Monthly Archives: November 2016
Gratitude is difficult when the world seems to be falling down around our heads. It is difficult to find gratitude in crisis. It is difficult to find gratitude when we feel threatened. It is difficult to find gratitude under stress. But it is especially during these challenges when we need gratitude the most.
Practicing gratitude is uplifting. Even seeing people who seem to have less than we do being grateful can be inspiring. Knowing what we have to be grateful for is like finding a lifeline in a troubled sea. When we most need something to hang on to, an active practice of gratitude gives us just that.
Thanksgiving is a highly charged holiday. There are the family dynamics. Mixed families, blended families, new relationships create conflict over who gets to be with who when. There is finding table talk that doesn’t push buttons, make judgements, and generate huge arguments. There is the food both, expectations and execution, and issues of tradition versus lifestyle.
Thanksgiving is also highly charged politically. Not just with the family table, but the actual nature of the holiday itself. What we celebrate is the coming together of the European settlers and the Native Americans. The reality of that relationship is not nearly as peaceful or generous. Even now at Standing Rock Native Americans on their land with their supporters are being treated in ways that have the United Nations, the ACLU, and Amnesty International making statements against our government’s actions.
I am reminded again about the power of gratitude, and so I write reminding you. Let’s all take a moment, many moments, this week and dig deep into the things we do have to be grateful for.
I am grateful for all the people who work peacefully and diligently to preserve my civil rights, my breathable air, and my drinkable water.
I am grateful for all the people who work to ensure I have good, healthy food available to me especially all winter long.
I am grateful for all the people who are actively kind to others, who help those in need, who work with populations (in prisons, the mentally ill, impoverished families etc.) that I am not equipped to help.
I am grateful for the small opportunities I have to do my part to bring kindness, and caring, and loving support into the world.
I am grateful for the support I receive (from family, friends and strangers) just to be able to function in this world.
I am grateful to have a platform and readers who support my work. – Thank you!
What are you grateful for?
There is a movement suggesting that people who are willing to be supportive of blacks, hispanics, LGBTQ, women and other communities being targeted by Trump inspired racists wear a safety pin to indicate that they hold a safe space.
There is a backlash from those communities. There is anger that privileged whites think that just wearing the safety pin IS supportive. It’s too little, too late. Wearing a safety pin indicates intention, which frankly doesn’t count. There are plenty of “well-intentioned” people who are happy to “mansplain” away the concerns of these threatened populations. There are plenty of “well-intentioned” people who are sure they have the “solution”. There are plenty of “well-intentioned” people who wonder why we can’t all just get along.
There is also a backlash from the racists (who resent being called racists because they feel that they are entitled to define what that term means – and it can’t be them because they are “good people”). There is an “If you’re not with me you are against me” mentality. There is harassment, from a meme being generated that that safety pin is a diaper pin and we’re all crying babies to actual physical confrontations.
I know people in all of these communities and I hear them. Because I hear them I recognize that I can’t just “join the bandwagon” I need to make an active choice. If I choose to wear the pin what does that mean? If I choose not to wear the pin what does that mean?
I choose to wear the pin. Here’s what it comes down to for me:
- Wearing the pin is a visible identification of some kind of support. For a community that often feels very isolated just seeing someone making that small an effort can make a difference.
- Wearing the pin does not entitle me to anything. It doesn’t entitle me to respect from these communities. It doesn’t instantly bestow understanding. It doesn’t in itself create the “safe space” it’s meant to indicate.
- Wearing the pin means I have an obligation to open my eyes and increase both my awareness and willingness to intervene. That means more than filming an arrest or calling someone out on foul language. That means being aware of the clerk keeping an eagle eye on the black woman in the store with me. That means being aware of the cashier happy to chat with me after demanding identification from the hispanic man in front of me. That means being aware of the stink eye look being given to the gay couple in the restaurant. That means being willing to share a seat on the bus with a homeless man. That means knowing when to shut my mouth and when to open it.
- Wearing the pin means I am willing to be a target. It means I am willing to be a target from the communities that I want to support. A safe space means a safe space for them to vent their anger, frustration and fear. A safe space means I may be “harassed” for being a white woman who thinks wearing a pin is enough. A safe space for the people being targeted means that I may be exposed to feelings that are unpleasant, uncomfortable and I may not feel safe. Too bad for me.
- Wearing the pin means I am willing to be a target for the racist backlash. I will be perceived as being part of the communities they threaten: the disabled, those with racial differences, those with non binary gender identities etc. I will be putting myself in the position of being willing to accept some of the harassment those groups experience every day.
- Wearing the pin means wearing the pin. It is privilege to chose to wear the pin or not. The people in these groups do not have that choice. They can’t take off their race, their self identity, their handicaps. They can’t not be targets. Ultimately that is why I must be a target as well. I must wear the pin.
As someone who works with ancestral spirits it is important for me to acknowledge that my ancestors put themselves on the line so that I would have the right to have a voice in how my life would be governed.
In fact everyone in this country has the right to vote because some ancestor put their lives on the line for that right.
If you are a white male landowner you have the right to vote because we fought for independence from hereditary kingship. Right to vote 1776.
If you are a white male who does not own land, but who is strongly in support of states rights when you got the right to vote varied considerably. This was a state by state decision and the last state finally came in almost 100 years after the revolution. Right to vote 1856.
If you are a Native American you pretty much didn’t have the right to vote until you’d been educated away from your people. The boarding school era, where children were ripped from their homes and sent away to school where they were given Christian names and punished for speaking their native languages was from the late 1800 into the 1900’s. Congress granted the right to vote in 1924, but again some states maintained their right to prevent natives from voting and did (despite congress) until after WWII. Right to vote 1957.
If you are female (and I am) you may have relatives born without the right to vote. Women fought for the right to vote for over 70 years. In the musical Hamilton the Skyler sisters are determined to make Jefferson include women in the rewrite. Abigail Adams wrote to her husband “Don’t forget the women.” The suffragettes were beaten, jailed, ostracized and ridiculed. These women were feminists and that word still has degrading implications. Right to vote 1920.
If you are black in this country you are still struggling for your right to vote in some states. Although blacks officially gained the right to vote in 1870 there were many barriers placed to keep them from the polls. Plantation owners intimidated their workers and refused to allow time off or transportation. Polling places required fees (often waived for poor whites and increased for middle class blacks) to vote. There were “intelligence tests” demanded for registration.
The voting rights act of 1965 – which required a filibuster to pass congress – eliminated those discriminatory practices. Unfortunately in 2013 the Supreme Court decided that the voting rights act was no longer relevant or necessary. Some of the contention in this election and much of the concern we hear from the United Nations is because of the indication new versions of Jim Crow voter restrictions are being put into place. Right to vote 1965-2013. Currently depends on State and circumstances.
Immigrants have the right to vote (based on the above factors) when they become citizens of the United States. However, the reality is that at the polls and in registering they need to prove that citizenship. Again this is regulated by the states and that means that many natural born citizens who “look” like immigrants can and are being harassed at the polls. Right to vote requires proof of citizenship.
So please, honor the ancestors and if you have the right to vote exercise that right.