Activism Roundup

How to take action this week

Take action against Hate & white supremacy

Saturday, August 19th,   Tacoma is Charlottesville “An anti-hate rally in solidarity with Charlottesville.”

Sunday, August 20th, Everett Rally Against Hate “The Snohomish County NAACP invites you to be ALLIED in this Rally Against Hate. This rally will be a safe place to unite under the common causes of justice, equality and standing up against hate.”

Sunday, August 20th  Seattle Emergency Rally: Say No to The Nazis! “The flagrant display of violence, misogyny, anti-Semitism, and racism in Charlottesville needs a coherent, outraged response. We will not be silenced by bigots, nor cowed by their violence.”

Learn Ten Ways to Fight Hate with this newly updated Community Response Guide from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Take action for immigrant justice

Saturday, August 19th, Solidarity Day at the Northwest Detention Center  “We will be holding this space to show our solidarity with those in detention, our support for the families visiting their loved ones, and our resistance to the oppressive immigration/prison system.”

Monday, August 21st, Bellingham, Dignity Vigils “Stand in solidarity to support undocumented and immigrant families to live in safety and dignity in our community.” 11:30 AM and 5 PM.

Wednesday, August 23rd, Tacoma Speaks Up Planning Session  “We are convening a planning session to discuss strategies in moving forward with a Legal Defense Fund for Tacoma immigrant families. This is a community effort and we need your help!”

Tell Congress to Defend DACA “For immigrant youth, DACA means safety, it means being able to earn a paycheck to buy medicine for your mom, it means peace of mind, it means opportunity. In a sea of bad news, DACA is a shining light of good news and we have an opportunity to save it.”

 

 

Activism Roundup

How to take action this week

Farmworkers and advocates in Whatcom County are mourning and organizing after the tragic death of 28-year-old Honesto Silva Ibarra, a worker on a blueberry farm outside Sumas, WA. Seventy workers hired through the “guest worker” (H2A visa) program were fired for “insubordination” when they stopped work for one day to push for safer working conditions. Many of the fired workers are Mexican nationals who are now stranded with no jobs, no work visas, and no way to get back home.

Here is how you can help the workers in Sumas fight for justice, and why this matters to anti-violence advocates everywhere:

  • Migrant workers are vulnerable to abusive labor practices in the same ways that immigrant survivors are vulnerable to abusive partners. Employers hold immense power over workers’ livelihood and legal status. That makes it difficult and often risky to complain about poor working conditions, or report abuse and harassment on the job.
  • When immigrants are marginalized and threatened, our whole community is endangered. The threat of detention and deportation keeps victims from turning to law enforcement for help, and abusive partners commonly use that fear to further isolate and control victims. When victims are afraid to turn to law enforcement and community resources, all of our safety is at risk.
  • Workers’ rights = immigrant rights = women’s rights = human rights. We cannot have safety and justice for survivors without justice and safety for migrant workers.

Take action:

  1. Support the workers fired from Sarbanand Farms
  • Contact Munger Farms (Sarbanand is a subsidiary of Munger)
  • Call 661-725-6458 (then dial 9, then dial 686)
  • Talking Points:
    • Renew all workers’ visas.
    • Immediately pay wages owed to displaced workers. Sending paychecks to Mexico is NOT adequate.
    • Pay airfare for any workers wishing to return to Mexico.
  1. Attend a Dignity Vigil to stand in solidarity with undocumented and immigrant workers and families organized by Keep Bellingham Families Working.

Monday, August 14th

11:30 AM – 1:30 PM at Bellingham City Hall

and

5:00 – 6:00 PM at the Bellingham downtown bus station

  1. Donate to Community to Community Development and Familias Unidas por la Justicia. These organizations are doing grassroots work on the ground every day to organize for farmworker rights, and support survivors of domestic violence.
  1. Follow Community to Community Development and Familias Unidas por la Justicia on Facebook to keep up-to-date on what immediate support is needed.
  1. Get more information on how to support immigrant survivors.

Activism Roundup

How to take action this week

Thank Governor Inslee For Standing With Immigrants  “Today, Governor Jay Inslee signed an executive order affirming that Washington State will never have a religious registry and will never keep any info on immigration status that isn’t necessary. Washington stands with immigrants and refugees and will never willingly participate in the deportation of our brothers and sisters. Thanks, Governor Inslee!”

Know Your Rights  Get information about what to do when encountering law enforcement at airports and other ports of entry into the U.S.; what to do if questioned about your immigration status; and what to do if ICE agents are at your door.

 This Saturday in Tacoma: Rally against transgender discrimination & I-1552  “The Trump Administration is attacking transgender students. We can’t let that kind of discrimination come to Washington. Join us this weekend as we rally against I-1552 and show opponents of equality that Washingtonians are united in defense of our transgender neighbors and friends.”

Tell Congress to Protect DV Survivors’ Health Care  “The ACA or Obamacare provides very specific help to victims, while also ensuring that almost all Americans have access to health care. Specifically, the ACA includes provisions to cover screening and brief counseling for domestic and interpersonal violence, prohibits insurance companies from denying victims of violence health insurance, allows victims to not be reliant on an abusive spouse to get health care for them or their children, and expands access to mental health services for women and children.”

The art of blessing the day

This morning, I woke up thinking of lines from Marge Piercy’s poem, The Art of Blessing the Day.

This is the blessing for a political victory:
Although I shall not forget that things
work in increments and epicycles and sometime
leaps that half the time fall back down,
let’s not relinquish dancing while the music
fits into our hips and bounces our heels.
We must never forget, pleasure is real as pain.

Last Friday, I drafted a blog post about how to support the water protectors at Standing Rock. I tried to keep up with the most urgent calls to action, as the situation on the ground shifted by the hour.

standing rockThousands of people from around the world have gathered to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s peaceful opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline project. The proposed route for the pipeline threatens the Tribe’s water and sacred land. Police action against the water protectors has recently erupted into violence. Hundreds of unarmed people have been injured by water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets and percussive grenades. The threat to the water protectors escalated as the Army Corps of Engineers set a December 5th deadline to leave the area, and the North Dakota governor ordered immediate evacuation.

So much is at stake. The waters of the Missouri River and the well-being of tens of thousands who depend on it. The right of sovereign tribal nations to protect its citizens. Native women and children who are the targets when oil industry “man camps” bring a massive influx of sexual violence. The fate of the planet, as oil consumption fuels environmental devastation.

Then Sunday night, a surprising victory. The Army Corps announced it would deny the pipeline project permission to tunnel under the river.

The celebration reminded me of another sweet moment, nearly four years ago, when Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act. That victory came after a long standoff, 500 days of negotiation. It was a triumph of unprecedented solidarity among advocates, and the courageous leadership of Native women.

The victory was not complete, but it was real. After the win, it took another kind of grit to insist on celebrating it. The next threat loomed. The inevitable strategic failures immediately came into focus with 20/20 hindsight.

But the discipline of blessings is to taste
each moment, the bitter, the sour, the sweet
and the salty, and be glad for what does not hurt.

By yesterday morning, the oil companies made it clear they would continue construction of the pipeline despite the government’s decision. It is hard to imagine the little relief that has come from the Obama administration will last once Donald Trump is in the White House. For the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the fight is not over. Meanwhile, the next battles are already happening.

What we want to change we curse and then
pick up a tool. Bless whatever you can
with eyes and hands and tongue. If you
can’t bless it, get ready to make it new.

Here is what you can do right now:

  • Call or email your Congressional Representatives. Ask them to do everything they can to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline.
  • Give money to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Help cover legal costs and equip water protectors for the harsh winter.

Celebrate. Get ready. Fight. Repeat.

Back to school

school-backpacks

This week kids across Washington State headed back to school.

According to our state constitution, educating our children is the paramount duty of government. It is the greatest collective responsibility we share as a community.

Of course, there is no lack of debate or dispute over what that duty requires.

Washington State has been ordered into court on Sept 7th by the WA Supreme Court to answer questions about the ongoing impact of the McCleary Decision, which has been fining WA State $100,000 a day for over a year for not making significant progress on special education, teachers’ salaries and a host of school basics.

Arguments over “teaching to the test” continue to brew. School bathrooms have taken center stage in the growing conversations and controversies over gender. The Department of Justice has pointed out the dangers of the “preschool to prison pipeline” where African American children, poor children and foster children disproportionately find public education not a path to stability and achievement, but a process of escalating surveillance and criminalized discipline that results in imprisonment rather than empowerment.

And a recent study by the NW Network and the National Domestic Violence Hotline demonstrates that fear of mandatory reporting to police or CPS by reporters such as school teachers and counselors results in young people delaying or avoiding seeking help when they are experiencing harm.

It can be easy to become overwhelmed by the storms that surround education. But, instead of turning away from the challenges that face our schools, let’s get educated about these challenges and the positions on education held by every candidate seeking office this fall. Let’s make sure we have all our kids’ backs as they head back to school.

We’re here

After 10 years on the books, Washington State’s law protecting transgender people from discrimination is under attack. And we’re not alone. Similar fights are playing out across the country over the recent wave of anti-trans legislation. Why now? It seems that for all these years, Americans were okay with trans people in public bathrooms, but only so long as they remained on the margins, in a legal limbo, with no rules laid down to clarify their right to be there.

These so-called “bathroom bills” won’t keep transgender people out of public spaces. They simply shore up the status quo that makes trans lives illicit or invisible. Despite the ugly rhetoric, most of their supporters acknowledge that a trans person using the bathroom is not a threat to the person in the stall next to them. The only real threat is to the authority of the (previously unwritten) rules that force all of us to fit into rigid gender roles and punish us if we don’t.

The current backlash is a signal that the transgender movement has achieved a profound cultural shift. Social acceptance of trans people has made room to acknowledge all kinds of gender expression and identities that don’t fit neatly into the categories defined by standard bathroom signs.  The “bathroom bills” re-assert a clear dividing line between men and women. They lay down rules for which is which, and penalties for crossing that line.

If you have been watching television for the past 20 years, you have witnessed the progression of cultural attitudes toward trans people, from freaky (trans people on Jerry Springer) to respectable (trans people on Oprah). And if you have not been watching, now is a good time to start. Trans people are asserting the right to be respected and freaky at the same time (and we have our own shows!).

It’s not just state legislators anxious about this development. The trans community itself is grappling with the tension between “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!” and “We’re here, we’re totally normal, so nothing to worry about!” The trans women of I Am Cait represent the whole range. As Caitlyn Jenner is thrust into the role of transgender celebrity, Professor Jenny Boylan leads a crash course on everything she needs to know to represent the diverse community. Jenner sees no contradiction between her goals of winning broad acceptance for transgender rights and protecting her own substantial privilege through electing right wing conservatives. And then there’s gender outlaw Kate Bornstein, whose version of liberation is making the world safe for everyone living outside the lines.

The conflict may be predictable, but the solidarity and commitment to hearing each other steals the show. Who would have thought reality television would bring us an exquisite model for approaching this essential conversation with realness, courage, and love?

Why I’m not giving my son advice on how to talk to girls

Arguably one of the perks of being a dad is the constant stream of opportunities to give fatherly advice.

Advice columns are one of my favorite guilty pleasures. The best ones are like miniature ethical treatises—perfect for a lapsed philosophy major with a short attention span. And who doesn’t like giving advice? To be human is to be full of opinions about what other people should do.

So my son’s first attempts to talk to the girl he has a crush on? A golden opportunity for an advice enthusiast. But I’m passing it up, at least for now. Here’s why.

It turns out that 99% of what I want him to know before his first date isn’t anything new. It’s the same stuff we have been practicing since he was a baby. Love yourself and be open to loving other people. Be kind. Respect people’s boundaries. Pay attention. Use your words.

If I were to make a list of the absolutely critical information straight boys need about dating and relationships, you could boil it down to one feminist principle: Girls are people. (There are lots of variations on the theme: Girls are people, not prizes. Girls are people, not shiny objects.) Special coaching on “talking to girls” seems to me to violate this principle. Girls are people, not aliens.

Of course, that doesn’t make telling a girl you like her for the first time any less excruciating. My palms get sweaty for him just thinking about it. But that isn’t because girls are “girls.” It’s because liking someone and wanting them to like you back is intensely vulnerable. In this TED talk, Brene Brown talks about vulnerability as risking connection, and the courage to take that risk as the key to intimacy and joy.

The awkwardness is essential, and there is nothing I can say to guide him around it. Even worse, there is no advice he can follow to protect himself against heartbreak. Like all the other times I have watched him leap into the unknown, the best I can do is admire his courage and offer him a place to land.

Relationship advice

This past year, domestic violence was in the news quite often. But lately, I’ve noticed the stories that have really made me stop and think about violence and relationships are the ones that didn’t set out to do so. They are just good stories, with violence woven through as it is woven into all our lives.

This Senator Saved My Love Life is an episode of the podcast Death, Sex & Money. Political reporter Anna Sale tells the odd and charming story of how former Senator Alan K. Simpson and his wife Ann Simpson became sort of relationship mentors to Anna and her boyfriend, dispensing pearls of wisdom about intimacy, sex, and commitment. In a million years, it would not have occurred to me to look to an 83-year-old Republican Senator from Wyoming for relationship advice, least of all Al Simpson. Before listening to this story, my only memory of Senator Alan Simpson was his disgraceful role on the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings. His open hostility  and dismissive attitude toward what he called “this sexual harassment crap” was typical of the all-male, all-white committee. I don’t know how many times I have heard a politician spouting some sexist garbage and wonder how that goes over with the women in his life. Who married this blowhard, and has she told him he’s a total jackass? I finally got the answer from Ann Simpson. She let her husband know what she thought of his performance at the hearings, and it’s still a sore spot for them.

 

Among the many historic moments of the Anita Hill–Clarence Thomas debacle: the first time Ann Simpson tells her husband to shut up.

 

Nonetheless, after 50 years of marriage, Al and Ann Simpson have a lot of things figured out. They are sweet together. They are clearly proud of their marriage and have worked hard at making it a good one. For me, the heart of the story is in this apparent contradiction: how could this woman be married to the ranting bully I watched on C-SPAN, yet not be bullied herself?

Ann and Al talk very frankly about struggling to find a balance of power in their relationship. They describe a defining moment, one night early in their marriage.

Al was furious with Ann after she spent the evening dancing with another man at a political event. He recalls how self-righteous he was, how sure he was that she would be wracked with guilt, and how Ann was having none of it:

Al: “She said ‘Look…I’m not going to be under a glass lid just because of your jealousy. And I love to dance. And I will do that. And I’m not going to jump in the sack with somebody, so I think you better get over it.’ Which really pissed me off.”

Al goes on to describe how the shock of realizing that Ann did not feel the least bit guilty led to a critical moment of clarity. Still stewing, he stayed up late into the night, reading Shakespeare, and suddenly recognized his own jealousy in Othello’s murderous rage.

“I thought, Jesus, this is one sick son-of-a-bitch. This is not me. This is totally destructive and has nothing to do with her.”

There are moments in this story that we might recognize as “red flags,” warning signs that point toward domestic violence. But the story does not take that path. A red flag marks one moment in time. What happens in the next moment makes a difference in how the story turns out.

Surely Al could have done a lot of damage if he had chosen to tighten his grip on control, if he had resented Ann’s resistance to his demands instead of admiring her for it. And if Ann had molded herself to accommodate his ego, he may have been another man who bullies everyone in his life because bullying has always worked.

Instead, when he tries to control her, it doesn’t work. And they each play an equally important part in that:

  1. Ann stands her own ground, and does not shape her behavior around Al’s attempt to shame or control her.
  2. When Al’s bullying doesn’t get him what he wants, he decides to do something different. Ann doesn’t make him stop. He decides for himself that is not the way to get the relationship he wants. Looking back, he recognizes Ann standing up to him for the gift that it was. One piece of marriage advice he has sums this up: “The secret is, you both try to control each other, and you both fail. And it’s critical that you both fail.”

We often say we want to stop domestic violence before it starts, but what does that moment look like? The stories we most often hear take place much farther downstream, when the course is set and the stakes are high. Much earlier, somewhere around the first red flag, there are many possible endings.

There’s much more from Al and Ann. Listen to the whole podcast here.