I’m going to be offline for a week. There’s absolutely no reason you should care about that.
In fact, it feels vaguely self-important to even mention it. But as someone who is generally around a lot and usually fairly quick to respond to his email, Twitter, Tumblr, et al. I thought it might seem a bit odd if I suddenly seemed to just vanish.
Not to worry, you’re not getting rid of me that easily. Unless I die in a car accident or something in the next ~8 days or so, which would be ironic. Or at least coincidental.
Anyway, barring some unforeseen accident, I should be back sometime around November 19th.
For those who might be inquisitive enough to wonder where I’ll be, I will be part of a group of Presbyterian clergy attending a retreat at Lake Logan Episcopal Center in Canton, NC. The program is described thusly:
To provide opportunities for clergy to examine significant areas of their lives and to discern prayerfully the future direction of their vocation as they respond to God’s call in a lifelong process of practice and transformation.
Or, to put it more succinctly, it’s a chance to clergy to evaluate WTF they’re doing with their life, and if it’s what they want to continue doing with their life, or if they need to make some changes to keep them from “going off the deep end” as I believe it is called. (Actually they call it “wellness” but we all know that’s just a bullshit buzzword.)
I’ve never been to Canton, but if you don’t know that I’m going to be singing The Ballad of Jayne Cobb at the top of my lungs as I arrive, well then, God, Jed… I don’t even want to know you.
In the continuing quest to make The Place I Used To Call Home look better than The Place Where I Live Now, there’s a Five Guys a few minutes from my mom’s house.
I had never been before, but The Wife went a few weeks ago and I’d heard all of you people raving about it, so I figured I’d try it and hope that it wasn’t a let-down like “In & Out” was.
(I’m guessing that just cost me 5 followers, plus Lucky is probably jamming pins in the voodoo doll again, but, well, sorry, it’s how I felt.)
Five Guys was great. As someone who hates lettuce and tomato and mayo, I love that they don’t put anything on your burger unless you ask for it.
We opted to eat outside because inside they had the radio turned up to 11 when it really only needed to be at like 5 or 6. Or 4. Next door there is a Panera Bread (which we also don’t have where we live) and sitting outside was an Old Dude, working on a netbook. He was easily in his 70s, and looked like he was sort of grimacing at the screen. Now, mind you that I’ve spent the past week with my mother who is not at all technically savvy, so when I look at this guy and think “I wonder if his kids gave him that computer and now he’s trying to figure out Facebook?” it’s not meant as casual age-ism, it’s based on the actual experiences I’ve had with a lot of folks in the same demographic pool.
About 10 minutes later he was joined by a friend who asked him how he was doing, and he said he was doing well, and “making a lot of progress on this programming project I’m working on.”
Also while we were eating, two older women walked to 5 Guys from the parking lot. They too seemed to be in their late 60s/early 70s. And they were holding hands. It was adorable. I found myself wanting to find out more about them: had they gotten married? Had they moved to MA to get married? How long had they been together? Had they previously kept their relationship a secret?
In 1974 (yes, 1974), white people around Boston rioted over racial integration through forced busing. A lot has changed in 36 years.
Of course I didn’t ask them any of those questions. Instead I smiled — at much the same way The Wife and I do when we see an old married man & woman holding hands — and realized that by the time The Boy is my age, seeing two women (or two men) casually hold hands as they stroll to lunch will be as unremarkable to him as the fact that he goes to school with, plays with, and is friends with African-American kids. I smiled because I remembered that as we put him to bed the night of the 2008 Presidential Election, his reaction to the news that Obama would be our first black president was, “We’ve never had a black president before? That’s stupid.”
I imagine that some day, perhaps soon, he will say to me, “Wait, two people can want to get married but they aren’t allowed to? That’s stupid.”
He’s right, and it will happen. We will look back on these days with the same shame we feel over slavery and women’s suffrage. As in the past, some in Christian churches have been on the front lines of fighting for these rights, and some have been fighting against them.
But it will happen, despite the Westboro Baptist folks, and despite the televangelists, and despite all of the other religious bigots (not redundant, BTW) who rise up to tell us that
freeing the slaves, giving women the vote, letting women into the same schools as men, letting gay people marry will definitely-we’re-really-sure-this-time-no-really-trust-us ruin America forever.
It will happen because although justice is slow and change doesn’t come easily, over time we get better at the practice of living together and bringing equality to more and more people.
But that isn’t to say that we shouldn’t sit back and wait for it to happen. “Inevitability” makes it sound too easy. It won’t be easy, and people who are in favor of changing the status quo need to work a whole hell of a lot harder than they have been. If California’s Prop 8 showed us anything, it’s that the Old Guard is determined, well-funded, and well-organized, whereas most of the New Guard showed up after the fight was over to protest the outcome.
There are mid-term elections coming up. Americans are slothfully lazy when it comes to voting in presidential elections, and we often just let the mid-terms pass us by.
Don’t do it.
Don’t let the racist and extremist tea-baggers get any more power. Don’t let any more states pass any more bills that make it harder for people who are gay/lesbian to get equal rights. Don’t let the school board or the city council or the town selectmen be filled with racist, ignorant, Old Guards because they’re the only ones who showed up.
Many people will remember the scene from The West Wing where Barlet goes off on Jenna Jacobs about the way that she interprets the Bible.
It’s one of my favorite scenes from the show. Hell, it’s one of my favorite scenes from any show. But at the end of that scene (around 3:08 in the YouTube clip), Barlet says to Toby, “That’s how I beat him.”
That episode is called The Midterms (second season, third episode). Barlet has been obsessed with “Elliot Roush” who is running for school board in Manchester, New Hampshire. No one else seems to realize why Barlet cares:
C.J.: In a race for the Board of Education, in a school district that has 43 kids.
BARTLET: It has 1100 kids, and you don’t take these people seriously ‘cause they don’t get anywhere nationally, but they don’t have to. All they have to do is, bit by little bit, get themselves on the Boards of Education and city councils. ‘Cause that’s where all the governing that really matters to anybody really happens.
TOBY: How’s it going with your school board guy?
BARTLET: Yeah, he’s gonna win.
TOBY: When you ran against him, how’d you beat him? [Barlet beat Roush in his first Congressional campaign]
BARTLET: I don’t remember. I’ve been thinking about it for weeks, but I honestly don’t remember.
How did Barlet beat Roush? The same way that he minced Jenna Jacobs. By poking holes in the foundations of her arguments and shining a light on how absurd it was. It wasn’t enough for him to be right, or smarter than she was, he had to communicate his message. He had to show why he was right and she was wrong. He left her with no defense other than saying “We’ve decided that some of these rules still apply and others don’t.”
You don’t change people’s minds just because you’re right. You change people’s minds by being right and showing up again and again and again and again and again and again despite the fact that they show no signs of listening or changing their minds.
You change people’s minds by getting the issue before the courts, and having better legal arguments, because the Extremist Conservative Christians can’t appeal to Leviticus in a court of law (thank you, Founding Fathers), they have to make arguments that stand on their own.
And although slavery was once legal, it changed. But not easily.
And although women couldn’t vote at one time, it changed. But not easily.
So of course we shouldn’t be surprised that these changes haven’t come easily; they never have. Inertia is a powerful force. It takes a lot of effort to overcome… but the hardest part is getting it from “Not Moving” to “Moving” — once it starts to budge, it gets easier and easier to move.
Elections are decided by the people who show up. And people who show up decide to do so when they know there’s something worth voting for.