Where is My Religious Liberty?


     My faith is embodied…

It believes that the most intimate connection with another consenting adult is a divine right.

It believes that the sacred capacity to gestate a new life is a blessed and totally autonomous covenant between an individual and their conscience, god or God.

It believes that gender is holy, is not a choice, and that it is revealed by, with and to the individual.

It believes that ability is relative, individual, valid and unshamable.

     My faith is counter colonial…

It believes that black history is ongoing American history that is more than slavery, poverty and incarceration.

It believes we can never atone for native genocide but we have the power to change the future in relationship with the first people of this land.

It believes that Asia and Africa are continents not people and the people on them are all unique with unique names and cultures.

It believes that whiteness is not supreme.

     My faith is equity…

It believes in public, unhoused, section 8, Medicaid
It believes in rent, not own, gig work and uninsured
It believes there is enough of this planet to share…if we don’t destroy it
It believes that the future is not a commodity.

     My faith is inclusive of not exclusive to God…

It believes in gospel music shared and received not co-opted or copied.
It believes there is no language that is too much trouble to find so people can understand.
It believes in prayer, meditation, and silence.
It believes in temples, shrines, forests, and storefronts.
It believes in good without any god at all.

My faith is all of this and more in the face of religious bigots who cry victim
as they trample over all others
claiming victory over a planet they abuse
over people they ignore
over ideas they fear
over possibilities they can’t understand.

Where is my religious liberty in this world of politics as God,
and God as politics?
Where dogma becomes dictate
And creed is constitution.

Maybe my faith can be bigger than all of that?

With the mandate in its name
Declaring that we are united as one human kind
not as one kind of human all the same,
Affirming our existence in a vast universe
in which we all have the right of life and love and time and death.

Maybe this fragile flawed evolving new faith of mine is the religious liberty
I am searching so hard to find.


I Was Just Kidding…

Sen. David Purdue (R-Ga.)…another one

When I first encountered blatant racism as a child in elementary school, my first reaction was to cry.  This didn’t win me any friends or empathy.  In fact, it simply garnered more teasing and bullying.  I was already a bookish kid who dressed funny and wasn’t afraid to use his adult vocabulary.  I was also the only black child in my grade at the time.  When I was physically threatened and called “fag”, I learned that I could literally outrun everyone in the school.  This was my golden ticket out from under the thumb of the school bullies for that transgression.  Still, I couldn’t outrun the racism.

There was a turning point for me in those early years.  I recognized that being unhappy wasn’t working for me so rather than get sad, I tried on anger.  I learned that if I couldn’t outrun the racism, I could shout it down.  At the very least, I could make it public.  I remember distinctly calling it out once and bringing it to the teacher’s attention.  But when we were brought before the teacher, the other child said four words that were like a magic code:

“I was just kidding”

This satisfied the teacher that this was just schoolyard taunting and she sent us away.

I will never forget how that white teacher’s ignorance enabled my harm and left me totally vulnerable and unresolved.  The teacher’s solution to the problem in the moment was simple: boys will be boys…harmless schoolyard play.  But it was not that simple. 

It is still not that simple.  This behavior is on full display between adults in our government.  This week, Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) didn’t just mispronounce Sen. Kamala Harris’ (D-Ca.) name, he was publicly mocking her for it.  It was childish, pathetic, racist and a deliberate tool of otherization.  And it was casual…like something he would do or say anywhere. When his campaign defended him by saying “Senator Perdue simply mispronounced Senator Harris’ name, and he didn’t mean anything by it. He was making an argument against the radical socialist agenda…[1]” they all but said, “he was just kidding.”  And of course, he was not (Watch video clip)

This is the oldest trick of the bigot, act like your bigotry isn’t really a thing.  I suppose that this is easy to do if you don’t think that your racism is really a thing.  If, as I suppose is the case with Sen. Perdue, you’ve never thought about yourself in the context of racism or interrogated your behaviors or beliefs to understand where you might actually be wrong or backward or racist.

But then, he’s enabled by the greatest bigot kidder of them all…the President of the United States.  The president was just kidding when he disparaged women and joked about molesting them; he was just kidding when he encouraged Russia; he was just kidding when he mocked a disabled journalist; he was just kidding about the kids in cages, the white supremacists, the pre-existing conditions, liberating Michigan and Virginia…

Basically, he’s just been kidding for four years.

But this kind of kidding does real and lasting harm and lands in the ears and hearts of people who aren’t kidding who are armed and dangerous; consider the threats to both Michigan and Virginia’s governors.  Making a joke of someone’s name paints them as a perpetual outsider, a non-belonger…a foreigner.  Sen. Perdue’s message is loud and clear: Sen. Harris is just another n**ger like Obama who doesn’t belong.  According to him, she is going to continue to destroy our (read white people’s) country and you should all be afraid of her.

Just kidding? Like hell.

Sen. Perdue and every politician who publicly mocks another based on their heritage, ability, gender, sexual orientation or racial identity should have their pay suspended indefinitely until they can be voted out of office.  After all we (including every Kamala and Keisha and LaTonya) are paying their salaries and none of us want to pay for stupid bigots.

I am not kidding.


[1]John Burke on Twitter.