This is How

Everyone always asks what you want to do with your life. No one really asks how you plan on accomplishing those goals.

I always wanted to save the world. I held on to the hope for the longest time (and truthfully, to some degree still do) that I would be given powers or gifted something that would help me on my mission. I’m talking like superhero/X-men/mystical gift type stuff. Because I thought that that was the only way I could ever save the world. I didn’t want to do it for glory and fame and money. I told people I wanted to “leave the world a little less shitty than I found it”. and for the most part, that’s true. As an adult that sentiment has morphed into: “I see what our species could be, could do and we’re just not there yet”. All of this is still true.

Reading books was a really big thing in my house growing up. From a young age, it was a treat to spend a summer afternoon reading (because I lived on a farm where chores were never ending). I never viewed it as uncool or as homework, because I loved it. Reading gave me meaning. And it was there that I first learned to hope that I might be able to indeed, save the world.

I adore big thick books with multiple stories in a series. Countless tales whizzed through my mind on hazy afternoons and silent nights. They all brought me the notion that a person did not have to be rich and strong and powerful in order to make changes in the world that would impact others greatly. And I waited.

A constant reminder as I made my way through compulsory school was that soon, I would be an adult and that meant that people would take me seriously, listen to what I had to say. A little naive, perhaps, but it is in part still true. People do not listen because I speak, they listen because I have something to say.

I’ve come across the following argument a few times in my life and I think that it’s a pretty defining feature by this point:

If you were wondering what you would do in (the Cuban missile Crisis, the Revolutionary War, World War II, the Civil Rights Era, etc) this is it.

You cannot travel to the past (yet??). You cannot insert yourself into a scenario and think about your life as it happens, sometime in the distance. You only have now and the possibility of tomorrow.

I think that the thing people get wrong about changing the world is thinking that they have to do it alone. That’s only for comic book heroes and Hollywood. The real secret to changing the world is that you have an incredible amount of people who are wanting to see that change too. The only thing is, they’re waiting for someone to step up and get things started.

So while I can’t say that having superpowers wouldn’t be cool (because if I had the option, I would DEFINITELY have them) but maybe my power isn’t telekinesis or shape-shifting. Maybe my power is standing up and speaking out-so that others can tap into that power as well.

Independence Day

Two hundred forty one years ago, “we the people” were in the process of committing the greatest act of treason in our almost-country life. We were rebelling against the British for unfair taxation, oppression and “intolerable acts”. The United States of America was founded in relative secret, under pain of certain death if the war was lost. A few men in a room took a chance and hoped that tolerance might be the foundation for this new life.

We all know the founding fathers had issues-slaves, mistresses and more. But we choose to look beyond that because of the legacy they left. That legacy is contained in just a couple parchments from almost two and a half centuries ago.

We live in a country today, still founded on those ideas of liberty and justice for all. But we just aren’t getting it. Immigrants are subject to being pulled from their homes or forbidden altogether. People with illnesses are denied the right to live. People who do not assume the cisgendered, heterosexual standard are harassed. Women are not given equal measure in power. People of color are not given equal opportunities. Members of the First Nations are subjected to poverty and oppression, the illegal use of their land.

In 241 years, we have gone from a whisper of a nation to a powerhouse. And this year, we find ourselves facing yet another tyrant, a megalomaniac with power the rest of us can only look at in wonder. And I feel (in my humble opinion) that we are rapidly approaching 1776 the sequel. Not because we are fighting for our rights from distant power, but from a power who has distanced himself from reality.

It’s easy to feel like there’s nothing to celebrate this year. We’re facing a threat on our very lives-not from terrorists but tyrants. Not from combat but from congress. And I don’t mean that to sound insensitive to the people in the Middle East whose very lives are under siege each and every day. I mean it in a “we’re seeing the revolution come up again and we need to take part”.

I know you’re tired. We’ve been fighting this regime for 6 months. And it’s not finished yet. But when King George III was brutalizing the colonists, it took them SEVEN YEARS to win. They fought, and I’m sure there were times many of them wanted to give in. There were families who were torn apart by picking sides. There were doubts and frustrations and I’m sure, moments when even those leading the effort grew tired.

But we have something that they didn’t.

We have women. We have millennials. We have people of color. We have LGBTQ+ communities. We have celebrities. We have ALL the First Nations. We have people with disabilities. We have poor people. We have a world waiting to help us. We have social media. We have immigrants.

All the things that the right believes to be a hindrance is actually where our strength lies as a country. Each and every human being who has been slighted by this tyrant is just another person who is there to help further the cause. The US Census Bureau estimates that 2.5 million people lived in America in 1776. Well over half of those people weren’t even counted as full citizens (women and slaves and First Nations). Today, we have 325.3 million people.

If 3 million people could hold off-and WIN- for 7 years, think of the power that can be harnessed from 100 times that many people.

We must resist.

We must persist.

That is the American way.

That is the true meaning of Independence Day.

Manchester

I’m saddened, as many are, by the events of the past few days. As has been news across the globe, an attack on a concert occurred, killing almost 2 dozen people and injuring almost 60. And as I was coming across the tweets, messages and prayers, I found something along the lines of:

Never forget, this was an attack on children, and on young ladies.

Which gave me pause, but ultimately I couldn’t find any fault in it. As someone who’s been to a few concerts, a great majority of the participants have been presenting female individuals. That’s not to say all of them, or even that I can assume their gender, but that a large majority were children and their parents. (I’m thinking Katy Perry, here, who I went to see in 2014.) That concerns me a lot.

But I’m not here to discuss politics, conspiracies or anything of that nature. I’m merely pointing out a point I found interesting and relevant, while hoping that those affected are found, healed and at peace. As I said in a tweet earlier: May the lost be found, the gone be at peace and those responsible suffer immensely for eternity.

I’m sorry Manchester. May the divine bring you hope and peace.

For the rest of the world, take note. Through pain, healing. Through hardship, resilience. Through fear, unity.

I Am A Pre-Existing Condition

With all of the things going on in the United States these past few days, it can be tough to want to keep looking at the same daunting information. I know-really. Because a quick Google search for US news leads you to headlines about the healthcare bill, religious freedom bills, Penn State death, the GOP, the EPA, and a whole host more.

Searching Google, then, for the AHCA (aka: TrumpCare), you’d be compelled to scream. And I’ll be the first to admit, I reviewed all the information I could, watched the Rachel Maddow show to blow off some steam and then I ranted to my husband. A lot. Because, as I know a lot of you can empathize with, this felt like yet another attack on my identity. Not only that, it’s an attack on my education, my career, well, just about everything I suppose.

Here’s some important things to note:

-Go to your insurance manual/provider-look up all of the conditions they have the right to deny coverage for. Check off how many pertain to you (and your dependents). The greater the number, the more likely you’re going to be without insurance.

-Do you use Medicaid/Medicare? Cause that’s another tick in the “probably won’t have insurance/insurance I can afford” box.

-Do you use Planned Parenthood as a reproductive healthcare provider? Add some more ticks to those boxes.

Now, there is one small piece of hope. The Senate is much harder to get it to pass. And in order for it to be the ACA replacement-it HAS to pass the Senate. So that means we have time to call/fax/ResistBot all the Senators.

If you’re savvy with Twitter, you’ll have no doubt noticed the last couple of days have been filled with the hashtag: IAmAPreExistingCondition. That is in direct response to the House voting to approve this heinous bill. And that’s where the title of today’s post comes from.

Now I know-this post has been the Campbell’s Chicken Noodle of political posts (super condensed, no surprises) but the important things to take away are that activism is hard-but necessary and together, we will overcome.

As a White Woman, I’m tired.

I know-I’ve set myself up. But hear me out.

I’m tired of watching my friends with higher melanin counts be discriminated against. I’m tired of hearing stories of Muslim women getting their hijabs pulled. I’m tired of seeing violence against minorities. I’m tired of police instigated violence against those minorities. And I hear you, getting up in arms-I’m tired of police getting a bad rap for the crimes of the few bad apples too.

But that’s the thing, isn’t it? I’m tired of a few bad people ruining life for everyone else. I’m tired of ableist, sexist, racist, classist culture that tells people I love that their love isn’t good enough to count as the real thing. I’m tired of the people who decided that unless a person fits a certain mold, they aren’t worth anything.

I’m tired of people coming into fast food establishments on Sundays and looking down at the people working for being there on “God’s day”. Because if you didn’t come in, we wouldn’t have to be there either. And while we’re on the subject, I’m tired of being looked down on because it’s not a cross around my neck, it’s the symbol of my belief system.

I’m tired of people whitewashing. I’m tired of watching the political ideologies systematically remove the concerns of myself and the people who need to be heard so that those with the most money can continue to sweep us under the rug. I’m tired of our news outlets labeling every murderer and deviant as “mentally ill”-unless of course we’re talking about rape and the perp is a collegiate, white athlete.

I’m tired of listening to people apologize for their broken English because they’ve been trying, but it’s hard. I know it is. You’re trying-no need to apologize. And while we’re on the subject, I’m tired of seeing the fear in people’s eyes when they’re out and about. I know I’m not imposing that fear on them, but I belong to this culture and can’t help but feel it’s my fault in some way.

I’m tired of being caged in a rape schedule. I’m tired of living in a country where more than half of the people didn’t want DJT to be president, but because of a 200-years-outdated system, and laws which require fealty over logic, here we are. I’m tired of speaking with my international friends and hearing them talk about “Americans” with hesitation and an almost disgust-and completely understanding why. I’m tired of feeling like I belong to a country that hates diversity-because that’s the most awful thing a country could do. Apart from create refugees and then not take care of them.

I’m tired of being poor. And now, I know that comes with degrees-and I’ve heard the “it could be worse” speech-and that’s true. But I know what it’s like to go through a food pantry line and receive moldy, outdated food and have to make it work because that’s all you got. I know what it’s like to live on pizza rolls and peanut butter and jelly (all off brand of course) because that’s filling, but not really nutritious. I’m tired of being poor enough that it hurts, but not poor enough to qualify for help.

I’m tired of seeing people on the news who served the country and are now homeless. I’m tired of seeing families on the street because life was hard on them in one way or another. I’m tired of abusive spouses or partners taking their anger out of others. I’m tired of the justice system that is “innocent until proven guilty” unless you’re talking about rape or domestic violence, because then it’s guilty until, well, always guilty in some way.

I’m tired of people being removed from their homes because they weren’t born here. I’m tired of seeing families broken apart by immigration officials, because their kids were born here but they came in hopes of a better life and now they’re getting that life ripped away from them. I’m tired of hearing the word “illegal aliens”-because it’s impossible to be an illegal human being. All humans are equal-because we’re all humans. And it’s beyond time for our social structures to catch up.

I’m tired of people getting denied healthcare because their bodies came a little frayed at the edges when they entered this life. I’m tired of people rising from the ashes who forget what it’s like to be at the mercy of the system.

I’m tired of abuse of our people. I’m tired of waiting for the corrupt government to tell me that instead of waging war on women’s rights to choice, they’re waging war on poverty, on neglecting human rights. That they’re going to provide healthcare to the people in Flint-because they’re owning up to what happened. I’m tired of wondering if those poor kids understand that the government fought for them to gestate nine months, but because they’ve been born, no one cares if they survive. I’m tired of staying up all night wondering if the heroin epidemic that took people I went to school with could just end if our education system didn’t cause so many mental health problems.

I’m tired of watching the injustices done against the First Nations. Since the first white people came to America, all we’ve done is pillage and murder and worse. And for what? Manifest Destiny? Since when does the white people’s god desire human blood to be spilled in order to gain redemption? And why are we still taking? Why is there so much greed for something that we’ve already taken by force? I’m tired of watching the government I have to pay taxes to use my money to wage war on the health and well being and sacred lands of the people who were here long before the ones who look like me.

I’m tired of being lumped in with the people of past generations who believe that you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps-because so many of us don’t even have boots. I’m tired of people looking at my generation, the most diverse one yet and lumping us all together as lazy, ungrateful, entitled. Because maybe all we’re entitled to are the liberties denied us by those who want to use our own identities against us.

I’m tired of being made to feel ashamed because my sexuality doesn’t exist. I’m tired of being ashamed because my mental abilities aren’t neurotypical. I’m tired of being made to feel less than because my weight is “more than”. I’m tired that it’s 20-effing-17 and we still don’t have equality-even though it’s been fought for for much longer than I’ve been alive.

I’m tired that there are people who think human rights are negotiable. I’m tired that people are abducted from my neighborhood and sold into modern day slavery, with the promise of money to fix their poverty. I’m tired of explaining over and over again that feminism is equality-and it had better be intersectional or it’s not even feminism, it’s just a lie. I’m tired of fearing for my friends who are transgender, because the patriarchy is so ready to have them removed.

I’m tired.

I grew up with stories of having dreams, of independence, of resistance. My fourth grade teacher threw out the lesson plans and we spent all year learning about African American individuals who would largely go unnamed in history. My seventh grade teacher spent the year teaching us about the Holocaust and how when books were burned, it was work on progressive sexuality first. I grew up with a fondness for people like Thurgood Marshall, Sojourner Truth, Phillis Wheatley, Noor Inayat Khan, Cleopatra, W. E. B. DuBois, Amra binte Abdurrahman and Sayyida Nafisah. I was taught the stories of First Nations people-the story of the Great Turtle, Coyote and Iktomi, and the to-be-feared power of a woman during her cycle.

So yes. My skin is a pale tan. But my heart breaks for the suffering of people who bleed the same color as I do. And it is for these reasons that I have accepted my admissions offer to the 2017 Fall cycle of law school where I will focus on a combination of criminal law/trial advocacy and tribal law. I cannot speak for anyone other than myself, but I can stop this cycle of being the white woman tired and start being the white woman trying.

All For One and One For All

Feel overwhelmed each time you turn on the news? It looks more and more like a scary world out there. And to some extent, that is true. It’s so frustratingly easy to get overwhelmed and afraid, being paralyzed by it. And I get asked the question a lot: how do I keep fighting even though I feel like I’m not making a difference? Here’s what I told someone.

Resist, persist, insist, enlist. The right path is not always the easy path, but it is always right. You bring so much kindness and spunk and thought to the world. And so I will share a story. When the votes were tallied and 45 became 45, a professor asked what she was supposed to tell of students-many of whom were voting in a presidential election for the first time. And here is what I told her: Tell us it is possible to lose a battle and still win the war.

Right now, we are winning some and losing others. It’s a fight which is taking every ounce of sanity we have. But we’re doing “it”. Not because it’s easy, but because it is right. We’re seeing good people step forward, perhaps for the first time. And that’s where I think you can help most. Kindness is contagious. If one person sees it, they spread it. We just need someone to start the chain. Each day, something small. You’ve been campaigning for the earth mother and for people for as long as I’ve known you, at least. Plant some flowers, give them away. Plant some kindness, watch it bloom. And whether you see it immediately or not, millions are right beside you, planting.

💙💙💙

But first thing’s first-self care. Remember to heal yourself before you take on the world.

_______________________________________________________

You see, what the world needs more of isn’t business, infrastructure or money. The world needs more kindness, acceptance and happiness. We need to treat other human beings as our equals, giving them the same love and attention that we ourselves need. But what about the earth? That’s something that needs our devotion too-but it’s much bigger than any one of us.

So here’s what we can do.

Start small. Be kind as often as you can, and start with being kind to yourself.

Dream big. If you want to change the world, you have to have a pretty big idea in mind.

Find your passion. If you feel really strongly about feeding the homeless, saving the bees, reducing polar ice loss, caring for the sick or fixing a broken social institution, pursue it. Now is the time to make those changes, to start movements.

Get involved. Find organizations that support what you do and see how you can help. Time is just as valuable as money.

_______________________________________________

It’s a hard fight we’re in for. To change the world requires nothing less. But to reiterate what I said above, nothing that is worth having comes easy.

And it is on that note, that I must impress upon you that what the world needs most is for you to realize that you have the power to be important. It does not matter what age you are, what ethnicity or gender or health status. It does not matter what religion, what political opinion, what country you belong to. It does not matter what your cultural heritage is, who you love, or what your socioeconomic status is. You have the power to be a positive force in the world.

I’ll wrap up with a story.

As I was helping some protests in my area concerning the Dakota Access Pipeline, several people were speaking about the reasons they were there. Many spoke of the injust treatment of the First Nations, many spoke of the need for clean water (I live just a few short hours from Flint, Michigan-another hotspot for water need). Some spoke of feeling “the call”-the feeling that they needed to be present. But no matter the reason, we all came together because it was something we felt needed to be done. Soon after, our governor recalled the police officers he’d sent to Standing Rock-because we were present.

As I was attending political conventions and rallies this last year, opinions and emotions ran high. There were central issues discussed, there were concerns presented and voices raised. We came because we were concerned, many of us were scared. We showed up. As I lobbied for better mental health laws, for human rights bills, for individual liberties and freedoms, thousands and millions of people were with me, marched with me, called with me, fought with me.

These big actions are not so different from the ones we take every day. Coping with depression, caring for a disabled loved one, sacrificing wants for needs, forgiving people who have wronged you, working hard to graduate or get a promotion or maybe even just getting a job in the first place. We use what we have to keep going.

That’s how you carry on. That’s how you win. You show up, be present. Keep fighting. Be kind.

You are valid. You have worth. You are irreplaceable.

SAAM 2017: Engaging New Voices

The theme for Sexual Assault Awareness Month is Engaging New Voices. According to the NSVRC (National Sexual Violence Resource Center), the targets for involvement are: Greek life members, Coaches, Fathers and Faith Leaders. It’s one of those occasions where I get to don my faith leader hat and use it to further an important cause.

I’m Pagan. Those words are already a turn off to a lot of people, and I know that. All it means is that I find the divine in nature. I think that’s pretty amicable grounds-Chrsitians often cite nature as a way to prove their beliefs. Islam’s holy book is filled with depictions of nature. It’s universal because it surrounds us. But I’m bringing this up for a different reason.

A LOT of mythologies contain depictions of assault. Native stories about Coyote have them, Celtic stories, Norse stories, Greek and Roman traditions, even Slavic ones. And there are mentions of it in Judeo-Christian texts as well. It would seem, from the beginning of the written word (at least), sexual assault has occured. I think though, the most well-known story about it is Medusa. This story is one that I hold dear-but for a little different reasons. I’ve told other people, but I think it’s a really good lesson for others as well, plus it fits with the current climate.


(Cellini, 1554)

The version that is spread around in academic settings, and even in pop culture is the following.

Enter Medusa, an incredibly beautiful woman who devoted herself to her beliefs. She worshipped the goddess Athena, who was a virginal goddess-meaning her followers would also be virgins. Poseidon, god of the sea, seeing that Medusa was beautiful, came to visit her and try to woo her. Medusa was devout and refused his advances, returning inside the temple to pray. Poseidon followed after her and raped her. Athena, then angry, cursed Medusa to live as a Gorgon-a winged snake woman with snakes for hair and eyes that turned men to stone. Medusa is then killed by Perseus and her head was removed and used later. Perseus is hailed a hero, having vanquished a foe, with the help of other gods.

But that’s not the version I know. Here’s the version I learned.

Medusa, an incredibly beautiful and intelligent woman, lived her life devoted to her faith. She worshipped the goddess Athena, known for her wisdom and strategy, as well as being a virginal goddess. Her followers, then, chose to remain chaste as well. Poseidon, god of the sea and enemy of Athena, saw that Medusa was beautiful and came to visit her, to try to woo her and make her one of his followers instead. Medusa refused his advances, returning to the temple to pray in safety. Poseidon, angry at her rejection, followed her and raped her, then left. Athena returned to her temple to find Medusa, no longer a virgin, crying. Athena told Medusa that she could no longer be a servant in the temple, but that Athena would like to help her. When asked what she needed, Medusa told Athena that she needed a way to protect herself from all who would harm her. Athena then turned Medusa into a Gorgon, giving her the power to stop anyone who came to harm her in her tracks.

The first version is told from a male perspective. Perseus conquers the monster and sets everything back in balance. The thing I couldn’t ever get past was Athena punishing Medusa for being raped. That wasn’t her fault. Rape is NEVER the victim’s fault. And for the longest time, I felt like mythology had made a giant mistake. Until I came across the version I know. Instead of punishing someone who was already punished, the victim became a survivor. And that’s why I share that story.

Sexual Assault and Rape and Domestic Violence is not the victim’s fault. It doesn’t matter the circumstances, the clothing, the drinks, the location.  That’s why SAAM is important. 

Rape culture isn’t a new concept. It’s not a myth.