Thursday, November 27, 2008

On Being Part Native

Let me just say this right from the start. I do not claim to be Native American. I don't know what it is truly like to grow up Native. But, my Grandmother was Native. She passed away when I was quite young. My memories of her are pretty vague. I cannot ever recall her talking about being Native American.

Several years ago I was in Phoenix Arizona completing my Master's degree in Counseling. I was given the opportunity to be a practicum student at an organization called Native American Connections, a substance abuse treatment facility.
I cannot hardly begin to tell what a blessing it was for me. I ended up being formally hired by the company so, I spent a couple of years with them.

It was a blessing for several reasons, one of which was the connection to my own heritage. It was not something I brought up much, being part Native. However, when it did come up people would jokingly ask "which part your big toe?"

As I said having a Native American Grandmother does not automatically make me a Native, or give me some special understanding. But, I'll never forget how it felt to hear the drums for the first time. It went straight to my heart, and I felt connected to Grandma in a way I never had before.

The Native American culture is incredibly diverse. I think the average American tends to lump the groups together. But, one of my favorite activities working there was to hear the cultural presentations. It was fun to learn about the different tribal histories and traditions. But, it was also fun to see how interested the group members were in each other's cultures.

I got to be a group leader often, which I loved. I also got to be the co-leader occasionally, just being there to support and back up the leader. One of my most memorable groups was a video presentation concerning the relocation of Native children into boarding schools. The presentation focused on the lasting effects of this forced re-location, including their parenting styles. Following the video a slightly heated discussion started. That is understandable, this was not exactly the United States' best moment. I was the co-leader, and content to let the leader take charge. However, she turned to me in an attempt to diffuse the situation, and asked what I thought of the video from a "white perspective." I was not usually at a complete loss for words in group, but I sure was then. The entire video I was thinking of Grandma. She was one of those kids taken from her home on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota and put into a boarding school in Oregon. There she was punished for speaking any language other than English. She did not speak English when she first arrived. I actually know very little else about her experience there. But, watching that video I thought about how that experience influenced the way she raised my father, and then in turn how he raised me. My "white perspective" was just a little bit skewed. I actually just played the no comment card on that occasion, but the experience sunk into my heart.

We are a collection of ours and our ancestors experiences. It is so important to understand that about ourselves and about the other's around us. I hope that Conservatives continue to value and grow in their understanding of minority populations in the nation. It is imperative that we give voice to any person who holds the same Conservative ideals regardless of their background.

I was privileged to hear so many life stories. Many of those stories were sad and difficult not to become emotional hearing. In fact a lot of times it felt like my heart broke. But, I also heard about and saw experiences of redemption that touched my heart.

One of those great things about Americans is that we can heal. That was such a beautiful thing to witness, and to feel in my own heart.

I'm so grateful to have had those experiences. Somewhere along the line it came up again that I was part Native, and was asked "which part your big toe?" Given the experiences I had had, and the ways in which my soul was moved, I was kind of surprised but not really when I replied automatically, "no, my heart."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Of Fallen Kings and Redefining Humanity

I'm one of those religious people who tries to learn from the Scriptures and apply it to today. Weird huh? So, let's talk about a Scripture story.

David. You remember him, good guy. He took out Goliath with a sling and a stone. He was anointed by a prophet of God to be the king over the United Tribes of Israel. Usually when you think of David you think of his defeat of the giant. But, I also think alot can be learned from his downfall.

What did David do that caused his downfall? Most people would cite his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba. Reading about the circumstances that led to that sin one can certainly see several things David could have done differently. For heavens sake if you see the woman bathing, have some decency and get off the roof. But, I digress. David committed adultery. But, I believe that there is a pathway back into the good graces of God. It is called repentance. David could have chosen to own up to his sin and start on the pathway to true and cleansing repentance.

But, David did something worse. Bathsheba ended up pregnant. David tried to cover it up unsuccessfully. He then essentially resorted to murder. He had Bathsheba's husband Uriah strategically placed in battle so that he would be killed during the fight. And that shall we say is the rest of the story. David resorted to having an innocent person killed, so he would not have to take responsibility for his previous actions. This destroyed him. He suffered the consequences of it for the rest of his life.

I submit that this story has quite to do with one of the great social ills of our age, the accepted and defended practice of abortion. Abortion as it is practiced now is the killing of an innocent being in order to avoid the consequence and responsibility of previous actions.

If and when we do get rid of the practice I believe that 150 years later society will look back at the practice with the same repugnancy and disgust that we look back on slavery now.

Why bring up slavery? Well, I see some similarities. Those who continued to promote this evil practice rationalized it in several ways. One of the particularly eye-opening ways was in the redefinition of humanity. A slave was considered 1/3 of a person. Basically slaves were not viewed as a viable human being so they could be treated however anyone would like. That is completely offensive and disgusting, but it was a social reality.

Pro-choice activists refer to babies in the womb as fetuses, not viable humans. This provides rationale for their being treated in whatever way a person chooses. It provides for a person to rationalize denying a tiny human life in order to, as David did, absolve themselves of responsibility for previous actions.

Many pro-choice activists tout the necessity for abortion for health reasons or in response to rape and incest. I agree abortion may be an appropriate choice in those circumstances. However, looking at the majority of the excuses of abortion medical necessity and rape or incest are an exceedingly small percentage. No, the vast majority do as David they try to escape consequences and responsibility. However, just as it did with David those actions stay with a person for the rest of their life.

I've heard the argument before asking if pro-lifers would be willing to take responsibility for all the children of unwanted pregnancies. That is such an ignorant argument. One who brings that up is completely ignoring how many parents there are who desperately want to adopt. These "unwanted" children are anything but.

In my work as a counselor this has been something I have unfortunately come across. The pain of an abortion procedure is not merely physical, the emotional ramifications are large and lasting.

There is no rationale or justification that can be abided in the matter. Choose life. The consequences of that choice? peace and good conscious.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What's Great About America

I'm a counselor. It is pretty great work. I enjoy it a great deal. One of the things that mental health professionals are sometimes asked to do is diagnose individuals with mental health disorders. That has never been one of my favorite parts. I really don't like labeling much.

But, there is a shift towards more positive psychology now days. I was intrigued with the Character Strengths and Virtues (CSV) assessment that came out a couple of years ago. It is used to help clients first identify their strengths and positive attributes. The client and counselor then can work together to identify how those strengths can be used to overcome the difficulties they are facing. It's brilliant!

Watching elections get negative is frustrating for me. No one likes to see the candidate they support get slammed by the other campaign and the media. I confess, somewhat sheepishly, that for a moment during this last election, I wanted to move to Guatamala or some place. But I said to myself, "Self, America has so much goodness, so many great people, and great American values."

I propose a campaign that focuses on "What's Great About America!" Get stories from every single state highlighting the strengths and virtues of this country. The virtues identified in the CSV assessment are wisdom/knowledge, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. Then within each virtue are any number of strengths.

Having identified America's strengths the campaign could then focus on using those strengths to work on overcoming problems. Wouldn't that be a breath of fresh air? I would love to see the goodness of America broadcast, shouted out. Remember you cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. Instead use those American muscles to strengthen the nation all around. There is so much greatness. Let's put it to work.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Touching the Monuments

Veteran's day is coming up. I have some personal thoughts on our Veterans.

Some of the best lines of our patriotic hymns are not in the 1st or best known verses. When I sing the National Anthem I often slip into singing my favorite verse. . .

O thus be it ever when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the wars desolation
Blessed with victory and peace may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the power that has made and preserved us a nation
And if conquer we must, when our cause it is just
And this be our motto in God is our trust
And the Star Spangled Banner forever shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave

See what I mean? Pretty stiring and very meaningful.

It has not been my priviledge yet to go to Washington D.C. and visit the monuments there. When I do get there though one of my first stops will be the Vietnam Memorial Wall. I get emotional even thinking about it. My father served in the Air Force in Vietnam. It is not something he talks about much except to tell us the fun ghost stories. But, I know his service to his country is one of the things he cherishes most. I honor him and all the brave men and women who have served, are currently serving, or will ever serve.

Dad has not been to D.C. either as far as I know. But, thankfully there is a Moving Wall memorial. It is an exact replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall only smaller and able to travel. My mom convinced my dad to go, though he did not want his kids to be there. We of course respected that. I asked my mom later if dad had touched it. She confirmed that he had. Isn't it interesting that we feel the need to touch the monuments. Veterans in particular will touch them. There is something validating about having something tangible. It gives the memories a place. It lets your mind know that the memories you had are real.

I got to visit the Moving Wall also. Like I said I get emotional even thinking about our soldiers. So, I did not make much of an effort to not cry. But, I knew I needed to touch it, to touch those precious names. It made them and their sacrifices more real for me.

As I walked away from that sacred spot I thought of a verse from America The Beautiful

O Beautiful for Heroes proved in liberating strife
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life

As I pondered these incredibly significant words, I thought of how well those same words describe the Savior Jesus Christ. I am one of those people who believe that every good thing testifies of Him. The men and women who freely serve, their willingness to sacrifice their own lives for our freedom, they testify of Christ, because they are like Him. They are the best this nation has to offer and we should always honor them.

Be sure to thank our veterans this week.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Veiled Revolution

In the 1900's the movement for equality for women was present not just in the United States but all over the world. Women's rights were being promoted. It was a fantastic movement, and I am incredibly grateful for it.

In The Middle East the women's rights movement included removing the veils (the hijab) that are part of Muslim custom. Many women began to dress in western culture style.

Eventually women in some Middle East nations started participating in government. This was an image which the governments enjoyed, appearing to comply more with western norms.

Then came the 1980's and something strange happened. Women started putting the veil back on. Even women in government were putting the veils back on. Why? They had been given the freedom to choose and they chose to live their religion as they understood it. Nobody was forcing them to, they just did.

This upset some of the male government officials. After all they wanted to show the world that their countries were westernizing. But, the women insisted and stood up for their rights to live their religion.

I love this story. I think a similar thing is happening in the United States. There is a huge movement among women who are conservative. The movement is not just to be conservative but to be so openly.

The introduction of Sarah Palin on the national scene showed some very interesting things. I make no secret that I am a huge supporter of the Governor, even prior to her being chosen as V.P. nominee. It was common for people to either love her or hate her, there did not seem to be a whole lot of middle ground.

Who loved her? Well, she awakened several sleeping giants, one of which is conservative women. Elizabeth Hasselback the famously lone conservative voice on The View said that before Sarah Palin she would have women who after the show would privately confess that they agreed with her. After the Governor's introduction those conservative audience members began to be more vocal and cheering her on from the audience.

Sarah Palin is deeply conservative and so pro-life she actually lived what she preached. She is religious. Like her or not you have to admit she withstood the seemingly never-ending attacks with grace and strength.

Why did people hate her? She did not fit the liberal definition of feminism. Here was a woman who given the right to choose, chose to be conservative. She chose life. She also chose to serve.

The day she was announced as the nominee one of my first thoughts was "now my future daughters, will have someone to look up to." She believes the same things I do about religion and conservatism. There are certainly some points we don't agree on. But, for the most part she represents me.

The feminism that came out of the 60's and 70's was one highly concentrated on equal rights, but also abortion. In fact the pro-choice movement became definitive for feminism. How then could someone be a feminist and be pro-life? Sarah Palin shows us how.

The 60's and 70's generation of feminists don't really get us conservatives. But, more and more women are choosing life, are choosing faith and are choosing to stand up and serve.

It's a peaceful revolution but it is alive and well. I'm proud to be counted among the conservative women's movement.

Introducing Me

Hey there,

My name is Sarah Emily Jordan. I am a conservative independent woman. My conservative values stem from a strong sense of the importance of religion, life, family and patriotism. My independent streak comes from life experiences. I have voted both Republican and Democrat, though I confess to leaning more Republican.
During this recent election I started writing a lot of stuff down, and decided to start a blog with it. I would love to hear other people's thoughts. I would ask for respect to be shown in language and tolerance.

God Bless