Spirit Bands

This took place over a decade ago, but I feel like it’s pertinent. I’m doing my best to report it with integrity.

When I was in 6th grade, the administration of the school came up with the idea of spirit bands. They were little bracelets in our school colors that could be used for what was considered special rewards: going first in lunch lines, bathroom privileges and things like that. We were told that if we did not have bands, we could not buy juices or carbonated drinks at lunch, we would sit at a table designated for non-wearers and would have to wait for everyone else to get lunch before we could. You could lose your band if you were in trouble-which meant that any trip to the office took away your right to go to the restroom until you earned your band back (a process which took an indeterminable amount of time). They said it was to encourage us to be good students.

Image result for spirit bands

Now, in sixth grade, we were about 12. None of us had had really solid world history, and we were mostly innocent children. And then one day, we asked-well, what about people with diabetes? If they don’t have bands, they can’t get lunch. And if they can’t get lunch, their blood sugar could be at risk. The response was a very hesitant “they should have bands”. And that, my good readers, is when the revolution began.

Someone, I’m assuming someone with an older sibling, began to talk about how this was just like Nazi Germany-people being segregated based on an arbitrary division, handed down by those in power. A systematic oppression. We sent round a petition. We stopped wearing the bands. We did as much as 11 and 12 year olds could, to stop a system we believed to be unjust.

And we were met with some pretty furious administrators. I’m sure they were not happy about the spending of thousands of dollars on things they thought would be useful. I’m sure they were not happy that a bunch of 6th graders compared them to Nazis. I’m sure that was uncomfortable. But we won. None of us had to wear those bands anymore.

So why am I telling you this?

Because if, as a child of 11 or 12, we knew that something was unfair and we were able to change the tides, think of what we can do now, as adults? When there are actual Nazis to fight, deep injustices to rebel against.

I get it-being angry about this administration is hard. It’s been a long battle so far and we’re still going. It’s exhausting. It’s humiliating. It’s degrading. But resisting it is what is right. And what is right may not always be what is easy-but it is always what is right.

Think about all the terrible things that have happened since the 2016 election was revealed. Think about all the people you’ve had to leave in the past because they were accepting of a man who can destroy human rights with a sweep of his hand. Think about how many marches and letters to your representatives and how scared and angry you are.

And then think of all the millions of people who were marching with you. Who sent their letters too. Who stood up and said “Me too.” Who stopped thinking of just themselves and started working for the greater good. Think of the justice workers, the resistance, the handmaids, the people who are fighting with all they have. Because for each atrocity that the current dictator engages in, there are those who refuse to remain silent about it. Who whistle blow. And think about how you are not alone.

I know it’s hard-especially when you get onto social media and you see trolls and bots repeating the same terrible lies you grit your teeth at. Trust me. I know it’s infuriating to be gaslit. But keep going.

If not for yourself, for the thousands of children who are now at the mercy of people in Washington. For the thousands of children in foster care and abusive homes. For the thousands of women who do not have access to reproductive health care. For the thousands of LGBTQ people who are afraid they will face conversion therapy. For the thousands of people of color who are judged harshly for nothing more than the melanin of their beautiful skin. For the thousands of religious minorities who are afraid to practice their beliefs in public. For the thousands of immigrants who face the tyranny of America because they face death in their own home. For the thousands who do not have a voice of their own.

Keep going.

Keep fighting.

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One Eye Open

If the America of my youth could be said to be the “melting pot”, my adolsecence found Columbus to be the snow globe version of the whole. I was surrounded by differing opinions, religions, ideas and lifestyles-and found merits in almost all of them. Some of my favorite moments were when I could engage a stranger in a conversation that brought my faith in humanity up. I remember working at Subway one day and being able to understand the Latina woman before her son translated and then wished her well in her own language. She started laughing and the son and I spoke of how wild it is that I would take the time to treat his mother as an equal (well, formal equal). I remember interacting with a Muslim woman who became overjoyed that I would understand her not eating pork, and that I knew it was her holiday. If Columbus was my own personal melting pot, I became delighted to explore the rest.

I’ve had a lot of eye opening experiences-and not all of them for the better. When I was assaulted, I saw the depravity of human nature. I saw the victim-blaming and felt the humiliation that came from not being able to cope. When I moved to Kansas, I was confronted with the fact that people didn’t accept my belief system, and that the names of the LGBT club members were not released because of fear of violence and possibly death against them. I was a blue dot living in an overwhelmingly red state. I came to understand why it was such an issue to blend in when you were born to stick out. I was rebuffed for my naïveté-that I should not have been surprised that the things that made me (and millions of other people) different, were suddenly the things that made it dangerous.

And then I understood.

You see, I had always been on the other side. I was the ally that showed others that not all (insert category here) people were bad. I was the person who worked hard to be the best ally I could be-without ever really understanding the gravity of what I was allying for. And now, being on the flip side-they’re even more important. I’ve met friends who accept me for who I am, and that’s wildly important. Because how many times have we all needed someone to make the darkness stay away? 

But I now understand why speaking Spanish to a woman in a predominantly white neighborhood was a novel thing. I now understand why being kind and considerate to a Muslim woman was considered something out of the norm. It isn’t because they expect every single person to be vehemently against who they are- it’s that too many people are against who they are. They, much the same as I, were looking for a beacon, a person to tell them that it is okay to keep being absolutely just yourself. That there is a place for all the differences, no matter how alone you might feel.

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” -Dr. Seuss

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.

Safety of the State

I went searching for the state of 2016 thus far. As many of you know, and the rest of you are about to find out, my true passion in both writing and in life is to get the word out about sexual assault and rape not only in America, but in the world. I focus on America a lot:

idiots.jpg

According to the FBI crime statistics, the most sexual violence incidents happen in Alaska followed closely by South Dakota. Alaska’s reported rape is THREE times as high as the national average. Now, I am of the opinion that the need to have ANY reports is too much. I mean that in a “There shouldn’t be rape” way NOT “there shouldn’t be people reporting it” way.

To put some perspective on this:

Alaska: 80 cases per 100K

South Dakota: 70 cases per 100K

New Jersey (the lowest): 11.7 cases per 100K

For the full link and accompanying article, click here: Rape Numbers by State

Now why is this concerning? Because the majority of rapes aren’t reported. Let me repeat that for the people in the back.

The majority of people who are assaulted do not report it, making these numbers only the ones who have bravely come forward seeking justice. That means these numbers are exceptionally skewed in a bad way.

Now I’ll save ya’ll some math and just say that I understand these numbers translate to fractions of percentages of total populations but they all represent people. People I one day hope to bring justice to.

It’s Not Enough

I woke up this morning expecting the news of the day to be pretty standard: celebrity gossip, political drama and some updates about some orders I placed. What I did not expect to see was violence and death. It breaks my heart each time someone has let anger twist their thoughts and hearts to the point of lashing out against someone else. Here in the states there have been muggings, violent deaths (caused by Islamaphobia) and more awful things within the last month or so. 

People have been murdered for being different and suddenly I don’t see where assumption stops and reality begins. It’s so easy to disassociate from other countries which are not your own simply for the fact that they seem so distant. We come to associate certain countries with generalizations like “good” and “bad”, “peaceful” and “hateful”. We come to see places as desolate war-torn wastelands instead of places where people are suffering at the hands of a few tyrannical radicals. It’s easy to brush aside the dangers of war, the tragedies across the sea with a simple “Wow, that’s really sad. I hope that doesn’t happen anywhere else.” 

  

But what you’re really saying is: I hope that doesn’t happen to me. To my loved ones. To my commute home, my vacation plans, my place of work. What you’re really saying is that you aren’t part of the problem, so you can’t really be part of the solution. You’re a good person, you say. You care about others.

But that isn’t enough.

                                            

If one person is loud enough, with their anger, their hatred, then their actions need to be met with one thousand times the response in love. If one person can take away lives in the blink of an eye, then one hundred times more people must save a life. 

In the news today, there was much talk of Belgium and Brussels. Bombings. Pain and death. But where was the same coverage, the same source of mourning globally for Turkey, who just a few days prior had a bombing as well? We become so convinced that there are bad countries filled with bad people that we forget that they are just the same as you and I: countries full of people who suffer, who mourn, who are unfairly generalized and stereotyped because of a few people who don’t even represent the majority.

It’s important to feel outraged. To feel angry at the actions of someone who felt the need to puncture a hole in the lives of millions.

But that isn’t enough.

                                                                

If one person is forceful enough to take an entire country by storm, forcing them into masses of fear and xenophobia, millions more must open their arms and deny their biases. If one person is able to take their own lives in such a manner that innocent bystanders have no choice but to also end, then everyone who is left behind must find it in themselves to stand up for the future, to fight hatred with hope, to battle fear with peace. Hitting the “like” button, the “retweet” button or even the “reblog” button isn’t enough. Those things were never meant to replace the caring, face-to-face actions of things like donating blood, donating food, working in a food pantry, volunteering to teach English as a second language, offering to share your culture with others and have them share back. Technology was supposed to bring people together.

But that isn’t enough.

                                                                  

A Letter

Dear Senator Sanders,

         You do not know me, but I am a young Democratic voter from a very small town in Ohio. You’ve probably never heard of it, but it was named after a Polish officer who fought in our revolution. In that tiny little spot, there are no stop lights, and plenty of dirt roads. It is a place where children can play freely, cut off from the rest of the word, or so it can seem. I grew up there, and it will always be home to me, full of the love and support that I am thankful to have had.

         I’ve been privileged to have had some wonderful friends, all of whom helped me grow into the outspoken, passionate woman I am today. And part of that stems from having a deep love of people who are different from myself. I deeply enjoy looking into other cultures, ensuring that I have the best, most thorough information available, so that I can make that small town proud of the ways in which I impact my world. As an anthropology student, research into cultures and attitudes are kind of a requirement. So I took the time to do a little research on you, Mr. Sanders, and here is what I found out.

         You are a man of many skills: carpentry, film and legislation among them. You are devoted to your family, and all that you see morally astute. But do you know what I did not see, or at least, not on your website? I did not see a medical degree. And so it troubles me deeply that you went out of your way to say the following at the debate in Flint, Michigan:

“We are, if elected president, going to invest a lot of money into mental health. And when you watch these Republican debates, you know why we need to address the mental health.”

         You see, the media may have found that sound bite worthy of a chuckle, Secretary Clinton did as well, but for someone who works so hard at promoting equality amongst peoples, you have let down a very large, very important community. You may have made an offhanded comment about the opposing party, but you neglected to consider that the members of the mentally ill community may not have appreciated you including the Republican candidates into that group simply because some of the outrageous things which have come out of their mouths.

         I have been a proud advocate of mental health awareness, of mental illness equality and of breaking down stigmas associated with mental illnesses. But more than that, I am a member of that community that you so brazenly mocked. Some of the phrases you used last night were “lunatic”, “crazy person” and of course, the quote which I have mentioned above. You see, while it may be easy to openly criticize actions such as those of Mr. Trump mocking a physically disabled person, it is not as socially acceptable to openly discuss ways in which mental illnesses need to be treated with the same respect. 

         So here I am, Senator Sanders, a young woman from Ohio, asking you to consider the fact that while the words you speak may be coming from a well-intended place, you are furthering the stigmas and stereotypes which have plagued a branch of health and wellness for far too long. Instead of using the actions of the opposing party to get a few laughs, why don’t you focus on ways in which you will help the mental health community facilitate our own well-being in the face of misunderstanding and under-education. Perhaps then, you would be able to see why making jokes about mental health isn’t funny-it’s just plain rude.

         Thank you for your time.

Best,

Michelle Brewer-Bunnell

A Concerned Citizen

Words like Vomit

Hi everyone! Thank you to all of you who tuned in for Metamorphosis Monday, and for looking at my analysis of the Kesha case. Today I want to get a little preachy, a little personal. So why did I title my blog “Words like Vomit”? I’m going to be blogging today about bodily autonomy. First, we need to get a couple definitions out of the way though. (This is where the title comes in. You all have ideals about their meaning, and the opposite belief is like bile in your mouth.)

  • Pro-Life: opposing abortion and euthanasia
  • Pro-Choice: believing that a pregnant woman has the right to have an abortion if she chooses
  • Pro-Abortion: in favor of the availability of medically induced abortion
  • Autonomy: freedom from external control or influence
  • Super Tuesday:  a day on which several US states hold primary elections.

A little note from me: I’ve done my best to keep myself respectful and neutral. But if I’m going to be honest with myself, I have to look at my biases, be sure to examine pitfalls in my argument and speak from my heart. Therefore, I will talk to you all as equals, and not as children (or AS a child). My beliefs are my own, and may not be yours. That doesn’t make them invalid, it just makes them different. Until the age of 19, I was extremely pro-life. And then I realized that I could be pro-life about my own actions without needing to be choosing the destiny of someone else. From the definitions above, you can see that you can be pro-choice without being pro-abortion. And that’s my stance. I cannot pick the life for someone else, and no one else can pick my life for me. So let’s get down to bodily autonomy: the living versus the dead. Also, my future blogs will feature other things, not just political ones, but you know what they say about passion: it’ll consume you.

As always:

jmo

What happens when a person dies? Apart from the very biological parts of what really happens, there is a lot that people often do not think about until they are forced to. Burial or cremation? If burial, what kind? Were they an organ donor? Did they have any religious beliefs which might determine their final wishes? What were their final wishes? How would they feel if someone from a different religion, different geographic location, different socioeconomic standpoint came in and told the family members what they could and could not do with the body of their loved one? How would the loved ones feel?

Let’s start someplace different. How do you know someone is alive? Is it what they do? A certain age? Or is it something else? According to the Encylopaedia Britannica, life is defined as matter that shows certain attributes such as responsiveness, growth, metabolism, energy transformation and reproduction. The Catholic Church defines life at conception (when sperm meets egg).

So already, we have an issue with science v. religion. Which is right? I’m not the one to tell you. Sorry. But while we’re on the subject, I’ll tell you about a class I once had, over that very thing. It was a philosophy of science and religion class, and in it the professor handed us a picture of the world’s leading religions. I’ll pass it on to you all, but I’ll also add in the numbers.

Religion_distribution

pf_15.04.02_projectionstables8

Do you want to know what those numbers mean? It means that no matter what religion ends up to be “right”, a majority of the people will be “wrong”. Think about that for a minute. Suppose you are a religion which preaches “eternal hell” for all non-believers. You are not only NOT the majority, but you have just sentenced millions (billions?) of people to die. Interesting, no?

So for the sake of morals, let’s say I choose science. That means that until much later in the cycle, an abortion is just a cleaning out of cells.(Michelle, that’s harsh! Don’t you know fetuses can feel and hear and stuff?) Lets break down this one, shall we? Most abortions happen before week 13 of pregnancy. What happens to fetal growth and development by week 13? Let’s look. It’s all just implantation and cell division until about week 6. Do you wanna know how big that fetus is? The size of a lentil. How big is that? It’s this big:

lentil (That’s a quarter.)

By week 10, the fetus has skin, has lost its tail and can move it’s little limbs around. By week 12, “brain” development has reached a point where reflexes are possible. The fetus is the size of a lime. How big is that? It’s this big:

lime

Okay, so now that that’s taken care of, let’s return to the dead. Three (or more!) states have what is called “Death with Dignity” laws. That means that, providing an individual meets the correct criteria, that individual may choose to die on their own terms with medical help.

The court case of McFall v. Shrimp ruled that while you may not agree with someone’s actions over their own body, it is legally within that person’s rights to do with their own body what they choose-even at the expense of saving someone else’s life.

Medical doctors are not allowed to remove perfectly good organs from deceased people to use in patients who need transplants if the deceased did not agree (before dying) to be an organ donor. That means that a dead person has more legal rights to the organs the no longer need than the 4 year old who needs a heart, or the 30 year old dad with 3 kids who needs a set of kidneys. A living person must choose to lose their organs when they die, or they cannot be taken from them. A dead person’s wishes must also be acknowledged as far as “disposal”. If they state in writing that they wished to be cremated, then those among the living must comply.

So what does this have to do with women and pregnancy and abortion? (And more importantly, Michelle, I thought you said you weren’t pro-abortion!) It has everything to do with women and pregnancy and abortion, and yes, I am pro-choice.

sinner

If we afford protection to the members of our society who choose to keep the fully functioning, completely healthy organs the have with them when they die, and we cannot force someone to do something with their body that they do not want, then that has to be universal. THAT’S my point. It doesn’t matter if you are pro-anything. If you do not afford the right to have the choice to make decisions about your own body, then you cannot reasonably argue that a dead person should be allowed to keep their organs when they would be better used with those who are fighting to live.

And that also means that if a patient with a terminal illness, in a lot of pain, simply wants to be at ease, to die before they can no longer keep themselves alive, they would not be able to do so, because their choices would be stripped away.

Interesting how life and death have so much in common. And I’m not saying that religious people have everything wrong. What I am saying is that if people cared so much about life, perhaps they should try a little harder to protect and foster the life that is already fighting to hold on instead of being preoccupied trying to run the lives of women that they haven’t even met.

And for those of you on the fence about all this, let me provide some facts about the types of women who get abortions, to put to bed the stereotypes you have in your heads.

Half of all pregnancies are unplanned, and half of those end in abortion.

  • 57% had some college education;
  • 88% were from metropolitan areas; and
  • 57% percent were low-income

Women who obtain abortions represent every religious affiliation. 13% of abortion patients describe themselves as born-again or Evangelical Christians; while 22% of U.S. women are Catholic, 27% of abortion patients say they are Catholics.

Half of all women getting abortions report that contraception was used during the month they became pregnant.

Research indicates that relief is the most common emotional response following abortion, and that psychological distress appears to be greatest before, rather than after, an abortion.

Source: http://prochoice.org/education-and-advocacy/about-abortion/abortion-facts/

Here’s a chorus from the song “What It’s Like” by Everclear

God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in her shoes
‘Cause then you really might know what it’s like to have to choose.

And why did I bring up Super Tuesday? Because the only way to change the course of the country is to vote.