My intent is never to offend, but it's highly probable I will offend someone (most likely, many). As I've previously mentioned on this blog, most liberals find me to be too conservative for their liking, and most conservatives find me too liberal for their liking. After reading this, people from both camps will be ready to pummel me. In fact, maybe I should sell tickets for the opportunity of pummeling Snarky Belle...that could potentially be the answer to our country's economic woes. At the very least, we could probably put a dent in the deficit. And that's a little frightening...the thought of people paying to pummel me. It isn't easy sharing yourself with others, when you know you will probably be left without a safe place to land once the dust settles. It takes courage, courage that I've been mustering up for at least five or six weeks now.
I value forthright communication. Most of the time, I'm preaching to everyone around me about its importance. And yet, over the past weeks, I've found myself less than willing to practice what I preach. I've never felt so uncomfortable in my own skin...so completely not the woman I know I am to be. I'm ready to be me again. And I sincerely hope no one is offended or angered by my words, but if that happens? So be it. But maybe, just maybe, there will be someone out there who understands where I'm coming from, and I won't feel so alone with my ramblings.
I would never vote for someone because of their religion, race, etc. I would also never vote against someone because of their religion, race, etc. This is neither an endorsement for, nor is it an indictment against, any candidate. This is my feeble attempt at bringing some level of integrity to this ridiculously out of control election year. And no person, party, or ideology will be spared.
We aren't even a full two months into 2012, and already I'm weary. The bickering, the mud-slinging, the back and forth...it all makes me ill-tempered. And let me tell you, no one in the political arena is innocent. Not Congress, not our President, and certainly not any of the Republicans running for office. I'm tired of their supporters making excuses for them. I don't care who you support, surely you can see that there is no innocent bystander in this circus. And if you sincerely believe that the person/people you support are above reproach, you need to seriously reevaluate your objectivity.
So here goes. I share with you my worries/aggravations/frustrations:
(A.) Congress can try and make me believe all day long that they have a terribly difficult job. Blah, blah, blah...I don't care. Most people I know have difficult jobs. Most Americans work hard, and they're exhausted. Many people I know would be ecstatic just to have a job, regardless of its level of difficulty. So Congress, you big bunch of whiny ass babies, I wish we could vote you all out, or at the very least that we could freeze your pay until you can do your job! FIGURE IT OUT already!!! Balance our budget, it's what you've been elected and get paid to do! It may even require making some people so angry with the tough decisions you have to make, that those people don't re-elect you. I'm sorry, you still have a job to do! You people need to figure out how to get along...with each other, and with our President. Enough already!
(B.) President Obama, I'm worried about the economy. I remember that years ago, when you were a member of Congress, you spoke passionately about how irresponsible it would be to raise the debt ceiling. I'm not an economist, and I'm also not a politician. I honestly don't know the best way to get us out of this heap of trouble. But, I wish you would honestly express why it was a terrible idea to raise the debt ceiling when Bush was president, but now you feel it's a good idea. I'm being sincere here, I don't understand the logic. And I would prefer answers that don't include you, and those around you, speaking about "the mess" you inherited, or bashing conservatives...not because I think Bush did some outstanding job, or because I'm protective of conservatives, but because the blame game is just tiresome. That game seems more congressional than presidential. I believe the blame game is beneath you and the office you hold. Also, I'm worried about Iran, Israel, China, Syria, and the war occurring at our own borders (even though no one wants to call it a war, it is). I know you're very busy, and I can't imagine the pressures you face; however, this is EXACTLY what you signed up for, right? I know that people (foreign leaders, the Republicans, and the Democrats) can be hard-headed and difficult to work with, but you chose a job that put you smack in the middle of them. I understand "everybody does it", "Bush did it", "Clinton did it", etc. but I worry that your campaign for re-election could distract you from serious matters facing us right now. I hope that isn't true. Lastly, I don't believe people should be penalized for success. I believe in helping the helpless. I am compassionate, and my heart aches for those who struggle to care for their families. I want to be wealthy one day, not because I am greedy, love money, or evil...but because I want to have more to GIVE, I want to have the resources necessary to make life better for others. So I take issue with demonizing the wealthy. There are dishonest, greedy, evil people to be found in every tax bracket.
(C.) Recently, I've had a lot of people asking me questions about things that I believe. I pride myself on being "an open book", but as the questions were raised, I realized I was timid in sharing some of the things I feel strongly about...for fear of criticism, backlash, and the judgements of others. This fear isn't irrational, as I have experienced all of those things throughout my life. Some who share my faith do not agree with where I stand on several issues, those of other religions refuse to accept my declaration that I am a Christian. And those who do not believe in God, or those who believe in Him, but don't like organized religion take issue with me because I do believe. Clearly, I can't win. So, I'd like to stop trying. I've come to realize, my life isn't about winning. It's about standing, getting punched in the gut, and getting right back up so I can stand once again.
As I've thought things over, I have been reminded that my place in this world is not in a closed book. I am an open book, and I will continue fighting for the courage to share my opinions and beliefs. What do I believe? Who am I? I'm a daughter of God, a follower of Christ. I believe the Bible to be the word of God. I believe the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ. It does not take the place of, or add on to, the Bible. It is simply another testament of our Savior's life and saving grace. I know, without a doubt, Jesus Christ is the one and only Savior of mankind. I believe it is through His grace that we are saved. But I also believe that to be a true follower of Christ, I must show my discipleship in word and deed. I will diligently try to love others as Christ loves me. In a nutshell, those are my religious views.
My religious and political views vary greatly. We are a diverse nation, we are human beings sharing this world. My religious views have no place in my government. Why? Because this isn't my world, it is ours...yours, mine and everyone else living in it. I feel we would be well served to remember those lessons about sharing that we learned long ago as children. Injecting religion into government is, at its very best, completely contrary to our God-given free will. Now some will say, "How can you stand as a Christian, and have the political views you have?" Because it's who I am, it's something that I can do. And it isn't something I'm going to hide, or feel badly about anymore. I was recently asked how I felt about Prop 8. (Everyone take a deep breath, because this is when I'm going to make every one mad, lose friends, and get blasted by judgements.) I believe marriage is between one man and one woman. I don't believe its definition should be changed. But, I will not stand against civil unions and equal rights. I don't feel that our society is threatened by civil unions. I strongly disagree with statements like that. I don't support giving any person or group more rights than another. I think all of us in this country deserve the same basic rights. Now, to guarantee equal rights, sometimes certain individuals or groups need extra help. I want to be clear that if I lived in California, I would not have been pounding the pavement for, or giving money to, any group that was fighting against equal rights for gays. I don't believe a person should be denied the basic rights I have because of sexual orientation, just as I don't believe those rights should be withheld because of race or religion. My church has been railed against for its supposed involvement in Prop 8. I will stand firmly and say, the church did not give money to anti-gay groups that perpetuate hate and bigotry. If individuals within the church donated to such groups, that is an entirely different issue. But I can promise you this, I would never do such a thing. And I don't appreciate our sacred temples being desecrated by those who resorted to violence and vandalism. Those behaviors solve nothing, and they're wrong. I do not want to be judged by the actions and words of others. My places of worship should not be violated because of decisions others make.
The next thing I'm going to get a beating for is the abortion debate. I am NOT pro-abortion, but I am most certainly pro-choice. That is NOT to say I support abortion as a means of birth control or as a matter of convenience, and late-term abortions disgust me. But if a young girl is brutally attacked, raped, and left pregnant, I don't believe the government should be able to tell her what to do. I believe that would be a decision for her, her parents, and her ecclesiastical leaders to prayerfully consider. I understand, as I've heard so often, "standing on the side of life". I understand the thought, and I think most people want to stand on the side of life. I find it cruel to insinuate that a young girl impregnated during a vicious rape, who needs to know she has options, is somehow opposed to life. I've heard a young lady tell her story of being the baby who survived abortion. I have heard the happily-ever-after stories of young women who chose a different path, and would never consider abortion. And those stories touch my heart and make me teary-eyed. But reality is, not every one has those stories to tell. And friends, we live in the real world. It would be heartless and cruel to force personal beliefs on a young brutalized victim. If someone can't understand the differences in this case and abortion being used as birth control, a convenience, etc. then we can just agree to wholeheartedly disagree. The bottom line is we can't legislate morality. We can't, and more importantly, we shouldn't.
I am a firm supporter of the separation of church and state. I will fight against any government forcing its views upon me; likewise, I will fight against any religion attempting to impose its beliefs upon me. I believe people are free to choose, and I will defend their right to do so, as well as my own. My church has officially stated, "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may." And that is where I stand. I prefer moments of silence in public schools as opposed to praying aloud. For one thing, it teaches my children they can always communicate with God, regardless of the circumstances. No one can take that gift from us. The more obvious reason why I prefer moments of silence is because I don't want others' beliefs forced upon my children, or anyone else's children...especially in school settings, or other settings where authority figures have the ability to (consciously or not) intimidate children, or make them feel uncomfortable. For example, two of my three children attend elementary school. Recently, it has come to my attention that their principal is less than fond of our religion. (Her eighth grade son has been sharing his mother's thoughts with my eighth grade son during lunch...Dear parents, your children always give away who you truly are.) Knowing she has ill feelings toward those of my faith, do I really want her leading my children in prayer. The answer is an emphatic, NO! Because of what my own children face, my compassion for others' children continues to grow. Children deserve to feel safe. I do not want any child, no matter where they attend church or if they don't attend church, to feel belittled or ridiculed. It would be contrary to the most basic Christian tenets.
(D.) I'm tired of, and bored to death with, dancing around the elephant in the room. I could respect people a lot more if they would just fess up! I really couldn't care less if you vote for Mitt Romney or not. It's your business. But, could you please stand firm and be honest?!? Just tell the truth, "I will vote for anyone but Romney because he's a Mormon." Seriously, let me help you out here...go into your bathroom, look yourself in the face, and repeat these words..."He's a Mormon. I can't vote for a Mormon because I choose to believe lies and misinformation." At least then you'll be just a bigot, instead of a lying bigot...and I can respect bigots just slightly more than lying bigots. I'm so annoyed by people pinning their disdain for Romney on everything but the truth, which is that he's a Mormon, and you can't stand it. Guess what folks? Obama isn't the anti-Christ, and neither is Mitt Romney. (Jury's still out on Gingrich...ok, sorry, that was a joke I couldn't resist.) In addition, Rick Santorum isn't the Savior of the world. And since I'm on the receiving end of the mainstream Christian wrath I can justifiably say, those of you who vote AGAINST someone because of their religion, race, etc. fulfill each and every stereotype about uneducated, ignorant Southerners and Midwesterners. I'm pretty sure Mormons are the last group left who can be mocked, falsely accused, and bullied without fear of repercussion. Oh sorry, you feel I'm playing the "religion card"? You better believe it! And quite frankly this political climate has greatly increased my compassion for anyone who ever feels the need to play a "card" of any kind. It's unfortunate to say the least.
(E.) I'm frustrated that Mitt Romney will not stand up, with great firmness in his voice, and say something like, "I am a Christian. I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am a Christian. Believe me when I say it, don't believe me, you make your choice. But, your choice to believe me or not has no bearing on the fact that I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. Are there beliefs that seem strange to others? Of course. That is most likely the case in any religion. Are there weird people, goofballs, and possibly even jerks who are members of my church? Of course, and you can find those types of people inside and outside of every church in this world. Bottom line, this is the United States of America, and I am free to worship my Heavenly Father as I choose." I want to hear something like this from him. And I want him to say it firmly and with conviction. But, I don't think he will. I'll tell you why I believe it won't happen.
(1.) He's being advised by his political people that he should not make religion an issue. NEWSFLASH: It is already an issue! It's a great big elephant sized issue!
(2.) In our church, we are often told we shouldn't feel as though we need to "defend" our religion. We are to take the high road, turn the other cheek, and all that jazz. I agree...but only to a certain extent. I only have so many cheeks to turn. I will not apologize for my Christian beliefs, I will not apologize for my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I will never (no matter the price to be paid) deny my Savior's grace and mercy. I will also never be found sitting by quietly when my beliefs are being attacked. I am a defender, and no one will tell me I can't be. If you have only lived in areas densely populated with those who share your religion, I'm sorry but you really don't get a say in how I choose to defend or not defend my religion. Until your child has been ostracized and mistreated because of his faith, you don't get to decide what it means to take the high road.
I can't say for certain, but it's quite possible that Mr. Romney has had limited experience with being persecuted for his religion, until now. He may not know that there comes a time (especially when in the national spotlight) when you have to man up, take the bull by the blasted horns, and say "Back off! I am a Christian, and it's time you just accept it." As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have NOTHING to be ashamed of, and nothing to hide. His "taking the high road", "turning the other cheek", etc. is frequently being portrayed as evasiveness. Pretending his religion is a non-issue, in my opinion, will ultimately have disastrous consequences for his campaign. Will everyone accept that he really is a Christian, that he truly does believe in Jesus Christ? Will people come to an understanding that there is much more that binds us together as Americans, and as human beings, than there are things that divide us? Probably not. But at the very least, I could respect him more if he would just say it! Because quite frankly, he didn't ask my opinion on whether or not I wanted all of this added animosity and trash talk about my church added to what already existed. He didn't check with my 14 year old son and ask how he felt about being the only active member of our church in his entire school. Romney didn't think about how my child would feel as he sits at his lunch table, and hears the horrible comments made about "the Mormons". So please forgive me, Mr. Romney, if I feel you owe the rest of us the common courtesy of being a little more bold in standing up to the critics.
Of course the persecution would come our way, with or without Mitt Romney in this race. Believe me, I have felt it my entire life. I grew up in an EXTREMELY anti-Mormon area of this great country; although, many who live there (members of our church and those of other religions as well) would like to pretend that elephant isn't sitting squarely on top of their fair city. I could fill a book with stories of how I was mistreated because of my religion. Many times I was told to just turn the other cheek, gently reminded that Christ suffered the greatest betrayals and persecutions of all. I think I did a fine job of smiling and turning the other cheek for many, many years. But as far as I'm concerned, the time has come to stand up with firmness and conviction, and that is not the same thing as simply telling people where you go to church, or inviting them to an activity, in my opinion anyway. I'm going to be vocal and stand firm with great conviction, even if it means I never get a job in politics, or a position on the school board. And just as I do my best to respect those of you who choose silence, in order to secure your places in politics, on school boards, or just to make your life more comfortable, I hope you can do your best to respect those of us who stand.
Well, that sums it up...now I guess I just wait for the lead balloon to drop.