Friday, May 5, 2017

Be the Change

I really don't like starting an entry, then having to stop, coming back, and continuing, but damn, these days, I don't have a choice. Something more messed up is happening daily, so I have to keep adding. It's fine- because it gives me more ammunition to support my thoughts, but the breaks in concentration are killing me. I'm still having a very hard time writing here, trying to keep a balance between the superficial, fun stuff people want to read, and how I'm walking around, daily, feeling about humanity these days.

I don't feel superficial. I care that my hair doesn't resemble the powdered wig of George Washington, but that care is really at a minimum. It's more of an afterthought. I write about it though because this didn't start out as a political blog. I don't want it to be. It's just where I was taken by the events of the world now. When I started this blog, I was a relatively new mom and I was immersed in that new mom world. My struggle was in the balance between being a mom and being my own person outside of that. Now, I feel like I'm busier, but being a mom is more manageable for the moment. Eight years old, a boy, one child, isn't that challenging. At least not for me. It's the world around us that's challenging me- as a human, a writer, a suburbanite, a cultural (non-religious) Jew, a woman, a forty-something looking down the barrel of aging.

I'm the last person who should be trying to help anyone else manage their anger. I often feel like I'm one of the angriest people walking around. I'm going to try though. I've sort of found my own niche of contributing to the betterment of society without feeling just so overwhelmed with everything going on in the world, the country, in my county and town, and everywhere. I'm still angry about ignorance, actively trying to take people's rights away, the hypocrisy of Congress, hate crimes, and all the other atrocities but I've realized, we all have to make what's going on at least manageable on a day to day basis, or there is just no way to live.

I'm in all these "Action" Facebook groups, but I don't read the posts often. It's just too much and I can't get bogged down in fighting with people online. I'm just too easily incited. I can't just sit on my hands. Then, I find myself at two o'clock in the morning, my stomach burning, not sleeping, and cursing people out with my typing and my brain. Then I'm still yelling at people in the shower in the morning. It's a good thing no one is home when I'm in the shower. It's not productive. I'm not making Sebastian Douchebag from Bumblefuck (you know who you are) any more tolerant or enlightened. I'm just giving myself high blood pressure. Really, I've said it before, just fighting online and sharing articles is just Slacktivism. I had to make a decision to really walk the walk and not just talk the talk. I decided to talk to people OUTSIDE the computer and join some in-person groups.

A friend strongly suggested I'd be perfect for a local LGBTQ rights committee that she's on, and that's a subcommittee of a larger group who got together after the Women's March on January 21, 2017. The purpose of this sub-committee is to help with whatever we can do to further rights and equality in our town and county. There is a lot to be done. What's crazy is that I was about to type what we're working on, but I'm actually afraid. I'm afraid because I don't want those opposed to have an opening to try to block any progression. How scary is that? I'm not being paranoid either. Some Statler & Waldorf types found out there's a group pushing to fly the gay PRIDE rainbow flag on town property for the month of June (known as PRIDE month, when all the gay pride parades are all over the world).

These men knew about the PRIDE flag proposal by the EARLY morning after it was presented to the town council. They are already planning to make sure that every legality is followed in flag etiquette. Make no mistake - this has way less to do about other-flags-flying-with-the-American-flag legalities and more a way to delay us being able to fly our flag this June. They said something to the effect of, "It's just not necessary. We don't have issues with that here". One, I wasn't aware we needed issues to fly a flag that symbolizes equality for all. Two, how is it that we DON'T have issues when the town just had and lost a lawsuit over a well liked and respected police officer from our police force being fired for being gay? Lastly, we don't have "Blue Lives Matter" issues specifically in our town, yet, while a gaffe on the part of Bergen County legally, we still painted the line in solidarity and unity with our police force. Don't tell me then that there is no "need " for the PRIDE flag to be flown. Besides, who doesn't like rainbows?

I went sort of off-course there, but what I was saying before the flag thing, is that I was able to find a smaller group, with attainable goals, in which to make myself feel like I'm being useful. Like I'm able to make some kind of difference. As a spin off of the LGBTQ rights committee, I was asked by another friend in that group to come to meetings and/or offer support to a group that's a little larger and broader, with members of my town and our neighboring town. The focus is a sensitive and inclusive approach to combating bias of racial, sexual, religious, ethnicity, gender, etc. in our communities. Supporting victims, developing education, raising awareness, are all under their mission umbrella as well.

I went to the last monthly meeting and there was a large focus on getting some kind of broader, more standardized educational programs about and during Black History Month. Just like with Statler & Waldorf, people tend to feel like if there aren't that many of a certain minority in their eye line, the need for proactive education is not necessary. It's really sad. I saw the level of ignorance on this topic in our own town Facebook group just last week. The school district superintendent brought in Debby Irving, the social justice educator and author of Waking Up White, to do a teacher in-service workshop during the day and a program for all in the evening.

Imagine there being push back for this? Oh, there was! Right away, a vocal townie, known for his conservative viewpoints, asked over and over, like a toddler, how much this program was costing. Then he and another one or two needed to throw in that they feel the money could've been better spent on assemblies about drugs. Because it's drugs that are the only or most important issue facing today's local youth. There were only a handful of other residents who vocally agreed or agreed in silence by liking the first guy's comments. The whole exchange just proved just how big the bubble is that we're living in, here in affluent, white suburbia, just outside New York City. If it's bad here, I can only imagine what it's like in other parts of the country.

At this meeting, a disgusting Anti-Semitic act that happened recently in a local middle school was also discussed. What happened, what the best course of action would be for the parents of the victim, the best repercussions for the offenders, etc were talked about. The thing was, the act itself was shocking to some who've never experienced Anti-Semitics, but there were many of us there, while horrified at the act, weren't surprised in the least.

We all have stories like this- some more or less awful, but experienced some form of Anti-Semitism nonetheless. I was listening to Howard Stern the other day and he was talking about someone calling him or someone a Sheini. He never heard that. It's a derogatory term for a Jewish person. It was in that moment that I remembered guys I knew calling another guy I knew that word as a nickname, a term of endearment. I didn't know what it meant then, but I did later on. If I remember correctly, the kid didn't seem to have a problem with it. But where did it even come from? Someone's parents? And why did they think it was okay to call him that? Why did he accept it? Did he feel he had to? I'll never know the answer. I do know it was wrong, all the way around. The things I see on social media lead me to believe they'd still think it was okay. The fact is, no one was calling anyone else wop, guinea, mick, etc, at least not as their actual name. Sheini was okay as an actual name though. Like, it rolled so easily off the tongue, it was one step away from being his name on the back of a sporting jersey.

I'm glad I was at the meeting though or I wouldn't have even known this happened. I was sitting there though, thinking about how many people in our area who have no idea any of this is going on. Then I wondered if they'd even care because it seems like so many people are only caring what affects them directly.

I was there originally about the PRIDE flag being allowed to be flown for the month of June in two towns, and anything else LGBTQ related. Being there though, it felt good that there was a decent amount of people there- all people who are about action vs slacktion. I felt like I'm part of something bigger. I'm a part of groups on the right side of history. I'm teaching my son that I may not be home to hear about Ninjago and Spinjitzu but I'm out trying to leave him a better, more inclusive world than we're living in right now. I'm trying to channel all my anger and energies into positive so that when I have to look people in the face that I KNOW don't give a shit, or just don't think about anything more than what's going on in their own lives, I can do it without screaming obscenities and hurling insults.

The other night I had a craving for Rita's Water Ice. On the way there, I passed a street that I just happened to look down. About two houses in, one of the houses was flying their own rainbow PRIDE flag. When I got to Rita's, while I was on line waiting, I ordered my own flag. It came by Monday and I asked B to put it up for me when he got home.

Why does the flying the flag mean anything? What is it doing? Well, it shows that in MY house, we support equality. We support all kinds of people. It's not just about LGBTQ rights. It's about the lack of Black History Month education & out, loud and proud Anti-Semitism. It's about people feeling it's okay to openly say or even think that they liked our town, county and/or country, white and "the way it was", ie, Christian. It's about seeing it written or hearing that anyone that opposes Santa on Borough property is obnoxious and ruining Christmas. It's about those just repeating "All Lives Matter" when they don't really hear or understand what "Black Lives Matter" is about. It's male politicians saying rape is God's will (An Oklahoma politician did actually say this- there's video). It's fat cat politicians trying to pry health insurance out of people's hands while keeping the highest level of care for themselves. To me, the flag represents all marginalized people. Well, except the ones that only feel marginalized because they aren't feeling enough support for their hate and discrimination.

Flying the flag isn't changing law or policy. Flying the flag reminds me every day when I leave my house or come back home that there are people that need help fighting for what should be basic human rights. It reminds me that I can't just run on my treadmill and watch Real Housewives. I'm reminded that I'm part of a society with a lot of people that are at-risk. At risk of losing rights, health care, and/or their lives. I'm reminded that at any time, if we don't stand up for others, no one will be left to stand up for us.

The flag obviously means something because in the one town, at the town council meeting, as ten or more people got up to explain why it's important to them for it to be flown, they were all met with blank faces and silence. Then, a NO. Why? The usual bullshit answer- "What are we opening the door to? What if the KKK wants to fly a flag or be supported?" (paraphrasing) Biggest cop-out answer going. I'm pretty sure you can reject the KKK's request IF that was to happen. WHO would be asking for that? We haven't gotten a yes in our town either (although the mayor is for it, for the record). Still waiting.

At some point, you have to decide to BE action. B and I are watching that 13 Reasons Why series on Netflix now, and the most annoying thing about Clay, one of the main characters, is that he just had no balls. He just stood by while all this bullying, fighting, and crappy behavior was going on around him. No, no. NO. That's not what you do. You don't just leave things as is, and accept it. You don't just think about what you think affects you and your family. You show you're not going to take it and you get out and actually do something.

Update: I actually wrote this yesterday, now as the voting was going on for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. I was trying to distract myself because the greed, corruption, lack of compassion and understanding of the people- It's literally too much to bear on a daily basis for me. It didn't change the real reason I was writing though- I was writing, in hopes, that maybe someone, anyone, will read this, and decide to take some kind of action to better society.

I'm disgusted by what went down. I'm disgusted that there are people I know who sit atop their high horse, thinking people should just "be" healthy. Should pull themselves up by their bootstraps and "do better". THen they wouldn't need free healthcare. The people I know who think and say these things are people who claim to have grown up in the school of hard knocks but really grew up in a sleepy WHITE suburban town with the option to play sports, take extra curriculars, and have opportunities they obviously took for granted.

Did we have single parents in town? Sure. Did some of these people's parents receive some kind of government assistance? I believe so. Without which they probably wouldn't have been able to change things for themselves later on. I don't want to hear their sob stories about having to get reduced price or free lunch as their reasoning why everyone else should be able to change their own situations. Living where I grew up was still privilege- where it had to be 95% white, where it's assumed you're going to graduate high school, where there wasn't gang activity, no one was dodging bullets, and where kids didn't routinely need to make the choice of staying in school or quitting to support their family.

You don't have to effect change in a some huge gesture. It doesn't have to be in a big way. You don't have to march. You don't have to go to rallies. You don't even have to fly a rainbow flag on your house, as lovely as that would be. Sit home and make calls or texts to your assemblymen, congressmen, and senators. Use a pre-written script you find in an action group. Just because you didn't come up with it yourself doesn't mean it's any less of an action to call. Don't like the phone? Email. Write snail mail. There is always something you can do.

I'm not asking anymore. I'm begging you. Be the change you want to see in the world.

This is a video I think everyone should see- we NEED positive change. 

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