October 25, 2011
Do you know where your fruit is grown? Who picked that fruit? How it gets to the grocery stores?
We all know farmworkers face a tough working environment. On top of that, they often deal with labor exploitation, domestic violence, and sexual harassment―both in the fields and in the temporary housing that growers may provide.
I recently had the privilege to visit Broetje Orchards. We were given a gracious tour and educated about how they support their workers. They know that their workers are experiencing domestic violence and sexual assault on their land. So they have created a strong partnership with the YWCA of Walla Walla, inviting advocates onto their property. This is giving farmworkers and their families access to the information and support they need. We asked a Broetje employee why they go out of their way to do this. Her response was, “because it’s the right thing to do!”
So how about that? The Broetje family is changing the landscape―and not just with their apples.
*I heard this mantra repeated often during my visit to Broetje Orchards.
October 18, 2011
I’m on fire about Occupy Wall Street.
As a child of the 60′s, I will always love a good demonstration.
As a child of a high school English teacher, I will always love words.
From my earliest years, my mom never talked down to me. She always used really big words. A deer in the headlights, I’d ask “what does that mean?” She’d say “go look it up” failing to notice that I was only 4 years old and didn’t know how to read yet.
Happily, I can read now and dictionary definitions offer hours of gleeful irony.
Merriam-Webster’s says occupy means “to reside in as an owner or tenant.” Is Occupy Wall Street asking whether we own our democracy? I find myself inspired by this cartoon I saw on Facebook to ask a much more personal question. Am I, the woman writing this blog, the owner of my own body?
Because I wear neither a bikini nor a burka, I can pretend that I am not occupied by the patriarchy just like I used to think that Wall Street didn’t affect my life. But that would be ridiculous. Of course I am. We all see very clearly now how Wall Street impacts us. I want everyone to come to the same realization about the impact of sexism.
I challenge and cheer all women who are participating on Wall Street and in all the other towns across the land. Shout about your experiences of sexism in every conversation, every chant. Help your sisters and brothers make the connection between how much you earn, what you can provide for your kids, and who decided your wages and if you have ANY access to the healthcare you need.
Women unite. Stop paying rent for something you already own.
October 11, 2011
We are pleased to bring you this post from guest blogger Phil Jordan, Elder Abuse Project Coordinator at the King County Prosecutor’s Office.
Last year, my friend Rob, local actor extraordinaire, played the part of Lightning Lad, sidekick to superhero Electron Boy. It was part of a heartwarming story orchestrated by the Make-A-Wish Foundation to grant Erik Martin, a terminally ill 13-year-old, his heart’s desire.
I have to credit Erik and Rob with helping me understand my mixed feelings about the Make-A-Wish phenomenon. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing the kids’ eyes light up when their wish comes true and I honor the people who donate their time and effort to make it happen.
But I also feel a little bit grumpy about the whole thing. For the past 12 years, I have worked to connect domestic violence and sexual assault advocates to people with disabilities and elders. So many people in this population are abused and no amount of wishing puts a stop to it. The advocates want to be helpful, but they sometimes resist altering how they work, and that can make it impossible for the people I work with to use their services.
For example, advocates often rely on the term “intimate partner violence.” Many elders and people with disabilities are abused by other family members or caregivers. The relationship may be “intimate,” but not in the way the advocates mean.
Also, people with dementia, mental illness, intellectual disabilities, or brain injuries need advocates to find new ways to help them explore options, plan for safety, and overcome the abuser’s power and control.
My wish is that elders and people with disabilities no longer experience abuse. But there is no organization that has the wherewithal to grant my wish, and I remain grumpy about that.
But I know that domestic violence and sexual assault programs are the best place to find services aimed directly at eliminating the power and control that abusers exert. That is true for women battered by their intimate partner, and it is true for elders and people with disabilities abused by people they trust. I am grateful for the advocates’ work and wish that all people being abused could benefit from it. And maybe they can grant me my other wish―to be less grumpy.
October 7, 2011
I just got back late last night from Washington, D.C. WSCADV received the Sheila Wellstone award for outstanding organization. A great honor. We got a nice plaque at a fascinating ceremony at the Hart Senate Office Building. I’ll tell you about it if you want to hear.
I had 4 whole hours the day after the ceremony to wander around before flying home. Walking New York Avenue toward the White House, I heard drumming. What’s going on? Let’s find out.
Though House Majority Leader Eric Cantor calls these (and other) folks a “growing mob” bent on “pitting Americans against Americans,” that’s not what I saw.
This family is on vacation from Kansas City, Kansas. (She lost her job a few years ago―a super interesting story.) Who else was there? The raging grannies. Veterans in wheelchairs. Young people, old people. Oh, and me. I suppose in an odd way, it’s a compliment to call us a mob.
After folks left to reassemble at Lafayette Park, I walked over to the new Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial. If you’ve ever been to D.C., you know you have to walk really far to get anywhere. I had a lot of time to think. What the hell is our government for? Why are so many people suffering and unhappy?
The MLK memorial was not as inspirational as I needed. It’s a chilly place―I mean emotionally. Have you been there? What do you think?
I wandered on and happened upon the reflecting pool.
How ironic is that? This is a place I always associate with Dr. King and his most famous speech. And here it lies today. Is this reflecting the mood of the nation? It certainly was reflecting mine.
Next stop: the sculpture garden café across from the National Archive. Maybe I was just feeling crabby because I was hungry―so I ate lunch. Sitting there brooding and staring at the Archive, I decided to make it my last stop. I wanted to lay my eyes on our founding documents―I mean THE Declaration of Independence, THE Constitution and THE Bill of Rights.
I lined up with all the school kids to get in and at last found inspiration. And had a good laugh too. I was bending over the glass case looking at the Declaration of Independence and the middle schooler standing next to me was asked by her teacher “Who were we declaring independence from?” The little girl paused and answered “France.” Ouch. I stood behind the teacher, made eye contact with the girl and mouthed “England.” She tried, but evidently couldn’t read lips.
Call me a geek, but I went to the gift shop and bought a copy of the Constitution and read it on the plane on the way home. There! Right there! It says “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare (See? It actually says that!), and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
If we can recommit ourselves to this―to our democracy―if we can reclaim it for ourselves, then we will free ourselves from the violence that surrounds us.
You really need to read the rest of the Constitution, then get out there and find a mob of your own.
October 4, 2011
This week falls between the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This time of year in the Jewish calendar is focused on renewal, repair, and justice. Drop into any synagogue this week and you’re likely to hear a call to work for “tikkun olam” – a value often translated as “repair of the world” and used to invoke a broad array of social justice work.
I learned something new recently about the origins of the idea of tikkun olam. One of the earliest uses of the phrase in rabbinic literature is from the 2nd century C.E. These rabbis were addressing a loophole in traditional divorce law that was a threat to women. Occasionally a man would serve his wife with divorce papers, and then rescind the divorce without her knowledge. If she went on to marry someone else, the second marriage would be illegitimate, jeopardizing her legal status and the status of any children of that marriage. The ancient rabbis ruled that a man could not cancel a divorce once the decree had been delivered to his wife, and cited tikkun olam as the reason for the change. They recognized that this misuse of civil law – though technically legal – threatened the integrity of the system as a whole.
I was astounded at how much this nearly two thousand-year-old legal issue sounds like stories we hear from advocates today. Abusive men are still finding ways to manipulate the legal system to punish their ex-wives. Children suffer when they are used as tools to control their mother. Women are not getting “renewal, repair, and justice” in court.
These are problems that seem as intractable today as ever. Yet our challenge is to continue to bring new energy, creativity, and passion to fixing them. Where do you get the inspiration to find new ways to right ancient wrongs?