Five-Finger Contract

imagesI just started a new job working with high school students in Chicago through The Schuler Scholar Program. The students had to go to an adventure camp as part of the program and their leadership director taught us all an incredibly life philosophy that can be simply remembered as the Five-Finger Contract.

  1. Thumb: Thumbs up. Always keep a positive attitude.
  2. Pointer finger: Never use blame. When you blame someone and point fingers, three of your fingers point back towards you.
  3. Middle finger: Watch your language. I do not mean that those who swear are unintelligent and immature (I’ve thankfully outgrown that philosophy since high school). Watch your language does not necessarily mean don’t swear. Instead, I see it as keeping your language positive like your attitude and supporting others with your words. Use your language to build everyone up.
  4. Ring finger: Commitment. Commit yourself to doing good and always being your personal best.
  5. Pinky: Pinky promise. Promise to uphold the five finger contract to the best of your ability.

We’re not perfect. No one can be expected to be positive every moment of every day or always be on their best behavior. But this lesson for the students struck me as something I want to incorporate into my own life as I find ways to be a more positive and loving person no matter the situation. And bettering the world through feminism and activism needs a positive base.

Russia’s Neo-Nazi Homophobia

I don’t keep up with politics and current events as often as I should. Though I’ve been aware that Russia has serious human rights issues going on with homophobia, I had no idea that it was as bad as it is. I thought I package it neatly in my mind under the vague umbrella term of human rights issues and that because I didn’t see it happening that it couldn’t be so terrible. I am incredibly naive at times and still need to check myself and my privilege far more often than I currently do.

A friend of mine posted this link on facebook from The Gaily Grind complete with videos of a Russian Neo-Nazi group torturing a teenage gay man.

Here is the video. I have not watched it yet because just reading the article made me sit down and cry and I know I do not have the stomach to watch this violence. But I also know that it is important to do so in order that we are all shocked awake from our day dreams of a progressive world where bigotry and hatred are small nuisances, existing on the frames of our conscious minds.

We have a long way to go in human rights and I feel that no matter what I say, nothing will sum up this atrocity. Especially because it is not the only case of torturing LGBTQ people and it is being treated as commonplace in Russia! The Neo-Nazis who recorded this video are not being punished or taken in by the police. Public opinion supports their monstrous behavior.

The Gaily Grind’s article posted above reports that:

A recent poll by Pew Research Center found that three out of every four Russians say society should not accept homosexuality. The percentage of those who think homosexuality should be accepted dropped 4% since 2007, from 20% to 16%.

In March, Levada Public Opinion Center reported that 85 percent of Russian adults said they were strongly against a law that would allow same-sex marriage. They also found that supporters of same-sex marriage in Russia fell from 14% to just 5% over the past three years. On the other side of the spectrum, some expressed strong opposition to homosexuality: 16 percent of those polled suggested that homosexuals should be isolated from society, 22 percent said that the treatment of homosexuality must be made compulsory, and 5 percent said that homosexuals should be ‘exterminated.’

I read this and I cried. What can be said about this? What can possibly describe the horror and hate we turn a blind eye to because we don’t want to see the great evil people are capable of? I don’t have the words! Maybe I’ll have the words someday, but right now all I can think of is how it is easy to pretend that because such hatred does not exist as blatantly in America that it does not exist. But hatred is hatred and there is no way to quantify it.

I was on the phone with my brother when I found this article. I paused in our conversation and told him that I was reading an article on how a gay teenager was tortured to death in Russia and if I was quiet for a few moments that was the reason. My brother told me that if I needed to go, then I should go. It hurt that he didn’t offer up an opinion. It hurt that he felt that if I just had a few moments to collect myself then I would be alright and that our conversation wasn’t truly muddled with death or stained with reality far beyond our mindless conversation of Pokemon games.

There are no words I know to describe this hurt I felt because hurt is too simple. I don’t have the words, but I need to share this article, this video and my story with finding out this information with anyone who will listen because someone will have the words. Someone will be able to describe why torturing someone for his or her sexual orientation is wrong and how it stems off from something as simple as gay slurs and other minor forms of hate speech. Hate is hate is hate the same way love is love is love. Even if I don’t have the words someone else will.

Tense Discussions

I post a lot of blogs about things my brother has said that have been offensive and sexist. But I spent this past week at home for Spring Break and I love my brother. The line between conservative and liberal is barely there.

Although it seems impossible sometimes to hold a conversation with him, as we both believe so strongly in opposing positions, we make an effort to not step on each other’s beliefs.  Our relationship is not built on political views. It can be easy to assign the opposition of your viewpoint as someone who is stupid, or misinformed, or even evil. It gives you a sense of justice and moral superiority. It’s easy, but that’s what makes it terrible. If I have learned anything from discussions with my brother it’s that his opinions are well thought out and grounded in his perception of reality.

If I want to be heard for my beliefs I must first listen to his.

Whenever my brother and I debate, we know we won’t come to any conclusions. We know we won’t change the other’s mind.  But when we can, we have a dialogue going, and I appreciate this. We love each other no matter where our discussion leads.

Not everyone is having these tense “discussions” with family members. When we argue with friends or even strangers the stakes can be higher. I just want to say that no matter who you debate with, try to see that your opponent is more than just his or her opinions. We are not limited to liberal or conservative as our only markers of identity.

I am…

Being a feminist is about more than wanting equality and is more than a self-proclaimed title. In order to love your sex and believe in a world where sexism does not exist, you must first love yourself.

This writing exercise was described to me as an ‘I Am Poem’, but that sounds rather intimidating. You do not need to be a writer in order to use words to express who you and why you love yourself. For anyone who is not a writer this is not about being perfect with words, and poetic need not apply to what you say. Talk onto the page if it makes you more comfortable.

When I did this with a group we were given ten minutes and in those ten minutes I took the time to free-write. Free writing means the uncensored flow of ideas from your mind to the page. Today, take ten minutes and tell yourself who you are without judging and without censorship. It only starts with two words and ten minutes to start, but what you learn may last a lifetime.

Love yourself, love your sex and be proud to be a feminist.

I am

a paradox, an illusion, a hope, stable, loving, fictional, real, a superhero, a fighter, a feminist, wonderful, dreaming and praying and wondering why I believe and what I believe in, a Jew, a woman, abstract and that’s okay, the pages upon which I write, the pen, the ink, my mind, my consciousness. I am thoughtful and engaged, or disengaged and that’s okay too. I am loved, loving and again to love and come back to love as a first principle though love isn’t grounded in science and fact and neither am I, a rambler, a truth seeker, passionate, more than can be seen or experienced, more than my words, my body, my mind I am more, forever and always more and more than I can comprehend. I am a free writer, a word user and word maker-uper, a child, an adult, blessed.

I am blessed.

I am blessed.

With such wondrous people in my life, I am blessed.