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.

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FADA (And why it matters)

Apart from the “Luke, I am your fada” jokes, there’s nothing funny about House Bill 2802 (also known as FADA). This bill is titled the First Amendment Defense Act. And in order to figure out what it’s talking about, we need to do a little background investigation.

The First Amendment: Seems we hear a lot about this one, even though it’s not usually quoted. This is your run of the mill Constitutional Rights Amendment, and I’m going to quote it. We need to be able to work from the original to boil it down for use today. I’m adding in the numbers to help us break it down later.

“Congress shall make (1)no law respecting an establishment of religion, or (2)prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or (3)abridging the freedom of speech, or (4)of the press; or (5)the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and (6)to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

That’s a big one, no? My teachers would have penalized me for a run-on if I’d come in with something like that, but I digress. Numbers 1 and 2 are at the heart of HR 2802, but the others are important. Freedom of speech has had a lot of issues lately with interpretation. And I know I struggle with it too. Because I don’t believe people should be allowed to believe that other people are inferior on the basis of their skin color, nationality or sexual orientation. I think that’s racist and sexist amongst other things and that’s not okay. But just as someone cannot force me to believe that racism is okay, I can’t force people to believe that it’s not. I can attempt to persuade, but it is their right to believe so. (Not to act on it though, because hate crimes=jail times!) Freedom of press has been up for debate as well, with “leaks” and “false news” and propoganda and a dictator-elect (see-that’s freedom of speech) who has mentioned he’d shut down some presses for being mean to him (that is infringement of number 4). Assembly is debated heavily from BLM (Black Lives Matter) to Women’s Rights to Not My President. One exceptionally racist, ignorant individual can be seen ranting about protesting on her show. (I’m of course talking about Tomi Lahren.) And number 6? Well, I like number 6. I engage in it all the time. I petitioned for NoDAPL, I petitioned for my rights as a woman, I petitioned for recounts. I petition for lots of stuff-and the first one I did was in 6th grade against spirit bands (ask me about that-I have some wild stories).

So 1 and 2. No government control of religion and no stopping someone from being religious the way they choose. Sounds solid enough to me. So why do we have FADA?

The first line of the bill says “To prevent discriminatory treatment of any person on the basis of views held with respect to marriage.”

Oh.

Does this bring up memories of a court clerk who went to jail for not doing her job and handing out marriage licenses? Because it should. Quickly, Kim Davis refused a gay couple a marriage license saying she was acting under “God’s authority”. She went to jail, was told to just do her job, and of course didn’t. We have the Marriage Equality Act which states: Marriage is defined as a legal union between two people as spouses.

So let’s look at HR2802. The First Section is just the “short title” which is what I told you in my first paragraph.

The second section is the “Findings”. Now, I can’t imagine everyone who reads my blog is going to  want to read the document (even though it’s only 7 pages with large font). If you’d like to click HERE. I linked straight to the .pdf so there’s that. Anyway. The findings section is pretty generic. It talks about marriage equality and religious liberty are sometimes at odds, the President knew it would be something that needed worked out. The Solicitor General discussed tax status for religious schools needing to be addressed. Paragraph 4 talks about the government needing to remain neutral when it came to religious rights, not picking one over others. Paragraph 5 talks about protecting religious rights will lead to tolerance and contribute to peace.

Hold on.

I have 2 problems so far, and we’re on page 3. First: who are these “leading legal scholars”? You don’t give me names, you don’t give me universities or institutions or positions. You’re not telling me who weighed in. For all I know, it could have been the most anti-LGBT, anti-human rights community of lawyers (*cough* Alliance Defending Freedom *cough*). And what does it take to be a leading legal scholar? I read loads of cases, do these breakdowns. If I call myself a leading legal scholar, can I start weighing in? Until names get released and the public can do internet background checks, I remain unconvinced of the legitimacy of this already.

My second problem is found in paragraph 5. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t like for it to be true. Because I would. But we have religious freedom right now. I can freely be pagan all the live long day and no one can stop me. I could convert to Judaism tomorrow and no one could stop me. And do you know what I see? I see groups like Westboro taking that liberty to the extreme. I see the KKK abusing that liberty. I see hate spewed from religious groups to religious groups just the same as I see acceptance (although I have to dig harder for news stories about acceptance). The thing is, religious freedom doesn’t mean the same to everyone. Religious freedom, to me for example, means that I don’t have to be afraid to wear my religious jewelry outside, or go to a pagan supply shop and not get harassed. Religious freedom for other people means something along the lines of “adhere to my religious beliefs without making me uncomfortable”. My high school set out on a foolish endeavor to sue the Department of Education because they wouldn’t let a little girl use the restroom simply because her Ohio birth certificate still said “male” (you can’t change it in Ohio if you’re a trans person). They lost that case, with the judge telling them to let her be the “little girl she is”. I can’t tell you the amount of people who flipped out, saying she was a pedophile and feared for their children’s safety. That little girl by the way, is in elementary school. Third grade, I think. 

Section 3a. No (discriminatory) action will be taken against someone who is acting according to their religious beliefs.

Section 3b. Discriminatory is defined as: altering tax treatment, not allow tax deductions to charities, withholding government money and grants, withhold government benefits, otherwise discriminate (that’s what it says).

Section 3c. You can’t be denied a licensure or certification based on your behavior if you are acting in accordance to religious beliefs you hold in respect to marriages or sexual relations that are reserved for marriage. (It says specifically one man, one woman.)

Section 4-A person can assert actual or threatened violation and be awarded compensation, even if the person didn’t seek administrative remedies. 

Section 5-This is meant to be a broad protection, not meaning to conflict with other laws, with the written in section about how if one portion of this bill is deemed unconstitutional, the rest of it will remain intact.

Alrighty. Seven pages later and where are we? Confused? Frustrated? Furious?

As someone who was Christian for half of their life and then pagan the latter half, this worries me. I don’t need to go through my credentials to prove that I’m telling the truth, but as a human being, this worries me. Section 3a is already happening. In Mississippi this past year, a landlord kicked an interracial couple out of their homes because of his religious beliefs. He is quoted to have said : “Oh, it’s a big problem with the members of my church.”  Section 3b means that the Salvation Army can continue to deny help to LGBTQ individuals who need it without facing repercussions. Section 3c means people like Kim Davis can continue to deny marriage licenses-even though it is a federally guaranteed right to all people of legal, consenting age regardless of orientation or gender. Section 4 means even the words I am writing today, can be used to prove I infringed on someone’s religious rights. Section 5 means that if passed, Congress will need to revoke the ENTIRE amendment in order to remove it from doing more harm. Do you know how hard that is? Exceptionally.


So why do I bring this up? I’m a woman (as self-defined) and I married hetero. We’re both white, both American. So is this an issue for me?

It’s an issue for everyone. I’m a member of the LGBTQ community-and marrying hetero did not change that. My husband and I are not self-proclaimed Christians, so we belong to religious minorities by default (even though I’m technically the only religious one of us).

I’m also an ordained minister. I perform weddings, plan weddings (yep, have that certificate too) and I do that for ALL people who want to be married to each other (and are legally allowed to be). Interracial couples? Yep. Interfaith couples? Yep. Same-sex couples? Yep. No sex couples? Yep. No faith couples? Yep. I think you get the picture. 

Look, I know I’m not the representative for anyone more than myself. I get it. But as someone who is trying to make a life in the world, as someone who is trying to make sure that people feel safe being themselves, who have rights and equality, I’m just asking for other people to look beyond their insecurities, their biases, their stubbornness and try to see the life of someone else. Try to imagine (or ask them!) what it’s like to feel disenfranchised by their own people. And then ask yourself if you’re actually being infringed upon at all. Because you can’t control other people. You can only control yourself. Being kind doesn’t kill anybody and it makes the world suck a little less.

So this is my last blog of the year. I hope you all stay safe for the last day of 2016. I’ll be watching it go out like I watch every year-with the difference being that this new year, I’m preparing for a revolution.

We The People

“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

-The Declaration of Independence 4 July 1776

                                                 

These words race like lightning through my mind today. Over the course of this election cycle, we have seen the most disgraceful behavior from the people who are most likely to lead our country for the next four years. No matter which side you support (if any!), you have seen it too. And I suppose that is why these words echo so loudly. This is as political as I will get, but what I have to say needs to be heard, by both Democrats and Republicans alike, as well as the Independent, Green and other parties. 

If we, as Americans, contemplate (seriously or joking) moving to a different country to seek political asylum, or just to remove ourselves from the tyranny of a president (which we elect) then we are not using our rights to their fullest capacity, nor are we engaging in the very foundations of Americanism. If our first response is to pack it in and flee, that we may escape to a land of freedom, then we are the ones who are responsible for the decline and ultimately the destruction of American values, freedoms and the enduring ideal of “land of opportunities”. 

It is our right, our duty, as citizens of this nation to ensure the continuation of values for our posterity. Those values are not left behind in the lands of our forefathers, they are alive in the hearts of the patriotic, the just and the open armed. To let slip the rights of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, unalienable rights which were given to us by no less than an act of desperation, of treason and of great courage. These rights are defended by similar attitudes by the members of our armed forces. And if we allow ourselves to become enslaved by the very government we elect, America will be lost.

                                  

The paragraph that I quoted at the very beginning is from the Declaration of Independence. It was written 239 years, 7 months and 16 days ago. People don’t speak like this anymore. But they should. And pay attention to those words, which become more relevant every day. I will do my best to “translate” into everyday 21st Century language, just so the words do not go without understanding. 

“When a government becomes destructive (to its people), it is the right of the people to make a new government which will provide a better access to safety and happiness. The government should not be extremely altered without good cause, because all might suggest that it is too hard on them without just provocation. But in the event that the actions of the government are documented as being abuses of power, and seeks to reduce its people to a state of being completely powerless, oppressed by the very government which was designed to give them freedom then it is the right of the people, the duty of the people to rebel against such government, forming a new government which protects their liberties instead of uses their liberties against them.”

So although this is a political post, I have done my best to remain as unbiased in my thoughts as possible. But I urge you, fellow Americans, to rethink what it is that makes America so free, so great. What is it that caused your forefathers to immigrate here? What caused them to stay? And if the answer makes no sense today, isn’t true today, then it is our duty to reclaim those liberties, those freedoms for our own and the generations to follow. Make America the nation which opens its arms to others, celebrating the freedoms of not only citizens, but the freedoms and rights afforded to all human beings. Let us be a beacon of hope for those who have none. Let us be a shining example of what it means to be a democracy. Let us take back our government, our country, our home. May freedom ring, may equality prevail and may our country be blessed with common sense, a sense of duty and brotherhood.

               

(These are the words at the base of the Statue of Liberty.)

  
(This is where my blog title comes from. I know it is the U.S. Constitution and not the Declaration of Independence, but this is in NOW WAY less important.)

Role Models and Hope For A Messed Up World

I couldn’t find the words I wanted to say right away, so this post is coming almost a week after the incident, but the concept has been stuck in my head for quite some time. As an individual, I love being a singular version of myself. But I look often for someone else who is also a trailblazer. I wanted to write about why I look for and who I select as a role model for my life. I think it’s important for people, women especially, to have someone who is an upstanding, respectable example of the lives we want to lead. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t people from older stories who could be role models (I frequently look to Joan of Arc, personally). The problem with using people from the past is that things were different. The world was not the same then as it is now, and we need people who are more like us than sword bearing warriors or queens from afar. 
  There is the social media factor, I suppose, which lends itself to a certain realm of role models, some good, some not. But it seems that the news represents best those who are not good role models for the young (and young-ish) people of today. I am of course talking about the celebrities like Nikki Minaj, Lindsey Lohan and to some extent even Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. They all represent the pandemonium of fame and the pit falls thereof. We could also examine outlets like Disney or Matel, who have presented the world with prestigious Barbie, Cinderella, and Ariel (just to name a few). It is these three which are both a great help and a hindrance to young women of today. I want to explore them and then propose my list of four individuals who are better role models for our generation. 

  Barbie: In almost every household you might find her, or a cousin or a friend. She is blonde, brunette, red headed, light skinned, dark skinned. She has had a plethora of jobs, donned an impressive collection of costumes and even manages quite a large variety of accessories. Over the years, people have yelled at her for being too skinny, too unrealistically proportioned and too shallow. I mean, there was even a brief moment in Toy Story 3 where she was introduced to public audiences as a complete and utter bimbo, followed by a weak attempt to reclaim her dignity. But the thing is, she’s too uniform. She has no individualized flaws. No scars, stretch marks, beauty marks, wrinkles, pimples, or really flaws of any kind. Her makeup is always done, she’s always smiling and there is nothing any of us can do about it.

  Cinderella: She’s Disney’s star princess. I mean, who didn’t want to be a princess because of her? She came from rags to riches, found a guy, married Royal and viola. She even had a set of killer shoes. But what does she have as far as personality? She’s got wishes, desire. But she lacks motivation and drive. She “asked for a dress, shoes and a night off”. I get it. But that’s not real life at all. And why do you need a man to provide you with everything? I mean, independence goes a long way. I know in the original story she was a teenager, but isn’t that kind of the point? In her time period, that made her basically an adult, and I know she would have been in need of a man, but this is the 21st century and we don’t need that anymore. Say it with me: I am a strong, independent woman who needs no man, but can have one if I so desire.

  Ariel: With a golden voice and perfect hair, who cares about anything else, right? Wrong. Again, you don’t need a man to be the best woman you can be. The thing is, Sebastian was right. Giving up everything, your soul and life included, just to get a man (or attempt to) is not the way to go. And by this point, wouldn’t you also need to make exceptions for finding the right partner-be it woman or man or just a good friend? As with Cindy, sorry Ariel, but there’s nothing that warrants me looking up to you if you’re going to change everything about yourself for someone else.

So I’ve given you a basic run down of my issues with the above, but I do want to mention that I know these characters are fake, but they are widely distributed and influential. I do not want to come across as impossible to reason with so the last person (it’s actually two people) are fictitious as well. And I also realize that the women I am looking at have flaws. But that’s exactly why I chose them. And I will go over them as well. These are, of course, my own personal opinions and you can take what I say with a grain of salt. I would love to hear your opinions in the comments, as always. So,without further adieu.

Michelle’s List of Role Models for Women of 2015.

  Judge Carolyn Walker-Diallo: You might not have heard of this woman, but she is the reason I’m doing this post. Seven days ago, she was sworn in as a judge in New York. She wore a headscarf, because she is Muslim and she was sworn in on the Qur’an. Now, none of this even really seems like anything out of the ordinary. But the amount of hate mail she received for being sworn in on the Qur’an is astounding. This woman vowed to uphold the law, as she has done her entire career. She is an upstanding citizen who was voted into office. I came across this story in my FaceBook news feed because of how many ignorant people are accessing social media to tear her down. You are permitted to swear into office on any holy book and even the constitution of the United States. She has done nothing above and beyond the average expectations I have for a law abiding citizen, but she is my candidate for a role model for the simple fact that she stuck by her faith, even when people threatened her and heckled her about it. She stayed true to herself, even though that path offered great resistance.

  Adele: Let me say that I am a huge fan of Adele. Her voice is so beautiful, and she’s gorgeous. She’s not stick thin, and I love her for it. She says what’s on her mind and once again, stays true to herself. She took time from her career to take care of her baby. We’re almost the same age and that means a great deal to me. Why, you ask? Because she’s proving that not all 20 year olds and 20-somethings are wild and crazy and awful. She’s a credit to our age group. She even works at a record shop. Her flaws? She’ so soulful in her music that she really only sings sad songs. Which isn’t like a huge flaw, but I don’t associate anything other than sad love songs and break up songs with her. 

  Angelina Jolie-Pitt: Did this one take you by surprise? I really thought that this spot would be occupied by many other people, and indeed it could have been, but there are lots of women who could have taken this spot who simply aren’t as well known. And while you are all entitled to have your own individual role modes, for the purposes of this blog, I needed someone visible. She adopts underprivileged kids, she works with charities and organizations, speaks on behalf of underprivileged people to the UN. And on top of that, she preventatively had a mastectomy so that she didn’t have to worry about breast cancer. I mean, that sounds like a very personal thing and she’s known for her body. I remember a lot of people were upset at her for taking charge of her own body, and that is why I commend her for doing it. She did what she had to do so that she could live her life to the fullest. Also in this spot, Emma Watson for similar reasons. 

  

  Molly Hooper/Buffy the Vampire Slayer: I told you I would bring in some fictitious characters. I chose one from my younger adult life and one from my current adult life. So I will start with Buffy. She was a kick-ass teenager who saved the world a lot. And the thing is, that was badk when TV series were filmed with people who looked like teenagers playing teenagers, and incorporated flaws and diversity of character types. Buffy had an attitude, she was impatient and made mistakes. She needed help and asked for it, she complained about life and then grew up and made sacrifices. She represented real teenage life, apart from vampire hunting. And her friends were just as painfully realistic. But they all had a moral code and they represent a lovely era of beautiful story telling.

   Molly Hooper. I have great aspirations to be Molly Hooper. For those of you who do not know who Molly Hooper is, allow me to tell you. The BBC produces a show called Sherlock, based off of Sherlock Homesfrom Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In the BBC version, there is a medical examiner by the name of Molly Hooper.  She has an enormous crush on Sherlock, does everything dignified she can to get him to notice her including buy him a present at Christmas. He’s rude about it and she calls him out on his bad behavior. Later in the series, she also tells him he’s throwing away his gifts and that he should apologize for various actions. Sherlock comes to respect her. And she didn’t change herself. She stayed true to her personality and persona, all while being a valuable asset to a team. Honestly, I know that this is all fiction, but really, if I were ever to model myself after someone who never existed in real life, it would be Molly Hooper. If you haven’t watched Sherlock, I HIGHLY recommend it. I can discuss all manner of theories with you. I’m a true and devoted CumberCookie and Sherlockian.

Anyway, this has been my short list about female role models in modern society. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.