When the light bulb went on for me: resources for this moment

I remember the moment I first began to understand.

It was 1999. I was in a training session for new InterVarsity staff that was focused on “Multi-ethnicity and Racial Reconciliation.” Led by a diverse team of senior staff, we had spent three days studying the Bible and listening to leaders of color. I trusted these wise elders; I wanted to learn.

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Warming up to run for Ahmaud Arbery on May 8th, 2020 with our quarantine housemate, Enoch

So, I asked my honest question: “If America is still racist, why don’t I ever see it?” The white man leading the training answered me simply: “Because you’re white.”

A lightbulb went on for the first time.

It’s embarrassing now to admit how plainly I needed this spelled out to me. All along I had been open to believing that racism was still active in the U.S., but I expected to experience it myself if it was true. As though racism is an equal opportunity societal ill. Continue reading “When the light bulb went on for me: resources for this moment”

Love in the time of COVID-19

In the last week, I have been thinking hard about the two institutions I help lead: the Goetsch family (as Mom) and Huron Hills Church (as board Vice Chair). I believe it is incumbent on every institution leader, no matter how small, to ask what public service they are called to do at this unique moment.

Everything I have read has led me to the conclusion that if we want to “flatten the curve,” every institution that can must shut down as soon as possible. And, realistically, the smaller the institution, the easier it is to do so. So, the small ones must take the lead. At this moment, every gathering that is canceled and every individual that self-isolates can make a difference in whether this virus overtakes our hospitals at a rate they can handle or swamps them way beyond their capacity.

If you have not already, the time to act is NOW.  We are at most fourteen days behind Italy whose doctors are already facing horrific decisions about which desperately ill patients get ventilators. In just a few days, the difficulties of remote learning, working from home, and canceling travel are not going to feel nearly so important.

Rick and I decided to self-isolate our family starting today (Thursday, March 12th). We have withdrawn our kids from school and ourselves from all gatherings.  We have prepared to not leave our home for two full weeks. This is not so much to protect ourselves from germs but to protect others from germs we might be carrying. We want to protect the vulnerable…of whom there are many. Everyone above age 60, all cancer survivors, anyone with diabetes, heart disease, or asthma, and everyone who is immuno-compromised for any reason.

Additionally, our church board unanimously agreed last night to move services online and to suspend all gatherings on church property until further notice. Attached is the beautiful email our pastor sent our church body today. I commend it to you, particularly those who lead churches and other groups. A few quotes:

We are confident in Christ’s power. We are concentrating on caring for and loving each other. We are committed to our civic responsibilities as an institution.

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We turn first to our Loving Father. Then we do our part in cooperating with his healing work.

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We want to create a COVID19 RESPONSE TEAM. This team will focus on our at-risk members. We will contact them regularly, pray with them over the phone, and stay informed of their practical needs, especially if they are self-isolating.

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Rick during the 2009 H1N1 epidemic. May everyone who needs it this year be able to get the critical care that Rick was so blessed to receive then.

Regarding Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court, sexual assault, and false accusations

Like many of you, I have been watching the coverage of the Brett Kavanaugh nomination-turned-fiasco. I have read the particular accusations against him and the many, varied responses to them. I read this coverage with a slight partisan perspective as someone who believes in Constitutional originalism and as someone who has concerns about a society that permits the killing of its young, and yet…I’m troubled.

I am concerned by the very serious accusations against Kavanaugh, and I am distressed by the responses to them.

I believe that there is more at stake in this moment than the nomination of an individual to the Supreme Court, no matter how important that is. How we handle sexual assault allegations, how we speak about women, what we expect of young men, and how we handle investigations into accusations of years-ago crimes that by their nature delay reporting of them—all of these questions are in play. We would do well to slow down, listen closely, and think deeply.

Toward that end, I commend this article: Between Brock Turner and Brett Kavanaugh, When do Girls Matter? Two warnings before you click on it, though. To all my readers who have been sexually assaulted or abused, this article may  trigger renewed trauma in you. Please click carefully, if at all.

To everyone else: I find the author’s logic to be very sound…and deeply painful. This is not an easy read. It is worth our contemplation, nonetheless.

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I have noticed that some of my friends with sons have a different reaction to the Kavanaugh allegations than I do, as a mom of daughters. Several times in the last week, I have heard the issue of false accusations raised. This may seem easy for me to say, but I think our societal fear of false accusations may be a red herring.

Yes, if your son were to be falsely accused of a sexual crime, it would be devastating and life-altering. I get that. The incidence of false accusations, though, is quite small.  Regarding that question, I found this article well-researched and helpfully detailed: What Kind of Person Makes False Rape Accusations.

Please do not allow the bogey-man of false accusations to stand in the way of you supporting investigation of sexual crimes and caring for victims. In my personal friend circle, I see a prevalence of sexual assault that matches or even exceeds the reported percentages. The numbers are real and shockingly high. In contrast, I do not believe a single one of my friends has ever been falsely accused of sexual assault.

The numbers of false accusations do not remotely compare to the number of actual sexual assaults. We must not put off grappling with something that happens often by an overblown fear of something that does not.

 

©Laura Goetsch and Thinking about Such Things, 2018.

On MSU and leadership

The President of Michigan State University, Lou Anna Simon, resigned from her position yesterday. She was pressured to do so by those who have watched Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse victims give statements on what they suffered at MSU and other gymnastic facilities. The leadership of USA Gymnastics is under similar pressure, as it should be.

Simon submitted a six paragraph letter of resignation to the MSU Board of Trustees. After stating that “[t]he survivors’ accounts are horrific….tragic, heartbreaking, and personally gut-wrenching,” she goes on to say,

As Nassar’s legal journey to prison was drawing to a close, more and more negative attention was focused on Michigan State University, and on me.  I am pleased that statements have been made by Mr. Fitzgerald and Board members about my integrity and the fact that there is no cover-up….As tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable.  As president, it is only natural that I am the focus of this anger.  I understand, and that is why I have limited my personal statements.   Throughout my career, I have worked very hard to put Team MSU first.  Throughout my career, I have consistently and persistently spoken and worked on behalf of Team MSU.  I have tried to make it not about me.

You know what this ain’t?

LEADERSHIP.

Continue reading “On MSU and leadership”

The insufficiency of “consent”

IMG_2291I had just turned 22 when the big Bill Clinton scandal broke. I remember a phone conversation with my dad at that time in which we disagreed on the relative guilt of the parties—he argued, if I remember correctly, that the preponderance belonged to President Clinton. I argued that Lewinsky and Clinton shared near equal culpability. After a bit, my dad concluded the conversation by saying, “Laura, I think you may be too young to understand.”

He was right.

I was too young, too inexperienced in the world. Here’s what I did not understand: power.

Continue reading “The insufficiency of “consent””

Two questions and three articles on #takeaknee and President Trump

Controversy erupted over the weekend as NFL players joined Colin Kaepernick in kneeling during the Star Spangled Banner. The President tweeted repeatedly in response and railed against these actions at a rally in Alabama.

I have written many times on this blog about justice and the Black experience in America. At this moment, I only want to ask a few questions and point you to a couple articles.

Continue reading “Two questions and three articles on #takeaknee and President Trump”

On reacting and writing slowly

Have you noticed that I’m always behind? I never offer “hot takes” on my blog, only stone cold ones. Sometimes I wait two weeks to discuss an event, sometimes a year.

Lagging behind is not what the experts recommend for bloggers and opinion writers. You’re supposed to respond to events within 24 hours, offering incisive analysis on call.

I have deliberately chosen not to do this. It takes me longer than 24 hours to understand an event—what happened and why. And then I need to mull it over—reading wise commentators, feeling my feelings, praying, and discussing it with people whose perspective I trust.  This is how I discern both truth and wisdom.  Neither one comes quickly. 

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It may not be obvious from this blog, but I am actually an impulsive person. I have strong and immediate reactions that I enjoy acting on. I am comfortable letting my gut lead me.

I have chosen, however, to never hit “publish” impulsively. When I put my thoughts online, I want them to be well-considered. I need to be confident I have thought an issue through from multiple angles, that I have treated the players graciously, that I can stand behind both my opinion and my tone.

And when I have failed in either regard, I welcome feedback from readers. Such failures are far less frequent if I take time to listen, think, and write slowly, however. I save myself a lot of trouble when I am “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)

We all know the dangers of a quick tongue. How much greater the dangers of a quick keyboard?

 

©Laura Goetsch and Thinking about Such Things, 2017.

 

Mean Mom: middle school edition

In a few short months, my oldest daughter will graduate from elementary school and become a middle schooler. (Hold me.) In addition to all the perennial challenges of the junior high years—hormones, mean girls, a larger school, kids who party—we must figure out how to navigate social media and smart phones.

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How I prefer she spend her time. Outside, playing badminton.

For the first time in my parenting, I cannot look to my parents’ model or that of my wise friends with older kids. Even five years ago, smart phones were far less ubiquitous than they are today. My cabinet cannot help me here because when their daughters were in middle school, flip phones were socially acceptable. Snapchat hadn’t been invented.  Today, 50% of kids have smart phones in 6th grade and 90% have them by 8th grade.

Continue reading “Mean Mom: middle school edition”

Making sense of the news in the Trump era

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The view from where I sit

Ten days in, it is clear that one of the main tasks of responsible citizens during the Trump administration is to distinguish facts from fiction, hysteria from reasoned analysis. This, of course, is always the task of a responsible citizen, but it becomes paramount with an administration happy to baldy lie about the most trivial issues and a media driven to hysteria by every move the administration makes.

As much as I wish Donald Trump were not President and as much as I doubt his competence, I am unwilling to assume that every single action he takes is abhorrent and wrong-headed. I have neither the emotional stamina to live in outrage for four years nor the confidence that continual panic serves the common good. Instead, I must sort through the facts, do my best to discern the truth, and then pick my battles. Which actions and appointees are tolerable, and which ones threaten our democracy?

Continue reading “Making sense of the news in the Trump era”