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Sharp Words

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May. 13th, 2016 | 09:10 am

In my world, “Christian” is another word for “bigot.”

When I teach circus in schools, we always stay with a host family. The host family is always right wing heavy-duty Christian, because those tend to be the people with four extra bedrooms and high-school aged kids. We don’t talk politics or religion in the host house. We don’t rat on their daughter when she comes out to us, terrified her mother will throw her out, refuse to pay for college. We bite our tongues when “the transgenders” come up.

This family has taken us in at the last minute. They feed us baked salmon and remember who is vegan. We use their washing machine. We have our own bedrooms in a house on the lake. We are white and cisgender and we coach their children.

EBT—food stamps—comes up around the table. Their fourteen-year-old son has never heard it called EBT, and as I start to explain, he breaks in.

“It sounds like somebody stealing someone else’s money!”

I know it’s been drilled into him. I know he’s never been out of the upper Midwest. I still can’t help it. I say, “It sounds so Christian when you put it like that.”

***

In my world, “Conservative” is another name for “self-centered moralistic prig.”

I met Mark in Alaska, home of the legitimate gun-toters, at the Seward Fourth of July Festival. He was at the NRA booth. He ran the NRA booth. He ran the Alaska NRA. He also had a great sense of humor and sparkling blue eyes. I was fascinated—I’d never met a gun nut I liked this much.

He thought he knew what he was getting. A loud circus girl, making edgy jokes about whip-cracking and fire-eating, personality to the edges of the earth. He was surprised to meet a fellow small-business owner who wouldn’t sleep with him on the first date and didn’t smoke—anything.

This was before Obamacare, before I could go to the doctor or the therapist, when Planned Parenthood was all I had and they don’t dispense depression meds.

Something political came on the car radio, and Mark said, “Liberals are so selfish.”

I was deeply confused. Weren’t the Democrats the party of health care and education and fair wages?

“But they want everyone else to pay for it.”

“Well,” I pointed out, “You can pay taxes in advance and have people able to see the doctor, or you can pay much more for insurance while people go to the emergency room at great expense, as their last resort. But there isn’t any ‘not paying.’ That’s not actually an option, unless we want to be the country that lets people die on the streets.”

“People should learn to take care of themselves.”

Conversation moved on. We went to dinner. Italian. I paid my own check.

Mark said, laughing, “Hey, this is supposed to be a date!”

I said, “People should take care of themselves.”

***

In my world, “atheist” is another name for “smart, but kind of an asshole.” “Agnostic” means “can’t be bothered.” “Pagan” means “I never grew out of it.”

My world is smug and sharp and self-satisfied. My world has the luxury of living overseas, of seeing BBC News instead of Fox, Al-Jazeera instead of MSNBC. My home-country news comes from NPR and Samantha Bee and John Oliver. My politics come free of religion.

I remind myself of the Christ-like Christians I know, both of them. I salute my Ganesha icon (“cultural appropriator”) and leave him fresh oranges and flowers. I know everything will resolve in dust, that we are all temporary, anger is not worthwhile. I can only bring my own selfish self, fight daily for compassion and kindness, profess uncertainty in the face of vigorous faith.

Inside I know. Inside I remember standing at the stone railing in Church of Our Lady, looking at the Madonna, the only Michelangelo statue to leave Italy during his lifetime. It was November and winter had come early, snow had fallen but the leaves still burned on the branches. I remember the frigid air, the sound of monks—or a recording of monks—chanting. I remember how my hands froze to the rail and lightning went through me, how in that moment I knew, knew that I would know until my dying day, that God was here. For me. No matter what He was wearing when He showed up.

There was a poem in the church:

You, citizen of this town
Or pilgrim from far away
Looking for some tranquility
Here you may become silent
At the well of all beauty and life
No-one is a stranger
In this ancient temple
Where God is a loving father
Waiting only for you.

I know it still. I hear it in the words of frightened Christians, in the speeches of angry Republicans, in the mouths of people I think are not like me. But I, too, fear the Other. I, too, protect my soft underbelly and grasp with hard fingers, all of us pulling toward ourselves while God waits, patiently, until we come.






___________________________________________
I'm a very bad Buddhist.






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Comments {23}

gratefuladdict

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from: gratefuladdict
date: May. 14th, 2016 05:20 am (UTC)
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Beautiful. This was fucking beautiful.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: May. 14th, 2016 01:36 pm (UTC)
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Thank you - it was tougher than I thought to write it.

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Lisa

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from: meridian_rose
date: May. 14th, 2016 11:16 am (UTC)
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I'd like to clarify something.
In my world, “Christian” is another word for “bigot.” and you show us the bigotry that makes that real for you, though you know not all Christians behave like it. I feel the same about "family values", the phrase makes me defensive because it's come to mean "narrow patriarchal religiously informed sexist definitions of right/normal"

In my world, “Conservative” is another name for “self-centered moralistic prig.” and you shows us why and good for you paying and I hope he felt humiliated at a woman not needing him too.

Then we have
In my world, “atheist” is another name for “smart, but kind of an asshole.” “Agnostic” means “can’t be bothered.” “Pagan” means “I never grew out of it.” and I can't figure out if this too you agree with, or if you've switched to what society is saying. Because I hear the "pagan means you're not grown up/I grew away from pagansim into atheism the One True Way" and as an eclectic pagan, fuck that noise. I chose a a spirituality that let me be who I am, that doesn't condemn my gender or sexuality or my lack of desire for children. I may wish for more son et lumiere in my spiritual life but the lack of it doesn't make my faith invalid, or so I tell myself when I feel "lesser" for not having that moment of vision as you describe, the moment authors talk of when they met the Goddess.

Have a vote regardless, it was an interesting and thought provoking read :)

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: May. 14th, 2016 01:41 pm (UTC)
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When I wrote this, I knew that if I was going to bash groups, I needed to bash them all equally :) So it's good that you feel personally attacked on this one, because I also attack Christians, Conservatives, atheists, agnostics, and myself ("cultural appropriator"). Just as it's easy to dismiss Christians as "right-wing bigots," pagans also hear demeaning comments about their faith, atheists have a rep for being assholes, etc. I made an effort to not only repeat the stereotypes I find myself thinking, but to include those likely to be applicable to my readers, rather than just preaching to the choir, so to speak.

So thanks for the vote, and I'm tremendously complimented that this riled you a bit, and I really appreciate you sharing your personal faith in response!

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orockthro

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from: orockthro
date: May. 14th, 2016 12:43 pm (UTC)
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There are a loooot of really great lines in this one. But I think this one is my favorite. " I know everything will resolve in dust, that we are all temporary..."
The first two sections, Christians and Mark the NRA man, were fantastic and funny and pointed, and the second half a good reminder.
This was very, very good. :)

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: May. 14th, 2016 01:42 pm (UTC)
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Thanks very much - and thanks for the excellent feedback!

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Murielle

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from: murielle
date: May. 15th, 2016 06:56 am (UTC)
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I admit, I bristled as I read the first words. But I have loved so much of your work here I kept reading. I have made no secret about my faith, though I have not shared how some things I have read in Idol have cut me to the core. Why would I? Except I just did, to you, after reading your entry. Why? Because you tried to be fair, and I respect that. In fact I am grateful for it. You express an understanding that prejudice, bigotry hurts no matter who is the recipient, and that there is no justice in pre-judging anyone.

A very powerful piece. Thank you for your compassion--I think you are a very good Buddhist.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: May. 16th, 2016 04:07 pm (UTC)
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Thank you very much, I'm really honored to hear your thoughts. It's such a weird dichotomy, to see ourselves as others see us, and to get lumped (in bad ways) into the tribe we're proud to belong to.

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apictureofaman

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from: apictureofaman
date: May. 15th, 2016 12:35 pm (UTC)
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A powerful entry. I admit, I read through it all twice and thought, "Yeah, that sounds about right." And maybe I should have been riled up to be tangentially called out for my smug, sharp, self-satisfied life, but ultimately I "can't be bothered." ;-) (Which isn't exactly true. If anything, I'm envious of that lightning bolt clarity. But it sounded good?). Fantastic work, as always.

(Also: enjoyed your other entry, just not going to comment directly on it while it's still public. Hooray for paranoia!)

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: May. 16th, 2016 04:08 pm (UTC)
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Thank you very much! Yeah, I tried to be an equal-opportunity offender :)

Are you still in the place where they're building the big new stadium?

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The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors

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from: halfshellvenus
date: May. 16th, 2016 06:23 am (UTC)
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You certainly rounded out all the stereotypes here, and it's interesting that most of us recognize the behavior you're describing... except for our own group. The behavior isn't always true for every member of the group, but it often is.

I wouldn't say that agnostics can't be bothered, exactly. I think most of us truly do not believe a higher power exists... but we're okay with YOU believing that, or not, whichever the case may be.

And with combining Ganesh with Buddhism, if you want to. :)

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: May. 16th, 2016 04:09 pm (UTC)
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I'm so glad people from every group I slander are weighing in :)

I started as an agnostic, but I think seeing daily faith practices in Asia influenced me quite a bit.

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lriG rorriM

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from: lrig_rorrim
date: May. 16th, 2016 03:44 pm (UTC)
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I love this piece for the way it manages to make folks (including me) nod along and smile and laugh and then, at one point or another, wince, because heeeeey that judgement is being pointed at us (me) now. It's a perfect fit for the prompt, and some stellar writing to get so many disparate people (including yourself!) in there.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: May. 16th, 2016 04:10 pm (UTC)
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Thanks! Yeah, it's an indiscriminate mauling :)

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drwex

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from: drwex
date: May. 16th, 2016 05:50 pm (UTC)
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I said, “People should take care of themselves.”

<3 you THIS MUCH for that one. But no, I don't think you need to bash "all" because otherwise I (Jew) have somehow escaped your notice and i will not ask my Hindu friends how they feel. There are too many anyway for "all" to be meaningful. So you select the ones you want to cut and that's OK but I think the grouping at the end is the weakest bit of an otherwise good and personal entry. I also think this would work as a spoken word piece.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Jun. 20th, 2016 02:48 am (UTC)
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It's funny, I have negative feelings about individual Jews I know but I don't think I have a negative overall-Jewish stereotype, so it didn't occur to me! I don't know enough yet about Hinduism to know whether my negative stereotypes are rooted in religion, Indian politics/caste/class/tribal issues, or a mix, so I left it out, along with the Jains and the Sikhs :) Thanks - I should consider doing this one live!

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millysdaughter

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from: millysdaughter
date: May. 16th, 2016 05:53 pm (UTC)
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Ouch

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prog_schlock

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from: prog_schlock
date: May. 16th, 2016 10:13 pm (UTC)
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One of the things that I like about how you approached this is that you are talking about politics and religion at the ground level. I think people often separate their beliefs from the effect those beliefs have on other people. How awful must it be for children who are discovering things about themselves to know that they'll be rejected by their parents if they reveal what they're discovering. How awful is it that there would be a community of people there to support the parents who cast out their child? The insistence on adhering to the belief at the expense of real humans is shocking and appalling to me.

Not that I'm saying having beliefs is bad, just that context matters and, furthermore, a belief that actually causes harm to people is, perhaps, one that should be rejected out of hand.

Of course, I'm to the left of pretty much everyone in politics, so what the hell do I know? I just want people, you know, treating each other the way they wish to be treated. Maybe most people want to be abused and hurt and that's why they treat other people that way.

Great entry.

This song is the song I'm going to share even though there's only the most tenuous connection to the entry (specifically, I think a lot of these people are wrong, but that's sort of not what the song is about):

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kick_galvanic, zagzagael, skull_theatre

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from: bleodswean
date: May. 16th, 2016 11:23 pm (UTC)
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This is so amazingly well-written. You hit it out of the park with the ending and I'm a sucker for a killing line.

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C.x

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from: itsjustc
date: May. 21st, 2016 07:25 pm (UTC)
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I enjoyed reading this and it was very well written.

I too was prickled when I read it but having read all the comments before mine, I feel that you've replied well and said why you said the things you did and I'm happy with your answers xxx

Great piece of writing xx

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Jun. 20th, 2016 02:45 am (UTC)
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Thank you very much :)

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Don't call me "Dubby"!

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from: the_dark_snack
date: Jan. 5th, 2017 10:57 am (UTC)
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Happy Birthday!

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Jan. 8th, 2017 12:30 pm (UTC)
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Thank you!

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