Tag Archives: human rights

Give. Thanks.

Black Friday is almost upon us, holiday shopping is set to begin in earnest and many of us are wondering how best to spend our dollars.

I have more than a few folk in my circles who have stated they are simply donating to organizations doing the work that needs to be done, and I applaud them. I can’t think of a better gift to give or receive than knowing a few more dollars went to the organizations standing up for people’s rights, providing needed services to underserved communities and helping more people gain access to all of the rights, responsibilities and privileges that should come standard with US citizenship.

So, I decided that this year for Thanksgiving I would ask you all to give. There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about teaching kids fiscal responsibility by having them divide any money they get into three even jars – “spend,” “save,” and “charity” so why not do a similar thing with our gift giving. Sure, buy the kids in your life books and music and art supplies and science kits but balance that with gifts to charities in their name – that models the kind of thing we’re asking them to do and shows them that you care about leaving them with a better world. And as for adults, unless you have an adult in your life who really needs a thing – donating in their name might be the best gift you can give. I know I wish I could afford to give more to charities, so having someone give in my name feels great!!

And, since I’ve been talking non-stop about taking positive action in the face of a Trump election, what better way to do something good for the world than to donate to a righteous cause!?! Last, there is a national movement called #GivingTuesday, and many organizations can double your gift if you make your donation on that day!

givelove

Since I love you all so much, I decided to make it easy for you! Below you’ll find a list of verified, top-notch groups and organizations to donate to, as well as ideas for local places to look into to make sure your dollars have the biggest effect possible.

First: let me ask you to donate to the people protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. What is happening to them is NOT OKAY and they need all the help they can get!

Once you’ve done that, here are my recommendations for getting the most bang for your bucks.

givemoney

 

  1. Donate to your local public school. Seriously, just write them a check. Almost all of them have a registered non-profit parent organization so you can get your tax write-off and get your employer to make a matching donation, if they do that sort of thing. (And if they don’t – ask why not. They should if they have more than a hundred employees.) If I can make a further recommendation – request that your donation go to arts, music or the library those are consistently under-funded programs and grants are hard to come by for those areas. Also, donating your money there reminds schools that the public still values art, music and literacy regardless of the educational fad of the moment.
  2. Donate to reproductive/sexual health organizations including: Planned Parenthood, Lilith Fund, The National Abortion Fund – or use this to locate your local/state abortion fund, Draw the Line, NARAL, or your local women’s health clinic. (If you don’t have a friend or family member to gift this donation to, I nominate Mike Pence to be the recipient of this receipt. Let him know you stand for reproductive justice! Information on how to do this follows.)
  3. Donate to organizations working to secure full civil rights and human dignity for LGBTQ* folk. I recommend GLBT, the Lambda legal defense and education fund, The Transgender Law Center, and the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Educators Network or GLSEN. Also check your local communities, see who is doing this work in your backyard and give them money. Also, look into the GSA at your local schools, I’m sure they could use a donation in order to help organize! And again, if you want to donate in someone’s name, but don’t have a specific someone in mind, I nominate Mike Pence to be the recipient of this piece of your mind!
  4. Donate to groups working to ensure civil rights for ALL people: The ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, The Anti-Defamation League, The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, The Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, The NAACP, The Native American Rights Fund, The National Congress of American Indians, The Innocence Project, The Justice Policy Institute, Black Lives Matter… There are more. If I didn’t find your personal brand of activism, check out this handy list of cool orgs… I highly recommend making your donation to these organizations in Donald Trump’s name. Info to take this step is below.
  5. Donate to your local food bank and/or homeless shelter.
  6. Donate to your local domestic violence shelter or organization working to end intimate partner violence and/or sexual violence.
  7. Donate to Flint, MI – those folk STILL need water and help mitigating the effects of drinking poisoned water for too long.
  8. Donate to an environmental group or organization. I am not linking to any specific groups because, I admit to being jaded here – the environment has been in dire danger my entire life, and I have given to many of these organizations over the years and I’m not sure what they are doing that is of tangible benefit to the environment. I feel like this issue is bigger than NGOs. I feel like this is an action we have to take to own smaller cars, drive less, consume less, and put pressure on our governments to invest in greener energy sources while also consuming less… BUT, if you have to spend money, I’d rather it went to an environmental organization than cheap plastic crap, so… (Also, if anyone wants to comment with a shout out to an environmental org they think is doing great work – do that! Post a link. Spread the word!)

givelight

To donate in the name of Donald Trump or Mike Pence, use the info below:

Office of Governor Mike Pence/State House Room 206/Indianapolis, IN 46204-2797

and

Donald Trump/ The Trump Organization/ 725 Fifth Avenue/ New York, NY 10022

moregiving

I’m sure there are organizations and causes that I have missed or accidentally overlooked – please, if you know of an important and worthy org, post a link in the comments, I will do my very best to screen them in a timely fashion.

In the meantime, enjoy the beginning of the holiday season and I hope that you are all able to spend time with people you love.

thankyou

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Naive idealism, Things that work

Expanding Humanity

I recently finished Marissa Meyer’s book Cress. It’s the third installment in her Lunar Chronicles series.

cress

Where does humanity stop and alien begin?

What follows here is less a review and more a discussion of something I realized when I finished this particular book, but which has been there all along, gently teasing at the edges of my mind and tugging at the corners of my heart…

There might be mild spoilers, but I don’t think so. All the same, if you’re worried, go out, buy Cinder, Scarlet and Cress (and pre-order Fairest) and get reading and then come back and join the conversation.

Okay, disclaimers over – diving in.

I fell in love with Cinder the moment I saw the cover. It’s brilliant, and it describes the book perfectly.

Then I read it and I loved it even harder. The writing is brilliant, the characters are true, the story is mind-blowing. I became an instant “Lunartic.”

Scarlet upped the ante again, adding whole new layers of depth and intrigue to the story, enriching the world Marissa Meyer has created. It provided another 36 hour reading marathon and a book hangover so heavy it appears I forgot to review it.

And now Cress. This is by far and away the best book in the series to date.

I read it strictly for pleasure, no sticky notes in hand, no intention to review or discuss it. But this one – stuck with me. In a way that the others didn’t. (The others stuck, but just as fun books I can’t wait to foist on every person I know who is over the age of 12, and a few who are younger…)

Perhaps it is just the timing of this one, but I realized as I read Cress that it was challenging some important notions, pushing some important boundaries, encouraging some important discourse. I’ve read a few reviews to see if anyone else is talking about this, I couldn’t find anything. And I don’t know if this was intentional on the part of the author, or just me imposing my political views on these books – but… There is a deep brilliance in these books.

As I read Cress it hit me.

Marissa Meyer is challenging us to re-examine our definition of “human” of “citizen” of “us.”

I suppose in a way this is a common theme in sci-fi, where there are all sorts of sentient beings co-existing and we are challenged to find the “human” within the alien. Honestly, that has always been one of the strongest draws for me to sci-fi and speculative fiction – this expansion of what counts as humanoid.

But there is something deeper and more direct going on in the Lunar Chronicles. The Lunar Chronicles directly challenge our narrow definition of “human” in ways that many other stories do not. In much sci-fi, the aliens are still aliens. Sure we may parlay with them, work with them, coexist with them – they are humanoid, but they are not human. We may grant them the same rights, responsibilities and privileges as humans, but there is a subtle undercurrent that says we can revoke that decision at any time.

We have leveled the playing field, but we reserve the right to pull the aliens out of the game if we perceive them as a threat to us winning. Like the USA did to Japanese Americans during World War II.

And this is how things begin in the Lunar Chronicles. There are various us/them groups and splits and divisions. There are the Earthens – humans. But within that group there are also cyborgs (Hello Cinder!) who while still technically human, are legally “less than” to compensate for being mentally & physically “more than.” Not to mention the androids, who are just AI machines, or is Iko more than that?

And then there are the Lunars – and within the Lunars there are subgroups such as “shells” – Lunars with no powers, Lunars who may as well be Earthen – but who are actually more powerful than Earthens because they are immune to the power of other Lunars. Then there are the queen’s wolves, genetically enhanced killers programmed to do the Lunar queen’s bidding. And the Thaumaturges – the powerful leaders of the queen’s army.

In Cinder and Scarlet as all of these groups were introduced, we were encouraged to see the differences, we were encouraged to understand the strife keeping them all apart. But in Cress, as the “tower” (a satellite) falls, so too does the illusion of separateness begin to crumble.

We begin to see, and understand, and feel the innate humanness of all of these groups. We are challenged to break down the mental barriers that have been built up and see past the prejudices to the deeper truth.

Lunars began as humans. Despite a despotic ruler, Lunars are human still. Just as Japanese Americans were still Americans, whether we could bring ourselves to see it or not.

We see Cinder’s existence challenge Prince Kai’s notion of humanity – can she still be fully human as a cyborg? As a Lunar? Can he still love her?

We see Wolf challenge everyone’s notion of humanity, including his own – he’s not only a Lunar, he’s also genetically altered and enhanced to be a killer. Can his core human override his animal programming? (An analogy to The Hulk would not be out-of-place here.)

What about Cress? She is Lunar, yes, but she is a shell – her own people were supposed to have killed her as an infant. She is feared by them for her ability to resist their control, and feared by Earthens because of her birth place. But inside, is she really so different? Is she any less worthy of human dignity, human respect, human rights?

When I look at the world Marissa Meyer is building, I see the parallels on our own world – the divisions of “us” and “them”, the ideas that the strong must be limited to protect the weak, but in a weird contradiction – that the weak are also somehow simultaneously less worthy of the full set of rights, responsibilities and privileges that come with full citizenship. I see the same lines being drawn around different groups, trying to define them, designate them, shield them from others and others from them.

But, in Cress, I see the beginning of hope – the beginning of a better way, the start of understanding and compassion.

And it begins on a personal level. It begins with people willing (or forced through sheer dumb luck and rabid desperation) to engage “the enemy,” to extend the smallest amount of wary, guarded trust… And I see it build out from there.

This is something that I see here in our world too. Yes, there are many people who have created bubble-wrapped echo chambers, online, in social media, in personal interactions, in the news they watch and read – selecting only those sources that reinforce their world view and tell them they are right and the others are Others – strange, incomprehensible & scary.

But more and more, I am seeing a brave few break down their own walls and start following, reading, engaging “Others” only to discover that they are more alike than anyone ever told them.

I remember the last time I got arrested in China. (For those who don’t know, I was arrested in China 3 times in a 3 month period with my parents. Long story.) We had finally made it to Beijing, we had just gotten our hotel room for the night. We thought we were in the clear. And then the police knocked on our door. To be fair, it was the nicest interrogation we had on our journey. The captain took us out to a restaurant and asked us about our trip, where we went, who we talked to, what our purpose was in going places we weren’t allowed to be, whether we took any pictures, etc. The interrogation took long enough that his officers had plenty of time to ransack our room, make copies of our journals, run background checks using our passports, etc. and determine that we were probably not spies.

At the end of the interrogation, I remember the police captain offered his hand to my father and then pulled him in for a hug. There were genuine tears in his eyes when they pulled apart. “I have been told my whole life that you are the enemy. That America is evil and corrupt. That you are poisoning the world. But now I have met you, and I see that we are not so different at all. We both want our children to be healthy and get good educations. We both want good food for our families, and to be able to provide shelter and clothing for them. We want to live our lives in peace. I think maybe that all over the world, this is true. I think maybe people are all the same, we all want the same things. I think maybe my government, and your government are wrong. I think maybe they should have dinner together and talk and maybe they will see this too.”

And then he walked us back to our hotel room, talking and laughing and crying some more with us.

When I travel, that is why I travel – yes to see the different ways that people express their humanity, but also to remind myself that at the end of the day, we are all far more alike than we are different. We are all striving for the same goals. We all want the same basic things – to take care of ourselves and the people we love. While we might live under different governments and different faiths – at the end of the day we’re all citizens of this planet, and we are all equally deserving of the same basic human rights and the same compassion. When we allow ourselves to drop our shields and engage “the enemy” with an open mind, we often discover that we’re standing on the same common ground, striving to reach the same common goal – we’re just taking a different path to get there.

Cress pushes this idea of expanded humanity, expanded citizenship even wider – challenging us to take off our “us” and “them” lenses and see past our divisions and our prejudices to look for and hold dear the common humanity that we all share and begin to build a better world based on that.

 

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Filed under Books, Naive idealism, Things that work

Redefining Man – A Modest Proposal

This is *hopefully* going to be a quickie.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

So – when our constitution was written there were lots of clauses defining the rights and responsibilities of “man” and “men.” Many of our laws still reflect this pronoun preference.

At that time, in that culture/society that word was loosely defined as “white propertied male.” People back then didn’t talk so much about sexual orientation, but I think we can safely add “straight” to the list of included adjectives.

Since that time we have had to add amendments to the constitution to grant basic rights – like citizenship, the right to vote – to African-Americans, women and other minorities.

At present some supreme court justices have said that they do not believe that the 14th amendment, put in place after the civil war to grant equal rights to former slaves and free African-Americans, applies to women! Or gays. Or…

In addition, that amendment was not enough to grant African-Americans the right to vote – that came later, with the 15th amendment. Which did not extend voting rights to women, only to men of all races, regardless of “previous conditions of servitude.”

It took another 50 years for voting rights, aka full citizenship status, to be granted to women.

And still… We’re not really there yet. We are still having battles over what is a right, what is a privilege and who is a real, full citizen.

We see it in the gay rights movement right now, as well as with the renewed push to ratify the ERA – Equal Rights Amendment, which would grant women the same actual, full legal rights and protections currently granted to men in this country. We see it in the push for immigration reform. We see it in the battles for full rights to be granted to disabled and differently abled people, including the right to marry.

But… What if we simply passed an amendment stating that throughout the constitution of the United States of America, the word man would be taken to mean “person.”

Non-gendered, non-racially charged, non-sexual orientated, non-ability specific.

Would that make a difference?

If people were legally defined as equal, would it help?

What if this amendment went a step further and redefined “man” in all legislation to simply “person” and the same for “woman”?

Then on documents regarding one man and one woman – well, it would just be one person and one person.

Is changing the language enough to change minds? Can we get to a place where we are all just people, regardless of the color of our skin, the language our parents speak at home, the organs between our legs – or the legs of the person we love, the gender we identify with in our core, our mental and physical abilities…

Is there a way to get there from here?

Is there a way to include all of the people all at once instead of this piece-meal approach where every couple of decades we recognize the humanity of a new sub-group of our nation’s population? Is there a way to wave a magic wand, or pen, and simply grant the full range of inalienable human rights to every living, breathing person?

Could it be as simple as affording the same rights, privileges and responsibilities of “man” to all people?

human rights

Human rights belong to everyone.

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Filed under Naive idealism, Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant

Human Rights Can’t be Left to the States

I’m going to try to keep this short and simple.

Either I am a person, and thus have the same unalienable and legal rights as other citizens of my country, or I’m not.

This is not a State’s Rights issue. This is a Human Rights issue.

As “One nation, under God” we have to decide if we really believe what our founders proclaimed when they declared independence from England and stated,

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable Rights; that among these, are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness; that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…

Now, at the time that this was written – women were not people. We were property. Blacks were not people, they were property. Browns were not people, they were barbarians, savages and animals. Gays were also not people, because, you know, they didn’t exist. (Ahem.) So “Men” really meant, straight white dudes who owned property. Yes, our nation began as a plutocratic oligarchy. (A nation ruled by the rich few, for those whose Latin is a little rusty.)

But, times have changed a little since then. And “Men” now includes all men regardless of the color of their skin (at least on paper.), and in this country, it mostly includes women, in theory, though not so much on paper. (Although, we are allowed to vote, so if we all rise up together, perhaps we can change that…) And sometimes it includes gays, if they ask nicely and don’t want to get married. In fact, in many people’s minds “Men” in that context has come to simply mean “Humans”.

With these changes, slowly, but surely our Republic has inched ever closer toward Democracy.

Yet, whenever those of us who are not propertied straight white males ask for full, legal acknowledgement of our basic humanity, confirmation that we are, in fact, citizens born with the same unalienable rights and the associated full legal rights that come with them, we are told that our rights and equality are a matter for the states to determine.

Gay marriage? State’s Rights Issue.

Women’s Reproductive Rights and choices? State’s Rights Issue.

And now even skin color is becoming a State’s Rights Issue as more and more states claim the power to ID brown-skinned people without cause, or disenfranchise people with Spanish last names, or remove non-whites from voter lists.

These are not state’s issues. My liberty isn’t up for discussion, debate or deliberation. And I shouldn’t have to move to another state in order to have civil liberties and exercise my human rights (As adopted by the USA in 1948).

It actually is the role of the FEDERAL government to assure and protect my individual liberty and rights.

I know that the Equal Rights Amendment STILL hasn’t passed, granting me actual full citizenship and humanity under the law.

And I know that there are people who argue that women, gays, and browns aren’t covered by the 14th Amendment.

But again, I say – either all human beings in this country are equal – under the law, under God and in Nature, no matter what state we live in – or, our entire nation is built on a a house of cards.

I get frustrated when I see this Group Of People who would like to keep personal, individual freedom for themselves, while excluding others, as if somehow sharing freedom lessens it…

By deferring to the states, and allowing them to make legal decisions about the equality of individual citizens, they are abdicating their responsibility to uphold the fundamental American principle of “Liberty and Justice for ALL.”

I keep getting told by people who are voting for this group that it isn’t really about taking away individual liberty, it’s about money and taxes and deficits. As if somehow the rights of women, and gays, and browns, and blacks, and our children cost more to maintain than the rights of white, straight, propertied adult males. Or as if individual liberty is less important than not paying taxes.

Here’s the thing – to us “others”, it’s also about money. Because if we aren’t full people, if we don’t have the same basic human and legal rights as every other American, then… the money doesn’t matter. If we don’t have the same full say in how we live our lives, who we love, when and how we start our family and the environment that we raise them in… Then the rest is a moot point anyway.

If you want to talk to me about how paying less taxes is going to help my country succeed and move forward, go ahead. I’ll listen just as soon as we’re standing on equal legal footing.

Yesterday I cast my ballot for education, women, children, men, gays, straights, human rights, the environment, and the future, which is to say, freedom – for ALL citizens, regardless of the state they live in, the parents they were born to, or the genes they were born with.

What are you voting for this season?

Feeling Free?

How free are you?

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Filed under Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant

No, you can’t have my rights.

I used to have a bumper sticker that said “No, you can’t have my rights.  I’m still using them.”

When I sold my car the bumper sticker went with it.

It might be time to get a new one.

I spent my whole day posting for gay rights.  I was inspired by FCKH8.com and by the federal judge in California who declared Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell unconstitutional (about time too).  Even though I was confused by the fact that Obama’s justice department was appealing the ruling.  Ahem, I thought Obama wanted to repeal DADT.  But, then again he claims to be pro gay rights, except for marriage, of course. (Open note to Obama, sometimes you make it REALLY hard to support you, like when you play these bullshit political games.  Either you support gay rights, which would include marriage – or you’re against.  The Republicans already hate you, so you may as well aim for voters you might actually be able to get…)

In the midst of all this I realized there was another group whose rights were being threatened.

Mothers to be.

Here in Colorado there is a new amendment being proposed – amendment 62 – which would redefine a “fertilized egg” as a human being with all of the inalienable rights that that entails.

There are many problems with this amendment.  The first of which is that the amendment itself doesn’t actually define when this magical moment of humanness would begin.  It says at the beginning of biological development. I assume they are trying to say at conception, BUT, they could also mean that every sperm is sacred and every egg is sacred.  Therefore women could be arrested for murder every time they menstruate and men could go to prison for masturbating.

Well, I doubt they’ll take it that far.

BUT, this amendment would effectively make abortion murder.  It would, in effect give an unborn, unviable embryo more rights than women have under the constitution.  Remember people, ERA has still never passed.  Gays will be serving in the military with their spouses at full pay and insurance coverage long before employers are required to pay women equally for equal work.

If this amendment passes a woman’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness will be usurped by the rights of a cancerous growth in her womb.  It won’t matter if that growth was started because of rape, or incest, or a very determined sperm that somehow made it through a vasectomy, a condom and the pill. (Don’t roll your eyes, my father’s godson came into the world after just such an ordeal!)

It won’t matter if the mom’s life is at risk, if they can keep the baby alive.

Here’s the really ironic part.  Once that embryo becomes a fetus becomes an infant becomes a child and is discovered to be:

A.) Gay, those same people who said it had to be born will no longer support its rights to liberty or the pursuit of happiness.

B.) A woman, those same people who insisted she be born will no longer support her full range of rights to life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness.

C.) An “anchor baby”, those people who would not allow the mother to have an abortion will no longer support its rights to exist in this country, go to school, get health care, or enjoy the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness that our constitution demanded for it when it was just a small clump of rapidly dividing cells.

There are undoubtably other groups of neglected and abused people that I am failing to mention here. Please add them in the comments.

So here’s the thing, until every living, breathing, viable outside the womb, human being has these inalienable rights to due process of law, to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, the right to own and defend their property (yes, they want embryos to have this right.  I believe they are also fighting to make sure that they are allowed to carry out their second amendment rights in the womb…) then, please, kindly fuck off.

It actually is a matter of choosing between the rights of an actual living, breathing human being who happens to be female and the nebulous rights of a potential life that exists only in a hoped for future.

Let’s give rights to people who can use them, including the right to life.

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Filed under Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant

Can’t we all just get along?

I watched this incredible video of US Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias (Democrat, Illinois) coming out in support of gay marriage.

Now, it’s possible that other major political candidates have also come out in support of basic human equality, but if they have, I haven’t heard about it.  This video is so potent, calm, eloquent and brilliant that I absolutely had to share it with all of you.

It says so well, and so simply, what I have been shouting from my cyber roof-top for years.  Marriage is about love.  Period.  Full stop.  Love.

Most religions claim to be about love.  God’s love, loving thy neighbor, loving your self, love.  Last time I read the Torah, Bible, even the Qur’an there wasn’t an “Except gays” clause.  And no matter how many ways various fundamentalist groups try to twist their own books to cover for their own hatreds and prejudices, it still isn’t there.  (The infamous sodomite clause in the old testament – is about heterosexual sodomy.)  Jesus never said anything about gays one way or the other.  He did say lots of things along the lines of “judge not, lest ye be judged” and “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” and other very Eastern Religion sounding, feel good things.  (For more on this I highly recommend that all serious thinkers rush out, right now, and buy Christopher Moore’s book Lamb)

So, if marriage is about love, and religion is about love, then shouldn’t the churches of the world be fighting to allow people who love each other to get married?

Just sayin’.

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Filed under Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant