Righteous Gentiles.

I wrote a much longer diatribe about today’s events, but really, it all boils down to this:

I am heartbroken over my church’s silence on today’s Executive Order regarding refugees and immigration. I hope they break that silence soon.

I’ve been attending a class on Judaism, and this past Monday’s class we discussed the Holocaust. Our teacher told us about “Righteous Gentiles” who didn’t even think twice about helping Jews. They acted because they had courage and compassion. He told us about the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem, and I struggled to hold back tears as he spoke.

It’s past time for me and my fellow Mormons to start acting like Righteous Gentiles, and to speak out against the blatant religious discrimination that happened today.

It’s past time for me and my fellow Mormons to appeal to the elected Mormons in Congress that this is the kind of battle they should suit up for–more so than any other political issue that might cross their committees.

It’s past time for me and my fellow Mormons to start acting like the Christians we claim to be and stop being afraid of refugees who are already put through an arduous vetting process.

It’s past time for me and my fellow Mormons to want to be Righteous Gentiles.

I’ve spent most of my life responding to accusations that, as a Mormon, I’m not Christian. I am.

But tonight, and in the days to come, I want to be a Righteous Gentile.

My Judaism teacher gave us this article to read. He said it is one of the best articles he’s come across regarding how to ensure another Holocaust does not happen. Please read and share.




I Can Write: A Letter to My Elected Officials, #1.

I’ve reflected a lot the past three months about what I could possibly do to ease my worried mind. Emily Ellsworth and Ana Navarro have reminded me that I don’t have to just sit back and worry. I can do something. And then today, Mette Ivie Harrison reminded me that of the small things I can do, writing is a place to start.

So I wrote something, and sent it to my senators and congressman. I plan to make this a habit. When I write to them, I will post those letters here, because as Harrison wrote, maybe I can “give people courage and the promise that the future they hope for will come if they work for it.” Ellsworth’s advice for writing elected officials suggested making it personal, to not use form letters. So I made it personal.

Dear Senator [—-],

I am a survivor of domestic abuse.

When I was 19, I became engaged to and moved in with a man who hit me often, and verbally degraded me daily. The black eyes and bruises healed, but even now, 23 years later, his words at times bubble up and make me question my value.

At the time, I had social privilege—friends who sheltered me when I found courage to leave, and a family who took me back with not judgment.

My family had economic privilege—my family lived in Nebraska, but I was an 18-hour drive away. My dad’s job in the Air Force was such that he could take three days to come get me. His career was such that he had enough money to rent a U-Haul, pay for hotel rooms on the trip, pay for gas money, and buy meals as he rescued me. And when we returned to Nebraska, he and my mom had a house big enough to fit me back in.

My family had insurance privilege—when I was ready to admit I needed professional help to heal from the abuse, they found me a program that offered individual and group therapy. Without that advantage, I’m certain I would not be the successful teacher, writer, and musician that I am today.

As I established my own career, I enjoy those same privileges—social, economic, insurance—and when the words of my abuser crash into me at inopportune times, I can call friends or family for support, and I have on occasion gone back into therapy for “tune-ups” to make sure I don’t allow the abuse of the past dictate my present or future.

The rumored cuts to the Violence Against Women Act from President Trump’s team trouble me. I did not need those resources because I had privilege. Other women do not. I  can imagine the helplessness that women in abusive situations feel. All I had to do to get help was swallow my pride and ask my family. Other women don’t have that luxury, and it should be our societal duty to help them escape and then heal from abuse.

I plead with you to seriously consider the effects of cutting the programs suggested by President Trump. Talk to women and children who have left abusers in the past. Please put a face on these programs at risk of elimination, and then please, find a way to keep them.

If we as a country stand by and allow resources such as these to be cut, I fear we have lost sight of the most basic truths from our constitution: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Women in abusive relationships have none of these advantages. Please make sure they will in the future.

Thank you for your time.

Of Good Report or Praiseworthy.

I have a half dozen political blog posts sitting in my drafts folder. Sitting there, unfinished. Some end after a few paragraphs, some end in the middle of words. These past six weeks have stymied my wit and eloquence every time I sit down and try to write what I’m feeling and thinking and know.

Part of the mental block is my job–I’m a teacher and I need to set an example of rational, logical thought. When I taught AP Lang and Comp, I stressed the importance of a balance in rhetoric; I didn’t allow my students to rely on pathos at the expense of logos. Yet lately when I try to write, my fingers bleed pathos from the keys to the screen, often accompanied by tears of rage or sadness.

Modeling positive behaviors aside, I know some students stumble on my blog, and while as a private citizen I have First Amendment protections, I’m aware that even posting on my personal blog from my couch, as a teacher I’m held to a higher standard of public discourse.

As I write this, two of the five presidential candidates are debating. I am not watching. I check Twitter occasionally to see sound bites and memes, commentary from people trying to convince themselves and their followers that the world might keep spinning on November 9. Part of me feels like a failure for not watching; ever since falling 2 classes short of a Poli Sci minor at BYU, I’ve felt a moral obligation to do all I can to be an informed voter. That includes watching debates. But I cannot.

The past 48 hours have filled me with sadness and panic.

Sadness: what do I say to my students? I’ve drummed into them all of 1st quarter how important it is to pay attention to the news–I didn’t think I needed a TV-MA warning on that instruction. What do I say to my newspaper staff, kids I encourage to consult the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics every time they aren’t sure about running a story? Save for the Washington Post, I’ve been disappointed in true journalism examples for my students to emulate.

Panic: Regardless of who wins, what will happen to the stock markets and economy? Can American politics recover from these toxic 18 months? In three years will public education even still exist? If not, what else can I do? If not, will I be able to home school my nieces?

Watching this debate would exacerbate that sadness and panic, so instead, I’m writing in between texts from friends who are watching the dumpster fire of a debate.

Today at church I taught a Sunday School lesson about remaining steadfast, about keeping positive and continuing to live as the world seems to burn around you. I’m struggling with that concept, whether I can actually live that way and not simultaneously take an ostrich approach to injustice and corruption.

I didn’t watch the second debate of the 2016 Presidential election. I’ll read about it, I’ll be informed from my trusted sources. But for me, to have hope for a brighter world, I need to follow Paul’s advice to the Phillippians:

“Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Phil. 4:8)

I’m certain the debate was none of those things. But actually completing a blog post and hitting publish? Pretty sure that qualifies.




Civic Engagement.

Last week, I got an email from Senator Ben Sasse (R) inviting me to a town hall at a local library. If this election has done nothing else for my political ideology, it’s shown me that listening, truly listening, to the other side is vital is we are to survive. So I decided I would go.

It was quite the experience.

First of all, I was the youngest person in the room, save for interns. Everyone else had at least 20-30 years on me. Second, the room was packed. I counted over 50 people in the main room, and they set up a satellite room with extra chairs as well. That was somewhat encouraging, except for the fact that young constituents weren’t there. That bothered me, as far as a harbinger of November is concerned. Young voters must learn how to show up.

Second, the man next to me and I had a lovely conversation, just about life experiences, nothing political. I was glad for this kind interaction with another human being, because it tempered my opinion of him later: as the senator was speaking, my neighbor said loudly, “This is bullshit. This isn’t what we came for.”If I hadn’t had a humanizing conversation with him earlier, my brain would’ve jumped into all kinds of assumptions.

(Props to the senator for not losing it. I walked away incredibly impressed with Sasse’s composure in front of a hostile audience–because it was quite hostile.)

Third, the perceived “bullshit” was basically a failure of most in attendance to read. In the email I received, it clearly stated it was a constituent services event. Sasse and his staff wanted the people in attendance to know what they could do, what kinds of direct change and actions they are capable of. The email also explicitly stated he would not use the event to discuss the election. Unfortunately, most of the people did not read that part, because when they started grumbling about why he wouldn’t endorse Trump, another man said loudly, “This is a waste of my time. I don’t even know why I came.” But then he proceeded to sit through the rest of the meeting. People, man.

Fourth, the senator wanted to know who in the room had accessed his office to “get things done.” A man spoke about a convoluted law regarding veterans’ spouses that the Senator and Congressman Brad Ashford were able to fix and arrange the needed care. No one else offered any stories about services they’ve used from the senator–I didn’t even know myself about what a senator’s staff is capable of doing until today. For that, I am glad I went.

I am also glad I went so I could hear the following, because if I hadn’t been there myself I wouldn’t believe it. A woman who appeared to be in her 70s raised her hand: “I have a women’s health care question. Why aren’t we hearing the truth about what is happening in Germany right now, with terrorists taking women and cutting off the clitoris? When will we hear about that, and if we let those people in, how are the women in the room safe?”

I’ll just let you sit with that one for a moment. (Yeah, not a health care question, m’dear.)

Senator Sasse ended the Q&A after addressing her concerns (in which he made a great point about our national security policy not really addressing non-state actors), and then excused himself to go outside and meet with the protesters–a small group of people advocating for stricter gun control laws stayed outside during his presentation. I stayed behind to talk with a staffer about education policy for a quick minute, and then left. As I left, Sasse wasn’t talking with protesters, because he was surrounded by the angry people from inside who wanted him to endorse Trump. I don’t know if he did.

I was silent during the meeting, and I only  bristled at one comment: Senator Sasse said that we aren’t teaching children the First Amendment. I spend an entire day explicitly teaching it, and an entire year reinforcing it. It’s what I do as a journalism teacher. So he challenged the audience to name the five freedoms in the First Amendment, and he seemed pleased (it not a bit surprised) when from the back I said, “Speech, press, religion, assembly and petition the government.” That was a nice moment for me.

I do not agree with Ben Sasse on probably 95% of his politics. But let me tell you how I got an email from his office about the event today: during the senate filibuster a month or so ago, I saw that he asked a question. Senators asking questions during filibusters prolongs the filibuster. He took it on the chin from his Twitter followers (he is a great follow, by the way), because they saw it as him supporting the filibuster. He said he supports debate on tough issues. On hearing other sides. I sent his office a thank you email for asking the question, and expressed my own feelings on gun control. Now I get emails from his office about events.

One of the best ways to figure out how you feel on any topic is to look at another person’s perspective of the same topic, trying so hard to reserve judgment until the end. Here’s what I learned about Ben Sasse from today’s meeting:

I don’t agree with him on everything.

I do believe that he and his staffers want to serve the people of Nebraska.

I also believe that if we continue to sit in our own echo chambers, surrounded by people who agree with us, and we remain recalcitrant to any kind of compromise, that will be our downfall. I think that was part of what the senator was trying to do today in front of a crowd that was upset at his refusal to endorse Donald Trump for president, was to find some common middle ground and remind them of the role of the legislative branch. Unfortunately, the more vocal people in attendance did not appear interested in that.

We have to start showing up. We have to start bringing our young adults. But above all else, we have to start listening with open minds and hearts if we have any hope of healing the damage this presidential campaign has done to our psyche.

What’s On Your Mind?

Some random thoughts as I have way too much (but sorely needed) down time this summer…

  1. I watched ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary “OJ: Made in America.” Compelling. Terrifying. Also made me feel a little bad for screaming at my uncle, post-verdict, when he agreed with the acquittal. Seeing the context of the entire case, the evidence, the systemic issues at play showed me the nuances that I was ignorant of 21 years ago. Although, 21 years ago, I was also pretty young and therefore, probably by default a bit ignorant in general.
  2. During last week’s filibuster in the senate, I tweeted about the minuscule renewed hope I felt watching senators doing something about gun-related deaths in this country. Some troll from Texas kindly asked me to leave the country. That was fun!
  3. I just now learned how to spell minuscule.
  4. And I just now learned that none of the proposed gun legislation from the senate passed. I’m discouraged. And disgusted.
  5. I really need to stick to the regimented schedule that I set for myself every Saturday. I plan an hour of writing time every day. I have yet to use it. It might help me with the discouragement and disgust.

What’s on your mind?