Saturday, April 19, 2014

Bleeding Eyeballs and Bleeding Hearts

Itz hard beeing a gurl. Anytime i haz ideez 2 share i haz to werk so hard. I meen OMG 1D is so HAWT and i just no if i say just the rite thing 1 of them will call me. And then there is my nailz. OMG they are awesom. And I keep sharing pics of them on instagram but no1 ever coments on them. They all coment on the posts about bullyz. Wat is the big deel about dat. I meen if u look like a skank or ur fat peeple r gonna say stuff about u. Git over it. Oh wait lemme take a selfie. Ok im back. My mom says i should pay more atenshun to my skool but my skool is fine cuz im popular. Ok i gotta go now cuz Brad just comented on my selfie.

Yeah. I couldn't go any further with that because I was losing too many brain cells. If you need to take a break before you read further, I don't blame you.

Seriously, this is what some people expect out of our youth, especially young girls. Some people think no teenage girl could possibly use coherent sentences to form paragraphs and couldn't possibly read information and form an opinion. Others expect girls to not speak up about any important topics. If we do, we're being "disrespectful" because "nice girls" don't challenge the opinions of adults, and if we do, we need an "attitude adjustment." I've even gotten a message that said, "Stay home and play with your dolls." These people may not realize what they're doing, but they are directly attacking the future of our country.

Every young citizen deserves to be told he or she is capable, valuable, and should be encouraged to pay attention, participate, and use his or her gifts and talents to make a difference. Every young person deserves to be able to define himself or herself. When we relegate young people to a certain set of choices based on what we think they "should" be doing, we're limiting the potential for a beautiful future. I take selfies. I like shopping. I enjoy doing my nails. I like boys. I don't like One Direction but there are bands I do like, such as Panic! At the Disco.

I also happen to enjoy writing. It's something I've always liked to do. The reason it hurt my brain to type the paragraph (can we even call it that?) above is that I care about words and how ideas are expressed. If people were to watch me do math, no one would ever say I was amazing. There are a lot of fantastic teen writers out there. Some of them you might see on blogs or other media, but some of them write things not many people will ever see. Just because a lot of people read my blog and I've had articles shared around the interwebs, that doesn't make me a better writer than any of them. There are also a lot of young people expressing themselves in words who might not have a good grasp of grammar or style yet. It's a damned if you do, damned if you don't kind of situation. If you're young and share something fairly well-written, people will accuse you of not writing it yourself. If you share something that has a lot of mistakes, people will pick you apart for your mistakes. Is it any wonder why many young writers are like I was for so many years? I didn't share anything because I was afraid.

Well, now I'm not afraid. The negative comments about me really don't bother me much personally. They bother me because of what they are saying about young people in general. If the only thing I accomplish in everything I'm doing is to get more young people to not be afraid to speak out, I will consider that a success. I don't care if they're Democrat, Republican, anti-choice, pro-choice, atheist, Christian, whatever. We need our young people paying attention and getting involved, and I will stand up for their opportunity to do that. We can disagree about ideas, but one thing we should all agree on is that we should be encouraging the next generation of leaders to share their ideas.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Oh Canada

Yesterday, I learned about something happening in Canada that's very troubling to me and should be very troubling to young people, parents, and teachers here in America.

There is a new law being proposed known as C-23. It is a massive election reform law. Among the things it does is require ID instead of allowing Canadians to use their Voter Information Card as they've been used to, raises donation and campaign spending limits, and eliminates programs that educate young citizens about voting in their schools.

One such program is called Student Vote. Serving over 3,000,000 students across Canada, this is a program that provides learning materials to coincide with elementary, middle, and high schools having their own version of elections. Not only do the students learn about the candidates, voting process, and political parties, they can actually participate as poll workers and officials.

Canada has a similar problem as the United States in low turnout among it's young people. This program has encouraged more young people to vote. Not only that, 60% of parents reported an increased interest and knowledge of politics themselves when their children were involved in the program.

Check it out for yourself. There are many more good things about this program:
http://www.studentvote.ca/home.php

So now, let's ask the question. Is it a coincidence that voter suppression laws are becoming the new trend for fall not just here in the United States but now in other countries? I don't think so.

It's time for people to wake up. They are attacking our democratic process to the point where a recent study from Princeton University has classified the United States as an Oligarchy. In case, like me, you were only vaguely familiar with this term, it means we have a government that is run by a few people or by a powerful class or group. They aren't just stopping at eating away at our rights here in America. The people who want to continue to hold power by taking it away from others appear to be going global.

It's more important now than ever that we inform people of what's going on. So many people are unaware and many are not prepared to vote because they are confused about the process or feel they don't have enough information about the candidates. We take for granted that people will automatically stand up and fight to preserve our rights, but we can't do that. The fact is a lot of people don't even know these things are happening. Even if they do know what's happening, they may not know the candidates feelings about it.

As far back as I can remember, I've participated in Scholastic's student election. I've always colored in the map as the election results came in. I've always watched the news and read. These were habits I started very early, not because anyone forced me, but because I saw it as part of what people just DID and I always had ways I could be a part of it. Elected representatives in Canada are looking to take these kinds of opportunities away from their young people. North Carolina has already taken opportunities away from our young people.

Stand up. Ask your elected representatives and candidates how they feel about promoting democracy among our young citizens. If they are for taking opportunities away, like they are trying to do to over 3,000,000 kids in Canada and as they have done with the removal of pre-registration here in NC, we have to make them answer for this. I wouldn't have known about what was going on in Canada if someone had not shared that information. What information do you have to share today?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?

My local Republican Party decided to make the above post on their Facebook page. They think President Obama, our Commander in Chief, hates this country.

Even more disturbing than their inability to disagree with the President without resorting to the ridiculous is the link they posted to an opinion piece entitled "Tranny Time."

Though the piece itself is disturbing, especially since someone who studies these topics concluded perpetrators of sexual assault in the military are unlikely to be gay, it's not as disturbing as the fact an official page for a political party chose to post this as an example of what their party stands for. They posted this piece which refers to transgender Americans putting their lives on the line to defend our country as "nutburgers."

I wonder how much it costs to be a proud American after the 90 day trial period? I've always thought that being a proud American meant respecting our soldiers and veterans and recognizing that our President loves this country, even if I disagree with him. I guess I'm just a "pansy-bummed progressive" according to the article.

This is not a good example of leadership, especially to my area's young people who will be the future party leaders someday. This is teaching young people to be bullies to the LBGT community. This is sending a message to members of the LBGT community in my area and their friends and family members that they are not welcome to be a member of the Republican Party. This is wrong.

I believe our country is stronger when people with different ideas can participate and have a place where they feel welcome and safe. If you're a Republican or just want to learn more about ideas from a Conservative point of view but don't want to deal with bigotry, check out this website:
Log Cabin Republicans

You can find information and ways to get involved. You can even join a local chapter to connect with like-minded people.

I'm disappointed that the Facebook page for my local Republican Party doesn't seem to represent most of my Republican neighbors. I'm disappointed that whoever runs that page is portraying my area in this way when it doesn't represent the way most people in my community respect one another, even if they disagree on some things politically. It doesn't represent the majority of people in my area who can discuss politics without resorting to this kind of behavior.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

Freedom! The Constitution! Liberty! Family Values! Prosperity!

All these are very nice words that politicians like to throw around. People hear them and they feel all warm and happy inside.

But be careful. Some of these people seeking office like to talk about freedom and liberty but actually are fighting against equality for women. They seem to worship the Constitution but they don't want to honor parts of it they don't like. They talk about family values but that doesn't include ALL families. They promise prosperity, but if you look under the surface, they are promising that only for those who are already prosperous.

Summer sounds so nice to Olaf in the movie Frozen. He dreams of laying in the sun and enjoying the beach. He doesn't know he would melt. His friends haven't told him for fear of upsetting him.



The time to vote is coming near and it's time to let our friends know they could be in danger. We take for granted people already know things, but many of them are just like Olaf. They don't understand that all these nice words and lovely images could lead to their freedom and opportunities being melted away.

Just like Olaf, most voters are good people. They don't want to hurt themselves or anyone else. They're just uninformed or misinformed. A lot of them are afraid. Let's get out there and give them all some warm hugs.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

I Pledge Allegiance

President Obama spoke at a conference for Al Sharpton's National Action Network where he did not hold back his feelings concerning the attack on voting rights in our country.

"Inequality feeds on injustice," the President said. "Opportunity requires justice, and justice requires the right to vote."

He went on to say that access to voting is not a Democrat or Republican issue. It's an issue we should all care about regardless of our individual political views. "I think all people, regardless of your party affiliation should agree that if your strategy depends on having fewer people show up to vote, that's not a sign of strength. It's a sign of weakness...It's ultimately bad politics," he said.

Our President is behind us in fighting against laws that are designed to discourage people from voting. His message to us is, "We can't use these barriers as an excuse not to participate. We can't use cynicism as an excuse not to participate."

President Obama recognizes that making sure votes are legitimate is important. He also understands that there are ways to accomplish this without making it more difficult for people to vote or discouraging them from showing up. All of these voting restrictions are going to cost money. We could and should be investing in expanding people's access to voting instead.

Recent changes to our voting law in NC eliminated the ability of 16 and 17 year olds to pre-register to vote. This, I believe, is strong evidence of the true goal of those who voted for and signed this law. There was no evidence of any ballots being cast by anyone under 18. The information on the pending registration forms was not available to the general public. The program was virtually cost free. Most importantly, pre-registration was working to increase the number of registered voters who were among the demographic that had the lowest registration and turnout rate in our state. In the two short years pre-registration was available, over 160,000 teenagers took advantage of it. Those teenagers who pre-registered represented Democrats, Republicans, and Independents very evenly.

The evidence that laws like those passed here in North Carolina have less to do with making our system of voting more secure and a lot to do with making it more difficult for some people to vote is very clear. There is no reason to remove opportunities for increased registration and increased voter turnout that have no evidence of producing fraudulent votes. There is no reason we should not be investing in programs and technology that expand access to the ballot.

It feels good to know that my President stands behind all of us who are working to reverse what some people have done in order to gain more power for themselves without having to worry about the welfare and desires of regular citizens. I appreciate President Obama bringing this issues before the country in order to inform and inspire more people to take action.

The right to vote is one of the most important rights we have. As we move further into the new century, we should be looking for every opportunity to expand access to the polls. We should be an example to the rest of the world of freedom, not oppression.

My President has stood up to preserve one of the most important things necessary to securing a better future for my generation, the power of one voice and one vote. I promise to honor my country by always appreciating the right to vote and always standing up for that right for everyone, regardless of whether or not they share my own political leanings. How many of the candidates running this November will take this same pledge?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

One Spark

This picture was displayed as a poster as part of an ad campaign for We Are Straight Allies, a pro-human rights organization that was participating in Jacksonville Florida's One Spark festival.

Currently, Jacksonville Florida doesn't have a Human Rights Ordinance that would protect the LBGT community against discrimination. This kind of ordinance could have prevented the kind of discrimination one family faced from the Hands On Children's Museum last summer, which is what first got me involved in activism. It would also help protect against discrimination in hiring practices and in providing housing and many other services.

Who could possibly be offended by an image of a young person speaking out to help build a better future for her community? Parkway Properties contacted the organization to let them know someone was "displeased" with it. Chevara Orin of We Are Straight Allies reported to the Florida Times Union that they were asked to remove the poster. It is unknown who complained about the poster, but Wells Fargo contacted We Are Straight Allies to offer their support. The poster remains and We Are Straight Allies issued the following statement:

We Are Straight Allies would like to publicly express our deep concern and disappointment regarding statements made by Parkway Properties on April 8, 2014 on behalf of several of their “key stakeholders” in the Wells Fargo Tower at 1 Independent Drive in Jacksonville, Florida. As a registered One Spark Creator Project, We Are Straight Allies has spent the past several months preparing an intentional and educational advocacy campaign. During that time, we were not informed of any issues surrounding our campaign or materials chosen for the event.
When we were told there were building tenants that were uncomfortable with the content of our campaign and wanted us removed from the Creator Venue space, we were disheartened as it served as a stark reminder of the daily bigotry that faces our LGBT families.
While we appreciate the support of Wells Fargo, JCCI, OneSpark and several members of the Jacksonville community to help us resolve this matter, it does not detract from the fact that homophobia and discrimination are insidious in our city. As allies, we have made a firm commitment to champion the rights of those marginalized in our community. Fifty years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we again stand at the crossroads of freedom and equality.
We hope this unfortunate incident will serve as a catalyst for meaningful dialogue to reach better understanding of our differences, help us find common ground upon which to stand, and create a more inclusive city for us all. The larger issue remains that if these companies discriminate against allies, we fear their LGBT employees may face even greater bias. The time is now to pass a comprehensive Human Rights Ordinance.
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
–Audre Lorde

Sincerely,
Chevara Orrin, Laura Riggs and Dan Bagan


In an update to this statement, they offered thanks for the community's support and offered to meet with the leaders of Parkway Properties as well as any of their stakeholders and offer diversity training for their senior leadership and staff.

One little girl. Someone was so threatened by this image they wanted it removed and didn't want to take responsibility and own their attitudes in view of the public. One little girl has proven herself to be more brave, more moral, and a better citizen of her community than grown adults running a business. This young woman understands the consequences of bigotry and discrimination. She knows that the kind of attitudes shown towards We Are Straight Allies are the same attitudes that contribute to homelessness, suicide, and addiction in the LBGT community.

We live in a world right now where some parents are afraid for their children to even know gay people exist or are against their children seeing any gay person in a positive way. We live in a world where children are affected when one of their parents is sick or dies just because their parents happen to be of the same sex. We live in a world where boys are bullied at school for carrying My Little Pony backpacks and school employees side with the bullies.

We must keep standing up together, young and old, gay and straight, in order to help move our country forward and make sure our leaders are people like this young lady, who understand what it means to have an America that is the land of the free and home of the brave. All it takes is one small spark to ignite the torch of liberty.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

I Have a Nightmare

I have a nightmare that one day our daughters will have to fight for the same rights our mothers and grandmothers already thought they had won.

I have a nightmare that when I get a job, I won't be paid the same amount for the same work as a man and that members of my government will still be making excuses as to why this is acceptable.

I have a nightmare that I might watch a friend die because she doesn't have access to safe abortion services and feels trapped into going to a non-reputable person or taking matters into her own hands.

I have a nightmare that I might not be able to afford birth control when I need it or be denied an insurance plan that covers it by my employer.

I have a nightmare that a friend of mine could get raped at a party and her rapist won't be prosecuted because of what she was wearing or because she had been drinking.

I have a nightmare that if I get married or divorced and change my name, I won't have the necessary documents to get everything changed over in time for me to vote on Election Day.

These aren't the kind of nightmares you wake up from realizing you're just afraid of things that can never hurt you or are unlikely to happen. These aren't the kind of nightmares brought on by watching a scary movie or reading a creepy book. This is a true American horror story.

Right now, today, there are people in our government making the argument that equal pay is "condescending" to women. They are saying that achieving equality for women is an "obsession of the left." Even worse, there are American citizens who are buying into this and making women's equality a part of the party games.They are trying to fight against women's health and they are contributing to the shaming of women who have been the victim of crimes.

It's like the real life Walking Dead only the people I'm afraid of aren't zombies. They are people walking around so empty of reason and courage to act, that they are putting my generation in real danger. They've had their brains eaten by advertising and crafty politicians who like to quote the Constitution and make people afraid they're going to lose their freedom if others gain the same rights they've always had. They've had their brains eaten by a society that tells them if they act other people won't like them and that their voices don't matter.

I think the time has come for all of us to wake up those who live in the shadows. We need to become the nightmare of those who are trying to scare us and those who are standing by and doing nothing.The women of this country deserve for us to do no less. My generation of young women needs you to register if you're not registered, vote for our dreams, and end our nightmares.


(Lyrics PG-13)