Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Why I'm Not A Great Candidate To Be An Ally...

Communication in America has become a bit like the list of foods my dietician recently gave to me.  It's a list of "don'ts" and a sparse sampling of what I can partake of.  We have become a society wherein speaking your opinion is only acceptable if that opinion is the same as the person with whom you speak.  

If you are from a different gender, class, ethnicity, background, age bracket, sexuality, etc. and state a position you hold, you're seen as someone who is encroaching upon an area you have no business in.   This is equally perplexing and amusing to me for several reasons.

I worked for several years as a journalist, reporting on that which I saw or gained knowledge of through research.  I am a poet, who makes use of the human experience as a whole for inspiration.  I am often paid to speak to organizations, at schools and to groups regarding my particular viewpoints or suggestions for positive change. Yet, on social media sites, I regularly see posts that essentially state that a white, cisgender, queer female should be silent and just well...just smile, I suppose. 

When did that become the answer?  What might that solve?  How can I say in poems "I fight for those women who have been silenced, who have lost their voice," then accept that I should be the same so as to not be offensive? I was silenced for years in my younger years and I will allow myself to be controlled as such again. In as such, I'm probably going to offend others at time. 
There are times when I get angered that more is not done to resolve societal atrocities and I speak out in haste. 

I will most certainly be in disagreement with those I strive to help on certain matters. I am not perfect and I suppose I am not a great candidate to be an "ally" to any one group. I have done community outreach for over two decades and until recent times never thought of an "ally" as something I should aspire to be. In my offline life I have never once been encouraged to not share my thoughts, never been told by those I encounter that I need to "sit down and shut up," in order to better help others.  

I don't have have "token" friends to drop the names of in order to give me a pass to speak out.  I have real friends who exchange with me their thoughts and welcome mine, though according to popular posts online the same is not encouraged elsewhere.  Perhaps I am simply exceptionally lucky in that way. Perhaps I am not such a great candidate to be an ally either.  I will just have to accept that if it means I am devalued as a person in the process. 

If I see something disturbing, hurtful, harmful or reprehensible in my eyes alone, at times, I will speak out.  I might lose friends in the process, perhaps respect from those I love.  But it will not prevent me from doing what I was called to do.  I chronicle life with words.  I won't apologize for that, nor should you if you do the same.  If I disagree with your opinion, I want you to feel free to express that opinion to me.  Feel free to debate with me. I won't be angered and will instead try to learn from you.  

I welcome the chance to communicate, even if you opt not to do so. I'm ok with that too.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

No Room At The Inn

When speaking out about needs I witness while doing community outreach with homeless youth, I am commonly asked "aren't there shelters for them to stay in?  Surely agencies can put homeless children in foster care or in residential facilities."  While this utopian thought might seem logical given the vast wealth in the United States, it's not at all indicative of the reality for scores of children.

1,168,354 homeless children were enrolled in U.S. schools in 2011-2012.  That is a 72% increase in less than a decade. 

In the last five years, the number of homeless children increased by 42% in Michigan, by 53% in North Carolina, by 58% in Maine and by an alarming 212% in North Dakota. 

While so many claim this nation is plagued by "freeloaders who bilk a system when they aren't in need," we continue to fail to look after the most vulnerable of American citizens. 

We cut food stamp allotments, cut federal funding to shelters housing domestic violence victims and cut programs to house, feed and counsel children in the most horrible of circumstances. 

More than one in five children is at risk of hunger in America. Those numbers jump to one in three children among African-American and Latino children.

I saw a poster a few months back that a protester in front of Planned Parenthood was holding that said "Give Babies A Fighting Chance."  But don't young children deserve a chance as well?  Does compassion stop post-birth? 

During the holiday season, hearts are warmed by thoughts of giving gifts to children who won't have a Christmas otherwise.  But for the highest number of homeless children on record ever in the U.S., unwrapping a toy will do far more for the giver than the recipient.  Lugging toys from one shelter filled to capacity after another will serve only as a reminder to a homeless child that stability isn't a gift afforded to all. There is indeed "no room at the inn."

Want to do something this season to help a child in need?  Donate warm clothing and food to a shelter, write those in political office and express to them how it is reprehensible that shelters are full with no immediate openings expected, programs are being cut and children have nowhere to go. 

For far too many of our children, Christmas is just another day to risk freezing conditions while ignoring the rumbles of a hungry tummy.  It is time we start finding solutions, putting in work in our own communities and stop glossing over the most quickly escalating tragedy of our generation.

Toys are great. A safe place to sleep and a warm meal are far better.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Feminism ~ The Act of Feeling

We have become a nation of desensitized citizens, immune to the shock that should accompany visual stimuli.  Tonight while speaking at group therapy at a domestic violence shelter, a woman came in with eye eyebrow in stitches, a busted lip, bruises in the shape of fingers around her neck. 

No one else seemed to notice the results of her abuse. Not out of consideration but more lack of seeing it as disturbing. Yet when the woman hugged me after our meeting, a few of the other women looked on with questioning glances. 

When you work in an industry where reports of violence are the norm, you quickly become numb to that which might have previously repulsed or saddened you. And acts of affection or connection are seen as foreign. Our society has become like this. 

We see images of dead bodies, displays of the most grotesque of scenes, women lacking moral compasses or decorum, children behaving as heathens and we humor at it, find entertainment in the scenes. 

This trickles down even to our own personal relationships.  We start to excuse away our own actions as we see our own bad behavior as "less than" cruel or mean spirited based off of what we see glamorized elsewhere. And if you expect a certain level of decorum and kindness from those we encounter, you're perceived as being demanding or weak.  

I'm uncertain how to adjust to the demands of a world which expects you to just "deal with it" or a society that expects women to be pillars of strength on a constant basis.  For me, feminism isn't so much a desire for women to be treated as men, nor for them to be perceived as rough and masculine.  

Rather, it is the desire to have the freedom to be soft and yielding while still being afforded equality.  And to be regarded with respect not singly from our male counterparts in society, but as well from other females who have taken on the traits and rude actions and speech of the very men who have oppressed us all for generations.  

Until such time as we as women start expecting more from each other and stop quietly regarding other females as constant competition, we will continue to falter.  We can not see a battered woman and think to ourselves "she must like getting abuse."  We can not see women being assaulted, sexualized and demonized in the media and find it entertaining.  

Being desensitized isn't just a matter of visual imagery, but rather is an issue of all our senses.  We are sexually exploratory to the point that we must cross every boundary just to be stimulated.  We are so accustomed to violence that we excuse it away.  We are raising children that have little discipline and replace love with merchandising and material gifting.  

Women, the vessels of nurturing, love and comfort have become the things we have for so long fought against.  We are competitive, hostile, cruel, apathetic.  But this is by choice, not negative evolution and we can and should do better,

Until we recognize in ourselves the nature of our own actions, speech, thoughts and hearts, we can only expect for things to get worse.  As Michael Jackson sang "I'm starting with the man in the mirror.  I'm asking him to change his ways."  We must look in the mirror, see our true selves and realize that we have to start thinking and most importantly... feeling again.  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pro- (Adult) Life

This afternoon I spent a few moments looking through photos of deceased females who died as a result of botched abortions. To be clear, I am not morbid and I am sickened by the images. My heart sinks deep in pits of discomfort when I see nude women, congealed blood about them, after dying from failed attempts to only rid themselves of unwanted pregnancies. But I wanted to remind myself why being pro-choice doesn't make you pro-abortion in every instance and why this stance is so very important.

For me, it's not about being anti-baby and again, pro-choice does NOT mean you agree with every instance, rather it makes you pro-options, anti-death in motel rooms, alleys and unsanitary motel makes you pro-woman, anti-hangers, anti-stairwells, anti-suicide, anti- "zygotes are superior to post-birth lives" and this stance won't earn me friends. This stance won't popularize me in the church I call home. But I can't permit zealots who are pro-war but anti-choice to have the only voice, even if mine is soft and heard by few. 

Someone has to remember the dead women who lost their lives along the way, who were deserted in rooms to bleed out with no compassion, who have just as much right to life as any zygote might. I will not forget them, even if the inhumane back alley "doctors" who left them for dead have had to take no responsibility for the murders they committed.  

No, the images I saw aren't easy to look at.  Ill to my stomach, heart grieving and tears in my eyes, I admit this task did not at ALL agree with my senses.  The gruesome site of the dead mother of two children who was separated from a violent husband and left to die by a male companion is not easy to stomach.  But I will revisit these images to remind myself of what we are fighting for. All lives are important, not simply that of pre-birth babies.  

Friday, August 3, 2012

Rising Up

An oppressed people do not always act out rationally, nor make choices based on public approval.  They will buck the norm in ways others see as outrageous. They will leave family, friends and even lovers at times in dismay at the allegiances they have, the words they choose, the actions they take.  

No, they will not consult with the populous to make certain to follow the rules of societal propriety.  They will risk popularity, relationships, freedom, safety and ultimately their lives in order to stand in the face of adversity.  In doing so, some with inadvertently harm themselves and perhaps one day look back and cringe at their own mistakes. But they will still yet take pride in their fight.

You can not hold the head of someone underwater, near drown them and expect them to rise out of the murky depths in becoming fashion. They will thrash wildly, throwing fists, legs kicking, hair strewn about, frothing at the mouth.  It is not their appearance that should be judged in that moment of struggling to survive, but the strength they exert in order to stay alive.  

They will latch onto any branch visible, with hopes it might pull them up; be it organizations, picket lines, angst ridden acts of violence, boycotts, etc. But judge them not for how they react to the threat of being drowned, but the power in spirit they display as they finally rise up for air.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Pinning Quilts

neeling on the
floor beside my grandmother one senior year weekend, pinning a quilt top to batting and a sheet underneath, we were busy at unison task. Breaking the comfortable silence between us, I shared my thoughts with her. "I have decided I want to be a feminist. I am disgusted by the way women are treated in this world and I think I can do something about it."

She didn't at first acknowledge my declaration as she pulled one stick pin after another from her pursed lips before smoothing out the fabric she'd cut and sewn together in the days prior. I began to feel a sense of unease, as though perhaps she thought of me as foolish or naive in believing I was capable of such a lofty task.

Leaned down on her forearms, resting from the pain of an aging body for a moment for a few moments, then finally replied to my statement without looking up. "Well, you don't have to WANT to be something, you are it as soon as you speak it. Don't waste your entire life waiting to become, just start saying I AM and you immediately are." With that she inhaled and exhaled deeply and rose again to her working position.

I looked down at cloth she'd transformed from vision to creation in understanding, reached my fingertips gingerly into an old Cool Whip bowl to retrieve pins & continued onto the next squares. Told her through a smile "so, I guess that means I'm a feminist then" and without hesitation she replied "and if any damned body in this world is going to change things for women, I know it will be you."

Faith and wisdom of a grandmother empowers you and leaves a residual sense of support in your life, even long after your biggest fan has passed away. I may not solve every problem in an often unjust world, but because of her, I still trust in the possibility that I can do so and will never stop trying.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Machinery Of Ignorance and Madness

Conservatives again have affirmed their support in the abuses of the people, have taken up papered law arms in their cowardly war against the afterthought citizens which threaten their seats of power.

They wish to suspend programs to protect women from assault, rape and murder in domestic violence situations. Any defense of American womanhood, albeit in the event of prevention of abuse, equal pay, childcare, etc are all secondary to that of the masochistic agendas they champion.

There is no concern that children are fed, care little that institutions of education are well supported, nor that the defenseless are also protected from abuses in the home. Women and children are disregarded as important in a society where men are always at the top of the food chain and the other gender and those in time of youth are only a secondary consideration.

Rebublicans and even many closed mouthed self-professing Christian Democrats support a law which would force a woman who needs an abortion to first undergo a transvaginal ultrasound with an internal probe, against their will. This action, which could easily be considered rape at the hand of the state is deplorable to those who might have already been in situations of rape already, all to protect an embryo they care not for post-birth.

Police batter their own citizens as they peacefully assemble in the streets, shoot them with tear gas, pellets, beat them with the arms supplied by the very citizens they assault. What speaks more of brutality than the scenes of a sobbing elderly woman poisoned by the state for standing in solidarity with fellow citizens, than of those held in the constraints of a wheelchair trapped by the fight between police and man speaking out for self, for justice?

Republicans have no qualms with going into transoceanic countries on terrorist missions murdering foreigners on their own soil in the name of "international protection and freedom," yet care not when young men are gunned down in the street in their own neighborhoods on US soil.

Domestic terrorism isn't just a matter of the twin towers going down, it is the obvious neglect of those in power and those who work for policing agencies to uphold the oaths they've taken to serve and protect the citizens that put them office and pay for their salaries with the tax dollars they must relinquish to the state under order of the law.

We cage countless of 1000's in prisons with no thought to rehabilitation, no prevention education in our schools and in our communities. Better to either have our men dead on sidewalks or held behind bars than to acknowledge that what we are teaching the youth in America is simply not factual and that this is not a post-racial society.

This is a society still in transition after a glossed over time of slavery and barbaric actions by those who wish to shy away from the atrocities which happened and still today occur so as to rid themselves of moments of discomfort. It is easier to block out the accusatory eyes of those you place your shoe upon the neck of if there are fewer faces of color seen in the street to encounter.

We are time and again reminded in this country that the only life important to those in power are white males and zygotes. Yet there remain those who back the Caucasian, heterosexual male agendas with their votes of revocation of protections for those in their own race, their own gender or sexual orientation. Sellouts bought with the penance of hope for acceptance by those they will never earn the respect of, as only flippant tolerance is given to those who serve a temporary purpose.

And in all of this, they feel vindicated by authority of political position and Biblical quotation. They exhibit constant proofs of disregard for life, lack of common decency and fail to implement the very Christian ideals they claim to uphold as they establish legal abuses upon the People. Yet, they want to save tissue at all cost, as they perceive it to be "life?" It's absurd to think in our nation, there are droves of those in power who claim that zygotes are all important, while post-birth lives are devalued every day.

How tragic is it that women, children, foreigners, the poor, minorities, homosexuals, the hungry and elderly are all causalities in a system where white males and blastocysts are protected by the machinery of ignorance and madness which holds the power in this nation.

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