Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Limping Along With a New Perspective

Dear Jaime,

If we were neighbors, I would be at your doorstep with a plate of cookies, as a thank-you for the eye-opening discussions we had last week.

Because you were brave enough to enter the arena and kindly help me to see things a little from your point of view, I'm now admitting that my black and white issue isn't quite so cut and dry.

From you I learned that when one shoots an arrow into a crowd, chances are someone will get hit.  Whether it's a blog post, a bumper-sticker, an anonymous comment or some other social action, no one is an island.  We must all take care to be gentle.
I learned that we can agree to disagree, stand firm in our convictions, and still listen to and thoughtfully consider another's point of view.  
It's a good idea for each of us to search our souls once in a while, if for no other reason than to just make sure we still have one.  

If you think about it, there are quite a few things that we agree on:  We both think your little guy is adorable, we both think that everyone has the right to have the one they love hold their hand as they die.  We both know that you and Laura love each other.  (And, I've been reading some of Laura's stuff on your blog.  Frankly, I love her, too, but not the way you do.  You are both amazing.)

We could be neighbors and live next door in peace.  Your kid could play with mine. Does he collect snails?  You could sit in my kitchen and chat.  We could go to lunch together.  I'd offer you a Book of Mormon. Kidding.  Unless you want one. ;)

Anyway.  Behind every social issue, there are individuals with their tightly held convictions, and their passionate life-stories, and the belief systems that each holds. 

There is a place for each of us.  

If we spend our lives worrying about offending each other, quietly sitting on our hands, then we are leaving these issues to the crazy fringe extremists who are not afraid, but who are pushy and violent.

It's important for each of us to show up and take our place, to make a spot for each other, to listen considerately, to be willing to make and then correct our mistakes, to forgive ourselves and our neighbors.

In my opinion, our country is great because of our ability to do this: when the stakes are high, we can set aside differences and pull together.  We serve compassionately first and ask questions later.  

The amazing thing about this place is that ideally we each bring our best selves, ideas and traditions and throw them into the melting pot, yet keep our individuality.

Ideally we all have a voice, and the people we elect represent our desires and protect us from ourselves when we need it and SERVE our best interests and those of our country in a selfless way.

We can continue to reach for the ideal.  I'm optimistic.  I'm saddened when it doesn't work, but I believe that basically there are more good people than bad, and that everyone is doing the best that they can with what they've got.

Maybe I should buy a rainbow shirt to remind myself that nothing is black and white.  (Would a rainbow shirt go with my pink paisley pants?  Maybe KMart is having a clearance.)

So, Jaime I hope someday we can meet, and hug, and share a creme brulee or something.  In the meantime...

Jeri Keeley

2 C Sugar
1 C Brown Sugar
2 C Shortening
4 Eggs
6 C Flour
2 tsp. Soda
2 tsp. Baking Powder
2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Vanilla
½ to 1 pkg. Chocolate Chips


Bake 350* 8-10 minutes

Just try to forget about the Crisco and what it's doing to your hips.  It's really worth it, and if I'd brought them to you, you'd have never known.

And thanks, you changed my life.


The Fitch-Jenett Family said...

Hi Jeri,

Thanks again for your willingness to engage in this conversation. This has been life changing for me and for many of my friends and loved ones who have been reading our exchanges.

I think you and I agree on many things, including this:"If we spend our lives worrying about offending each other, quietly sitting on our hands, then we are leaving these issues to the crazy fringe extremists who are not afraid, but who are pushy and violent. It's important for each of us to show up and take our place, to make a spot for each other, to listen considerately, to be willing to make and then correct our mistakes, to forgive ourselves and our neighbors."

I love that we have been able to do this.

After our exchange, though, I'm still left feeling like it's not enough for us to agree to disagree when it comes to making laws.

I have an actual, specific request to make of you, in the spirit of love.

My request is that you not support, through financial contributions, advocacy or voting, laws and policies that prevent LGBT people from having the same rights you have. This means marriage, adoption, hospital visitation, workplace protections from harassment, etc.

My other request is that if you are ever in the Bay Area that you have to call me so we can go out to lunch and tell funny stories about our spouses and kids.

What do you say?

p.s. I had a Book of Mormon on my shelf for years!

p.p.s. The cookies sound delicious :-)

Jeri said...

I agree to your request made in the spirit of love, sort of. First of all, I would love to go to lunch! The invitation goes both ways, let me know if you're ever in my neck of the woods, Utah county--or even Salt Lake.
I will not vote against specifically hospital visitation and workplace protections from harassment--I hate that these are often tied together with the others--but I stand firm against legislation that allows for same-sex marriage and adoption. I'm sorry, I just can't bend that far.

Jeri said...

Hey, read the book! You never know.

The Fitch-Jenett Family said...


I know the point of this dialogue wasn't to change each others minds, but I am surprised to find myself feeling hurt and sitting here with an ache in my chest.

It hurts my heart to know that despite our honest and heartfelt dialogue and your proclamations of love for me and my family that you still think I am wrong/bad enough that you would prevent me from raising a child in a loving home and protecting my family from financial hardship. In my mind, allowing me to marry and adopt children personally cost you as little as anti-harassment discrimination and hospital visitation.

What is the difference? Is it that allowing people to be harassed or separated from their loved ones in a crisis sounds meaner? I personally think it's just as cruel to prevent people from financially protecting their family (health insurance, inheritance rights, etc) or deny a child up for adoption a perfectly good home.

Still struggling to understand...


The Fitch-Jenett Family said...

I read the Book of Mormon. Not for me, but I'm glad it works for you!

Jeri said...

Dearest Jaime,
I'm so sorry. That's what I was ultimately afraid of when we started the whole conversation, that I would hurt you.
It's the last thing I wanted, really, truly.

I just don't know how to say the right words. To somehow convey that you are a person of worth and somehow still disagree with your lifestyle choice on the basis of my religious beliefs.

This is where the sadness and confusion and everything else comes in. I just don't know how to do it.

I have to leave it there, and admit that it's bigger than I am. It's not my church, though that's the foundation, it's really truly what I personally believe.

I can't bend that far. But I can see it the other way, now. I have more compassion. That has to count for something, have SOME value. I feel like I'm a better person because of you.

Just like it's almost impossible to me that someone could read the Book of Mormon and not feel its power, not KNOW that it's true, that must be how you feel about this issue.
We just have to agree that there are different points of view, that we can be friends and believe passionately differently and that it's OK.
I don't think you're bad; I don't agree with your choices. There's a big difference.

The Fitch-Jenett Family said...

Hi Jeri,

I am clear and appreciate that it wasn't your intention to hurt me. The part that hurts me isn't that you don't agree with my "lifestyle" (it's not a lifestyle to me, it's just my life). That part is actually really okay with me. As I've said before, I'm all about feelings and beliefs and having different opinions from each other. It's what makes the world and interesting place.

The part that hurts is that you are willing to use your power and privilege as a voting straight person to do harm to gay people instead of just letting us live our lives in a way that you don't like. It's not the feeling part that hurts. It's the action part. The actions of straight people voting for laws that marginalize gay people can and have hurt us in tangible ways. Just as Governor Boggs could have just not agreed with the Mormon lifestyle but chose to take action on those feelings and actively move to harm Mormons. What I don't understand is why loving, Christian, warm-hearted people feel the need to take action on those feelings to the detriment of others.

I'm so glad that you are able to have more compassion and understanding. It's is REALLY important. I have more for you and other people who are anti-gay rights. I understand a little more about why gay people and gay rights feel so scary. I am glad I have this opportunity to get to have these conversations with you.

lafitch said...

Jeri, Since you've now invoked my name and expressed love for me here as well, I feel the need to chime in. I do not do this in the spirit of ganging up but really in having my own reaction.

You have said that you have love for Jaime, Simon, and I, BUT that you are not willing to cease support of people and policies that hurt our family. This is in contradiction to me. You would have us at your table and let our kids play together while you and Jaime share recipes. AND, you would still offer support to candidates and resolutions/laws that would deny us the same rights as you.
Where is the love and the respect in that?
It is one thing to let us agree to disagree but what you are talking about is letting us agree to disagree BUT you get to have rights that we do not based on your disagreement.

I think that would be akin to me, as a hospital chaplain, sitting and praying with your family in a time of need and then going to the board of directors of said hospital and supporting policy that says we're not going to treat "your kind".

Again, where is the love and respect in that?

I have been so honored and in joy that you and Jaime have been able to have this conversation in the spirit that I believe God wants. Jaime made a request that you continue to honor that spirit. We can agree to disagree, we can create space where every one of us has a voice. AND, that includes a sharing of space, access, and security. Please reconsider her request. It comes from me too. In this way we can truly believe that you would break bread with us and watch our Littles play together. You don't have to support or even like our life (which is pretty spectacular). But you also don't have to actively try and deny us the right to have it.
Thank you Jeri. I do hope we get to share a table some day.

The Fitch-Jenett Family said...

Hi Jeri,

I've been thinking about this exchange a lot since yesterday. I don't know if you will respond to my last comment, but I have more to say.

I can't just cheerily say, "oh, let's agree to disagree" and skip merrily off to lunch with you. Imagine if I were part of a large movement that thought Mormons were a bunch of misguided weirdos with a weakness/addiction that led to discrimination against gay, lesbian and bisexual people. Imagine if that group ACTIVELY working to block you and your brethren from marrying and adopting children because we thought you were detrimental to society. Would you truly be able to just say "We just have to agree that there are different points of view, that we can be friends and believe passionately differently and that it's OK".

I can't agree to that because this isn't just about "different points of view". You are actively working to dehumanize lesbian, gay and bisexual people by supporting laws that prohibit us from marrying and adopting. (Dehumanization occurs when an individual or group establishes in their belief system that the individual or group intended for discrimination is inferior). I don't know about you, but I'm not okay with being treated as less than human by ANYONE whether they claim to love me or not. It wasn't okay when Mormons were dehumanized and persecuted and it's not okay when it's done to gay, lesbian and bisexual folks either. Anti-Mormons thought they were doing Gods work too.

I can still be in conversation with you and be kind to you and listen to what you have to say, but I will never trust that you see me as fully human and we can never truly be friends. As long as you continue participating in the subjugation of lesbian, gay and bisexual people by supporting these types of law, you will be hurting us. That is the price you will pay for committing to supporting those kinds of laws. You are committing to hurting others. I know it doesn't look like that from your perspective, but that is actually what it is.

Anonymous said...

I have been following this tale from the beginning. I know my sweet friend Jeri is probably beside herself at this has gone from a truly heartfelt discussion to a war. The words are pretty, the tone less so. I know Jeri, in live action person, and the things she has said are very true to who she is. She is a woman who loves the Lord, would have you over for dinner and sit and visit with you. She wouldn't shove her religion at you, she would excuse her house and laugh as the children played.
There is nothing wrong with her conviction. Nothing wrong with her continuing to do as she sees fit. As the Lord as told her.
There is nothing wrong with you guys, J and L, continuing on in your life. You are still going to vote how you want, and we are still going to vote how we want. Everyone does things according to conviction. You can not fault someone for having different convictions.
There are many dishonest people in this world, and you say you can't trust the one person who tells you the truth? There are those that will lie and say they will support you, then run and do the extreme opposite. At least in this case, there is no falseness.
I have watched this conversation, knowing that I wouldn't have been as sweet as Jeri. I am not mormon, not even close. But I have been her friend for a very long time and she is worthy of more than your last paragraph to her.
Under a different umbrella, I would love to chat about some of the things that were said.

Everyone of us has a right. We are not targeting you if we choose not to vote for homosexual marriage or whatever is on the table. We are following up on our convictions. We are not targeting someone if we vote abortion down. We are following our convictions. You follow yours, Jeri will follow hers and I will follow mine.

For the record, I am a bible believing, lover of the Lord SAHM of daughters.

The Fitch-Jenett Family said...


I imagine that Jeri will have hurt feelings, as I do, but that doesn't mean we can't still be connected. I don't think it's a war at all. I think we just bumped up against an impasse. I have really appreciated her honesty and willingness to have this conversation. It know it's taken courage and time and energy for her, as it has for me. I could pretend like I'm fine with her supporting anti-gay legislation, but I'm not. I could pretend like I'm not hurt, but what's the point if we're trying to have an honest conversation about these things that mean so much to us?

The challenge as I see it is that for straight folks, this is an issue that is about beliefs and theories and political positions. It's not about something that directly impacts their lives. For gay people like me, this is about our actual lives. I can't just agree to disagree if someone is voting in a way that directly impacts my life and it's impossible for it not to feel personal. That's where Jeri lost me a bit. There's no way not to take her support of anti-gay laws as a personal affront, even if she doesn't mean to hurt me directly. It does.

It doesn't mean I think she's a bad person, but it does mean I hold her accountable for her decision to continue to support anti-gay legislation.

I'd be happy to talk more with you about some of the things I said. My email is

lafitch said...

Why do one persons convictions get to dictate the rights of another? That's the question. I would love to have Jeri live her life, have me live mine and you, Anonymous, live yours. You said "There is nothing wrong with her conviction. Nothing wrong with her continuing to do as she sees fit". Except that it's not that simple since by her contributing and voting for candidates and legislation that deeply affects my family. By doing that she and others are saying that I'm not allowed to do as I see fit.
How is that fair? I am not supporting any legislation that affects your family directly. Keep talking about homosexuality as you see fit. Keep your views on my family. You have every right to them and we can talk about them over dinner coffee whatever. My problem is, again, when some other persons convictions try to hold sway over me and my family. How does that show respect and love?
What is the last part of Jaime's post that bothers you? That she truthfully expresses how another person's actions affect her and our family?

Jeri said...

Dear All,
I am not hurt, but I think that this discussion has gone as far as it can go on this web site.
Thanks, anonymous. Love you!
Love you, too, Jaime and Laura. My offer to get together still stands. (There's this awesome little place called Zupas--mmm...)


Anonymous said...

Dear everyone,

I could have been Jeri and Anonymous at another time in my life. In fact, I was in my thinking. I never posted my feelings but I did share the same "convictions". I don't trust them anymore. WHAT THE WHAT?!? You may be saying to yourself or out loud. God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. YES. YES He is. And that's my point.
With much prayer, meditation, and life experiences I have to shout (not AT anyone) Our creator does not want us to judge. This I 100% know. He wants us to love him and others. That's another thing I am 100% certain of. Period. That's where the black and white of it ends. I USED to think: blacks and whites shouldn't marry. Being gay was a choice. Being gay was a perversion. And many many other things that I am deeply ashamed of. NOW. At the time I could back up my "convictions". It's very simple for me now. If Jesus were here with me today...what would He say or think about ____? When i don't know the answer I err on the side of grace and kindness.
You see, I've grown. Tremendously in some areas. I used to feel the same as Jeri and anonymous. I used to vote Republican as a moral choice down the line. We become quite programmed by our family and culture. It has taken me many years to unprogram and think for myself. I'm saddened and ashamed of the old me. Well, me-s plural. I was even fearful and fretted writing this. But I have to.
I am still growing. I am still uncertain about gay relationships. But I love this family although I have never met them. I believe Jamie and Laura have the same rights and I will support them any way I can. With my vote, money, presence...whatever they need. It's not enough to wish them no harm or break bread with them. It's just not. Respectfully yours,

The Fitch-Jenett Family said...


I'm game if we're ever in Utah and our offer still stands if you're in CA.

The Fitch-Jenett Family said...

Hi Jeri,

I read this a while back but just read it again and thought of you. Pretty brave kid and pretty brave Mom...