Work For the World We Want

Nadia da Rosa, 15, from Providence, R.I., attends the Women's March on Washington on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 in Washington, on the first full day of Donald Trump's presidency. Thousands are massing on the National Mall for the Women's March, and they're gathering, too, in spots around the world. (AP Photo/Sait Serkan Gurbuz) NYTCREDIT: Sait Serkan Gurbuz/Associated Press

Nadia da Rosa, 15, from Providence, R.I., attends the Women’s March on Washington 
NY Times: Sait Serkan Gurbuz/Associated Press

Late on Saturday afternoon David and I stood at the top of a grandstand on Pennsylvania Avenue, near the intersection with 14th Street, in Washington, D.C., watching the flood of people who’d taken over the city. As far as we could see in every direction the streets were full of protesters marching and chanting, carrying signs with slogans as smart as “Intersectional Feminism is the Future,” as sad as “Vietnam Vet Against the New Agent Orange,” as inclusive as “No Hate, No Fear, Everyone Is Welcome Here” and as clever as “Public Cervix Announcement: Fuck You.”

It was exhilarating to be among a million people peacefully protesting the negative and backward facing views of Trump and his supporters, people defiantly lifting their voices and placards to declare love trumps hate and women’s rights are human rights.

Were there really a million people there? No one knows because the crowd was so huge it flowed out of Independence Avenue, the planned rally and march site, over the mall and into all the surrounding streets. Published estimates say there were more than 500,000 people at the march. Metro ridership was the second highest in history on Saturday; 1,001,613 people, topped only by the 1.1 million for Obama’s first inauguration and far surpassing the 570,557 for Trump’s. The Women’s March on Washington website’s current estimate is that 4,834,000 people participated in 673 sister marches around the world, on every continent including Antarctica, and that there were a million marchers in D.C. No one disputes that Saturday’s demonstrations were the largest political protest in U.S. history.

But am I getting distracted by numbers, just like Trump?

Perhaps, so I’ll get back to the point (something Trump doesn’t seem to be able to hang on to) because we need to take action to limit the damage of a president who cares more about crowd size than governing. The exhilaration is receding, especially after a weekend when the new administration showed us that lying is the new normal and any shred of hope we had for a less than disastrous Trump administration was naive. It’s time to turn resistance into organization.

What’s to be done? As Bernie Sanders tweeted, “President Trump, you made a big mistake. By trying to divide us up by race, religion, gender and nationality you actually brought us closer.”

Now that we’re closer and know how many stand with us, what do we do? The Women’s March has laid out 10 actions for 100 days. “It doesn’t end here – now is not the time to hang up our marching shoes – it’s time to get our friends, family and community together and make history. That’s why we’re launching a new campaign: 10 Actions for the first 100 Days. Every 10 days we will take action on an issue we all care about, starting today.” You can start by going to the website and get active.

At the beginning of January the NY Times published an Op-Ed by former congressional staffers introducing Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Administration. The guide borrows organizing principles from the Tea Party movement — work locally to influence members of Congress and be sure your representatives know what you want and that you’re watching to be sure they’re paying attention. “To this end, the following chapters offer a step-by-step guide for individuals, groups, and organizations looking to replicate the Tea Party’s success in getting Congress to listen to a small, vocal, dedicated group of constituents.” Check it out.

Did you know you can Petition the White House on the Issues that Matter to You? Start a petition and if it gets 100,000 signatures in 30 days you’ll get an official response from the White House. A petition calling for Trump to release his tax returns has gotten over 250,000 signatures since Friday. The official White House response from Kellyanne Conway? Not going to happen. “We litigated this all through the election. People didn’t care, they voted for him.” Well, actually more people voted for Hillary than him, remember?

If you don’t agree with Kellyanne, go to the website and sign the petition. Or the one that asks the White House to add LGBT rights, climate change and civil rights back to the list of issues on the White House website. Those were deleted within hours of Trump taking the oath of office.

Or check out Swing Left, which declares, “It starts with the House. Don’t despair. Mobilize.” The website provides a map of congressional districts that were decided by a margin of less than 15% and where organized action can help get Democrats elected in 2018. Both of NH’s districts are on the map — Annie Kuster only won by 15,546 votes and Carol Shea-Porter by 4,904. Swing Left’s strategy makes a lot of sense — “unify progressives who promote tolerance, equality, unity and fairness. . . to out-organize Republicans” in House races that get less attention and money than Senate races, providing more opportunity for impact.

So let’s get to work. If you have more ideas and resources, please share. If you need some inspiration, check out photos of the women’s march from around the world, including every continent. (Preview below.)

See you out there, changing our future, making sure we have one.

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Wrong Brain: This Is What TRANS Feels Like

Painting Fragment --Michelle Rose Pizzo

Painting Fragment –Michelle Rose Pizzo

When David and I reached the fourth floor voices rose from down the hall to the left. We turned and saw a few people gathered by an open door. Once we stepped through the door into Wrong Brain Headquarters the buzz of dozens of excited people shot us full of energy. The room was packed with people of all sizes and ages, with long hair and short, facial hair and tattoos and bright clothes and black leggings, jeans and skirts and dresses and blazers, people standing and sitting and talking in groups, exclaiming at the art and greeting friends.

David went off to look at the exhibition —  This Is What TRANS Feels Like, hosted by Wrong Brain, a nonprofit arts organization in Dover that “aims to provide an outlet and venue for unconventional, under-represented and emerging art of all kinds.”

I got caught by a rack of brightly colored zines — hot pink, orange and purple covers with black text and fantastical drawings. A sign announced the zines were free and I began stacking one of each in my hands. What great colors and images for collages, what a resource for burrowing in to the world of Wrong Brain.

A old friend greeted me and I noticed her tag (David and I had been swept into the room right past the welcome table) had her name, as well as her preferred pronouns — she, her. I looked around and saw everyone’s name tag included their choice of pronouns, both gender binary and neutral. I felt like I’d found a refuge.

I read a lot of news — daily doses of the NYTimes, the Concord Monitor, the Washington Post, and then clicks off Twitter into The Guardian, Slate, the Wall Street Journal, BBC, Politico, The Hill. Despair can be hard to push back because it feels like tolerance, respect and kindness are all being pushed back. Suddenly black and brown people more than ever are fair game for overt hatred and discrimination, Muslims are terrorists, gay people are deviants and transgender people are just plain weird.

Well not in Dover, NH last Friday night. The exhibition was put together to give artists a place to express “what it means to be transgender and the unique experiences transgender Granite Staters face.” What a relief, to still be able to walk into a room of people ready to celebrate diversity, to look at art that comes out of struggle and pain, to witness courage in expression.

In “The Gender Series,” a stunning display of nine photographs, Jeff Kramer poses in self-portraits that move from feminine to neutral to masculine. Kramer, a trans man, told Kelly Sennott at The Hippo in an excellent article reviewing the show when it was in Manchester last summer, that “I was going through my transition, and I was having a very hard time. . . .  Photography saved my life. By doing this series, I was getting my feelings from the inside to the outside.”

The rest of the wall with Kramer’s series was hung with pieces from trans artists as well as allies. But honestly, I didn’t get to see the rest of the art because David and I were meeting friends for dinner and I’d spent most of the time talking to Beth Wittenberg, a resident artist. She had made many of the zines I picked up and exuded good cheer and enthusiasm and had a lot to say about making art and creating space to welcome others into the process. “Come visit and we’ll make a zine,” she said when I told her I write and make collages.

It was David who led me to the photos. On the adjacent wall was a large, grafitti-like painting by Michelle Rose Pizzo with dark, stylized figures dancing through colors as bright and rich as the zines that had first pulled me when I walked in.

David and I had to leave; there was still so much to see. I want to go back. If you need some reinforcement of your own courage and resistance, go see this show. This is art that says I’m here, art matters, I matter — this is what TRANS feels like.

The show will be up until February 14, at Wrong Brain, Washington Street Mills, 1 Washington Street, Suite #459, Dover, open Monday — Saturday 11 – 5 and Tuesday until 8 p.m. The exhibit, coordinated by Freedom New Hampshire (FNH) in partnership with the ACLU-NH, and Rights and Democracy NH (RAD-NH), is free.

I’ve read all the zines. Amazing, intriguing, wholly inventive. The archived zines on the Wrong Brain website are well worth a visit also.

 

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All I Have To Say Today

 

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My Own Sin

I drop the apple.
I turn from the voice.
I hold my tongue and let
my breasts ascend.

I spit back at the snake.
I knot my hair.
I name nothing, press
my lips to the tree.

I plant cherry seeds.
I throw away the rib.
I walk through the gate
my hands empty and open.

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Snow Party

 

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Since the election I haven’t done much of my usual personal writing, because what does some happy or sad moment from my own life count in the fight to make sure our country stays as just, diverse, safe and equitable as possible?

But there is life beyond resistance to whatever roll-backs of social justice the Trump administration will bring and I need to live that life sometimes. Or perhaps the life beyond resistance is resistance, because living from a place of struggle to make the world a better place requires joy as much as persistence.

Sam was home last week and over one of our predictably competitive Scrabble games we had this exact conversation — the need to balance how life goes on in the face of struggle. How much would my life actually change with Trump as President? Couldn’t I keep enjoying what’s good even if we have a dick for a President?

Melia and Sam’s friend Mike were here too and this lead to a long discussion about what would change, what mattered, what we were afraid of, what was upsetting us the most. Was it a gendered response that Melia and I are more worried about reproductive rights than Sam or Mike? Sam and Mike are most upset by how little people are listening to each other and how ready they are to judge others based on their votes. They both live in states with far more Trump supporters than Melia or I do.

So how is this about joy?

The Scrabble game (I got crushed) and discussion were on Thursday afternoon and that night we got over a foot of snow. A group of Sam’s friends planned to visit and the thickening snow didn’t stop them. Trucks still arrived in the driveway with young men and boxes of beer, one with his Christmas tree ready to burn.

Burn it we did, drinking beer while snow swirled and slid off the solar panels on the barn roof in clumps that thumped and drenched us. We watched flames catch the limbs of the tree and curl up into the needles, hot pine burning yellow then glowing red as the fire moved on to the next branches.

It was an elemental celebration, because this is how it all started, getting through the dark part of the year by gathering with family and friends around light. Most holiday parties are lit by electricity and candles, cheery and warm. We love the sparkle.

But when the light is outside in a snow storm, the knot of of energy created with a circle of faces to the fire and backs to the darkness is tight and strong. Joy. To carry into the new year.

Here I go.

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Posted in Family, Friends, Justice, Light, Seasons | 2 Comments

From Stories to Resistance

 

A Six-Day Walk Through the Alps, Inspired by Simone de Beauvoir by Emily Witt

A Six-Day Walk Through the Alps, Inspired by Simone de Beauvoir
by Emily Witt

My response to the incoming Trump administration fluctuates between rage and terror. Staying in the range of rage feels more useful. Fear can lead to paralysis and actions that are protective and defensive, rather than challenging and offensive. I want to be on offense.

In that stance, I’m calling back my original adult rage as a woman, when I first began to understand how patriarchy and male domination shaped not only my life but the course of human history. Men’s subjection and ownership of women has done nothing but harm, though the men in charge would argue that this statement is meaningless because men controlling women is how the world should be organized.

To which I would say, “Not true. And fuck you!” Yesterday the Trump transition team sent a memo to the State Department, asking for information “outlining existing programs and activities to promote gender equality, such as ending gender-based violence, promoting women’s participation in economic and political spheres, entrepreneurship, etc.” Should we be worried? Hell, yes. State Department employees are and so am I. 

I’m also pissed and returning to my feminist roots to shape my fury and dig in against the coming assaults by the Trump administration on reproductive rights, gender equity, body autonomy, public benefits and a living wage, because keeping people poor and dependent hurts no one more than women and their children.

In that spirit, my most recent collage is from a the NY Time Style Magazine article on Simone de Beauvoir, an early feminist. The Second Sex was one of the first feminist books I read. Beauvoir’s analysis of women’s oppression and gender as a social construct influenced my thinking and put me on the path to my career working to end violence against women.

Battered women’s and rape crisis programs began by women telling each other their stories of violation and abuse. Out of these stories a movement of resistance was born, because listening to each other helped women understand they were not alone, they were not to blame for violence perpetrated against them, and they could organize to support each other in getting out from under the control of abusers.

Now the stories emerging post-election are essential to the resistance against the intolerance, greed and autocracy we see coming as Trump and his cronies take over the most powerful positions in our country. Listening to stories of frustrations and wrongs and triumphs will remind us we’re not alone, we’re not to blame for the violations of our human rights and that we can organize to support each other and push back at attempts to control us.

Here are three stories I’ve heard recently.

The day after the election, a second grade boy in North Carolina was inconsolable and couldn’t stop crying. He was afraid when he went home his parents would be gone, kicked out of the country.

A woman in West Virginia left her house early on election day to be sure she’d have time to vote before having to be at work at 9:00 a.m. When she got to the polls she was told her home was no longer in the district for that polling place and the location where she could vote was 40 minutes away. Some of her neighbors were also there and unable to vote. When they asked why they hadn’t been notified of the change, they were told a notice had been published in the paper — as they found out, a tiny notice on an inside page. The woman never got to vote because she couldn’t afford to be late for work.

A young man whose family had voted for Obama talked to his father after the election and it came out that the father had voted for Trump. When the son asked how he could have done that, the father wavered and said he’d thought he’d vote for Clinton but he didn’t agree with all of Clinton’s policies. Finally, the father admitted that when he got in the voting booth, “I just couldn’t bring myself to vote for a woman for President.”

Feminist anger as fuel. I’m ready to blast off.

 

 

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Kindness On Top

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President Obama is a kind man. You can see it in his eyes. You can see that he loves other people, that he can love women and children without threat, to himself or them. He’s not afraid of other people’s personal power. He’s not afraid of powerful women. He’s not afraid of much I don’t think.

I’ve been frustrated by some of Obama’s choices (tackling health care before climate change, not fighting dirty enough to counter the obstructionist Republican Congress) but I also have deep admiration for his intelligence, resolve, patience and kindness.

There’s no kindness evident in the administration Trump is assembling. One nasty person after another has been nominated for the Cabinet — misogynists, homophobes, xenophobes, billionaires with no compassion. Already people around me are longing for some sign that those who’ll be making decisions for all of us, our next leaders, care about something besides themselves, their rich friends, and tearing down protections for people “other” than them — women, LBTQI people, brown people, black people, Muslims, Jews, Palestinians, refugees.

Is this what we get because a black man who is kind and trustworthy has been President?

My series of collages to make sense of what’s happening in national politics continues. Last night I again used Obama’s face and words, from an interview in Rolling Stone. His eyes — kind eyes, compassionate eyes, brave eyes —  kept looking out from the weave of words.

There’s a message in those eyes, a message President Obama spoke to all of us. “There’s no benefit that’s derived from pulling into a fetal position. We go out there, and we work. And we slog through challenges, and over time things get better.”

So let’s get to work and make sure we get kindness on top again.

 

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Fewer Words, More Seeing

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How do you see the world? Through a liberal or conservative lens, fundamentalist or progressive, Democrat or Republican? Which bubble are you in? What frame do you use to organize your thoughts about what’s happening around you, which for me right now is focused much more than usual on national politics.

I can’t turn away from national news and neither can most of the people around me. For much of my adulthood my knowledge of political machinations has hovered at the periphery of my life. I’ve known what’s going on — the Republican shutdown of the government in 2013, opposition to Obama’s ACA, the Supreme Court’s recent rulings in favor of same sex marriage and affirmative action and against abortion restrictions in Texas. But political news hasn’t been at the center of my attention for much of the day every day.

Now it is — Trump’s election, reactions to his lies and hyperbolic assessments of his victory, his increasingly scary and bizarre cabinet picks, breaking news about Russian hacking and pressure on Electors not to elect Trump — are at the dead center of my attention. I check the news as soon as I get up and before I go to sleep and during every break I take during the day — Twitter, NYTimes, Washington Post, clicks through to CNN and Slate and Newsweek, Huffington Post and Politico. I read at least a dozen opinion pieces a day. While I run or drive or walk I listen to the 538 and NPR Politics and Show About Race podcasts. There’s a constant feed of news into my brain, almost none of which is good, and the opinions about what has happened, what might happen, why what happened happened, and what each of us should do about it all is overwhelming.

After a dose of online reading I usually come away feeling like everyone is telling each other how to see the world. But everyone is doing way more talking than seeing. There’s an overload of words meant to convince each other who to believe, who to understand better, which bubble to try to penetrate, your own or someone else’s.

I’ve turned to words myself. Besides the political reading I’ve done in the last six months, probably more than I’d done in the previous ten years, I’ve been writing and talking about this election and its outcome for months now. It’s time for something beyond words.

The most comfort I’ve found in responding to the election of Trump and my fears about living in an increasingly authoritarian, white, male, Christian controlled world has been literally weaving the news, revealing the fractures in truth we’re living through.

I started with the Sunday, December 4 NY Times, ripping strips of the paper, printed with news of Trump and responses to his decisions and actions and Tweets, then weaving the strips into a collage. I’ve since done five more collages with newspapers and magazines and the last one is my favorite — Barry Blitt’s drawing of President Obama on the cover of The New Yorker with text from David Remnick’s article.

Finally, a way of expressing how I see the world right now that doesn’t need words. Cutting and ripping and weaving and gluing shreds of news is calming.

If I can’t stitch the truth together out of what I read and hear, I can at least make something that shows the truth I see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Art, Justice, Writing | 4 Comments