Tag Archives: current events

Remember this moment

“Remember this moment.”  I said to my children.

“Someday, someone will tell you that feminism is no longer necessary.  That men and women are equal in society.  But right now, you can see that’s not true.  Because more than 50 million Americans have just legally declared themselves willing to be led by Donald Trump, even though he is terrible and dangerous and unqualified in every way, rather than a woman, even though she may be the most qualified candidate for political office in all of human history.”

We were huddled together against the chill and the hatred, watching the election returns.  The mood had been jovial, if a little manic, but slowly turned to terror and shock.  I couldn’t stop shaking and felt nauseous.  Robert tried to argue that it wasn’t over yet, but I knew it was.  None of us understood it, but we saw it.

Ithilien put his hand to my face.  “Shh, Mommy, it’s okay.  He won’t win the whole race.”

“Yes he will,” I said, my eyes stinging, “this is the whole race.  It’s over.”  Ithilien curled his lip as tears formed in his eyes.

“Maybe it’s just a mistake.” Númenor offered, his fists tight with anger and incomprehension.  “It must be wrong.”

But we knew.

I started to cry.

What went wrong?  What happened?  Could we have prevented this?  Would it have made a difference if we had donated more money?  If we had been brave enough to put up a yard sign?  If we had flown to Florida to GOTV, would that have been enough?

I suspect not.

I think, in my heart of hearts, that what we saw tonight was an ugly reminder of how much we have left to grow as a society.  A frightening harbinger of a new era of hate and horror, certainly, but mostly a reflection of how hateful and horrible our past and has made our present.

I have said that America isn’t great.  That there’s still so much left to be done.  I wish I hadn’t been shown I was right tonight– I honestly thought we were ready for a female president.  I know I was.

Hillary Clinton lost tonight.  So did tolerance, love, peace, fairness, understanding, rationality, and the way forward.

Right now I don’t know if we can find those things again.  But I’m going to keep looking.  I’m going to keep raising children who expect those things and who will help foster them.  I’m going to keep looking for the light ahead, the distant goal, that “greatness,” and strive for it with my whole being.

Just as I would have if the election had gone the way we expected.

 

New Feathers, New Flights

My chickens are molting.

And frankly, they look ridiculous.

Feathers are scattered all over the chicken yard, and from some angles our buff orpington, Took, more resembles a bird you’d find in a bag in a grocery store deli than a healthy, living, laying hen.

As the new feathers grow in, they appear first as hard shafts sticking out of the skin awkwardly.  They don’t provide warmth or shed water yet, they have virtually no color, and if they are cut or torn, they’ll bleed.

And, of course, while the chicken is putting all her nutritional resources into growing new feathers, she doesn’t have the energy to spare to lay eggs.

So it’s a time of deprivation for us as the farmers, and uncertainty and hardship for our vulnerable, naked little birds.

Watching the chickens shed their old, damaged, dirty feathers and take the brave an unceremonious step to grow new ones seems appropriate, somehow, for the election season.

A change in leadership is like a change in plumage– possibly just cosmetic, possibly dramatically transformative, but always resource-intensive, inconvenient, and awkward.  And, even if it appears to be a cosmetic change only, the fact remains that molting every so often to refresh the feathers helps them function as they should, keeping the body warm and dry, and on a good day with a prevailing tailwind, carrying us upward and forward.

We’re well past the halfway point in this arduous process now.  We just have to keep going, get through it, and we’ll be better off for it.

And then a little while after that, we’ll have our dividends coming in again, eggs and governance.

Words for Scary Times

People are telling you to be afraid, to lash out, to barricade yourself in for fear of losing what little you have.

People are telling you that you’re doing it wrong, that you’re too loud, too brash, too unpolished, that your laugh is grating, that your smile is a sneer.

People are telling you that you take up too much space, that your standards are too high, that you’re being unrealistic, that you’re part of the problem.

That’s the language of fear.

Don’t let it close your mind.

I know you better than that.  You do, too.

You are brave.  You are a force for good.  You are fighting the good fight.

You are strong.  You speak truth to power.  You keep coming back and trying again.

You are loving.  You are the lullaby in the night.  You are the warm embrace.  You are the hope for a brighter day.

Don’t run away.  Reach out.

Don’t hoard.  Share.

Don’t see enemies.  Build community.

Don’t stand silent.  Speak up.

Don’t shrink.  Bloom.

 


A lot of people are struggling right now, me included.  These are the words that came to me today– I thought they might do someone else some good, too.

Stay safe out there, friends.  Take good care of yourselves, and each other.

 

 

On America and Greatness

I don’t think it’s a secret that I love living here, that this is my home.

But I cringe when I hear politicians talk about America and greatness.  No matter who, and no matter how– whether it’s President Obama describing the things that make America great in a State of the Union, the Trump campaign’s “Make America Great Again” swag, or Hillary Clinton stumping about how America is already great.

I wonder if they really believe what they’re saying, or if they just know that it polls well.  I wonder if they’ve ever really thought about it, or researched it, this idea of America being somehow superior among nation-states.  I especially wonder about Obama, the black child of a white single mother, and Clinton, the civil rights activist and feminist icon– do they have to train themselves out of looking contemptuous when they spout these phrases?

I mean, surely they know.  They have marginalized identities, they are well-educated, they are politically left of center.  Surely they can see the opressions and injustices of the past and present– the racial warfare that accompanied the birth of the nation, as transatlantic slave labor created mercantile prosperity and westward expansion was synonymous with Amerindian holocaust; the toxic patriarchal agenda that permeates all levels and ages of American history, erasing the accomplishments of historical women and constraining modern femmefolk to a life of second-class possibilities; the racial, sexual, orientational, and gender-based disparities that have followed US society into the 21st century.

America isn’t great.

It has never been great.

Not for everyone.

In fact, America as a society has only ever served the needs of a small minority of the population.  Perhaps it was, or even is, great for them, I wouldn’t know– at no time in history has there been an iteration of the US in which I would be in that minority.

The American Dream– come here, work hard, and by dint of your effort alone become rich and well-respected– is a myth.  It’s a convenient fiction perpetuated by the oligarchy, designed to discourage lower-class rebellion in a cultural context where Calvinist predestination remains highly relevant and wealth disparity is stark and endemic.

There have always been a few people living the gilded life while many starve and freeze and even more hustle and graft to support them.

That, to me, doesn’t fit the definition of greatness.

In order to insist on America being great, whether now or in the past, one would have to somehow magically exclude from consideration that the prosperity of the US came through the blood of chattel slaves, over the bodies of slain indigenous people, and in the ruthless industrial consumption of children, elderly widows, and vulnerable immigrants.

In order to insist on America being great, whether now or in the past, one would have to forget that nearly every major liberal victory in its history was a case of America being late to the party, an embarrassing truth in the face of a pervasive narrative about America the great Enlightenment political experiment, especially as the US remains behind the curve today.

In order to insist on America being great, whether now or in the past, one would have to quietly pretend that its status as the sole superpower was somehow more related to its inherent superiority, or at least to the deliberate actions of its leaders, than it is to the confluence of greed, indescriminate slaughter, and simple accident.

America isn’t great.  Has never been.

No amount of firecrackers and political rallies could change that.

America could be great someday.  Maybe it’s even on the path to greatness now.  But ahistorical national pride won’t bridge the gap.

Let’s have bold, critical conversations about the American state instead.  Let’s talk, not about how great America is, but about how great it could be if we perservere.  Let’s talk about how to make America great, how to honor the promises of the liberal principles and founding narratives we hold dear.

Let’s talk about how to create liberty and justice for all.  What it means for Lady Liberty to lift her lamp beside the golden door.  What we can do now in order to form a more perfect union.  How we can come together, and be one out of many.

All that starts with saying, out loud, in your biggest speech of the year, on your bumper stickers, and in your stump speeches, that America isn’t great– yet.  That America continues to fail the poor, the elderly, people of color, immigrants, queer people, women, and the differently-abled.  That America cannot be great when there are still children facing hunger, women tasked with preventing their own rapes, communities fighting the extinction of their cultural identity, cities bereft of safe drinking water, families unable to make the best choices for their children, people who don’t have enough of what they need to thrive.

A nation is its people.  America won’t be great, can’t be great, until each and every American has the resources and support they need to live a great life.

And on that day, I will fly the flag and be proud to be an American.

Because on that day, America will be great.

No

I can’t write about knitting or sewing this week.

I can’t.

Too much has happened to me this week.  There’s too much anger and sadness in me to compose a few blithe paragraphs about handwork right now.

I want to share with you what’s on my mind instead of what’s in my work bag today.

Today is the first day after the heat wave here on the west coast.  I know that the majority of media sources in this country have just started to cover the record-breaking heat, because, as with most things, if it doesn’t happen at least as far east as Chicago, it might as well have happened in another country.

Don’t get me wrong, I love living on the frontier.  I love standing knee-deep in the Pacific, looking west, and feeling the wilderness around me.

But I didn’t hear about the oil train derailment that happened a scant 10 miles from my house for hours after the fact, and even then it was only because I went to a local news website trying to figure out why there was so much traffic stacked up on highway 30.

We were so very lucky in Mosier.  If the train had crashed the day before, the winds would have made the fire worse by orders of magnitude.  If the explosion or fire had been bigger, Mosier would have lost a school, homes, lives.  If it had been raining, which it frequently does in early June, there would have been no way to mitigate the spill of oil into the Columbia.  If the derailment had happened 10 miles further west, it might have taken out a freeway overpass, a number of local businesses, or even my house.

My house.  Where my children live.

I’ve been fighting against the bomb trains for years.  And this one nearly got me.

By contrast, I was quite physically safe from the Stanford rapist.  But as I read the victim’s statement and the letter the rapist’s father wrote to the judge, I wept the angry, familiar tears of someone who has lived her whole life embroiled with rape culture.

I remembered the first time I was sexually harassed– in line at the drinking fountain, in kindergarten, age 5– and I remembered how embarrassed I felt.  How I stood there stupidly and let him keep touching me even though my stomach was knotting up and my legs wanted to run.  How the words he said were permanently etched into my psyche.  How I never told anyone.  How I felt ashamed by the incident, like it was my fault.

The little boy who groped me and made sexual comments about my prepubescent body probably doesn’t even remember that it happened.

I remember him, though.  I remember his name, his face, his hair cut, even though we moved across the state the summer after I finished first grade and I haven’t seen him since.  And when I hear about men who are so assured of their right to touch women, who feel as entitled to their sexual attentions as the Stanford rapist obviously does, I think about that boy and I wonder if he ever learned about consent.  If he became the kind of guy who tells rape jokes and makes his sexual partners feel obligated to engage in acts they don’t enjoy.  If he went on to rape someone at a frat party in college.  If he became one of the relatively few men who are serial rapists– how many victims would he have by now, at nearly 30 years old?

I think it’s that survivor’s sensitivity that made me uncomfortable with Bernie Sanders from the beginning.  I wanted to like him.  I bought into the hype of his being a challenger from Clinton’s left who would force her left during the primary at least.  But then, I watched him debate with her.  I heard the dogwhistles when he accused her of “yelling”, tried to paint her as manipulative and dishonest, insinuated that she could be bought.  I read the things he wrote about women and sexual relations when he was younger.  I watched him treat his wife with incredible disrespect onstage at a public event.  I heard the contempt in his voice when dealing with female reporters.  I heard him insist that people who didn’t support him didn’t know their own best interests.  I watched his campaign double down on the idea that supporting Clinton because she’s a woman is stupid, wrong, even traitorous.

I watched him lie and cheat and steal and take no responsibility.  I watched him blame everyone else for his problems.  I watched him allow his supporters to run wild, threatening women and disrupting events.

I voted for Hillary Clinton.  Because women’s rights are human rights.  Because she listens to people and genuinely cares about them.  Because she plays by the rules.  Because she cares about indigenous people’s issues.  Because she has been a tireless advocate for the rights of children and women for her entire life.  Because she’s always been ahead of the curve on LGBT issues.  Because her staff is diverse and well-trained and highly skilled.  Because she admits it and apologizes when she is wrong.  Because she says the word “abortion”.

Last night Clinton became the presumptive nominee.  The first female major party nominee ever.  EVER.  I watched her speech.  I watched the commemorative video.  I cried.  I was so proud to have been part of getting her this far.  I was so excited for the general election.

This morning I read the news and learned that at his event last night, Bernie Sanders, who has repeatedly claimed that he’s an advocate for women, allowed 15 seconds of booing and hissing directed towards Hillary Clinton, the nominee of his party and the first woman EVER to be a major party nominee for president.  He didn’t even recognize the glass ceiling she shattered this week.

I realized that he doesn’t see her.  He doesn’t see women.  He doesn’t see ME.

And I’ve had about enough of being trivialized and ignored.  I’m done being relegated to the sidelines.

I have no more patience for those who marginalize me, be they east-coast-centered mainstream news sources, legislators who insist that shipping oil by rail is safe, teary-eyed rapists who think they’ve done nothing wrong, or political candidates who think it’s irrelevant whether they actually have a good record on women’s issues or just say they do in interviews.

My life is too wild and precious to spend it legitimizing all this bullshit.

So I am renewing my declaration of war against the patriarchy this summer.

gracedchin / Via etsy.com

And that is the work I have in progress this week.

 

 

Primary Day

I think the results of today’s primary voting here in Oregon are a foregone conclusion.  Donald Trump is the only remaining candidate for the Republican nomination, so he will win 70-90% of the Republican vote.  The Democratic race will be fairly evenly split between Clinton and Sanders, with a lot of rural counties strongly preferring Sanders and the most racially diverse counties strongly preferring Clinton.

But I’m still freaking out about it.

I doubt I’m alone in that.

All through this primary season, the smalls and I have been watching the returns come in on Huffington Post.  We’ve talked about delegates and superdelegates and proportional awards and caucuses and polling data.

We’ve seen the signs and bumper stickers around town and cheered or jeered or rolled our eyes according to our preferences.  I’ve bitten my lower lip bloody driving down I-84 and seeing the balance of the signage on our county measure.

We’ve watched the debates and paused them to debrief.  We’ve clicked through candidate websites and read articles together and done deep research.

When I filled out my ballot, Númenor and Ithilien sat next to me at the dining room table and drew up their own construction-paper ballots with their own circles to fill in as we read the voter’s pamphlet together and talked about what was important.  How I decide how to vote.  What I look for.

Robert did the same with them the next night.

Tonight is a little different than the rest of the returns we’ve watched.  Tonight the results are about us, our neighbors, our family– what we think, what we believe, where we live.

So we will watch along, as usual, but this time with popcorn and while running the Blackadder episode about rotten boroughs.  Just to keep it in perspective, you know.

In case things don’t go the way we want them to go.

In case things get scary.

So we remember that it’s a show.  That it’s rigged against us, against people like us, against young families all over the country.

But we are doing our part, what we can do.  We are voting our minds and talking about serious things with friends and family and raising little citizens who will hopefully grow up to be involved, conscientious voters like us.

And sometimes, if everyone does the right thing, that’s enough to make a difference in the system.

I guess we’ll see what happens.

About that patriotic stuff

The word “patriotic” is an adjective used to describe things that are patriot-like.  The word patriot was loaned into English from middle French patriote, but its lineage can be traced back to Latin and Greek words for father, making the meaning of the word less about being proud of one’s homeland (or patria), and more about it being a feeling one has in conjunction with others who are of one’s father.  It’s about human relationships, common history, shared identity.

It’s not the opposite of “terrorist,” “godless,” or “anarchist.”

For European Americans, the 4th of July is a celebration of their people’s victory over their oppressive colonial rulers.  For people of African and Native descent, it is, at best, meaningless.

That’s patriotic all around.

After the Declaration [of Independence] there is a long list of justification given for why the colonies were declaring their independence from the control of England. And the 7th justification reads:
“He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.”

13 years prior, King George issued the Proclamation of 1763. In this proclamation a line was drawn down the Appalachian Mountains and the colonies were essentially told that they no longer had the right of discovery of the Indian Lands west of Appalachia. Only the crown could thereafter negotiate treaties and buy or sell those lands. This deeply upset the colonies. For they wanted those empty Indian lands and King George was “raising the conditions of new Appropriations of (their rightful) Lands.”

Justification 27, the final justification in the list, states:
“He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”

How can a declaration that begins by stating “All men are created equal” go on to include justifications that dehumanize the Indian tribes and peoples who were already living in this land? Clearly the founding Fathers had a very narrow definition of who qualified as human. Therefore they could state “ALL men are created equal” because they did not believe that the “merciless Indian Savages” who occupied the empty Indian lands west of the Appalachian Mountains were actually human.

— Mark Charles, Navajo scholar, “The Doctrine of Discovery: A Buried Apology and an Empty Chair

 

Given the current state of race relations in the US and the heatwave, I would like to remind people, especially white males and others with privilege, that there is much to criticize about this country, its history, and the conduct of its modern state.  Try to hear criticisms and anti-nationalist sentiments as an ally, or at least a neutral bystander.

The 4th of July isn’t for everyone, just as the Declaration of Independence wasn’t about the self-evident and inalienable rights of women, slaves, native peoples, and other marginalized people.  So don’t be an asshole to people who choose not to be excited about what is, in reality, a celebration for a small number of already privileged people that they worked up the courage to challenge a far-distant government for dominion over a vast and diversely-peopled continent none of them had any right to claim.

Have a safe weekend, everyone.

It Matters Monday: Terminology Matters

The obesity epidemic.

Let’s call it what it is: a culture war against fat people.

Which, over the course of time, includes basically all well-nourished people.  Yes, some are characteristically thin, some have trouble keeping their weight up due to disease or dysfunction, but in general, as human beings, we gain weight as we age.

This is a fact that the medical model does not take into account.

Nor does the medical model give credence to the trend shown by study after study: that “morbidly obese” people can be just as healthy (or healthier) than slim people, and just as active (or more active), because body size is generally an indicator of nutritional status, not health or movement habits.

So please.  Let’s call it what it is, because terminology matters.

There is no “obesity epidemic”.  There is a war on fat people.

Feminist Hero of the Week

Emma Sulkowicz, a student at Columbia University, is using her senior thesis to bring attention to campus rape, decry the failure of university officials to prosecute her rapist, and combat rape victim stigma.

She has announced her intention to carry her mattress with her around campus until her rapist is brought to justice.

From the TIME article on her piece:

Sulkowicz started the performance-art project on Tuesday, and she said she is determined to continue carrying the mattress wherever she goes — to class, the library, the gym — as long as her alleged rapist is still on campus. That means her project could last until graduation day in May 2015 — unless her alleged assailant is either expelled or chooses to leave the school. Last year, Sulkowicz and two other women reported the same person to the university. All three cases were dismissed.

Amazing.

Strength and solidarity to you, Emma, and rape victims everywhere.