Opinión vs. acción (Opinion vs. action)

Estamos en año de elecciones, inevitable no hablar de esto. Hoy más que nunca es necesario ser responsables de nuestros actos e involucrarnos como ciudadanos, es un deber y un derecho que tenemos para poner nuestro granito de arena y ser parte del cambio en nuestras comunidades, en nuestro país, y elegir juntos un buen liderazgo.

Escucho cientos de comentarios diarios sobre el ambiente político de hoy en día, en los medios de comunicación, en el trabajo, con mis amistades, en casa, en fin, y va a incrementarse conforme se acerquen las elecciones. Pero ¿qué tanto estamos siendo responsables? ¿Qué tanto estamos haciendo nuestra parte? Es sumamente sencillo hacer comentarios, enojarnos, y tener una opinión pero eso no es suficiente.

Tu Voto Es Tu VozSi realmente queremos que nuestra opinión tenga un impacto, y queremos que haya cambios sociales, justicia, avance, que se tome en consideración a todos y cada una de las personas, si queremos que realmente se refleje lo que este país es y puede ofrecer, entonces involucrémonos, informémonos, y si tienes el derecho de votar, hazlo. Tu opinión cuenta pero tu acción crea un impacto y genera cambio.

Alguna vez leí algo sobre reglas básicas de convivencia y recuerdo que iban algo así: ¿llegas? Saluda, ¿te vas? Despídete, ¿recibes un favor? Agradece, ¿prometes? Cumple, ¿ofendes? Discúlpate, ¿no entiendes? Pregunta, ¿tienes? Comparte, etc. Simples ¿verdad?, muy sencillo. ¿Quieres un líder que refleje tus valores? entonces haz algo al respecto.

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We are in an election year, it is impossible not to talk about it. Today more than ever we need to be responsible for our actions and engage as citizens. It is our duty and our right. We need to practice it and be a part of the change in our communities, in our country, and together choose good leadership.

Every day I hear hundreds of comments on the political atmosphere in social media, at work, with my friends, at home, and it will increase as the elections approach. But how responsible are we being? Are we doing our part? It is extremely easy to comment, get angry, and have an opinion, but that is not enough.

If we really want to make an impact, create social change, have justice, make progress; if we want everyone to be taken into consideration;; if we want  leadership that truly reflects what this country is and what we can offer; then commit, get involved, get informed, and if you have the right to vote, do it. Your opinion is important but your action creates an impact and generates change.

I once read something about the basic rules of coexistence and they go like this: if you arrive somewhere, say hi; if are you leaving, say goodbye; if you receive a favor, say thank you; if you make a promise, fulfill it; if you offend someone, apologize; if you do not understand, ask; if you have, share, etc. Simple, isn’t it? So if you want a leader who reflects your values, then do something about it.

So be good for goodness sake

Ah, the holidays. That glittery season of joy and forced togetherness with people that we both love and love to argue with. I’m preparing for my annual trip back to Atlanta where my ENTIRE Southern conservative family still lives. I love them. And we pretty much disagree about everything. (Except barbeque. We all fully support smoked meat).

I’m already feeling a bit low lately with the many bad things happening in the world, so as part of my mental preparation for enduring conversations with loved ones about Trump’s greatness, here are five things that I’m going to do before the end of 2015 to spread a little love, kindness, and cheer.

  1. I know many of us are hemorrhaging money this time of year, but I’m going to find a little bit to donate to an organization I believe is doing good. For me, I think it will be Planned Parenthood.
  2. Read the Humans of New York blog and sign the petition to bring Aya and her family to the U.S.
  3. Read this post about how to be a good non-Muslim ally. Try at least one idea and share the author’s thoughts with others.
  4. Rather than say something rude when someone I love espouses hatred, I’ll grab my phone and answer trivia at freerice.com, where each round helps end world hunger. That’s much better than calling mom racist during a shouting match.
  5. Look at and share these Emergency Kittens. For when I or someone I know needs a smidgen of cheer.

It’s true, doing these five things are not going to change the world. But when we we find ways to do good, to spread love and kindness, and behave the way we would like to see others behave we are setting examples for those who are close to us.

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I’d help but I can’t get around the road block

I don’t usually, but I went to church for the last three Sundays in a row. Not to a sermon. But to a facilitated conversation designed to bring community members together to talk about race.

Seriously, it was great. At each meeting we watched an episode of the PBS series Race – The Power of an Illusion, had an hour for small group discussion, and then a closing with the full group. There were 60-80 people there each night. I thought it was an impressive turnout for such a fraught topic.

My favorite discussion question went something like this: Why is it that so many well-intentioned white people—folks who would say they aren’t racist—find it so hard to organize and create real change around race?

roadblockThat is such a good question.

When the organizers passed around a sheet for future involvement, I noticed a lot of people signed up for a book group, but hardly anyone put their name under the “action” column.

What is that about?

I decided to try a little personal experiment; take a simple action and pay attention to what I went through to achieve it.

I picked the news item that had most recently outraged me. It was the federal land grab from the San Carlos Apache Tribe where a sacred site was stolen from the tribe and “traded” to a mining company.

Okay, take action. Go!

The first thing I did was read about it. And there is a ton of stuff out there to read.

My first roadblock to action: Wow there is so much to read and study. I almost got stuck thinking I had to know all about it before I could determine if action was warranted. Move on, move on.

Second roadblock to action: Feeling  completely overwhelmed. My mind traveled to the enormity of the land grab that occurred over the centuries as non-Natives displaced and killed unknowable numbers of indigenous people. The genocide of Native Americans was not my fault, but the legacy of it is my responsibility. So, what can I do now? Keep moving.

Third roadblock to action: Finding out what to do. I’m leery of actions directed by people who are not directly impacted. But then I fear that people who are being crushed by something are often not in a position to be directive. But wait, here’s a take action link on a San Carlos Apache site. Perfect! Click.

Fourth roadblock to action: Well, I signed all the petitions and felt like I was giving my identity away to unknown people. I did it anyway but the whole time I was thinking: Who are these people and what are they going to do with my information? This has stopped me in the past.

Fifth roadblock to action: I posted links to the petitions I signed on my Facebook page and donated money. But I have that feeling of it’s not enough, it’s never enough.

Okay, now I get it. Taking action is not self-gratifying. There is no certainty, no immediate result. It’s overwhelming, confusing, and scary.

But here’s what I want to say to myself and to white people reading this: Do it anyway. Follow the lead of the people who are being wronged. Move, do, sign, donate, march, testify, risk, Risk, RISK, work hard, link arms, fall down, get up. Go!

Great expectations

Our Fatality Review project just issued its annual report of the number of people across Washington State who died as a result of domestic violence last year. I drafted a press release of the findings before I ever saw the report. I planned to fill in the exact numbers once I got them from my colleague, but figured I already knew what the stats were going to tell us. 2000FR-Cover

We’ve been collecting this data since 1997. And every year, the numbers are eerily similar to the last. It seems no matter what else happens in a year—other violent crime going down, the economy getting better or worse, new laws passed—the domestic violence murder rate stays relatively steady. It’s incredibly sad, and I guess I’ve been feeling pretty hopeless about it.

But this year turned out to be different. A total of 35 people died in domestic violence fatalities. This is significantly fewer than the 54 deaths the year before, and the lowest in the 17 years we’ve been keeping track. I had to re-write the press release, but also re-think my assumptions.

Even though I truly believe domestic violence is preventable, and I see great work happening all around me, at the end of the year I don’t expect to see that reflected in the homicide numbers. Why not? I suppose it has to do with how complex the problem of domestic violence is and the slow pace of social change.

Every single life lost to domestic violence is one too many, and my heart aches for all those we lost this past year. But I feel encouraged at the same time. Maybe this is the start of a trend. After decades of work to end domestic violence, maybe it is time to expect change.

Equal pay (and dinosaurs and robots) are cool

Yesterday was Equal Pay Day—the day symbolizing how far into 2013 women must work to earn what men earned in 2012.

Oh for crying out loud. This is still a thing? Yes, it is!

Over dinner I was telling my 6-year-old son about it. I asked him to imagine that he and his sister were doing the same job for a day and that at the end of the day I paid him more than her for the same work just because he was a boy. I asked him what he thought about that. At first he said, “Well, that doesn’t seem fair.” And then he said quietly, “I wish Martin Luther King, Jr. was still alive.” When I asked why, he said “because he would do something about it, and change it.”

Well then we started talking about legacies, and after I explained that a legacy was something you leave behind, I asked, “Do you know what Dr. King’s legacy is?” I explained that it’s that we all could realize that we are somebodies who can do something about injustices. And that I was somebody. And that he was somebody. And that his sister was somebody. And that we could all work to change things. After a pause and some deep thinking he responded, “Cool.”

And then we moved on to how cool robots and dinosaurs are. Because they are. And wouldn’t equal pay for equal work be cool too? Let’s get on it!

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Occupy breast cancer

My girlfriend and I used to have four breasts between us. Then 16 years ago, we lost one. Then another last year. As of December 21, we are down to one.

Quite honestly, breast cancer is not the worst thing that ever happened to me, but it is painful, time consuming and expensive. I doubt this cancer is going to kill me―though several of my friends have not been so lucky.

Because I had weeks to sit around and think about it, I connected even more dots than the last time I blogged about this topic. My cancers were caused by all the toxic chemicals I’ve encountered in my lifetime. As a woman, I’m at a huge disadvantage in a toxic world. As one of my radiologists said to me “I hate to break it to you, but breasts are mostly fat.” Get it? Fat = storage. My breasts were like bank accounts for a ready flow of chemical cash.

Okay, that’s gross, but do you want to hear something super ironic? This from Barbara Ehrenreich in her brutal essay “Welcome to Cancerland”―one chemical company that manufactures carcinogenic pesticides is the same company that makes one of the most common treatments for breast cancer. Causing and curing cancer―flip sides of the same profit.

Profit. Corporate greed. Follow the thread.

Sitting in twelve clinic waiting rooms last month, I also got a big dose of magazine popular culture. All I can say is &^@*$. One ridiculous manifestation of a woman’s image after another selling absolutely nothing that anyone really needs. Profitable images. That’s all. Profit. And again women are paying the price.

Enough diagnosis. Let’s get on to the treatment plan.

The main thing I want to say about this is that there is absolutely NOTHING you can do as one lone individual to create the level of change our world needs. Individual actions serve as a reminder of the immediacy of the problem, but they don’t solve it.

The other main thing I want to say is that you as an individual are the ONLY person who can create the change our world so desperately needs. Yes. You. And you. And you. All of us―together.

Editor’s note: We are remembering Ellen Pence, who died last week of breast cancer. We note with sadness our growing losses. 

A call to action―again

I just left WSCADV’s annual conference with almost 400 advocates in the beautiful city of Spokane. We had this moment in time to gather together, no matter our pressures at home and work, and dream big. Beth Richie, the brilliant author of Compelled to Crime: The Gender Entrapment of Black Battered Women, challenged us to look at our movement to end violence against women and consider if we have defined our work too narrowly.

So much of our daily work is addressing what survivors and their children need to be safe. This is, of course, critical, but have we set our expectations too low? What about a world where all people are safe from all kinds of abuse? We’ve had these conversations many times, but to do this effectively we have to be willing to regularly reflect on and critique our efforts.

Beth reminded me that combatting violence in the lives of women, men and children is human rights work. You know, Human rights, those basic rights and freedoms that all people are entitled to. Working for social change is not something we can just think of when we have a spare moment. It is our job and has to be integrated into everything we do.

This is a tall order but I know we can figure out how to keep showing up for the individuals who need our support and also join the vibrant, creative surge of activists and other social justice movements around the world.

… And the revolution starts in the stands, too

I’m not much into sports (unless “So You Think You Can Dance?” counts), but this report caught my ear while stuck in traffic.

Sports commentator Art Thiel weighs in on Rick Welts, president of the Phoenix Suns, and his recent decision to reveal that he is gay. Welts is the first high-profile sports figure to do so. I was happy to hear Thiel call this out as a positive step toward expanding views about masculinity in the professional sports community.

As we’ve seen, everyone loses when we confuse cockiness, violence, and the rampant pursuit of sex (consensual or not) for athleticism and sportsmanship. But while it’s exciting to see this shift in the sports world, Thiel reminds us that the real change depends upon all of us.Basketball wins my heart again

He invites all sports fans to stand up for authentic sportsmanship. In the stands we can respond to hateful trash talk by following Thiel’s simple advice. Let folks know: “I don’t need to hear that. My kids don’t need to hear that.”