Gathering up all my brave.

Dear friends,

For the last few weeks, I’ve been acutely attuned to the distressing situation that has unfolded a mere 90 miles away from me in Ferguson, Missouri. I’ve followed social media intently, I’ve devoured information on news sites, and I’ve given a lot of thought to what it means to me as a Missourian, as an American, as a mother, as a human who cares passionately about social justice and civil rights.

I’ll refrain from drawing conclusions at this moment about precisely what happened between the police officer and the young Michael Brown. There are ongoing investigations and I suspect we’ll be years down the road before we have anything close to “clarity” on how the particulars of the incident and the aftermath reflect on our system of policing and justice, not to mention our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

But here’s what I know. Whether we acknowledge it or not, there are distinctly different realities of life in America based on race, gender, age, sexual orientation, education, wealth and geographic location. What one man calls justifiable force, another calls oppression and discrimination. What one man deems “justice,” another deems “just us.” Socio-economic factors create a unique “lens” for each of us and until we can view the world through multiple lenses, many of them foreign or possibly distasteful to us, we cannot begin to approach “truth.” To say otherwise is to ignore that evil and corruption thrive despite our best intentions, or to fall prey to the myopia that threatens to permanently disable our nation.

***

So it is through this dismaying, nay disorienting, perspective that I am saddened to tell you Mr. Mom and I recently received devastating news. We lost our lawsuit.

Our attorney sent us the judge’s verdict a couple of weeks ago with an email message that said “It will make you want to throw up.”

Not in the “gag me” way you might refer to when something is annoying. In the “fall to your knees and retch” way until you are hollow-eyed and certain the injury is mortal.

I haven’t filled in many of the blanks for you about the condemnation trial we attended in April. I honestly haven’t been able. I felt in my gut it didn’t go “our way” and I guess I wanted a few months of denial between what I thought was the reality of the trial and the resulting ruling from the judge. But reality gut-punched us recently and we still haven’t caught our breath.

Losing our case means our land remains inaccessible (except via a 10-mile hike through the adjoining national forest). It also means our family is responsible for the Unfriendly’s legal fees. If their testimony is to be believed, they have spent three times what we have. At one point in the trial, their attorney referred to one of our claims as “outrageous.” During a break shortly thereafter, our attorney whispered to me “The only thing I’ve heard in court today that’s outrageous are the fees their damn attorney is charging them!”

We will appeal the ruling. It is our opinion, and our attorneys’, that the judge ignored the instructions handed down from the Appellate Court. That she ruled in contradiction to case law. We won our last appeal when the prior judge contradicted case law, so who knows?

***

Late into the night when we first heard the news, when Mr. Mom and I lay in bed, silent, unable to fathom the future, financially or emotionally, I finally said this:

“Listen. I understand. I understand the inclination to become fatally cynical. To succumb to rage. To believe that everything you’ve thought to be true about life is a lie. I feel it right now with an intensity I cannot describe. I am angry and I am disillusioned and I want to hurt somebody equal to our pain.

But here’s the thing. Our loss represents land and money. Land and money. We are not angry or cynical because our child is dead through injustice. We are not suing because some big corporation poisoned our water and gave us cancer. We are losing land and money. In the meantime, we are managing to put our children through college and they are by all accounts thriving. We have a strong and loving marriage.

We are losing land and money. Let’s remember what we still have before we risk sinking with this ship.”

***

So, I’m thinking of Glennon Melton and her words of wisdom. I’m gathering up all my brave and trying to do the next right thing. It ain’t easy, believe me. I’m not nearly as kind and patient as I want to be. I have long stretches of despair and regret and bitterness. I’m clinging to a faith that love and hope prevail in the end, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. I’m limping on tender feet, hurt beyond words, unsure how one keeps from drowning in the tsunami of fear and trouble and worry that rises over us.

Still, I refuse to end with anything other than gratitude. Despite this very big thing that has gone grievously wrong for far too many years, so much has gone right. I know it. I see it. I feel it. And if I can gather up enough brave, maybe I can trust in it.

With gratitude {for, as always, the partner that makes this journey bearable},

Joan, who welcomes your good thoughts and kind words but asks that you not dwell on injustice. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that justice is in the eyes of the beholder and what feels like a travesty to us is heralded as right and proper by the Unfriendlys. Please don’t tell me how shocked you are or how unfair this seems. Life is ridiculously unfair to legions of souls every day, most of them far more afflicted than I. If you have anything to offer, offer us equanimity, in the belief we will rest in it, heal in it, and pass on more than our share to those around us.

A few thoughts for the chicken-buyers and the chicken-boycotters.

Dear friends,

I’ve spent the last 48 hours alternately enraged and saddened. And disgusted and angry. And puzzled and introspective.

And when I feel this way, I only have one solution: write.

This is not a topic I particularly want to tackle, but it’s surely on my heart and my heart is heavy. So here are the best words on the topic I could manage to write.

I have 343 “friends” on Facebook. They span all ages (from friends of my teenagers all the way to friends of my parents). They span all religious beliefs (I can think of no less than four faith traditions represented among my group, and likely dozens of denominations.) Both genders, many races, single and married, straight and homosexual. Right wing, left wing, in the middle.

And, over the last two days, a good number of my 343 friends carried the divisions in our political and civic life to the pages of Facebook in a silly skirmish over the beliefs of a man who heads a chicken restaurant. How in the world a culture war (ideological war?) ended up being fought in the parking lots of Chick-Fil-A’s across America — while Facebook pulsated with battle updates — makes no sense to me.

But what I do understand is that my friends are divided, and some of them were downright gleeful in staking out their positions on Chick-Fil-A at the expense of those on the other side. And I’m talking about “the other side” both ways, folks.

I don’t want to rehash the whole story. I have an entirely different point I want to make that has nothing to do with Chick-Fil-A. But first, just so you understand, I fully support the civil rights of homosexuals. And I don’t find homosexuals or their lifestyles worthy of condemnation.

But that’s not my point either. My point is I support the rights of homosexuals, but some of my friends and family don’t. We have honest differences. I have a hard time understanding their point of view (to be frank, it feels like bigotry to me). And I’m sure they have a hard time understanding my point of view. (I can only guess it feels to them like I’m willfully disobeying God, which is a sacrilege.)

But whether they’re bigots or I’m unfaithful to God is not the point. The point is — do we really have to stake out our territory on Facebook with snarky, self-righteous posts that do nothing but inflame and diminish us all?

When a chicken-buyer says he just stood up for families and God’s word (with four exclamation points after the announcement), does that help the other side move toward any increment of respectful dialogue or reconciliation?

When a chicken-boycotter declares the chicken-buyers are bigots (in all caps) and responsible for perpetuating hate in our world, does that help?

Of course not. So why do we do it? It feels like we are afraid, but I can’t figure out what the chicken-buyers and the chicken-boycotters really have to fear from each other. We’re “friends” for Pete’s sake! (Not to mention neighbors in many cases.) If God will stand in judgment of heterosexuals and homosexuals alike, can’t we just let God be the judge? And until that day, can’t we agree to disagree, can’t we remain friends or at least respectful acquaintances, without hurling our blatant fear and/or disgust for alternative viewpoints at each others’ faces on a social networking site?

I’m as susceptible as anyone to the tendency to jump on strident, bandwagon posts about social issues. I made a couple of Facebook comments in support of the chicken-boycotters to friends who share my viewpoint. But when I couldn’t think of a single conciliatory thing to say to the chicken-buyers, I was suddenly, startlingly stopped in my tracks. Facebook is an interesting and powerful forum, but it’s no place to have a serious discussion over deeply held beliefs with my “friends.” Because last time I checked, I’m not snarky with them in person. I don’t bait them, and I don’t gig them just to gig them. I don’t peer down my nose at them, and when we disagree, we respectfully disagree. Somehow, all that gets lost on Facebook, where political and ideological posturing is rampant. And isn’t it sad . . . the posturing among “friends?” We must be doing it, I think, because we feel powerless to be heard elsewhere. I could probably make an assertion here about Washington gridlock and partisan politics as contributing factors to our feelings of powerlessness, but that train of thought clearly won’t get us anywhere. If it would, we wouldn’t be throwing tomatoes at each other on Facebook.

So I’m going to close with one more thought. It is from my heart and I’m trying as hard as I can to express it with love and without enmity for those whose views are different from mine.

A few months ago, I started reading a blog called Raising my Rainbow. It’s the first “Mommy-blog” to chronicle the “daily joys, struggles, and, sometimes, embarrassments” of raising a gender-nonconforming son. What that means is the author has a little boy named CJ who wants to be a little girl. At age 5. Is he gay? CJ’s Mom doesn’t know. And through her candid, heart-wrenching posts, I’ve learned the differences between sex, gender and sexuality. As CJ’s mom says, “Sex is what’s in your pants, it’s your genitalia. Gender is what’s in your brain, it tells you that you are female or male. Sexuality is what’s in your heart, it tells you who you love.”

I try to imagine being CJ’s mother, raising a boy who wants to be a girl and probably doesn’t yet know his sexuality. And at the very moment I imagine being CJ’s mother, I can’t imagine wanting anything for him except all the love and respect in the world. I don’t even know CJ. But after reading about him for a few months, I still want all the love and respect in the world for him, whether he grows up to be gay or not.

Isn’t that what we all want?

It’s what I want. It’s what I believe Matthew Shepard wanted and Tyler Clementi wanted. I bet it’s what Dan Cathy wants.

And instead of talking about ways to grow love and share it all around, we’re bellowing and sniping and posturing and pronouncing our way to a world where CJ and his family has to duck and cover.

Did the entertainment on Facebook yesterday feel worth it to you? It didn’t to me. And that is why I stopped commenting and started thinking.

With gratitude {for love, in whatever small doses it is shared, anywhere it is shared, among friends or strangers},

Joan, who takes friendship seriously, apologizes if she has seemed condescending to any of her friends, and invites respectful comments from all viewpoints toward the goal of greater understanding