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.

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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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Where Are The Children?

As many people are aware by now, almost 1500 children have been lost by my government. And I want to talk about it. Because it needs to be talked about.

But also, I want to talk about Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzales, the 20 year old Guatemalan woman who was shot at the border of the United States.

Imagine graduating college with an accounting degree, and being unable to find a job. You decide that your only option is to leave behind everything you knew, your own people, coming on a journey that left you with very little to your name, seeking safety. You’re tired, exhausted really, ready to collapse when you finally make it to the border of a country that you believe will accept you in. And in a rapid turn of events, you hear “This is what happens. You see?” And then you are no more. Your family screams, but you do not hear, because you are dead.

Ella no merecía morir. Nadie merecían morir. Su familia vengan para vivir una vida mejor y todos somos responsables de eso.

She did not deserve to die. No one deserved to die. Her family came in order to live a better life and we are all responsible.

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Of the 7000 children who were separated from their parents this past year, almost 1500 of them are “missing”. These lost children of America were given to “foster” families-some of whom were known human traffickers. The American Government saw fit to sell children into slavery.

Our government-no matter how much or little you agree with it-sold children into slavery. 

Just keep repeating it until you puke. Because that’s what I did. And then get active. Jam the fax machines in congress. Jam the fax machines in your governor’s office. Donate to the ACLU and SPLC. Find the children. Because no matter which agency, under whose orders, these are the people who represent America. And until all of the children are found and brought to safety, this is all our faults.

Our fault for being apathetic. Our fault for being lazy. Our fault for allowing this pompous, fascist dictator to remain in office. Our fault for accepting oppression as safety. Our fault for brushing off the news as “sad”, as “at least it doesn’t affect me”, as anything other than our responsibility. Our fault for not shutting down slavery-even though it is 2018. Our fault for not demanding equality loud enough, often enough.

So rise up people. Rise up with your rage, your sadness, your inequality. This is a war we’re fighting. And if we lose? It’s not just immigrant children who will suffer.

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

And while we’re at it-where is the justice for the First Nations? Did you know the police incited violence at Standing Rock is still unfinished? There are innocent protesters who are still facing trials for defending their rights.

Where is the justice for African Americans? The NFL fining teams for kneeling during the anthem is against everything our country stands for. This protest was everything that was claimed to be acceptable-peaceful, non-violent, non-destructive, silent, safe. If you can’t respect that, you’re a hypocrite. Where is the justice for the people of color who are shot for no reason other than the underlying racism in America?

Where is the justice for the children who are more likely to be shot that someone who is currently serving in the military? Where are the safety precautions? The stricter regulations? Where is the political outrage over the fact that America is fighting a war it didn’t even recognize it had? And where is the justice for the victims who are blamed for the actions of those school shooters? The children who are slut shamed (or prude shamed)? The children who are gaslit for every incident that happens to them-much exactly the same way the adult Americans are gaslit into believing that hopes and prayers are the answer?

Where is the justice for women? For people in poverty? For immigrants? For religious minorities? For victims of sexual assault and rape and domestic violence?

And the list, I promise you, goes on. And on. And on.

If you aren’t angry, you aren’t paying attention.

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.

Reminders from the Universe

I think it’s really easy to get caught up in life, in the way it makes you feel or overwhelms you. And I’ll be honest, I have those pestering thoughts about where I’m taking my life. I worry that I burn so brightly that I’ll burn out and be of no help to anybody. And I thought about what I might do if I walked away from everything-from justice, from law, from my home and just started over some way. I think that you think about that a lot when you have depression or anxiety or whatever. Just starting over. Taking the knowledge you had and using it to make better choices. But to that effect, I offer a quote:

“But then I wondered how I’d feel… Would I feel relieved or would I feel sad? And then I realized how many stupid times a day I use the word “I”. And Probably all I ever do is think about myself. And how lame is that when there’s like seven billion other people out there on the planet…But then I thought, if I cared about the other seven billion out there, instead of just me, that’s probably a much better use of my time.” -Mia Thermopolis, The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot.

And in the grogg of all that, a news story came across my FB feed. Now, before you roll your eyes, let me just say that I don’t take things at face (lol pun!) value-I investigate. So when I saw the article, I left Facebook and began my search. It was like getting punched in the face. 

If you search “16 year old received no jail time”, there comes a list of stories that aren’t for the faint hearted. They range from racial bias to toddlers to every manner of monster available. And that was when I stopped thinking about myself for a minute. I detached as much as I could and just thought. No amount of me feeling sorry for myself or scared of what the future holds makes any difference. I know that what I want is difficult and scary and it means that I need to be able to hold my own at all times-even in the worst of my bad days. Why?

Because if I don’t keep burning brightly, how will these problems be illuminated? If I don’t keep speaking up, who will speak for the children who can’t, for the people who are scared? They deserve their justice, their safety-just as much as I do. And if no one will help them, I will.

I force myself to read each news story that comes across my feeds. I read them and I burn a little brighter, a little stronger. I don’t know if that’s good or bad-but as far as I can tell, it’s how it has to be. Why? Because this cannot be. There are judges across the country who aren’t holding up the law. They’re letting criminals of the worst kind fall between the cracks. I can’t sit by, in my fear and worry while the last stronghold of justice fails.

And that’s why no matter how scared I am, no matter how frustrated and tired I will become, I have to keep fighting. If not for me, for the people who need me and for the future. So stay tuned for a blog in the future where I tell you which law school I will be attending.

There are only so many words-None of them pleasant.

TRIGGER WARNING: Rape/Sexual Assault. (For those of you who are new here-this is what I report about. I bring tough situations to light, becuase knowledge is power. I know it’s not pleasant, but sometimes that’s life-and it’s got to change.)

What seems like a very long time ago, I brought up a story which made me sick to my stomach in ways that I knew all too well. It was the story of a young African American football player with a mental handicap who was brutally attacked and raped with a coat hanger. Race came into play, as many slurs were used, his handicap status came into play. And the part that frustrated me (back when this story was new) was that it was a MALE football player and still people were brushing it off.

Now, not to derail from this story, becuase there are new pieces of information, but surely it is worth pointing out. When a woman is raped or assaulted, the blame is placed on her. Almost no jail time is placed on the perp (see: Rapist Brocker Turner) and on the whole, the victims are not held in high regards. With this being not only a male, but a jock-an athletic male, surely rape culture would pause for a moment and take note, right? But no-there was some outrage, but it was the same voices who have been yelling for years: women. And no one took note but the few.

So now, let me bring up some of the “new” details. The victim was pulled into a hug, his pants were pulled and a coat hanger was inserted and then kicked into his rectum. There were three individuals at fault here. The ring leader, whom I will solely refer to as Rapist John RK Howard, will “not receive any jail time or be classified as a sex offender” (read the full article Here). His plea was to one felony account of injury to a child, with probation and 300 hours of community service. He is allowed to maintain his innocence, and he will probably get his conviction dismissed.

So why was this the ruling?

Well, according to the article I linked above, it’s because of Rapist John RK Howard’s “athletic ability and community connections”. Once again, we find that just as in the case of Rapist Brock Turner and the ruling in the Steubenville Rape Case that if you have the ability to play a sport with some decency, you are exempt from the law. Which is the biggest pile of unequivocally ignorant bullshit I may ever hear in my life.

I lettered in Marching Band in high school. I was the field commander/drum major/director (I led them). I was exceptionally good at it. Does that mean I can rob a bank to pay off my student loans and not get sentenced to jail? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Does it mean that I can murder someone and get off with a warning? ABSOLUTELY NOT. It means that I was in an athletic and leadership position and I was good at it.

Being good at something does not give you the right to be a monster. It’s one of the reasons I got into law in the first place. Because I can’t stand around waiting for the world to change. If I want to see change, I have to be there helping it happen.

If you want to be somebody.

If you want to go somewhere.

You gotta wake up and pay attention.

Fix You

There’s a gaping hole of hatred and bigotry in the world. Not too many people are safe these days. Muslim places of worship are attacked just the same as Christian places of worship. Booming cities in Europe and America are attacked just the same as cities in the Middle East. SAGA (sexuality and gender acceptance) individuals are gunned down just the same as people of color. Death, injustice, hatred, persecution. It fills the news, it divides, it destroys.

There are people who spew anger so fiercely that it is as a volcano, the devastation follows wherever they go. They speak of things they do not understand, promoting actions which will do nothing more than hurt people, damage humanity and suffocate the truth values of being human. They rile the masses, using catch phrases and soundbites to make their claims validated, evoking the misplaced anger many feel but do not know where to direct.

The thing about evil is that it will continue to spread if good people stand idly by. It isn’t the failed attempts which bring death-it is the lack of trying altogether.

There are people who sit in their pews, their prayer rooms, their offices and homes uttering phrases like “my heart goes out to you” and “I’ll pray for you” and “a moment of silence”. But when that is all that happens, nothing changes. Evil does not need riots and violence-it needs apathy. Prayers and thoughts and well-wishes cannot be the only thing that happens. It will change nothing. It doesn’t matter who hears you or how powerful they are. If you stand by with your thoughts, you are giving the terrible injustices of the world your permission to carry on.

I invite you all to take a chance. Go out and do something. You don’t have to conquer the world. You don’t even need to fix every problem. But each small action is a stance against what is wrong. And that is the real meaning of life.

May the Fourth…Be With You

Even with the current political climate, I will continue to blog about women’s issues, human rights and mental health. (I may do an expose about political climates, but at a later time.)

I recently commented (on Facebook) on a local news station’s announcement of the discussion of banning non-essential traffic from Ohio to North Carolina, because of the “bathroom bill”. Me being me, I had to comment-I love human rights issues (because they are opportunities to expand my awareness and activism). Here’s what I expected going in, and what I hoped for:

trans equal

Expect: People to disagree, challenge my views.

Hope: I could change someone’s mind.

What I didn’t expect was the vicious content that would ensue. I will retype here what I typed there, and then tell you about the responses.

The thing is, rapists and sexual predators have been coming after women and children for years, decades and no one has bothered to put up this amount of riotous behavior. It isn’t about bathrooms, just as it has never been. It is about the average person not understanding that which they fear. If it was their children, their siblings, who were transgender or transsexual, then perhaps the tides would change towards equality. However, with all this being said, I am incredibly proud to call Ohio my home, and Columbus my city. It is incredibly easy to cry foul play when you feel like your rights are being infringed upon, but the reality of the situation is that the rights of the cis- have always been safe. It is now up to the minorities, those who have not had access to the same rights, to rise up and cry out as loudly as they can. Freedom isn’t free, and equality isn’t universal. Yet. But with a little understanding, a little empathy and some patience, perhaps we, as the American people (and Ohioans!) can usher in a new era of acceptance, love and humility-putting aside the fear mongering, the hatred and the ignorance. Thank you, Columbus City Council. May love prevail!

Now, yes. It does sound like a naive college student with liberal ideas wrote that. You’d be reading that same view point in all of my blogs. However, what I said was (in my mind) respectful, and reflected my true feelings. I didn’t name call, I didn’t stoop to low levels, I tried to remain calm in a conversation topic where tempers run rampant.

Some of the responses included (I copied and pasted-so any misspellings or poor grammar are as they were written by the original posters):

“What love? U certainly show none”

“Jared fogel and friends loves and thanks u”

“Pedophiles or rapist to pretend their transgender to exploit it. If you don’t think they will do that you need to take off your love cures all blinders right now. They are liars, manipulates and they will do anything to fulfill their sexual desires.”

“Where does this end, at what point do pedophiles get granted their rights.”

“Seriously, I think it’s just another card to pull, I have a male friend who is gay, he always says, if they talk to me like that, I’ll pull the gay card, if I get fired I’ll pull the gay card, that’s all I hear… Where the hell is the straight card? It’s all about control and money…”

“Play every last PC Card like a typical liberal. Call common sense “fear mongering” to try’n get your way. Grow a pair while your at it.”

Now, at this point I have to mention that my comment to the last one was (It’s my favorite comment):

And if I did, in fact, “grow a pair”, NAME DELETED, would that allow me to use the rest room in peace? My career is in human rights, so you’ll forgive me if I continue promoting equality instead of pulling America backwards.

I have been called a murderer because of my stance on abortions, I have been called all the usual things that men call women who are strong and opinionated. I have struggled with my identity and ideas in light of these things, and I have to say, I believe I have come out of this ordeal (and others) a stronger, more sure person.

equal

I was asked if I believed that someone would willingly submit themselves to a future if they weren’t even part of the group. I had, at that point, answered that although I consider myself bisexual, I had played the part of “lesbian girlfriend” for several of my friends who were in a situation that merited my actions. So when I think of that question now, and try to apply it to this topic, I can only be reaffirmed by my ideas before.

I know I’m a very passionate, outspoken, opinionated individual. I know that I do my best to listen to other people’s ideas, and that I try to be respectful at all times. I also know that I have to stand up for what I believe is right. That’s what it means to truly live. And so I will not be hurt by the people calling me names, or making suggestions about the way I live my life. I will continue to fight for justice, as long as I live.

I don’t think that all Americans believe this way. I don’t even think it’s a majority of them. But what I do think, is that there are a large portion of people who have opinions about this and other issues who choose to remain silent. I can’t remain silent while my friends, old acquaintances, family members, find themselves fearing for their basic rights. I have plans, I have hopes and dreams, and because I ally myself this way, because I belong to several minorities (which will be a blog post on its own), I may be forced into some tight spots. But I choose to believe that justice and love with shine through, and I will not remain silent.