April 25, 2013

My parents each have a different take on where I got my smart mouth.  But I have one, nonetheless.

So over the last week or so, I decided that in order to be smart, I would not use my mouth. No blog posts. The bombing in Boston seemed to merit silence rather than political commentary.  Reverence and respect for the dead and wounded.  Quiet reflection and remembrance.  Prayerfulness.

I have some opinions, believe me, about the event itself, the media coverage, and our different reactions as residents of this nation.  And despite the awfulness of terrorism, I have concerns about the treatment of the living suspect.

But I also have good friends in and fond memories of Boston due to my time in grad school there.  I also know some folks who were there for the marathon.  It has seemed more important to grieve with them, worry for them, listen to them, process with them, than to spew analysis about this or any other political issue at the moment.  Coincidentally, one of my Boston friends was just here a couple of days before the bombing.  And another was in Chicago this week for a conference, giving me the opportunity to visit with her and hear her perspectives about the city in the aftermath, the lockdown, etc.  I have felt fairly closely to the situation.

My sense of connectedness to the tragedy is further complicated by my own processing of my mixed-heritage personal story. I have family connections and roots in the Boston area.  I have cousins that were raised in the suburbs on one side of my family, and on the other side my dad’s cousin who provided me a home-away-from-home while I was in school.  Then there’s the fact that my mom’s side of the family landed as pilgrims on Plymouth Rock via the all-so-famous (and controversial) Mayflower.  I was reminded of my rootedness to the space that is the Boston area by a Facebook post of a fellow Kennedy school grad and descendant of those early settlers.  That helped me realize that the horror that I shared with all who were touched by the bombing came with lots of mixed emotions for many reasons.

(I always thought it would be fun to be a Puerto Rican activist member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.)

Better not talk about it much more than that.  I need to process.

The thing is, I was already planning some smart mouthed posts, having announced the week before that I would be speaking my piece/peace.  Well, being smart mouthed isn’t my intention, but I know much of what I have to say will rub somebody the wrong way.  For example, I had already outlined for the next month some posts that included discourse about guns and bombs and was still fretting about whether it was wise to fully air out my premises. Now I’m sure that it’s not quite the time.

Meanwhile, I was going to start with what I thought was some oh-so-smart stuff about tax policy for my usual Tuesday blog post scheduled for the day after the tax deadline. Interesting that our attention was turned that day to the site of the Boston Tea Party that was a rebellion against taxation without representation.  What an interesting moment to talk about democracy.

But that Patriots’ Day it didn’t quite seem appropriate to talk politics or policy or throw challenges in anyone’s face. It was and maybe continues to be a time to listen.  To pray.  To speak encouraging words.  To value our loved ones.  We need that right now more than my smart mouth.


Speaking My Piece/Peace

April 9, 2013

A quick internet search reveals that the right way to say it is “to speak one’s piece.”  It comes from a time when people would recite verse or a famous speech.  Often it might be a patriotic poem.

Apparently, some of us confuse that famous phrase with another: “to hold one’s peace.”  This one refers to saying nothing.  To me, the (apparently confused) idea of speaking my peace would refer to my need to say what I have to say in order for me to have peace.  So I like it both ways.

And here it goes…

As I have considered going into politics for myself, I’ve had to practice keeping my mouth shut. I’ve still been a bit brash in some contexts, and probably have rubbed some people the wrong way.  Clearly, I don’t always keep my mouth shut when I should.  But it’s been more than five years now that I’ve been trying to hold at least some of my cards close to my chest when it comes to certain political positions.

While in graduate school, I participated in a concurrent “From Harvard Square to the Oval Office” training program for women who wanted to run political campaigns or run for office themselves.  The trainer told me not to talk publicly about a particular action I had taken—though thoroughly consistent with my values—because it might be controversial in the public square.  I assured her that the majority of my base in my neighborhood would be totally down with it.  She told me to keep it quiet, nevertheless.

I’ve decided that I’m done with that. It’s time for me to stop shying away from using the voice God has given me.  I’m going to speak into the issues I’m supposed to avoid.

Sabbatical helped me move toward a place where I’m not living my life every moment in anticipation of being involved in politics.  To be honest, I still struggle with that, especially when others inevitably ask me when I’m going to run.  But I need to free myself of that burden and allow myself to live freely to pursue God’s purpose in my life, whether that ultimately includes politics or not.

When a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound if no one hears it?  Regardless of whether anyone is listening right now, these words are going down into posterity on the internet. I have to put these issues out there.  For me, talking about these things is part of my obedience, spiritual discipline, following my calling.  That’s more important to me than a future in politics.

In the coming weeks, watch for posts on immigration, abortion, guns, and gay rights, to name a few, not necessarily in that order.  Maybe even a piece about international relations.

Here goes nothing…

Purpose Driven Life

April 2, 2013

We nearly ran out of gas as we drove down the highway.  It was the half-way point of my year-long sabbatical from politics, and my husband and I were passionately discussing my purpose and my future.  It was our first big first road trip together.  A bonding experience.

I had re-read Rick Warren’s best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, during an emotionally tumultuous period of my life a handful of years before. My first husband had left me just as I was taking on the challenging task of turning around a small, struggling non-profit organization.  As I tried to figure out a fragile life that had been turned upside down, I was reminded of a concept I was already quite committed to: Warren’s book argues that we can only find fulfillment and meaning when we understand and implement whatever God put us on earth to do.

A few years later, having left my non-profit job for a graduate school stint at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government where I would prepare myself to run for political office, I thought I knew what my purpose was.  But then, the summer after graduation, I met the man who would be my second husband.

He had known what he was getting into when he married me.  But now he would prefer that I not run for office.  At least not any time soon.  Why had God brought him into my life if he wasn’t going to support my dream of running for office?

Maybe God knew that I needed someone to help me have more balance. To remind me that there is more to life.  To give me a different focus.  Even though my husband and I are not on the same spiritual path right now, he can still serve God’s purpose in helping me to be on the right personal and professional paths.

Despite our different perspectives—or maybe partly because of them—my husband and I agree that I have a bit of a unique voice that could be used to speak into both secular and religious realms around issues of politics and popular culture.  I have bases among both liberal, grass-roots, community organizing types and the conservative evangelical community I grew up in.  I have a relatively small number of friends and colleagues who cross both those spaces as I do, but most of those people keep at least some of their opinions muted for fear of alienating one side or the other.  I’ve long been torn as to which of those worlds I’m supposed to be spending more of my time in as I try to live out a faithful Christian witness.  Maybe it’s time I take the risk of walking boldly in both.

Establishing a firm foundation and a safe space to ground and hold me is vitally important if I’m going to take such a risk.  That requires an adequate investment in my marriage that might not have happened had I jumped into tempting political opportunities that have come my way during the early years of my new marriage.  For both pragmatic and philosophical reasons, my household needs to be my first ministry.

I always said that I would never become a work-a-holic (or service-a-holic) such that I neglected my family.  Growing up in a tough neighborhood with friends raised in tough circumstances, I didn’t want my future kids to be part of the problem as I was working to craft solutions.  As I envisioned from an early age a career in politics, I always said that I would not be one of those politicians whose children resented them because they were never around.  And I always believed that, after God, I would put my husband at the top of my priority list.

So, it was during the road trip that my husband and I agreed that my main politics-related focus for a while would be this blog.  I would use it to say some things that might actually threaten my future viability as a politician.  Meanwhile, I would invest in self-care, in my marriage, and other important relationships.  It took me six months longer than planned to launch the blog while I’ve focused on some of the other items on the list.  But I’m finally poised to speak into issues I’m theoretically supposed to avoid.

As we celebrate our April Fools Day anniversary (that’s another fun story), we’ve just come back from enjoying some more bonding time together on the road.  We are reflecting on our five years together as husband and wife.  We are celebrating that I’m finally resting in my calling.  And living into my purpose.

Am I taking a detour?  Even as I declare that I’m not, I still wrestle with myself and with God.  But I’m comforted by the words of one of my wealthy political donor friends with whom I check in once in a while.  He doesn’t share my faith or my political philosophy.  But he believes in me.  And though he has already written a check to help me get my political career off the ground, he told me from the beginning that I should be true to myself.  And that if I have a second chance at love, I should take it, even if that slows or changes my anticipated political course.

Politics will always be there.  Or not.

Regardless, I’m trying to let God drive my purpose.

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