Learning about Politics before I was political

Politics is a word that has been misused.  After listening to a RobCast (Rob Bell) a better way to view the word politics is like this, “Our Shared life together”  So yes, I am political and so are you.

After serving 2 one week mission trips in St. Louis my life returned to normal as usual.  This is what usually happens because of the enormity of the problem and the disconnect we have from these problems when we return home.  Thankfully I have the most amazing book club and we read books that are constantly opening our eyes.  We read everything!  The journey through books is absolutely fascinating, but they also have the power to make you question everything you once believed.  Challenging what I have always believed has been the most freeing experience of my life.

I am trying to remember what book started the deconstruction.  I want to say “Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne.  The part where I read about Shane heading to Iraq to be with their children when our country drops a bomb on them is still with me after all of these years.  I really was unaware how much 9/11 would change America and the decisions we would make following the event.  Fear really crept in and altered us, and we still have not recovered.  So I feel I need to talk about my 9/11 experience….

Jake and I were just married when 9/11 occurred.  I worked at CITGO Petroleum and I remember the day clearly.  I heard people saying a plane had hit one of the Towers, but then someone said Pentagon.  I was thinking “Geez, no one is getting the story straight”.  But then I looked at the footage online and was horrified. It was unbelievable.  I went home to Jake at lunch who was still studying to become a teacher.  We watched the towers fall and thought: “what is going to happen?” At that time America really came together to help, sing, pray.  I know Social media wasn’t a thing so maybe that is why I did not hear all the terrible rhetoric that we now hear.  But at this time I saw unity.  I saw a President cry.

But it wasn’t long until Toby Keith started in with his “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” to send a message of don’t mess with America because we will put a boot in your ass.  Toby is from my hometown of Norman, Oklahoma.  I was quite embarrassed by the song despite the catchy lyrics.  I refuse to listen to it because I will sing it – just like the stupid “Make America Great Again” song First Baptist Dallas made.  Why do both of my home towns make the catchy tunes that goes against what I believe?! If I listen to them I will sing them while folding laundry and then realize what I have done once the clothes are folded! I have to avoid them. “Make America Great Again” is a clear message of civil religion, by the way.  I bring these 2 songs up because (in my opinion) Toby Keith’s attitude was the beginning of what we were going to see play out in 2016 with Trump. TK went after the Dixie Chicks because they were opposed to the Iraq War.  What happened: March 10, 2003 in London (9 days before we invaded Iraq) Natalie Maines basically said we don’t want this war and we are ashamed of our President.  The outcry by country music was overkill, and I joined their circus by throwing out their music, my loss! I would not do that today.  And now I am listening to them again making up for lost time.  “I am not Ready to Make Nice” is a song we should listen to because she talks about the pain she went through, the death threats, and that her world turned upside down but she liked it. (2016 my world turns upside down.  I didn’t get death threats – it is a different situation, but I realize I gained more by the experience even though I thought I was losing everything).  Also interesting to note, Toby Keith was the biggest star Trump could muster up for his inauguration.  (Unless you think Lee Greenwood is bigger- He also has a catchy tune).

I don’t write this to make fun of anyone because I was more like Toby Keith in 2003.  Not because I was a fan of war (nope nope nope), it was the culture I lived in.  You can’t talk about the President that way in another country.  I am all for respecting authority, the office of the President, etc – but I now realize we should always be skeptical, especially when going to war.  When we did not find Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq we should not have invaded. I don’t care the response I get for making that statement.  The harm done by this war has changed who we are and it is time we get honest about America’s mistakes (and this goes back further than the Iraq War- WW2, Vietnam, etc, you never get over war). This is on all of us, not just the President.  But we can question our leaders – they work for us. (I don’t want to talk about Trump and what he has done to the office in this post).

Here is another thing that was going on with me, I worked with brokers located in New York who were directly affected by 9/11.  When I spoke with them they were adamantly against the war.  One wrote a beautiful piece on how much New York came together during the tragedy, and was asking the President to find another solution other than war. And they were saying this missing being a casualty of the tragedy because of the time of day they went to work.  They lost friends and colleagues.  You are never the same when you talk to people and listen to them.  But I was still young and naive in 2003.  I did not realize how much this incident started a divide in America that we are now seeing on full display today.  Rob Bell said in a podcast he knew when the Iraq war happened things in America would change.  This was not going to go well.

I need to also mention that working for an oil company meant we were encouraged to vote Republican.  Emails came in telling us what Republicans would do to help and how Democrats were basically against us (environmental).  This peaked my curiosity being encouraged how to vote at work.  I come from a Democratic family (we are school teachers and farmers) I was shocked by this. I also went to a conservative church where I did not want to tell anyone I sometimes vote Democrat.  This was a whole new world for me, so I basically just checked out politically because it stressed me out.  But one moment that stood out to me in the political realm that also made me question christianity is when Bush had an openly gay speaker at the Republican National Convention, Jim Kolbe (this I was actually quite glad about but what happened is what changed me).  The Christian Coalition was there and when the speaker spoke the camera spanned to the coalition as they went to their knees in prayer the whole time he spoke.  I was not even fully affirming then, but that moment changed me.  I was angry.  That didn’t seem like Jesus or love to me at all.  (If it seems I am picking on Republicans it is because republicans were my world at this point, and they brought in Jesus to their cause which is a quick way to lose the plot). I wish I knew then that oil companies were lobbyists for Republicans.  Democrats were bought by big corp too, but my world was where Republicans were bought. (Both parties continue to be bought by lobbyists.  They shouldn’t be funded by anyone, but since they are we need to be asking who is funding each candidate and get the breakdown).

Oh and CITGO is Venezuelan owned which came with a different set of politics.  It was mind boggling.  Chavez was the leader at this time and we all knew that was bad news.

This is not what I planned to write today. Shane’s book took me down this path.  I am  writing as the wind blows.  As I review this post it makes  me realize why politics is important.  It affects lives. So telling people to shut up and stay out of politics is saying they don’t get a voice in democracy.  Yes, working for nonprofits is great, but our political system is what creates the need for them.  I want our systems to stop creating the need for these organizations.  We can create a system where everyone has an opportunity to flourish, not just the wealthy.  This was the work of Martin Luther King Jr.  Jesus was also political.

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