Sunday, March 12, 2017

When We Rise

Two weeks ago, B and I watched the miniseries, "When We Rise". It was an eight part miniseries, shown in two hour blocks over four days. It's the timeline, from the beginning of the gay rights movement. It was extremely powerful and emotional. It wasn't just about gay or lesbian or transgender; it was basically the story of how any minority gets equal rights. The miniseries was actually an adaption of the memoir of the LGBTQ activist that started the AIDS quilt. He just had his book come out and this was the movie depicting his experience over the years since the early seventies.

I'm not even writing this because of the LGBTQ topic. I'm writing because watching this miniseries, it made me think about oppression, passion and activism. Switch LGBTQ with black or interracial. We had a time with black slavery. Segregation. There was a time interracial relationships were illegal. Now, if you said we should go back to slavery, segregation, and having interracial relationships/marriage be illegal, people would be up in arms, and calling you a racist. They wouldn't be wrong. It would also sound crazy to think we could go back to that. Because it's morally wrong and reprehensible. So how are other forms of discrimination allowed or okay?

Then I thought about passion and activism. What it means to really make a difference in the world. I watched as these gay, lesbian, and transgender people were threatened, shunned, beaten, raped, and arrested, just standing up for the same rights everyone else has. They didn't care about being liked or who they might offend. They just knew that they had to fight for what they believe in at any cost. They fought and fought and some, or many, died for their fight.

They believed in the cornerstone of those rights being just having the ability to live, free, equal and safe from harm. Those are just basic human rights, not just words on parchment. Like women should have. Like, Mexicans, Jews, Syrians, Africans, and everyone else should have. Unfortunately, all minorities don't have those rights.

I suppose you can say on the other side of that is also people standing up for what THEY believe in. However, I see the difference as this- one side fighting for all people to equal and the other side fighting to oppress and marginalize groups of people, using the defense of religion.

We don't have a national religion. The idea of a "free" country is not having religious oppression. I believe that equality means you have the freedom to practice your religion as you see fit, on yourself, but it doesn't give you the permission to push it on others. If your religion doesn't permit you to believe in gay marriage, abortion, or whatever- then you don't partake in them. I just fail to understand where anyone feels that their religion is superior or more right than any other and supercedes other people's ability to decide what they believe in. You can say all day long that my thoughts or beliefs are wrong based off your religion, but that doesn't make you correct.

B gave his very respectful, differing opinion, to an article written by a conservative writer, and shared on social media, by someone he used to know. In response, he got a written verbal assault about women rallying and marching by someone claiming to be uber-religious and her reasoning was all about religion. It was totally judgemental, really off-base and off-topic. It's amazing that people can't see their hypocrisy at all.

Just because you practice a religion also doesn't automatically make you a good person. If you use your religion for discrimination or to hurt other people, you're bastardizing what most religion was meant to do. Sitting in a house of worship daily, weekly or monthly doesn't absolve you from the responsibilities of being part of a society. A society that needs to take care of and stand up for those who can't do for themselves. Be that children, seniors, vets, poor, mentally challenged, etc. Otherwise, we might as well act out Lord of the Flies. "Kill the pig...slit her throat!..."

It's also living a bubble life that's a huge part of the problem of people not seeing past their own experiences to what they could and should be doing for others. Buying a cup of coffee for the stranger behind you in line for Starbucks is nice, but it's certainly not changing the world. If someone is on line at Starbucks, chances are that they can afford their four dollar cup o'Joe. While it will make that person happy, it's not the act of helping that is for the betterment of society. It's giving one person a free cup of expensive coffee. Do it- it's nice. Just don't pat yourself on the back for it and then go back inside the comfy bubble, thinking your work is done.

International Womens Day was last week. A rally took place in my town to celebrate women and to bring awareness to the continuing lack of equality that women still deal with. I heard and read all kinds of things against the rally, from other women. Things were thrown out there like- "I'm not oppressed- I'm fine". Or- "Women got paid less than men under Obama, why do they have to speak out now?" And - "they're not rallying for me...."

It's amazing to me how easy to it is to live in that bubble. Again, reminding me of that poem, "First they came for X. I'm not X so I did nothing..." No, as women, we don't have equal pay to men, as a gender. YES, there are instances where you'll find the woman as the breadwinner. Those are certain situations, NOT the gender as a whole. You may have enough that you don't even have to work, so you feel that the women rallying have nothing in common with you. What about your daughters? Will you be cool with them only making seventy-two cents (or whatever it is, less than men, at any given time) on the dollar that her male counterparts make? You're okay with male counterparts thinking it's acceptable to grab her by the pussy? Make her reproductive choices for her?

Women celebrating women, working together for womens equality makes us stronger. Taking yourself out of the fight because you don't feel like you need it or that you're equal already just weakens us all. If you don't stand with your own people, who is going to stand for you?

Everything is not just about you. If you have children, you can't just worry about where they're going to have their birthday party or what sports they're going to play. Or even where they're going to go to college. Those are important in the minutiae of daily life, but they're certainly not the bigger picture. You want to make sure you leave the world at least little better than you lived through.

We only get paid what we do get paid because SOMEONE else rallied for THAT. I don't know what's so hard to understand about that. We only get to vote because someone fought for it. Hell, we don't have to wear corsets because someone fought for that too. You don't have to rally or understand the personal reasons other women choose to use their voice. Those other people are doing the work that you're able to reap. That's okay. Not everyone's a doer. I'm not active in the parent association of school. I don't volunteer in the school. Other people do. I reap the benefits of their involvement. It's part of being a society.

Just have some respect for what other people are doing to make society better for you, your kids, and your grandkids. And the kids long after that. Don't call those doing the work whiny or privileged. The reality is- the privileged ones are the ones not believing anyone has a reason to do it, or thinks it is not benefiting them. That's also called taking things for granted. I heard or read the saying- "Any time you're fighting against human rights, you're on the wrong side of history". I believe that.

Going back to When We Rise, those characters, some real, some were depictions of the kinds of people affected, they inspired me. I didn't care much what people thought before this, but now I really don't care. You're offended that I'm part of groups actually doing things to help large groups of people who are discriminated against? You think it's stupid, goof on me, or don't understand why I wear a "vagina on my head" in protest of misogyny? Oh well.

I'm not going to let my armpit hair grow out (like Roma Guy, When We Rise) or get arrested, but I'm not going to stop plowing through the hate, fear, and discrimination to help achieve equal rights for all. In the end, that's going to be the winning side, so you might as well get used to it now! Has there been some collateral damage from using my voice, that I wish didn't have to happen? Sure. I think there always is when you are part of a bigger movement you believe in. I haven't said anything I didn't believe, and I don't have regrets. I just wish this fight wasn't so bloodied. The collateral damage on my periphery was purely accidental and not intentional. I just have to keep plugging along, staying focused, and doing my thing.

I urge everyone to watch When We Rise. It's beautifully done and worth the watch.

Young Roma in When We Rise

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