human rights

Families Belong Together: Ways to Help

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I, like most of you, am completely distraught and enraged over what’s happening at our border. I, too, am worried over the Supreme Court vacancy and angry about their recent rulings. Yet I have also found hope in the fact that so many Americans have put aside political and religious differences to come together and fight for human rights. Hundreds of thousands of us have already donated over twenty million dollarsOrganizations like RAICES have already reunited multiple familiesA number of prominent politicians, including Republicans, have publicly decried Trump’s policies. And Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez just beat 10-term Congressman Joe Crowley by a huge margin! As a result of this pressure, the Administration released an executive order ending family separation at the border only days after saying they would never do such a thing. Our efforts are working.

However, this executive order is nowhere near the end. Over 2,000 children have been separated from their parents and are now living in hospitals, warehouses, detention centers, and cages all over the country. And while ICE is no longer separating families at our borders, it is still their practice to separate families within our borders by detaining and deporting immigrants who have lived here, many legally, for years, even decades. It is also still their practice to imprison children, who have committed no crimes, and hold them indefinitely, alongside their families who have also committed no crimes.

Many people are saying, “This isn’t who we are, this isn’t America.” Others are saying, “This is exactly who we are, just look at our history.” While it is absolutely vital that we address our country’s history of genocide, slavery, lynching, and more (Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, anyone?), it is also absolutely vital that we hold on to the positive aspects of our identity. It’s easy to get lost in rage and feel like America is full of monsters, but this is only partly true; America is also full of helpers.

There are so many people and organizations working for these children, their parents, immigrants, women, the working class, and human rights in general. These organizations need our donations and our volunteering efforts right now. Our Senators and Representatives need to hear our voices. Even if you just have a few minutes on your lunch break, please be a helperEvery action matters.

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Below is a list of organizations to donate to and/or volunteer for, along with ways to stay updated. There are also country-wide #FamiliesBelongTogether demonstrations this Saturday, June 30th – click here to get involved, and sign the petition here.

Remember: being a helper requires taking action, but also taking care of yourself. Hug your kids. Enjoy a good meal with your mom. Tell your friends you love them. Find and spread your joy, even if – especially if – your joy feels impossible to find. We cannot let fear, anger, and hatred take over.

I am sending my love to you all. Stay strong, and keep paying your union dues.

WAYS TO HELP

Lunchtime for Change – Quick daily actions you can do from anywhere.

The New York Immigration Coalition – This fantastic organization helps immigrants apply for citizenship, provides free legal aid, organizes demonstrations, and more. You can donate here, and also join them in Foley Square on Saturday at 10 am to march across the Brooklyn Bridge for a demonstration in Cadman Plaza at 11:30 am. Text “NYIC” to 864237 to receive their updates. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook, too.

Make the Road New York – “Building power of Latinx and working class communities to achieve dignity and justice.” Follow them on Twitter and FacebookDonate here. Text “ROAD” to 52886 for action alerts.

Cayuga Center
 – 
This NY-based organization has taken in many children who were separated from their parents at the border. I know this is a little fraught because they receive government money in exchange for taking these kids, which feels like they’re a little in cahoots with the Administration, but at the same time, the kids are there. They aren’t currently accepting volunteers due to fingerprinting/background check requirements, but they do have an Amazon wish list created by the kids currently being held there.

RAICES – An excellent organization based on the Texas/Mexico border. You can donate as part of this fundraiserThey also have many great resources on their website for grassroots organizing.

Mamas Week of Action – Beautiful message with actions all week following June 30th’s protest.

The ACLU – Always doing amazing work tackling not just immigration but many other human rights issues. They always need financial support.

Abortion Funds – The truth is, even under Roe v Wade, many low-income and rural women do not have access to abortions even when they’re medically necessary. Abortion Funds picks these women up, takes them to providers, gives them support and after care, and more. They need our money. Donate here.

Planned Parenthood – Making sure women have access to affordable healthcare and birth control. They are constantly under threat. Support them here.

Images taken from Mamas Week of Action.

 

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Living / Screaming / Trying

Love wins, we say, and I believe it. But hate is powerful, too.

When my anger over the sexism I’ve simply swallowed in the past week, past month, past year, past lifetime, bubbles up and makes me want to scream, I look at pictures of my dogs until it passes. Often, animals exhibit more humanity than we humans do.

But now I’m thinking I should be screaming more often.

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I am raising a son. My God, I have a son. There are so many things he must know and do. There is so much work ahead of us.

I wish it were a better world.

Is it enough that I am trying?

Spreading Love

May we all live in this world happily, peacefully, joyfully, and with ease. This is what I dream for, and this is why I resist. Happy birthday and thank you, Martin Luther King Jr!

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Our Proud Flesh

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To my fellow fighters,

Yes, this tax scam sucks. Yes, this entire past year has felt terrible. And yes, I am tired. But let us not get lost in our anger, sorrow, and exhaustion. Instead, let us be proud of our work. Let us be impressed by how quickly We the Resistance came together. Let us be motivated by how much we have accomplished. And let us be ready for what’s next. This particular bill will go to the House and we will make more calls, send more emails, march down more streets. New bills, transgressions, and violations will arise, and we will come together and fight those, too. Times are dark and will likely grow darker, but we have our voices, our bodies, and our allies across the world. We, you and me, regular people who may have never even thought of ourselves as activists just one year ago, WE are ushering in a cultural and political change in which equality, respect, and love are at the forefront. This is bigger than us. It’s bigger than Trump, the Republicans, the Democrats, even bigger than the rampant corporate greed currently ruling our country.

Let them attack us. Through actions like passing this tax bill, they’re revealing their true motives and intentions which will only send more people to our cause. And together, we will heal, we will organize, we will be stronger than before, and we will prevail.

I leave you with a poem that reminds me of two things we resisters must hold onto as we move forward: our toughness and our love. Be proud, comrades, and resist.

In solidarity,
Becky Fine-Firesheets

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For What Binds Us

By Jane Hirshfield

There are names for what binds us:
strong forces, weak forces.
Look around, you can see them:
the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,
nails rusting into the places they join,
joints dovetailed on their own weight.
The way things stay so solidly
wherever they’ve been set down—
and gravity, scientists say, is weak.

And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
more strong
than the simple, untested surface before.
There’s a name for it on horses,
when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,

as all flesh,
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest—

And when two people have loved each other
see how it is like a
scar between their bodies,
stronger, darker, and proud;
how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend.

Photo Credits (Creative Commons): 1. Resistance by Baysal and 2. Resistance by Ivan Tasic

Stop This Tax Scam RIGHT NOW! Call, Email, and Tweet Your Senators!

unnamed.pngMany of you have been following the progress of this horrible tax bill. The vote is nearing, and we absolutely must put the pressure on Republican senators to not let this travesty pass. It’s not only a back-door ACA repeal but also a total scam, giving the uber rich a break while the working and middle class pay more. How long are we going to allow this corporatocracy to continue, at our expense no less??

Take five minutes right now, call 202-335-5529, and beg these Senators to VOTE NO on this tax bill! When your first call ends, press * to advance to the next call automatically.

I don’t agree with all of her views, but Senator Susan Collins has been a hero on the health care front so far. She has not confirmed her vote either way, but says she is hesitant because of the ACA repeal. Her vote is crucial, so CALL, EMAIL, TWEET HER RIGHT NOW! She knows what’s right, but her party is coming down hard on her. She needs our support. Thank her for supporting the ACA so far, and beg her to VOTE NO.

Senator Susan Collins
 – (207) 622-8414email contact form – Twitter: @SenatorCollins

Having trouble finding the energy to keep it up? From Senator Kamala Harris’s Twitter feed last night (Thurs, Nov 30): The Republicans had to delay votes on this tax bill until tomorrow. They’re rewriting it right now and we don’t even know what’s in it. This is no way to govern. We need you to keep up the pressure & keep up the calls.

Click here to tell your legislators, “Stop this devastating tax bill!”

Call 202-335-5529 and give your own explanation or use this sample script:

“Hello, my name is ____. This tax bill would repeal the ACA individual mandate and increase pressure to gut safety net programs like Ryan White in future budgets. I demand that you VOTE NO on this tax bill!”

It is on us to defend our country, and our work is paying off. Stay strong and pick up that phone RIGHT NOW! Resist!!

(Action alert courtesy of HIV Prevention Justice Alliance and AIDS Foundation of Chicago).

“We Can Find the Way” – New Song from The BPRS!

I’m so pissed that our Representatives voted to screw us all over, to take away our access to affordable maternity care, mental health services, prescription drugs and oh so much more, all so that they and their rich friends can get a tax break. These are the people who turned their backs on us – make sure you remember their names in 2018.

Yes, I understand that the AHCA bill has many steps and changes to go through before it takes effect, I get that the Senate is “going to fix it,” but none of this changes the fact that these assholes let it pass through the House. The greed and selfishness is SO SICKENING.

But more and more of us are paying attention now. More and more of us are fed up. And more and more of us are taking action. I actually wrote the words to this new BPRS song during the Obama years and sadly, the angry parts about our capitalist society run amuck are even truer than ever. But you know what? So are the hopeful parts. We’ve got this, ya’ll. Don’t let your anger/sadness/fear negatively affect your day-to-day. Smile at people. Hold doors for them. Tell your friends and family you love them. Remind yourself of all the things you’re grateful for. Spreading love and building community are two powerful ways to resist. Stay strong.

Check out The Brooklyn Players Reading Society’s Bandcamp page to hear more of our music.

solidarity“International Women’s Day, Solidarity” by Giulia Forsythe / Creative Commons

A Free Write on War

War. What is it good for? Making rich people richer.

I’ve been avoiding writing this piece. The topic of war has been swarming around my brain so much this past week, but I can’t seem to organize my ideas. The task of putting my thoughts into a cohesive essay feels impossible. I’ve decided instead to free write. We’ll see what comes out.

greed.jpg“Greed” by Liz West / Creative Commons

There are so many facets to war; it’s easy to get lost on a tangent and realize that I only brought up thousands of questions without any clear concept of how we can end war. And that’s the thing. I want to end war, but it seems like most people actually don’t. I’ve been thinking a lot about the military-industrial complex and feeling myself roil with so much anger that it’s difficult to breathe. I even hate the way we reference it – the military-industrial complex – like it’s some kind of academic topic fit for a text book as opposed to the horrible reality that a handful of rich people, including many of our elected government officials from the past many decades, get richer and richer off of killing children. The whole thing is a gross business, yet we talk about it like it’s some kind of cerebral debate.

I don’t understand the greed, the rampant, bipartisan greed, that seems to be ever-present in our country’s (our world’s) leaders. How do these people live with themselves? I don’t believe that our current Administration actually cares about the recent events in Syria. Trump’s prepared lines about the “attack on children” having a “big impact” were useless. It doesn’t matter what he says anymore. A, we know he lies and changes his mind so frequently that we can’t trust a word of anything, and B, his actions speak louder. A Syrian refugee ban followed by dropping bombs on Syria? The lack of care for actual human life is sickening.

There’s always some self-serving, underlying motive, for Trump, Clinton, Obama, all of them. A small group of rich assholes are currently running the world. They’re exploiting, hurting, killing anyone so that they can get more money and power. Our politicians are working for them. And it’s all going unchecked. I get that the situation in the Middle East is more complicated and involved than this, but if we were somehow able to stop these money-grubbing, war-mongering pricks, we’d experience some major changes right away.

So how many pictures of drowned children do we need to see before we demand that our leaders show some kind of consideration for human life and make a real attempt to end war? God, the image of that man wailing over his dead wife, the videos of him burying their dead twins. Can’t get it out of my head. Tears in my eyes right now.

What. The. Fuck.

And do not throw the fake news argument back at me. Yes, fake news is a real problem. But all of our masters, no matter if they’re Democrat, Republican, or Independent, are using fake news to their advantage while denouncing the other side for doing it. It’s like our livelihoods and our lives are all one big game to them. So let’s please not argue with each other over this. Whether you believe the images you see and the journals you read or not, the fact is: Syrians are dying every day and our tax money goes toward bombing them, toward bombing Koreans, Somalis, Yemenis, Afghanis. That’s right – America conducted tens of thousands of airstrikes in dozens of different countries under Obama, and Trump has already demonstrated his desire to follow this example.

Interesting how all of these people in power decided to stop using the word “war,” decided to control how our so-called free media reports on these bombings, decided to feed us lines about how our government is protecting democracy and how we Americans simply can’t stand for these war crimes. You know what all of this translates to? BULLSHIT.

We Americans are the war criminals.

quitwar.jpgDavid Owen / Creative Commons

So let’s not argue with each over who is or isn’t using fake news; they all are. In fact, let’s please not argue over the vast majority of absolutely ridiculous shit we keep arguing over. Our masters are so brilliant, they have us all staring at these tiny little devices that track our every move while stripping us of our ability to communicate face-to-face. Then they use these devices to thrust advertisements at us that tell us how badly we need more – more clothes, more electronics, more money, more youth. They have us competing over minimum/unlivable wage jobs, they’ve convinced us that immigrants are the enemy of the working class, that black people are criminals who are killing each other and should be feared, that education is not a right but is actually some hoity-toity liberal bubble elitism, when in reality, we’re all getting fucked and WE SHOULD ALL BE WORKING TOGETHER. We’re sitting here in the same boat competing over trite nonsense like wrinkles and weight and hairstyles, judging each other’s lifestyle choices as if any of it matters, staking out our tiny bit of space and jumping to aggression the second someone dares to “threaten” it, instead of talking, listening, accepting, sharing. We’re doing exactly what they want – we’re fighting each other instead of banding together to fight the CEOs who are stealing our wages, the real estate moguls who are destroying our neighborhoods, the war hawks who are denying us healthcare so that they can kill people while putting more money in their own pockets. Imagine if everyone in America who makes less than $100,000/year refused to spend money for a day, just one single day. It would have such a strong impact that this whole rigged system would implode. We have power. We just don’t know how to organize and use it.

And I’m not saying I know how to use it. I can organize on a small scale, and that feels good and rewarding, but I have no idea how I can convince people that race and ethnicity and whether you live in the city or on a farm shouldn’t be barriers, that we do have the ability to listen to each other, to heal wounds, to come together and demand something better. I also have no idea how to go about changing the capitalist greed that currently rules our world to a more compassionate form of ruling. Our election and voting systems seem set up against this, so while I do exercise my right to vote, I’m not positive it does much when I’m presented over and over with the same variations of the same shit. And I can’t just march into the president’s office, stomp my foot and say, “It’s time you give a damn!”

We type our names into petitions. We post our repulsion on Facebook. We raise money for organizations that are doing good work (and this probably goes the farthest out of all these actions). But at the end of the day, we just don’t have the same level of power that the warmongers do. And this is the thing that really depresses me: good, honest people who want to end all of this killing don’t become President of the United States, of Russia, of Syria.

But this doesn’t mean we stop. We have to keep going. We have to make our small difference, for ourselves, our neighbors, our children, our future. Our small actions will spread and grow over time. They may never equal the actions of Trump or Putin, but that doesn’t make them any less important. In fact, that makes them even more important. And there are so many organizations and people doing good work. We have to support them, encourage them, let ourselves feel buoyed up by their existence.

gboweeLeymah Gbowee / Creative Commons

Add this to your action list: call or email an organization or politician you support and let them know you’re grateful for their work. This is how we oppose war – through daily acts of kindness. Spread love. Put down your damn cell phone and smile at a stranger. Hug your friends. Tell them you love them. Thank your roommate or your mom or your husband for being around. Remind yourself every night of the good things you have.

I’ve decided that I’m in it for the long haul. Like, the millions of years from now long haul. Those of us who support peace talks and compromise, empathy and compassion, building community and opening our borders to refugees, we’re the more evolved humans. I read an article recently about scientist Michael Wilson’s long-term study of chimpanzees, and it seems that human warfare actually isn’t a modern invention but rather goes back to our deepest ancestral roots. When I first learned in high school about the Locke vs Hobbes debate, I was immediately on Locke’s side. Of course people are born good! Babies don’t discriminate. They don’t care about race or religion. They don’t pass judgment on others like we adults do. I believed that humans were taught to be evil, that badness came from our nurture as opposed to something in the fabric of our being. But now, I think it’s not even a matter of being inherently good or evil – this concept is yet another human construct that allows us to become too cerebral and judge each other. Humans are simply products of evolution, and it’s actually great progress that we’ve seen people like Martin Luther King Jr., Leymah Gbowee, Thich Nhat Hanh. It’s amazing that the UN exists and that so many people care enough to run organizations like the American Refugee Committee and the ACLU. When looking at the timeframe of the universe, maybe we humans are doing okay.

I’m reminded of a lesson my Granny taught me over and over: You always need to leave things cleaner than when you found them. She was talking about physical spaces, about cleaning up after yourself, but now I understand her deeper message and find great comfort in it. So, humanity, I’m going to try to leave you cleaner than when I found you, and that’s honestly the most any of us can strive to do.

granny-1My very wise Granny

End notes:

Regarding fake news, I sincerely hope you’ve done the research and can trust the sources you read.

When I say open our borders to refugees, I mean screened refugees. No one is saying, “Hey everybody in the world, it’s a free for all in America right now, run on in!” I hate how black and white these issues are often portrayed.