Love thy neighbor

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On March 10, the anniversary of my mother’s death, I did what she would have done. I went to church; I wore her favorite necklace; I took her prayer book with me; and I got there half an hour early so I could sit in the silence and remember her.

I opened her prayer book to one of her bookmarks. “I call to mind the people,” it read, “who I saw today, and thought of today, and will meet tomorrow. I surrender them to You. Please bless each one, and gladden each one, and heal each one.”

When I was 15, my mother remarried and we moved to her new husband’s farm, which means we also changed churches, and though my mother cleaned the church twice a week, organized hymnals and prayer books, and often cooked for funerals, she remained—for her entire 20 years there—shunned. She was not one of them. An outsider. And maybe, worst of all in that community, open with her opinions.

I think about my mother when I open email from strangers or scan the comments section.

I hate to disappoint you, I think while reading, but I am not “a government transplant to push the liberal agenda,” I am not “speaking false prophesies against truth,” I don’t need to “keep my legs together,” and I am certainly not what seems to be a favorite of late, “trash.”

Yes, I am pro-choice. The operative word here being “choice.” I am not, as some seem to imagine, out knocking on the doors of newly pregnant women to talk them into an abortion.

I believe that women and men are equal and should, therefore, have equal control over their bodies and their lives. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said so eloquently in her 1993 confirmation hearing, “It is essential to woman’s equality with man that she be the decision-maker…. If you impose restraints that impede her choice, you are disadvantaging her because of her sex.”

No, liberals are not killing babies after they are born. This may be one of the most irresponsible, repugnant lies ever spread by a political party. Liberals are mothers, too. We are not encouraging the killing of newborns. This is absurd. And if this is one of the battles you are fighting, you are fighting something that does not exist.

There are 435 people in the House of Representatives, and I do not, for the life of me, understand the obsession with freshman congresswoman AOC.

I recently received the message, “Ma’am, are you a socialist?!” No, I am not a socialist. I don’t even know any socialists.

Democrats, like Republicans, favor border control. That said, it is legal to seek asylum, and it is cruel to take children from their parents with no plan for returning them.

Immigrants are not pouring over our southern border to murder us, no matter what the president says, and I am not, as one emailer wrote, waiting for “one of those immigrants you love so much to rape and murder you in your home.”

And last, no, I don’t want to take your guns. Though I certainly rethink this position when I hear about yet another mass shooting in a school or a house of worship, and when I receive hateful comments that close with, “I want my gun to protect me from people like you.”

And what saddens me is, when I look up the social media profiles of people who make such comments, their banners and news feeds are often littered with Bible verses.

This, I do not understand.

Sitting in church on March 10th, my mother’s prayer book in my hands, I recalled the powerlessness of being 15 years old and the speeches my mother’s new husband used to give at our breakfast table. One Sunday it went like this (which I wrote in my diary at the time): He went on and on about all of the neighbors he’d just seen at church, how all of the politicians and niggers and spics should be lined up and shot down with machine guns, and how those cock-sucking fags with AIDS got what they deserved. “Put ‘em on an island somewhere,” he said, “and set it on fire.”

I am no longer 15. I open my mother’s prayer book and read from Matthew 22: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.

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