Tag Archives: Freedom of the Press

Be a One Woman Riot

25 Feb

When I was a kid, if my siblings and I argued or made too much noise, we were put on silence. Silence meant we were not allowed to speak or make any noise. If we found a way to communicate through spelling letters through sign language or motioning, we might even be put on frozen statue. Frozen statue meant you were not to move at all. No touching or laughing or smiling because a smile meant you might be up to something. If you did not obey the rules of silence and frozen statues, then you could be beaten with the Persuader. Such was the “fascist regime” of my childhood. And while I loved my parents, I hoped to leave such control behind by the time I reached adulthood.

Of course I didn’t realize when people can no longer control you with the belt, they will guilt and shame and shun to push you into doing what they want. Even as a young adult, I rarely spoke to my siblings about what happened in our childhood because to do so was considered breaking the ultimate rule of family togetherness. Family togetherness means you never speak of the past—not even to each other–all must be forgiven and forgotten.

Family togetherness also means you never, ever speak about the family to outsiders. And in case you are wondering, I’m doing that right now. I’ve been doing it for seven years and I have had less phone calls from my parents than you can count on one hand. Every year, I get an email from my mom acknowledging that I was born on my birthday, but my attempts to have a real relationship with them is very limited—not because I don’t want to have one, but because they feel I have broken the rules of family togetherness and they basically have no interest in my life.

Simply speaking about things that happened over thirty years ago makes me a monster to them, but I am writing a memoir—not out of anger toward them (actually I hope to portray them with love and compassion) but because my childhood was unique and strange and it was very hard for me to grow up when I got out into the real world.

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So why can’t I keep quiet? Because if I don’t speak up, no one will ever have known that I was alive or what happened in my life. No one will know what it is like to have Mt. St. Helens blow up your life and be isolated from other teenagers and denied an education while you wait for Jesus to come. I have to speak it because it was not just their lives that were affected by their choices, it was my life. These are my stories, not so much theirs, but they do play a major part.

I’ve mentioned how the current US administration brings on my childhood PTSD. It’s the authoritarian rule. In the past no matter which party was in office, it was not a huge deal because presidents from both sides respected the U. S. constitution and at least made an effort to treat all people as equal. But my PTSD was most recently triggered this last week by the treatment of the press by the White House.

I took some journalism classes in college and the first thing we were taught is the press is the watchdog on the White House steps and to imagine it being muzzled reminds me of many fascist regimes throughout history and the losses of freedom including religion. The worst part about this is that so many, even within my religious community, seem unable to see this.

My sweet grandma always kept a diary. I call her sweet because whenever I walked into the room, she made me feel like I was the most important person in the world. And she wasn’t playing favorites, I’ve seen her greet my male cousins and brother and my sisters in the same way. I think it could be fair to say she was kind to even her son in laws who really never seemed to respect her very much. There was a lot of eye rolling because she didn’t cook much and she did CPR on cats at least twice to save their lives. It’s true she talked to cats and raccoons and skunks and birds. She was like a Grandma Doolittle and many people were nervous about the skunks she fed on her back porch. It could be said about Grandma that she walked with skunks and angels.

Grandma talked to Jesus and about Jesus every day. And for decades, she kept a diary. The contents were often mundane about the weather or her pets, but sometimes they told stories of her faith in God and how he came through for her. She lived through her parents’ divorce which mortified her and separated her from her siblings and she endured the great depression and worked as Rosie the Riveter during WWII and endured many sad events such as losing her first born child at birth. Grandma lived a life of faith despite her pain.

When Grandma hurt her hip and ended up in elder care, my parents took all those decades of diaries and burned them in a big bonfire. They took away her voice before she was even dead. My siblings and I were appalled when they told us but no one confronted them because we knew it would make things harder in our family to get along.

Silence. Silence from one party can mean sadness, anger, disconnection, or even death. But forced silence is another thing altogether. Forced silence is a form of control to murder another’s voice. Or even another’s right to determine the truth by hearing more than one side of the story.

During the Women’s March I saw a video of a group of women singing a song by MILCK. My husband played it for me because he thought I would like it and when I heard it, my eyes immediately filled with tears. This is why I must write on. I can’t stop my blog or my memoir as hard as it is when I have no family to support me in telling my story, I will press on because Jesus cares.

Jesus never asks us to keep quiet about our pain or to ignore injustice. Jesus comes to each of us with love and forgiveness, but he always, always leans in to listen to our pain. I have a friend who had an abortion decades ago and she is still feeling ashamed about it. I asked her if her little boy ran over his pet turtle on his bike and was feeling horrible about it, would she care about the turtle who was not in any more pain now, or for her child? She said her child of course.

Jesus is like that. He knows we have all messed up big time at some point in our lives, but he cares more about our hearts than anything we have done wrong. This is true for parents as well as children.  But the one thing Jesus doesn’t ask us to do is be silent when we have been hurt. We are free under God’s government to share our stories and to tell our stories because this is how we overcome (Rev. 12:11).

So I don’t know about you, but I am nervous about this changing of the guard from a land of freedom of speech and diversity to a land where we are threatened to be quiet if we have a different opinion or color of skin from the powers that be, this is not how God runs his government. Jesus runs his government on freedom for all and he says we will know the truth and the truth will set us free.

If you have been shamed and abused, don’t worry if someone scapegoats you and calls you a monster. Don’t let them shut you up. You are not alone. You are one of many. Tell your story. Embrace the messy truth, speak the honest truth and cherish the value of your own voice. I’m doing it for myself, but I am also doing it for Grandma and all the women before us who were forced into silence. Let’s not be quiet. We can each become a one woman riot! Viva la resistance!

Put on your face,
Know your place,
Shut up and smile,
Don’t spread your legs,
I could do that

But no one knows me, no one ever will,
If I don’t say something, if I just lie still.
Would I be that monster, scare them all away
If I let them hear what I have to say?

I can’t keep quiet, no oh oh oh oh oh oh
I can’t keep quiet, no oh oh oh oh oh oh
A one woman riot, oh oh oh oh oh oh oh

I can’t keep quiet
For anyone
Anymore

Cuz no one knows me no one ever will,
If I don’t say something, take that dry blue pill
They may see that monster, they may run away
But I have to do this, do it anyway

I can’t keep quiet, no oh oh oh oh oh oh
I can’t keep quiet, no oh oh oh oh oh oh
A one woman riot, oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh I can’t keep quiet

Let it out let it out
Let it out now
There’ll be someone who understands

Let it out, let it out
Let it out now
Must be someone who’ll understand

Let it out, let it out
Let it out now
There’ll be someone who understands

Let it out, let it out
Let it out now

I can’t keep quiet
For anyone,
No, not any more.

-Written by Connie Lim and Adrianne Gonzalez

Do You Hear the People Sing?

27 Jan

You know that scene in the Sound of Music where Count Von Trapp sings Edelweiss? It’s always been my favorite, but I love what he says right before he sings it.

“I shall not be seeing you again–perhaps for a very long time, I would like to sing for you now, a love song, I know you share this love, I pray that you will never let it die!”

I’ve found myself humming several songs lately as we see the new president changing the landscape of the United States and tearing apart the values of the country I love. In the past, I’ve had very little to say about politics because I read Greg Boyd’s Myth of the Christian Nation a few years ago and I firmly believe the Kingdom of Jesus stands in stark contrast to all the kingdoms of this world.

Often it didn’t seem to make a huge difference which party won, most of us figured the pendulum would swing back in the other direction in a few years, but now in one week, we have seen the handwriting on the wall for a new era and it isn’t cozy or compassionate—nor does it seem to be similar to any of the presidents we have had since I was old enough to vote.

So why have I suddenly written about politics and against the current establishment? It’s a combination of my love for my country–what it has stood for in the past and due to reading dozens of books about narcissism and sociopathic behavior. No one can diagnose a person from afar, but like Maya Angelou’s words keep echoing in my head:

“When people show you who they are–
believe them the first time.”

For starters all you have to do is watch a few interviews with the new president talking about himself. If one of your neighbors or church members talked like this, would you want to spend much time with him? Not me.

Apparently many people share my concern. The Women’s March brought out unprecedented numbers in every major city around the world. People are recognizing the threat to the environment, vulnerable refugees, women’s rights, freedom of religion, freedom of the press and the concerns that authoritarianism is on the rise and has contributed to his winning the election—possibly leading us to a fascist state.

Many people don’t want to believe this could happen in America, but it’s now a very real possibility–especially when you see how this new leader and his allies are more concerned about shutting up the media than allowing them to be the watchdog on the White House steps. And this includes Trump’s liesdon’t let people lie to you–especially not the president.

Along with concerns about the mental health of our new president, I am really puzzled why so many Christians are still supporting him. Most of my friends who voted for him are silent. If you voted for him because you thought he could make things better, that’s understandable, but when you see what he had done in his first week in office surely you are waking up a little, right?

If you still stand by him while he tears our country apart, then I will assume you are white and not in danger of being shot at a traffic stop. I will assume you are rich enough to have all the health care and resources you need. I will assume you have no interest in protecting the environment while the national parks truth-telling tweets are suspended to soothe this man’s ego. If you continue to support him, I must assume you don’t care about freedom of religion or freedom of the press and I will wonder if you are a true American.

Even Christian women from my own denomination who support equality, have put down the women and men who marched by saying, “How vulgar of them to wear “pussy” hats and call themselves “nasty women?” And yet, these terms came from our new president’s own mouth and people merely turned them around to make a statement. Just allow me remind you this represents his true character.  It seems hypocritical to have a problem with a woman speaking and standing up against the vulgarities and human rights abuses of the new president while you still support him.

In one week, the new president seems to be working to destroy our democracy as we know it and threatens many of the things we love about America—freedom of the press, freedom for our National Parks to educate about climate change, experienced national security, slamming doors on refugees who are desperately needing a home–and most of this was traded off in exchange for Christian votes to protect fetuses, in order to gain an administration which ignores the children already alive in this world who need healthcare or a country to live in because theirs was blown up.

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I’m not the first to be concerned. The lack of support from some in his own party and former presidents shows that others see it too. Whether the top state department leaders resigned or were fired is really not the issue. These people were helping to keep our country and the world safe and now they have been replaced by the alternate men and the alternate president in charge of security council–a man unsafe and alt right with racism and alternate facts. Trump’s administration is hijacking our country–why are so many so-called Christians blind and silent while this is happening?

Apparently the keepers of the doomsday clock are awake because they just moved the clock forward due to this reckless administration. What will it take to wake up many who claim to be Christians? Here’s clue: nationalism and authentic Christianity make strange bed partners.

So no, I cannot be silent and if you are awake, you shouldn’t be quiet either. Jesus taught us to focus on his kingdom, but he also taught us to pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven and to pray in sincerity, we must do our part to make it happen on our watch.

Like Martin Luther King Jr. said:

“Our lives begin to end the day
we become silent about things that matter.”

We must speak up. We need to support life in all forms and that includes refugees and people who don’t look like us. We need to support freedom in all forms and that especially means the freedom of religion and freedom of the press. We need to acknowledge that all people are equal. As Christ followers, we will treat others as we would like to be treated and we will do all we can to keep freedom ringing in our beloved country.

Someday our voices may be no more, so let us rise up to write our stories and tell the truth so someone who follows after us and sifts through the rubble will realize we were not all like Trump and Bannon, but more like Anne Frank, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Corrie Ten BoomMartin Luther King Jr., Maya Angelou, Viktor FranklJimmy Carter and yes, even Barack Obama. No matter what party you used to be for, the United States is no longer what it used to be–that changed when Trump took the presidency. Let us join the resistance. Let us show the world that love trumps hate.

Another song comes to mind as I read the feeds on social media. It comes from one of my favorite musicals–Les Miserables. I first read the book in college and was blown away by the redemption in this story. But before the restoration, there comes the battle between the evil of control and coercion, this could be where we are heading in America. I sure hope not, but sadly we are seeing many things pointing this direction.

The women’s march, the science march, the outrage over the refugee blocking statement, the solidarity of people of all colors and backgrounds seem to be chanting the same tune. The people are singing. We will either will join them or curse them–depending on where we stand with God in our own hearts.

“Do you hear the people sing
Lost in the valley of the night
It is the music of a people
Who are climbing to the light

For the wretched of the earth
There is a flame that never dies
Even the darkest night will end
And the sun will rise.

They will live again in freedom
In the garden of the Lord
We will walk behind the plough-share
We will put away the sword
The chain will be broken
And all men will have their reward!”*

“Remember the truth that once was spoken:
To love another person is to see the face of God.”
-Victor Hugo

Perhaps if we all took this seriously, we would see God more clearly–even now.

*Song Writers: Jean Marc Natel, Alain Albert Boublil, Herbert Kretzmer, Claude Michel Schonberg