Sunday, June 21, 2009

In memory of Neda Salehi

As much as I hate to admit it, I have become, like a large portion of the US, inured to violence and pictures/videos of violence posted on the news or online. As a result, when I saw the video of Neda's shooting and death at an Iranian protest she attended with her father on HuffPo, I clicked it knowing it would be terribly sad but not thinking twice about how it would make me feel. You can imagine my surprise when I found myself having to fight back sobs while I watched the young woman's life bleed from her mouth and watched the life leave her eyes. Yes, the video is that graphic and perhaps that is why it's affect on me was so strong. Now I have watched people die before. I've sat at the bedside of dying people and held their hands as they breathed their last but for some reason this struck me heavily. I don't know if it emotion left over from old grieving left unfinished, if it was because she was a woman and hence it seemed more personal or if it was simply the violence perpetrated against her by the Basij but suffice it to say, it got my attention.

I don't pretend to understand everything about Iran and it's politics. What I do know is that the violence against the people being that we see being tweeted/blogged/video'd is wrong and a violation of basic human rights. While I have no illusions about my ability to effect a change there I do know, thanks to years of work with Amnesty International, is that governments don't like it when their injustices are seen and marked by the world and making sure that Iran and Ahmadinejad know we are watching is important.

Neda paid for her convictions with her life. We are hardly being called upon to sacrifice anything so valuable.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

It is becoming increasingly more dangerous to be brown in America

Though I can't say I am all that surprised. It was only a matter of time before things like this started to happen:

3 arrested in killings of dad, girl in Arivaca | ®
3 arrested in killings of dad, girl in Arivaca
Sheriff: Border watchers were after drugs, money

By Jamar Younger
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 06.13.2009
Three people, including the leader of a border watch group and an officer within that group, were arrested in connection with a May 30 home invasion that left a father and his daughter dead and the mother wounded, authorities said.
One of those arrested, Shawna Forde, is the leader of Minutemen American Defense, a group out of Washington state that conducts operations along the U.S.-Mexican border in Arizona. The group is not related to either the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps founded by Chris Simcox, or the Minuteman Project founded by Jim Gilchrist.
Authorities also arrested Jason Eugene Bush, 34, who serves as operations director for the Washington group, and Albert Robert Gaxiola, 42, in connection with the shooting deaths of Raul Flores, 29, and his 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia Flores, said Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik.
Now tell me again that I am being oversensitive about the vitriol coming from these anti-immigration groups regarding people who look like me and whose names sound like mine. The kind of talk these people engage in has one purpose: creating an artificial rift between "us" and "them". The result is that those "others" become dehumanized hence making it that much easier for people needing a scapegoat to take out their anger on their fellow human beings. Anyone who doesn't believe me needs to go back and study their WWII history and maybe take a trip to their local Holocaust museum to be reminded of what happens when a nation allows a group to be viciously scapegoated and dehumanized by those who seek to maintain a stranglehold on their perceived power base.

And how do we combat this? How can we stop the bullshit from escalating into actual violence? For those of us who are members of the threatened group/s, we need to have the courage to speak up on our own behalf. And no, just because you are an American citizen does not mean you are safe from this. Bigots don't stop to ask your citizenship before they kick you in the head. To them we are all the same. For those who are not a member of said groups, especially those who are white, I ask you to be a true ally to our communities and speak up when you hear people propagating bigotry and hatred against those who look different or whose last names sound different. Folks like that will probably not heed what I or anyone of my ethnicity say but if you do, perhaps, just perhaps, they will rethink their biases.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Stay At Home Dads: Why is this sooooo surprising?

This morning on The Today Show they had a story about stay at home dads. With all the job losses these days, a lot of men have ended up spending a great deal of time at home while their wives continue to work or even go out and find new jobs after some time spent as stay at home moms/wives. Now personally, I've always loved the idea of having a stay at home husband. I'm not terribly fond of homey type work and while I love having a comfy, cozy house I am usually pretty bad about maintaining one. Having someone who around who is happy to do that work would be a lovely thing and I have no problem being the breadwinner. Alas, my career makes this highly unrealistic since I chose to be a do-gooder rather than a money maker but nevermind. That's not what this is about.



Yeah, not so much. It bothers me that our society still holds these gender role stereotypes so closely that the second someone steps outside of those roles it looks like some kind of iconoclastic revolution. Why shouldn't men be allowed to stay home and tend the hearth if they feel like it? Why shouldn't men be allowed to spend lots of time caring for and nurturing their children? And why shouldn't women be allowed to go out and make the money if that's what they prefer to do? Why do we insist on maintaining these roles to the detriment of everyone involved?

I think this story stood out because lately I've seen several posts about women's roles regarding marriage and motherhood and it annoys me that after all this time we still insist on holding women to old standards of success, i.e., being a wife and mother is the most important thing a woman can do with her life and everything else is frivolous. And before anyone tries to turn this into "Marie hates children and Moms" let's clarify things. I have much respect for Moms and I do actually like kids. I have a mom and I was once a kid so yeah, I'm not hating here. However, I do not buy the party line that I am a failure as a female human being because I have not reproduced and that my 14+ years of experience as an STD/HIV prevention worker mean nothing because I have no kids. If you want to start a fight about it, move along. What I am saying is that while we as a country continue to harp about women's rights in other countries, we better not forget that we aren't exactly past the sexism that started the American feminist movement in the first place. When the time comes that a man staying home and caring for the household and children is no longer worthy of a news story THEN we can stop looking in the mirror and focus ALL our attention elsewhere. Until then? People in glass houses and such...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mature, full bodied and complex

And the rest of you.

I was just telling a friend how I have been fighting with my own insecurities lately around my self esteem, my appearance, my age. Lo and behold one of my favorite Twitterers/bloggers/activists/cool dudes, Nezua of The Unapologetic Mexican, posted this:

it's time to call it a tumblr day when... - imaginando
its part of that ageist thing in (at least US culture). we have unspoken fears that all we are worth is our tight skin and firm shapes. rarely is it reinforced that living years gives you an arc to better compare changes and events in life; compare people, seeing more people and hearing more stories gives you a wider context of information to tally and thus KNOW things and understand them; having had more relationships has taught you more about yourself as well as people as well as relationships; that watching your body wear out inevitably forces you to shift focus onto Essence (knowledge, creative spirit, love power, maturity), not Symbol (tight abs, tight skin, perkiness); that more time spent on Earth generally means more patience or a clearer focus, you’ve had time to test out many distractions and now are on your way to learning how to see past your own defenses and have shed more misconceptions (or at least had the time to work at it), and so now can learn from those older than yourself, as well as learn from the young while at the same time put up with their condescension, as they too, been often been raised in an ageist culture, themselves. In other words, you will get the chance to face that cocky, stupid, shallow punk you may have once been!

It’s worse when the aging defer to the early part of the circle; deny age, are shamed of age, try to be younger than they are….this sends a message to the young(er) that we ought fear age, we ought think little of it, that all that matters is the beginning of the arc and that is a dangerous and wrong thing to teach.

I am proud of my years. I am so much more than I was 20 years ago. And more than I was ten years ago. And now, am released from fearing age quite as much as I did, because I know it means more wisdom and less ignorance. If I want it to, that is. Because it also requires work.
I find the ageism thing is particularly hard on women. We really are encouraged to maintain a youthful appearance as long as possible and there are companies all over the world making megabucks on just that bullshit. It's hard to buck that social programming, I know I fail at it quite often.

It's especially hard now that I find myself single again at 38. I'm no longer a cute twenty something with tight skin and perky tits. I don't begrudge young women those things because, yanno, I was there once too and it was fun but I do realize that I need to not mourn what I've lost because in so many ways, I've gained. Yes, at 18 I had a hot body and nice skin but guess what? I was also ridiculously insecure and inhibited. Nowdays, things aren't so lovely on this face and body but my mind is a much sexier playground than it used to be.

I guess the trick is to stop worrying about the people who think I'm less desirable/interesting/fun beause of my age and spend my time around those who love me and my laugh lines.