The internet is such a great place to learn about oneself!!!
To summarize (from my less-than-fun reading and reviewing of similarly-themed posts over the past few days):
And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go look in the mirror to remind myself how special I am before writing the rest of this post.
Just kidding. Still here, all snowflakin' it up.
Some thoughts regarding what I have read about myself and the legions of the disappointed and devastated like me:
I can't speak for all other snowflakes, but the repugnance and devastation with which I received the political catastrophes of 2016 have nothing--zero, nada, NOTHING--to do with not getting my way, and definitely nothing to do with participation trophies (which, by the way, I never got growing up. Where's my trophy, golldurnit!?!)
No. My repugnance and devastation have everything to do with what I did get as a child of the United States of America. And there were two things in particular:
1) SHAME. As a child, I learned to be ashamed of the racist, violent history of my country. Of course I learned so while also learning to be proud of my country. Proud of its democratic heritage and its geographical diversity. Proud of its entrepreneurial spirit and freedom of conscience. But I learned, in my basic public education in two different rural towns, to be appropriately ashamed of the parts of my country's story that were shameful.
As a start, I learned to be ashamed of the participation of people who looked like me and worshipped like me in centuries of slave-owning, segregation-upholding, civil rights-resisting, and everyday acts of racism.
I learned to be ashamed of my country's historical limitations on women, limitations that seemed preposterous to me as a child of the 80's with a vagina and uterus who was told I could do anything and be anything I put my mind to.
I learned to be ashamed of a historical reality that bothered me when I learned of it and haunts me now: my country's silence and unwillingness to get involved when it knew the German government of the 1930's and 40's was bent on discriminating against, deporting and finally annihilating the Jews of Europe. I read all I could to understand this unfathomable mystery and, in the end, gave myself to preventing its recurrence. In 8th grade I began giving what would become regular presentations on the Holocaust to recruit my fellow students into the "Never Again" club.
2) CELEBRATION: I learned to celebrate every fight, every stand, every disavowal of the acts grown from the evil seeds sown by shipping, tormenting, buying, and selling humans in the earliest days of my nation. I celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. day as a national holiday, and thought for a long time that the adults in my life celebrated the day and the man, too. I celebrated the progress that had been made through first black men then women of all colors earning the right to vote, and then the work of the Civil Rights Movement to ensure equal opportunity for people of every color and creed. Later, in high school, I was privileged to hear my LGBTQ brothers and sisters talk about their experiences of discrimination and abuse, and that began a journey of learning to celebrate the expansion of their civil rights, too.
So yes, my "snowflakeness" was imparted to me through my childhood, but not through the talking points I hear from those bent on ridicule. My snowflakeness was imparted to me through the lesson, reinforced time and again that discrimination, racism, xenophobia, and religious prejudice are not to be tolerated or celebrated in the United States but repudiated and resisted, to the end.
As a child of the church, I found a faith that crystallized these beliefs in Holy Ghosted, diamond-crusted shells, etched with words like "created in the image of God" and "love your neighbor as yourself."
I learned. I believed. I still believe.
So when a race-baiting, xenophobic, maligner-of-certain-faith-practitioners candidate won the election with the help of people who look like me, who talk like me, and who worship like me, my response was consistent to what I learned as an American child and what I still believe as an American adult:
Followed by sadness.
And eventually anger, and protest, and all the things that are so easy to jeer and kick at now that victory has been secured.
Because that victory made clear that racism and misogyny and xenophobia and religious prejudice are not, across the country, things of the past to be looked down upon and learned from. They are real, vital forces and motivators, not sources of shame but of empowerment.
Likely most of the people who voted for Trump--good people, so many of them--did not vote for the platforms of prejudice or rallies of racism or admissions of assault. But they voted in spite of them. And that, at least for me, was what was hardest to stomach. I thought that the shared shame of our history would be enough to induce us to never return to it collectively again. It wasn't. And yeah, that devastated the hell out of me. When did racism and xenophobia and assault obtain the ability to be overlooked? How did they not provide the automatic halt of the Trump train?
It was the tacit agreement to overlook these evils that got snowflakes like me out on the street and railing away on our keyboards and telephones. It wasn't that we didn't get our own way. It wasn’t even that our candidate(s) didn’t win. It was that half of our shared country voted to take 50 steps back into evils we (perhaps naively but nonetheless genuinely) believed to have been shamed and rejected once and for all.
I am not so naive now. I know in December of 2016 what I did not know on before November 8 of 2016. I acknowledge that, despite having received much of the same public education as me, and despite many reading the same Bible as me, there are fellow citizens of mine who didn't come to the same conclusions.
So be it. But I reject the central myth pedaled by the antagonists of the "special snowflakes", that the anger and temporary despair reveal a lack of grit or tenacity or character. Being knocked down is not the same as never getting up. And to my dying breath I will believe and fight for what I learned as a child in America and teach as an American adult raising my children outside of that country.
I believe, as the Constitution highlights (or at least hints at), that human beings are created in the image of God and, as such, are endowed with dignity and respect that should be honored and codified.
I believe that the ugly, repetitive catastrophe of dehumanizing, othering, and overlooking our neighbours should properly elicit shame, and that shame and anger are appropriate responses when a man is elected on a platform that celebrates the catastrophe rather than rejecting it.
And if these beliefs make me a special snowflake, then fine. I'm a special snowflake. A special, disappointed, but hopeful snowflake who's got some hope and faith and fight left in me, along with the millions of other snowflakes who feel as I do.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
"If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning,
If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth;
if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy."
-Psalm 137:5-6 (King James Version)
To begin, a funny story: When I was preparing to go to Israel for the first and only time 17 years ago, my encouraging but slightly freaked-out parents did everything they could to prepare me for such a trip. My electrician father researched the receptacle shapes and power converter needs for life in the Middle East. My extroverted mother sought out the best phone plan that would allow us to call each other with as much regularity (and as little cost) as the not-quite-cellular-American infrastructure would allow.
Neither of them had travelled abroad beyond Canada at that point, so they didn't really know what other things I might need to be equipped for the adventure. To remedy this, they took me to the abode of experts who might know better: a fancy-schmancy travel store "over the hill" in Portland, where a VERY happy-to-clean-us-out salesman sold us a bundle of stuff: multiple luggage security locks, a personal handbag, a secret passport stasher, and a large navy blue rolling duffel bag.
This duffel bag, for reasons still unknown to me, had a miniature stuffed monkey keychain attached to it. I wonder now if that's what sold me on it. (Look, a cute little monkey! Hey, it's free with the bag, I should get THAT one!)
For reasons even more unfathomable, the stuffed monkey had a name, as all of the monkeys attached to this kind of bag did (I suspect it was a kind of Cabbage Patch Doll approach to beguiling sentimental customers like me).
As it happened, I liked a dark blue bag the best, one that a stuffed monkey of the same colour attached to it like other bags of the same make and brand. And this monkey's name was...
My parents teehee-ed over this to no end. "Maybe you'll meet your husband on this trip and his name will be Matt!" they joked, the salesman grinning in response and waiting for us to finish our purchase. I shrugged and grew red, trying to appear indifferent to such a possibility (I was a 20-year-old evangelical woman, so meeting my future husband was frequently--perhaps TOO frequently--on my mind.)
We paid for the bag(s), the locks, the secret passport holder, and left, content that I was as ready as I could be for my first real trip abroad.
Upon my arrival at the Jerusalem campus I learned that there were not one but FIVE Matts there (out of only 100 people altogether). Five Matts! This was too ridiculous and tempting to obsess on and overthink, so I mentally set aside the monkey and focused on better things: exploring, studying (on occasion), and spending hours and hours with some of the most interesting, beautiful people I've ever had the privilege of knowing.
And in that last, super normal and ordinary activity, I did fall in love. While I ate and drank and travelled with many truly fabulous people there was, ultimately, just one person I woke up wanting to see in the morning; only one whom I thought of last in the waning moments of wakefulness at night.
That one person was, of course, my Matt. The Matt I would pine for, first as a secret, unspoken crush and then as a publicly proclaimed and claimed boyfriend while we finished our undergraduate degrees. The Matt with the dark brown hair and the chocolate brown eyes and the deep, cavernous crinkles in his cheeks when he smiled. The Matt that, if such superstitions and oddball signs are to believed, a blue monkey keychain on a blue bag in a luggage store in Portland foretold I was going to marry.
In honour of our 15th wedding annniversary, Matt and I are returning to the land where it all began. Airline tickest proved affordable just when they needed to in order to make such a plan, and booking lodging in all the cities we plan to visit while there has afforded me an extra portion of joy.
Lots of people dream of going, or returning, to the Holy Land for the reasons that make it a precious place for faithful Muslims, Christians, Jews (among others). The three main monotheistic religions of the earth have all staked their claim on it at one time or another, and still do today with varying degrees of success. Our miracles happened there. Our prophets spoke and healed and brought back the dead there. We expect to meet God there.
But I'd be lying if I said it was mostly the claims of faith that make me want to go back, or historical sites, or even (as it was the first time) the chance to bear witness to what a resurrected People could do in a land they saw as their divine right. My reasons are much more plain and personal. Yes, the limestone buildings of Jerusalem glowing in the fierce, Middle Eastern sun are beautiful on their own. But they are also the buildings I walked past as I got to know the man who teased and challenged and listened me into love with him. Yes, the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan river have their own power over me because my Saviour swam and stood and walked in them. But, if I'm honest, the power is even greater because I swam in that lake and stood by that river with good friends, with remarkable souls, including the remarkable soul who asked me, less than two years later, to be his wife.
I am going back not just to the Holy Land sanctified by divine deeds and places of memory for the faithful but my Holy Land--a land sanctified by friendship and love and places of memory from the best year of my life.
The author of Psalm 137 warned himself against forgetting Jerusalem. For me, such a warning is almost laughable. I have never really gotten over Jerusalem. Which it makes it all the more wonderful that I am finally going back.