A Lifelong Journey Meets Today

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Different people have asked me when I became passionate about social justice issues.  Pondering this question, I realized this fire has always been in me, but when I was growing up, it looked more “normal” because I was still developing my own views while largely parroting what I heard and filtering it through my own thoughts.  Today, many people in my sphere of influence do not agree with my views and perspective, but I am trying to learn how to interact and communicate in a non-alienating way (not something I’ve always done) while not compromising my stance.

It dawned on me that these facets of my personality and self are a combination of a fire in the core of my being and my mom conscientiously educating me about politics and processes, even placing me in observational situations, at a very young age.  Below, I attempt to articulate: when it all began, why I am passionate about social justice issues, and why politics energize me.

When I was young (maybe 4 or 5) my mom took me to a nearby city where former President George H. W. Bush was speaking.  It turned out the date was wrong, so we got breakfast instead, but she wanted me to have exposure to a recent former president speaking.

At age 5-6, flipping through a child’s book of different countries and cultures, I saw children sleeping/living in cardboard boxes.  It was the first time I knew that not all kids had safe and warm homes to live in.  I cried.

During the voting process of whether or not to impeach/remove (can’t remember which) former President Clinton from office, where was I?  You guessed it: sitting in front of the television watching a rare government process take place.  I was 7/8 years old—and, if I recall, I really wanted to play outside instead.  Now, I’m grateful.

When I was nine, my school handed us weekly copies of one of Scholastic Magazine’s student editions.  It was during the final months of the 2000 election campaign–the first one of which I have vivid memories.  We read and discussed it in school, the lady I carpooled with talked about it driving home, and my opinions were forming–obviously, at the time, in support of former President George W. Bush.  That year my mom made scones and tea and we watched the inauguration together.

Since then, I’ve aspired to be the first woman president, debated issues with teachers, scoured candidate’s websites to read their views on important topics, watched presidential debates, attended Virginia’s Model General Assembly statewide gathering for high school students, written for my university’s student newspaper, watched (with pride) the USA’s first black president take the oath of office, served on my university’s student government, studied journalism, worked as a journalist, opened my eyes to look for the deeper issues than what the news reports on the 24-hour cycle, and planned and attended activism and political events.

Social justice has always been a passion of mine—but I didn’t know to call it that.  However, it wasn’t until three years ago that I began to realize there were whole realms I didn’t know existed as problems.  I didn’t know people of color were still targeted by police.  Hate crimes against LGBTQIA seemed almost outside my comprehension—unless the action was specifically done as such.  And the “conspiracies” about the motivation behind politicians was still a little much for this young woman who wanted to believe that people were mostly good.

I started dating a guy.  He pushed me to see what I hadn’t yet seen.  It’s one of the things I love about him—that he wanted my awareness and consciousness to grow.  Since then, we’ve shared a passion for many areas: some are more his and others mine.  We’ve each supported the other one attending a massive social justice/political event.

I am passionate about social justice issues because all humans are not treated equally.  The earth is our home, our life source, and we treat it like the parent who never says no, but who one day decides enough is enough and no longer enables his/her children.  Governments of the world are controlled by greedy people, very few of whom genuinely care about the well being of their people, their country, and individuals around the globe.  We wage war on strangers in distant lands and justify it in the name of “national security”, while making other borders anything but secure.  We kill innocent bystanders and label them “collateral damage” so that we don’t have to dwell on the thousands, perhaps millions, who have died living their lives, hoping to survive.

Politics energize me because it is one way that people (supposedly) have the power to make a difference.  However, at this point, powerful families and corporations have control over much of the world’s governments, resources, and other systems.  It is important that we conscientiously put people in leadership who will fight for what is best, will critique and make changes, and take down what is not working.  The people have a responsibility to make known what they want for their region, country, and world.  More than anything, we have to engage in whatever ways possible: in person, by email/phone, social media, writing, speaking, etc.  We must make it known what we want and not step down, even when it happens, to ensure it continues.  Also, protests are not bad.

Finally, I firmly believe the biblical Proverb that says:
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a sharp word stirs up anger.”

I firmly believe all humans are deserving of dignity.

If we all, government officials from the bottom to the top and citizens, applied these principles to our thoughts, words, and actions, our world would look drastically different—and war with N. Korea might not feel so imminent.

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Time to Wake Up!


It’s one of those days where I woke up, started scanning Facebook, and hit the share button at a much higher rate than usual.  It was a good news day to post articles about everything that needs to change.  But, at the end of the day, I am angry and grieved by the blindness I see in so many—particularly in many Republican/Conservative circles, and even more specifically, among many “Christians.”

Today (and most days), I share, I post, I talk, I do what I can to spread the urgency of the need to fight for equality for all people, for our environment, for our country, for our world, for the oppressed and suffering.  There is no room to sit back and wait for someone else to advocate for change.  Women are assaulted over and over by men who never meet justice, polluted air is closing schools in Delhi because it is so potent, and the sitting president of the United States admitted to not knowing how many countries there are (or even a rough estimate) upon becoming president…because he didn’t have political experience (his words, not mine).

We have no choice but to stand up and fight for people who cannot fight for themselves.  We have to speak out for the health of our planet, because if it is not healthy, we will not be healthy.  It is time to look beyond our immediate spheres of influence and see that our individual experiences are not everyone’s experiences.  Therefore, if something unjust is happening to someone somewhere, we must speak out and advocate on their behalf.

High school and college peeps: Women’s March announced they are starting chapters!  Check it out if you are interested!

Most of all: wake up!
Rant over.

We Must Choose Unity

IMG_3551Photo taken at the University of Maine Museum of Art in Bangor, ME

A few weeks ago I received the exciting news that I am one of the recipients of the Heather Heyer Scholarship to attend the Women’s Convention in Detroit, MI next weekend!  It is such an honor to be awarded this opportunity—especially as it is in the name of a woman who died tragically while fighting against the hatred and terrorism of white supremacy and nationalism.

However, over the past week I’ve experienced great frustration with many women who have spoken out in anger and pulled their support for this movement because they did not like the decision to invite Senator Sanders to the Women’s Convention.  (It seemed) Most outrage came from Hillary Clinton supporters (who, the Women’s March has stated, was invited but cannot attend) who simply do not consider Senator Sanders an ally.  Others thought it was a poor decision to invite an older, white man to speak at an event for female equality.

The first complaint makes me angry because they are choosing to stonewall an ally, who also started a progressive movement among people who are looking for more than the establishment has to offer, on the basis that their female candidate of choice lost the race (I was never a Clinton supporter).  This is ignoring the fact that the DNC (in my opinion, supported by the evidence of how the mainstream media chose to cover Clinton versus Sanders) never intended to allow anyone else a shot at the party nomination, and that Senator Sanders surprised many within the Democratic Party with the mass support he garnered.

The second complaint holds more clout: was it wise to advertise Senator Sanders, a white, older man, as a key speaker for the Women’s Convention?  Probably not.  Initially, there was not a lot of specificity in what his role would be, and if I recall, it originally appeared that he was opening the event.  However, the feminist movement is not about excluding male supporters and team members.  For many of us, Senator Sanders was our candidate of choice.  He represented the changes that we wanted to see take place in this country.  Truthfully, I was thrilled when I saw that he was going to be at the event.

The bottom line: we do not have the luxury to divide over such a small issue.  Feminism is a broad term that encompasses many people (I wrote about this in March) with many views, united by the fact that we believe women deserve equality.  However, this movement goes beyond simple equality of women, it focuses on equality for ALL people, regardless of gender, religion, race, culture, etc.

I am attending this event to learn and connect with other people who are in this fight to raise awareness about equality.  I am attending as a journalist who wants to learn how to do a better job of reporting and writing about issues that matter.  I am attending as a white woman who wants to better understand women of color and the additional challenges they face and who wants to better understand my own privilege as a white woman and how I can use it positively.  I am attending as a relational person seeking a community of people who “get it.”  Lastly, I am attending for all the women who can’t or won’t—for all the women, young and old, I know who don’t think they need feminism.

I am political—it’s in my blood.  I am a passionate person, and I am learning how to channel that into issues of truth and justice, advocating for change.  I am excited and ready for this, my first large-scale social justice event, and all it encompasses.

Are you going to be there?

The Religion of Nationalism Poses As Christianity And Trump Runs With It

Nationalism is a type of religion.  How do I know?  Because growing up, during my Wednesday night kids class at church (and, I think at my Christian school), we would pledge to the American flag, the Christian flag, and, I think, the Bible.  This tells me that the adults in charge put each of these items on the same level of importance.

Fast-forward to today, and what do we see?  (Many) Christian and/or Conservative Americans becoming upset when people of other religions come into their country and ask for equal and respectful treatment.  These same (Christian and/or Conservative) people are choosing political positions and supporting candidates on the sole basis that they have claimed to share the same faith and ideologies, despite many examples indicating the opposite.  Conservative Americans are upset when anyone questions something ingrained in America’s way of life.

I paid attention in school.  I know that the Constitution of the United States of America protects certain rights: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

The right to freedom of religion means all religions are welcome and should experience no infringement of rights for when, where, and how they worship.  The right to free speech/expression means people can speak out about issues they face without fear of repercussions from the “powers that be” who may disagree.  The “right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievance” means people can protest when there is oppression and other unethical practices occurring that harm any part of the population.  However, with each day that passes, the more people (especially the president) forget that these rights are protected.  We do not live in a (recognized) dictatorship, therefore, anyone who has an issue can act in such a way, as protected by law, to bring attention to it.

Regarding the recent issue of football players not responding as expected to the national anthem and pledge of allegiance by taking a knee, raising a fist, or simply not putting one’s hand over one’s heart as a peaceful protest to communicate to those watching that there are major equality and racial issues in the United States, and that the country does not protect all of its people equally, is a justified and constitutionally protected action.  To condemn or attack those who exercise their constitutional rights with the ferocity that many are showing is to say these individuals’ perspectives, opinions, and beliefs are invalid simply because others disagree.

This brings me to the issue of Donald Trump’s speech yesterday, during which he said, regarding NFL players who “disrespect” the flag, that team owners should respond with, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!”  One, that is an unethical response from the President of the United States of America, who has sworn to uphold the Constitution—therefore, he has broken his oath.  Furthermore, what he is suggesting is illegal.  You cannot constitutionally fire somebody because they choose, as an independent human being, to not say or do something voluntary regarding their place of citizenship.

Therefore, to everyone who is up in arms if they feel their country is disrespected, consider the many ways the country (from the top down) is disrespecting millions of its residents and citizens.  It is profiting from the fear, pain, and death of minority people.  You may not, personally, feel the oppression, inequality, and injustice, but if you step outside of your bubble of comfort, you will see things that you can’t unsee.  Once that happens, you have a decision to make: knowingly stand by while people are abused and oppressed by the system you blindly support, or knowingly step up to advocate for change to make this place truly a safe country for all who are born here, immigrate here, or visit here.

P.S. Join thousands (maybe millions) and boycott the NFL.

Charlottesville, VA: A Symptom, Not the Root

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Two and a half months ago, my husband (A) and I were sitting in our car one block from the Historic Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, VA when we saw a group of people walk across the road and into Emancipation Park.  We could tell it was a protest of some kind.  Grabbing our things, we jumped out of the car and ran to see what was happening.  Little did we know the gravity of events that would occur such a short time later in the exact same spot.

I have so many words, thoughts, and feelings about what happened on Saturday, August 13, 2017.  Anger, sadness, disbelief, and incredulity are a few of them.  I have read countless articles, scrolled through Facebook far too much, and engaged in deep conversation about the events with A.

What makes my blood boil is the inconsistency of people.  Numerous first-hand accounts confirm the counter-protesters fought back in self-defense…yet so many choose to believe the contrary.  They condemn violence “on all sides”, as if what happened was equally evil.  Violence is not equal.  In the case of Charlottesville, videos and individuals’ stories line up—the police stood back.  They did not engage like they would have if a Black Lives Matter protest had turned violent.  People did not die at the hands of police like they might if the groups had been filled with black and brown people.  Yet, some still insist that the counter-protesters were the instigators.  Of course, when the nation’s own president takes 48 hours to denounce the racist groups and their violence by name…it makes a bit more sense why so many refuse to condemn them.

People continue to defend Donald Trump, claiming he is not the reason these violent and racist events are occurring with rising frequency…yet statistics show that in the past two years, since he declared his candidacy for president, that racist crimes and actions have risen (here is a report citing incidents since Trump’s election).  That leads to the many who don’t understand the root of this problem (because it’s not DT).  They claim the decisions to take down Confederate monuments is starting these riots, but that is only a symptom—a side effect—of a centuries long problem called racism and white supremacy.  People are taking a stand and saying these monuments do not belong in our town squares and in front of government buildings, places of honor and recognition.  They need to go in a museum, as a relic of the past mistakes the United States made in allowing white people to lord over black people, as masters and murderers.

I have often asked myself how I would have responded to the rise of Nazism in 1930s Germany.  Then, I wondered if I would have joined the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.  Now, I no longer have to wonder: I am part of the movement to the fight against racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, ethnocentrism, and much more.  It is wrong.  There is no place for it if we are going to love each other.

What keeps running through my mind is: if we love others and desire change/equality/etc., we must be willing to sacrifice our preferences, desires, and privileges.  Without sacrifice, our selfishness and pride will prevail, and hatred, violence, and death will continue.  Therefore, if we believe love must win, it means putting ourselves in the shoes of others and thinking about their experiences, their history, and their lives and asking ourselves how ________ will affect them.  It means placing someone else above ourselves…especially when we (white people) are holding the flag of privilege.

Was the Women’s March Truly for All Women?

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Some time has passed.  Let’s talk about The Women’s March and some connecting issues:

I was stunned by the people who said they could not support the Women’s March because of the pro-choice stance—not because of my views on abortion, but because I had not heard dissent for that issue (except for the feminist pro-life group’s removal from the list of event partners) and had not even considered it as a key component of the peaceful protests taking place on January 21, 2017.  However, since reading the first person’s perspective on the topic, it has been running through my head, touching on arguments for and against and trying to reconcile it all—as well as great frustration that one issue could cause people to throw out an entire cause.

When I first heard about the planned marches, I was excited about women (and others) joining together to protest a president who speaks of women with disdain, openly brags about his affairs, and even jokes about grabbing a woman by her “pussy”—none of which is acceptable for a human being to do, let alone a leader.  Additionally, the protests would draw attention to and advocate against the perpetuation of inequality in the United States towards women, LGBTQIA, and minority races and groups, as well as promoting healthcare access, stopping police violence, improving the justice system and incarceration flaws, and much more.

As I believe in the importance of education prior to establishing an opinion, I read many views from women about the protests, articles, and the official statement of Guiding Vision and Definition of Principles from The Women’s March.  I weighed my own (evolving) views on the issues of anti- and pro- abortion, but still my frustration grew.

On both sides there is rigidity emanating from certain pockets of perspectives: on the left some tout open-mindedness to ideologies until they bump into one on which they disagree and then they bash them.  On the right, some hold so tightly to their views that they sacrifice even possibly changing someone’s perspective because of their dogmatic approach.  Both groups sabotage their own cause.

Truthfully, I understood the frustration certain women felt who support many (if not all other) causes outlined by the Women’s March on Washington with the exception of pro-choice ideologies—feeling shunned by a force that speaks to inclusivity and diversity because they disagreed on one issue, rather than being welcomed despite the subject of disagreement, is disheartening.  However, I disagree with the decision to remove support from the protests based on a difference of opinion on the matter of abortion.

Bridges can never be built if people constantly choose offense.  This is what happens all too frequently—one side does something and the other side chooses to react by boycotting and solidifying their perspective even more (does Target at Christmastime ring a bell?).  This is a dangerous practice because it does not allow people to grow and change over time, nor does it allow people to live in peace and respect even while disagreeing.

Imagine if all those who said, “I can’t support this because of those marching who are pro-choice” or “Pro-life women were excluded from the event” had chosen to go to a protest, post support on social media, or some other outward show DESPITE the decision made by some committee somewhere—what might have happened?  Perhaps those who do actually have it out for pro-life people might have recognized who was choosing the high road.  Maybe conversations could have taken place causing a formerly rigid pro-life supporter to take a more understanding approach to the plight in which some women find themselves, causing them to look to abortion.  The possibilities are endless.

But, instead, women started stating that the millions marching didn’t represent them.  They claimed they are over feminism.  They said they couldn’t support any of it because of one (already legal) issue.

The cause—those marches—was about so much more than whether or not abortion is right.  This cause was to support women and humans everywhere against oppression, inequality, and injustice.  It’s about supporting each other rather than tearing each other down.  The people who claim they are over feminism can pretend everything is “okay” because of the millions of women who have fought for decades for their rights.

Women everywhere are facing the possibility of their affordable and accessible birth control being taken away because of a womanizing president.  Black and brown people are looking at an even more empowered police force and greater potential for violence because of a white, privileged man sitting in the White House. Immigrants are fearing deportation from a country whose Statue of Liberty welcomes “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”.  There are so many issues that affect the sanctity and preservation of life beyond the uterus.  In fact, consider how all these other causes will impact the lives of the unborn once they enter the world as contributing human beings.

In the wake of a monumental and beautiful outpouring of support around the country and the world, I am thankful for the millions who came out to show their support for the causes listed by the Women’s March on Washington committee.  I’m thrilled that so many were able to participate.  For those who chose to rise above disagreements on certain issues, I applaud you.  For those who felt they couldn’t get behind a cause that included pro-choice ideologies—I encourage you to consider seeking ways you can support this cause in a capacity that doesn’t compromise your beliefs so that greater good can be achieved.

Building bridges takes effort—choosing to love and show understanding for fellow humans is a greater calling than self-righteous indignation—which only builds walls.  And we have enough walls.

Conspiracy Theories and a Movie Review

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December 2014.  The first time I was really introduced to 9/11 “conspiracy theories.”  Did I squabble and rebel against the idea?  You better believe it!  I was more progressive than ever before in my life–but that was too much.  The US government knew the attacks were coming?  Possibly were involved?  No way!

Fast forward to now, and I am much more open to this possibility.  So much so that last night I watched the 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 by Michael Moore.  It is well worth two hours of your time.

If you’ve ever wanted to know the details of what built the “Bush Empire”, the connections that spun a web behind the Bush family, the Bin Laden family, and Saudi Arabia, the timeline in which actions took place, the justification of invading of countries that had no connection to 9/11, the slaughtering of civilians in those countries, the recruitment and, consequently, killing of U.S. troops, and the pain and sorrow of humans in many countries…go watch it now.

One of the greatest qualities of the film was the way it gave the history of how we arrived at 9/11 and then showing the humanity of what it is to lose someone (or multiple people) to war.  It showed humanity in the worst of lights, killing other humans.  But, it showed they had to psych themselves up to do it–and that they felt part of themselves dying with each person they killed.

As we enter a new presidential era, where we awaken each morning wondering what new executive order will be passed down from on high, let’s remember that we are all humans and we need each other.