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Issue #3 Staying Rooted In Our Humanity
On grief, grappling, and solidarity
I started this newsletter, in part, to challenge the chronic perfectionism and people pleasing that so often holds me back.
In September I planned to share an essay further exploring my relationship with the evangelical church: why I had gone back in my late 20s and why I had left for good subsequently. Instead, I began procrastinating and falling prey to my tendency to abandon a piece when it becomes too complicated, vulnerable or risky. My fear of being misunderstood, rejected, or abandoned flared. My inner critic raged. My self-talk became more punitive as each day passed without executing a completed work that felt worthy of publishing. The month came and went, and all I had to show for it was a half dozen, half finished essays.
October arrived and I watched in horror as the news from Israel and Gaza flooded my timeline and my headspace. Distressed by the ongoing violence and the vicious online discourse, I have found myself unable to move forward with my writing.
Carrying on with regularly scheduled programming whether in my essays, on my social media, or with my music has felt misaligned at best and inhumane at worst. While at the same time speaking on the topic prematurely has felt irresponsible.
I’ve been affording myself time instead to listen, learn, and seek to better understand. But the more time that passes, and the graver the situation in Gaza becomes, the more wrong it feels to bypass this moment while continuing on in telling a story about the deconstruction of my evangelical conditioning and ongoing personal liberation, as if it isn’t interconnected.
So I’ve been asking myself the question: what does it really mean to believe that we are not free until we are all free?
When I feel powerless, I fixate. They say action is the antidote to despair, but I often find it impossible to act when I do not understand a situation. Confusion is the emotion I am least able to bear. It sends me into a panic followed by paralysis. I need clarity, I need information.
To cope, I investigate. This is probably why I am so often drawn to the principles of investigative journalism, trauma-informed psychology, and the deconstruction of conditioned beliefs and systems of oppression as frameworks. I need to get to the bottom of things.
A few weeks of research from the safety of my privileged positionality hardly makes me qualified, but I do believe in the power of paying attention, enacting empathy, and thinking critically. To say I have the answers would be dishonest, arrogant, and reckless. What I do have are my values, my observations and my humanity. And I have the ability to ask questions.
Enacting these tools in an ongoing effort to better educate myself – my gut, intellect, and heart have gathered the following.
I know that my Muslim and Arab friends are hurting and afraid. I know that my Jewish friends are hurting and afraid.
I know that people are not their governments, and should not be punished as such. Israelis are not the Israeli government. Palestinians are not Hamas.
I know that people deserve the right to self determination, dignity, and freedom, and it is well documented that Palestinians under Israeli occupation are not afforded these rights.
I know that the attacks by Hamas on Oct 7 were atrocious and reprehensible. I know that families of approximately 1200 people in Israel are mourning loved ones and waiting in fear as approximately 200 others are held hostage.
I know that the indiscriminate bombing, ground invasion and siege of Gaza is atrocious and reprehensible, is not the solution, goes far beyond the right to defend itself, constitutes collective punishment, and is a war crime.
I know that as an American taxpayer I am complicit and therefore, it is my responsibility to tell my elected officials that I do not support this madness. It has been reported more than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli bombs backed by the US, more than 4,500 of them children. Hospitals, refugee camps, residential areas and places of worship have been bombed. Access to water, electricity and food has been severely limited. Millions are being displaced and are facing humanitarian crisis. I recently heard a report on Democracy Now that a Palestinian child is killed every ten minutes. All of this on top of decades of Israeli violence against Palestinians and a 56 year-long occupation in an apartheid state.
I know that my humanity cannot find justification for any of the violence. I do, however, have a responsibility to try and contextualize the situation and people’s opinions and reactions based on generational trauma, the activation of fear, and historical context.
What I don’t know is how to watch the videos of Gaza turning to rubble and mothers holding their babies who are no longer breathing and not be overcome with heartbreak and panic, without screaming MAKE IT STOP.
The more I learn the more my humanity says CEASEFIRE, says stop state sanctioned violence, says stop apartheid, and says Free Palestine.
The more I learn, the more my humanity says stop Antisemitism, stop Islamophobia, stop racism, stop ethnic cleansing.
I know that I do not have all the answers, but I do have my humanity. And my humanity believes in liberation, dignity, and equality.
And as an artist and human, I have to choose to believe there can be safety and peace for all. And I do so humbly recognizing my privilege as a white woman living on stolen land and my ineptitude offering at the very least a commitment to a creative practice dedicated to wrestling with the hard questions, regardless of how uncomfortable or risky it might be.
A major catalyst for my deconstruction journey was the black and white, binary thinking I began to notice among evangelicals when tragedies occurred or injustices were brought to light. I kept getting cryptic “Good vs Evil” type answers and scripture used in lieu of historical context, facts, or action.
The more I sought to be on the side of human rights, on the side of liberation, on the side of justice and tolerance, and the side of the oppressed the more incompatible my Christian faith became.
Growing up in Evangelical Republican spaces, I have had a front row seat to the foothold of Christian nationalism and as a result have become allergic to its ideology with a prickling weariness of what it stringently supports.
Many Evangelicals believe, as this video from ajplus explains, in rapture theology or some version of end times theology. Their support of Israel is based on the belief that the Jewish people are the chosen ones and that their return to the promised land of Jerusalem is a confirmation of a prophecy about the second coming of the Messiah.
I know many people who believe various versions of this and are involved in groups like Christians United for Israel. This ideology has never seemed pro-Jewish to me. It increasingly feels exploitative and manipulative if anything when evangelicals believe Jewish people won’t go to heaven unless they convert to christianity and become “Jews for Jesus.”
Many Jewish people I know are progressive in their beliefs about many things evangelicals actively fight against such as reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights.
When I’ve approached conservatives in distress over the rise of neo-Natzi activity as a result of the GOP’s increasingly fascist agenda since Trump’s election, they seem to find a way to dismiss, minimize, or gaslight in response.
The math has never added up for me. So when I see Evangelicals “Stand with Israel” it gives me pause. It makes me ask questions.
Meanwhile I’ve observed many Jewish people who choose to grapple with the complexities. The first time I ever heard the term Zionism was when I was a nanny for a Jewish woman. When I told her I had grown up evangelical christian in a conservative family and alluded to my change of beliefs since, she offered her empathy and shared her own experience deconstructing Zionism. Her passion for social justice had spurred her to start asking hard questions.
Observing the Jewish community’s internal divide on the issue of Israel and Palestine, is an important reminder to move away from monolithic assumptions that everyone in a group thinks the same. Not every christian thinks the same, and the same applies for Jews, Muslims, Israelis, Palestinians, etc. If we stay rooted in our humanity, we have to make room for its complexities.
To oversimplify or unfairly categorize makes us far too susceptible to becoming desensitized to the pain of other human beings. As we know from history, the dehumanization of people groups has catastrophic consequence. And now, we watch in real time as the hellish nightmare in Gaza is on the brink of genocide, according to many world leaders, journalists, scholars, and activists including Israeli American scholar and holocaust expert Omer Bartov.
We are also seeing a horrifying rise of Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and related hate crimes around the world.
This makes it all the more alarming to watch people and institutions accuse or conflate those in solidarity with Palestinians as being Anti-Semitic. I find this rhetoric especially infuriating when wielded by those in power as a tactic to silence a global collective movement standing up for an oppressed group. On a personal level, however, I’ve been highly attuned to this conversation in a sincere concern that some of my Jewish friends might misunderstand or be hurt by my leftist stance. In reconciling this anxiety with my convictions, I found the article “The Left Is Not “Anti-Jewish” by David Zirin helpful in offering context and language to my existing belief that the criticism of Netanyahu, the Israeli government, and the US government’s support of Israel is not anti-Jewish.
This is absolutely not to deny that Antisemitism exists and has been emboldened and must be vehemently condemned whenever it rears its head. It is, however, imperative to make the distinction between Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism as to move forward towards collective liberation and peace. Zionism is an ideology, and one that many Jewish progressives oppose such as Jewish Voice For Peace who write, “Rather than accept the inevitability of occupation and dispossession, we choose a different path. We learn from the anti-Zionist Jews who came before us, and know that as long as Zionism has existed, so has Jewish dissent to it. Especially as we face the violent antisemitism fueled by white nationalism in the United States today, we choose solidarity. We choose collective liberation. We choose a future where everyone, including Palestinians and Jewish Israelis, can live their lives freely in vibrant, safe, equitable communities, with basic human needs fulfilled.”
Likewise, Muslim writershared in her substack, “being Pro-Palestine and against Anti-Semitism go hand in hand because all systems of oppression reinforce one another, and none can be fought in isolation.”
Just as there are Jews and Israelis who oppose Netanyahu and the Israeli government there are many Palestinians and Muslims who oppose Hamas. If the logic were reversed, people would accuse everyone who condemn Hamas as being Islamophobic — which is not the case. In contrast, it has instead become a pre-requisite to condemn Hamas in order to call for ceasefire and especially in order to speak up for Palestinian liberation without being accused of being a terrorist sympathizer. And even if you do the fear remains due to A “McCarthyite Backlash” Against Pro-Palestine Speech, as the Jewish Current reports.
Growing up in America post 9/11, I am heartbroken by how much Islamophobia and implicit bias towards Muslims and Arabs was sown into the very fabric of my American identity and fed into the justification of American violence against Muslim and Arab people like during the war in Iraq.
As I bear witness to these excruciating times and the pain of so many, I have noticed myself becoming brittle in my desperation for an end to the suffering. I want to have the answers. I want to fix it. Part of this response is likely the conditioned white saviorism I’m still trying to unlearn. Part of it is my innate sensitivity. Part of it is empathy. Part of it is facing the ongoing reality that “the truth will set you free but first it will piss you off.” I struggle so to process a truth that continues to reveal itself as so deeply monstrous.
In my grief and subsequent unraveling – I have found myself falling into old patterns of rigidity and high reactivity. My partner, Matt, and I recently went to see the new Scorcese film “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Based on the book written by David Grann, the movie tells the true story of the Osage murders – when members of the Osage Native American tribe were murdered by white men after oil was found on their land in the early 1920s.
While discussing the film on the car ride home, we got into an argument. United in our distress over the horrors of genocide and mistreatment of indigenous people throughout American history on account of white supremacy and colonialism, we splintered slightly when the conversation led back to Palestine and Israel.
Admittedly, I presented my point with harshness and little room for compassion or curiosity. Something Matt pointed out saying, “You’re so hard on yourself about saying the wrong thing, I don’t understand why you’re so hard on me,” to which I became more defensive.
I was triggered by the inherent truth baked into his question. He was holding up a mirror, a reminder that our treatment of others is often a reflection of how we are treating ourselves. When I’m stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious I become intolerant to my imperfections. I hold myself to an impossible standard in times that instead require compassion and curiosity.
Matt, though not one to shy away from calling me out on my bullshit, is incredibly patient and consistently committed to understanding me instead of judging me: a form of love I am still learning to more readily offer myself.
As the weeks have gone by and I’ve failed to say much of anything publicly while also struggling to move forward with any other writing, I’ve noticed myself becoming increasingly impatient and dissatisfied with myself and those around me. I’ve been inching closer to self-loathing, only further silencing any confidence or clarity that has risen in me.
When I read a recent draft to Matt, I said, “I hate it, it’s so annoying and pointless,” to which he responded, “I think it’s very human.”
I am innately aware that this essay is inevitably flawed and that many people will think I am wrong or have said too much or not enough.
But as an artist it is inauthentic to make art that is disconnected from my heart. When my heart is bleeding and my mind is heavy and atrocities reverberate in the pit of my stomach and my soul is restless, I have to at least try to share an honest offering, if and when I share anything at all.
It makes me think that accepting our own humanity is the first step. And even better holding space for it, lovingly. While I strive for more, I will try and start there.
Additional Sources, Resources, and Action
Watching Joy Reid ask relevant questions, Holocaust Survivor Dr. Gabor Maté Interview, Israel-Hamas War: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, But We Must Speak: On Palestine & The Mandates of Conscience
Reading Freedom Is a Constant Struggle - Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Davis,, ,
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