Called To Stand Against Racism — MORMON SOPRANO

On Sunday night The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued an official statement in response to the recent violence in Charlottesville – decrying racism. I blogged about it here. Beginning that same night, and spanning through Tuesday morning a very unanticipated thing happened. Mormon racists. I’m depressed to learn there are a bunch […]

via Called To Stand Against Racism — MORMON SOPRANO

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Civil War II

The second U.S. civil war began in 2015 as a war of words and the polarization of political parties. No one even took one candidate in particular seriously until he unexpectedly won his disunified party’s nomination. He rose on the back of extremism, repeatedly touting “the good old days” when words were countered with physical violence.  Voters watched in horror as the candidate’s xenophobic rhetoric turned to  phallic comparisons and graphic misogyny.  But many still supported him. Some embraced the candidate’s boldness, while others claimed that if elected, the candidate would quickly tone it down and become more presidential. But this was an election year unlike any we had ever seen, and I was embarrassed for our country. I was sure that voters on both sides of the aisle would have been able to see Donald Trump for the narcissistic autocrat that he is; it seemed pretty obvious to me. By October, though, it became clear that no one cared enough about violence, xenophobia, mysogynism, or even democracy. All of the Trump supporters I talked to wanted just one thing: to keep Clinton out, and even though she won the popular vote by more than three million, most voters seemed content to let the defunct electoral college rule the day. Instead of blaming Russia or gerrymandering, each political side was more than happy to point fingers at the failures of the other.

As 2017 unfolded with the White House in complete disarray, our commander-in-chief drew the battle lines. He was not to blame for the troubles besieging the presidency, he  of said,  it was Obama,  Clinton, or the Democrats.  Despite his demonstrated lack of leadership, like soldiers preparing for war, politicians fell immediately into a carefully strategized construction with one group on the right and the other on the left; the front lines running directly through the house and the senate. Continue reading

I don’t know, and I don’t care

It’s headlined in national news this morning–the first thing I saw when I checked the news app on my phone.  I was shocked. Not because the news itself is shocking, but that the news media felt it was important enough to position the story first before the North Korean Threat, #45’s latest antics, or the recent attack on French soldiers in Paris. I wasn’t sure that my news app is actually smart enough to know that I’m Mormon, and therefore any news about church members would be that important to me, so I went to my PC and checked AOL, which I almost never use. It appeared third after #45’s latest antics in relation to North Korea and the attack in Paris. Maybe the media actually does think that this is super important news.

So here it is: Continue reading

This.

Digging around on the internet, looking at other LDS democrat postings, I was reminded of Mormonsandgays.org, a website created by church leadership, which, I thought had been removed following the Nov. 2015 handbook change. One of my gay LDS friends had been featured on that site, and I wondered if it was still there.

I punched in the old URL, and was immediately taken to LDS.org. I was relieved to see that it had not been removed from the internet, but assimilated into the church’s official website. Mormons and Gays has become Mormon and Gay, and church leadership has lovingly taken the site and welcomed it just as I wish we could lovingly welcome LGBT members and investigators into our congregations.

In response to my post from two days ago, I found this:

It says everything I hope families and leaders of LGBTQ members will hear regarding  Savannah’s situation and others like hers.

For Savannah’s sake, and the sake of those experiencing discrimination in their wards and stakes, please share liberally.

Just a Matter of Time

 

Coming on the heels of Utah’s gay pride celebration, I guess the timing could have been worse. This video showed up on my Facebook news feed this morning:

Of course, I was dismayed. I still feel, as I have for many years, that we have a long way to go when it comes to being inclusive at church. Unfortunately, technology has far surpassed church officials when it comes to bringing change to our sacrament meetings, and cell phones are a great example.

I usually use my phone to read conference talks or scriptures as the sacrament is passed, or to supplement what is being said over the pulpit. It was simply a matter of time, though, before someone managed to catch good intentions gone wrong over the LDS pulpit on video. I don’t think that was Savannah’s original plan, though. One commentator to the post seemed to have some inside knowledge to the reason Savannah had her testimony filmed: Continue reading

Happy Native American Day!

Columbus Day is a government holiday that needs to be done away with.

Depending on the state you live in, it is a state holiday as well.  Less than half of the states in the U.S. still consider it a state holiday, but Utah is one of those states.  This means that not only do mail-workers, bankers, and other federal government workers get today off, but schools are closed and all Utah state workers get a day off too. No one else gets the day off.

Other states have gone a more logical direction, declaring it Native American Day; a more politcly correct celebration. One I can embrace whole-heartedly. Columbus Day is just an embarrassing reminder that millions of people died because someone got lost.

In honor of Native American Day, I’d like to share an autobiography written by one of my ninth-grade Navajo students while I was teaching in Page, Arizona.  I do not have a digital copy of the paper, so I  cleaned up some spelling and punctuation issues (what do you expect from a ninth grade kid, anyway?). Any words I changed are entered in brackets and I’ve added some photos and videos. Otherwise I am copying it exactly as written by my student.

The date on this paper is December 12, 2007.

I hope you’ll be as impressed as I was.

[I was born] in 1991 in Page, on April 3. I basically live a regular rez life–what people be calling it around here. We have our own slang words, our own accent, our problems in the Navajo place. It’s the typical rez: old hogan, old house, broke down cars.  In other words–ghetto. 

The rez is just like the streets. People die, drama, fights, gangs and drugs.  Poverty, violence, struggle  and the poor mostly reside on our reservation. Tons of people live without running water and electricity, but we still reside in an old-way society with a little urban in it. The good thing is that Navajos still speak their native language and know their culture and still believe in the old ways. Our mothers and fathers still talk to us in our tongue and they want us to learn to pass [it] on.

Then the bad thing is that no one ever quits getting high once they get into it. To this day my homies still come around drunk asking me to drink or to get high. Then I have to live with that every day and don’t get drunk or high.

 

[. . .] my father ran out on me when I was born and I don’t really know the story about that. I just heard that he was a drunk and spent most of his money on alcohol. Right now I have two little brothers, two little sisters and one older sister. Ever since, I’ve lived with my grandparents, six of my uncles, four of my [aunts] and my grandparents.

 

I had always seen drugs around. Ever since I was the age of five, I realized what it was and what it did. My uncles were alcoholics and my aunts used to party a lot when I was a kid, so I always saw it. I guess it was normal to see drugs around, to know it killed some of m relatives and sent my uncles to do time in the pen. My grand parents always talk to me not to do drugs but there was no use; it was an every night thing. I always [saw] my uncles fight because they were drunk. My oldest uncle named John is locked up now; and he did eight years and is coming back soon.

 

Well as I got older, I started to get into drugs and I used it and abused it. At the age thirteen I started drinking, getting drunk and high. I started to drop out of school an all I did was get high and drunk. I had to go to summer school to pass my grade. I kept on getting high and that’s all I thought life was all about, but I was wrong.

 

I did stress about myself and why I didn’t have a dad. I was stressing about how it would have been if he would be around. In reality, I found out that it was a stupid reason and he was a stranger in my life, and I couldn’t do anything about it.

 

As I got older I kind of got tired of partying because I was doing it every night. I tried to stop but peer pressure sucks, and my friends keep persuading me, saying “we’re going to have a good time.” Then I find myself drunk with my friends again. Also I’d find myself with a pipe in my hand, trying to catch a high. I guess I was really addicted for a while. Then all of a sudden I find myself locked up in a juvenile facility where I was locked up for criminal damage and minor consumption. The police also identified me as a Crip gang member, which I had started with my friends.

 

Native Warrior tat

We named our gang, our clique, Native Crips, also known as NC, behind the Warrior Society in the prison system . When I started the gang I just told my friends we should start a group so we could back each other up and watch one anothers’ backs out of it because w had problems with the Bloods, AKA BitterSpring Bloods. We had problems with them. We always did.  Therefore, they didn’t like us, we don’t like them.

 

As we started to get known, hangin’ around in a group wearing our blue colored bandanas, I honestly never thought the cops  would ever get involved with our so-called gang. As we started to drink, we got arrested and we threw signs in the cops’ faces. And they knew.  Ever since then, they [could] also identify the bloods, so they knew we had problems.

 

As I was saying, when I got locked up, I didn’t like it.  I started thinking about my life and if I were going to continue what I was doing. I would end up dead or in prison. I knew that, and I looked and thought about my family members that were locked up or that died because of drugs and what it does to you. So when I got released, the judge gave me a year of probation and told me not to hand out with my friends because we were known as The Crips. Then I thought deeply; if I continue this behavior with the gangs, I wouldn’t go nowhere in life. I thought if the gangs keep growing, that people’s lives are going to end because of colors, and I don’t want that for my people. Especially the next generation.

I don’t remeber the name of the student, but I hope that he meant what he said about getting out and getting clean.  It’s not an easy thing to do when you live on the Rez.  Especially since the rez life is so hard and leaving it means leaving your identity as a part of the Navajo culture.

When I was in college, I minored in geography.  I learned about the American holocaust from a class on the geography of American history.  The video below says that over 19 million people died “according to conservative estimates.”  I remember reading estimates closer to 80 million, counting both continents (Donald W. Meinig, The Shaping of America, 1986).  This video  explains what I am talking about.  It’s half an hour long, but well worth the time.

 

 

 

Civility

“I hope this means that teens will find more acceptance and love in their homes. We don’t need more homeless [or suicidal] teens.” -Steve Evans

By Common Consent, a Mormon Blog

I watched Elder Oaks’ Saturday afternoon remarks with great interest; being somewhat familiar with talks he has given over the last few years, I anticipated that he would address the issue of same-sex marriage, as he has done in the past. And while same-sex marriage was one of the subtexts that ran throughout his address, Elder Oaks’ topic was instead on the challenge of loving others and living with differences. He focused on a key question: why is it so difficult to have Christlike love for one another? He addressed that question and by so doing, offered counsel that was heartily welcome if not new.

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Some Truths About God’s Love

I’m moving back to Utah soon, and as the move approaches, my anxiety increases.  I am seriously nervous about the way my people who call themselves Christian, seem to be seriously lacking in the pure love of Christ. I count myself among them.  I have been so frustrated lately by the amount of judgment I hear, and lack of tolerance I see, from members of my own faith. It’s hard to want to go back into that culture.

We place judgment on others and call them evil because they are different from us. We fear what we don’t understand. We forget that we are all children of the same Heavenly Father, and that he loves us all equally.

 

. . . If you love me keep my commandments

Keeping the first of the greatest commandments should come easy if you are truly a Christian, but the second of the two greatest commandments is not so easy for many (including myself). Continue reading

Confessions of a Third-Grade Bigot

My father often tells a story about an event that happened when I was quite young.  And while the story has nothing to do with me, it has everything to do with my understanding of literacy, and so I tell it too.   It seems that a man came from out of town on business. Dad met him at an informal reception in the workplace, and upon learning that my father was Polish, the man began telling Polack jokes.  This particular situation can be easily compared to the same man visiting, and upon meeting a particularly beautiful blonde colleague; he begins telling dumb blonde jokes. My father might have laughed at the first basically benign joke, but as the jokes continued, and as time went on, became more distasteful and bigoted, my father was no longer smiling.  Dad knew that he could have just left the room; instead, he waited for a lull in the barrage, and asked pointedly, “Do you speak Polish?”  When the man answered negatively, Dad asked “How does it feel to be dumber than a Polack?”  This put an effective stop to the jokes.  This particular story has stayed with me throughout my life.  My dad tells the story often, always in response to some particularly bigoted statement by a family member or acquaintance.  I think the story stays with me for the same reason. I mean, how can a monolingual individual possibly be more intelligent than one who is bilingual? But I think now, too, of the gender-related as well as stereotypical issues with dumb-blonde jokes.  How can we use language, gender, hair color, skin color, or country of origin as a measure of worth?  Why do we?

A similar story is told by my mother, always in response to the assumption that she must be bilingual.  Both of my maternal grandparents were immigrants. My grandfather, an illegal German immigrant who jumped ship from a merchant vessel when it landed in California. My Grandmother came as an Austrian refugee of the Holocaust.  The two met and married in California, and spoke fluent, albeit different, dialects of German in their home.  When my mother was born, local school officials suggested that speaking two languages, one at home, one in public, would confuse my mother (despite the fact that her two sisters, both more than a decade older than her, were bilingual). So my mother was raised speaking English-only.  I feel that my mom was deprived of some important linguistic skills that could have opened so many doors for her.

I think of the general attitudes and discourses regarding literacy today, and I can see how closely related they are to the attitudes and discourses regarding the first languages of my grandparents, and the value they placed on learning English as direct evidence of their worthiness to become citizens of the United States.  Grandma spoke a dialect of German commonly referred to as Platdeutsch (Low German), while Grandpa spoke Hochdeutsch (High German). Grandma, being painfully aware of the disadvantaged classification of her dialect, made every effort to adapt her skills to accommodate the more privileged dialect of Hochdeutsch.  She knew how this advantaged categorization of language affected the way others classified her, so she reverted to her Platdeutsch only when arguing with my grandfather as a point of irritation.  Grandma’s painful awareness of the privileging of dialects led her to insist on the use of “proper English” at all times, just as she insisted that my mother never leave the house without gloves on.  Both modes of communication, the one verbal, the other visual, were distinct determiners of status in the eyes of my Grandmother.  Much of this insistence on “proper,” albeit arbitrarily defined behavior, is still evident in the values expressed by my mother today, especially when it comes to language.

As a child I came to adopt these same values, insisting that there was just one correct way to communicate, and that “proper” English must be used as a method of maintaining societal integrity.  When I think about those attitudes in relation to my own life, I think most specifically of a field trip that I participated in when I was in the third grade. This particular field trip was significant to me at the time, and has stayed significant as part of my growth as a literate woman. In retrospect, it has become even more significant to me as a way of understanding differences in backgrounds and cultures that contribute to the growth of a literate America.

This was the year my family moved from a middle-income neighborhood in “white American suburbia” to a rented home in Lark, a tiny defunct mining town that housed a

variety of elderly widows, Mexicans, Navajos, and single-parent families.  My parents were attracted to this location because of its low rent, and more importantly, its proximity to the property they were planning to build a new home on in an exclusive gated community.  In my new school, I was among the minority—a child from one of only two intact white middle-class families in the whole town. We only lived there for two years, but those two years shaped my early attitudes about reading, writing, and communication in the English language. Continue reading