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Yellow Springs News Blogs

BLOG—2017: Making 2016 look better since January 2

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In my experience, year-in-review pieces tend to be the embodiment of the theme some from Facts of Life: “You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have” a cache of schmaltz, a cache of schmaltz! 

I remember the heady days of late-December 2016. With the current political reality just a dystopian parlor game we played with the quiet assurance that good would out and that the coming year would not be so bad, many in my diverse friends group felt that 2016 was especially bewitched by death. This was true of celebrities — David Bowie, Prince, Florence Henderson, Carrie Fisher, Muhammad Ali, Debbie Reynolds, and so many, many more — and of national trends as well, whether they be police-involved killings, gun-related deathsthe murder of transpersons (especially transwomen of color), suicides or overdose deaths. We were eager to turn the page, not knowing that a year later we’d be saying, “Go home, 2017. You’re drunk.”  

**

I am sometimes criticized for being too political, especially because I am a pastor. I believe very deeply in the message of Jesus. I try to follow Jesus without proselytizing or attaching strings to the love and care I give. But I don’t privilege politics over the gospel, which I take seriously and to which I dedicate my life. I am less concerned with trying to force people to believe in Jesus’ resurrection than I am with prioritizing those who are pushed aside and marginalized, the hurting and the penitent. Am I perfect at this? My goodness, no. I make mistakes. Regularly. I unintentionally hurt others in the pursuit of God’s directives. The option? The way to not do this? Well, that would require me to stop following the gospel. I try to make my actions follow my words, and I try to make my words line up with the gospel. But what others call being political I call being a Christian.   

I just write this because I am not going to pretend that Trump is normal. I do not buy the narrative that those who support him feel economically left behind, or that supporting him is not openly supporting a documented racist, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, classist, narcissistic bully who has the audacity to claim that he has “brought back Christmas” while simultaneously violating every single commandment Jesus ever gave. If that makes me dismissive or intolerant, so be it. But to be clear: I do not dismiss concerns, I reject the claim that Trump is an acceptable solution to them. And I follow Jesus’ requirement that we love our neighbors, even when I find it hard to like them.

                                                                            **

It has been a horrible year for the most vulnerable among us, nationally and locally. I talked to a lot of past and currently homeless persons here in the village. People who live in the Glen. People who couch surf. People who live in their cars or in their friend’s garage. I talked to people who came to the church for a meal or a couple gallons of gas. Some passing through, others people in the village who are stealth homeless. The available resources for them are underfunded and overburdened, and far too often bandied about as political footballs, funded by stopgap measures with no assurance of future solvency. The best example of this is the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). 

Then there is the rise in white nationalism, the Administration’s actions over immigration, the tax bill that was rushed through a purely partisan vote, the Russia investigation, and the seemingly endless mendaciously outlandish, infantile tweets from the occupier of the Oval Office. He tweets to exhaust and frighten millions, and he succeeds, one of the few things I can say he does well. I don’t accept as legitimate the belief that he is restoring greatness to the United States (because America is a continent, not a country). I don’t accept it because my faith does not allow me to do so. 

Just to add a little schmaltz, I’ll say that this year was important for serious conversations regarding sexual harassment. The #metoo movement (read a previous blog) brought it to a head. Yellow Spring’s own Trace Lysette showed amazing courage once again by speaking her truth, even though she does so from the margins. Here in the village, artists, actors, musicians, dancers, educators, mentors, students: we all contributed to our community. For that I am grateful. For that I have hope. For you reading this, I am also grateful. 

This year of 2017 makes me wistful for 2016. Not really. But it has made me more committed for 2018, to proactively work with others to help address food insecurity in the village. Stay tuned for something early in the year that will be actions to back up these words. Until 2018, I remain #saarinotsorry 

(Featured image can be found on teepublic.com)

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BLOG—2017: Making 2016 look better since January 2

by Aaron Maurice Saari