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Posts Tagged ‘injustice’

The New Jim Crow & the Nightmare River

When I started reading The New Jim Crow a couple of years ago, I felt my world rippling. I don’t mean this allegorically. I felt the smoothness disturbed by something else clawing to be let in.

Before I picked up the book, I’d been floating along on the smooth, clear water of U.S. life. I assumed all was (mostly) good and well straight down to the river’s bottom.

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow‘s author, invited me to stop floating and actually dip a finger into the water. Beneath the thin veneer of calm, her recounting of recent American history informed me, I’d find turbulence and boiling water that was scalding people alive.

I dipped in one finger and discovered she was right. Horrified, I returned my hands to the surface. I set Alexander’s book aside and enjoyed my onward drift.

Over the summer, little burning bubbles began emerging from the water around me. They were uncommon and only a little painful, so I ignored them at first. Why would I go seek out more pain?

But then I saw bigger bubbles roiling below the surface and understood: the U.S. is a world in which only a few are allowed to float at the surface. Others are forced down, trapped in the murky, hot water beneath and struggling to reach the surface for even a moment’s gasping breath.

I understood: they suffer so that I might stay comfortably afloat. “Oh, shit!” I started shouting to those floating near enough to hear me. “People are drowning below us! We have to see the whole river beneath us, not just the sparkles up top, or they’re going to keep on drowning!”

Alone, I saw, I could pull very, very few people up to the surface. If I could enlist other surface-floaters to reach down, though, I knew we could together evacuate this nightmare river and seek out one with cleaner, genuinely smooth waters where all were equally able to experience the river in its fullness.

“Shhh, you’re disturbing our ride,” fellow floaters admonished in return.  Read more…

I care about Americans

“Why do you care so much what happens to some people in Yemen?” several people have asked me. “Don’t you care about Americans?!”

“All injustice is interrelated,” I’ve fumbled in reply. “The injustice Yemeni people experience is symptomatic of the same illness many Americans endure. To care about one is to care about all.”

I haven’t satisfied a single person–myself included–with this vague answer, so I’ve kept searching for a better one. As a former negotiator, I know I won’t receive any concession I can’t describe.

I sought and found a story, something that might breathe real life into the abstraction that “all injustice is interrelated.”

Imagine the earth is a single enormous iceberg, and all who live upon it are penguins. Some penguins live nearer the center, and others nearer its edges.

Penguins in the center are doing very, very well. In fact, 1% of the penguin population has managed to hoard for itself almost half of the iceberg.

[ please click here to continue reading ]

kids outside 792

Once you’ve lived near the edge, you know it’s never very far

The Human Party

I averaged about three epiphanies a day in college, or so you’d think if you read my journals from that era.

Since then, I’d say I’ve averaged about, oh, zero epiphanies annually. I’ve had one the last few days, and I need to write about it pronto.*

The temperature in the North Pole is 36 degrees higher than normal for this time of year. Some portion of that might be random, but a great deal of it is not: we humans are rapidly making our world less habitable.

We are destroying the planet that is essential to our children having any kind of hope for the future. We’ve expected Other People and Politicians on Boards Somewhere to solve this, letting a huge problem take up a smaller and smaller fraction of our individual attention spans.

Right now, U.S. citizens are up in arms with each other over the results of a presidential election. We’re drawing all kinds of unreasonable conclusions based on corporate-sponsored news and mistaking those conclusions for truth, all while dehumanizing the very real, very hurting people all around us.

Here’s the thing. To the earth, there’s a single party: the Human Party. Each and every member of this party is bound together unequivocally, and all of us are equally bound to this planet and her destiny.

We have precious little time to save this world, all of us together. We must take each step we can, not as members of any political party, but as members of the Human Party. We must do this for our kids.

When we band together to do this, relinquishing the extinction-level myth that someone somewhere else is taking care of things, many other ills will be resolved.

See, we’re all victims of corporate globalism and neoliberalism, a devastating economic system that destroys earth and people alike for the profit of a few.

The sooner we see that, learning to embrace and fight for each other, the better our children’s prospects.

In no particular order, here are some steps you and I can start taking right now:

  • Buy local. Get offline, skipping all the waste that goes into powering enormous fulfillment centers and having all those individual packages shipped to you with lots of needless padding, at great ecological expense.
  • Go to farmers markets. Buy foods that didn’t guzzle loads of gas to reach you, grown by local farmers who value your support. Look for gifts and household items at the market, where you might find soap, candles, clothing, lotions, scents, and bunches of other items brought directly to you without any money lost to lots of middlemen.
  • Buy less. Instead of buying gifts for every holiday and occasion, offer a few hours of your undivided attention. Seek out local adventures to share. Ask your loved ones where you could donate some time, money, or love in their honor. Arrange with friends to donate to their favorite charities instead of buying objects.
  • Buy used. Go to swap meets. Add a little quirk to your home decor.
  • Drive less. Take shorter trips, group your trips, and travel with friends when you can. Telecommute if you can, and talk to your employer about the benefits–to local infrastructure, to the environment, to you and your family–of telecommuting if it’s not yet permitted. (I’ll be writing some letters shortly; please let me know if you’d like to work with me on these.)
  • Make your own bath, beauty, and cleaning products.
  • Call, email, mail, and tell your legislators in person that they must–for your children!–take major steps to protect the environment, and that you’ll work hard to see them not re-elected if they don’t.
  • Reuse as often as you can. If you don’t know how you can reuse something, store items in an “opportunity box” for when you can poke around online for ideas.
  • Grow some spices and veggies, in your yard or in planters.
  • Donate what you can’t use. Share what you can to limit waste.
  • Compost. Recycle.
  • Unplug your appliances when you’re not using them.
  • Take shorter showers and shower less frequently.
  • Buy fewer packaged foods. Be kind to planet and self; forego fast food as often as possible, packing snacks if you must.
  • Drink less coffee. When you do drink coffee, drink fair trade coffee.
  • Talk to your friends about what you’re doing and why. Challenge each other to find new ways to conserve the planet that sustains us.
  • Find pleasure not in objects but here and now, in each other.
  • Favor care and community over convenience. Come together, right now. It’s our kids’ only hope.

I’m no expert. I’m simply a parent who understands an increasingly urgent need to fight for our kids. I welcome your links, your ideas, your encouragement, and your outpourings of love for your fellow Human Party members. Please share.

We can’t expect anyone else to save us anymore.

We must work together now to save each other.

these boys

I’m in it for my kids, and yours

* Why pronto over perfect? Recently I’ve been reading about “agile” projects,
or projects begun early that take clearer form as you go,
which means improved ability to respond to new data,
and–often–better resolutions than when you
come up with a perfect in principle
(but, oops, actually unworkable)
plan.

 

An olive branch

I grew up poor, abused, and preyed upon. 

Before my single mom of four divorced my abusive dad, she’d already lost her family over her departure from the Mormon church.

My godmother was her truest support. Most her other friends were friends of convenience: people low enough on the social totem pole to lose nothing by hanging out with her.

"There was remarkably little crying up until I saw my godmom. When she drove past, I didn't see her facial features clearly, but I knew it was her by the look of love on her face. Most of my crying that day had to do with her, in a really, really sweet way. She was there when I was born, through all the life events since, and the love emanates from her in a way I think you can see by looking at this picture. I could feel her and my mom in her, and having her there . . . it was little me and adult me all at once, all wrapped up in endless love."

My godmother–here for me, too

One particular example illuminates who my mom kept near to have any human contact. Rita’s husband had raped her daughter, but she got back together with him, saying, “It’s just easier to stay afloat this way, you know?” Read more…

Beyond prison walls

When I close my eyes, I see Rara’s trembling arms as we stand and talk at her husband’s memorial.

I feel the Correctional Officer’s presence over my shoulder. The officer is quiet and soft spoken, and I thank her twice for her kindness, but I feel her eyes absorbing everything. I regret that she has to be there at all.

And I come back to Rara’s trembling arms, which reveal things that words couldn’t possibly: all the sadness, all the loss, all the anxiety at a life suddenly nothing like What Came Before.

I’ve felt ill at ease in my own life the last few months. It’s felt pretty all consuming, honestly. Read more…

Rara sends her love

Does it look like we're miserable?

With Rara in orange and Dave in the middle

I met Rara and her husband, Dave, a week before my second son was born.

Rara went to prison a couple of weeks later. Innocence doesn’t pay attorney fees.

She’s still in prison.

She was there when Dave posted that he had an infection a few weeks ago.

She was there when he died soon after.

Today, my husband, sons and I drove to Dave’s memorial.

My five-year-old, Li’l D, couldn’t understand how Rara had ended up in prison.

My husband and I answered Li’l D’s many questions until my husband finally said, “Some bad guys fight with swords. Other bad guys fight with paper. She met the kind who fights with paper.” Read more…

Forget Phylicia. Remember my mom.

“That man is following us,” my mom whispered as we left the corner market.

My prepubescent self waved her off. I was irritated how paranoid she’d become as our court date loomed.

Whatever. He just wants to get something to eat,” I whispered back as we began walking toward the courthouse. “Just like us.”

When we reached the courthouse, the man walked in right behind us. I ate my words outside the market when he handed a thick envelope to the defense attorney.

He had been following us. But why? Why would anyone investigate the victims?

More than 20 women have brought allegations of sexual assault against Bill Cosby

I didn’t mean to write about that, not even when I read he’d hired a team of private investigators to discredit the women.

I didn’t mean to write about that even when I read how Phylicia Rashad, the actress who once played his TV wife said, “Forget those women,” expressing the opinion some unknown enemy is trying to smear Cosby’s legacy for reasons she can’t understand.*

I didn’t mean to write about it when I woke up this morning. But then I saw another choice quote from Phylicia, and my heart plummeted.

Whenever I thought about testifying against a pedophile as a child, Read more…

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