Cats and raindrops bless us

Sherman Alexie said “I don’t believe in magic, but I believe in interpreting coincidence exactly the way you want to.”

So when a stray cat wandered into the circle of grief-stricken neighbors gathered outside the former home of Rachel Gardin-Gonzalez and made itself right at home, I chose to imagine that Rachel was back in this beautiful calm form to bask in the comfort and love of people who cared about her.

Rachel and her mother Kimberly Redford were murdered in this home last week. Interfaith Works had come here to hold a Moment of Blessing. A time for neighbors to reclaim peace in their community and love in their hearts for the entire family that was devastated here.

Seven years almost to the day, I wrote my very first post on Can You Relate about a Moment of Blessing for Vanda Boone who herself was murdered in south Thurston County.

Every single domestic violence fatality and injury and hurt is preventable. Without exception. So I wonder, now and all the time, about what it will take to end the violence.

Can You Relate has changed its focus recently to call out/call in the perpetrators of the violence. Ultimately it is they who control all these tragic outcomes. I know it’s hard to imagine, but rapists and batterers are the ones who need to understand what drives the violence and understand what it is going to take to stop it. We can provide all the support and care possible for victims (and we should) but they will just keep coming until we know this.

Unlike Sherman Alexie, I don’t know if I believe in magic. But as the circle of grief was breaking up today, a few drops of rain fell from the hot smoky sky. Was that raindrop blessing a bit of magic or just a coincidence? We’ll have to ask the cat.

The ribbon pole with the names of most of the people who have died from violence in Thurston County since 2005. With the magic cat in the background.
Tragic additions to the list of victims.

 

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.

Stuck

I got stuck in the elevator last week.

stuck in elevatorI got in, pressed 7 and rode up. The doors opened, maybe 4-5 inches, slammed shut, then everything froze.  I pressed every button on the panel, including the alarm. Nothing.

I’ve never been stuck in an elevator before. I know a lot of people say this is their worst nightmare but for me it really wasn’t that bad. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely experienced a little adrenaline rush. I was all by myself so I gave the door one last pound with my fist, sat down on the floor, looked around and thought “Wow, I’m stuck in an elevator.” It really does wake a person up.

(Spoiler alert, I got out.)

All week, I’ve been enjoying the quirkiness of the experience and playing with it. I’ve  been watching various things unfold from that wide-awake stuck-in-an elevator point of view. Like, I’ve been thinking about our national healthcare debacle, the mistrial of Bill Cosby, the happenings at my beloved alma mater The Evergreen State College; all of these as embodiments of the cosmic elevator in which our entire nation seems to be stuck.

How are we ever going to get out?

Today I’m thinking it has to be about everyday conversations where we learn to navigate the world with more finesse and not so much stuck-ness.

Let me give you an example. Yesterday, I watched two people end a heated debate with “let’s just agree to disagree.” Ever said that? Or had it said to you? That expression means so many captive things, including:

  1. My eyes are seeing that your mouth is moving and sound is coming out. But I am too busy in my mind thinking about how to represent and defend my point of view. When I see your mouth stop moving, I’ll tell you all about it.
  2. I am the one with power here (said both parties) and when this godforsaken conversation is over and we agree to disagree, each of us will return to our corners and shore up our power where we have it.
  3. You’re wrong.

Allow me to indulge you in a story someone told me once about “you’re wrong.”

There was a monastery in Thailand where people from the U.S. occasionally went to join the Buddhist monks to study and meditate. A woman traveled there and for several months practiced rigorously, Returning to the U.S., she found herself attracted to an evangelical church and eventually pledged herself to Christ. She vowed to return to Thailand to convert the monks. Her return to the monastery was greeted with great warmth. But as the days went on, they became increasingly confused and then annoyed by her preaching to them as they tried to study. Finally the monks went to the abbot to seek his wisdom about what to do. The abbot listened intently to their account of events, considered for a time, looked at his wide-eyed followers, shrugged and said “She could be right.”

Which is just to say, “agreeing to disagree” is to be loyal to a story that may be right. It may be wrong. Who knows?

Or may not even be the only possibility. What if there were a third, fourth, or  fifth story; one we can’t even imagine because we get too stuck on the only one we know?

Or maybe all the possibilities are not mutually exclusive? What if two things that appear to be at odds, are actually not and can both be true at the same time?

What would happen if we flipped the script and committed to “Let’s agree to work to agree”? Getting unstuck. There are solutions to every problem we have created for ourselves.

Including getting out of an elevator. Half an hour after I rang the alarm, two guys from the Olympia Fire Department pried open the doors and let me out. Ultimately, I’m left with only one question. Is it possible to be stuck in an elevator and be both annoyed and dazzled at the same time?