We DO NOT Value Human Life

I don’t want to believe the statement above. I don’t want to believe that I have been naïve for most of my life. That I have had faith in the wrong place. That I have trusted in vain. It goes beyond my pride. I don’t want to believe this because, if this is the root of who we are as a global society, I have no idea how we fix that.

If this is at the foundation of who we are, where do we go from there?

I have been chewing on this concept for a about a week. I was sitting in a presentation about the opioid epidemic. The presenter shared the number of overdoes related deaths in the state of North Dakota and explained why they happen.

I am a fixer and so I wondered, why do we allow this to happen? Why can’t we get this number to zero? Is that too radical? The presenter talked about how important and effective clean needle exchange programs are. He also talked about how they have a bad reputation. I rolled my eyes in frustration, having seen the spikes of new HIV infections in the rural south over the last few years. Clean needle exchange programs easily prevent one epidemic from becoming another. I thought harshly about those who would oppose these programs. The argument of course being that by providing clean needles you are encouraging drug use. I wanted to yell at these people, Get over yourself. People are going to do drugs. How might our world be better to live in, if we simply made them all legal. We could regulate them like we do alcohol and cigarettes. Why not?

I want the number of overdose deaths to go to 0. I value human life. It’s something you can’t get back. EVER. Why wouldn’t we do everything possible to prevent death? I don’t get it.

This presentation started the questioning for me. When faced with new information I drill down till I hit the foundation. I ask, Why? Over and over and over and over and over and over and over…until I get to an answer.

As this process was going on in the background of my mind several things in the news kept finding their way into my Facebook feed. I avoided them for a while. I didn’t want to think about these women’s names. I didn’t want to think about their pain. I didn’t want to bear witness to their experience.

Friday was when I couldn’t avoid any longer. One of my dear friends was aghast at what she was seeing. I didn’t want to respond without having more information. So, I started watching and reading more about Dr. Blasey Ford’s experience.

I watched a sitting US Senator cower in an elevator. I have learned to try to make sure I see the whole video. I want to make sure I’m being fair to all sides before jumping to indignation. Watching more I only saw a man with two women by his side show nearly no vulnerability or compassion. A woman wept before him and demanded answers. She demanded he look her in the eye.

I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to represent an entire state. It’s not a job I would ever want. This is the job he signed up for and yet he and the two women with him seemed to show nothing but preformed sympathy. I am making an assumption here. Maybe all he could offer was “Thank You.”1 Maybe in the face of their truth in that elevator in that moment he didn’t want his job anymore. Maybe he didn’t want to bear witness either. Maybe…

Seeing other news headlines in my feed, I noticed something. My friends, who seem to feel that Dr. Blasey Ford should have brought this up at a more convenient time or that Senator Feinstein is playing political games, didn’t engage directly with Dr. Blasey Ford’s story. Maybe they too didn’t feel they could bear witness to her truth. Maybe…

In the case of these friends and the creators of the content they shared, I couldn’t understand how they could comment about the proceeding without even recognizing her. Without so much as acknowledging Dr. Blasey Ford. It felt like they were walking into a crime scene and talking about the scenery outside of the yellow tape.

I don’t understand. I don’t understand. It doesn’t compute. Nothing makes sense.

Then news came in the search for justice for Savanna. I haven’t done research. I don’t know or fully understand the nuances of this case. All I know is that a beautiful Native woman was brutally murdered. Another one. She is another one. She is a reminder that the bodies of women and Native women in particular don’t matter.

The Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women movement to me seems an echo. I think of the pink crosses. All the pink crosses that broke my heart in college. Each representing a woman or girl killed within Latin America. All of them part of the near pandemic of femicides committed within the region most notably in the country of Mexico.

Our bodies don’t matter. Our lives don’t matter. Remembering Savanna forced me to think of Olivia. Another woman. Another one. I force myself to say their names.

We must say their names. We must bear witness to their lives and their brutal deaths. I don’t think we get to look away. I don’t get to look away.

When we look away it is too easy to lie. It’s too easy to be naïve. It’s too easy to say I’m different.

No lies.

I am a part of a living breathing society that does not and willfully chooses not to value human life. We cut corners that put workers in danger, we refuse to pass legislation to protect our children from gun violence, we literally take money from our elders and give it to billionaire CEO’s, we accept that I have a 1 in 3 chance of experiencing physical or sexual violence in my lifetime.

I am a beautiful Native and African American woman. My people are dying. Black women and babies are dying. Native women are being murdered and going missing. Every day a woman is raped, a child is forced into a marriage, human beings are sold, tyrants hold countries captive, atrocities happen.

So many amazing people are trying to change things. So many good people are doing nothing. So many of us are too comfortable. So many of us refuse to bear witness to the things that take away that comfort.

I don’t think it’s an option for me anymore. I can’t keep doing this. I refuse to leave this world to the next generation as a place where overdose deaths are the norm, sexual assault is not that serious and when dead brown bodies show up it doesn’t matter.

I am limited. I wish I wasn’t and that I could save everyone, but that’s not my work. I am still trying to figure out what that work might be. Right here as I write this I am going to commit that moving forward I am not going to look away anymore. I don’t get that privilege, I don’t get that comfort, not anymore. That comfort is preventing me from doing the work. That comfort is preventing me from doing the one thing I can do. I can look the truth of these women in the eye and bear witness to it. To say, “…I don’t know who you are but I love you.”2

I love you Dr. Blasey Ford

I love you Savanna

I love you Olivia

I love you

 

 

 

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/04/opinion/brett-kavanaugh-confirmation-vote.html
  2. Moore, Alan. V For Vendetta. Illustrated by David Lloyd, DC Comics, 2005.
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I Love You

“I don’t know who you are, but I love you.”

This line is from the book V for Vendetta. It is shared from two strangers bonded through agony and suffering. There is something about impending death that sets things straight. I think this is why, often, when a question is posed to me, I think about the extremes. “Would I regret this if I died?” “Is it going to kill anyone?” I deeply value life and potential. This value is foundational for me and leaves little room for hesitation when it comes to things like love.

“Give your flowers to people while they’re still here.”

This is something my dad said to me and continues to reference. It’s the idea that you shouldn’t wait for someone to die to give them flowers or tell them you care for them. I do my best to let the people in my life know how deeply I feel about them. I don’t wait for tomorrow. I express gratitude and love openly.

“You can’t take it with you.”

Something my mom said often while I was growing up. It has encouraged me to be thoughtful about how I spend my time. It is also partly why I don’t get hung up about things like money.

Each of these quotes bolsters me and makes me quite blunt when expressing my opinions about others. I don’t really do insincere. I’m not good at it and so I don’t try. You need to know this to understand what comes next.

I’m not sure what’s in the air, but so many around me have hearts full of doubt and fear. I can feel their insecurities about their worth. These feelings have a heavy weight to them. They seem to burden those around me.

So, I need you dear reader to know this. If you are reading this right now, if my words have found you where ever you are, I love you. I see your beauty and magic bubbling beneath the surface. I hear the chuckle of your laughter. Even as you sit within the darkness of insecurity I see your light. You are worthy to me. You are valuable and important.

To the voices in your head that may be skeptical I also have a message. Be quiet and sit down. You are allowed to be in the car, but you don’t get to drive. You don’t get to torture this beautiful human being any more so knock it off.

Beautiful human being, I love you. If you’re mad at me, if I’m disappointed in you it changes nothing. I will keep loving you because we are all made of the same stuff. For me to hate you is for me to hate myself. For me to harm you is for me to harm myself. We share the same light and hope and potential. I choose to love you. I choose to accept your truth. This value and choice is hardwired into the foundation of my being.

I will love you as long as I walk this earth and hopefully even after I leave this place. I love you because of everything you are and everything you are not. I love you for your passion, for your conviction. I simply love you.

It is this love that makes me want better for you. I want you to see what I see. I want you to see how amazing you are. I want you to know that you are not alone. We are all here together on this tiny blue dot. I want you to choose to love you too.

Even if you don’t, it won’t matter, I will keep on loving you. Because I hope that through loving you and caring for you I can see me the way you do. I can see my worth and value. I can tell my insecurities to be quiet. If we can love each other I think we can save ourselves.

I love you with a steadfast love, unwavering and without need. Loving you feels good. It brings a smile to my face. It lifts me up. So, I’m gonna keep doing it. I will keep loving you and cherishing your presence on this planet.

There is nothing you can do that will change that. No action or argument or life change.

I will keep loving you.

I’m Not A Mutant

 (I’m a fucking human. It’s the worst.)

The problem

I want need to believe that I can fly. Not metaphorically, but that I could grow wings and fly. On my twentieth birthday a part of me was sad, because it meant that I couldn’t be a mutant from the X-Men. I grew up a little girl wanting to be Storm. I would sit in front of the TV with my white baby blanket wrapped around my shoulders. During commercial breaks I would twirl and spin.

The line between reality and fantasy/nightmare/dream/possibility/potential is thin for me. I think it has to be. I think most creative people need this thin line so that they can dream the big ideas and believe in the impossible long enough to make it happen. They have to see it and believe it.

This is why the last two years have been so painful. I screwed up. I hurt people. I made wrong decisions. I did this all because of a refusal to accept something. As I tried to fix it, something became clear: I had to accept that I had limitations. I had to embrace the worst word second only to nigger that I know, compromise. Yes, I feel this strongly about this word. It makes me angry and makes my skin crawl and makes my face squidge up.

Accepting that I was limited felt like stabbing that beautiful frizzy haired girl through the heart and burying her in a shallow grave with only her white baby blanket for comfort.

Some context

Since I was young, I have wanted to change the world. I have wanted to have an impact. And I don’t really do small or half-way. For example, we shared Mother’s Day with my mom’s friend. This nice friend has four girls. One of them wanted to make a cake, so off to my house we go. We ran out of time that day, so now I am planning on having them over again soon. Here’s the thing, I happen to have 12 ramekins (small oven safe containers perfect for mini cakes). So, what do I suggest to my husband? Of course, that we should invite over some of my other friends’ kids as well. He and I will make one so that’s 10 left, there are 4 girls, so that’s another 6 children I will be inviting over to make mini cakes.

I have been over extending myself since I was able to be in charge of my own schedule. I remember my mom waking up to a high schooler sleeping outside the door of her room. I had stayed up the night before trying to finish my art project and was so tried I couldn’t make it to my bed. Things only got worse in college, much worse.

For the longest time, I wore all of the ways I had abused my body as badges. I eat one meal (sometimes no meals) a day in college, gold star. I often slept only four hours, when I needed at least 7, blue ribbon. I once pulled a 24-hour day on only one meal. I would tell this story as though it was feat to be respected, as though by not giving myself what I needed I deserved some sort of praise.

It was easy to do this to myself because of the results. During my time at college, I did the following: double majored, started two organizations, worked multiple jobs, was in theatre shows, somehow managed to get decent grades, fell in love, volunteered, joined the cult of football, was a member of a dozen other organizations, met my now writing partner, hosted dinner parties, made Christmas cookies for my dorm room floor. I could go on, but I’ll stop. All I could see was the accomplishments and never the cost of things. It took my then boyfriend almost dumping me to wake me up. I remember he essentially said something along the lines of, “I like you, but not your lifestyle.”

Now

Having spent about ten years, trying to slow down, has meant countless hours trying to get to the root of the problem. I found it, but accepting it feels like a violent betrayal. I have been avoiding finishing this post for at least six months, possibly longer. Writing and posting it feels like giving in to evil and mean forces. Like allowing the villain to win.

Some have told me to re-language or reframe this situation for myself. Sometimes I find these tactics helpful. Sometimes a pig is still a pig even if you call it a pink snuggle-bunny.

My whole life there have been outside voices saying “You can’t” or “You’re crazy.” These voices have tried their best to prove to me how incapable I am. They come in forms of racism, sexism, statistics, back-handed compliments and silence.

I have fought these voices, doing my best to never allow them to box me in and trying not to take them as truth. It’s another reason why accepting that I can’t save the world feels like such a loss.

Why I need this

When I started looking at the side effects of believing that I could truly do anything, I started asking myself questions. One of them was, what do I get from this? Following that answer down the rabbit hole led to an ugly place.

I realized that in a lot of ways, believing I could save the world was part of a colonizer mind-set and steeped in assumptions. This idea, assumes that the world wants and needs me to save it. It also assumes that I know how to best implement the saving. As I started to identify these assumptions, I got a sick feeling. I was doing something that I had been suspicious of others for, mad at others for. I’ve called out the White Savior mentality, in subtle ways, a few times in my life. I’ve definitely complained about it in private a lot. Yet, here I was assuming that I could save Syria or Puerto Rico or North Dakota.

The thing about this mindset is it is so well-intentioned. As a little girl, I wanted to be like Storm. I wanted to help people. There is nothing wrong with this desire, but when I start to assume I know how to go about doing that without involving those to be saved it becomes something different. It becomes about me.

After doing the deep-dive, I realized that truly the best way to proceed was to stop making this assumption. I also had to do something different with this desire. To stop taking on everyone’s story as my own. I would listen to the news and be in tears because I got caught up. I got caught up in someone else’s story. I assumed that I must be the one to fix it. I was wrong.

The assumptions served a vital purpose. If I was responsible for fixing the problems of the world, then the problems were simpler. Also, I thought I knew what to do (huge assumption). It was easier.

One part of me: “Ok, people are suffering from a water shortage in a place
I spent a few months in over a decade ago. It’s my responsibility to 
fix it.”
Another part of me: “When exactly are you going to do that?”
One part of me: “Well, I don’t know. The most extreme idea is to fly to 
Cape Town and start volunteering within the local government to help them 
figure this problem out.”
Another part of me:  rolls eyes, takes One part of me’s hand “Look you know
we don’t have time for this, so move on okay.”
One part of me: beings to sob, feels helpless, does nothing, listens to the
next news story (rinse and repeat)

It was easier because in many ways, what I was doing was feeling guilt (which I’m really good at) for things that were not my responsibility, while also doing nothing of use for the people I was getting all worked up about.

Thinking about it now, all I can do is cringe at my own arrogance. The key here is that by taking responsibility for everything I was able to quickly 1. Assign blame *me 2. Come up with a possible solution *from me 3. Let myself off the hook because I didn’t actually have time. Three easy steps to feel bad about yourself and do nothing of use.

Looking at all the assumptions and realizing that this process served no one, I tried to think of something better. What would be a better way of walking through the world?

            The better way

The answer came in a few different ways. I’ve been doing a lot of work with groups of people trying to bring community together and do work with community. Over the last few months I have had countless conversations about best practices.

The better way is a bit harder, but also pretty simple. 1. Heal yourself first 2. If there is any issue that you feel want to do something about, pause. 3. See if there is work being done by people facing the problem. 4. Ask yourself how you can SUPPORT this work 5. Take necessary steps to SUPPORT it.

That word support changed everything. Ultimately it is not about me. “Eichelle Marie, it is not about you.” I have to say this sometimes to reach past my thick skull to the gray matter.

Benefits

Shifting my insidious assumption-based practices opened me up to a world of benefits. The first being that I didn’t have to feel bad about myself for things that weren’t my responsibility. The second being that I had more brain space to focus on the work I was doing to make change in the communities I lived in. It has been really freeing. Another benefit has been doubling down on a value. I didn’t know until recently that I valued the micro so deeply. When I say micro I mean small actions.

My optimism is based in a core belief that micro feeds macro. If micro feeds macro, if small actions effect large actions/movements/changes, then every action matters. So, if all I can do is bear witness and be informed about the atrocities, disappointments and heartaches of this world, it counts.

This value takes that word support and makes it larger. It makes the word more powerful. It makes me believe I can fly.

New Problem

After shifting some values and beliefs around, I was left with some things. One of them being that I still need to believe I can fly. I still need to believe that anything is possible. If I don’t, I go down a dark spiral toward doom. So how can I accept that I have limitations and still believe I can fly like Pegasus?

I’m still working on that answer. Part of it I think lies in something both my mother and I said recently.

I was sitting on the ground in front of my white board, angry because after over a year of cutting commitments and saying no and coming up with work flows and saying no some more and getting really intentional, after all this time, I found that I was still doing too much. In tears, I turned to my husband and said, “I’ve tried so hard.”

My mom was sitting on the couch breaking some bad news to us. After years of fighting to be her best self, reading the books, eating better, giving it to God, working with her doctors (she hates hospitals), praying about it and losing weight, she felt it wasn’t enough. In tears, she turned to the sky and said “I’ve tried so hard.”

As she said the words it struck my center, like the ring of a gong.

I have deep rooted insecurities and ugly voices. I am actively working to eradicate these things. I have found they don’t offer anything of use for me. Many of the insecurities come down to worth and my feelings of lack in this area. The words my mom and I spoke, talk directly to this insecurity. If I accept that I am human and therefore have certain limitations, in some ways I am accepting that I fall short and am not enough.

Right now

I don’t think that I have an answer yet. Getting this all down has helped me put to bed my savior mentality (I hope). I’m ready to move forward and support not save. I’m ready to heal myself first before moving on to anyone else. I’m ready to lean into my belief in the micro. I’m ready to find a way to support that beautiful frizzy haired girl with the white cape. The trick is to figure out how to do this while looking at what is vs. what might be. How can dream and reality exist together? I am truly asking. I have no idea. For right now, I will continue to live with intention, follow my curiosity down rabbit holes and stare down the questions I don’t want to ask until one of us blinks.

Proud American?

When I was in middle school 9/11 happened. I remember where I was and how I felt. Snapshots of that day are clear and play like a movie in my head. I happened to be taking a journalism class at the time. I wrote a piece for the school newspaper about the importance of patriotism. My aunt even sent me a framed copy, she was so proud.

proud american.jpg

Leading up to the fourth of July, I kept thinking about that girl and that piece. She was heartbroken by the pain she saw around her and called for everyone to take one tiny action. So much and so little has changed since then. I am still heartbroken by the pain that I see around me and still do my best to encourage tiny actions.

A main difference between that girl and I is that I don’t feel proud of my citizenship status. I feel lucky, but know that this country is not great biased on merit. As Dave Chappellle once said, “…it’s great by default…” Living near the US-Mexico border for almost a decade, my perspective about citizenship changed. I couldn’t make sense of how unfair it all was. If I had been born a few hours south my life would be drastically different.

What’s so special about this country and why should I celebrate it? How can I celebrate it? The history of this place is full of warmongering, hate, pain, theft and ugliness. We are also on the verge of repeating history in the worst way. I wonder if people will begin fleeing into Mexico to escape the violence and hatred of this country.

I feel grateful to be born in a place where I can voice these thoughts. I feel grateful to be safe (for the most part). I feel grateful for an abundance of food. For these and other reasons, I am grateful to be a citizen of the US. Grateful, but not proud.

My pride in this identity has died I think. Shame overtook what space I had for pride. I wish things were different, but my heart is heavy with shame.

I wonder what that girl would say to me. A girl who encouraged her classmates to put up flags and donate money, a girl who encouraged allegiance. I don’t know that she would like my thoughts about The Pledge of Allegiance, she wanted her classmates to make with more fervor.

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

I appreciate its possibility, but we are a fractured divisive mess. We do not stand together. We do not stand for much of anything anymore. Liberty is being covered up by rhetoric and a cult of personality. While I wish there might truly be justice for all, we don’t even have justice for the few.

Maybe we have always been this way and I am just now seeing it. Maybe I am being a bit spoiled and ungrateful. Maybe my heart just can’t take more disappointment. It refuses to accept that this is the best we can do.

The girl I used to be called for tiny actions and encouraged pride. I think she was trying to encourage unity. She wanted her classmates and the adults around her to remember the pain of others and come together around their shared identity as Americans.

My heart only has shame for the actions of this country I was born into. I can only call for those around me to consider why I might feel this way. For the many that also have hearts full of shame we can no longer stand by tiny actions. If pride is going to find its way back to us, we have to band together and take action.

Looking at the author who wrote The Pledge of Allegiance does give me some hope. He was a man who fought against the injustice he saw in the world. He fought for workers rights and choose to be open to immigrants during a time when so many let fear get the best of them. This man chose the words he wrote carefully.

Since he knew of the injustice of this place, I wonder if the pledge was aspirational. If that truly is the case, it gives me hope. Maybe we might one day become the country Francis Bellamy dreamed. Maybe we might one day truly be great based on merit rather than lack of competition. On that day I will be proud, until then I’ll get to work.

jumping

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The voices with bad news build. I can feel the tension rising outside of me and it invades my body. My shoulders rise toward my ears, my breathing shortens, my neck tightens. I swallow it all. Violently the words and sneers and lies and overwhelming truths force their way down my throat burning all the way down. They reach my heart with stabbing pains. The weight of them moves my heart from my chest to my stomach until I can take no more. I vomit until my eyes bulge from my head and then I jump.

Off of the cliff and feel free in the air. The voices can’t catch me. I jump and fall feeling my shoulders release and a smile creep onto my face. As I shoot through the water, feet first, the cold slithers up my skin. I sink into the quiet. I can hear the beat of my heart in my ears and it slows. The water holds me in place and makes me feel safe from the problems of the world. For a moment I am just me. I am only concerned about me. I am selfish and don’t feel guilt.

Then my lungs make a polite request. Before long they are asking more sternly and then they are yelling. They are screaming. They are making threats and demanding. They are bartering with me. They beg.

With little movement I give in. My arms cut through the water to embrace my sides and my face breaks the surface.

I am back to reality. I am back to the middle space between the micro and the macro. I can focus again and make choices. I am not free, but the illusion of freedom is in place again. I begin my swim to the shore and hold onto my memories from the micro. My safe space with precision focus, where all that matters is the present moment.

Watch Yourself, Don’t Squish the Butterfly

An Open Letter

Dear White Persons,

This is an open letter to three people specifically. For almost 29 years of life, I lived in blissful ignorance of how I survived these things called microaggressions. It was only when I was placed into a situation when I was unable to use my only coping skill that I realized how this survival was possible. I was lucky enough to live as a beautiful brown woman for 29 years without ever having to feel the powerless insignificance of a slight based in complicated power dynamics rooted in centuries of oppression and hatred.

When faced with ignorance or misguided ideas or simply a situation where a foot is inserted in a mouth, I engage. I don’t know how I learned this. I don’t ever remember my parents sitting me down and saying anything about how to deal with racism. The first time I was called a nigger it was by a sweet black boy who I am now certain meant that word as a term of endearment. Baby Eichelle didn’t understand that, she only knew that word was the most hurtful thing she could be called. She was wrong.

So, I engage. When you say, “So, what are you?” as though I am another species or an alien or a vampire, I view it as an invitation. You didn’t know it but you just asked me to talk to you about white privilege, power dynamics, how you should treat people, how you will treat me, use of language, social injustice, systems of oppression, the history of racism with in America and anything else that may come up. You didn’t know it, but you are the lucky winner of a chat with an empathic, loving, thoughtful and convincing woman. You get to hear her thoughts about the world and you will leave this conversation knowing who she is. This process for me balances everything out. It allows me to move on.

At age 29, for the first time I was in a situation where I couldn’t engage. I couldn’t tell the man who refereed to Water Protectors as “bad guys” how offensive that statement was. I couldn’t explain why asking me if I had looked into my ancestry might not be a fun activity but one of anguish. I couldn’t explain why smudging is not a performance. I couldn’t explain why going out of your way to introduce me to the one black acquaintance you have is problematic in many ways. I just had to smile.

It was only today that I understand why I couldn’t just let it all go. It was today when you assumed me to be the help. When you talked about me in front of me, as though I’m not worthy of engaging. It was only in that moment that I started to understand why I was holding on to stuff from over a year ago.

The reason I engage and can then move on without a second thought, even from talking to a neo-Nazi leader is that when I engage you hear me. I get to be heard. If you continue to live your life full of willful ignorance and still think you’re right it’s fine. It doesn’t matter to me.

A microaggression seeks to impose a reality that is false to my existence. When I engage I at least get to scream into the void. I get to make known my reality.

Today when you talked around me and assumed that my presence had to be explained, you shifted the power dynamics. The only way I could be there is of course if I was the nanny. And of course, nannies shouldn’t be talked to directly. I don’t know what this was like for you. I don’t know why you felt a need to understand what was going on with this brown woman who came in with a parent.

I know that for me I felt powerless. With all of the privilege I hold. With all of the amazing people I have in my life who love me and lift me up, you could in one moment of inconsideration steal my power. It’s as though I’m a butterfly that you accidently stepped on. The pain you caused me couldn’t reach your ears.

I hear my dad’s voice now. He would say something along the lines of, “Why you givin’ that lady your power?” Then I hear the voice of my cousin. “What can you expect?”

To answer you both, this simple interaction represents a greater dynamic. Part of me agrees. Yes, I shouldn’t give this person, these people another thought. Me writing this right now is trying to do that. Another part of me simply hurts. The world exists so that it is okay for a white woman to do this to me. Yes, it was done to me. So, what do I do now?

Well to answer my cousin, I don’t know that I can accept the reality that many, many white people don’t know better. The reality that the three people I’m writing about have no idea the pain they have caused and probably never will. Two of them had the chance to listen but couldn’t.  If I accept that the current reality is all there is and move forward allowing this reality to color all future encounters I become someone I don’t want to be.  So, what do I do?

I write. I share this hurt. I hope that some will read it and think of others. I write to release the hurt and in some small way rebalance things.

When these three people did what they did, they shifted the power in their favor. They asserted a narrative that I refuse to believe: White is better and knows best. By sharing my side, I am saying, “no.” I am yelling, “NO!” I am saying, “hey, I’m a pretty butterfly flying here watch yourself.” I am saying I matter. That will have to do for now.

With love,

A beautiful brown woman

 

I Can See Godzilla

My whole life I could see the destruction caused by Godzilla. I felt pain when it maimed and killed people who looked like me. I saw the hatred it pulled out of people who didn’t look like me. I can see those faces yelling and crying. I can see the faces mourning lost loved ones in the wake of a powerful force.

It has only been within recent years that I started to see Godzilla itself. At first, I thought I was crazy. For many years a Godzilla sighting would make me feel this way. “No, no Eichelle. Don’t be crazy.” It’s the magic of this powerful being. There are too many people who benefit from not seeing it.

Now I see Godzilla. I see this giant green monster destroying the country I live in. Killing mothers and babies. Disappearing and murdering women. Taking lives on a regular basis with no recourse. People get upset for a while, but it’s too crazy to believe that a monster caused all the chaos. So, we just pretend that everything is fine. Anyone who dares admit that we as a people are sick with poison and being killed by a monster, we write them off. Just people angry for no reason. Or people trying to scapegoat their problems instead of taking responsibility for themselves.

At first it was hard to truly see Godzilla. I didn’t want it to be true. Now I see it and I must decide what to do about it. What am I going to do about the systems of injustice, white supremacy and patriarchy that affect me? Systems I am complicit in, systems I benefit from. What am I going to do?






 

The analogy of Godzilla as a representation for systems of injustice fueled by white supremacy and patriarchy came to me on a hike with my husband. I was angry. This is not an emotion I allow myself to feel often, but I am getting better at it. Godzilla is perfect, because for those of us who see these systems a monster is what we see. There are piles and piles of data that show racism is taking lives. It’s happening right now, but to say that is as radical as to say a large green monster has invaded downtown Tokyo.

It doesn’t change however that it’s the truth. A truth I have to come to terms with. I see the monster and now I must decide what I am going to do about it.

“Have we not learned?”

 

“There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.”  – Dalai Lama

“Kindness and faithfulness keep a king safe, through kindness his throne is made secure.” – King Solomon

Over the last few days, I have had some lovely conversations, but a few of them have been tainted by troubling generalized statements.

In a conversation with my husband, I recently stated that angry Atheists and Christian zealots deserved each other. That we should send them off on an island to duke it out. What I see in these two groups is a similar blindness. They are only focused on their perspective and lack empathy.

For Christians it is easy to make arguments for why this perspective is at the very least not in line with Biblical teachings. While on Earth, Jesus chose to spend his time chastising the religious leaders of the day and hanging out with those deemed undesirable or unclean by the religious leaders. I often wonder what Jesus would say to current religious leaders. How would he chastise his current followers?

For Atheist I have never truly known how to engage them around their Christian bashing. If we have a relationship I know from experience I will usually get the great chestnut response “Oh, but not you.”

I wish we as a society could understand the damage we are doing when we use generalizations. Our lack of specific language makes room for offense. If I say “All rabbits are sex fiends.” my statement includes everyone. Any rabbit within my presence could be offended, and rightly so.

No one likes to be told who they are and this is what generalizations do. They seek to name in simplistic terms a key part of who large groups of people are. Hate speech and any kind of identity bashing are full of generalizations. These statements make no room for nuance or outliers or exceptions. They state only a rule that of course applies to everyone equally.

In that same conversation with my husband he said something that stuck out to me, “Have we not learned?” Generalizations are a hallmark of them vs. us thinking. Many have stated how this kind of thinking contributed greatly to the current state of American politics and the growing polarization of Americans.

“As citizens of this great nation, it is kindness, love, and compassion for each other that will bring us together – and keep us together.”  – Melania Trump

I don’t know that we can move forward as a society if we continue to classify each other using generalized statements. It is not only important that we stop thinking in them vs. us terms but also that we shift our language. No group is monolithic.

Generalizations can be useful, but not when stated alone. The only thing I have seen these statements create on their own is offense and distrust. We need more than these statements. This post is an example of this. If I had left it at “…angry Atheists and Christian zealots deserved each other…” I don’t know that I would be doing much more than pissing off two large groups of people. I had to keep going to expand on why I felt this way, to move past the emotion of frustration.

I think that is what has to be done. On the micro level, each human being on the planet must try to move past the particular emotion driving their generalized thoughts and speech. This is where the conversation starts. “Immigrants are taking our jobs.” “Christians hate gay people.” “Native Americans are drunks.” “Millennials are all lazy.” “Gay people were molested as children.” “Californians are so smug and self-righteous. They think they know everything.” “White people are ignorant.”

“It is only after one is in trouble that one realizes how little sympathy and kindness there are in the world.” –  Nellie Bly

Each of the statements are things I have heard people say in conversation. All of them are wrong.  The last one is something I said. I’m glad my husband was there to call me out and encourage me to push past the momentary feeling. He helped me to get to what was really going on.

After 2016, I heard many people talk about the need for Americans to come together. This might be one way of doing so. Or maybe like my husband stated we haven’t learned our lesson yet. I just worry about the cost we will pay to learn it.

“We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that.”  -Ellen DeGeneres

“First and foremost, we need to be the adults we want our children to be. We should watch our own gossiping and anger. We should model the kindness we want to see.” – Brene Brown

“The level of our success is limited only by our imagination and no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop

We Are All Complicit

Lately I have found myself becoming more and more unreasonable about the recycling in my home. I can feel the annoyance rising in my husband. I have banished plastic bags from our house. We just spent twenty dollars on a beeswax bread bag. I am pushing us to move toward getting a food co-op membership, in the hopes that the co-op will offer products with less packaging. I am also looking into doing composting to reduce our trash. I can see that he doesn’t get it fully.

On a recent trip to Target, I explained to him that where others might see shiny new fun things, I see something different. I see products made off the exploitative labor of people who live very far from me. I see systems that make things built to breakdown so that they must be replaced. I see single-use products that lead to pounds and pounds of waste in land-fills.

When I see our trash and recycle piles, all I see is my part in destructive, dangerous systems. More and more I see my part in systems of oppression and greed.

I am getting obsessed about my recycle and trash I think because these are systems I can potentially remove myself from. If I can get us down to 0% trash, I wouldn’t be contributing anymore.

My obsession is mostly driven by the systems I don’t see a way out of. I don’t know how to remove myself from the system of racial injustice and white supremacy. I don’t know how to remove myself from patriarchy. I don’t know how to remove myself from the systems, my privilege blinds me from seeing I am a beneficiary of. Within these systems it is hard to see a way out. More and more I see the ways I am complicit within them. I see the ways that I benefit from their existence.

It feels like every day I am getting paid in blood money. I don’t know what to do with it so I put it in the bank. It’s guilt filled money that feels more like debt than profit. A debt that keeps growing. It grows so high that I can’t see a way out. It has been accumulating since I was born.

Even if I worked every day to acknowledge my privilege and de-colonize my everything, it wouldn’t change that I still receive those privileges or that the poison of colonization runs deep. The only true way I see out is for radical community change. The system has to be dismantled in order for the payments in privilege to stop.

We are all complicit. The question is what are we going to do about it?

Seeing the Gears

A meandering review

            I have loved film and television since I was a small, round faced child. It’s where I learn and escape. It’s how I avoid the monsters I don’t want to face. In my most recent bout of avoidance, I started watching 13 Reasons Why. This is probably not the best thing to watch when you’re already feeling sad and weary. It is however a choice I’m glad I made.

For some time, I have felt my hope and optimism fading. I realize now it’s because I haven’t been feeding them. It is easy for me to allow the pain of others to feel like my pain. With our global community, it is easier now than ever to become immobilized by the pain we are all feeling. It is not necessarily that the pain is more or less than before, just that I can see it. I can see the mourning, the dying, the fighting, and the violence. Easily and without thinking I can consume all of that pain. Sadly, my heart and body can’t grow to swallow it all. I would do that if I could. I would swallow all the pain if it would make things better.

This is why watching 13 Reasons Why, was a good choice. For me it made things better. While I feel uneasy about the treatment of suicide as a mystery, I also understand that for many that is how it presents itself. A great mystery or unknown, maybe even a monster. If we don’t look at the monster, if we don’t talk about the monster, maybe it will leave us alone. The story of the show weaves an enticing, heartfelt mystery. It tells its story with care; and reveals itself to you in digestible chunks. It gives you allies for your arguments and still makes clear the points it is trying to make. Most importantly it unapologetically tells its truth.

Normally when I finish a show or film, I’m quick to rate it. I go to IMDB and dig into the production information. Who are the actors? Creator? Writer? Is it based on something? Depending on what I’ve watched, this process can be a few minutes or sometimes hours. As a creator myself, I want to know. If I enjoyed show or film, I want to know that the actors went on to keep creating. I want to know if there is more of their work I might see. I want to know the intentions of the creators. Are my assumptions about their work correct? After finishing 13 Reasons Why, I want to know none of this. While I do hope those who worked on this film go on to have long and happy careers; I don’t feel a need to check things out. I don’t want to give it a rating.

This is new for me. I am grateful, as I always am, to the creators of the show. Weather I like it or not is irrelevant. If someone created something that I was able to view, I try to be grateful for this gift. This current feeling, after finishing 13 Reasons Why, seems different though.

For some time, I have been chewing on a conundrum. I love creating and I love consuming the creations of others. By consuming the creations of others, I learn more about the act of creating. I also risk losing the magic. When someone takes nothing and constructs something to put in its place, this is no less than magic. Not all magicians are created equal. Some have better tricks. The best magicians however are ones who invite you to face the truth. They don’t try to trick you. They merely invite you to join them on a journey. There are of course things happening that you can’t see, but you don’t notice. You truly don’t care. The problem with learning more about the act of creating is that I start to see the things happening. It’s as though I get a pair of x-ray glasses. I can see the wires and the gears. I can see them turning. It ruins it. Or so I thought.

While watching 13 Reasons Why, I could see and feel what the creators were doing. Using a mystery to explore a fairly taboo topic. Enticing me to continue down the rabbit hole, but I didn’t care. It didn’t matter that I could see the gears, because they weren’t trying to trick me. They made it clear what I could expect. They managed me and pushed me. We were dancing.

The show solved my conundrum for me. They provided an answer, I had received, but didn’t believe. They also gave me hope. The world has darkness and pain. It can most certainly feel like a place without hope. Seeing the gears of this show. Thinking of the writers, directors, craft services people, grips, producers and every other hand required to see it through to its completion gave me hope. It reminded me that every day in direct rebellion to all the sadness people are creating and doing their best to share their truth. Is there any better gift than that?

This show is most certainly not for everyone. I don’t even know that I am making a recommendation here. I think what I’m saying is thank you. Thank you to all the hands that ensured I would be able to see this show. It gave a gift to me that I needed and for that I am grateful.