You've Got to Stand for Something, Right?

I have been thinking a lot about the recent church killings. I have been thinking a lot about religion and its role in our world and how some of us use it to guide our every word and deed. I have been thinking about how our Supreme Court just made marriage legal for all people and I have been thinking about how I do not have a single black friend. I have been thinking about some painful family experiences and I have been thinking about the moments of grace I have been given and I have been thinking about how someone wrote, "I don't believe in gay marriage" as if that would do away with the fact that it is. I have been thinking about what I do and don't believe. I do believe in kindness and love and yet I also believe that I lug around anger and hate inside of me like an overstuffed backpack I constantly forget to take off. I have been thinking of how, despite the mass of imperfections we humans carry inside ourselves, we still find ways to make beauty and art and love and joy a part of our lives. I have been thinking that so much of what we do and say is a choice and with those choices comes a responsibility. I have been thinking about how the very best we can hope for is forgiveness when we fail because we humans so often fail.

I am a person who thinks about her story and how I have written it and how I have gotten it wrong in my own telling. I am thinking of how much one single action can change a story. Yesterday, this was true and today it is not.

I have been thinking that if we harnessed the power of our minds in conjunction with the capacity of our hearts to love we reallyreallyreally could move the mountains of people who cannot be moved from their place of THIS.IS.THE.TRUTH to their willingness to ask others, what is your truth?

I know I cannot move or change those who do not wish for it to happen. I know I cannot be rude and unkind and angry and mislead and judgemental and biased unless I allow for it to happen.

The truth is I have feelings and they change because I allow them to change. 

The truth is I can do as much as I dare. I can be half-empty or half-full and that choice is always mine. I can let religion dictate me or free me. I can let hate motivate me or paralyze me. I can let the world be or I can jump in and participate and act and talk and dream and question and question and question until it seems we are getting somewhere, at a snail's pace, toward an answer, towards a glimmer of imperfect hope.

The truth is never one thing or another. The truth is never just yours or just mine. The truth, I think, is constantly evolving and we have to evolve with it.

There is some annoying country song, which played all too often in the late 80's as I cruised the rural roads of northwest in Iowa. In it there was a line I could never quite shake. "You've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything."  I used to wonder about what I stood for. I'd think about the rural economy because my dad was a farmer, and I'd think about Aids and gay people because when it was discussed, there was fear in people's voices, disdain in their look, an overwhelming "I do not accept this" attitude that ricocheted around their very being. How do people simply say I DO NOT ACCEPT THIS when something so clearly is? I'd think about the rural south because I'd read Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and wonder how a book written by a mute black girl who came of age in the late 40's and early 50's s could have such a profound effect on my world. I'd think about white my world was and how the racial slurs spoken in my family made me cringe.

There is so much out there that clearly is whether I stand for it or accept it or say I am for or against it. To say I don't believe in gay marriage. To say I do not condone gun violence. To say I am for this or not that when it is happening anyway and will continue to happen no matter the law or my personal beliefs....I do not understand how to work within this framework of “I stand for this and I don't stand for that” because the evidence suggests that it will happen anyway.

What I do understand is that I grew up in a white rural community inside a family with an alcoholic brother. What I do understand is that my parents did the best they could with what they had. What I do understand is that love can be messy and weird and complicated and also pure and honest and true. What I do understand is that I must dig deeper into not what I stand for, but what I believe will make the world more kind and loving and open and safe for as many of us as possible. I have to look for what we all agree on and it would seem that this a simple and universal truth:  there is pain and suffering in this world. There are people who live on the fringes and are barely hanging on for any number of reasons. And there are those of us who long to use our voices and our experiences so we can simply say, "We have to stop hurting each other. I don't care at all what you stand for or against. What I care about is that we stop hurting each other."

We don't have to debate gun control or equality or fairness. We don’t have to rehash every single sordid detail of our painful past. In order to move forward we have to simply start with, “It happened. I am sorry. I am human. You are human. We are woefully imperfect and we will hurt each other over and over again until we have the courage to sit face to face and say, Can we stop this? How can we stop this?”  

I am not Pollyanna. I am not a dreamer or a pie-in-the-sky thinker. I am real and hurt and confounded along with everyone else. But I also believe we can right so many wrongs if we could just sit next to each other and talk and hold each other’s hand and listen and create a shared space for all the pain in our hearts. It seems to be the only way to make room for the healing to begin.

And if we never start, we will never know if we are capable of making this world, our world, our lives, better.

I really want to know, don’t you?