I am in awe of and often confused by the great divide in perspectives and opinions; how one person’s beliefs can be so different from someone else’s and how convinced each one is in the truth of their convictions. Although I enjoy the debates my students engage in, I am personally very uncomfortable watching debates that involve screaming, shouting, and finger pointing that in the end have accomplished little in the way of swaying the opposition.
Early on in my relationship with my future second husband I had a conversation with his mother and grandmother, stout Christians who believe the Baptist faith is the one and only true faith. I went no further at the time in challenging them other than to say, “You mean my grandmother, one of the most spiritual women I know is going to Hell because she is a Catholic?” Their response was truly the beginning of my break from association with any organized religion. “Honey,” they both said, “that’s why God brought you to us so we could tell you the truth and you could share it with her.” I could go on sharing many other conversations and encounters with my in-laws that show just how much of a Black Sheep I am in this “you must be born again” family, but for now my respect for my husband’s family trumps my need to relieve myself of deep-seated opinions.
In another case, I have been branded an atheist by a former sister-in-law who had a problem with shielding my children from her aggressive pro-life indoctrination. My young daughter came to me once and asked, “Mom, what’s an atheist? That’s what Aunty is calling you.” This is one time I did place myself in a confrontation; protecting my children has prompted such reaction in me many times.
I am far from the anti-God others have painted me to be. I am a very spiritual being that doesn’t happen to prescribe to someone else’s definition of what it means. I am very comfortable with my religious belief system but have found that others are not.
It’s difficult for me to admit that I would rather not think about politics, being an American History instructor and all, but the topic makes me cringe. I wish I did not have to involve myself at all, nor make a decision come election time, but teaching how significant the right to vote has been for those disenfranchised in our history, I cannot, in good conscience, ignore this right and privilege.
I lean to the left in my politics. I have come to my choice based on my personal life experience, education, and a strong pull towards tolerance and inclusion. I despise the rhetoric of politicians and avoid listening to their agendas as much as I can. Instead, I vote and hope. I put my faith in those that claim to have a common ideology with me, promise to put their ideas into practice, and have the means to do so. I have been sorely disappointed by whom I have put my faith in, but continue to back that faction because the other side is so far from my beliefs.
I stopped being a Catholic because if I could not believe wholeheartedly in everything it represented, I could not stand behind it. In my political backings, I wish I could walk away if I don’t believe 100% in the person I’ve chosen, but it’s a bit trickier than that. So, I hope for the best. As I illustrate to my class, it’s a two steps forward, one step back tug of war in American politics and history. That’s what makes this country and the people who hold their beliefs so wonderful and so frustrating.
I have been banned from associating with a young woman with whom I used to work with and who I admired for her intelligence and work ethic. It was her husband, a man whom I had repeatedly spoken out against that forced her to relinquish ties with me. He is an abuser; she an enabler. How difficult it was for me to lose that friendship but, as a friend, I could not stand by and keep my fears and feelings quiet. When such an issue hit even closer to home I walked a very tenuous line while I tried to, and ultimately succeeded in, helping someone get away from an abuser.
My writing of this blog was meant to help me put together my life in a way that I would eventually publish the story. Some of the posts have been so truthful and revealing that I have felt a twinge of regret at the exposure of my inner-most self, as well as the loss I have endured from some who found my revelations not to their liking. There is so much more I want to say, so much more I wish to share. Finding the courage to do so is taxing, yet I find I cannot resist the pull.
Perhaps it’s time for me to stop hiding behind the veil of non-committal endorsement and allow my true self to emerge. The question is, am I up for the challenge?