New Colossus

Twas the night before July Fourth, and honestly I’m not sure how to feel.

Do I celebrate freedom, when so many are in cages?

Do I celebrate democracy, when the popular vote didn’t win?

Do I celebrate liberty, when my rights are decreasing?

Do I celebrate the military, in which I have family serving?

Do I celebrate the pursuit of happiness, when I seldom see it?

Honestly, I don’t much feel like celebrating Independence Day. It feels a little too ironic and short-sighted. It feels like we haven’t come so far from where we were 200 years ago. And I guess that bothers me. But I think that there’s something to be said about the here and now.

A couple hundred years ago, my ancestors began coming to America. They were escaping persecution, famine, war, the plague and more. They wanted to start over. And some came with nothing. Some came with their families, some came with more. But one by one they all came. One or two had been here in America since time immemorial, but almost everyone came from somewhere else. They were met with uncertainty and fear. They may have treated others kindly, or maliciously, I don’t know.

For most of my life, I wondered about those people. About what it must have been like to travel to somewhere they had no ties and just start over. I didn’t know their names then, but I wondered what they thought about, how it felt, why they chose what they did. And I know that coming to Kansas wasn’t the same thing, but it has many similarities.

Image result for statue of liberty immigration

I drove through the night, we had car trouble, we left so much of our stuff behind. We came here without knowing anyone here. We came here to start over, and to be educated. We came with what we could stuff in our tiny vehicle and said goodbye to our parents, friends, homes. I remember passing cornfields I’d looked at for decades and wondering when I would see them again. I remember taking pictures of places we’d worked, we’d visited, just to keep the memory of how things were. I remember leaving in the dead of night, knowing it would be a long time before I’d feel comfortable with my choices.

And when we got here, nothing made sense. It was like exploring a new place with no understanding of where anything was, who anyone was. We were alone here for three ish weeks. And it was the longest, loneliest three weeks of my life. School began and things felt more familiar. Ish.

All that to say, I didn’t come to Kansas because I was afraid for my life in Ohio. I came because I needed a chance at a better future.

I watch the news, as much as I can stomach, and I see the people coming to the borders, asking for no less than I did. Asking for no less than my ancestors did. And they are being denied. And it breaks my heart and boils my blood.

I am incredibly lucky to have had ancestors who took a chance on somewhere completely foreign. I am no less fortunate to have made my own journey for the same reasons. But the people coming today are being forced away, shoved into internment centers, subjected to all kinds of humanitarian terrorism. The difference between them and myself or my ancestors is one single thing. My ancestors were largely white and came from Europe. And that is not, in any way, acceptable.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

New Colossus, Emma Lazarus
The base of the Statue of Liberty

This is my anthem. This is who I am. This is the America I believe in, not the tyrannical, dictator-led America that everyone sees. I stand for the immigrant’s America.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

International Women’s Day

Ah, today. My favorite interest group day during my favorite interest group month, as part of my favorite topic to discuss. I love being able to talk about women and their cultures, ideals and abilities. I’d thought about doing an interest piece about the Jenner/Kardashian news that’s been popping up, but then I thought-isn’t that kind of defeating the purpose of International Women’s Day? And I thought about doing a Hillary Clinton feature, and about women in power, but she’s already “equal” in many ways. So what do I want to talk about today? Mental Health? I could. Unnecessarily gendered goods? Possibly. But I think at the heart of today, there are two concepts which really embody what I want to focus on: respect and equality.

I had to read a book for one my classes (Women and Democracy) called “Companeras: Zapatista Women’s Stories”. A zapatista is a member or supporter of a Mexican revolutionary force working for social and agrarian reforms, which launched a popular uprising in the state of Chiapas in 1994. (Thanks, Google!)

zap

I know that seems kind of “old” news, but the story is actually really inspiring, and some of the quotes from the book are just phenomenal. The main point, from my understanding, is that the indigenous people of Chiapas wanted control over their own land, their own resources, and wanted the government and military powers to remove themselves. The women, although also heavily involved in this movement, went about things a little differently, collecting themselves for the ideas of equality, freedom and opportunity. Some of the quotes from the book are:

where indigenous communities have taken their destiny into their own hands, where villages find solutions to their economic problems by working collectively, where community members walk proudly…

The dignity with which these women carried themselves, set against a backdrop of centuries of racism and exploitation…

I know they seem a little disjointed, but the quotes themselves are part of the larger ideal of what I was explaining before. The next thing, is the outcome of this movement (specifically on the women’s side. This is the Women’s Revolutionary Law of 1994.

  1. Women, regardless of their race, creed, color or political affiliation, have the right to participate in the revolutionary struggle in any way that their desire and capacity determine.
  2. Women have the right to work and receive a fair salary.
  3. Women have the right to decide the number of children they have and care for.
  4. Women have the right to participate in the matters of the community and hold office if they are free and democratically elected.
  5. Women and their children have the right to Primary Attention in their health and nutrition.
  6. Women have the right to an education.
  7. Women have the right to choose their partner and are not obliged to enter into marriage.
  8. Women have the right to be free of violence from both relatives and strangers.
  9. Women will be able to occupy positions of leadership in the organization and hold military ranks in the revolutionary armed forces.
  10. Women will have all the rights and obligations elaborated in the Revolutionary Laws and regulations.

This next quote comes from a book called “Decolonizing Democracy” and I think it has the best potential to be a slogan which I will print on everything. It talks about when the (Indian) government should be doing for its people. I think it’s applicable to ALL governments.

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and at the same time provide safeguards for the fundamental rights of individuals and groups living in this country and for safeguarding the fundamental rights of minorities

So I was thinking, about all the women who have fought for their rights, their freedoms and their ability to live their lives as they see fit. I thought about all of the stories I had been told about female naval officers, pirates, warriors, samurais, wordsmiths, protesters, politicians, activists and leaders and realized that there is so much that has been done for women, by women.

But the fact remains that 1 in 3 girls (in developing nations) will be married as children.(girlsnotbrides.org)

One woman every hour in India will die a “dowry death” (death caused by a dispute in her dowry) (timesofindia.indiatimes.com)

The average life expectancy for a woman in Botswana is 33 years (America is 78). (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

68% of women in Bangladesh suffer (or have suffered in domestic abuse situations. The U.S. spends over $1 BILLION in domestic abuse related medical costs EACH YEAR. 28 cases are reported in Thailand each DAY. (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

2% of women in Sierra Leone die in childbirth. That number is .01% in Canada (That’s 1% of 1% or 200 times less than Sierra Leone). (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

40 MILLION girls are missing from the world’s population due to son preference (most of these girls have probably been abandoned for dead or murdered). China makes up 30 million of that total. (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

Ohio (where I am from) has the following statistics on sex trafficking:

-More than 1,000 children are trafficked around Ohio each year. This number does not include adults. (ohiobar.org)

-Only 289 cases were reported in 2015, most of whom were US citizens. (traffickingresourcecenter.org)

Up to 700,000 rapes occur in the United States each year. In Japan, only 5 of the 104 gang rapes reported had convictions in 2005. In Burma, marital rape is not a crime unless the victim is under 14. (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

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So, although today is a day for celebrating women globally, we also need to be severely reminded that we have to fight harder, fight faster, to protect those very same women. We are half of the sky and we must hold each other higher. The first step, is education. To be aware is the only way to help.