Do Your Research…Before You Vote!

 

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Everywhere I turn on social media, I am reminded to register to vote.  And every time I see the reminder I worry: am I going to be able to vote?  Then I remember, yes, you only have to register one time.  You registered when you were 18.  You voted recently.  You’re good to go!

Last year, I remember driving through town with my husband and commenting that I wished I could help people, regardless of political party, register to vote.  Many are unable to do so because of lack of transportation, work schedule, or other things that get in the way–especially when you’re not part of the middle or upper class.  These issues don’t even touch the fact that many feel it’s a waste of their time to vote because they believe it won’t do anything.

Can you blame them?  How challenging does it feel to try and connect with your representative for a particular office if you want to give your input on a policy or upcoming vote?  Doesn’t it feel like all those voicemails you leave are going to a ringing phone in an empty office never to be checked?

Look at the last presidential election.  Look at who won.  Look at the reasons people gave for voting for him.

A large population in the United States feels underrepresented, ignored, and that their urban counterparts are the only people about whom elected officials care.  Honestly?  They have a point.  I’ve spent a lot of time in rural Virginia as well as large cities.  What matters in each of these places differs drastically.  We need elected representation that understands that.

I’ve only heard one politician address the diversity of his constituents, and it was while discussing the gun control debate.  You may have guessed it—Bernie Sanders.  He acknowledged that he represents people who use their guns to hunt and provide for their families, as well as people who live in cities and feel more disinclined to carry a weapon.  In my opinion, that shows an individual who is connected to and understands that many issues are not as cut and dry as we’d prefer, and also that “we the people,” when we vote, should do our best to consider not just how someone will affect us, but also our fellow citizens and their needs, even if they are different than our own.

Therefore, as we approach midterms in just a few weeks, please take time to genuinely research the candidates.  Consider what difference they can actually make versus where they fall on issues that are likely unchanging (I’m talking about “one-issue” voting).  Look into people whose names you don’t recognize, because our elected offices are filled with career politicians who are far too comfortable and in too many corporate pockets.  Change will only occur when passionate people with fresh eyes and ideas enter the stage—or those who have been sidelined because they choose to run third-party.  And please, consider third party candidates!  It’s not a throwaway vote.  It’s you saying, “I’m tired of the red and blue; let’s have something new!”  (Did not intentionally rhyme that.)

Be an empowered voter.  Don’t allow the system to dictate your freedom…because that’s not freedom.

 

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Shakespeare and Leadership: The Power of Art

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**A belated post about a wonderful day that has evolved into an incredible blessing and opportunity in my life.**

One Friday in August I walked into my house with a huge smile on my face, excited to tell my husband all about my day at the American Shakespeare Center One-Day Leadership Program.  If a handful of my favorite things, including The Taming of the Shrew, could all be tossed into a “day creator”, that was that Friday.

It started by opening one of the ASC’s e-blasts (I learned months ago that it is beneficial to open theirs) back in July.  They announced the program, along with two scholarships being offered by the Community Foundation of the Blue Ridge.  I applied and found out the Monday before (also my first day of my seventh round of chemo shot treatments) that they had awarded one to me!

I was elated!  One of the burdens I’ve felt while fighting and recovering from cancer is the gap that it inevitably places on my resume.  This was an opportunity to stay relevant and learn about leadership in the workplace through the arts (an ideal hybridization)!  My one problem was navigating how to get my chemo shot and not miss the workshops, if possible.  After some conversations, and a wonderfully obliging nurse and pharmacist, we came up with a plan and it went like clockwork–I missed nothing!

The entire day, from start to finish, was amazing.  During the first session I considered how different professional development events are in 2018 compared to, say, the 90s.  For instance, we began our first workshop with a conversation about awareness of our bodies and meditation, which was followed by a body scan meditation.  In my opinion, workplaces that acknowledge and understand the importance of whole-person well-being are light years ahead of those that ignore it.

Moving throughout the day, we had the opportunity to hear excerpts from Shakespeare and discuss the way speech and body posture can communicate so much in any environment, but especially a professional one, where you want to be conscientious about what you convey to your colleagues.

One of the biggest components was preparing our statements based on something pertinent to our jobs/lives.  There was clear improvement from our first-draft presentations to our final presentations, after being critiqued by members of the education staff/ASC actors.  While only one day, I was able to see marked improvement in my fellow participants, and one even said he could see himself enjoying acting, though he had never before considered it.

Of course, my favorite part of the day (and the most unexpected) was getting to perform a short scene from The Taming of the Shrew.  One of, if not, my favorite play, it was a dream-come-true (that I didn’t know I had) to work on staging the scene and performing it on the Blackfriars’ stage.  We did not memorize the lines, but read from scripts prepared the way Shakespeare would have passed them out–with cue lines and then our specific lines, but not everyone’s.  This required unique collaboration, because we had to see what each person’s lines said to see what kind of stage direction we were given for acting and interacting with each other.  It is a complex and detailed process that only raises my respect for the actors at the American Shakespeare Center who work so hard to bring such incredible performances to their audiences.

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When it was all said and done, I was exhausted—but I made it, learned immensely, and felt more alive than I had in…months, at least.  I can’t get over how lucky I am to live in a town with such a powerhouse in the theatre world.  I mean, within walking distance from my house is the only replica of The Globe Theatre in the world—that’s pretty amazing.

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Being an enthusiastic, all-in kind of person, I immediately inquired about volunteering.  They said yes.  And, now I get to work on the most amazing project that is letting me use skill sets that have sat idle too long.  It feels wonderful to have a project to work on outside of my home, to contribute to something meaningful, that I care about, and from which I am genuinely learning, too.  (I’ll share more about that another time…maybe.)

I am grateful.  Though less than pleasant circumstances brought me to live in Staunton, it is a wonderful town with so much to offer in the way of arts and culture.

Now, because I can’t talk about all this Shakespeare and not share…PLEASE watch the video below and discover the brilliance and hilarity of Upstart Crow.  If you are a Shakespeare lover, you’ll find this series right up your alley.

First watch this…

Then watch this…

How Do You Say “I Care And You’re Wrong”?

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You know the words you say when talking about dealing with people who disagree with you?  That you can still have a relationship with those people who post racist, bigoted, intolerant statuses, because you want to be open and facilitate and participate in constructive conversations?  You know what I’m talking about.

Well, today I found out that a man I’ve known most of my life, who is well known in a small, rural, Virginia community, posted something blatantly racist on a live broadcast of former President Obama speaking while in Africa (at the 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, no less).  The way I found out was that a black friend of mine posted a screenshot of it in an (understandable) outrage.  In my shock I did the only thing I could think of: I apologized to her for his words.

I looked up the individual’s Facebook page and saw that he’d posted a live apology for his statement.  He blamed it on his political stance, reiterating repeatedly that he was in no way, shape, or form racist, and that he has many friends who are people of color and of different nationalities—because we all know that means you aren’t racist, after you’ve said something very racist.

Here’s the question that this situation provoked: how should I plan to interact with this man in the future?  And even more than that, how should I plan to interact with people I care about more deeply who say or do something racist?

Closing myself off is not an option, because if I do that there is no chance for meaningful conversations and possible change.  If I let it slide and remain close, then I am choosing silence and allowing myself to become part of something I abhor.  Addressing it every.single.time runs the risk of the argument being tuned out, and thus “casting my pearls before swine.”

Typically, I try to point out when things are inappropriate—whether about race or anything else.  Usually, I’m ignored or laughed at (one time I was temporarily blocked…by a family member…and then left unfriended because the person never communicated they didn’t want me to keep commenting).  Sometimes there is a lot of feedback, and on the rare occasion, it’s actually a constructive conversation.  The BEST interactions, though, are the ones that occur over time and in person—like in the office.  Those people who get to see you juggle a million things, struggle with crappy bosses and absurd deadlines and workloads…they pause to consider what you say during that much needed coffee break.  And a year later?  You find out some of your soap-box-speeches made an impact.

So yes, in person is ALWAYS better.  And that’s what I’m really getting at—how do you choose to interact with people who not only disagree with you but who are morally wrong in their belief?  And deny it?  So far, the conversation is working with people with whom I have a relationship, but the people who are only acquaintances?  It brings out a whole different reaction.

I could always write a letter…to the editor.  (I really like writing letters when I don’t like something.  I’ve written to Miss America Organization, NBC, authors who didn’t answer the questions they created in their book, op-eds, letters to the editor…if nothing else, it feels good to get it out!)

What are your thoughts on these issues?

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.