Category Archives: 2017

#METOO and Challenging the Patriarchy

I recently broke my number one rule about social media usage: don’t engage with people who aren’t willing to hear a different point of view. I took this stance about a year and a half ago and it’s been pretty beneficial to my mental health. I often see things posted on social media that irk me because I believe them not to be true, but I need to step back and recognize that the poster believes what they posted and that’s okay. Unless someone is soliciting feedback, I won’t engage, so most the time I brush off stupid facebook posts as just that- stupid. Now listen, I love talking about things I’m passionate about, and a large part of my interests are all things intersectional-feminism. I love engaging in real discussion IRL (this is one of the reasons why I miss graduate school so much), or as a proxy I will respond to comments on my blog or to direct messages, but these occurrences are few and far between lately. My practice of not engaging with people on Facebook has strengthened my own beliefs and values because I take the time to learn as much as I can about an issue so that I can write a cohesive and well thought-out blog post. Another one of my digital media rules is to write my blog with the only expectation being that it is self-serving to me. If other people read it, that’s way super cool, but the point of my blog is for my own catharsis, a placeholder for the discussions I often don’t get to have face to face.

harvey-weinstein1

What a gross fat f*ck

So lately, all this stuff about Harvey Weinstein and the the #metoo campaign has got me a little bit optimistic because I think this is perfect timing to push for real pro-feminist measures, like Affirmative Consent. I know some people (mostly men from my observations) found all the #metoo posts surprising, but I think most women were pretty chill about it, since sexual harassment is part of the woman experience. I think the #metoo campaign has been pretty successful in getting the conversation really rolling, and opening up a lot of people’s eyes to the enormity that is sexual harassment and misogyny behavior.

This brings me to the stupid Facebook comment-discussion I had. Basically, the person was saying that if the victims of Weinstein knew about his predatory behavior than why did they choose to go to his hotel rooms? I tried to explain my understanding of what this might feel like, based on my own worldview and experiences as a woman. I tried explaining to this person that there still continues to exist a hierarchy in male/female relationships, not in all arenas, thank God, but in many areas and aspects of life. It’s sad and antiquated, but unfortunately they exist. I tried explaining how I could imagine that this power relationship probably continues to exist in Hollywood culture (just as these abuses are able to exist in any closed system that is self-serving), as it’s been passed down from generations before. Women still do not have equal power in a lot of institutions and systems, and Hollywood seems to be one..Weinstein’s behavior was normalized by never being questioned, and therefore it was validated and allowed to continue. Weinstein’s victims probably experienced cognitive dissonance when they were walking to the hotel room, but they were in the weaker position in this power imbalance where saying no had worse consequence than being coerced into sex.

I related this to my own experiences of dealing with this imbalance in male-female relationships. When I was 19, I worked full time in the service industry where the assistant manager was a creep. This assistant manager used to make offhand comments and would buy our uniform blouses a size too small. I would be as cold-shouldered as possible towards this man, but I watched many other female co-workers put up with him constantly making innuendos, hitting on them, commenting on their bodies, etc. I couldn’t stand up to him, because I needed my job, and I was in a work-culture where this behavior was tolerated. He made my schedule and I worked basically the same hours as he did, so had I tried to stand up, I knew there would probably be retaliation. I knew that it was wrong that I had to put up with this behavior, but I also knew that it was normalized and if I wanted to keep my job or at least keep my job as stress free as possible, then it would be best that I keep my mouth shut. Happy ending: he was eventually fired for other reasons. But here’s a takeaway: I didn’t even really realize that this was that big of a deal. Because it was totally normal and I had experienced instances like this before in my short life then, and I have continued to experience power inequalities over the next decade.

The person I had the facebook disagreement seemed to be most offended when I insinuated that he was victim blaming. He said that we don’t leave our cars unlocked in shady neighborhoods and then expect people to be shocked or feel bad for us when our car is stolen, and therefore we shouldn’t be shocked or feel bad for the women who went willingly to Harvey Weinstein’s hotel room since they knew his reputation. I explained to this person that I could understand his frustration about this seemingly double standard of accountability. Then I let my emotions get the best of me, and told him that I could understand how it’s hard to not blame the victim in these situations. I knew that this would stir the pot, but I felt it necessary to call out what his argument deduced to. The is a difference in these two examples based on their context- one exists without a power dynamic, one exists within a power dynamic. The problem isn’t Weinstein in this case, it is the SYSTEM that supports and normalizes this behavior which is the larger, overarching perpetrator. Patriarchy is the real problem, and even though these women knew about Weinstein’s reputation, they were still in a system that enabled such coercion.

See, this is the intersection that I care about in this whole thing. It’s not the sensationalism that there are so many abuses in Hollywood against those in lowered powered positions, which is horrific in itself, it’s the fact that we live in a Patriarchal society where such abuses of power can take place. Calling out abusers can be extremely empowering for victims, which is why I think the #metoo campaign has been so successful. Sadly though, acknowledging that sexual abuse is rampant will not change its pervasiveness if we continue to live passively in this system that supports inherited power relations between genders.

Our entire world history is a patriarchal one, and we’ve only just began to shift the locus of control on the continuum of power towards a more balanced society. Women haven’t even been voting for 100 years yet. Too often I observe areas where we are stuck in ingrained ways of thinking, and the solution is to reexamine these beliefs! Moving from a Patriarchal society to a more inclusive and intersectionally just one is going to take work, and it is going to take the type of momentum that the #metoo campaign had 100 times over. We have to reexamine how our society understands our own values, and then change our beliefs and behaviors based on these principles. And guys, we can do it. If we can all begin to envision a world where gender hierarchy doesn’t exist, then we can have a world where gender hierarchy doesn’t exist.

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Healthcare is Confusing Part III: The Uninsured and Serious and Terminal Illness

So, this is one of those mega questions that I think all of our discussions about how we pay for and organize healthcare should boil down to: How does someone who is uninsured pay for treatment for serious, progressive or terminal illness? Guys, this shouldn’t be a hard question. The answer should reflect the value and theoretical framework that our healthcare infrastructure is based on. But, no surprise here, this is not the case in America. Our currently healthcare system is not based on valuing health, but on valuing profit. American healthcare is concerned more about money made than lives saved, and the answer to this question isn’t easy or simple.

can-amp-039-t-afford-health-insurance-then-go-make-drugs-to-pay-them-off-and-later-kill-yourself_o_3802805

I mean, it’s not that crazy of a premise these days. 

I’m a social worker at a free clinic for those who are working but are uninsured or underinsured. Rita (not her real name) came into my office a month ago. She had short, gelled and spikey brown hair, stood about 5’4” and couldn’t have weighed more than 100 pounds. She was wearing short sleeves that showed off her barbed wire tattoo around her right bicep and a faded rose on her left arm. She didn’t have an ounce of fat on her, and looked closer to 25 than her actual age of 45, with the exception of her tired eyes. She was the assistant manager of a local 24-hour gas station and once refused to give up her drawer to a man who was robbing the store. This didn’t surprise me.  Rita reminded me of a few tough women I’ve known in my life, a few women who have been through some real hardships in life, and I immediately liked her- I immediately cared about her.

As soon as she sat down, Rita warned me that she was “a bitch”, and started to tell me about herself. She just moved back to the city a year ago after spending the past five years with an abusive boyfriend, living in a trailer park in rural Pennsyltucky. Once she got the courage to leave, she moved into an apartment in a housing project that her elderly mother and deteriorating aunt lived in so that she could help take care of them. She loved her job as the assistant manager, especially finding and firing the “scumbag thieves” who stole from the store during their shift.

Rita’s gynecologist, who is a volunteer at our clinic referred her to me. “I found out two days ago have cervical cancer and I don’t have insurance”. My heart dropped. I asked her how she was dealing with this news, which she replied that she couldn’t do anything but keep up her normal routine. She hadn’t told the few people she had in her life- her aunt, mother, and co-workers, and wasn’t planning on telling them anytime soon. She had no support group and was trying to figure out what to do on her own. She explained further that she didn’t have insurance from her job- she started as part time and once she moved to full time status they never offered her health insurance. She would be able to enroll in two months when her job offered open enrollment, but even then, the actual coverage wouldn’t start until January 2018. The cancer was progressing fast and her doctor needed to start treatment now.

I didn’t know what to tell her. I knew she made too much to qualify for Medicaid, but I didn’t want to discourage her. I told her to go home and I would call her as soon as I could with a solution. The truth was that I had no idea what the solution would be and was overwhelmed thinking about how this woman who was so full of life was going to die because she couldn’t afford stupid insurance.

Luckily, the answer in this case scenario came easily enough. Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program contracts with The Healthy Women Program which offers a medical assistance to women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer. The paper work was simple enough- send in 2016’s tax filings, proof of income for this year, and proof of the cancer. I made phone calls all day, and by 5:00 I was able to tell Rita that I had begun her application for medical assistance. I spoke with a representative from the managed care company, who The Healthy Women Program sub-contracts, after I filled out her application and was informed that the processing time would be 5-10 business days. I spent the next day completing the application for Rita, getting all of her paperwork in check, and pestering the Healthy Women Program to send the final application to the County Assistance Office for final approval. I checked in with Rita throughout all of this, and she was a fucking warrior. The weekend went by and Monday morning, Rita told me that her doctor informed her that she was going to need to get a procedure done ASAP and start treatment for the cancer- apparently, the cancer was worse than they originally thought. When I got off the phone with Rita, I got in my car and drove to the County Assistance Office to see what was going on with her application since no one had returned my phone calls. Luckily, I was able to speak with a reluctantly kind case worker and I pleaded for her to expedite Rita’s application. The case worker told me that they didn’t expedite any applications and she couldn’t talk to me at all about Rita’s application due to confidentiality, however the caseworker asked me for Rita’s phone number and called her right there to finish the application process. This caseworker didn’t have to do this, and I am so grateful that she listened to my pleas.

Rita was able to get medical assistance and started treatment by the end of the week. I’ve been keeping in touch with her, and she’s still working even though she’s really tired. She’s going to take FMLA, but wants to wait until she absolutely needs it. The cancer is progressing, but she’s not letting this get her down. I keep telling her that she’s a warrior, and she ends each phone call with thanking me for saving her life. I don’t know if Rita is going to live, but I’m so grateful that she was able to get treatment- it’s the happiest ending I could realistically picture of this scenario.

This wouldn’t have been a happy ending if Rita had a different type of cancer or any other serious or terminal illness. There wouldn’t have been a happy ending if Rita lived in a different state that didn’t have a program like the Healthy Women Program. Not to toot my own horn, but Rita was lucky to be referred to me- had she not had someone who was familiar with the confusing systems of American healthcare, and someone who would advocate for her, I guarantee her application wouldn’t have been processed so quickly. Rita got lucky that there was a program that could help her, and see, that’s the problem right there. No one should have to be “lucky” enough that their progressive illness is one of the few that is covered by specialized, state-administered, programs. Someone who is diagnosed with cervical cancer in Arkansas should be able to receive the same healthcare as a person who is diagnosed in Pennsylvania. People who are dying should automatically be eligible for medical assistance and obtaining this assistance shouldn’t be as complicated as it is now.

So, what is the answer to what happens to people who are uninsured and are diagnosed with a serious, progressive illness? There’s a small chance that there may be a specialized program to help pay for their specific illness. There’s also a small chance that they will be picked as out of thousands of other applications for a scholarship, grant, or charity care from large non-profits and foundations. There’s also a small chance that magic Jesus is gonna skateboard down from the heavens to lay hands and miraculously cure the person immediately. The more likely answer is that they person suffers and then dies. People who are uninsured are already unhealthier than those who are insured. Poor people are at a higher risk for serious illness than the middle class. People who are uninsured aren’t able to access preventative care, and thus will more likely have poor and deteriorating health. This is all such a bummer and such a fucking problem. This is the huge question that should be answered based on a collective value, but there are very few people of power who will admit that America healthcare values money over health. I don’t know what the answer is, and I pray that I don’t have to help anyone else in Rita’s situation who isn’t as lucky as she, but I know that I will, and that that patient is on their way.

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Who and Where Are Our Leaders?

Who and where are our leaders? This is a question that I have spent a lot of time mulling over throughout the past year. My mind probably first wrestled with this when Bernie Sanders conceded his nomination for the Democratic Presidential Candidate at the DNC last summer. I’m sure the emotions I felt watching the speech were similar to other Sanders supporters- the feeling of defeat, the disappointment in the American electorate and democratic process, and the frustration that the Democratic Party got away with rigging the election in order to, once again, demand support and submission to their chosen golden calf. It was a rough night, I cried knowing that the hope I had in my heart for a real revolution wasn’t going to come by way of electoral politics.

I would say that Bernie is still probably the most revered US political leader today, however his followers aren’t nearly as energized as they were a year and a half ago. The same is true for HRC supporters. The only other person with a continuous strong following is Trump, and I think this is just because his base fails to ever take responsibility that Trump is ever in the wrong (ie: Trump said we’re going to Syria which is another broken campaign promise. Does his base really care? Probably not. Somehow, they’ll still be correct in their own minds). So this is pretty depressing if our most recognized leaders are Trump and Sanders.

So, why is this? Why does there seem to be less leaders in the era of Trump and Post-Truthism? Is  political fatigue really the reason behind the lackluster support? Are people too tired to care anymore? I have to believe that tiredness is only partially to blame- the real problem is the lack of enthusiastic, idealistic, moral leadership available.

I finally finished Judgement Days which is about the heavy weighted relationship between LBJ and MLK and chronicles their work on the Civil Rights Bill. The revolutionary movements that were sparked by the 60s wouldn’t have happened without these strong leaders and who knows what worse of a state we’d be in had they given up on their convictions. And you know what’s crazy? While I read JD I kind of felt jealous that there were actual leaders, leading groups of people and entire movements towards a real goal. Groups like the ACLU, SNCC, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference all were lead by leaders with strong organizing skills and a passionate heart. Where are these types of leaders now?

LBJ and MLK Signing 1965 Voting Rights Act

LBJ and MLK Getting Work Done and Signing the 1965 Voting Rights Act

A great number of activist groups have popped up and grown since November 8th, which is really great and important. BUT, I have to wonder. Who are the leaders of these movements? BLM? DSA? Who are the leaders of the movements to get money out of politics (other than Bernie?) ? Who is leading the movements to end discrimination against LGBTQI where, even in places like Scranton, PA, it is legal for landlords and employers to discriminate against gay and trans people? Who is trying to create real gun reform? Or criminal justice reform? Who is trying to end the war on drugs? Where are these people, and if they exist, why aren’t they visible and vocal?

Maybe I’m out of touch. These people must exist, but what are they doing for their movements? And why aren’t they actively trying to form coalitions with these like-minded lib groups? It’s so frustrating. I’m happy to be part of a bunch of different activist groups, but I have to wonder, where are we headed? Sure, acting locally is going to allow us to do more work than shooting for national initiatives, but there needs to be an overall national goal, right? We need some kind of roadmap if we really want to transform this nation, but we’re not going to get anywhere if no one is at the front of the line leading the way. 

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Open Letter to Wilkes-Barre Township Police Department

wb township pd

Dear Captain Clark, Officer Godlewski, Patrolman Capparell, and the entire Wilkes-Barre Township Police Department,

I am very concerned about your lack of understanding of why posting a picture of a clothed man asking a topless woman, who is hiding her breasts with her hands, for a high five is in poor taste. I am worried about the character of the police force in Wilkes-Barre Township and am in disgust that by all accounts of the media’s reporting on this, that the Wilkes-Barre Township Police Department refuses to recognize why this type of behavior is unacceptable. I am shocked that you refuse to take in mind how sexually abused victims in your township feel and how their reluctance to report abuse is potentially heightened because of your inability to empathize.

It is not a matter of being “offended” by the meme. It’s a matter of missing the point of why posting the picture in the first place was wrong. It’s a matter of balking at people who disagree and instead of listening to why people are “offended”, offering up only other distasteful and dismissive responses to legitimate concerns. It’s a matter of not recognizing that there already exists a hierarchical relationship between victims and police officers, especially victims of abuse and police officers, that creates burdens to people seeking help.

Police officers are on the front lines in times of crisis and have the heavy and respected responsibility of helping those in vulnerable situations. Rape victims, sexual assault victims, child sexual abuse victims, these are all the types of people who need the services of police officers. Officer Godlewski mentioned in the Citizen Voice article that Facebook may be acting like a deterrent for criminals to commit crimes because they don’t want their faces plastered all over the internet. Well, the content you have been posting recently also acts as a deterrent for a different population, as now I, along with many other people I know and social service providers, do not feel comfortable around or referring abused clients to the Wilkes-Barre Township Police Force. I feel less safe around Wilkes-Barre Township Police Officers.

Your defense that you are not always going to please everyone and that the department’s utilization of social media is an opportunity to humanize the force is, in all actuality, extremely depressing and discouraging. The message you send online is that the Wilkes-Barre Police Department is a frathouse of sexist, chauvinistic, “good ole boys”. Your lack of willingness to listen to the people who saw the meme and expressed their concern is disturbing for the fact that you are police officers- you are the men and women who are supposed to help victims! Not help contribute to stigmatizing sexual assault and abuse victims!!!

I recognize that you have by far one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, and I am grateful for your service. Police officers are real life heroes. However, your police force recently has significantly change my opinion about the motivation of police officers and their understanding of victims’ issues. The worst part is, I have a feeling that you will read and ignore this letter or mock it, and won’t take responsibility for your actions. Your lack of apology and dismissiveness towards the situation speaks louder than any social media post.

 

Sincerely,

Chelsea T. Collins

Throop, PA

chelseataylorcollins@gmail.com

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“Don’t Mind Him, He’s A Republican” shouldn’t be a thing

 

Guys. We gotta end attaching the connotations that someone is bad or stupid based on their political party. It’s gotta end now before it adds to any more reasons to develop unwarranted hate towards others. Stereotypes already exist and we need to question our biases NOW. Here’s a quick example: One of my big projects for my policy class was on the proposed borderwall. Not surprisingly my group took a liberal approach to the problem.  One part of the project was a critique from the class. One of my classmates said that maybe we should’ve looked more at the argument that the borderwall would save Americans money somehow (even though our project clarified this myth). Anyways, he had to critique us, and it wasn’t anything malicious or mean, he was just doing his work as a student. After the class, he and one of his friends and I were talking about my group’s presentation and his friend says, “Don’t mind his remark, he’s a Republican”. I was really confused by this and said I don’t care what anyone’s political party is and laughed it off.

Since then, my eyes have been really open to how our culture is using political parties as a way to insult others. And this is a problem for a few reasons.

First, we really only have two political parties (please let me know if you want to come over the Green side…), so grouping people into two narrow ideologies is stupid. People are way more complex than just Blue or Red.

pinkerton

if i’m being honest, it’s pinkerton all the way.

Second, trying to insult someone based on their political party isn’t going to get anything done. I realize that this is way simplifying it, but just because someone likes Pinkerton better than the Blue Album doesn’t mean that either person is better than the other. When we value ourselves based on the hierarchy of perceived “rightness” or “correctness” we devalue others who are no better than us. People who voted for Trump are not inherently evil. I know this can be hard to subscribe to when the liberal echo chambers of social media and sensationalized news often infers the opposite. But this is where I think it’s important to realize- this is someone else’s opinion, and even though I agree with them on a lot of things, I don’t have to hate, or think less than, the people who don’t agree with them.

Third, reducing people to political parties constricts growth. We need to be eager to have friends from all different ideologies in order to learn! So here’s what’s up. I like the Green Party because it is the party that most closely aligns with my personal values. I realize that a lot of people don’t pick political parties based on this- they are often just born into their political party and don’t question it. However, having open-hearted conversations with people about their own beliefs can be really enlightening for both parties (as long as both parties are willing to listen to the other’s side). Most the time when I talk to my friends who are democrats or republicans, I learn something from their point of view. And more often than not, my own personal beliefs and arguments are strengthened by listening to their side.

So yeah. Short and sweet. We gotta stop using “She probably voted for Trump” as a derogatory term. And guys, I am TOTALLY AWARE THAT I HAVE DONE THIS IN THE PAST AS WELL! But I’ve decided to recognize that this bias is stupid and now am conscious to challenge it whenever it might rear its ugly head. We are in a strange time. We have to work together instead of cutting each other part.

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A Quick Explanation of “Cuck”

First off- googling “‘cuck’ sucks” is nsfw. i learned that the hard way.

cuck robot

it’s just a fucking dumb word for dumb people

Okay. So the word “cuck” (short for “cuckservative”) has been floating around the internet for the past year. Or, at least, I only started noticing it in the past year and it was pretty much reserved to the subreddits of /r/pol and /r/thedonald until a few months ago. Recently, I’ve been seeing “cuck” used as an insult, or to insinuate an insult, on more mainstream internet platforms like Facebook and I’ve also heard it used IRL, pronounced in a bunch of different ways.

I’ve been interested in the etymology of the word “cuck” for a while now, especially because of the alt-right implications, and finally devoted a few hours of a stormy Sunday afternoon to dig in. And boy, oh boy, what a mess I found.

So, I’ve always associated “cuck” with the alt-right. Now listen, my knowledge of the alt right is limited to grabya-headlines about Richard Spencer getting punched in the face and from Chapo Trap House’s explanation of  things like Alpha-males and their riveting reading series of people like Mike Cernovich. If I had to describe the alt-right, I’d say they are a loosely organized far-right group, majorly male, and who aim for a society that furthers oppressive patriarchy for capitalistic gains that is ultimately rooted in hate/fear. Their values revolve around preserving the white man’s race, so hello racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and all the other different ways to categorize hating one group of people that are not white.

Okay, wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get back to “cuck”. The word itself sounds like a bad word. It starts off with that hard c sound (see: the same sound in the beginning of “cunt”), and ends in the hard “ck” (see: the same sound at the end of “cock”). The mere pronunciation sounds like words that we already deem as offensive. What my mind first went to when I read “cuck” for the first times online was the sound a chicken would make- cuck cuck cuck! You know, like cucking. Turns out, I was kind of right. “Cuck” is a derivative from “cuckoo bird”… and “cuck” is a shortened form of “cuckold”… and a “cuckold”, by the definition of dictionary.com, is a husband to an unfaithful wife…Okay, wait, what? Okay, okay, okay, let’s recap- The cuckoo bird, which is a bird depicted as “crazy” in many different folklores from around the world, is the root term for “cuckold”, who is the husband of a wife that has sex with other men, which is the root for “cuck”, which is the insult that this whole blog post is about.

So apparently, cuckold is also a porn genre… I’m not well versed in porn genres, but cuckold porn seems to take different forms, all involving a man’s wife having sex. Apparently, a lot of cuckold porn includes the unfaithful white wife sleeping with a black man, which relates back to the inherent racism that exists in the alt-right. Some men in online communities have even professed that they are proud cuckolds- they enjoy watching their wife have sex with another person. So, this is where I am confused- this isn’t really that crazy of a fetish, right? It’s not really all that taboo at all. So here I think is where the alt-right tried to morph this term into an insult. When the alt-right uses “cuck” or “cuckservative” they are calling out men who don’t subscribe to their creed as weak. “These cucks can’t even take charge of their life enough to keep their wives from cheating!” The alt-right are simply appealing to men’s vulnerability about masculinity . “Cuck” is aimed specifically to offend men- to question their masculinity… because a cheating wife is emasculating (in the alt-right’s opinion). I hope that the men I know have a strong enough sense of self and understanding of human relationships that they wouldn’t feel less masculine because their wife was unfaithful. It also is in the favor of the alt-right that “cuck” has a harsh pronunciation and sounds like an offensive word.

For cuckold to exist, a power hierarchy in genders must exist- The implication of the alt-right’s definition of cuck is based on the idea that men should be stronger than women, that they should keep their women in line, and that they should be manly enough to control their life. They try to make the association between cuck and lack of autonomy, and this bias is completely sexist. The idea that a husbands wife is cheating on him with a black man, well that is just unacceptable, the worst-of-the-worst, in the alt-right’s eye! Ugh, what a bunch of sexist and racist fearful little boys.

The evolution of this word is interesting because of its rapid spread throughout online political culture and it’s ambiguous pejorative use.  Any man who is not an alt-right pledgee, is by default a cuck (and therefore a beta, but that’s a whole different blog post).  If the alt-right was actively trying to recruit members, then they would need to rethink their messaging- “cuck” doesn’t pacify men any more than the word “bitch” or “pussy” does. But, I don’t think the alt-right is actively trying to recruit members. Sure, they allow for prospective members to come to them, but they aren’t necessarily marketing themselves in the mainstream. So that’s actually really comforting, because the alt-right doesn’t have nearly as much power as the internet will lead you to believe. They are simply a group of men, who sit behind computer screens, and believe that they are genetically better than non-white men, and that their genetic traits need to be preserved.

I feel like “cuckservative” or “cuck” is just a really dumb and lazy insult. I mean, “cuck” in itself has no real meaning. At least “pussy” has a meaning.  As far as “pussy”‘s etymology, I wonder what came first- the vagina or the insult? Who knows.  I guess where insults come from doesn’t really matter, but my money’s on vagina (my theory is “pussycat” being used as a sexual innuendo dating back to like the Elvis days).

Alright. So what would I want someone to get from this blog post? That the word “cuck” is stupid, and it shouldn’t be given any greater power than the measly muscles it already has. “Cuck” exists in the alt-right universe, and we don’t need to acknowledge that realm of the digital milieu if we don’t want to. Using the word “cuck” just associates you with the alt-right losers and honestly has no real meaning other than the meaning that we give to it.

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geopolitics is hard

globe puzzle

Geopolitics is a symbiotic jigsaw. When one piece seems to fit in place, another pops out. And this puzzle isn’t going to be put together anytime soon. Fuck, we don’t even know what the finished puzzle is supposed to look like. I believe that we’re entering a new era that is changing what that picture will look like and the pieced may have to be rearranged. Whether this era is postcolonialism, I’m not sure, but if we use the past 6 years as a proxy for what will come, I think it’s fair to say that authoritarian powers aren’t going anywhere.

What is happening in Syria is really fucked up. And how Syria got to the state it’s at isn’t a simple path to understand. I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can about Syria, and the Middle East, and man, when you’re used to learning about your nation that is only 238 years old, it takes some catching up to learn about the history of a region that covers over 3000 years. And here’s the deal- I don’t know what to think of anything. All I can tell is that neoliberalism is strengthening its hold, and just as what was predicted far before Trump even came into the picture, wars aren’t going to end when there is money to be made.

I’m not sure what can be done. I’m nervous after watching how buddy-buddy Trump was with people like el-Sisi and then learning about how seemingly rash the decision to bomb Syria was. My only hope is that America is too big for an authoritarian ruler- that the democratic system in place will safeguard us from what we witnessed in post-Arab Spring countries and that there are too many of us, including elected officials, and too little of them, ultimately the deep statists. However, if we look at the past, empires that were relatively as big as America have fallen, and that’s pretty depressing to think about.

I don’t know what to do. I know it is probably stupid, but for myself, I have to pray (meditate) for some real macro conscious raising- and that’s at a cognitive and spiritual level. We need to help other people understand why we go to war, how war profiteering works, what the dangers are that can lead the US to an authoritarian regime, and how to tune inward in order to produce more loving kindness in the world. I know, it’s hippie shit, but if I don’t believe that there can be good, then what is the point?

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The Beautiful Gift of Being Wrong

Holy fuck, 2017 is a lot crazier than ever expected. Our American government has become a futurist fuckery  that has a lot of people deep breathing in paper bags as we gather speed racing towards this universal feeling of annihilation anxiety. Life is way crazy right now and I think a lot of people I know out there are getting a bit worn out fighting the good fight, trying to stay woke and helping others to wake up. I know I am. It’s hard to stay motivated to keep learning, to keep helping, to keep loving, when reality is out of whack and it seems like society has given up on hope and change. WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE, AM I RIGHT OR WHAT?

For real though, what a time to be alive. Our grandchildren will most likely question us about what it was like living through “The Great Global Unrest” or whatever colloquial name history deems our current experience. We are living at a point in time where technology is advancing at an exponential rate and where the means of digital information has given us a tool to connect and learn and experience life in a whole different way than ever even imagined, but also a tool that often acts as the gateway to mass confusion, panic, and negativity.

So, what can we do about all the garbage out there, floating and polluting the digital airwaves? How do we deal with people who seem to get off to making life worse for others? How do we interact with those who challenge our perspective?

yeah right, if i give him my hard earned cash he'll spend it on dope, so naw, fuck him.

Jeez, get a look at this guy. Like I’m gonna give my hard earned cash when he’ll just buy dope. Naw, I’ve been conditioned to believe this, so, fuck you dude. 

First, I think we have to keep in mind that people are reactionary by nature, and people are often irrational. Why do we automatically scoff off the homeless man asking for spare change? “How dare he ask for the dollars in my wallet that I worked 50 hours a week for, when he’ll just buy booze and drugs? I have my own to take care of! He isn’t worthy of my charity!” This is an example of a reactionary response, and I believe we’ve been pretty conditioned to think this way (not specifically about the homeless man example, but in general). God forgive we see this homeless man as an individual man, and not as a representative of how we have grown to think about homeless people. Conditioned societal experience often blocks us from questioning situations or thoughts which will hold us back from developing greater understandings of everything in our life and to default on our reactionary way of thinking.

I believe that we must constantly question ourselves and our own views on life in a Socratic way. We gotta check ourselves, and make sure that some of that smelly trash water negativity hasn’t oozed into our way of thinking and is blocking us from seeing the reality of life. We can’t rest on our laurels and believe that all we know is right. WE MUST BE OKAY WITH BEING WRONG.

One of the biggest arguments I’ve ever had in my life was about whether or not the melting of polar icecaps raises water levels. It ended up turning into a screaming match and is one of my memories that I look back at with real, deep shame and embarrassment. A lot of other repressed emotions came out in that argument, and the whole ordeal was an example of great humanistic irrationality. However, at the end I conceded that I was wrong, or at least had the potential to be wrong, and the argument ended. Admitting I was wrong wasn’t embarrassing, in fact, it was liberating! By admitting I was wrong, or that there may be a flaw in my understanding, I killed the discomfort that the argument made me feel. Holy Smokes! What an important lesson from a seemingly minor event! So, when we’re out there, fighting the good fight, getting really worked up about something we believe in, maybe it’s important to step back and ask, “is there potential for a flaw in my thinking here?” and “am I discussing my point in the most loving and kind way possible?”. I think these are really questions to practice asking yourself. Not only will it help you gain a little peace and objectivity, but will also help you strengthen your own understanding about the issue at hand and possibly experience a little deeper connection with your core values of life.

polar ice cap

i still have no clue what happens when the polar ice caps melt

When you realize that you are wrong about something, or that your understanding of an issue needs to change to be congruent with your overall understanding of life, it is not a defeat, but a ginormous win for all of the universe! The prize is a deeper understanding of the issue! Admitting you are wrong or some negative aspect of yourself needs to change is the pickaxe that chips away of that protective ego that makes us assholes in the first place. Relish in being wrong and in the celebrate the act of continuous learning! I really truly believe that the only way we are going to get through the next four years is with a gracious heart and examination of self, which will take a lot of concentration and commitment, but is far from an impossibility.

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polarization is dangerous

I’ve already written about this, but I have not seen any progress on the situation, only a rapid race to extremes so…

Polarization of our politics and culture is not the answer!

Boxing people into groups based on generalizations is not the answer!

Grouping people into vast generalizations based on anything, ESPECIALLY political parties, isn’t going to help build bridges, it’s only going to create a deeper disparity between the ability to connect with others! Labelling people and letting those label stick without the subjects full ownership isn’t going to help build a culture and society of peace!

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us vs. them is a quick way to the end

I know. It’s hard. It’s really hard. It’s much easier to say that all Republicans are racist and that’s the reason why our county is racially divided. It’s easier to say that old white men are the reason why we’re still living in a patriarchal state (which, I mean, has a lot of truth to it…but that’s not the ONLY truth). It’s easier to say that white, liberal, 20-40somethings are responsible for our culture of political correctness. It’s easy to blame BLM for rising racial divides. It’s easy to blame the Green Party and Libertarians for Trump’s election. What I’m getting at here is that it’s easier to BLAME the OTHER than taking responsibility for creating a culture of inclusiveness.

I didn’t feel the need to write about my experience at the Women’s March on DC because it wasn’t different than other of the marcher’s narratives from around the world. It was empowering. It was a sign of the times. It was being part of a movement. It was a feminist environment, and I’m so grateful I was able to experience it.

However, I was irked about something I noticed at the march, which mirrored a flaw within our society. It was a meaningful event that was exclusive to a certain type of [liberal] woman. I’ve spoken about this to close friends, but my biggest qualm with the women’s march was that it was in no way welcoming to Republicans, and certainly not to women who supported Trump. And that’s a problem, because that only widens the divide we’re creating as a country. I’m proud that we can champion the Woman’s March was the largest rally in history and a gold star for feminism. However, we also must be critical and recognize that there was a subset of women who were not welcomed, and this whole thing was supposed to promote intersectionality!

The only way that I think we can fix this is to stop with the vast generalizations and start having conversations. I vehemently disagree with Trump, but to allow that to influence how I feel about everyone who voted for him is wrong and destructive. It stops conversations before they happen, and more importantly, actively halts the creation of new ideas and new ideals. Polarization allows for the breakdown of all systems in which the participants are left within a society that is understood strictly as good vs. evil, and that’s not realistic, it’s fucking dangerous. But we’ll allow it, because it’s easier, and it’s more fun to think of ourselves as the “good guys” anyways.

So, I challenge you to start thinking about how you may have allowed sweeping generalizations to affect your ability to promote a society and culture of peace, while also reflecting on the possibility that perhaps you have allowed your own identity to be defined by concrete constructs… 😉

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Why I Went to Trump’s Inauguration, What it Was Like, and What I Learned About Myself.

I’m still trying to process my inauguration day experience. When I was there on Friday, living in it, I didn’t have much time or energy to examine all of the things happening around me. I used all yesterday to compress after returning to Northeastern PA from the inauguration and Woman’s March in DC, and spent the day trying to find peace of mind by watching the first season of Parks and Rec (what a funny show!), yogaing, and eating my weight in Korma Paneer.

So here’s what I experienced at the DC Inauguration:

When I told people that I would be attending the inauguration, most questioned why and what my motives were. I spent time meditating on whether I should attend the inauguration since election day, and the more heated the country became on both sides, the more I felt compelled to attend. Inaugurations are historic days, regardless of who is president, and I’ve never attended one before. My professor gave me and two of my friends permission to miss class to attend, and since Scranton is only about a 4.5 hour drive from D.C., I knew I would regret it if I didn’t go.

So that’s the easy answer to why I went: because I could and it is a historic day. My true, number 1 reason for attending was to promote love and to act as a representative of peace, to represent the ideology that we can communicate with each other even if we think differently, that we can listen to each other, and that true, positive change can happen if it’s governed by an underlying value of love. I expected that there would be a lot of anger and emotion on both sides of the inauguration, and I wanted to show others that it is a possibility to attend to issues with an open heart and mind.

We drove late Thursday night to my friends’ home in Harrisburg where we slept for a few hours. (Shoutout to Mike and Dana for letting us stay at their beautiful home! And to Brendan who let us stay Friday night!) At 5am we embarked to drive the rest of the way to Rockville, Maryland, where we parked the car at the metro station. The Rockville stop on the metro station is one of the last stops on that subway line, which means that it’s one of the furthest stops from capitol where we were headed.  When we got on the train, there was a family of four with a sign that said “need 1 more silver ticket for inauguration”. They looked sad, and even a little pathetic, to me, but now thinking about it in hindsight, they probably were just tired, and I allowed my bias to form an opinion about them. There was another Trump-supporting Baby Boomer couple, who were dressed patriotically, the wife even donning a red, white, and blue scrunchie. I looked directly at them, but they wouldn’t make eye contact with me. I soon would find out that this would be the norm for many of the Trump supporters. Anyways, the train was pretty much empty, and we had our choice of seats.

We got out at Metro Station, in downtown DC, where roads were blocked off all around the Capitol. We walked around for a little while to get our bearings and then decided to make our signs on the steps of a lavish apartment building, on the same block of a checkpoint for people who had tickets to the inauguration. I had some leftover “Stein/Baraka” lawn signs that I brought with me, which turned out to be really durable protest signs, so thanks again, Green Party, for helping me be an advocate. All of our signs promoted love. Mine said “True Change Only Comes from Love”, Kim’s said “Love Trumps Hate”, and Dawn’s read “If It Isn’t Intersectional, it isn’t Feminism”. Throughout the day people told us that we had the right idea, gave us thumbs up, and asked to take pictures of us, which was encouraging, and helped me keep my head up in a place of strong emotions and negativity.

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Me, Dawn, and Kim at the beginning of Inauguration Day.

The first group we came across was where we were making our signs, outside of a security checkpoint for people who had tickets to the inauguration to enter. The Freedom Socialist Party held a demonstration outside of the checkpoint so any Trump supporters who wanted to get into the inauguration would have to pass through them. There were probably 40(?I’m pretty bad with estimating people sizes) people dancing and chanting. I heard later that they also had a gay dance party outside the security checkpoint, so Trump supporters would have to walk through shirtless gay men in glitter and butch women in cargo pants dancing to George Michael. I am OK with this type of demonstration. However, it was during this early morning protest that I saw the only violence of my trip. My group wanted to walk over one block, and the easiest way to do this was to walk through the demonstration and turn the corner. Behind us, a few young, college-aged men, donned in the red hats and dark trench coats, tried to follow in our path. All of a sudden, a bunch of demonstrators started screaming “Shame! Shame! Shame!” in their faces. I’m not one who would protest in this way, but the protesters weren’t really doing anything wrong. The three of us were pushed to to the side, while a police officer helped escort the Trump supporters through the crowd. Then, the cop grasped his hands together in front of him and forcefully, and violently, rammed himself through a group of the protesters, causing a few of them to fall to the pavement hard. This was the only violence I witnessed, and I have to be honest, if I’m truly trying to be objective, it was the Trump supporters who really did nothing wrong in this situation, however they did seem smug when the police officer forcefully pushed people away to get them into the security checkpoint line.

We did see an Antifa group marching and running through the streets with their signs held high shortly after this occurrence in the morning. Antifa appears frightening if you don’t know about them, and I know many on the right and left want them to be labelled as domestic terrorists. They’re a militant left group, and support fear tactics, such as bearing arms while wearing masks that cover their faces. Antifa was the most radical group I saw at the inauguration, and I believe they were the ones who burned the limo in the over-sensationalized “riots” that were depicted on mainstream media and who punched Richard Spenser in the face.

The first mean-spirited thing said to us was right after a reporter from CBS asked to take our picture. A group of well dressed and groomed white, 20-somethings, in red hats, walked by, sniffed the air, and said “smells like hippie” and all laughed while they past us. We received numerous other statements like this throughout the day, all of which were unprovoked. While we stood in the inauguration line, one Trump supporter turned to Kim and asked her if she was a Trump supporter because her sign read “Love Trumps Hate”. Kim calmly replied that she supports love, and wasn’t a Trump supporter. He was condescending towards her, I had to take a few deep breaths and remind myself why I was at the inauguration, in order to not say anything negative to him and his group. I am so proud of us for not giving in to negativity during the inauguration, especially in times I felt threatened.

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Mixed Crowd of Supporters and Protesters Waiting in Inauguration Line

So, yeah, we stood in line to get into the inauguration, even though we didn’t have tickets, simply because we didn’t know where else to go. Almost everyone in line was a protester. There were a few businesses that opened their doors for people to use their bathrooms, and one business even had free hot chocolate and coffee available. It was easy to tell what businesses were protest friendly because they didn’t look any different than their normal state. We didn’t dare try to use the bathrooms in the businesses that were decked out in all things MAGA, which there were a bunch of.

After I watched on my phone Trump’s swearing in, we marched in the Anti-Inauguration March which had demonstrators from all different types of activist groups. It was a sea of people chanting “This is what democracy looks like!” and “No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!”. We were getting hungry and when the march passed by a soup and sandwich shop, we stopped in to grab lunch.There weren’t many people in the restaurant, and we took a much needed rest sitting in the open dining area. Shortly after we started our lunch, the red hatted people started filing in. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little threatened being the minority in that cafe, a smaller version of what the city felt like the whole day, where the anger and hate was palpable. One couple that lunched next to us asked if we were protesting, which we said yes. The woman then gave us a poncho and extra handwarmers she had, and explained that she didn’t need them because they were on their way home after watching their president’s inauguration. She was kind, and it’s this human connection that’s what’s really important. Regardless of political views, she was compassionate towards us, fellow human beings.

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While we were standing in the inauguration line

We did listen to some of the other conversations happening around us in the cafe, in which I heard a table talk about that protesters just are protesting to get their picture taken. I heard some other similar dialogues, but tried to tune and block them out as much as possible. I was happy to leave the lunch place when we did. I felt like easy prey for someone to take their anger out on, and more red hats kept flooding through the doors.

We were able to get in to see the parade, which also was an experience in being the minority. We stood in a checkpoint line for probably an hour, and the vast majority of those in line with us were Trump supporters. We were all connected by a common thread of feeling annoyed towards a man with a megaphone preaching that we were all going to burn in hell and that doomsday was near.

So, we get through the checkpoint and the protesters have taken over a large area. No red hats, but also no room to really move or see the parade. We walked a few blocks over to where the crowd was thinning, but was also turning redder. There was an open space where we could kind of see the parade, however it was standing under a big group of Trump supporters who were standing on a ledge, about two feet higher than us. They were basically hovering over us, and I was waiting to get spit on. It was hard to ignore the “Blue Lives Matter” chant when the police marched by. I wanted so badly to turn around and say, “BLM isn’t about devaluing others lives!” but I bit my tongue, and continued to watch the parade.

When Trump drove by, we could only see his and Melania’s silhouette waving through the black tinted windows. It was at this point, when the crowd around us was screaming in excitement and adoration, that I felt real resentment towards Trump. He couldn’t even roll down his window to wave at his supporters. What a fucking coward.

We walked over to K and 14th Street where the “riots” happened. We could smell tear gas when we approached. We saw the limo that was set on fire and the Bank of America and Starbucks which had their windows broken. I don’t believe in destruction of property, and violence doesn’t solve anything, but people are tired of this wealth disparity! And although I don’t agree with it, I can understand it. The upper class doesn’t know the plight of the underclass, and setting a limo on fire seems like a small rally cry in the context of the enormous unrest.

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Limo that was set on fire, and SUV that was damaged. Also, the glass pane with spray paint there said “We The People”

So out of this whole day, you want to know what really got under my skin the most? It was the rich people walking to the inauguration balls around sunset, dripping in diamond jewelry and smuggly fitted tailored tuxes. They would not look at us. I tried smiling at them, but they refused to make eye contact. I don’t know if it was because they sincerely believe that they are the ones that make America great and can’t see us, or if they are afraid of us- maybe their fear of all the protesters has blocked their ability to assign humanity to any of us, regardless of motivation. Or, maybe, they really don’t care about anyone but themselves. I have never felt so small, so less-than, compared to a group than I did walking by these people. But then, after thinking about this the past few days- maybe they really do fear me, the protester, the other. And if this is the case, then I have some strength and influence over them, because I am NOT afraid of them. And that’s pretty empowering and gives me a glimpse of greater hope for the future of our country.

 

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