Collective Existential Anxiety
Let's acknowledge it
Warning, Secular Fam: this is NOT a school board update.
I hope everyone is holding up. We’re all living with collective existential anxiety (and have been for the last eight or so years), and it wears on you, right?
The other thing is that we rarely acknowledge it. Everyone is driving to work, clocking in, getting kids to their ball games or cheer practice, and meanwhile, the world feels like it’s crumbling around our ears, amirite?
And then on top of pending global warfare, climate catastrophe, and everything else that goes along with late stage capitalism and the military industrial complex, we have to worry about knuckleheads like Charlie Kirk, Clarence Thomas, and members of our own legislature and school boards waging culture wars. It makes me wish I could let it all wash away down the drain, but it just isn’t that easy (and I’m about to show my age with this gif):
If you’re reading this, you likely belong to the too small percentage of Americans who pay attention to what’s going on in your own backyard. And I’d bet money that a lot of you donate your time, talent, and treasure to improve your community and your state, not just for yourselves, but for everyone.
At the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) Convention this past weekend in Madison, WI, someone said that the evangelical extremists tend to ask “what will this do for me,” while progressive freethinkers ask,”what will this do for us?”
None of us could quite wrap our heads around how it is that conservative protestants have created this idea of a “Straight White American Jesus,”* largely rejecting many of his teachings. I took terrible notes during the conference, but I believe it was Madison drag queen and activist, Bryanna Banx$ (whose IG link has since been set to “private,” and she may just be a private person, but these days, who knows?) who mentioned how it always seems to be (and I’m paraphrasing here) the “freaks and the freethinkers” who practice true love and acceptance.
I’m also currently reading a great book, entitled Escape by Carolyn Jessop about her escape from the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) church. I just want to share this excerpt to point out the parallels between the FLDS approach to education opportunity and accountability and the current Arizona legislature, with their unbridled expansion of taxpayer dollars going to (usually wealthy) voucher families (who mostly were already homeschooling or sending their kids to private schools).
[Text reads: “As a teacher, I had seen what happened academically when families in our culture home-schooled their children. It amounted to no school. Families were now to band together in small groups and create their own religious schools. There was no uniform curriculum. Warren [Jeffs] didn’t want credentialed teachers teaching. He believed we had been contaminated by worldly knowledge. Anyone with an education was seen as a threat because we were too involved with the ways of the world. It was no secret that Warren Jeffs closed the public schools; it was covered in local newspapers as well as the Salt Lake City Tribune. But, inexplicably, there was no public outcry or state action.”]
I can barely believe that as I’m writing this it’s only a Monday, because already today, there was quite the hullabaloo about TPUSA, an organization linked to violence, sexual assault, and registered sex offenders, putting on an
hate rally assembly at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale DURING SCHOOL HOURS on October 23rd, 2023.
Of course all of us “time/talent/treasurers” became aware of this and sprung into action, demanding that the children of SUSD be shielded from this kind of violence. The
hate rally assembly was canceled (thank the lordT), and now, those bigots are whining about their FiRsT aMeNdMeNt RiGhTs, and planning a lawsuit (Remember, these are the folks who believe the First Amendment means that their religious beliefs trump everyone else’s beliefs, religious or secular, that doesn’t fit with their own).
Today’s Substack will be short and sweet, Secular Fam, because this month, I’ve got a couple of professional engagements, and in the middle of it all, I get to spend a week with my Pops, and if y'all don't mind, I want to take a moment to honor him:
My dad was raised to be a farmer in the Midwest. He came from a long line of dairy farmers, and had every intention of following suit. The solid benefits and pension of being a United Auto Worker (UAW) enticed him to work in a factory making parts for General Motors (GM).
He's a lifelong Republican, who remains on many-a-GOP mailing list (but hasn't voted that way since probably 2004). When my siblings and I were growing up, he wasn’t perfect. He made a ton of mistakes raising us (who didn’t?), but the thing that impresses me the most about my dad is his willingness to admit to his mistakes and grow.
Unfortunately, not all of my family members embrace the idea of reflection and/or growth. I'll never understand how children can be raised so similarly, yet come out with such different takes on humanity and how we should coexist.
I'm not joking, y'all, the loss of family and lifelong friends many of us have been experiencing these past few years also deserves acknowledgement. I miss the you-know-what out of my siblings and countless others, but it only solidifies my love and devotion for my Arizona+ family that I've been fortunate enough to cultivate over the last three decades.
And big shout out to him and my mom for not indoctrinating their children with any religion and letting it be our choice.
Whenever my dad and I talk, we have many conversations about how people should be able to freely and joyfully live their lives regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity, and my dad often states how he doesn’t understand how some people try to prohibit others from living their private lives without harassment from religious extremists or culture warriors.
Dad, you’re preaching to the choir.
I’ll get back to school board stuff as it comes up in the coming weeks/months/years(?) but for this week, I’m going to lean into the beauty of the autumn colors in the Midwest & East Coast, the intense emotions that accompany every visit to the hometown where I was raised, and the limited time I have with my Pops.
I encourage you to hug the people that matter to you, and I hope you and they are shielded from the chaos generated by some of the inhabitants of this giant rock as it hurtles through space.