Sunday, August 17, 2014

Beyond Madison Kimrey

Some people like to voice an opinion that I'm "too young" to be involved in politics. Some like to criticize my makeup or fashion choices. Others like to assume I have no life or interests that are separate from the ones I write about. To them, it's all about me.

Well, it's not. This is about my fellow citizens and most importantly, my fellow young people. This is about a program that pre-registered over 160,000 16 and 17 year olds in my state being eliminated for no good reason. This is about a Governor who insults the young people of his state rather than encouraging them to get involved in the political process. This is about the LBGT community being discriminated against and denied their basic rights. This is about misogyny, rape culture, and slut shaming. This is about women not having equal protection under the Constitution. This about one of my fellow young people being shot 6 times, twice in the head, by police. This isn't about me. This is about all of us.

So if I can write some words that make people think, I'm going to do that. If one of my friends takes one of my photos and pairs it with some words that stood out from something I've said or written, I'm going to post it. If someone in the media wants to talk to me and I feel like their reason is because they want to bring attention to ideas, I'm going to talk to them.

What I'm not going to do is wait until I have permission to speak. I'm not going to sit back and do nothing when I can make a real difference in shaping the future I will inherit. I'm going to speak my truth and be true to myself.

The challenges we face require us to look beyond ourselves as individuals. They require that we reach out beyond ourselves to those who have different experiences and beliefs. Our challenges require us to be aware, passionate, charitable, and to actively campaign for justice.


Here's the moral to the story We don't do it for the glory We don't do it for the money We don't do it for the fame So all the critics who despise us Go ahead and criticize us It's your tyranny that drives us Adds the fire to our flames

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Broken Hearts and Bloody Hands

How long will we allow being a young black male to be an offense punishable by death in our country?

Michael Brown, an unarmed 18 year old, was shot and killed by a police officer outside of St. Louis.


Michael was to start college this week.

I'm sad and angry over Michael's death, but my feelings right now are not the same compared to what is being felt in the black community. I, as a white person, with the privilege I was born with simply because of the color of my skin, cannot personally relate to the daily prejudice other people feel because of the color of theirs.

If you are one of those white people who says they "don't see color," what the heck is wrong with you? Seeing color and acknowledging the fact there is discrimination and prejudice based on color is what has gotten us this far in securing basic rights for our fellow citizens. But we still have a long way to go.

Are we to be satisfied with basic rights? And by we, I'm talking right now to white people because WE are the ones responsible for Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and countless others. Yes, all of us, even those of us who consider ourselves progressive, inclusive, and justice-seeking. Right now our culture has two primary ways of categorizing people of color. Either they are the enemy, dangerous, lazy dependent "takers" or they are "no different" from us.

We desire a world in which racial prejudices don't exist, and sometimes we desire this so much that we either fail to recognize differences exist or try to convince ourselves we don't need to understand them. When we want to talk about people of another race, we struggle with what words to use. We're afraid to ask questions about even the simplest things like how our haircare routines are different because we're told it's not polite.

While many people don't ignore racist ideas, it's easy for us to ignore that uncomfortable feeling we get when we are confronted with choosing a word or dealing with our cultural differences. When a black person talks about being watched in a store or seeing someone veer off their path to avoid them, many of us automatically think, "That's terrible! I would never act like that."

And even if we, as individuals, think we would never act like that, we as a culture are very much acting like that. Not only is another young man dead, but when Michael's community gathered to seek justice and to mourn together not only the loss of one young man but to seek comfort with others in the face of yet another demonstration of extreme prejudice, they were viewed as an angry mob. Police showed up with guns and dogs.

We can't handle being different and the same at the same time. We think having Black History Month, a black President, and Oprah makes up for the fact our culture continues to revolve around us. We want diversity without all the hard stuff that comes with being diverse. We want to create a pretty picture without first looking at our true reflection in the mirror.

We have to shut up and listen. Confronting racist ideas is not enough. We have to confront everything within ourselves that makes us uncomfortable with diversity. We have to acknowledge our privilege because failing to do so is just another form of prejudice. We have to embrace the idea that equality doesn't mean people are all the same, but instead that they are treated with the same dignity  regardless of their differences.

Basic rights are not enough. Basic rights are not going to prevent more kids from dying at the hands of those who might have been the very ones who would react to a anecdote of racism with the thought, "I would never act that way." Basic rights are not going to prevent headlines that read "Missouri Crowd After Shooting: Kill the Police" to stories that report no violence, only demonstrators leaving rose petals and stuffed animals in memory of their community's lost son.

Blatant racism is not the only thing killing these kids. It's our refusal to deal with being uncomfortable. It's those moments in which our desire to be politically correct overcomes the desire to correct the political mistakes we've made that have led to an ingrained fear and distrust. It's our failure to trust others when they tell us they are indeed different from us because from the cradle to the grave their everyday experiences are different from ours that have led to so many being placed in the grave.

It's time for some affirmative action. The action we must take now is to listen and to avoid making excuses and pointing fingers elsewhere. There are no excuses. We all have blood on our hands today.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Sustaining Quiet

Blogger Yochanan Gordon posted an op-ed on The Times of Israel entitled, "When Genocide is Permissible." I would love to be able to link to this piece, but it was very quickly taken down. Here is a screenshot:

He asks: "I mean, whoever heard of a timeout in war?"

He concludes with, "If political leaders and military experts determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide is it then permissible to achieve those responsible goals?"

If you have to question if genocide is permissible to defend a country that was established as a result of genocide, you have officially failed at life.

I took a look at some of the other op-eds written by Yochanan Gordon, including "Reflections of a Blogger" in which he says:

"It’s my fervent hope that you find favor in my words and that it should continue to arouse important introspective thought and dialogue amongst others and ultimately effect positive change in the world..."

Well, Mr. Gordon, the internet has not found favor with your words today.

I then checked out Mr. Gordon's Twitter feed, where I was greeted with this:





Searching Google for Yochanan Gordon led to a piece from 5 Towns Jewish Times, a website founded by his father, called "The Duplicitous Mr. Holmes" in which Mr. Gordon discusses the horrible tragedy in Aurora Colorado, saying :

"
If we are to succeed in protecting ourselves and our children from dangerous people, it’s important to distinguish between sincere and insincere people. There are those who couldn’t care less about their public image, and it’s easy for us to avoid them. But those who present a facade of innocence, studiousness, and righteousness yet don’t represent those ideals in their hearts—they pose the greatest risk to society."

Yochanan Gordon, having deleted both his Facebook and Twitter profiles, seems to be seeking the kind of "sustained quiet" he suggested could be achieved for Israel through genocide.

I mean, whoever heard of a timeout in war?

Update:
Mr. Gordon has apologized, proving that perhaps timeouts are effective after all.
http://5tjt.com/apology-from-yochanan-gordon/



Monday, June 30, 2014

Decisions, Decisions

Many people are angry today. Many are upset, and rightfully so.

Now let's talk about the way forward.

Before we go any further, if you are female, I want you to go look in the mirror. If you're not female, I want you to find a picture of a female you care about. It can be your mom, grandma, wife, girlfriend, friend, sister, teacher, any woman you care about. Now I want you to look at the image you see and repeat after me, "This person is not equal in the eyes of the law." Keep looking at the image, let it really sink in what these words mean, and repeat again, "This person is not equal in the eyes of the law."

Now I want you to do something about that.

This is the text of the Equal Rights Amendment that will grant ALL people, regardless of sex, full Constitutional equality.

The Equal Rights Amendment
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

We must get the ERA ratified and it is within our power to do so.

35 states ratified the ERA before the deadline imposed by congress expired in 1982. Only 3 more states are needed to get to the 38 needed to ratify the ERA. Then we have to make sure we have the congressional representatives who will remove the deadline on the ratification so that it can move forward.

So here is what you can do.

First pledge your support to doing what's necessary to get the ERA ratified.
http://www.wearewoman.us/take-our-pledge
VOTE
Help OTHERS register and vote

Support ONLY those candidates who show through deeds, not just words, that they support legal and economic equality for all, the Equal Rights Amendment and ballot access for all citizens


It's important to pay attention to who is representing you in both your state legislature and in Congress. Even if you're not old enough to vote, you can contact your representatives, register voters, volunteer to help on campaigns, and talk to others about the issues.

You can also donate or purchase items to help fund the We Are Woman Constitution Day Rally in Washington DC in September. And you can make plans to attend the rally on September 13th.

To move forward we have to make sure that when women look in the mirror, they can say, "I am equal in the eyes of the law." It is only then that we will be free from the fear of legislation and decisions that limit our access to healthcare and our control over ourselves and our bodies.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Reflections

One year ago today, I was standing in front of a museum in Florida, standing up for the right of two moms and their children to be recognized as a family.

Today, I'm a writer and nationally recognized activist. I've done a lot of reflecting today. This is all so amazing. How did I even get here?

Well, a lot of hard work for one. I've taken it upon myself to learn a lot over the past year. I've also learned a lot about balancing the things that are important in my life. Doing what I love helps, but passion will only carry you so far. I have to work every day to get better. The more I learn, the more I can do.

I took a step down a path and before I knew it, I met others along the path and we started walking together. My friends and colleagues help me keep moving forward and I am continuously humbled at how many people continue to help me along my journey. I'm a writer, and I can come up with no words sufficient to express my thanks to so many.

We, all of us, have the power to work together and create beautiful things and build a amazing future. In order to do that, we have to start by paying attention to the present. All around us, there are issues in which individuals can make a real difference.We choose to listen to the voices telling us we can't and we don't matter or instead to the voices telling us that we can, that one ripple in the water can lead to a wave of change.

Figure out what it is you're good at. Figure out what you're passionate about. Don't try to be someone else. Stand up for what you believe in. Stand up for things that are really important. Figure out how you can help make a difference for others. Then get to work and don't give up. It really is that simple.

I continuously say that I don't know where the path I'm on will lead and that's the truth. But I truly appreciate every step I've taken so far. And despite all that's happened over the last year, I'm still the same person I've always been. That's because my pursuit has always been the truth and in order to speak the truth, you have to be true to yourself.

I have a lot of goals in life, legislative and otherwise, but one of my main goals has been to get other young people to speak out. I've seen a lot of that over the past year. I want to see more of it over the next one. There are so many things that hold young people back. They're afraid of what others will think, they're afraid of standing up for themselves, they're afraid of the truth that lies within themselves, they're distracted by things that don't matter. This isn't just holding these individuals back. It's holding our country back. It's holding our whole world back.

At least once a month, I find myself saying, "This was the best day ever." That's an awesome thing. An even more awesome thing is saying, "Wow, look at what we've done." And there are many more things we can continue to do by moving forward together and refusing to take one step back.

Believe in yourself and be the change you want to see in the world. I believe in the power of all of us.

Here is a list of every US Senator on Twitter.
http://www.socialseer.com/resources/us-senator-twitter-accounts/

And here is a list of all the members of the House of Representatives on Twitter.
https://twitter.com/cspan/u-s-representatives/members

Show them your truth.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Playing Possum

From fracking to coal ash, the NC General Assembly can't seem to get it together on environmental protections. One thing that will be protected, however, is opossums. Well, not the environment of the opossums or even the opossums themselves, just the ability for citizens of Brasstown, NC to engage in their favorite New Year's Eve tradition: the Possum Drop.



Brasstown, the self-proclaimed opossum capital of the world, in Clay County, NC, has a population of about 240 people. Every New Year's Eve, a celebration is held at which a possum is lowered in a plastic cage at midnight. The NC General Assembly recently passed in both the House and Senate, with bipartisan support, a bill designed to help ensure the survival of this event.

The bill exempts Clay County from state wildlife laws in respect to opossums between December 26th and January 2nd. So, when it comes to opossums between those dates within the borders of Clay County, it appears anything goes.

Republican Representative Roger West, who sponsored the bill and represents Brasstown, said that the, "marsupial community was in support of the bill."

Jeff Kerr, general counsel for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, begs to differ on that point. “Opossums are shy, reclusive animals, and humans are their primary predators. At the event, they dangle this opossum in a box above a rowdy crowd of more than 1,000 people and force it to endure a terrifying mix of screaming, thumping, music and fireworks -- all in the name of some kind of entertainment,” he told the LA Times.

The National Opossum Society states that these animals, "prefer to avoid all confrontations and wish to be left alone."

Founder of the opossum drop event, Clay Logan, says, "Rednecks have a lot of fun, and it don't take a lot of money or things to do. We just do plain old silly, stupid stuff, just Southern things that we do."

It appears truer words were never spoken.

Perhaps now that annual opossum-shaming is now legally protected, something can be done about solving the problem of the cancer-causing agents found in drinking water outside a Duke Energy coal ash pond in Salisbury.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Pure Nonsense

The concept of purity balls has been the subject of much discussion recently. The great majority agree that these purity balls are creepy. Having a girl pledging her virginity to her father to guard over until marriage is indeed a disturbing idea.

But the question begs to be asked, what is more disturbing, a ritual that only a small segment of the population participates in or the prevalent idea in our culture that a woman's virginity defines her character and worth as a human being?

Recently on Twitter, Conservatives have started attacking Planned Parenthood and the idea of comprehensive sex education using the hashtag #sexed. They are afraid of teens having any information, want them to feel the ultimate shame if they are curious about anything that deviates from the missionary position, and of course don't want them to have access to birth control.

Religion is a big part of what fuels the war on sex. Of course, many religious people ignore Song of Solomon and go straight for the "Thou Shalt Nots."

But if someone has made a decision, based on religious belief, to remain celibate until marriage, there should be no fear of information. There should be no shaming of others making different choices. These things negate the power of whatever deity is involved and speak more to obedience to man and to self-righteousness.

Even outside of religious context, humans have long considered the avoidance of "temptation" to be a virtue. The ability to say no has been seen as a sign of the powerful. Power in conformity defined by societal pressure? That doesn't sound powerful to me.

The very idea of upholding virginity as a virtue is a disempowering concept. Defining sex as an act instead of an art and saddling it with shame not only has the potential to lead to unwanted consequences of intercourse but also contributes to the fact that many women are not experiencing sex as the pleasurable activity it was designed to be, even after their first time.

The real question isn't are purity balls creepy or not. The real question is who's your daddy? If you're engaged in perpetuating shame or are defining your attitudes about sex based on anything but your own personal values and desires, the pledge you're making is a contribution to patriarchy. Consider empowering yourself and consider contributing to Planned Parenthood instead.