Trinity Episcopal Church on the Green in Branford, CT has begun a project to build a school in the town of Kayimet in Northern Haiti. As a part of that mission, they are allowing those who donate $7000.00 to have the rights to name a classroom. I, Joe Brummer, author of this site, want to name a classroom the:
“Marshall Rosenberg Classroom for Peace.”
I am asking my friends, family, and those who are supporters of Nonviolent Communication and Marshall’s incredible work throughout the world to donate to this cause. Why? So every kid that passes through that room asks the question, Who is Marshall Rosenberg and what’s he got to do with peace?
About the project:
Trinity Church was introduced to the people of Kayimet through the work of Global Health Ministry. Rev. Sharon Gracen and Janet Constantino, a nurse practitioner who attends Trinity, have taken part in this non-profit organization’s yearly trip to Haiti. The visits to the villages are to set up health clinics that are organized by Sister Jackie Picard, from the convent The Religious of Jesus and Mary, in Gros Morne, the nearest town to Kayimet. She is one of our local partners for this project.
The plan is to build a two story building, built to the best earthquake and hurricane resistant standards, that will house seven classrooms, a cafeteria, clinic, office, restrooms and showers. It will also include a food pantry, and a storage facility which will qualify Kayimet for distributions from the World Food Program.
Who is Marshall Rosenberg and why name a room after him?
Marshall Rosenberg has been a huge influence in my life and my work. While I agree, it is odd to name a room after someone who is still alive and well, my hope is that those who have also been influenced and touched by Marshall’s work in Nonviolent Communication would agree this is a worthy cause and would enjoy seeing Marshall’s name attached to something so worthy! It is also my hope that this school could one day be a giraffe school. While that is further down the line, this is a nice start.
How Can you Help:
Trinity Episcopal Church is serving as the project facilitator, which also allows all contributions to receive tax deduction eligibility (please consult your tax advisor). Donations can be made by check or online with PayPal*. Send your check to Trinity Church, 1109 Main Street, Branford, CT, 06405. Please note Kayimet School-ROSENBERG in the memo line of your check so your donation will go to the Kayimet School Project and the naming of the classroom for Marshall Rosenberg. The funds will be held in a discrete account and wired as appropriate to our onsite partner in Haiti, Sister Jackie at The Religious of Jesus and Mary convent in Gros Morne. ALL proceeds from donations, less wire transfer fees, will go directly toward the Kayimet School project.
*To donate using Paypal, there will be a box on the second page of your PayPal process that allows you to make notes, please type Kayimet School-ROSENBERG in the note field.
If you have questions, or would like to talk to someone who has actually been to Kayimet, contact Rev. Sharon Gracen firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recently, I was asked by a local church to do a series on Nonviolent Communication (NVC) in celebration of Lent. During this time, Christians are suppose to give something up in penance for the 40-days before Easter, we chose to name the series: Giving Up Violence: Communicating Compassionately in a World of Conflict. I was thinking that going beyond just learning Nonviolent Communication, I really want to challenge those who attend to actually give up violence for Lent. So many people believe in their hearts that they are not violent, that is until we really look at our daily lives and see exactly what violence we help to support on the planet. So here are my 10 suggestions for doing this.
1. Give up Violent TV, video games, and Movies: Stop supporting violence as a form of entertainment! No more Law & Order, no more Criminal minds, even Pretty Little Liars or other shows that focus on murder, killing, revenge and crime. No movies with explosions, wars, machine guns, or scenes where violence is celebrated. There are many films and movies where violence is implied and never seen. While I prefer those over the blatant killing, blood, guts, and gore. I would even try to avoid those. See if you can get through just 40-days of not allowing those violent images into your mind and heart. In stead for these 40-days, find movies and tv that will make you laugh (not at other’s expense), movies and tv that will inspire and feed your spirit. Stuff that makes you smile or weep in joy. Look for romance movies, feel good comedies, documentaries that inspire you to be and do more. Try watching the movie “Happy” rather than the show called revenge. OR even better yet, read a book!
Also, put down the video game controller that allows you to shoot people, run little old ladies over with cars, and stab people with magic swords. See if for just the 40 days of lent, you can make it without killing anyone in the cyber world for points or pleasure. Especially for those who are younger and teen boys, this constant barrage of violence is having an effect on your spirit and your life. Now contrary to popular scare tactics, these games don’t turn youth into serial killers, but they do have effects on youth. Some studies have shown these games won’t make kids more prone to violence but will make them more prone to believing they will be the victims of violence. While other studies show these games actually change the brains of healthy young men between the ages of 18-29. While we are still unsure what those changes mean, I would bet that NOT playing games that fill your soul with violence would have far more impact than actually playing them.
I have been following the work of educator and author, Jackson Katz for many years. His work focuses on the fact we as a nation are addicted to violence and that the vast majority of violence is perpetrated by men and young boys. As we continue to fill our system with violent imagery, we are also teaching young men and boys that to be a man is to be masculine. I explore this much further in a post written last year. You can read it here.
2. Keep a Violence Journal: So many of us don’t realize violence is more than just physical. It is also the amount of emotional violence we inflict on others. We may not do it on purpose and we still do it. The name calling, the put downs, the judgements, maybe even the simple acts of gossip are all forms of violence. One of our worst uses of violence is to shut others down when they need us. We send kids away for a “time out” to punish them yet it is the times we think they deserve our love the least are the times they need it the most. Write down daily all the violence you own. Write down the nasty stuff you said under your breath about the lady who cut you off on the highway. Write down that you cut in line at the supermarket. Write down that you flipped off the guy driving to slow while you passed him. Even write down how you refused to help with the dishes to get back at your spouse for not listening to you about your day. The more aware of your violence you are the more you will be likely to change it.
3. Give up “Power-Over”: Be mindful during these 40-days of how you use power. If you are truly using nonviolence then you seek to use power-with and calibration to achieve your goals. Give up on the idea you can make people do stuff by using threats, bribes, rewards, punishment, or fear. Seek only to share power on decisions. Don’t use power to get your way to meet needs, attempt to negotiate ways to meet everyone’s needs. Conflict really happens at the strategy level, not the needs level. As you become aware of all the times in the day you were about to use power-over or when you discover you had already done it, add it to your violence journal.
4. Give up violence to the earth: Make sure you recycle everything you possibly can and make sure you are mindful are where your trash will end up. Make sure the chemicals and cleaning products you use are kind to the earth and to the other creatures we share this planet with. Skip products that have been tested on animals. Buy local and organic foods when it is possible. Use paper or reusable bags at the grocery store instead of plastic. Get yourself a refillable, reusable water bottle rather than drinking bottled water.
5. Give up Self-Violence: It is amazing the things we say and do to ourselves we would never say or do to others. The name calling, the put downs, and even the excesses we ingest into our bodies can be horrible forms of self-violence. The biggest form on violence on this planet is the violence we inflict on ourselves. We tell ourselves we are not good enough, not pretty enough, not man enough, not smart enough. We feed our bodies poisons and foods that hurt our systems. We take drugs and eat junk food in excess. We drink sodas with more chemicals than we can even pronounce. These are all forms of self-violence. Be kind to yourself. Find self-compassion. Eat foods that comfort and sustain you without killing you.
6. Give up the word “SHOULD”: One of the ways we drive violence in our lives is having these locked expectations of how each of us “should” be. Aside from the unhappiness this inflexible way of living causes, thinking in terms of should is one of the ways we justify and fuel our anger and sometimes our violence. YOU SHOULD BE MORE…. I SHOULD HAVE BEEN. The word should is laced in blame thinking and blame often leads us to violence. Change the word “should” to a simple “I would like.”
7. Give Up right/wrong thinking: The biggest problem with right/wrong, good/bad thinking is that the lines are so blurry. One persons “right” is another person’s “wrong”. One person’s freedom fighter is another persons terrorist. The terms have a hidden baggage that comes with them and that why Marshall Rosenberg referred to them as “Deserve Language.” They are basic moral judgements of others that secretly tell what punishment or reward we think people should get. Sadly, that is an easy way to justify violence against others. They are bad, therefore…. Change all of your moral judgments into values judgments. Instead of worry about who is wrong or right, good or bad, look at what universal human needs are met or not met. You have a much better chance of remain peaceful when you see the needs in other humans rather than what you think they deserve. I wrote more about disconnecting language like this in this older post.
8. Drive Peacefully: One of my early mentors in nonviolence told me that if I could master nonviolence in my car, I could master it in my life. When they cut you off, instead of calling them a maniac, think about your own needs unmet and then give some empathy. Maybe they honestly didn’t see you, we all make mistakes. While it is tempting to respond in violence and flip them the middle finger with our scary mean face, that response hurts us more then them. When people are going too slow for you, empathize that this may be the first time they have driven their car since their big accident. They may be nervous and would request your patience. Would you give it to them? All the names we call people prevent us from connecting with the needs that keep us human. They prevent us from seeing each other’s humanity.
9. Give Up Punishment: So much of the violence we have on the planet stems from the belief that others have wronged us and therefore they “should” be punished. In our schools, our homes, and our streets we are always trying to make people “pay” for what they have done. We misguidedly believe that people learned valuable lessons from punishment and nothing could be further from the truth. Punishment has several big problems:
PEOPLE NEED OUR LOVE THE MOST WHEN WE THINK THEY DESERVE IT THE LEAST! Here are some tips to end the use of punishment
10. Give up BLAME! For the 40-days of lent, take responsibility for all of your actions. That means giving up the phrase “I have to” and “I had no choice.” The reality is we always have a choice about how we respond in the world. We may not choose the things that happen to us and we do get to choose our response. In William Glasser’s Choice Theory, he explains that the only behavior we can control is our own. No one controls us and we don’t control them. Our reality is that our universal human needs cause our feelings and our actions. We do things because they meet our needs for fun, love, worth, or freedom. Everything we do is our choice and it is generally in the service of one or more of those needs. In others works, nobody made us do it. We don’t “Have to” do anything, we choose to because it meets our needs. Think of any activity you believe you “have to” do and change it to “choose to because it meets my need for….” By owning our actions and allowing others to own theirs, we give up the blame that so often leads to violence.
While many of you know I am an unabashed atheist, I also attend a church every week. I enjoy the sense of community and I also appreciate the message of peace and nonviolence demanded in almost every religion ever known. Today, the national Episcopal church reading for this Sunday was Matthew 5:38-48.
Eye for Eye
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Love for Enemies
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[b] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
“When your country and mine shall get together on the teachings laid down by Christ in this Sermon on the Mount, we shall have solved the problems not only of our countries but those of the whole world.” (source)
Recently, Matt Barber wrote a piece for World Net Daily about what he believes Martin Luther King, Jr.’s position would be on gay rights. While it is impossible to really know where King would have really stood, everyone wants to make these assumptions because it simply helps their cause. Of course, Matt lines King’s beliefs with his own based on things King said about gays back in 1958. The trouble with this logic is that if we really want to make a prediction about where King would have stood on Gay rights in 2014, his 1958 words won’t tell us nearly as much as the Six Principles and Six Steps of Nonviolence already tell us.
King lived his life based on the principles of nonviolence. He took those from both his Christian beliefs which basically mandate nonviolence in both thought and action for Christians, and from a well studied and meditated review of philosophy, theology, and personal experience. His Pilgrimage to Nonviolence was an amazing testament to that study. His message and his work evolved beyond just civil rights for blacks in his later years and moved to a campaign against poverty and his opposition to the war in Vietnam. It is my belief based on my study not just on King, but on those principles he based his life on that he would have evolved to see rights for gays and lesbians not just as a civil rights issue but a human rights issue.
For starters, I believe King would have followed the steps of Nonviolence. He would have started by gathering the most current information on all sides. That is the first step he put out there on Nonviolence. He would have wanted all the info on the science and current theological arguments both for and against rights for gays and lesbians. I think even King, who was well documented for being a scholar, would have been overwhelmed by the sheer amounts of information some of which is accurate some not so much.
Next, I would imagine King would have gone to Step 2 in his Steps of Nonviolence. He would have educated everyone involved with what he had gathered and learned. In almost mediator fashion, King would have laid out all arguments on both sides and tried to make some sense of them. He would have consulted and met with all those involved on all sides of the issues.
For these reasons, I believe King would have come to the same conclusions both socially and theologically that gays rights are more than just civil rights, they human rights.
We also have the evidence of his words in the Pilgrimage to Nonviolence. King clearly showed his own evolution of thought on liberalism, socialism, communism, and social evils. It shows a man who searched for the truth, the answers. I am completely positive that King would have continued the search for truth. He would have thought homosexuality as evil in 1958. He would have also evolved his thinking by 2014.
I also believe King would have been extremely opposed to the language and violence of words used to discuss the issues. Words like homofascism, heterofascism, GayKK, and even the word bigot would have brought about strong objection from King as they are personally attacks on people and not actions. King’s principles would not have approved of calling anti-gay folks like Peter LaBarbera names like “porno peter” which I also personally find unhelpful.
King’s principles were to build the Beloved Community and in that, he hoped we would all find ways to live with our differences. It is for those convictions, I think he would have supported and affirmed gay couples, same-sex marriages, and human rights for gays and lesbians.
I keep hearing this term tossed around by Christians referring to other Christians as not “True Christians.” I have been pondering exactly what does it mean to be a true Christian or even a Christian at all. I also suppose we could be talking about Islam and Hinduism as well. What constitutes one being “X” religion.
On one hand, you would assume that each person calling themselves a Christian, Muslim, or whatever they are would mean they are a believer. The question becomes a believer in what? The message, the person, the deity? One might also assume that calling someone a Christian means they are a follower of Christ. The next question would be a follower of the message, the book, or the deity? Simply put, does one have to believe in the divinity of a god to be considered a Christian, a Muslim, or a Hindu? If you believe in the message of Christ, does that make you a Christian?
Beyond all that, what are they so called “true” Christians and what does that make all the other people who call themselves Christians? What is the criteria for being a “true” Christian? Who decides the true Christians from the other ones?
The bible as a book of guidance on how to live your life has some great messages. It also has some messages I believe to be harmful and hurtful to us as a human race. I think the god of the bible is petty and vengeful. You’d think that such a powerful being would have mastered anger, vengeance, and other petty human traits. I still think like many books, there are some great lessons about who we are and who we could be as people. I believe the same is true of most religious texts. Lots of amazing lessons to help us be better at being human, being compassionate, being good to each other. Each has some amazing version of the “golden rule” about how to be. If I follow those messages, do I get to call myself a Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu? And who gets to decide if I am a “true” Christian, Muslim, or Hindu?
Last night, religious pundit, Matt Barber published a piece for the e-commentary site, World News Daily. The site is more of a opinion site than a news site. I wouldn’t have even paid this article a second glance except Matt tweeted 31 tweets in a row linking to the article, which actually made me laugh out loud. I wonder if Matt was afraid we’d mis it if he didn’t post it repeatedly. Oddly, his tactic worked because I actually read his article.
Matt’s article was in opposition to atheists, nonbelievers, and Planned Parenthood. He wrote the article in response to a previous article by a woman named, Valerie Tarico, where she writes her opinions about the signs she sees leading her to believe that “fundamentalism is going down”. Matt’s article makes some interesting claims that have nudged at my intellectual neurons just enough to make me feel like writing, something I haven’t been up on doing for the last several years.
First, before I jump to thoughts on the article, I want to put out there that one of the reasons I stopped writing about gay rights, religion, and nonviolence was the challenges that come from living compassionately and nonviolently while still respectfully being able to challenge ideas. I sometimes find this blog itself has been a journey of that. If you go back to my original posts from 2006 and compare them to the stuff I wrote in the past few years, the is a huge differences to be seen in my response to things I believe are harmful and things and people with which I disagree. It has been part of my reason for not writing, I need to keep growing in my own understanding of nonviolence, respect, and compassion first. Now, onto Matt’s article.
I think what has struck me most about this article is the strong tone of black and white thinking that seems to permeate our current culture. We have been living in this “all this-all that” mindset for just far longer than I like. I amazed how many people ask if I am for or against guns or even gun control as if those are simple yes or no answers. The same is true of socialism, communism, marxism, abortion, god, nationalism. You are either for these things or against them rather than a spectrum of ideas. We Americans seem to feel more at ease if we take complex and colorful concepts and simplify them into black and white issues. My experience of the world is that life just isn’t that simple and neither are these issues.
Matt’s article is heavy in the language of sides. You are either a north American progressive or a god fearing conservative. You are on god’s side or satan’s side. You are either for god or against god and by that, he is only referring to his god and none others. Again, I don’t think the world is this simplistic.
For those of us so very blessed to have raised our personal white flag in mankind’s inherently fruitless struggle against the Creator, there can be no joy in watching God-deniers continue to labor under the grandest of all deceptions. Regardless of how nasty they may be as individuals, there can be only sadness, genuine pity and prayer.
First off, I want to say I totally get what Matt is saying. I can empathize with this pain because I share the exact same sentiments just from the other view. It is painful for me to watch religious folks to labor under what I would call the greatest of deceptions. Over the years, I have found no joy or pleasure in watching people engage in things in which I don’t believe. This includes god, psuedo-science, homeopathic medicines, chiropractors, and acupuncture. Where Matt and I differ is that I am working in my life to find compassion for those who believe different stuff than me. I really want to have empathy and understanding as opposed to pity.
I also am not really sure what a “god-denier” actually is. How do you deny what you do not believe exists. I personally don’t believe in a god. There is no more denial in that than there is the fact I also don’t believe in ghosts? Does that make me a ghost-denier? I don’t believe in homeopathic medicine. Does that make me a homeopathic medicine denier? Makes me wonder why Matt would make such a choice for a label? Does he not really understand how belief works? Does he simply think everyone who doesn’t believe really does believe and they are faking it with denial? Not sure I could make any logical sense of that and then again, is there any logical sense to be made of it?
Belief is an interesting concept Matt seems to only grasp in terms of choice. Reality is we don’t actually choose what we believe. We take in the evidence (and I use that term lightly) and come to our own conclusions. Even if we wanted to believe in something, we cannot make ourselves believe. I certainly can’t wake up tomorrow and say, “Yup, I am deciding I believe in unicorns” and then actually do it. Doesn’t work out that way. I could say I believe in god and the fact is, I don’t. It would be lie if I said I did. I also know I can’t make myself believe in god anymore than I could make myself believe in ghosts, psychics, or the Loch Ness Monster.
The flip side of this, and a fact that has built much compassion in me for those who do believe, Matt won’t be waking up tomorrow and making a choice not to believe. He has read and heard the evidence and it has led him to believe there is a god and that it is the god of the Christian bible. He couldn’t stop believing that by choice anymore than I could start believing it by choice.
I find his comment about nonbelievers being “nasty” as just his anger that people like me don’t see what he sees the way he sees it. Guess what, Matt? I don’t see what you see and it doesn’t make me nasty, sad, unhappy, or anything of the sort. I will say that I miss my belief in god and Jesus. I was raised a Catholic. I went to mass most weeks. I was an alter-boy in 6th and 7th grades. I also went to Catholic Schools for all of my schooling. I studied scripture in high school and for a short time in my early teens, I sincerely wanted to join the priesthood. I had very strong beliefs then that god existed and that he and I were actually talking to each other when I prayed. Something I did often.
Over time, those beliefs changed and faded. There was no one reason for this but many. I do have to admit, the kicker for me was the realization that religion was more geographical then factual. Most people are the religion they are because they were born into it by location. If I had been born in the East, I might be a Hindu or a Muslim. Since I was born in the USA, I happen to be Christian.
I do miss my “beliefs” in god. I sometimes think it would be lovely to wake up tomorrow and believe there is a god. On the other hand, I am also happy I that won’t happen. There was a lot of comfort to be found in it. There was also a great sense of community going to church each Sunday and being involved with church activities. That is why, while not a Catholic church, I do still attend a church. The pastor of the church knows I am an atheist. She also knows I joined this church because of the social justice work they are doing around hunger, Haiti, and the homeless. I get a little freaked out by the whole communion thing because I see it differently than I when I was a kid. It now seems a bit odd that people are eating flesh and blood regardless of whom they think it belongs. Either way, I still enjoy going, especially for the sermon which generally meets with my values.
Matt also writes a few paragraphs about there being no freedom unless you are a believer. Of course, I would ask Matt, what is your definition of freedom? I don’t think I felt anymore freedom when I was a believer than I feel now except now that I don’t believe, I no longer struggle with odd and outdated rules about morality that makes little sense to me. In fact, I might say I feel an increased sense of freedom in my life because I am no longer held down by dogma.
When God-deniers like Ms. Tarico dig in their heels, a pitiable paradox occurs. While they think they’ve achieved intellectual enlightenment and freedom, they have, instead, been played for the fool. They have become slaves to the flesh, and playthings to the enemy.
I have never met anyone who thinks they have more intellectual enlightenment and freedom through the strategy of “god-denial” whatever that means. I don’t think I ever met anyone who thinks intellectual enlightenment is an achievement that is achievable. I would go as far as to say, what does that even mean. Next, I just laughed at the slaves to the flesh comment. I can assure you Matt think about and writes about sexuality way more than any nonbeliever I know.
Ultimately, I see Matt’s entire article as a way of drumming up fear and hate for people who don’t believe in Matt’s god. My question would be, what purpose does that serve? Does Matt think he will insult them into believing? What is Matt’s end game? To turn other believers against those who don’t believe? Is it to rally the troops of believer into having some reaction? What is Matt’s intention behind his article?
So, I have been attending a church. It is a local Episcopal Church in town. The building has been around for over 100 years. When you walk inside, the church was designed to look like the inside of a ship turned upside down which makes such sense when you live on the shoreline. It has two Tiffany stained glass windows I wish they would sell off to the highest bidder and use the money to feed the poor and help the town and I guess I can live with their choice not to do that. I get they want to hold on to the history.
Don’t get me wrong, nothing has changed. I still don’t believe in a god, let alone the Christian god. I struggle a little with some of the readings from the bible, and I definitely struggle with the communion thing each week as I think it is creepy to talk about eating the body of a dead guy. I stay for two reasons. One my beautiful and partner and husband wanted to join a church and I could have sent him to do this by himself and that also wouldn’t be me. I am there because I want us to do this together. I also think there is something here in this church for me to learn.
Over the years I have gone from a very devout Christian to a die hard nonbeliever. It has also left me with some intolerance of religion. That hasn’t changed for me. I get very frustrated with the lack of critical thinking I see in religion. It seems people of faith have made a conclusion and then looked for facts and data to back up this conclusion. This is very different from my belief that we have to look at the evidence and come to a conclusion not come to a conclusion and then look for facts to back it up.
I am looking to this local church to teach me tolerance and patience. Not everyone is where I am and they are happy where they are. Maybe this whole god thing meets needs for them it clearly doesn’t meet for me. Can I learn the lesson of understanding for this? Can I learn to be okay with others believing in stuff I not only believe is crap, I believe this can be harmful? I don’t know the answers to those questions but they fit with this journey of nonviolence I am trying to take. So, I have been going to church each Sunday and exploring it. I love the people and the coffee hour after service. I am a little freaked out by the rituals. While some part of me finds them nostalgic, the other parts of me find them creepy.
It will be interesting to see where this takes me and what I will learn. Mostly, I am hoping to learn a new view and look on believers. I want to be able to find a place of compassion for those who believe even though I don’t. While the intellect in me wants to debate with them right and left, the spiritual person in me wants to stay open. While the atheist in me wants to roll my eyes, the Gandhian follower in me wants to learn a new respect for believers I currently don’t have.
Learn powerful skills of compassionate communication to transform your relationships with yourself and others, in a warm, diverse, and welcoming LGBTQ environment.
Say what you mean, without blaming. Tell others your feelings and needs, simply and clearly. Find your voice. Listen without judging. In this powerful and transformative retreat for those who identify in the LGBTQ spectrum (lesbian, gay, bi, trans, or queer/questioning) we’ll develop skills of Nonviolent Communication, an acclaimed practice pioneered by Marshall Rosenberg. We’ll explore our differences as well as our connections in queer community, share our experiences from varied backgrounds, and discover ways to live fully in the world at a time when gay culture is becoming more visible and accepted in the mainstream, yet heterosexism and homophobia still persist. Join us as we play, laugh, sing, learn, and grow together.
Certified NVC Trainers Dian Killian, Jerry Koch-Gonzalez, and Kristin Masters will be assisted by Phoenix Soleil and Joe Brummer, making the facilitation team diverse across gender, class, race, and ethnicity.
You’ll discover tools of Nonviolent Communication to:This program is designed both for those new to Nonviolent Communication and those with some or extensive prior NVC training; different tracks will be offered for different levels of experience.
* identify your deepest vision and values, and to hear others
* deepen trust, authenticity, and intimacy in your relationships
* handle your internal critics
* relate to and fully accept your sexuality
* deepen connections with others, gay and straight
* move hearts as well as minds across political divides, especially on issues of queer equality
* deepen empathy for yourself and compassion for others in your life
Dian Killian, PhD, is founder and Director of the Center for Collaborative Communication in New York City, a Certified Trainer with the international Center for Nonviolent Communication, and co-author of Connecting across Differences and Urban Empathy: True Life Adventures of Compassion on the Streets of New York. Dian has served as union organizer, in the peace movement, and with Pride at Work. In 2003, she was recognized by NY City Council with a hero award for her efforts around LGBTQ inclusion in New York City. In 2011 she co-lead, with Marshall Rosenberg, an International Intensive Training [IIT] Nonviolent Communication training.
Jerry Koch-Gonzalez is a Certified Trainer in Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and in Sociocracy/Dynamic Governance, founder of New England NVC, and an activist with a passion to share the skills and consciousness that support egalitarian relationships of all kinds. Growing up in Cuba and New York City and identifying as bisexual since college in 1973, he lives with his two children in the Pioneer Valley Cohousing Community in Amherst, MA.
Kristin Masters is a Certified CNVC trainer. She shares from the principles of compassionate communication. As a longtime diversity trainer interested in liberation and awareness of power, she speaks many dialects of street giraffe. And in her love of Joanna Macy’s Work That Reconnects, Kristin offers an empowering and invigorating approach to social change work. Kristin hails from Santa Cruz, CA, where she is grateful to live and sing in community.
Community Mediation, my day job, is very excited to announce the launch of our IndieGoGo campaign, “Help Kids Making a Difference in Their Communities.” The purpose of this campaign is to raise funds so we can order hoodies for the peer mediators we’ve trained in New Haven area schools; these will help our peer mediators advertise the program, stand out from other students, and be part of something larger than themselves: reduced suspensions, incidents of violence and fighting, and creating a peaceful climate.
The campaign will be up for 55 days, and we are aiming for $8500 dollars; this will ensure that we order enough hoodies to cover the kids we have trained, as well as more for the students we will train in the future. The campaign is based off of similar initiatives in other states which have been successful.
Peer mediation is a proven way to reduce conflicts and other problems in our schools, and our peer mediators learning these skills will keep using them throughout their lives. Peer mediation has a proven success rate of anywhere from 58-93% in reducing conflicts in schools, resulting in reduced suspensions and an overall decrease in disciplinary measures needed. Most students, when asked, state that they use the skills they learn both in and out of school, with their friends, family and others.
If you are able, please follow the link below to donate, and even if you aren’t, please share it with anyone you know who is.
I have been working toward updating this site and trying to find some time to get back into my writing. I have also been writing a year in review for 2011 as for me, it was an incredible year and I got to do some amazing things. I will finish that up soon!
In the meanwhile, I recently did an interview/dialogue on empathy with Edwin Rutsch from the Center for Building a Culture of Empathy and Compassion. We discussed an article which was critical of empathy: ‘Great Negotiators Think With Heads, Not Hearts‘ in Forbes Magazine written by Victoria Pynchon. It is about an hour in length and goes off into a few topics beyond the article.
You can watch the video with a transcript at here. Otherwise….here is the video.
Edwin is doing some great stuff and his website is loaded with information about empathy, compassion, neuroscience and just we really are wired for connection. Check out the full site at http://cultureofempathy.com/
I am currently taking an online class based on the book, The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, PhD. Brown, who is a professor at the University of Texas, describes herself as a vulnerability researcher who studies authenticity, shame and courage. I was drawn to this class on Brown’s work because of her focus on empathy, connection and authenticity which are all running themes in my life because of my interest in Nonviolent Communication.
In her work, Brown defines shame as the “…intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging” and describes it as the “warm wash that comes over us that makes us feel small, flawed and never good enough.” It was hard to read that as a 41 year old gay man and not think about my childhood of being bullied, my teen years of trying to play straight and certainly my early 20s when I struggled to come to terms with my sexuality. I am realizing from this book, this class and my own life that growing up gay is a crystallized example of being “in shame” as Dr. Brown describes it in her work.
I can remember after I was gay bashed in 1990. Just a few days after it happen I was looking in the mirror at a face I did not recognize because it was so swollen and black and blue. I was pulling my bottom lip down so I could count the stitches where my teeth caused a hole when I was kicked in the face . I would try to use a hand mirror to look at the black and blue marks on my back. I truly believe at that time that I deserved what had happen to me because I was gay. What happen was ultimately my fault because I was defective. I was not worthy of love and belonging and I didn’t feel I had a place in my life where I belonged. I know now and can name what that was. It was shame. It was the warm wash that came over me that I am convinced to this day is what caused me to physically heal in record time. My doctors were amazed at how fast my black and blue marks, swelling and cuts and bruises healed. I think I wished myself better to make the shame go away.
What was that shame really about? We live in a society where being gay is still viewed as weak, passive, the opposite of masculine. While the last 25 years have brought great change to those views, it hasn’t changed enough to stop gays and lesbians from growing up feeling defective and unworthy of love for who they are. The record suicide rates of youth bullied for their perceived sexual orientation is an example of just how damaging these views can be.
You can watch her Tedx Huston talk:
I am going to throw a premise out there I have been thinking about over the past few weeks about shame and homophobia. We shame young men into being tough, into hiding their feelings, into hiding themselves and we do it with homophobia. I believe this damages heterosexual marriages and the men and women in this marriages. Let me attempt to explain what I have been thinking.
Our picture for what a real man should be is really just “not a faggot” as the perception of the stereotype is this weak, emotional, effeminate, show tune loving guy who looks good in pink. We raise our young men and boys by painting them a picture of what a man is supposed to be and then paint the opposite of that as a faggot. Thus making men want to avoid anyone thinking their are gay even if they are because it somehow makes them less worthy of love and belonging, (shame.)
Researcher Jackson Katz, an author, educator and film maker explored these ideas in his 1999 film “Tough Guise” where he breaks down the stereotypes we use to tell men what being a man is. Before continuing to read the premise I am presenting, watch this short clip from the film and pay particular attention to what the young men say when asked the qualities of being a man.
One of the themes I have heard in this class from other men about living authentically is just how hard it is to be yourself in a world where you are programmed to live up to a certain framework of what a man is supposed to be. I was thinking about this idea of the picture of what a man is “suppose to be.” Men don’t show emotions. Men don’t show vulnerability. Men don’t show compassion. Men dress tough, drive trucks, play football, burp, and fart. The drink beer not wine. They have steak and certainly they don’t eat quiche. Men also spend lots of time NOT doing anything that might lead people to think they are gay. Some even going as far as killing other men to prove they are not gay, deemed the so called, Gay Panic defense. They kill men who hit on them as opposed to just saying “thank you but I am straight but flattered.”
Despite the damage this is doing to gay men and boys, one has to wonder, what does all this do to heterosexual men and boys especially in light of all the new research out there in the past 10 years around mirror neurons, empathy, connection and motivation. I have been reading a ton of books about shame, empathy and human connection and one of the things I find is that all these researchers agree, as men we are emotional, we are creative and those are not signs of being gay, but being human. In fact, many of the characteristics that get attributed to gay men are hold and hidden in straight men.
Homophobia and our refusal to accept and affirm gay men and relationships gives many bullies their power. Just looking at the numbers of who gets bullied and what things bullies say to young men is a clue to just how powerful shame can be as a tool to make men feel small. You want to make a man feel small, flawed and unworthy of love and belonging, call him a faggot. Why is that so shaming, so powerful? Because we allow it to be. It reinforces to men that they have to appear macho not effeminate. What would happen if we changed that stereotype?
I would like you think about what this shame and programming would do to a young, emotional and creative young boy who then grows up and marries a woman. He has been programmed to not communicate his feelings because that is for fags. So he is unable to express to this woman the things she really needs to hear from her partner to make things work. He isn’t going to be told what to do by a woman because men who aren’t their own boss are again perceived as passive which is also another quality of the stereotype of gay men. This leaves a man who faces conflict about chores and won’t be negotiating with his wife, he will want to be the boss. God knows that last thing we teach young men is to be vulnerable, so it is unlikely he will be sharing honestly when he is in pain.
Two of the top reasons heterosexual marriages end are communication breakdowns and abuse. I can’t help but wonder if these communication breakdowns are based in how we shame men into being “not gay” and would these change if we starting accepting gays and supporting them to be healthy, whole and authentic about their stories. If we accepted gay men, straight men would no longer care about being perceived as gay as it would no longer be a bad thing. What if we taught men to have the courage to be who they really are rather than “not gay.” That would mean calling a straight man sensitive wouldn’t send him into the warm wash of shame where he then wants to prove his “not gayness” to the world with destructive behaviors.
I would presume:
I really do think that homophobia hurts straight men just as much as it hurts gay men. I believe it hurts heterosexual marriages for the same reasons. Women with unrealistic and inaccurate views of what being a man is and men trying to live up to unrealistic and inaccurate views of the same. Not sure I see that turning around anytime soon. I do believe that affirming gay relationships, affirming boys desires to explore who they are will serious change so many of the negatives that comes from men trying to prove they “aren’t gay.”
When we can get society to the point where being gay is just no big deal. It is no longer seen as negative. We will also be removing the shame we place on men, gay or straight, when they do things out of authenticity like show emotions, cry, cook, dance, or ignore the Superbowl.
Brene Brown has started a bit of a movement of men and women committed to living authentic lives. To living”wholeheartedly” and willing to have the courage to tell and be okay with their own stories. I truly believe that way to change some of the damage we do to men and boys is to get them to embrace who they are. If you are a straight boy who likes ballet…good. If you are a gay boy who likes pink, good. It is all good, just be yourself. Go dance barefoot in the kitchen to disney songs and it will make you no more and no less or a man.
I leave you with another of Brene Brown’s talks. I find the information in her research her just transformative!
The title of this post comes from Brene Brown, a shame and empathy researcher who gathered thousands of stories from thousands of people. She makes it clearer for us, after hearing and studying all these stories that no one rides for free. Everyone you meet has a heartbreaking, sad, gut wrenching story to tell. No matter if you are the little rich kid from San Diego, CA or the poor kid in New Haven, CT. There is no free ride. We all have a story to tell that would break your heart.
I have to say, since moving to CT, I have learned this. This is one of the richer states in the union and yet it has some of the most blatant systemic racism, eye opening poverty and some of the saddest stories I have ever heard from both the rich and the poor. We all have our stories and at the heart of those stories is our own basic human needs that we are all trying to meet. The psychologist Glasser in his theory named them as FUN, LOVE, WORTH and FREEDOM.
One of the things that surprises me is just how often we see other people as perfect or even see them as having little or no problems when in reality, that isn’t the case. We are all walking around with our own baggage. The weight and size of the baggage varies from person to person as one would expect. It doesn’t change the fact, everyone’s got something they carry with them. We all have our stories.
Another surprise I find are those who claim to have no story, no baggage and are quick to tell other what they think is other people’s baggage. I once experienced a women who could easily paint you a picture of her life being perfect and explain to you all the things wrong with your life. Funny enough, that isn’t what I saw when I saw her. I mostly saw a lonely person, scared and fighting to own anyone’s story but her own.
I have learned from a few years of doing NVC, conflict management, and mediation work that not all of us own up to our stories. Brene Brown has certainly given me words to describe something I have seen for many years listening to people’s “Sides” of the stories. I notice they want to own the story they believe will pull you to their side rather than the story that is really their’s. This of course doesn’t happen all the time and still, it does happen often enough for me to think to myself, “Stop telling me what you think I want to hear, and tell me the story that is really your’s”
I have been thinking, like everyone does at this time of year, about my new year, 2011 and what I want for me as a person. I guess every year for the past decade I have picked things about who I am and who I want to be and tried to work on them. I think in this coming year, I want to work on really owning my story and as Brene Brown says, “living life wholeheartedly” and authentically as I can. I think this mean not saying yes to things I don’t really want to do. It means not worrying about being perfect, looking perfect, saying perfect things or worrying if I am good enough. This also means caring less about what people “think” of me, especially those who don’t really know me, which I add is many people.
I plan to make the next year another one of those years where I continue to grow. I have spent the past few years working on being compassionate to others, even if I don’t like them. I worked on being patient, being empathetic, being mindful. This year I would like to start advocating that same compassion in how i treat myself. I plan on owning my story and being content with it.
About 3 years ago, I sent an email to the SPLC asking why Peter LaBarbera was not on their list of anti-gay hate groups. I don’t remember the exact reason they gave me. It amounted to something saying they really didn’t know too much about him or something like that. I have since lost the email, so I can’t say I really remember the answer.
I now see, Mr. Labarbera is listed as a hate group along with a few other groups I also believe belong on the list. LaBarbera like many of those on the list make the claim that gay groups and liberals are trying to silence them, end the debate, etc. A claim I not only would refute, I find it amusing. A long list of bloggers, pro-equality groups and others have been debating LaBarbera for years. The issue is when we nail him on his facts, his faulty research or lack of decency toward folks like Jeremy Hooper at GoodAsYou whose wedding picture Labarbera has hijacked and defaced, Peter seems to run, hide or scream utter nonsense.
I would offer to Mr. LaBarbera and others who claim GLBT groups are trying to silence them, we have been debating for years and debates are useless and dialogue is impossible with someone whose relies on biased criteria as a starting point. As this point, I believe the debate is over. Even the idea someone would debate our lives and loves like it is just a political issue is pretty offense to me. Peter’s presentation of our lives leaves me feeling pretty irritated because I value honesty, integrity and most of all respect. A few of the values not met for me when I look at his blog.
Anyway, I mostly am trying saying that I am happy the SPLC has added Americans for Truth to their list. I appreciate it because it discredits many of the outright lies and attacks he inflicts on gays and lesbians. It also makes it more difficult for him to raise money and make a living at the expense of others.
I would also offer to Mr. LaBarbera and others like him that since leaving the world of daily blogging I have step into a world where I regularly see young lives taken by street violence. I see folks struggling to get jobs, feed families and find healthcare. I see incredible amounts of systemic racism against Black, Hispanic and other nonwhite groups. I see lots of areas where Mr. LaBarbera could place his energy and be a lot more inline with the message of the Jesus I learned about in the bible.
At a recent conflict workshop series I did here in New Haven, CT, a young minority woman said to me, “If you kill a Yale Student, it is National news, when you kill one of us, it is another day in the ‘hood.” I have to admit hearing these words from a young person hurt because I value life. I heard another state how it is easier to get gun than a job. I would love to see the LaBarbera’s of the world, the Bryan Fischer’s of the world and other anti-gay groups start putting the money and energy where your mouth is. You say you are really about god, Jesus and the bible then prove it by taking the thousands of dollars you are making at the expense of others lives and starting putting the money to the well being and enriching of others lives.
This is the article I wrote for Rhode Island’s Get Magazine. They Titled the article, “It Gets Better and Other Life’s Truths by Joe Brummer” and made it one of their cover stories. Feel free to spread it around.
It Gets Better and Other Life’s Truths
It is hard to know exactly where the right place would be to start this story. Is it with the statistics on GLBT suicides? Is it the statistics on GLBT bullying and violence in our communities? Perhaps it is with my own experiences of being bullied or gay bashed? Or is it the gut wrenching, distressing realization that those statistics have names and faces and we have seen 15 young lives cut short at their own hands in just 60 days. Of course, these are only the lives we heard about in the news and minuses those that were lost and went unreported.
Justin Aaberg (15) July 9, 2010 in Minnesota
Billy Lucas (15) September 9, 2010 in Indiana
Cody J. Barker (17) September 13, 2010 in Wisconsin
Tyler Clementi (18) September 22, 2010 in New Jersey
Asher Brown (13) September 23, 2010 in Texas
Harrison Chase Brown (15) September, 25 2010 in Colorado
Seth Walsh (13) September 25, 2010 in California
Raymond Chase (19) September 29, 2010 in Rhode Island
Felix Sacco (17) September 29, 2010 in Massachusetts
Caleb Nolt (14) September 30, 2010 in Indiana
Alec Whitney Henriksen (19) September 30 in Indiana
Zach Harrington (19) October 5, 2010 in Oklahoma
Jeanine Blanchette (21) October 5, 2010 in Toronto
Chantal Dube (17) October 5, 2010 in Toronto
Aiyisha Hassan (19) October 12, 2010 in California
All of these lives were cut short because they believed the world did not and would never accept them as they were, gay. Many of them were not just bullied. They were tortured by their peers. In some cases, the schools did little of nothing to protect or console them. I know those days well. I remember first being bullied in the third and fourth grades for being smaller than most other kids. I wasn’t much for sports and it seemed the world knew more about me being gay than I did or at least that is what they told me with the taunts and name calling. One of the leaders of this little movement to beat the little Brummer kid we’ll call Billy C. He once led a group of kids to my house to ask my mom if I could come out to play, my mom on the other hand was wise to this game. I remember her in her night gown, pushing this kid into the middle of the street telling him not to mess with her son. It was a failed threat as they continued to bully me well into high school.
Another kid who often bullied me in the sixth and seventh grade named Mike M would come threaten me each day at recess. Typical anti-gay names combined with some pushing, shoving and knocking me down left me constantly scared. I would do my best to hide my fear and play it tough. I would see him coming and begin to shake, sweat and feel helpless as I was a pretty small kid. I once brought my little blue, Cub Scout pen knife to school and kept it open in my jacket pocket so when Mike came to mess with me, I could just scare him off. When I did finally pull out the knife, one of the good nuns came and took it and never mentioned it again. She also did nothing to stop the bullying.
In sixth grade, my family received endless prank phone calls for weeks on end. We would hang up the phone and it would ring again within seconds. My parents eventually traced the calls, and the two school girls who were doing it claimed it was my fault because I shot them the finger when they teased me.
High school was no better, I remember Mike C and his goons forcing me to sing happy birthday to a teacher on a table in the lunch room on the first week of freshman year. I was embarrassed, afraid and dreaded what was ahead of me. I went home and hid in my room that day. The teacher did nothing.
I look at the story of Billy Lucas in Indiana where his bullies continued to harass him after his death by leaving crude comments on a FaceBook page created in his memory by his friends. Even in death, these bullies were trying to send a message that being gay was a “bad” thing. What drives this?
The message gay youth hear is the same message many of us heard as we grew up. Being gay is sinful, immoral, and disgusting. We heard that gays are diseased, child molesters, to be feared. Basically, we were programmed to believe we were inherently bad people just because we were attracted to members of the same sex. It is no wonder with this message being the one youth hear, they choose to harm themselves. It is also no wonder when bullies hear this; they believe their behavior should be celebrated because they are somehow doing society a favor.
The San Francisco State University Chavez Center Institute has found that LGBTQ youth who come from a rejecting family are up to nine times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. Another study published in the American Journal of Public Health in August of 1998 showed that out of 131 gay/bi males, 28% had attempted suicide.
The silver lining in these horrible events is the brain child of advice columnist, Dan Savage. The “It Gets Better” campaign started with one video of Dan and his partner telling gay youth, it does get better. Within hours of their first video post to YouTube, dozens, then hundreds of videos came from other gay, lesbian, trans, bisexual and even some of our best straight allies in the public eye.
Watching many of these videos I must admit didn’t just choke me up, I outright cried. The stories moved me because the sense of concern for gay youth is so sincere. I do think the award for best, “It gets better” video belongs to Fort Worth City Councilman, Joel Burns.
Burns made his plea to young gay youth at a city council meeting where he spoke on camera of his own experience growing up gay being bullied, harassed and called a “Faggot.” A word, many of us heard and were called before we even knew what it meant. Burns, fighting back tears and even stopping at some points to regain his composure, says to GLBT youth, “This story is not just for the adults here who may choose or not choose to support me. This story is for the young people who might be holding that gun tonight, or the rope, or the pill bottle, you need to know that the story doesn’t end where I didn’t tell it, on that unfortunate day, there is so, so ,so much more. Yes, high school was difficult, coming out was painful, but life got so much better for me.”
Beyond these touching moments and glimpses of hope, much pain still prevails. These suicides have helped to draw the media eye to the very size of this bullying issue as suddenly dozens of reports have come in drawing attention to the violence gays and lesbians face. An 11 year old boy in Ohio had his arm broken by classmates because he wanted to be a cheerleader. In Newark, DE a young seven year old boy was locked in a port-a-potty screaming while the bullies knocked the unit over covering him in human waste. In Dallas, TX, three teens were arrested for beating a 14 year old classmate on the bus while calling him a faggot. The driver of the bus and the bus monitor did nothing to stop the attack.
We have a long way to go when it comes to protecting our youth. Research shows when anti-bullying campaigns directly address sexual orientation, they are more effective than the ones that do not. While anti-gay, religious groups fight against efforts to include GLBT voices in anti-bullying campaigns claiming these are attempts to push our agenda, students are still in harm’s way.
I remember being 20 years old in Southern NJ and having my head repeated kicked against cement next to the Cooper River while being spit on and hearing the words, “You ready to meet Jesus ya’ little faggot?” I remembering believing I was about to die and agreeing for a moment that I deserved it. All the while, those committing these actions celebrated “getting the bad guys” we have been made to be by our government, our churches, our movies, our TV’s and our society. I remember waking up 3 days later and seeing my head swollen three times its size, black and blue and stitches in my face. In those days, I believed I deserved what I got because it was true, I was a faggot. I knew because Billy C and Mike C made sure I knew and never forgot. Those views of me were changed by the love of some great friends and a great partner who I love and have lived with for the last 10 years.
Anti-bullying campaigns are just band-aids on the larger problem. We need to completely change the way GLBT folks are seen. No more demonizing, less than human debates about our lives in the campaign trails and Fox news. No more laws that dehumanize GLBT folks by saying were are a danger to the military and our unions will destroy marriage. If you portray us as an enemy to be defeated, then violence against us will just be celebrated.
If you want kids to stop killing themselves for being gay, then you need to change the message they hear that tells them they are less than human. Change the message to one of hope that truly says, “Yes, it does get better.”
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"Be the change you wish to see in the world"
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
Martin Luther King Jr.
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