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Archive for the ‘Lament’ Category

Friday Five2

“Five” is more of a guideline, really.

Because I believe in reaching beyond limits and breaking all manner of ceilings, I’m not going to limit my links this week to five. I believe we can all benefit from going beyond our limits today (and also tomorrow…and for the next four years…). Going beyond our limits and doing and being more is something it would be good for us all to learn to practice.

Things I saved from the Internet this week:

  1. Happy birthday to Michelle Obama on Tuesday. BookBub lists five books she has mentioned loving, because reading and knowledge are power. And I love people who read to kids. This year, I want to follow her example. Reading to children is the only thing I miss from working daycare.
  2. Off the Shelf compiled a similar list of what has been on Barack Obama’s bookshelf.
  3. Ann Patchett wrote a touching goodbye tribute to the Obamas.
  4. My friend Bola has created a character that I can’t wait to see on the screen. A black mermaid? Yes, please. Follow The Water Phoenix on Facebook.
  5. I am not your Teachable Moment – from Everyday Feminism.
  6. Dallas is getting a new independent bookstore – Interabang Books, coming in May!
  7. Another reason to get a piano – studying/playing music is linked to increased civic engagement, improved reading comprehension, and better math skills. While I am firmly in the camp that believes that defending the study of music because it’s good for other things is “like defending kissing because it gives you stronger lip muscles for eating soup neatly,” I also recognize that it is good for other things. And we may need it to be good for other things…
  8. …because Betsy DeVos. Tell your senators no. Here are some ways.

And my favorite thing I’ve read this week – it’s long, but so worth it. To Obama, With Love, and Hate, and Desperation.

Edited to add – my friend Jamie Wright Bagley has a poetry e-course that is up on her website. It’s free, but it’s only available for a limited time. You want to do it!

 

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So…thanks

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My tree is up and slowly being decorated. I haven’t seen this weird little ornament that I made during childhood in years. Thankful, step 1.

Many of my friends are talking about how hard it is to be thankful this year with so much going on that is not good.

Part of me is sympathetic – pain does make thankfulness more challenging. Another part of me is whistling to the tune of “Welcome to my world…” This is how life feels all the time when one keeps up with the news – when one chooses not to shut out the brokenness of the world to protect oneself.

After a while, you get used to holding all of it. You get used to the both/and of opposing realities. It helps to have someone to talk to (a professional, that is). It helps to actually do the things that someone suggests. It helps if you are not as stubborn as I am.

At first, you might have to take thankfulness in steps. They don’t take a lot of time, so you don’t have to ignore the ongoing developments in the DAPL protests or Trump’s bad administration choices. You don’t have to sacrifice the time it takes make calls and meet needs.

You need ten minutes. Ten minutes to list what makes the world worth saving.

Your list will look different from everyone else’s list, and no one gets to tell you what should be on your list. In fact, just throw that word “should” out the window. You won’t be needing it here.

Your list does not have to be for public consumption. Only the highlights of mine are usually public. The apartment. The space. The relative peace and quiet of a neighborhood with an older-than-college-student demographic. Friends. Family. The specifics are personal.

My readers are on my list. I’m thankful for you. So…thanks.

Feel free to share any highlights from your list in the comments.

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Never Been Safe

 

photo-1I’m not much for bandwagons. I don’t post a lot of things on Facebook, trying to shout into the void with the hope of changing the mind of the approximately four people who disagree with me who haven’t already hidden my posts from their feed or been deleted because their disagreement crossed the line into abuse. I don’t pressure people to sign a lot of petitions (which frankly is the very least you can do. But no pressure. Okay, a little pressure. It’s just not hard. Also, do more.). In the places online where I spend the most time (so…here and Pinterest), I try to highlight sources and give tangible ways to dismantle systems of oppression and to support others who are doing so. In my face-to-face life, I do the things I suggest. I don’t put a lot of faith in talk that doesn’t reflect walk. I am usually wary of things that look like action but can’t stand alone as real activism. I am usually skeptical as hell.

But I wore a safety pin on Friday as a statement that I was on the side of the people who are afraid of what the election of Trump means for their safety and freedom. A few people called it effective, but it was mostly just offensive. I am not new to this, and I should have known better. Just like I don’t need help identifying men who are pro-women (and the thought of them wearing something that tells me, “It’s okay, sweetie. I promise I’m safe,” makes me make gagging noises) or need men to save me (cue more gagging), other people don’t need me to save them either. I should honor my wariness and my gut, for they are both more educated than I give them credit for, and I’m sorry I didn’t. I hate that I hurt people I respect, and I wish I could go back in time and not do it.

I haven’t had the words lately to say to people (well, not words they would be able hear, anyway) who are telling protestors to sit down and shut up and get over it. To accept the things we fear as normal. To not grieve when someone, whose words – not the media tweaking his words, not the media portrayal of him, his actual words that we heard come out of his actual mouth – have denigrated, disrespected, and dehumanized whole groups of people (who have already been marginalized and ridiculed most of their lives), gets elected to the highest office in the land.

My distrust of Trump goes beyond mere distrust of politics. It goes beyond disagreement (and my disagreement with just about everything he proposes is not a small thing to get beyond). I don’t trust him as a person, and thus I don’t trust him to set the example that leaders need to set. I’ve had enough experience having to protect myself to have a pretty good gauge of who I can expect to be allies, who I can expect to be apathetic, and who I can expect to be aggressors. And he falls firmly in the last camp. I wish he didn’t. Wednesday I said I don’t have prayers for him yet, but I am praying that he has a Saul-knocked-off-his beast sort of change (although make it a good one, God, because post-knock-Paul and I have issues, too). I know my choice not to explain why that’s what I see is frustrating for those who don’t see it, but it’s not a list for public consumption. There are people who would use it as a list of things to emulate, and there are people who would read not to understand but to patronize me and tell me I must have misunderstood – that he couldn’t possibly have meant exactly what he said. And that makes them unsafe, too.

I don’t know what to say to people who ask us to feel safe when we’re not. But I’m exhausted and emotional from my festive two-panic-attack-a-day habit (I should see someone before I can’t afford it anymore), so I’m going to give it a go anyway.

As a single woman, I have never been safe. My entire adult life, as many times as I have unlocked my front door and walked into the world, I have not been safe. I don’t relax much behind that locked door either, because locks aren’t hard to break if someone were to get a notion to try. If they do, I have objects in every room of my home that I could confidently use as weapons of defense if I needed to, and I’ve put a lot of thought and a bit of practice into how I’d use them. I am constantly on alert. I’ve had to be.

This is not just how I feel; this is my reality.

I don’t talk about these experiences a lot, mostly because people like to say things – they just can’t help themselves – and there’s nothing to say that fixes it, so their attempts are frustrating. I have been followed by a group of men who aggressively offered themselves to me as I walked from my car to my apartment in the dark. I have been catcalled threats of what someone would like to do to me if he were physically closer when walking from my car to the building where I taught my classes. I have been called a cunt more times than I can count. I have been grabbed ten feet from my front door in a neighborhood of hundreds of people, none of whom came out of their homes to see if I needed help when I yelled. I am wily and vicious and marginally trained to respond in these situations, which was apparently surprising to my attacker, so he let me go. I am constantly haunted with thoughts about what could have happened if he hadn’t, because I doubt I would have been able to fend him off. I have been spat upon for voicing an opinion that does not make me sound like a Stepford wife.

I don’t just feel like I’m not safe. I am actually not safe.

And I am very privileged. This world is not as unsafe for me as it is for people of color, particularly those who are also women. This world is not as unsafe for me as it is for people who do not identify with the gender on their birth certificate or for those who love people who have the same gender. It is not as unsafe for me as it is for immigrants and refugees. It is not as unsafe for me as it is for people who are differently abled. It is not as unsafe for me as it is for people who practice a different religion than Christianity.

And now those who perpetuate this danger by their behaviors and their policies have been given new encouragement through Trump’s victory and its implied confirmation that their behavior, like his, is acceptable and winning.

To protest this implication and the events that led to it is a constitutional right. It is right, period.

To hear the lament of those who are hurting and to mourn with them and to publicly, actively, and financially be for them and their freedom is a moral imperative. Especially if you call yourself a Christian.

I am not asking you to save me.

I am asking you to find a real way to extend to everyone the same freedoms in practice that we extend in lip service, and I am asking you to make it a priority.

Let’s start with the easiest. A five-dollar-a-month commitment is not that much. Even someone with my budget can find an extra five dollars a month, although I’ve scaled back on some things so that I can give more. If you make over what the cost of living equivalent of my almost-$30,000-a-year salary is where you live (for reference, if you spend less than half your household income per capita on rent/mortgage payments), you can probably find more to give as well. If all you can do is donate, here are a tiny handful of groups who are trying to make our country safer for those whom it generally is not:

The Southern Poverty Law Center (Note also the petition. Because we have a president-elect who needs to be reminded that it’s a bad idea to make a white nationalist like Bannon one of your top advisers.)

Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund

Council on American-Islamic Relations

The Trevor Project

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund

There are so many others. Where do you donate? Where are the financial needs you see? Please link in the comments.

Get involved in your local community so that you know its people and their needs. Go to meet-and-greets with people who are running for office and vet them. Call the offices of your elected officials (actually call – letters and emails can easily get lost in the shuffle, but it’s harder to ignore a ringing phone), and tell their staff your concerns and how they can best represent those concerns. Volunteer, particularly with groups who are likely to lose some financial support in the upcoming year. Buy fair trade and sweatshop free whenever possible.. Vote every day with your dollar by not supporting businesses that commit human rights violations or those that do not take care of their people, particularly their people whose paychecks are the smallest (and tell said businesses why they’ve lost your patronage and what actions they must take in order to earn it back. Otherwise, you’re just paying more money for groceries for no reason.). Make art that provokes and challenges. Buy the art and support the businesses of people who benefit from fewer societal privileges than you do. When you hear people say racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist, classist, and otherwise wrong things, respond with truth.

When you see someone disparaged or bullied, don’t ignore it. But also don’t make a spectacle of yourself; this is not about you. Pay attention to the ones being attacked and take your cues from them. Often, it will look like putting yourself in between the attacker and the person attacked. Sometimes, this will look like confronting the attacker. Sometimes, this will look like denying attackers the attention they are craving and being an excuse for the ones attacked to remove themselves from the situation. If you are unclear what the person being attacked wants you to do, ask permission before you do anything, even if it’s sitting by them, because they might want their space. When someone’s personal agency has been threatened, only that which restores it is helpful. Do not become part of the problem by pushing what you imagine you’d want someone to do if you were in this situation, because it might be very different from what – if anything – they want you to do.

Learn from my mistakes. Resist what is easy (because it’s probably more patronizing than useful), and do real things that are helpful.

What else? Suggestions are welcome.

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Disclaimer: this post is the result of an actual recent conversation about transgender bathrooms. The other party has read the post and confirms that it summarizes our conversation and might be helpful to others. He also remarked that it’s less “shouty” than what I unleashed on him in person. No, I will not reveal his identity. He’s suffered enough. Bless his heart. But good news – it’s not about you. Unless you’re that one guy who already knows it’s about him. If you feel offended by this post, an interesting question to ask yourself might be “Why?”

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First, welcome to this conversation. Grab a cup of coffee. And good luck (or God be with you, if you prefer).

I admit up front that you are at a disadvantage, because you have higher expectations for said conversation than I do. While you expect the outcome of this exchange to be the complete change of my mind on the subject, I merely expect you to understand my mind on the subject. I have no delusions that I’m going to change your worldview. I understand that you believe that male-female is either-or, constant, and unwavering, and you believe that God doesn’t make mistakes (although neither do I, but I also believe that sometimes people are born with birth defects and childhood leukemia and various other difficulties and that these conditions do not diminish the value of the human who happens to have been born with them and are certainly not causes for mockery or disdain but rather compassion and an attempt at understanding through the magic of listening. To preview, this is similar* to the way I view gender dysphoria.).

*in the sense that experiencing gender dysphoria is no more an issue of morality/measure of faith (which is, at best, what is implied by that particular cliche) than suffering from one of the physical afflictions given would be.

(Also, I’d like to state for the record that my view of gender dysphoria is inherently limited to listening to those with the experience, as I have not had the experience myself. So if you really want to understand, listen to them instead. Individual experiences vary broadly and deeply. Therefore, to truly increase understanding one must read/listen broadly and deeply.)

(Also, stop using bumper sticker slogans like “God doesn’t make mistakes” or the more colloquial “God don’t make no junk” as arguments. As your friend, I’d like to believe that’s beneath you. It makes you look the opposite of clever. Stop trying to derail the conversation with a sound bite.)

Second, I would propose that, before you say another word on the subject of transgender people and their experience/restroom usage, please know the vocabulary. For example, know the difference between gender expression and gender identity, and the difference between transgender and transsexual. Know the definitions of the terms cisgender, gender non-conforming, and genderqueer. If I use these terms and you are confused, that tells me that you don’t really know enough about the subject to have an informed opinion, so continuing the conversation is not going to be very useful. It’s really not so much to ask that you have knowledge of a point of view before you say you disagree with it. To fail to do this before even forming – much less voicing – an opinion on the subject is to be the reason we still have an electoral college. With the whole of the Internet literally at the tips of your fingers, it is inexcusable for the populace to be uninformed. You don’t get a pass because we pray together.

And no, I will not simply tell you the answers. You have to care enough to find them. I didn’t do your homework for you in junior high, and I’m not going to do it for you now.

Fine. I’ll just leave this here. Go read it. I’ll wait.

Third, we base our opposing viewpoints on a shared value. We both want kids in schools to be safe. I believe this about you. I believe that this is your heartfelt concern. I honor that concern.

In this situation, though, cisgender students are not the ones in danger. I mean, yes, the world is a dangerous, scary place to send your kids in general. But sexual assaults against minors are more typically at the hands of an adult they know and trust than at the hands of the freaked out transgender girl who, in addition to undergoing all the other hells of teenage life, also has to deal with not feeling at home in her own body.

A friend (who has bravely given permission for me to tell this story) once described for me what it was like for her to be that freaked out girl in high school. If she entered the girls’ room, she was taunted and teased and on more than one occasion, pummeled with trash from the women’s hygiene receptacles in the stalls. But she endured that, because the last time she used the boys’ room (the “correct” one, according to her birth certificate), she was pinned against the wall, groped, and told, “The next time I catch you in here, I’m going to treat you like a girl, since you want to be one.” Now, clearly these were nasty children who probably didn’t limit their bullying and crimes to their transgender peers (and are now adults who are lucky I don’t know their names), and the idea that treating someone like a girl means sexually assaulting her is certainly a disturbing mindset on its own, but that doesn’t change the reason my friend was singled out. When she reported it, nothing was done. When I asked her if she would have preferred the risk of going into a family bathroom or a gender neutral one, she emphatically said that she would. The bullies still would have bullied her, but at least then she could have peed in safety behind a locked door.

What she would have liked more is an authority figure who actually protected her.

Of course I care about student safety. In fact, that’s pretty much my whole point.

And last, if you respond to the previous story with a flippant, “Well, that’s just what happens when you’re different,” instead of being appalled that my friend had no place to go – no advocate – not even the school officials – at her high school, don’t waste your time trying to discuss anything on the grounds of morality with me, because it’s going to be a long, hard road just trying to convince me that you have any morality on which to base your opinions.

And yes – I will get shouty about it.

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In Your Mercy

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For our country – our current leaders and leaders-to-be – to seek justice and mercy and freedom and to lead us into being the country we once meant to be.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

For honorable discourse and the ability to discern when to listen in order to understand and not just argue, when to speak clearly and with informed conviction, and when to flip tables because racism and social depravity and oppression are not things to be polite about.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

For the voices of wisdom that are speaking to rise up and be heard above the noises of sound bites and bumper sticker theology and political identity. Let the chaff be blown away by the blustery wind of its own lungs.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

How long will it be until we learn the consequences of “inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me?” When will we have to answer for clinging to privileges and luxuries and discounts gleaned from the lashes on the backs of people created in your image? When we cheer for degradation, exclusion, and war crimes to be committed against ones you love, do those cheers ring “crucify” to your ears?

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Is it too late to do better? Do we even dare ask you to come? Do we have any right to expect you anymore?

Will you come anyway?

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I am still a toddler at following the liturgical calendar, and I’m not very good at it yet. This year, about mid-October, I thought to myself, “Self, Advent starts soon. You should start early – make your calendar, find your books, buy your candles. That way you won’t feel rushed.” And I did. I made this:

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And the finished product:

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It looks a little baby shower-ish, but we’re expecting the Christ child here, so I felt that was appropriate. I felt good about my progress.

Then time sped up.

So now it’s the first week of Advent, which is my favorite season because I know what longing is and usually have a lot to say about it. I’m reading the things and lighting the candles (which are the wrong color – because it’s actually pretty hard to find Advent candles here. War on Christmas, my ass. Christmas is fricking everywhere.), and going to the services (which has kept me sane this week). And I’m fighting not to settle for autopilot because it would be so easy to check out mentally and emotionally and barrel through, waiting until it is over to be human again. I’m just barely making it.

But I have had a little help from a few places this week.

  1. Annie Leibovitz is the photographer for the 2016 Pirelli calendar.  And it’s going to be amazing. I need to become royalty so I can get this calendar.
  2. The #BodiesMatter hashtag and Suzannah Paul’s piece on Faith Feminisms.
  3. Jamaal May’s poem The Gun Joke could have been written yesterday, but it wasn’t. Ponder.
  4. Ten great books by women that were overlooked in 2015. My reading list just gets longer and longer.
  5. And thank you Abby and Amy. I needed this so bad – ten ways to be unproductive and stay sane this season.

What’s helping you today?

 

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This Friday, “five” is more of a guideline than a rule. Here is my online week in snippets:

1. Of course, I am upset about Cecil the Lion. Dentist Guy, an apology is not enough. I need you to get a whole new personality and do some jail time. I am fascinated by the outrage over the outrage. On the one hand, it’s okay to care about multiple things. That’s a thing humans can do. Caring about Cecil doesn’t mean that we don’t care about abortion (although I do feel compelled to question people who say they’re against abortion and want to shut down Planned Parenthood altogether, as knowledge of and access to affordable contraception – both of which are services they offer on a more comprehensive level than any other agency – is positively correlated with both lower teen pregnancy rates AND lower abortion rates), and it doesn’t mean that we don’t care about the lost human lives that are also eating up my news feed. On the other hand, if you are sadder over a lion than you were over Charleston or Chattanooga, that’s a problem and you need to fix it. Don’t know where to start? Clicky and start here. And Roxane Gay is my favorite person this week – “I’m personally going to start wearing a lion costume when I leave my house so if I get shot, people will care.”

2. I am heartsick over the death of Samuel DuBose. I suppose I should feel happy that it seems it is being dealt with, but all I can feel is heartsick. I am heartsick over the death of Darrell S. Murphy. I’m tired of these ridiculous deaths and the extreme, systemic prejudice that is at the root of them. I can’t stop listening and cocoon myself in my privilege, though, because desensitization is worse than heartsick.

3. The sheer volume of misinformation and baseless conclusion jumping on Facebook this week (or any week, for that matter) is exhausting.  The one that sticks out most is a Buzzfeed post making the rounds about a 17-year-old disgruntled ex-JC Penney employee claiming body shaming because they asked her to go home and change before her shift.

My annoyance is threefold.

First, this is not body shaming. It is an employer asking an employee to represent the company the way the leaders of the company want it to be represented (which, by the way, is what employees are paid to do). The issue is not that they thought her clothing was bad; the issue is that the clothing violated their dress code for employees on the clock. Aspiring feminist children – while I applaud you standing up for yourself, don’t just throw out hot button terms (especially ones that aren’t relevant to your situation) and run away. That makes you look uninformed, not brave.

Second, if real change is what you are going for (and if you’re going to use the label “feminist,” I’m gonna need real change to be your goal), there are concrete ways of getting that done. Don’t like their dress code? Draft a petition, complete with well-reasoned arguments that go beyond “I should get to do what I want,” to have it changed. Schedule a meeting with your manager to talk about it and see if s/he can put your ideas before someone who has the power to actually do something about it. Leaving in a huff and quitting without proper notice makes you a bad employee, not an activist.

Third, don’t sell out for clickbait and squander your chance to make a good point. There are elements of this story worth being upset about. She could have called for the need for better training resources so that others in the future could avoid the embarrassment this incident caused her. Because under the false bravado, that seems to be what she’s really upset about – she got in trouble for something that she didn’t know was against policy. She wasn’t trying to defy the company’s standards; she just wasn’t properly trained regarding them. And that’s a problem JC Penney should want to resolve. You can’t just hand part-time employees – of any age – a manual, tell them to read it on their own time, and realistically expect to be able to hold them accountable for it. That’s terrible management. She also could have focused on the actual discriminatory practice of sending her home while letting the guys get away with violating the policy. That’s the point I personally would have made. But I would have stayed and made it. Now, all that’s going to come from this is her fifteen minutes of fame from being the subject of a Buzzfeed post. What a waste of a golden opportunity.

THIS IS WHY WE NEED TO REQUIRE SPEECH AND DEBATE FOR HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE STUDENTS. So that they learn how to make an argument and stand up for themselves and others in a way that actually makes a difference and so that they grow into voting citizens who also know how to do that.

4. I love Cara Delevingne. I loved her awkward interview, and I love John Green’s defense of it.

5. How do we INTJs defy our stereotype of being narcissistic know-it-alls? By being open-minded and wanting to hear all the things from all the people, even if we disagree with them. YEP. Also, the line “indisputably aware of their own intelligence” made me giggle. Also yep.

6. And finally, this is the thing that made me laugh the hardest this week – Glennon Doyle Melton’s post “I’m Not Sassy, I’m Suzanne.” In related news, I need this mug.

What stories stuck out to you this week?

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