Breaking Fast

For the past few weeks I have not written blog posts or meatier items on Facebook. I reasoned that anything besides kittens and kids would gain little traction (after all, we do need some respite from The Donald) or was being covered elsewhere by people more articulate than I (or at least wearing pants suits). Further, some of my FB friends have taken similar — even more austere — breaks from social media in the past year as a type of fast to help them get on some sort of even keel again. These folks seemed to like the respite, I reasoned, so why not give my own version of that a try. My decision was to write no blog posts for a month, “like” little on Facebook, and comment even less.

spinach_sauteedI did something similar in the past. About a dozen years ago, I did three week-long fasts in a 12 month period. Each day I could drink unfiltered apple juice with psyllium fiber added, two cayenne capsules with a tablespoon of olive oil, and a cup of the nastiest tea you could ever imagine. Each time I did this, my appetite disappeared and my eyesight got better by day three. Once the fast was over, I could introduce food slowly back into my daily intake, being particularly careful with additions of meat, eggs, dairy, wheat, and sugar. The fast also encourages one to sit and think about all the food you’ve eaten in the past and ask what it is you actually want. Each time I had the same answer: sautéed spinach with ginger, tamari, and diced cubes of butternut squash or sweet potato over brown rice. 

So, after this past month of a social media fast of sorts, I asked, “What do I want to chew on now?” I reflected on all of the thoughts I might have put on my plate for the previous four weeks. There is Standing Rock, Black Lives Matter, the Affordable Care Act, Gaetan Dugas and Randy Shilts, Zeka virus, emails on servers, evangelical voters, the presidency, the Supreme Court, Congress, voter suppression, climate change, patriotism, military service, police recruitment/training/deployment, Wall Street, pants suits, old age, Republicans, Democrats, democracy, Hillary Clinton, Anthony-fucking-Weiner, and the bullshit known as Donald Trump. (Of course there is much more, but you get the picture.) 

But after nearly two years of way too much exposure to the relentless political campaigning for this presidential election and a month of limited commentary from me, I have decided to end my fast with (drum roll) scandal

pearl-clutchingWhen the dust settles and decisions get made about firing the FBI Chief, we residents and citizens will be left holding the bag for the completely reprehensible people in congress on both sides of the aisle, for the equally offensive campaign staffers, and for Donald Trump. For decades now, some of these pearl-clutching asses have committed calumny in the service of consolidating their own power and gaining populist support. The very same people who are side-stepping the law by pandering to ALEC members, act all gob-smacked over using private servers to send and receive emails. I would point out that major personal security breaches across the US recently happened because thousands of people were hacked through their programmable crock pots!

The sanctimonious twits on Fox, in the Republican Party, and in social media need to take a step back. Yes, it would have been wise for George W Bush, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Hillary Clinton to have eschewed private servers. However, given that many of us would not know a server if it bit us in the butt (Scott Walker famously wondered aloud what all of those blinking lights in the closet were), I believe these errors would best have been addressed at the administrative level during those presidential administrations with quality assurance measures to follow through the responsible bureaus in subsequent administrations. That approach would be nearly impossible to follow, however, given the screeching for smaller government by the very easily-offended guys seeking to defame President Clinton during her campaign. 

(Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

(Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Apparently unlike the pearl-clutchers, I was raised Catholic in the era of catechisms, where I learned that scandal involved action that would cause others to lose faith in religion or belief, originating in the Greek word for trap or stumbling block. Though this is not the preferred meaning today, I believe that there is merit in understanding this aspect of scandal — it serves to make people to doubt what is understood to be good and right. I do not for one moment believe that the kerfuffle over emails is real to those peddling that claptrap. Rather, they are pretending to be deeply offended in order for others with long histories of resentment to go through the motions of horror and consolidate popular disappointment. 

But in my opinion, the disappointment in the state of our nation is misguided. I am not offended by Hillary Clinton’s emails. I am not upset by the pictures of Anthony Weiners, well…you know. I haven’t seen it and I am not curious. This is what offends me:

  • Police involved killing of Black and Brown people
  • Unequal access to quality education
  • The well-oiled prison pipeline
  • Racism, sexism, anti-gay discrimination, the subjugation of people with physical and mental impairments, mistreatment of young people and old people 
  • Poverty
  • Attention paid to abortion while ignoring the ongoing need for it — in short, the continued use of the inaccurate expression pro-life
  • Fawning over Pope Francis and ignoring his duplicitous behaviors that serve to keep things stuck (His US ultraconservative PR team is doing their job well)
  • The relentless mistreatment of Arab peoples, Mexicans, and Puerto Ricans
  • Endangerment of our environment
  • Torture and the completely unethical behaviors of the psychologists (and their association) that codified it as interrogation
  • The patchwork we call health care in the US which is neither about care nor about health as much as it is about profit
  • The dismantling of public health by physicians and the manufacturers of drugs and medical equipment
  • Ignoring indigenous people at Standing Rock who are working for us all
  • Sending paramilitary forces from other states to South Dakota on our dime
  • Being regularly reduced to getting called voters when we are citizens who vote
  • ALEC (the so-called American-Fucking Legislative Exchange Council — a group that should be tried for racketeering if any should be)
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

These issues are awful and this list is far from exhaustive. But, what makes these things scandalous to me is not their existence. The action that makes others lose their belief in our nation and its goodness — the thing that is our trap or stumbling block — is our corporate inaction. 

I pledged eight years ago that if our president were elected, I would be a different citizen. I renewed the pledge four years ago when Barack Obama was re-elected. To some extent I have become a different citizen, but not different enough to stop people from losing faith in us. 

It is time for me to become more different still. That’s the fast for me to break. That’s the bigger silence for me to end.

3 thoughts on “Breaking Fast

  1. Friend, when I used to try to teach my confirmation class what a “skandalon” was, I’d always use the image of the box with the stick on Bugs Bunny, with the carrot inside and Wil-E-Coyote, super genius, holding the string. Then it struck me why they had no idea what I was talking about. They had never seen Bugs Bunny.

    Many of our fellow citizens have never seen Bugs Bunny, so to speak. They’ve never seen the LGBT community, sitting at home after doing the dishes, just wanting exactly what their grandparents had, only with someone of their own gender. They’ve never seen the black community, walking hand-in-hand with their little girl in Central Library. They’ve never seen the Hispanic community, working their ass off in jobs their Irish great-grandparents used to hold because they have the same dream. They’ve never had to listen to a Somali mother struggling with all her might to communicate to 911 that they need an ambulance because their child is sick. They’ve never heard a woman talk about how her abusive ex boyfriend just showed up and smeared his literal shit on her face, pleading that the officers enter quietly because she doesn’t want her children to wake up and see what happened.

    No. They’ve sat in their church basement eating ham sandwiches and jello salads, loathing a life they’ve never lived, hating people they’ve never met, believing what their pastor, church, and bible say. They’ve never really breathed city air. So they are afraid of the people that live in those cities. All they know is what they see on the news – that gay people are in parades, that black people are shooting each other, that Hispanics are illegal immigrants taking good jobs they wouldn’t do anyway…

    So, they have no idea what we’re talking about. And I know this is true, because I was one of them. I had no idea – until I lived in the world I had been afraid of – no – I had been raised to be afraid of. TV and the internet are bringing city air into the lungs of the young of small town America. There’s no convincing their parents and grandparents, for the most part. But the young are already convinced. Even my own nieces and nephews see what my sister and I never saw. They’ve seen Bugs Bunny, so to speak. They see the skandalon for what it is.

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    • Just Tuesday I got to experience this lack of exposure in my own family. A very painful and damaging conversation about race, oppression, abuse, sexism, and more tumbled from us being on opposite sides of a political chasm. The conviction with which a dear relative parroted the lies and misinformation of the Trump campaign and Fox “news” could only be attributed for living too long in that church basement.

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