Does It Count if I Only Read It?

I had never spoken the title and the name of the current occupant of the White House in the same sentence. Never.  It wasn’t anything deliberate at first. I just couldn’t bring myself to say it. I had never written it, either.

It reminds me of a lunch with a conservative friend about five years ago. He was not a fan of President Obama (did you see what i just did? I wrote “President” and “Obama” right next to each other. I just said it aloud. “President Obama” It felt good.)

I noticed that this friend was avoiding Obama’s name. I called him on it. “You can’t even say his name!” I chided. He objected. “I can say his name . . .  [long pause] Obama.” It was visibly painful, but he said it.

That was more than I could do. I could say “President”. And, I could say “Trump”. But, I couldn’t do it in the same sentence. After a few months, I realized that I had never said it. After a while, it became a point of pride. I sometimes bragged about it.

Then, last week, Linda and I were at sitting at the table, and I was reading the newspaper. I saw something interesting and, as I frequently do, I read to her aloud from the article. Just a few sentences. Then I paused. Apparently, the newspaper reporter and editor did not share my aversion.

“Oh, shit. Do you know what i just did?”

“It doesn’t count” Linda said. “You only read it.”

But, I had said it. I had spoken the words “President Trump”. Damn. Now I’ve written it.

Maybe it is time for me to take a deep breath and explicitly acknowledge this reality. I remember an interview of Senator Elizabeth Warren explaining her decision to attend the inauguration. She wanted the image “burned in [her] eyes” so that it would help to motivate her for the work that she knew had to be done.

Last week, I was privileged to be chosen to be president of Hartford Area Humanists, a role I had served before, when the group was first created. In addressing the group at our annual meeting, I appealed to the members to get involved in fighting for Humanist values in the face of an administration that actively opposed those values. I told them that our political times demand that all people of conscience take an active role in opposing this president’s agenda.

I didn’t say the words then, but I’ll write them now. This time on purpose. People of conscience must oppose the agenda of President Trump.

I just read that last sentence aloud. That’s not so bad. It’s that agenda that really hurts.




What do Humanists Offer the Bereaved?

A group of Hartford Area Humanists recently met in a member’s home on a snowy morning for a group conversation about  death and bereavement.  This gathering was part of Hartford Area Humanists’ ongoing discussion on “Rational Spirituality.” While many Humanists eschew any mention  of spirituality, dismissing it as supernatural “woo-woo” unworthy of serious discussion, others embrace spirituality as a natural human phenomenon that is not dependent upon anything supernatural.  These “rational spiritualists” seek to live a happier and more fulfilling life by exploring the deeper aspects of being human.

Sandy Hook Elementary School. Image courtesy of HartfordFAVs

Show caption

Sandy Hook Elementary School. Image courtesy of HartfordFAVs

It was no coincidence that we discussed death and bereavement on the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings.  Tragedies such as Sandy Hook raise difficult questions for Humanists.  In the weeks after Sandy Hook, New York Times columnist Samuel Freedman pointedly asked  “where were the humanists?”, noting that, while Humanist and other secular groups raised money and held anti-gun rallies, there was no visible Humanist presence offering solace to the victims’ families. Atlanta Page, a Christian blogger writing in, declared that Humanists have nothing to offer the bereaved in the wake of such tragedies, arguing that only faith in a loving God and belief in an afterlife can sooth those facing the otherwise unbearable grief of lives taken too soon.  Ms. Page argues that, while the Humanist stance that people should find meaning and purpose during our lives may be work well when celebrating the end of a long and rich life, that approach is inadequate in responding to the tragic and violent death of children.

Implicit in the accusation that Humanism has nothing to offer the bereaved is the assumption that the Humanist worldview is not an effective way of dealing with tragedy.

– See more at: