Resist Trump’s Ban on Muslims and Immigrants

As of January 27th, Trump issued an executive order banning citizens of Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Syria from entering the United States for the next 90 days. These are all majority Muslim countries. All refugees are suspended for the next 120 days and Syrian refugees are completely banned.

The ACLU is challenging the executive order and has temporarily halted the process to deport citizens from these countries currently stranded at airports, but this does not mean we have won.

Take a look at Kateschatz article for medium 20 Ways You Can Act Now To Support Muslims/Immigrants + Resist DT: A Solidarity Sundays Emergency Guide

Educate yourself about the executive order and the history of discrimination of immigrants in America.

https://www.aclu.org/blog/speak-freely/trump-begins-his-unconstitutional-program-anti-muslim-discrimination

Reach out to your friends (of all religions and no religion) and make sure they know about Trump’s executive order. From there, you can pool your skills and your contacts. What groups through work, through school, through family connections do you each know? Contact them this week and ask what are we doing to support our Muslim and immigrant siblings? If they don’t have an answer, work with them to create an answer. A public statement would be instrumental in voicing community anger toward Trump’s hateful and racist policies.

What skills and resources do you have that you can lend in support? Have a vehicle? Take people to a protest. Run a blog? Send out resources and information. Plaster your social media with #NoBanNoWall.

Encourage the businesses you support to issue public statements or put signs in their windows that voice support for Muslims and immigrant communities.

Contact your mayors as well as your Congresspeople and Senators. On a more local level, you can ensure that your town and your schools will protect people of all backgrounds, religions and colors. Find out what they are doing to ensure the safety and well being of all people in their district.

This is not (by any means) an extensive list. Check out a more comprehensive list of post 2016 resources (that’s constantly being updated) by Kit Mead here.

 

Not too Late to Save Obamacare

As of 1:30 a.m. last night, the Senate passed a bill to repeal Obamacare and the bill will go to the Republican majority House as early as within the next few days.

You can still call your House Representative and can find their contact information here. Bustle has a whole list of scripts to use on the phone, including scripts that voice your support of Obamacare as well as funding for Planned Parenthood. You can also add your support for Medicare and Medicaid.

Obamacare isn’t perfect (read more about the facts of Obamacare here and make your own decision) but the ‘repeal and replace’ rhetoric and action will leave 20 million Americans uninsured. If Obamacare is repealed we are either left in limbo without insurance while we wait for a new healthcare plan, or Obamacare is replaced with a plan that is immediate and poorly constructed due to lack of time to develop a comprehensive replacement (what Trump envisions: “We’re going to be submitting — as soon as our secretary’s approved, almost simultaneously, shortly thereafter, a plan. It’ll be repeal and replace. It will be essentially simultaneously,” Trump said. “Probably the same day, could be the same hour.”).

But if you call your Representative, we can still fight. Follow your Representative on Facebook and twitter and tell them via social media what Obamacare means to you or your loved ones.

Just a few things we lose if we lose Obamacare:

Additional looming threats:

  • defunding Planned Parenthood
  • privatizing Medicare and Medicaid
  • loss of social security

I know I’m not covering the half of what’s at stake here, so please comment and add to my list. What else about our healthcare is threatened that I have not covered?

Please call your Representative. This is not about political parties, or even economics and budgets. It is a matter of life or death.

Optimism in 2017

Before I started as the blog managing editor for Luna Station Quarterly–a journal dedicated to female writers and speculative fiction–my editor asked me if I could write with a more positive tone. Could I present inclusive feminism as more than a pipe dream?

Equality sounds great, but do I actually believe it is possible?

My answer has to be yes.

Except, I’m not an optimist. Not in the long term when it’s so easy to view human history as great swathes of human disaster cloaked as something a bit more palatable–slow human progress. Glacially slow human progress.

When people want you silenced, imprisoned or dead based on your race, gender, religion, sexuality, ability, nationality or any number of intersecting identities, it’s difficult to believe humans have made much progress at all.

It is easy to be a pessimist. I fall into this trap all the time. When my mother tells me about some great nonprofit organization, my first thought is to list all the ways their goal and their mission will inevitably fall short. If this organization serves queer and trans youth ages 12-18, for instance, what about people under or over that age restriction? Are we supposed to hope that the 19 year old who needs these services will somehow manage to fall under the umbrella of another nonprofit? Also, where does this organization get its money from? I can guarantee it’s not all individual donations. I’ve been a canvasser for a 501(c)3. I’ve worked in development and written grants and had to wonder why I was asking Coca Cola and Wells Fargo to fund an organization aiding survivors of domestic abuse.

SARAHI’m not an optimist. But I’m trying because it’s grossly unfair of me to say that just because a nonprofit organization isn’t able to help everyone, that it therefore helps no one and is inherently useless.That’s giving up. It’s critiquing the solutions of others without offering a solution yourself. That’s saying all solutions are flawed so why bother trying at all?

Activism and the work of organizers isn’t useless. And whether that activism is through protests and rallies, canvassing, grant writing, religious charities, online communities, or any other avenue, our work is making a difference. We are building communities and uniting people across differences. We are promoting a world of love that knows no boundaries.

I hope for a world where we no longer need charitable organizations to take care of our country’s most vulnerable–that should be the government’s job. But my resolution for 2017 is to build optimism into my life each day, even if I have to force it. I will not move into 2017 from a place of hate.

 

The Silence after the Election Results

I didn’t think I’d be able to write today. Writing feels too much like talking and talking requires such effort. Talking means playacting at normalcy as if a misogynistic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, racist, ableist bigot was not just democratically elected to the highest political office in the United States. Talking means saying it’s okay. That things will get better, even though I don’t have a plan or any idea how that will occur. It’s either that or scream unintelligible nonsense.

Watching the elections results last night, my housemates and I were dead silent. We weren’t the only ones. Times Square in NYC fell silent.

I work at a high school for a college access program with low-income first generation college-bound students of color. It was painful to talk today. How do you look a seventeen-year-old in the eye and say, “This country just said it doesn’t care whether you live or die. Congratulations on submitting your college applications.”?

When a co-worker asked how I was doing, I told him, “It feels as if there’s everything to say, and yet nothing to say and I can’t say anything.” On the phone with a friend later this evening I repeated again and again, “I don’t know” because nothing I could say would have gotten either of us closer to feeling safe.

So many blogs and opinions pieces I’ve read today addressed minorities and told us to stand up, stand together and speak out.

641153And that sounds so powerful. Except I can’t picture what that means. Maybe my mind is still in a fog, but all I can picture is this weight on my chest and the heaviness of silence, struggling to have something to say, let alone something positive or encouraging or minutely helpful. But that can come later.

A few hours ago, I got into my car and just screamed. And it helped.

Not everyone processes the same, but please speak out (and write!). Even if you’re alone screaming into a pillow, even if you spew gibberish at a friend, or type nonsense on the page.  Even if you do not process through silence, please speak out. Take the time you need, but when you’re ready, speak out.

As Audre Lorde said, “Your silence will not protect you.”

MLK Day: Celebrate with Peace

The conversation around Martin Luther King Jr. tends to stop with race. The popular understanding of his contributions, cultivated in public schools, Black History Month, and text books say two things:

  1. Martin Luther King Jr. was a great and peace loving man who brought equality to Black Americans through the Civil Rights Movement
  2. His work is complete today

Pieces of the first statement is true: Martin Luther King Jr. was a great and peace loving man, but he did not bring about equality. We do not live in a post-racial world when people of color are murdered by police, murdered by white supremacists like Dylann Roof, when people of color are imprisoned and treated as criminals.

As we celebrate Martin Luther King’s legacy, we must understand three very different truths than what we are taught:

  1. We have much to do to continue Martin Luther King’s work through active nonviolent, anti-racist lives where we do not allow ourselves to be divided by color lines
  2. Martin Luther King spoke out against more than racial injustice

He fought for an end to poverty for people of all races. And he understood that race and war and poverty are intertwined. At the time of his speech: “Why I am Opposed to the War in Vietnam” (1967), the United States government spent approximately ten times more killing enemy soldiers than they did helping poor people. As he said further along in the speech:

I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor, and attack it as such.

War becomes a matter of race because:

We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in Southwest Georgia and East Harlem.

The issue is the same today. We continue to send poor people–vulnerable people of all races–to fight overseas, when they are not guaranteed basic liberties in their own neighborhoods. One of the increasing number of Americans who cannot afford a college education? Through programs like the Reserved Officer Training Corps (ROTC) the military pays for your schooling and you join the military then as an officer. Our government and our military continue to exploit poor communities by denying them the basic right to education, and then (in one of many examples) paying for said education through an easy point of recruitment. Students become fodder for the war machine and are too busy learning military training to become politically active on college campuses.

To celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy we must stand against poverty in all its forms and against war and military recruitment. Only then can we march forward to equality.

Take Up Space Revisited

Two years ago, I wrote about the need for women to take up space and claim their power in a room. Now, I’m realizing that the issue is much larger.

This issue of body politics extends to food and body image. The smaller women are in body weight the more confident we are supposed to feel. When we make ourselves thin we are beautiful. When we make ourselves small at the dining room table, we are beautiful. We do not reach for second helpings. We do not take first at meals.

I never feel more visible and aware of being a woman than when I am eating. From how I hold my fork to when I sip my water to what is on my plate, I feel exposed. Eating makes me feel guilty and gluttonous. Eating can become a cause of anxiety (when to eat, what to eat, how much to eat). When I eat, I want to be invisible and shrink myself down to nothing. From my own experience, I take up the least space when I am at the table.

Not every woman has the same experience, and I cannot claim to speak for others. But before I can spread my legs on a bus seat or tuck my shoulders back and straighten my spine when I enter a room of men, I must first take up space with food.

We must choose to be visible in all aspects of our lives, even, and especially, the ones we are shamed for. Eating becomes a political statement: a chance for women to claim our right to exist! If we are shamed for surviving and told to gain confidence by making ourselves small and invisible, there is no space we can inhabit as full human beings. To take up space physically, we must start at the source and claim food and eating as a stance of political power.

10 steps to positive body image.png

 

Some Queer Cheer

A co-worker just introduced me to Denice Frohman, a queer Latina slam poet. Frohman uses her lyrics to create social change and spark conversations about feminism and intersectionality.

Her poem “Dear Straight People” is hilarious, brutal and a necessary addition to our conversation on queer identities. Her poetry plays to a queer audience, but don’t we deserve poets speaking our stories already?

Here’s some queer cheer for your weekend. Enjoy Denice Frohman’s poem, “Dear Straight People”.

 

Teaching Empathy

“I’m not an empathetic person,” my brother said.

I saw my brother for the first time in nearly a year at Thanksgiving. We were discussing the Syrian refugees coming to America and he said he would not let any of them into this country because it’s their problem not ours. He shrugged and said, “I’m not an empathetic person.”

I do not understand.

How is it possible to be a human being and not be able to put yourself in the position of another human being? I’m wondering if empathy can be taught. For myself, I did not grow up empathetic and my world view was limited and circling around myself. I’m working on becoming a better person.

As an educator, I’ve learned to ask questions because a student should learn an idea on their own and not be fed my opinion (which can be wrong or misleading). But I’m not a teacher all the time and don’t want to be. I don’t always have students and the power that puts me in charge just because I’m out of college and the students are in high school does not make me qualified to teach empathy.

I think writing helps create empathy. I think that if you can imagine yourself as a character born out of your head, you can understand another human being, or at least know a few steps in the right direction.

I think reading helps create empathy. I can only hope to read more broadly about the experiences of those who I am not, whether through gender, sexuality, religion, class, ability or nationality. There is much to learn and billions of lives with stories which may or may not ever be told.

Please send me any thoughts on how best to become more empathetic. How do you teach empathy? Thank you for your thoughts.

Books By Women: The New Jim Crow

For anyone interested in racial justice, this nonfiction book is a must read. Michelle Alexander writes an academic and accessible text on how the American prison system is the new form of racial segregation and control, targeting mainly black and brown men. She argues that the prison industrial complex is the new Jim Crow.

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I first read this book last December and with every page I was floored by own ignorance. Of course, I was vaguely aware of NYC’s “stop and frisk” laws and racial profiling, but from my privileged position as a white-passing young woman from suburban Connecticut, the experiences of those convicted as felons (often for petty drug crimes) was an alternate reality. The brutality of dystopian governments and police was happening in the neighborhood bordering mine, not just within the pages of fiction I read. That’s the thing about this book: it puts together the dots in a way that is instantly clear and leaves you wondering, How was I ever so blind? I know there is still so much more for to learn.

The second time I read this book, was in the past few months, reading the text with junior and seniors in high school. This is probably what makes Alexander’s text even more of a game changer in how we talk about race and racial justice: it’s accessible. She breaks down the complexities of the legal system without dumbing them down. She explains the history of SWAT teams, the War on Drugs and how police make their arrests and receive their funding. She digs into the root causes of the imprisonment of young men of color and you learn something with ever page. People who have a greater background in racial justice can still benefit from the clarity and precision of her argument.

I wish this book were written today. It would have been a very different book, or at least a book that included information on the murders of Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown and Sandra Bland to name a few. She might have included information on die-ins and Black Lives Matter. But maybe not. It may have been outside the scope of her research at the time. Hopefully in subsequent editions of the text, she will include a forward or an additional chapter.

One aspect of her work I appreciate the most is her acknowledgment of the areas she does not cover. She tells the reader right from the start that this book focuses on the incarceration of men of color, though she knows women of color are also suffering.

The book is (obviously) heavy material, but I would recommend it. It’s a necessary read for necessary conversations Americans need to start having about race, segregation and incarceration.

Keep reading. Even when it’s hard and even when you’re challenged and floored by ideas, keep reading. Next up The Terrorists of Irustan. 

Books By Women: The Poisonwood Bible

There was no way I was going to read The Poisonwood Bible. I wasn’t going to read it. And if I read it, I wasn’t going to enjoy it. My friend who recommended it to me, read it in high school. Why would I read this book after I graduated from college?

I knew all I needed to know about the book from the title and the premise: a white Christian family of missionaries goes to the Congo in the 1960s. It would be a book of searingly blatant themes that THE WEST SHOULDN’T INTERFERE WITH AFRICA, and CONGOLESE TRADITIONS DON’T NEED CHRISTIANITY and LOOK AT THIS SYMPATHETIC WHITE FAMILY BLUNDER IN AFRICA BUT STILL BE SYMPATHETIC.

I was mainly right. The book was blatant about its themes. Yet, I enjoyed it when I promised I wouldn’t. I finished it when I thought I would hand it back to my friend with a shake of my head.

the_poisonwood_bible_cover_by_tomwright156-d3gufxf

The novel had its strengths, far more than I wanted to give it credit for. To start, the writing was very poetic and I kept a growing list of lines and quotes in a notebook to remember how Barbara Kingsolver molded language. Her writing is emotionally gripping and her details on Congolese culture and language highlight expertise I had not been expecting when the story appeared so simple and moralistic. The historical details of Patrice Lumumba’s  assassination and the ensuing struggle for Congolese independence under the meddling fist of the United States provides great background for readers unfamiliar with modern African history. Kingsolver even appeased the history major in me by including a works cited page at the back of the book. It also helps that Kingsolver grew up in a missionary family who went to the Congo.

I cared about the characters though I promised I would just read this book to make my friend happy (she had loaned it to me for over a year before I finally picked it up). As it turns out, I am a sucker for a well characterized first person point of view. I am a special sucker for stories with multiple first person point of views (Doctrine of Labyrinths). And The Poisonwood Bible fulfills my need to read books by women, but the story is also narrated by women. Five women to be precise. Orelanna Price and her four daughters: Rachel, Leah, Adah and Ruth May. Orelanna brings her four daughters with her when she follows her Minister husband into the Congo to bring Jesus into the lives of the natives. Despite a blatant hit you over the head anti-colonial message which knows no subtlety, this is a novel which does what not many other books think to do: give voice to a whole cast of female characters. 

Thank you Barbara Kingsolver for understanding that women do not need to be likeable but they need to be real and complicated which (for the most part) Kingsolver accomplished.

If it wasn’t readily apparent, I still flip-flop on this book. The writing is strong but overbearing, especially when Kingsolver tries to use extended metaphors. I would recommend the novel to high schoolers as well as readers who have no background in colonial history or African history. It’s not something I would reread, but if nothing else, I’m glad I read it because of the sheer number and expression of plurality of female characters.

Next up: The Lady Matador’s Hotel by Cristina Garcia.

Keep reading!