Profiles in Positive Masculinity: DeRay Mckesson

I think that these profiles have been a little celebrity-heavy lately, and one of my goals is to focus on an attainable idea of positive masculinity. The problem being, of course, that it is hard to find non-celebrities who are people everyone knows about, or who I can describe in a brief blog post if they aren’t widely known.

One person who came to mind is DeRay Mckesson, a leader in the Black Lives Matter movement who has been on TV a lot but was a community activist first, and only became something of a celebrity because of the political situation in the United States. A community organizer even as a teenager, he ended up being a school administrator, before quitting his job to move to St. Louis. He had been spending all of his free time working with people in Ferguson, MO, in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

First, here’s a manly image of Mckesson, one of many times he was arrested in Ferguson (and Baton Rouge, and other places):

Mckesson didn’t start the Black Lives Matter movement (three women were the originators: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi), but he did quit his job to move to the Ferguson area full-time as an activist and leader. He brought to the Ferguson movement a lot of skill with social media and communication, and rose to a position of visibility. He is one of the go-to voices and faces of BLM in the media because of what he has written and what he has risked.

I like what I know of his story, because what he has done is something that anyone could potentially do. Mckesson is not (to my knowledge) a world-class athlete; didn’t come from a prominent, wealthy family; he isn’t a celebrity in some other area who is lending his face and name to BLM. He didn’t strike it rich or have a particular string of luck – I mean, he is partly well-known because of how often he’s been arrested, and that’s not something anyone enjoys. He’s also not some kind of Everyman, but in his passion and commitment I think we can see the best of ourselves.

Black Lives Matter, and I support that movement, because I see it as a continuation of the Civil Rights Movement, which has been ongoing for generations now. DeRay Mckesson’s words and actions also matter, and the relationships he has built matter, and his arrests matter. His struggle matters and his suffering matters, and through him, we are able to get a window into a whole movement. Anyone who gives themselves to a cause can matter in these ways, and one thing he does is show us that. Anyone can fight for what’s right, and one doesn’t have to hurt anyone, or threaten to hurt, or have a lot of political clout.

For showing us what commitment to a nonviolent struggle, and integrity, and eloquence can do, even for those who don’t come into the world with any particular advantage, DeRay Mckesson is our Profile in Positive Masculinity.

Tear Down Every Confederate Monument

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Why Tear Them Down?

There are so many reasons to tear them down. They were erected primarily to intimidate black people in the South. Monuments went up at times we can best understand by looking not at the history of the Civil War but at the history of the Civil Rights struggle in the South. Preserving them has nothing to do with preserving history – books exist, and there is no chance of erasing the Civil War from American history, which is something that precisely no one wants to do. Confederate monuments do not preserve history, but they do seek to preserve white supremacy.

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The Southern Poverty Law Center studied Confederate monuments and concluded that they are overwhelmingly placed in order to support white supremacy. 

Who is defending them? We have recently seen in Charlottesville and elsewhere that Nazis, the KKK and other white supremacist terrorist groups are the ones literally up in arms defending the Confederate legacy. Those are the people who are stepping up to defend these monuments – all the more reason to tear them down. Nazi support alone is a reason not to do something, and if we find symbols that Nazis and the KKK feel they can rally around, we should tear down those symbols and replace them with symbols that, ideally, Nazis and the KKK will detest.

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The South Has A Lot to Be Proud Of

Maybe it’s hard, sometimes, for some Southerners to find things to be proud of, but I think that’s only because a significant number of them insist on trying to be proud of the Confederacy. It’s like a Robert DeNiro fan insisting on being a fan of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, or insisting that Ben Kingsley’s greatest film was The Love Guru. The same people who decry participation trophies seem to desperately want to erect monuments to that time they were on the wrong side of history and lost a war. I have a lot of family in the South, and they don’t have to dig around for something to be proud of, nor do they need Nazis and white supremacists to tell them about their heritage. 

The Right Side of History

Most of the people who risked the most, fighting on the right side of history during the Civil Rights Movement, were Southerners. All Southerners can be proud of what black Southerners have fought for and achieved, and of the white Southerners who marched and fought beside them. But the people who showed the greatest courage, and fortitude, and restraint, and who achieved the most progress in the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s were Southerners. Where do you think they learned the values that carried them through that struggle? Where did they learn to fight like that?

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American Music

American music has largely been defined by the South. Jazz, blues, bluegrass, country, folk, gospel and rock music all originated primarily in the South. While hip-hop originated in New York and LA, multiple strands and sub-genres have developed in the South. Most of the music we hear every day would not exist without Southern artists, and that has been true for at least a century.

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Natural Beauty

The South includes places of incredible natural beauty. The Gulf coast, the Ozarks and Appalachian mountains, the Florida Keys, the barrier islands of the Atlantic coast, Daniel Boone National Forest, the bayous and waterways of Louisiana, the Craggy Gardens of North Carolina, and more. The South is beautiful, whether you like historic places or natural beauty. If we made more of these beautiful places into state or national monuments, it would also protect them for generations to come.

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Writers and Storytellers

Many of the best American writers and storytellers have been, and are, Southerners. You might think of William Faulkner or Flannery O’Connor, or more recently Cormac McCarthy. We could be here all day listing great Southern writers, and the novels that many consider to be “great American novels” are largely representative of the South as well. In many ways, the voice of American storytelling is a Southern voice.

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Tear Them Down and Replace Them

Of course people in other parts of the country have things to be proud of as well. They have music and art and natural beauty and their own history of struggle. That isn’t the point. The point is that the South does not need Nazis and the KKK and other white supremacist bigots to tell them what to be proud of. They don’t need white supremacist bigots to stick for them or tell them how to honor and protect their heritage. And they definitely don’t have to fall back on the Confederacy as the last great Southern moment. The South is good. The South should be proud. Just not proud of white supremacy and slavery.

So tear every Confederate monument down, and replace each one with something to truly be proud of. 


Profiles in Positive Masculinity: Jimmy Carter

Similar to my profile of Justin Trudeau, this is not about who James Earl Carter Jr. was as President of the United States. I’m more interested in someone who can maintain their integrity, even having risen to the highest position in the most powerful nation on Earth. (Or at least one of the two most powerful, since we’re talking about the 70s.) Before we go on, though, we need a manly picture of former President Carter:

Image result for jimmy carter building a house

The way that we structure power in most societies rewards toxicity – aggression, deception, tribalism and so on. Politics is, and always has been, rife with controversy and corruption because there are a lot of harmful behaviors that are rewarded. Normally, political leaders are judged on a different moral scale when compared to the rest of us. We expect a certain background radiation of scandal and abuse of power. When we find hypocrisy, we think “Well, of course, this person is a politician.” What this means is that it is all that much more difficult, I think, to be a genuinely decent person who rises to power in a modern society. You are competing with people who will have advantages over you. It’s like being in a boxing match where everyone else can hit below the belt. If you become a champion under those circumstances, that is noteworthy on its own.

But what happens after you’ve risen to power? In Jimmy Carter’s case, what happened was that he returned to his peanut farm in Georgia. He wrote books and taught at Emory University. Most interesting to me, though, is that he has spent the last few decades working with Habitat for Humanity, working with his hands to build houses for the poor, and serving as a face for Habitat in the world.

I find it a compelling story, that someone like an ex-President, with so much potential power and influence, would choose to work with his hands. It is easy to see this as a mistake, as a waste of time. Couldn’t someone else build those houses? Why not do something like fundraising, which excites so many other politicians? Or be a highly-paid speaker? Cultivate wealthy friends and establish a philanthropic fund of some sort? Instead, he picked up a hammer and saw.

I like that Jimmy Carter has remained connected to simple things, despite having one of the most complex jobs on Earth for four years. Whatever one might think of his presidency, his life after the presidency says a lot about who he is. Justin Trudeau seems to be a highly effective liberal politician – more effective than Carter was, at least so far, and one who often remains true to his stated values. Nick Offerman is an incredible craftsman who builds genuinely beautiful things in his workshop, and a reflective person who has things to say about life and how to live it. Jimmy Carter just builds basic low-income houses. But of the three, Jimmy Carter is the one that inspires me the most. To rise to power, and then be cast down publicly, and then devote one’s life to helping others says a lot about who Carter is.

Of course it matters how someone uses power, but it also matters how someone reacts to the loss of power. His decisive loss to Reagan ended his political career. So what did he do? Among other things, he picked up a hammer and got to work, on behalf of the most vulnerable people around him. That says a lot. If nothing else, Jimmy Carter is a 92 year old man who builds houses for the poor with his own hands. At that age, I’d be proud to be half that manly. Heck, I’d be proud to be half that manly now.


Profiles in Positive Masculinity: Justin Trudeau

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Not hard to find a manly picture of Justin Trudeau. I like this one because it is strong but also flexible and playful, not just flexing in a mirror after being misted with faux-sweat or something.

And as I move on from Michael Forbes to my second Profile in Positive Masculinity, I need to clarify a few things. One is that I’m not a journalist, and I already work 60 hours a week and am a dad, so I don’t have time to do what I’d prefer, which is to go out locally and find unsung heroes of masculinity. I have to work with people who are famous one way or another. Second, I’m not advocating for or against Trudeau’s politics. That isn’t what this profile is about. In fact, I am going to focus on two specific instances of positive masculinity and leave it at that. I don’t know everything about Trudeau’s life, any more than I knew all about Forbes’ life.

And lastly, remember, this is not meant to be flawless masculinity. Just positive masculinity.

The first instance of positive masculinity I want to highlight came during Trudeau’s interview for the Daily Show with Hasan Minhaj. It’s your standard Daily Show interview, and kudos to Trudeau for accepting the interview in the first place, since he had to know they were going to try to get him to say or do something silly. Hasan Minhaj is no Stephen Colbert, though, so the tables in the interview quickly turn.

What’s interesting is the moment that comes at 5:40 of the video posted below. Just…just watch.

See that moment? Hasan Minhaj has come to roast Justin Trudeau, but he gets shut down immediately. There’s a moment where Minhaj is clearly thinking, wait, did shit just get real? And it did not get real. Well, maybe briefly. But what I liked about that moment was just the quiet confidence that Trudeau showed, shutting down even a playful threat without bullying or blustering or threatening in return. He just says, “You might find that a little more difficult than you think.” Maybe I’m just a little jealous of someone who is that self-possessed. Maybe I’m reading reading too much into a situation where Trudeau is surrounded by armed security, sitting in his own capital.

The second moment I wanted to highlight is the moment when Trudeau does something almost no other world leaders seem able to do – he reached a handshake detente with Trump. (And yes, I will regularly present positive masculinity in contrast to Trump)

First, let John Oliver break it down for you with lots of examples of the Patented Trump Yank-and-Pull Handshake.

So, we see that pretty much every time Trump shakes hands with someone, especially another man in a suit, he yanks their hand over towards him, and sometimes leans in aggressively as well, and is probably squeezing as hard as he can as well. It’s clearly something he heard about from someone, as something that real men and strong leaders do. He shakes hands like an asshole, is what I’m saying. Almost invariably.

Forward to the most recent meeting between Trump and Trudeau. Trudeau knows about this handshake move, and he’s come prepared. Here is a video with a little bit of analysis:

He’s prepared for the adolescent power-move. He moves in close immediately, keeps his right hand close to his body, and puts his hand on Trump’s shoulder as a brace. Trump tries to drag on his hand awkwardly a couple of times, then kind of gives up and leaves it in a state of detente.

So, clearly, Justin Trudeau is singular, the Prime Minister of a whole country. Not a goal most of us are going to reach. But all of us have to deal with assholes in our lives. Adolescent jerks who want to awkwardly show dominance, or punk us, or whatever. Stereotypical masculinity has a response to that – escalate. But I think there is a more powerful, positive response as well – what one might call quiet strength, and a little preparation if you see an asshole coming your way.

Man or woman, being self-possessed is compelling. Being at home in your own skin, and being committed to maintaining your dignity without having to fight back or one-up someone.

We can’t all be world leaders, obviously, but we can be a little bit more like Justin Trudeau, today’s profile in positive masculinity.



Eco’s Echo: Resisting Fascism


I came across an article: Umberto Eco Makes a List of the 14 Common Features of Fascism. Eco grew up in Mussolini’s Italy and is an irrefutably smart guy, so I was curious. Here is his list:

  1. The cult of tradition. “One has only to look at the syllabus of every fascist movement to find the major traditionalist thinkers. The Nazi gnosis was nourished by traditionalist, syncretistic, occult elements.”
  2. The rejection of modernism. “The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.”
  3. The cult of action for action’s sake. “Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation.”
  4. Disagreement is treason. “The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge.”
  5. Fear of difference. “The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.”
  6. Appeal to social frustration. “One of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups.”
  7. The obsession with a plot. “The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia.”
  8. The enemy is both strong and weak. “By a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.”
  9. Pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. “For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle.”
  10. Contempt for the weak. “Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology.”
  11. Everybody is educated to become a hero. “In Ur-Fascist ideology, heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death.”
  12. Machismo and weaponry. “Machismo implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality.”
  13. Selective populism. “There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.”
  14. Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak. “All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning.”

I read this, and I thought, OK, if these are the common features of Fascism, what would happen if we inverted each of these features and took them as guidelines as we resist the rise of authoritarianism, white nationalism and our own brand of Ur-Fascism in the United States?

  1. Anti-cultic innovation. Or, in a word, art. What by its nature contends against traditionalist thought? What teases out and highlights differences by making them compelling? Art.
  2. Embrace, if not modernism, then at least rationalism. Or whatever we want to call that which contends with irrationalism. No alternative facts. Call lies, lies. Support responsible media with dollars and attention.
  3. Contemplation for contemplation’s sake. Rest, Sabbath, and time alone or in small groups in contemplation.
  4. The discipline of disagreement. Where we can, have public disagreements, even on hard issues. Seek out interaction with those with whom we disagree as a discipline.
  5. Embrace, and seek out, difference. This can be exhausting – resistance is exhausting. But this doesn’t just mean different ethnicities or sexual orientations among middle-class, educated progressives.
  6. Solidarity between working class and middle class. We have been taught to ruminate on our socio-economic frustrations, and they only deepen. Middle-class people must seek out working-class people and join with them as allies. If demagogues lose the ability to play off of our economic schisms, they lose. But we are the ones who have to bridge those divides – we being middle-class people.
  7. Openness and transparency. Those who believe they are always under siege foster this sense in order to lock down, stamp out dissent, and close off information. We have to do the opposite, which is to remain open and, yes, vulnerable.
  8. The enemy is composed of words, actions and people. Be specific and precise. Point fingers. Shout people down. But do so with precision. “They” aren’t neo-Nazi dirtbags; Milo Yiannapolous is a neo-Nazi dirtbag. Steve Bannon is a neo-Nazi dirtbag. Jeff Sessions is a neo-Nazi dirtbag. And we can say why, in detail.
  9. Pacifism is necessary. The slightest act of violence cedes the moral high ground, in the eyes of many, to the enemy.
  10. Take up the cause of the weak. We must look to the most vulnerable people in our society and take up their cause. The disabled, the mentally ill, the desperately poor, trans people of color. Whoever is the most vulnerable must be the center of our attention and action.
  11. Everybody is educated to become empathetic. I actually agree that we should educate people to become heroes, but what kind of heroes?
  12. Sex-positive Feminism. We made a lot of progress here as a culture, and that’s part of what set these Ur-Fascists off, whether they are taking the Red Pill or GamerGating weaseling their way into the National Security Council, sans qualifications.
  13. There is no Voice of the People, no mandate. It’s so easy to feel like we are one of a vast number of people, because social media allows us to connect to far larger numbers of compatriots, even if one is a Flat Earther. Numbers don’t mean as much anymore.
  14. Build up instruments for critical thinking about complex ideas. We have to be unapologetically smart, and listen to unapologetically smart people, and ignore stupid people or people who talk down to their audience.

I can expand on each of these ideas, but I thought I’d leave them in this pithy form for now, and see what your thoughts are. So.


This is a re-post from Originally posted June 2016.

boxeo-Cassius Clay vs Sonny Liston

This is some of what Muhammad Ali said when he was stripped of his boxing license in 1967 for refusing to be drafted into the Vietnam War:

“I ain’t draft dodging. I ain’t burning no flag. I ain’t running to Canada. I’m staying right here. You want to send me to jail? Fine, you go right ahead. I’ve been in jail for 400 years. I could be there for 4 or 5 more, but I ain’t going no 10,000 miles to help murder and kill other poor people. If I want to die, I’ll die right here, right now, fightin’ you, if I want to die. You my enemy, not no Chinese, no Vietcong, no Japanese. You my opposer when I want freedom. You my opposer when I want justice. You my opposer when I want equality. Want me to go somewhere and fight for you? You won’t even stand up for me right here in America, for my rights and my religious beliefs. You won’t even stand up for my rights here at home.”

Two days ago, Muhammad Ali died at the age of 74. In response, there has been what seems like an outpouring of response. We have been reminded that Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest athletes, in any sport, of all time. He is on a short list of people who are recognizable worldwide. His heyday came before I was born, but he seems like he was a whirlwind of the fight world, trash talking, race relations, media savvy, and the Vietnam War. He was in his prime verbally, and physically, unstoppable.

There has been a lot of appreciation shown on social media, and while I avoid TV news like the plague that it is, I’m sure a death like his causes a huge amount of discussion. For me personally, Muhammad Ali is more recognizable than Prince, for example, or David Bowie, two other famous people who have died this year. I know more about Ali’s fights and life than I do about Prince’s or Bowie’s. I know enough about his life to call my fellow white people on our collective amnesia. We are still Muhammad Ali’s opposers.

We still send the poor, and people of color, halfway across the world to kill other poor people of color. Or, thirty thousand times and counting, we just send a drone and a missile. We don’t verify whom we kill, and the vast majority of the people we kill are civilians, and we kill them as part of an unending, unwinnable, undeclared war, but we didn’t care in 1967 and we don’t care now. We still oppose those who want freedom. We still oppose those who call for justice. We still oppose people who want equality.

Imagine 22 year-old Cassius Clay in 2016. Brash, angry, cocky, newly become the heavyweight champion of the world. Possibly the greatest trash-talker ever to compete in any sport. It comes out after his heavyweight championship bout that he has been radicalized, that he has joined a Muslim sect that promotes racial separation and violent self-defense when necessary. He says we shouldn’t be fighting ISIS because people of color need to be fighting the justice system and the political system and the police right here at home. He is unapologetic, and embarrasses anyone who tries to trade words with him. He goes on cable news shows and morning shows, and he talks circles around flabbergasted white hosts who stammer and try to make a point about personal responsibility or why all lives matter. He talks poetry, and shuts them down, and they go to a commercial.

You really think 22 year-old Muhammad Ali would be a hero in 2016?

Muhammad Ali would be like parts of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Kendrick Lamar, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Ta-Nahesi Coates all rolled into one and multiplied by Lebron James, Floyd Mayweather and Ronda Rousey. I don’t even know how to list names of people who could be combined to be like Ali. There is no one like him now, and there was no one like him in his prime either. But he would be hated and feared at least as much as he might be appreciated, now as he was then.

On the news, he would be described as a radical, a terrorist sympathizer, and a thug. He would be the example that white conservatives would point to as they clutch their pearls decry the failure of black families and black culture.

He would make white liberals cringe with the things he’d say about LGBTQ folks, and other civil rights voices would be a lot more popular and easy to talk about. There would be think pieces published about whether he was going too far in what he said.

Anne Coulter would publish a book, Once We Go Black, talking about how Obama has ushered in an age of the radicalization of young black men who are taking ‘our’ country away from ‘us’, and Muhammad Ali would be a core illustration. The book would be her best-selling one yet.

Bill Maher would have Sam Harris on his show again, to talk about how horrible Islam is, and especially how awful the Nation of Islam is, and how unfortunate it is that such an eloquent athlete has been taken in by the “motherlode of bad ideas.” They’d be called Islamophobes by some, but no one would speak up and support Muhammad Ali specifically, or the Nation of Islam in general.

College campuses would ban Muhammad Ali, and venues would avoid bringing him in as a speaker because of the protests he would provoke.

You know Muhammad Ali would be on the no-fly list, and the NSA would be listening to all of his conversations very closely.

No one seems to know what to do with Donald Drumpf – but Donald Drumpf is a vapid, mouth-breathing stuffed suit compared to Ali. Drumpf goes off-script and he sounds like a brain-injured middle-schooler. Ali rewrote the script for everyone around him.

This is the thing: maybe Muhammad Ali was a hero. (I honestly don’t know – he said some amazing things, and some awful things too) If he was a hero, though, then in the story where he is the hero, we are still the villains. We are still the opposers, even if we look at civil rights alone. We still love to praise celebrities of color without doing the hard work of changing our society so that people of color flourish. And I think that if we celebrate his life and legacy without acknowledging our opposition, then we are simply the posers.

Local Resistance in the Age of Trump


Update: I went to a local demonstration in support of immigrants and refugees, and it was a lot of fun. I met some new people and found a couple other organizations that are working to resist the Age of Trump in various ways. There were a lot of other clergy there, which was nice to see, and a good mix of POC, immigrants, men and women that reflected our town. 

Whenever I have to fill in my “hometown”, I just fill in whatever town I happen to be living in at the moment. The concept of a hometown is one I’ll never have, for better or worse. The idea that I come from a single place, or that my family comes from a single place, is simply foreign to me.

When I was six, we moved from Palm Harbor FL to Rocky Hill CT. The next year, from Rock Hill to Canton CT. The next year from Canton CT to somewhere – I forget, but we moved again halfway through that year to Oldsmar FL (I remember because I changed schools halfway through 3rd grade). Then we moved from Oldsmar FL to Safety Harbor FL. I lived there for a while, up to the summer after 10th grade when I moved out with my mom to squat in my grandparent’s old condo in Dunedin FL. Then I moved back in with my dad in Safety Harbor again while my mom moved to Akron. The next year, I moved out to live with my mom in Akron OH. I went to College in Wooster OH, and came home for summers and breaks first to a duplex and then to a rental house in Akron OH. During that time I spent a summer living in Chicago IL working as an intern at a church. When I graduated college I moved into a friend’s apartment in Wooster until I was broke, and then moved back in with my mom in Akron. Then we moved in with my girlfriend wife Pam, to a new apartment in Akron that we split three ways. Then Pam and I moved out to our own apartment, elsewhere in Akron. Then we moved from Akron to San Anselmo CA so that I could go to graduate school. Two years later we moved to an apartment in San Rafael, and six months later to yet another apartment in San Rafael. Then we moved to Orrville OH so I could start my first position as a pastor, and a year later we moved to nearby Dalton OH. From Dalton we moved in with our friends in Columbia MO for nine months, and from Columbia MO to live with my wife’s mother for a few weeks in Glenside PA until we find our own place in Jenkintown PA while I worked at my second pastoral position. Then we moved to Royersford PA for my third position, where we live now.

That’s about 24 moves so far in my life. Some short-term and some longer-term, but still. I’m 37, so on average I’ve been moving from one place to another every 1.5 years my entire life. Lot’s of reasons for that, and in some cases, for no discernible reason. This is just how things have gone so far. The places I can say have felt kind of like a hometown, at least for a while, include Safety Harbor FL, Akron OH, and now Royersford PA. Places I’ve put down a few fibrous, tenuous roots before moving on again.

There’s also no hometown for any part of my family, really. If we just count immediate family, they can be found in various parts of Florida, Memphis, Arkansas, coastal Maine, Cleveland, and so on. There isn’t a place we all came from.

This plays into how I function in the world. Social media is absolutely crucial to my sanity. If I didn’t have ways to connect over large distances, I would be desperately alone a lot of the time. I mean, I love my wife and daughter, but they would literally be all I have in my life almost all of the time. It recently occurred to me that I wouldn’t actually know it if my dad died unless I made it a point to keep in contact with some of my family in Florida (who are not communicative with me, the black sheep), and I am only able to do this through social media.

And social media, so crucial to my connection and sanity for so long (all the way back to AOL and dial-up, because I’ve always had to connect over a distance), is now a crazy shit-storm in the Age of Trump. It was very bad during the Age of Dubya, but for much of that time the internet wasn’t the main way people connected yet. During the Age of Obama, it was a crazy place but often focused on snark and satire. It was possible for me to keep up those connections, and strengthen them; to become a nascent blogger and that kind of thing. We started Two Friars and a Fool, I got into Twitter, wrote and edited some books, etc. Social media helped me be productive and even more connected.

But now it feels exactly like being locked in a cage and rolled through town while a crowd of people throws rocks and feces at each other while I pass. The horrors and offenses are no longer daily, they are hourly; with six different simultaneous Facebook Live posts focusing on each one. The connections are still there, and the creativity, but it is in the midst of a slurry that is at the moment so dense as to be incomprehensible most of the time.

The Trump administration clearly has the strategy to just spray us with offensive nonsense and unconstitutional authoritarianism, depending on the spinelessness of the GOP which controls Congress and, soon, the Judiciary. I see no reason not to assume that will be a winning strategy – we’ll see. What’s happening now is unprecedented and no one knows what’s going to happen.

In light of the Age of Trump, what should I be doing? For the past few weeks I’ve been glued to social media watching in horror as we careen off the cliff and into the void. I can’t even see the bottom yet, but it might be very deep indeed. Mostly this has been paralyzing, and I’d rather not be paralyzed.

One of the paradoxes of our information age is that we can be aware of things going on all over the globe, but we don’t actually have significant power to affect those things. If I do everything in my power on a given world issue, I will have negligible impact. Maybe if I get a thousand, or ten thousand, other people to join in, we might move the needle. 3-4 Million people marched a few days ago, and we’ll see what comes of it. I marched with 10 million people worldwide against the Iraq War 15 years ago, and we’re still fighting there.

Which brings me back to the hometown issue. What if the problem is that all of this energy is too dispersed? I’m getting caught up in literally fifty different issues in the world, and at best, whatever force I can bring to bear is dissipated into 1/50th of its potential. If I had a hometown, and it was 20 years ago, that’s where I’d be active, right? If I had a hometown, that’s where I might be able to push and actually cause something, anything, to move. Even just a little.

This thinking is leading me to realize maybe I should focus more of my energy locally. I haven’t been to any big protests or demonstrations in years, but I was a speaker at a local peace vigil in response to fears around Trump’s election victory, and we’re planning more such vigils. I’m going to a local demonstration tomorrow at lunch time and will be joined by some local clergy there. Our Clergy Association is talking about what we can do in this new, awful context, when most of us have a sizable chunk of Trump supporters in our congregations. There are a number of us that are also talking about committing to settle a refugee family locally.

I don’t know how long I’ll live where I am now. Based on the past, I’m a year overdue for another disruption and move. I’m also a year and a half before my temporary position potentially ends.  I wonder what I could be part of, locally, in that year and a half.