and about among people.  The atmosphere was one of joy and admittedly defiance.  The protesters (last I heard there were a total of 3, not 3 protests, just 3 protesters) were kept at a distance and I heard of no confrontations.

Work is keeping me more than occupied and I am so ready for July and a trip to the beach.  Who doesn't need a week of relaxation, sand and surf?

As I type this, the UMC General Conference is in day 3 of it's 10 day meeting.  Thus far, although there has been plenty of talk, nothing has been settled.  I am still hopeful but not optimistic.  Bottom line is that I will know by May 20th whether I will remain a Methodist or not.  There are so many ways that all this can go down.  1- The language in the BOD is not changed.  If that happens, I leave. 2- The language in the BOD is changed, but not in a way that makes the progressives 100% happy.  If that happens, I leave.  3-The language in the BOD is removed, or changed, that make the progressives 100% happy.  If that happens, I stay.  If version 1 happens, it is conceivable that the UMC will cease to exist due to a complete schism within the church.  If that happens and the church becomes 2 separate entities, then I will have the option to go with those that are of a like mind.  If version 3 happens, the most likely scenario is that the conservatives leave the church and there is a complete schism within the church.  If that happens and the church becomes 2 separate entities, then I will have the option to stay with those that are of a like mind. (sound familiar).  Obviously, regardless of what happens in General Conference, I have the option to do what I want to do.  I have been going to UPUCC regularly for eight months now.  Is it ideal?  Not necessarily, but it does allow for me to be the true me.  It does value what I value.  If I could have the PGUMC people, behave & believe like the UPUCC church, then I would be thrilled.  Will that ever happen? No.  Not even if conference res the way I want it to go.  PGUMC & UPUCC are filled with different people, with different attitudes.
My choice, after conference, where I feel I fit best.  Many options to consider.  Today, I will watch more coverage of conference and continue to weigh my options with regard to what is best for me.

So that is where I am.  Happy, ready for change if needed, but moving forward regardless.