Five greetings of holiday cheer

‘Tis the season. I close out my blog writing for 2015 with a string of holiday-themed confessions and advice. Please, grab an eggnog and pull up a chair.

Peace on Earth

Make peace with the earth.

I grew up outside. The outdoors is where I go when I need to experience renewal, re-creation. My first political activism involved working as a student intern in the 1970’s under the guidance of chain-smoking, tough-as-nails environmental bulldogs Flo Brodie and Jack Davis. Sadly, they are both long gone, but all of us owe a huge debt of gratitude to them for stopping an industrial logging export facility from being built right next to the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge.

Blessings to Flo and Jack and to those young and very much alive activists who point out that earth and climate justice are the same thing as racial and social justice.

Home for the Holidays

Re-friend your people on Facebook. Make peace with your uncles, cousins, and former classmates who have posted hateful things that resulted in you tossing them off your friend list.

My cousin Bill posts pictures of guns and voices wildly different perspectives from my own. I once came close to unfriending him—but I resisted because I love him so much. I’ve discovered that arguing back in a clear, kind way actually results in him moderating his position a bit. I should ask him if he ever stops himself from posting something because he thinks of me. Probably not. But I know I think about what he’s going to say when I post certain things—and part of me can hardly wait.

I know you don’t want to re-friend your “cousin Bill.” Do it anyway because if you don’t argue back then we will all end up living in thicker bubbles among the dwindling pool of people who agree with us on everything. This trend toward isolation and intolerance of any view different from our own cannot end well.

Merry Christmas

Dig a little deeper into the story of Christmas and reflect on refugees past and present. Find ways to make it clear refugees are welcome here. Capitol_protest_Tyra

A small crowd gathered at the capitol the other day to express the opposite. They howled “Refugees are NOT welcome here.” I went to the counter-protest to see if I could persuade the people holding “Vets Before Refugees” signs to reconsider this us vs. them thing. I told them that I agreed that we have done a terrible job caring for returning vets. In the above photo captured by the Tacoma News Tribune, I was pointing to a vet’s Union Gospel Mission patch. He said he worked there. “Then you have experience working with folks who are caught in the crossfire of life circumstances. That’s gotta give you some sympathy for the Syrian war refugees, right?” We might have continued that conversation, but the rally organizer came over to hiss “Terrorists are embedded with those refugees.” She was not budging on that point. There was nothing more I could say.

The Syrian refugees are not terrorists. They need a home. I was taught that Mary and Joseph were refugees too. If we cannot learn some lessons from 2,015 years ago, what’s the point of celebrating the birth of that famous baby?

Joy to the World

Be happy for the liberation of yourself and others.

As difficult as these times are, I find joy in movements organizing for justice. Black Lives Matter to me as a white person because I want to live in a world where African Americans and have equal access to the same things that have brought me comfort, happiness, and peace. It is not asking too much because it can be done.

I recently joined Olympia SURJ and follow the leadership of Full Circle United as they direct me to take action. Find the group that is organizing in your town. Bring joy to your life and to the lives of everyone around you.

Silent Night

Rest and be well.

At times, I am shaken awake long past midnight by fear and worry. When that happens, I take a deep breath. And listen to the silence. Some nights I get up and creep outside to be in the stillness—the quiet darkness. We are all loved by the silent night. Be at peace. All is well.

What I’m saying to my kids

My mom asked me the other day what I’ve said to my kids about the state of the world these days. It made me  pause, because I’m at a point in time where I don’t have to say anything. We don’t actually watch the news in our house, I turn down NPR when the kids are in the car, and the only TV we do watch are Netflix kid shows or silly YouTube videos. (Just so you know this is the kind of nonsense my kids have been watching lately.)

It’s different than the world I grew up in where even watching Punky Brewster, I ran the risk of seeing war, terrorism, and murder. Now even though in reality there is more media and more stimulation, my little family can be insulated from it. And while I appreciate that, I also feel like I am not living up to my responsibility as a parent to help my children react to and deal with the realities of human suffering and injustice.

For instance, we just celebrated Thanksgiving and each year I am more aware of the lies I was taught as a child about the way white settlers treated the Native people they encountered. It makes me want to simultaneously scream, “Everything is terrible!” and hold my children close and wonder at the beauty of a world that has them in it.

And so, I realize that I must talk with my children about the state of the world. Talk with them about the real history of Thanksgiving and a new way forward. Talk with them about our responsibility to stand up for refugees in need. Talk with them about striving for kindness and gratitude, and about forgiveness and accountability when we fail. Talk with them about flowers and small acts of rebellion in a world that seems filled with violence.

So here is what I commit to saying to my children. In the midst of the violence, know that I love you and that I want a just world for us all, so let’s try to bring about peace together.

Concientizándome (Self-awareness)

¿Como puede uno cuidarse a uno mismo, conocerse, y sanar un trauma o abuso del pasado? He estado reflexionando sobre lo que esta pregunta significa para sobrevivientes de abuso y al mismo tiempo lo que significa para mi, en lo personal y como mujer. Como mujeres, el apoyo que tenemos es suficiente para podernos conectar o reconectar con nosotros mismos y nuestro poder interior? Ese poder interior que nos guía, da el correcto balance a nuestra autoestima y nos da paz. Me pregunto, ¿cómo serían nuestras relaciones si estuviésemos conectados a nuestro poder interior y nos diéramos cuenta de que podemos crear y transformar nuestro propio futuro?

Hace unas semanas tuve la oportunidad de atender una capacitación sobre opressión con Leticia Nieto (super recomendable) donde se habló precisamente de nuestro poder interior y lo importante que es estar en contactoleticia-book con él. Durante los días siguientes a la capacitación, procesé mi pensar y sentir al respecto y al mismo tiempo me puse a pensar en la importancia de esta conección para las sobrevivientes de violencia doméstica y sexual. En este procesar de ideas, una amiga me dijo que era un privilegio el recibir el apoyo necesario para tener el tiempo y espacio necesarios para conectarte contigo mismo. ¿No debería este privilegio estar disponible para todos?

Me pregunto si como movimiento en contra de la violencia doméstica estamos ofreciendo ese apoyo de tiempo y espacio a sobrevivientes, especialmente inmigrantes sobrevivientes de abuso que de entrada están lejos de su país, familias y amigos. Ya sabemos, basados en nuestro Fatality Review Project, que sobrevivientes inmigrantes buscan primero a familia y amigos en situaciones de crisis. Entonces, quisiera que creáramos ese tiempo y espacio en las comunidades inmigrantes para que las mujeres, hombres y niños puedan tener lo necesario para conectarse con ellos mismos y su poder interior, recuperarse al abuso, y tener un mejor futuro.

Por ahora, empezaré conmigo misma reconociendo este privilegio y estando agradecida de tener todo lo necesario para desarrollar esta conección interior y al mismo tiempo estar más consciente de mi alrededor y de mi papel para ofrecer ese espacio seguro, ese tiempo y ese apoyo a quien no lo tiene.

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How do we take care of ourselves, be self-aware, and heal from trauma and an abusive past? I have been reflecting on this question on behalf of survivors as well as my own journey as a woman. Are we, as women, supported in being connected to our internal power? This is the power that guides us, brings balance to our self-esteem, and gives us peace. What would our relationships look like if we were connected to our own power and realized that we had the ability to create and shape our own future?

Some weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend an anti-oppression training with Leticia Nieto (highly recommended) where we were talking about the importance of connecting with your internal power. In the days following the training, I thought about what this means for me, as well as how it might relate to domestic violence and sexual violence survivors. A friend pointed out that having the necessary support to have the space and time to connect with your internal power is a privilege. Shouldn’t this privilege be available to everyone?

So I wonder whether we, as a domestic violence movement, are offering that kind of time and space to survivors, especially to immigrant and refugee survivors of abuse that are far away from their countries, families, and friends. We already know from our Fatality Review Project that immigrant survivors in crisis situations reach out to family and friends first. I want us to focus on creating that time and space in immigrant communities so women, men, and children have what it takes to connect with their inner power, recover from the abuse, and have a better future.

For now, I am going to begin by recognizing my privilege of having all I need to connect with my internal  power and be grateful for that. At the same time, I am going to open my eyes and be aware of everyone around me, and of my role in offering that safe space, time, and support to those who do not have it.

Women trump guns

Imagine living in a place where your healthcare and schooling is free. Where you are given a plot of land to farm and a fishing boat. All that is required in return is that you do not beat your spouse.

Is there such a place? Yes, and its location will surprise you.

In war-torn Somalia, Dr. Hawa Abdi and her two daughters started a one-room hospital on her private land. A city of 90,000 refugees sprung up around it. The women of this city in turn, have created their own social services and justice system, which makes it a sanctuary from the violence, disease, and famine around them. But it is also a threat to those in power in the region.

I read in the news last week that a group of armed militants decimated Dr. Abdi’s now 400 bed hospital. They held Dr. Abdi and her daughters at gun-point for days and interrogated the doctor. “Why are you running this hospital?” the gunmen demanded. “You are old. And you are a woman!” Dr. Abdi said “I told the gunmen, ‘I’m not leaving my hospital … If I die, I will die with my people and my dignity.’ I yelled at them, ‘You are young and you are a man, but what have you done for your society?’ ”

Thousands of women from the refugee city surrounding the hospital organized a protest and forced the militants to back down. A written apology was wrung out of the militants by Dr. Abdi.

We live in one of the wealthiest places in the world and yet we don’t replicate the type of community Dr. Abdi created. As a matter of fact, many of the riches we do have are being eroded. What will it take for us to stand together and demand communities that are prosperous and free from violence for everyone?