I am a 60ish-year-old single mother of young men, living in Houston, Texas. I hold degrees in journalism from Texas Tech University and engineering from the University of Texas-Austin and I have recently completed my Masters in Liberal Studies at Rice University.
The Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco in Trinidad, Cuba, is no more. Left standing are a few outer buildings and yellow and green bell tower. “Built in 1813 by the Franciscans,” according to Planetware.com, “this former convent was taken over and turned into a parish church in the mid 1800s and later became a jail before much of the structure was torn down in the 1920s.” Climbing to the top of the tower gives one a view of the picturesque valley below and the charming colonial town of Trinidad. It is a picture of a place and time that once existed, and still exists at this moment, but one which is rapidly moving into the 21st century.
Maybe Peter Beinart’s article in the April 2017 edition of The Atlantic has finally answered my BIG question. What is my BIG question? It has to do with Donald Trump and the fundamentalist/evangelical tie-in.
I’ve never seen the rise of such a demagogue in connection with the tenets of Christianity in my life. In reality, many Christians end up following all manner of so-called Christian leaders. Televangelists would not exist without their ardent followers. Pat Robertson, James Hagee, Benny Hinn and Joel Osteen are just a few who come to mind. Yet, the rise of Donald Trump as a stand-in for a Christian leader has my brain literally hurting.
Now Beinart gives us a perspective on this political/religious phenomenon and it’s the only idea that even begins to make sense to me. In his article, Breaking Faith, Beinart introduces us to the non-church-going Christian.
Although he notes that the nation’s growing “Secularism is indeed correlated with greater tolerance of gay marriage and pot legalization,” it is also leaving behind those more extreme conservatives in our country, “making America’s partisan clashes more brutal.”
These partisan clashes, notes Beinart, have, “contributed to the rise of both Donald Trump and the so-called alt-right movement, whose members see themselves as proponents of white nationalism.”
Need more proof? According to the Pew Research Center poll in March 2016, “Trump trailed Ted Cruz by 15 points among Republicans who attended religious services every week. But he led Cruz by a whopping 27 points among those who did not.”
Beinart cites The University of Notre Dame American History professor Geoffrey C. Layman as noting, “Trump does best among evangelicals with one key trait: They don’t really go to church.”
So Ted Cruz represented those institutionalized Christians whom you would normally see in church pews every Sunday. Apparently, Donald Trump represents a more disenfranchised Christian, who appears to have a more darker, much bleaker life.
Beinart suggests that “culturally conservative white Americans who are disengaged from church experience less economic success and more family breakdown than those who remain connected, and they grow more pessimistic and resentful.”
Another trend could be responsible for this outcome, as Beinart notes:
Since the early 1970s, according to W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia, rates of religious attendance have fallen more than twice as much among whites without a college degree as among those who graduated college. And even within the white working class, those who don’t regularly attend church are more likely to suffer from divorce, addiction, and financial distress. As Wilcox explains, “Many conservative, Protestant white men who are only nominally attached to a church struggle in today’s world. They have traditional aspirations but often have difficulty holding down a job, getting and staying married, and otherwise forging real and abiding ties in their community. The culture and economy have shifted in ways that have marooned them with traditional aspirations unrealized in their real-world lives.”
In my opinion, this disengaged group of white, lower to middle class Americans are the danger to a progressive, liberal, tolerant and inclusive society. As Beinart writes, “when cultural conservatives disengage from organized religion, they tend to redraw the boundaries of identity, de-emphasizing morality and religion and emphasizing race and nation. Trump is both a beneficiary and a driver of that shift.”
So this explains the rise of nationalism in our country. It explains why so many of our former highly-paid factory workers blame the loss of manufacturing jobs on the growth of multinational corporations and the immigrant population. It explains why it seems more important for the executive branch to build a wall and fund the military, keeping out those who do not conform to the 1950s ideal household–white, traditional, male/female, married, Christian. But what leads the white, working man and woman to want to “Make America Great Again” by wanting to set the clock back by decades? Beinart notes that, “When conservatives disengage from organized religion, however, they don’t become more tolerant. They become intolerant in different ways. Research shows that evangelicals who don’t regularly attend church are less hostile to gay people than those who do. But they’re more hostile to African Americans, Latinos, and Muslims.”
Beinart also discusses the rise of Bernie Sanders among the most liberal non-religious group, as well as the rise of the new civil rights movement among African-Americans, known collectively as Black Lives Matter. and how that movement is upending the traditional Black church culture.
We are in the middle of a major ideological upheaval in which the dominant culture from 50-70 years ago is dissolving–white, working class, Christian, industrial. In its place, is the post-industrial, secular, scientific, global, multi-cultural world. But the old order will not go down without a fight.
Donald Trump has risen as the leader of the disenfranchised, middle American, caught up in a protectionist, nationalistic, anti-intellectual movement, looking inward away from progress, multiculturalism and secularism. Christianity is a mask the Luddite wears, which hides intolerance, anti-Semitism and racism. The pendulum swings…
The Japanese, in my opinion, are masters at the art of subtle patterns in their architecture. Take the Miho Museum, located in Shinga Prefecture, near the town of Shingaraki, southeast of Kyoto. Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei designed this spectacular museum to house the multi-cultural art collection of Mihoko Koyama, a wealthy Japanese textile heiress. Lines and triangles criss-cross the building, nestled securely in a green, lush valley. For me, these patterns are soothing, monumental and inspiring.
A 2-1/2 hour journey for the average human, add 30+ minutes for the non-average American (taking into account the extra poundage from a sedentary life style), a moderately steep climb to the cafeteria, then many stairs down to a crook in the valley, then about half as many stairs up to the monastery, and you are there, at 10,240 ft., at the most sacred place in Bhutan, Paro Taksang, or the Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Paro, Bhutan. Breathe. Photo copyright SCH, 2017.
Technocrats and wonks have a very interesting way of recreating the English language, turning verbs into nouns, nouns into verbs and giant numbers into search engines.
Take the word swarm: usually a term meaning a large gathering of insects, with bees and locusts being the most swarmy of creatures in our collective memories.
SHAOYANG, CHINA – JULY 16: (CHINA OUT) Bees cover beekeeper Lu Kongjiang as he competes in a ‘bee bearding’ contest on July 16, 2011 in Shaoyang, Hunan Province of China. Wang Dalin won the contest after attracting 26.86kg of bees onto his body, covered only by a pair of shorts and swimming goggles. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)
But, apparently, humans can swarm, thanks to an app, appropriately called Swarm, by Foresquare.
Let me be clear, I am in no way working for Foresquare, nor am I trying to make money for this company, but I do think the idea is somewhat ingenious. In the “good old days,” before we held phones in our hands that have more computing power than the machines that propelled NASA astronauts to the moon, we used to have to make specific dates to see and meet people. Now, this app pairs up subscribers in the same place, at the same time, so meeting up is a breeze without having to waste time on pre-event planning. In true post-industrial form, members can earn badges and coins, while competing against each other for stickers and other cyber shit.
It’s sort of a way to swarm with your own human hive, without being overrun by biblical plagues of locusts. And, the company has an adorable logo. Just saying.
I live a vivid life–a life of culture, travel and experience. Vivid does not have to be simply visual. A vivid life is one where you participate fully and accept the here and now–a mantra that I’m trying on a daily basis to understand and accept.
A vivid life necessitates moving out of one’s comfort zone. It necessitates a tolerance and an understanding of our world’s vast differences.
I was recently in Bhutan, a country of mystery and Gross National Happiness (GNH), and an infrastructure unprepared for the inevitable tourist onslaught. Our group descended one day into the village of Lobesa in the Punakha District of northwestern Bhutan. Pilgrims take a short trek to the Chimi Lhakhang or the Monastery of the Divine Madman, Drukpa Kunley (1455-1529). This monk’s MO was absolutely out of the ordinary, even for his 16th century land-locked, mountain-locked followers. He espoused the greatest Tibetan Buddhist’s traditions, but he also might have been the earliest hippy, talking of free love–most specifically with him. Over the centuries, worship of the Divine Madman has evolved into a fertility cult. People, now from all around the world, come to pray at the Chimi Lhakhang for children–a pilgrimage to pray and meditate for the awarding of children in their lives. Our guide excitedly displayed a typical cheap, plastic notebook in the temple, showing us page after page of couples proudly posing with their newborns after visiting the monastery. This notebook is guarded by a large statue of a generic version of the Madman himself, while behind him sits the requisite giant statue of the Buddha, surrounded by many bodhisattvas–those humans who choose to not enter enlightenment, but decide to help their fellow human to reach the all enlightenment.
I have been in different places all around the world that celebrate fertility. We, as westerners, are used to depictions of female fertility, perhaps driven by the cults of Mother Earth to the Virgin Mary, all the while embracing and yet abhorring the phallus, which can impregnate with force and without our feminine consent. Society can then, socially and religiously, relegate the “promiscuous” woman to the status of adulterers and whores, while Donald Trump, the President of the United States, gets away with “locker room talk.”
This is what makes us comfortable. This is what makes abstinence-only sex education in the United States celebrated, yet ineffectual at curbing sexual relations and pregnancy outside of marriage.
But in Bhutan, sex is celebrated in its masculine form. Instead of seeing the very western-style paintings of beautiful, objectified and stylized nude women with their rounded, fecund stomachs and hairless genitalia, the Bhutanese present to us the fertile penis–the other part of the “it takes two to tango” catchphrase.
This is what I would call a vivid projection of the male anatomy (no pun intended). So many homes had this happy penis painted on the sunbaked adobe. Still, I felt very uncomfortable. As I walked through the village to the monastery, we were greeted with kindness and gentleness. What is keeping me from embracing the happy penis without this feeling of impending doom?
Upon reflection, I can only conclude that my anxiety stems from a deeply rooted cultural belief within me. The source of this feeling might originate from my western, Puritanical background, which has set me up for the great joy as well as the great emotional pain of sex, within and without marriage. But for the Bhutanese people, even the children see that sex is natural, expected and celebrated. These images do not invite rape or unwanted sexual advances. Rather, they embrace the male and female together, the ying and the yang, the dual source of fertility…the vivid life of love and the vivid love of life.
Doubt. Mostly, I doubt myself. I doubt myself because three years ago, my husband (who is 11 years my senior) and I split up because we found that our relationship had run its course. We no longer had anything to say to each other. We no longer wanted to be in each other’s arms. We no longer wanted to share our days and our nights together.
There is no doubt in our decisions. The doubt surfaces when I realize that as a 60-year-old woman who wants to date someone my age and financial situation, I have found that the men in my age group and social level can afford to have girlfriends who are 20-30-40 years younger than they are. I can compete with my brain–I have degrees in journalism and engineering and a Master’s degree–but I can no longer compete with my body and my looks. I gave birth to two bright young men. My stomach is flat, but it is also wrinkled, as is other parts of my body. I had to have a hysterectomy so that I would not bleed to death before I finally moved into menopause naturally. I no longer have the hormones for the body-wide firmness that a younger woman would naturally have, and the body that I USED to have for decades. AND, if men my age and social status want the young, beautiful trophy women, I DON’T want that type of man in my life.
I do not doubt my choice to split with the father of my children. I have doubt that I will be able to find a vital, intelligent, interesting man to share my life who is my age and not 70 to 80 years old. I doubt that I have the fortitude to accept this situation.