“If you could do it, I suppose, it would be a good idea to live your life in a straight line – starting, say, in the Dark Wood of Error, and proceeding by logical steps through Hell and Purgatory and into Heaven. Or you could take the King’s Highway past the appropriately named dangers, toils, and snares, and finally cross the River of Death and enter the Celestial City. But that is not the way I have done it, so far. I am a pilgrim, but my pilgrimage has been wandering and unmarked. Often what has looked like a straight line to me has been a circling or a doubling back. I have been in the Dark Wood of Error any number of times. I have known something of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, but not always in that order. The names of many snares and dangers have been made known to me, but I have seen them only in looking back. Often I have not known where I was going until I was already there. I have had my share of desires and goals, but my life has come to me or I have gone to it mainly by way of mistakes and surprises. Often I have received better than I deserved. Often my fairest hopes have rested on bad mistakes. I am an ignorant pilgrim, crossing a dark valley. And yet for a long time, looking back, I have been unable to shake off the feeling that I have been led – make of that what you will.”
― Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow
Do you think Donald Trump got elected because liberals ignored white working class voters? I did to some extent too, but now I see my own blind spots reflected back. Read this essay for yourself. It’s long but…WOW. Ta-Nehisi Coates interrogates an emotional post-election appeal about the forgotten white working class and rather easily pokes holes at both the liberal and conservative explanations. More importantly, he demonstrates that this way of framing things is nothing new. It is a story that white folks have proposed many times in a largely successful effort to dismiss the charge of racism and reenact white America’s “bloody heirloom.”
Our whole lives seem soaked with fear in 2017, but I thank Mr. Coates for making plain America’s original sin. It’s not too late to see our hidden wound. The truth will set us free, my beloved white brothers and sisters.
“Certainly not every Trump voter is a white supremacist, just as not every white person in the Jim Crow South was a white supremacist. But every Trump voter felt it acceptable to hand the fate of the country over to one.”
–Ta-Nehisi Coates in The First White President
Note: Here’s another attempt I made at translating my grandfather’s little A.A. book into a message for people who have too much privilege. I have found it fairly straight forward to apply the wisdom of the 12 steps to folks in need of sobriety/recovery from social privileges. See my previous posts for more examples…
August 7–A.A. Thoughts for the Day
We in [recovery] are offering an intangible thing, a psychological and spiritual program. It’s a wonderful program. When we learn to turn to a Higher Power, with faith that that Power can give us the strength we need, we find peace of mind. When we reeducate our minds by learning to think differently, we find new interests that make life worthwhile. We who have achieved [total acceptance] through faith in God and mental reeducation are modern miracles. It is the function of our [Privilege Recovery Anonymous] program to produce modern miracles. Do I consider the change in my life a modern miracle?
Meditation for the Day
You should never doubt that God’s spirit is always with you, wherever you are, to keep you on the right path. God’s keeping power is never at fault, only your realization of it. You must try to believe in God’s nearness and the availability of His grace. It is not a question of whether God can provide a shelter from the storm, but of whether or not you seek the security of that shelter. Every fear, worry or doubt is disloyalty to God. You must endeavor to trust God wholly. Practice saying, “All is going to be well.” Say it to yourself until you feel it deeply.
Prayer for the Day
I pray that I may feel deeply that all is well. I pray that nothing will be able to move me from that deep conviction.
A dramatic retelling by Greg Shafer
Then Yeshua and the disciples were in Capernaum. Peter was outside alone when a group of tax collectors came. “Peter,” they said, “Does that Rabbi of yours pay the temple tax like everybody else?”
Peter was afraid of the tax collectors, and couldn’t imagine the Christ doing anything wrong, so he spoke without knowledge.
“Yes, yes of course he does…” he answered.
He went inside the house, hoping that they would just go away.
But when he came inside, Yeshua spoke with him, “Answer me something, Peter. Do the Kings of the earth tax their own sons? Or just the other people?”
Peter was alarmed because he knew Christ knew about the tax collectors outside, but he didn’t know where Christ was going with this.
“From others only,” Peter replied.
“That’s right. Their sons are exempt,” said Yeshua. “Look Peter, we don’t have to do this. We don’t have to play this silly game of theirs. They demand from us dirt when God gives us gold. But so we don’t hurt their feelings, let’s play along. Go and catch a fish, inside will be a coin. That coin will pay your taxes and mine. Go head, it’ll be great.”
June 24–A.A. Thought for the Day
Privilege is our weakness. We suffer from mental conflicts from which we look for escape by drowning our problems in social ladders. We try through feelings of superiority to push away from the realities of life. But privilege does not feed, privilege does not build, it only borrows from the future and it ultimately destroys. We try to drown our feelings in order to escape life’s realities, little realizing or caring that in continued attention-seeking we are only multiplying our problems. Have I got control over my unstable emotions?
This “Thought for the Day” from my grandfather’s little A.A. book was originally written about the weakness of alcohol. I took some liberties to change a few words in order to help me focus on privilege, social ladders, etc. But I hope the original content shines through in spite of my editing, as it has proven to be spiritual gold for folks all over the place. The next day’s entry (June 25th) goes on to say, “One of the most encouraging facts of life is that your weakness can become your greatest asset.” So true! If only we had this program and its resources for those of us who feel licked by an addiction to social advantages. Maybe it’s time to start one…
I have hesitated to write specifically about my “free counseling” ministry. It’s not that I’ve wanted to keep anything under wraps, but it hasn’t seemed “big enough” to say much until just a few weeks ago. Of course, I also want to be sensitive to the privacy and confidence of those I help.
That said, I’ve created a page (here) and my dad put together a website (here) to provide more detail about my proposal and give access to referral forms. I’m looking forward to seeing how all this will unfold. My hope is that this project inspires others as well. That each one of us may use the gifts God has planted inside and experience real freedom in giving without pay.
June 1–A.A. Thought for the Day
Some things I do not miss since becoming dry: that overall awful feeling physically, including the shakes, a splitting headache, pains in my arms and legs, bleary eyes, fluttering stomach, droopy shoulders, weak knees, a three-day beard, and a flushed complexion. Also, facing my loved one at breakfast. Also, composing the alibi and sticking to it. Also, trying to shave or put on make-up with a shaky hand. Also, opening up my wallet to find it empty. I don’t miss these things, do I?
My grandpa Walsh gave me this little AA book back in 1998 when I had my own problem with drugs and alcohol. Recently, I realized that the things a recovering alcoholic (or drug addict) does not miss about getting high can easily be translated into the things I do not miss about seeking privilege. In an effort to draw out these connections and strengthen my resolve to abandon privilege, I constructed my own list of things I do not miss:
- I do not miss measuring myself with neighbors, friends, co-workers–all in secret–about who has the best possessions, job, social standing, etc.
- I do not miss moving at the speed of machines and feeling dizzy with my anxiety, always trying to keep up.
- I do not miss working harder and harder to plan for benefits, respect, and money.
- I do not miss living in denial about all this and justifying myself with soft lies.
- I do not miss churches and sermons that could only apply to people like me with way too much privilege.
- I do not miss feeling disgusted with my options (yet responsible for my choices) and powerless to make a change.
- I do not miss taking advantage of people in poverty for their willingness to go above and beyond.
- Also, I do not miss grabbing more than my fair share.
- Also, I do not miss trying to document “the lives of the poor.”
No, I do not miss these things!