When Hate Came to Laguna Beach

I always wondered what I would have done were I a simple housewife in Germany as the Nazis were rising. Or if I had been a young mother during the American Civil Rights era. Would I have answered the call? Like Unitarian Universalist Viola Liuzzo? Would I have given in to fear? Appeasement? Head down, staying busy with my life?

I’m not sure if this “America Great-ifying” time is comparable to those pivotal moments in history; we probably will not know for a while. But it feels different. The Tuesday after the Women’s March a few of my Indivisible Facebook neighbors and I casually plotted to show up at our congressman’s district office.

“I think at 1pm, that’s over my lunch hour.” “We have to be out by 2 because that’s when they shut down Main Street for Taco Tuesday.” “Oh right, OK, let’s meet at Jack’s at 1.” “OK! See you then!”

40 people showed up.

IMG_20170523_131738_1.jpg
Suited up for our weekly protests at Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s office.

We’ve been there every Tuesday since January.

20953366_10208420295540028_6232494267171937997_n.jpg
Indivisible OC 48, August 22nd. Huntington Beach Pier. Photo by Larry Tenney

So after violence by neo-Nazi groups killed a young woman in Charlottesville, I knew I could not stand down from a planned “America First” rally two towns down the coast. The ACLU said “Stay Away.” My Indivisible group said “Stay Away.” People commented on social media “Stay Away.”

Nope.

I needed to face this group even if I was the only person who showed up. I am done. No more. No more standing down from HATE.

Mid-week I heard about a faith based response to the hate rally. There would be a two hour deescalation/ non-violence training followed by an inter-faith worship and then a march down to the beach where the rally was happening. Leading? The local UU and UCC ministers. Yep. Sign me up.

I work in a faith based organization, so sometimes going to church for me still feels like a work day. Not this day. This day we were led by trainers from PICO  and local organizers from OCCCO and then Emma’s Revolution came to sing at our worship. We heard from a pack of leaders of different faiths–blessings, song, some jokes. And then we walked down to the beach where the “America First” rally was taking place.

The winding trail of people headed down through the streets of Laguna Beach were met with cheers, cars honking in support, people even honking in time with our chants: “No Nazis, No KKK, No Racist USA” “When Immigrant rights are under attack what do we do? STAND UP! FIGHT BACK!”

We had a plan to march around the racist rally, linking arms to stay in touch, sending messages back through the lines. But none of that was needed.

As we made the final turn off the Pacific Coast Highway turning toward the beautiful Pacific Ocean we were met by the crowd of people. Tears poured down my face. I came ready to face fists or spitting-mad white men in riot gear, ready to face pepper spray or even a deranged man in a car. But I was met with a crowd of my friends and neighbors saying “NO MORE!”

The official count put the “America First” rally at about 50 participants. Our side? 2,500.

A chant that Rev. Ben McBride from PICO taught us “We! Have Already! WON!”

Yes, there is a lot to be done, this is not a time for rest. But at this rally, this night, this time. We had already won.

21105510_10155124561494125_3780347778232290585_n.jpg

20992735_10155124561539125_5269455599387175211_n.jpg

20993012_10155124561299125_7444549320006407282_n.jpg

20994279_10155124561599125_6626899910671463693_n.jpg
The “America First” rally was cordoned off on a specific part of the beach, but this group stood off from the protected group.
21055217_10155124643654125_1433532804236187664_o.jpg
The “America First” rally in the sandy area.

21034594_10155124561649125_7170957451676575674_n (1).jpg

20993885_10155124561029125_6587604072673276956_n.jpg
Pat and Sandy from Emma’s Revolution marched down with us and led the group in song.
Advertisements

Oh God, Oh God, Oh God! (Or, you know, spirit of life and of love, known by many names…)

Oh God, Oh God, Oh God. I can’t believe what I woke up to this morning. I thought this woman was my friend! Why would she do this to me. I mean, really! Publishing a post to WorshipWeb’s Facebook Page that makes me feel such horrible shame!

Because, you know, submitting a piece for a book and then agreeing to it being published. That’s a good way to hide something. Right?

Yeah. No.

I wrote this piece and submitted it to what has now been published as “To Wake to Rise” from Skinner House. In this piece I tell the story about working in a Unitarian Universalist church with no BA/MA/MS/MDiv/MEd where we might not worship God but we sure do seem to worship advanced education. I was never outwardly shamed, and in fact, the minister I served with was wildly adamant that a degree had nothing at all to do with my worth as a professional religious educator. But still. It was ever present and limited my career in a huge way, not having any letters after my name.

So, I knew people might read this piece. But still, having people, today, this morning, in my daily world, having them KNOW that I didn’t have a degree is a kick in the gut of shame and horror.

I’d love to tell you that shame is just a door to a new awakening and a sense of worth and dignity. But it’s not. It feels like a hangover on top of a panic attack.

OK, OK, the truth is I really do love that WorshipWeb curator, even if she has to go and TELL everyone. And I love the weird life that brought me to this place. And I love the people who are telling their own stories on the WorshipWeb Facebook page that shared my post. Big love.

My story is not over, but there is more. I left that church mentioned in the piece five whole years ago. And while I didn’t talk about it much, the first thing I did after I left was to go and finish that damn degree. My grad ceremony was three days before my oldest son’s college graduation (as well as my middle son’s high school ceremony). Which is neither here nor there.

Except it is. It totally is. 20776442_10155092057369125_6815078458146598201_o.jpg

To Clarify

Last month I wrote a piece about traveling back to the state I come from. I wrote about my experience of hearing the stories from my precious nieces about some of the painful things that have happened to them. Not my stories. Not mine to tell. But mine to hold because I love them.

I wrote about how it reminded me about why we left. I wrote about my regret that over time I wish I would have stopped some of my white relatives with a gentle word when they said something that, in my view, was biased.

After the piece had been out in the little world for a few days I got a phone call from a family member who was upset. They thought I was talking about sitting around a table with them and hearing them be racist. I wasn’t. The stories that made my heart ache were from my family folks who are people of color. Not white folks. The experiences they shared happened because they are not white.

I pulled the piece down, though. Some things aren’t worth a fight. And I apologized. I explained. I shared the words and their context again.

But maybe,  maybe, other folks read it too. And maybe they thought that I was talking about my white family. So I want to be clear. I was not referring to any person at all on my side of the family. I can’t share the stories I heard. They are not mine to share.

Maybe this is still not enough. For that I’m sorry. I wrote about my experience. I wrote about my feelings. But I wasn’t as clear as I should have been.  I’ll share the original words below so there is no confusion about what I’m taking back.

May the healing balm of time help us all move forward.

July 12th

My husband’s family is pretty diverse. His late mom and his dad are both descended from Eastern European folks, but through adoption, marriage/relationships and the children of those folks it’s a pretty mixed group. Somehow sitting around a table after a funeral opens doors for real conversations. My heart is still aching for the stories I heard.

Minnesota nice, the pretense that we are all good people and it’s important to be nice, becomes the cover for some horrible actions. These are not my stories to tell. I wish they were. I wish they’d happened to me and not to these people I love. But, of course, I’m white. They don’t happen to me.

I mourn for missed opportunities to counter things said by some of my white family. I mourn for the missed moments when people might deeply understand one another. I mourn for the time lost fighting this racism we should have destroyed by now. I mourn for lives compressed by bias that is hammered into the walls and stirred into the water.