You can take the girl out of the protest, but you can’t take the protest out of the girl

I grew up on the Pawcatuck River. It’s a short little thing as rivers go, dividing Rhode Island from Connecticut and flowing into the Atlantic. As children in the 60s, all of us kids were strictly forbidden from swimming in the river because our moms said it was polluted.

This prohibition, however, only prompted us to “accidentally fall in” as often as we could get away with it. For decades now, we have worked together to clean up our messes. Today, kids can swim in the Pawcatuck River. It seems a shame to go backwards on this now.

I was snorkeling over a reef with amazing fishes a few weeks ago. Hearing news of the gutting of the EPA and thinking back about my childhood water and air quality prompted a half-assed protest. When I was packing for vacation, I didn’t include waterproof protest sign materials. Still, I did my best to make a splash. SAVE the EPA.

Save the EPA

This is so basic. The broad conversation on violence and relationships includes the violence we heap on our beloved mother earth. Our survival depends on resisting.

What ways are you finding to resist violence of all sorts and advance your values around peace and justice? Let’s see your best protest signs!

Show your love

We bring you this post from Karen Rosenberg, a Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence consultant.

Did you read about the guy who made threats against Jewish organizations as a way to hurt his ex-girlfriend? The Federal complaint reads in part:

“…the defendant appears to have made some of the JCC [Jewish Community Center] threats as part of a sustained campaign to harass and intimate Victim-1…harassment of Victim-1 appears to have begun shortly after their romantic relationship ended and to have included…JCC Threats in Victim-1’s name…”

Jewish Community CenterAt first the whole thing just seemed bizarre: making bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers to get back at an ex? How random. But then I realized with a sinking heart: if we understand how domestic violence works, there is nothing random here. This is textbook harassment. People don’t choose their tactics in a vacuum. They draw on what’s going on around them. We’re swimming in a sea of hate crimes. This guy used anti-Semitism—and fears of anti-Semitism—to punish his ex-girlfriend.

The spike in hate crimes stresses our most intimate relationships. The separation between the public and the private is an illusion. Those who choose to abuse their partners have newly prominent cultural scripts of hate at their fingertips. From this perspective, signs proclaiming love for our neighbors, support of our immigrants, and solidarity with Muslims take on real importance. They displace the rhetoric of hate. They remind us that we all deserve to feel safe, loved, and respected. So show your love in public. Our relationships depend on it.

I SAID I was SORRY

There are not many things that are awkward per se about being a gardener. But there is one. Sometimes I overhear things happening in my neighbor’s yard that I maybe should not.

Like one fine spring day when my neighbor’s front door SLAMMED and their really quite adorable teenager turned round on the front stoop and screamed back at the closed door “I SAID I was SORRY!” Car tires squealed. Calm settled back.

I know it’s not funny, but I said I was sorry – big emphasis on SAID and SORRY – has since become part of the vernacular in our house. When we do something stupid and apologize but the other won’t let it go I SAID I was SORRY can sometimes break the spell of an argument that is going nowhere.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

I’ve been thinking about apologizing and making amends more than usual lately. I mean, I’ve thought about it a lot over the years related to my work. How batterers and sex offenders can apologize and make amends for the terrible things they have done to their loved ones and others.

And is that even possible?

And yes it is.

But now, every day, I’m watching the much bigger picture of our nation coming to terms. Watching as the scabs and scars covering our many national shames split open and bleed.

For instance, this New York Times article: A public apology for the inconceivably wicked crime of the lynching of 16-year-old Austin Callaway, taken from a jail cell and murdered on September 4, 1940 in LaGrange, Georgia.

Ernest Ward, right, the N.A.A.C.P. president in Troup County, Ga., said he had “a newfound respect” for Louis M. Dekmar, the police chief in LaGrange. I am in awe of the people in LaGrange. Those with the courage to stand up. To face the past and to face the present. To be together. To struggle even as it gets messier and messier.

It is incumbent on me, on all of us to be together. In person. To lean in toward one another and whisper in each others ears “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” To bust wide open and tell one another our stories and see where that takes us.

There’s still time to make 2016 better

Are we there yet?The year is almost at a close, and boy, what a year it’s been. There were good things, there were bad things (I’ll spare you the top list for this one), and then there was the election.

On election night I was one of those shocked white people that couldn’t believe what I was watching unfold. I went to bed thinking, “how could this happen?” I woke the next morning feeling numb and in disbelief (obviously, my white privilege had taken over, so that’s something I’ve had to work on). I’ve had moments of denial, disbelief, and just plain being scared. In a way I felt paralyzed, like I no longer had any control or say in what the next four years would bring.

But no matter how discouraging and dark it may seem, now more than ever we need to get up and take action. So before 2017 hits, here are some things you can do to make 2016 a little better.

  1. Don’t argue, talk: A few years ago I wrote a blog post about the arguments my father and I used to get in and how we figured out a way to have respectful conversations by putting our relationship first and our differences second.
  1. Organize: Join organized resistance like the Injustice Boycott.
  1. Try to understand: There is a lot of interesting analysis out there on why people voted the way they did. It’s helped me understand the state of our country and where people are coming from. It doesn’t make me feel better, but at least it puts some of the puzzle pieces together. After all, if we don’t understand the whole problem, it’s hard to find a solution.
  1. Register for Advocacy Day: Talk with your legislators about local issues that impact survivors. It’s more important now than ever!
  1. Pay attention to people: In a time when things feel so divisive, take a moment and ask people how their hearts are doing. Slow down, really listen, and find common ground.

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.

Light it up

Like many of you I am worried about our country’s future. It’s all-consuming. In an attempt to be informed and not retreat to the places where my privilege protects me, I’m digesting as much as I can about the coming changes. IT’S SO HARD. I realize that I have to give myself some space to feel sad and scared as well as mad and ready to fight for all the people that are being threatened by the new proposed federal policies.

We often encourage advocates who are working with survivors to remember to take care of themselves. To do the things they need to do to come back the next day with renewed energy and focus to help others. I am realizing that I must do the same now if I’m to be any use at all to the work ahead. And there is quite a lot of work ahead.

I’m not a religious person, but I confess to LOVE the Christmas holidays. I love houses covered with twinkling lights, puffy fake snow in store windows, and giant trees filled with glittery ornaments. I’ve decided one way I can stay energized to pay attention and act for justice is to dive into the holiday season early. Christmas carols are going to fill the house and head’s up neighbors―my yard is about to get lit. And I’ve found the perfect thing.

This. Holiday. Dragon.

blow-up holiday dragon

Isn’t she amazing? So if you are feeling like I am, take care of yourselves so that you have the energy to stay tuned in and to show up. Holiday Dragon, bring us joy and light our path.

Metamorfosis (Metamorphosis)

Hay un mañana, siempre hay un mañana. Y será uno mejor, uno que podamos construir juntos, uno que represente los valores de amor y bondad. Yo creo eso. Quiero creerlo y elijo creerlo.

Hoy, después de las elecciones, yo y todos los que me rodean están tristes, exhaustos, enojados, cansados. Es como si hubiéramos sido derrotados, pero no lo estamos. No lo estamos. Los tiempos están cambiando: estamos siendo testigos de un proceso de transformación en nuestra sociedad, en nuestro país.

Soy parte de un movimiento que cree en ser proactivo no reactivo, que trabaja en la comunidad como un todo y crea los cambios necesarios para un mundo donde nuestros hijos puedan vivir en entornos saludables y alcanzar su pleno potencial rodeados de amor y oportunidades para ser mejores. Bueno, hoy, muchos de los valores que creo y enseño a mi hijo todos los días no se reflejan en el presidente electo. Muchos de los valores y sentimientos que hay por ahí son el total opuesto a los  míos. No es un momento feliz; sin embargo, representa una oportunidad, una oportunidad para transformarnos.

Ves, cuando queremos transformarnos necesitamos profundizar en el núcleo de lo que necesita ser cambiado―necesitamos una metamorfosis. ¿Sabías que cuando la oruga se está transformando en una mariposa, se licúa dentro del capullo? ¡Lo sé! Es un proceso asombroso, y no importa que se disuelva completamente porque su ADN sabe transformarse en una hermosa mariposa.

stars in the skyBueno, nuestro país está en estado líquido ahora mismo. Nos sentimos vulnerables, rotos, tristes, enojados, sin sentido de la rectitud o con brillo, pero es necesario estar en ese estado. Es necesario estar en esa oscuridad. He oído decir que “sólo cuando es lo suficientemente oscuro se pueden ver las estrellas.” Así que soltemos y transformémonos―vamos a confiar en que nuestro ADN nos llevará a ese estado final donde hay luz y esperanza y está rodeado de amor y de los valores en los que creemos. Somos fuertes. Podemos hacerlo. Este momento de nuestras vidas es una oportunidad para profundizar nuestro trabajo y reflexionar sobre nuestros valores a cada paso del camino.

Si eres padre/madre, no tengas miedo hoy, no estás solo. Habla con tus hijos, sé honesto con ellos y guíalos desde un lugar de esperanza y amor. Vamos a mostrarles a nuestros niños que nuestros valores son importantes y que esos valores van a ser los que guían nuestras comunidades y transforman nuestro país. Es un momento decisivo para todos nosotros, para nuestro país, y no vamos a sentarnos como observadores, no vamos a llorar ni a escondernos. Vamos a unirnos para actuar, movernos hacia adelante y transformarnos juntos.

 

****

There is tomorrow, there is always tomorrow. And it will be a better one, a one that we can build together, one that represents the values of love and kindness. I believe that. I want to believe it and I choose to believe it.

Today, in the aftermath of the election, I and everyone around me is sad, drained, angry, tired. It is like we were defeated, but we are not. We are not. Times are changing―we are witnessing a transformative process in our society, in our country.

I am part of a movement that believes in being proactive not reactive, that works in community as a whole and creates the necessary changes for a world where our children can live in healthy environments and reach their full potential surrounded by love and opportunities to be better. Well today, many of the values that I believe and teach to my son every day are not reflected in the elected president. Many of the values and feelings that are out there are the total opposite of mine. It is not a happy moment; however, it represents an opportunity, an opportunity for transformation.

You see, when we want to transform we need to go deep into the core of what needs to change―we need a metamorphosis. Did you know that when the caterpillar is transforming to a butterfly, it liquefies inside the cocoon? I know! It is an amazing process, and it doesn’t matter that it completely dissolves because its DNA knows how to transform into a beautiful butterfly.

stars in the skyWell, our country is in a liquefied state right now. We feel vulnerable, broken, sad, angry, without sense of rightness or a brightness, but it is necessary to be in that state. It is necessary to be in that darkness. I’ve heard it said that “only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.” So let go and transform―let’s trust that our DNA will bring us to that ultimate state where it is bright and hopeful and surrounded by love and the values we believe in. We are strong. We can do it. This moment in our lives is an opportunity to deepen our work and reflect on our values every step of the way.

If you are a parent, do not be afraid today, you are not alone. Talk to your children, be honest with them and guide them from a place of hope and love. Let’s show our kids that our values are important and that those values are going to be the ones that lead our communities and transform our country. It is a decisive moment for all of us, for our country, and we are not going to sit and watch, we are not going to cry or hide. We are going to come together to act and move and transform together.

Silent no more

It is 3:00pm on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. In a few minutes I will go home for a solitary (and introvert nerd) evening of channel surfing through the election returns. I must confess that I will be relieved when it is over, although we cannot be certain of when, exactly, it will be over.

audre lordeFor the past several weeks, I have been pondering and, sometimes haunted by, the words of the late great writer activist, Audre Lorde: “your silence will not protect you.” In the early days of our movement, this was a mantra among survivors―survivors of gender-based violence, racial injustice, and myriad forms of oppression and hate. The phrase continues to surface during times of struggle, protest, and bold creativity. And lately, I have been practically choking on them.

How could it be that I―as someone who craves a better path forward and wants desperately to practice the beloved community we whisper/speak/shout about―have been so silent about the vitriolic atmosphere that enveloped all of us during this election season? I have been anxious and agitated, painfully aware of my leadership of a 501(c)3 that is prohibited from endorsing (or rejecting) or seeming to endorse (or reject) candidates for elected office. There have been daily cautions about what we can and cannot say, and fear about appearing to be partisan. Through it all, I have felt that I compromised my own commitment to speak the truth, to confront misogyny and racism, and to stand with immigrants, people with disabilities, and communities of all faiths. My silence does not protect them. It does not protect you. And it does not protect me.

The presidential campaign brought me to the edge of tolerance. The spin, the analysis, the polling. The recordings, debates, interviews, videos. And all the while, Audre’s voice in my head: “your silence will not protect you.”

Tomorrow, Wednesday, November 9, 2016, I will go to the office. I hope (read that as BIG HOPE) that we can put the election fatigue behind us. I hope we can celebrate a historic moment for what it is. Silent no more. Forward we go.