Bury My Heart at Standing Rock

mordant-standingrock-01

images from North Country Public Radio

When I heard the news, I cried.

After a year of peaceful protest, millions of supporters, veterans providing protection, celebrities raising awarenes, and Native Tribes from all over the world joining together to fight for clean water, the oil company won. The North Dakota Access Pipeline is being built as I write this and there isn’t a damn thing we can do about it.

youngmanpolice

Image from Democracy Now

Does money always win?

When I saw the police rolling in on miliatary style troop carriers to surround the Oceti Sakowin camp, complete with riot gear and assault rifles, I cried. How many times in our history have Native People faced this exact situation?

nationalguardteepee

Image from Voice of America

All the People wanted was clean water. That’s it. They didn’t want to annex the land back to the reservation or build a casino or anything more than a guarantee that they and their grandchildren would have clean water to drink. Clean water. One of the basic requirements of survival.

And now there’s no guarantee they’ll have clean water next year.

regina-brave

Image from Native News Online

I feel powerless, angry and sad. I sent money to help the Water Protectors buy supplies for winter and then more money to hire lawyers. Thousands of people did the same. But none of us have enough power or wealth to fight oil companies and protect clean water.

Then I saw this: https://twitter.com/the_orangeidiot/status/834590610644402177  This the final message from Raymond Kingfisher, leader of the Cheyenne People and of Oceti Sacowin Camp. With tears in his eyes and a voice filled with emotion, he led the final prayers and thanked everyone for their support. He also promised that the fight wasn’t over.

raymondkingfisher

Image from WhiteWolfPack.com

This powerful video recorded on the last day of the protest shook me. If these people can walk away peacefully and proclaim the battle isn’t over, then so can I. If they can face that stark grief but still have hope, then so can I.

I will fight for people with disabilities, for equality, for compassion, for freedom of the press and of speech. I will fight for healthcare and education. And yes, for clean water.

raisedfists

Image from CNN

I will fight for the welfare of future generations, just as the tribes at Standing Rock did.

Here is another powerful report from the last days of  Oceti Sacowin Camp from Intercept, by Jihan Hafiz: https://theintercept.com/2017/02/25/video-a-closing-prayer-for-standing-rocks-oceti-sakowin/

And here is how you can help the battle:https://medium.com/@ShaunKing/please-support-these-5-standing-rock-legal-defense-funds-to-stop-the-dakota-access-pipeline-754be4674ec2#.b6nzwtxnh  (thank you Shaun King for putting this list together)

How to be Kind.

dchitwood_noactofkindness

(image from http://madison.citymomsblog.com/kindness/)

 

Someone said, “You’re a better person than I am,” when I told him about my 100 days of kindness challenge. He said he couldn’t imagine just ignoring all the hatred going around. But that’s not what the challenge is about. Staying silent when you see injustice is not being kind. Speak up. Speak out. Protest. Fight. But do it in a way that shows your strength and integrity.The challenge is to not feed the anger and hatred.

How?

No name calling. If someone says something you disagree with, or you find offensive, tell them. But don’t stoop to calling them stupid or idiot or something worse. If they say something bad about you, tell them to stop. If they don’t, ignore them. People who have no better argument than calling you a “libtard” aren’t worth your energy.

Practice empathy. Take two minutes while you’re waiting in line to imagine what it must feel like to be the girl bagging up your groceries. Or how hard it must be for the person using a wheel chair to get all her shopping done. Instead of zoning out on your phone, look at the people around you. Everyone is struggling, not just you.

Hold the door for someone who’s hands are full.

Give up your seat on the bus if someone needs it.

Buy a cup of coffee for a homeless person on a cold morning.

When someone cuts you off in traffic or shoves past you in line, take a deep breath and count to ten before reacting. Take that pause to deescalate the anger and keep a clear head. Then decide how to react. Will you let it go, or confront the person? Either way you’ll be in better control of yourself.

Being kind is simple. Just remember all the lessons we were taught in elementary school about respect and bullying and follow them as an adult. It’s no mystery. Stand up for what is right. Refuse to spread hate. Be polite. Be considerate. But take no shit.

 

 

 

Why I won’t run to Canada

My daughter cannot move to Canada; she has multiple disabilities so is considered a drain on resources. No country anywhere will accept her. She is a disabled woman trapped in the United States, a country that doesn’t want her.

DSC_8007.jpg

(photo by Diane Davis https://www.facebook.com/dianedavisphotography/info/?tab=page_info)

So when you talk about moving to Canada if Trump wins, think about what that means. Think about the people who don’t have that option. They are the people who need you to fight for them.

The ability to leave a bad situation is often based on ones resources. Do you have the money to go somewhere else? Do you have people who will help and protect you? You might wonder why a  person living in a bad neighborhood doesn’t move to a better one. Many times, they can’t. If you can, you are blessed. Don’t assume others have the same chance.

My daughter is one of those “losers” Donald Trump talks about. She can’t work and she is dependent on other people to care for her. I am one of those losers because I need social service supports and welfare to help me take care of her. Call me a welfare mom and I’ll agree proudly. We are not “winners,”as Trump would say, and there are a lot of people in this country who are the same.

But that doesn’t make us bad people. That doesn’t make my daughter worthless.

My daughter can’t fight for herself, but I can fight for her. And I will stand by her and fight with all my strength to protect her from the rise of hate and intolerance permeating the United States. Racists and fascists will not touch her.

Will you help? Or will you hide?

People with Disabilities vs. Caregivers. No one wins.

On August 21, 2015 a Federal Appeals Court reversed a Lower Court ruling regarding overtime pay for Home Health Care Workers. In the ruling, the court ended the exemption  of home care workers from overtime pay. The long term caregivers union is rejoicing. Advocates for people with disabilities are angry. The fight isn’t over.

People with disabilities are concerned that they will lose caregiver hours because agencies will stop paying the full hours people need to stay in their homes. Private pay employers won’t be able to afford their workers. Caregivers are angry because they are paid low wages but must work more than 8 hours a day. Caregivers are fighting for a livable wage and people with disabilities are fighting to live.

When people with disabilities are pitted against the people who care for them, who wins?

This battle reflects a deeper problem. People with disabilities are not considered viable members of society and therefor have no value.  The people who care for them are primarily people of color and women, groups traditionally considered low status. The system of caring for people with disabilities is structured around “cost savings.” As long as it is shown that keeping people in their homes saves society money, then doing so is considered important. But what cost do you place on respect and dignity?

Caregivers work as nurses, housekeepers, drivers, secretaries and cooks. They often bathe, dress, and help toilet severely disabled people and are paid minimum wage. Despite the long hours, most caregivers are dedicated to their clients and feel that they are making a difference in the world.

People with disabilities rely on their caregivers to not only support their physical needs, but to also help them engage with the world and enjoy their lives. The threat that they may lose their supports if a pay increase is mandated is real. State budgets are strapped and agencies run with minimal staff. Where will the money come from? And for those who have  to pay out of pocket for caregivers, will the changes force them to go into an institution simply because their insurance will pay for it?

I am my daughter’s caregiver. I also rely on other caregivers to help me keep my daughter in our home. I gladly work far more hours than I am paid, and I know other caregivers who do the same. Many of these workers are not family members, but they know if they didn’t donate hours their clients would suffer.

It’s time for caregivers and people with disabilities to stop fighting each other. People need to stay in their homes and workers need a livable wage. Rather than suing each other, it is time for both groups to unite and demand increased funding for programs that support the disabled. We need to examine our society and ask why we are so willing to throw people away simply because they can’t care for themselves.

Nurses: stuck between patient’s needs and doctor’s demands.

i am sitting next to my husband’s hospital bed watching his nurse try to take care of him. He’s being treated for cancer with Brachytherapy and must in the hospital for two days. Since his arrival yesterday, his pain has been awful. The nurses desperately paged various doctors to authorize more medication, but they could only decrease the pain, not stop it. 

Today his day nurse has been doing the same thing. 

The Resident came and went. A Nurse Practitioner came and went. Promises were made. Meds were increased a little. The Pain Management Team was supposed to be here over an hour ago. The nurse keeps calling. And in between calls she takes care of him. I can see the frustration on her face. 

I don’t know who to yell at, so I keep asking the nurse when the doctor will come. “15 minutes,” she says. The doctor doesn’t come. She pages again. “15 minutes,” she tells me again. He doesn’t come. After an hour I stop asking. She’s as upset as I am.

Nursing must be one of the hardest jobs on the planet. They take care of frightened people in pain while dealing with frightened family members and disappearing doctors. They must answer questions they don’t have the answers to and handle angry outbursts when the doctor doesn’t show up. And if they make a mistake, they could create more suffering for their patients.

Nurses work in the mine field between the needs of their patients and the demands of the doctors.

Throw in hospital regulations and redundant paperwork and it’s a miracle your nurse doesn’t go crazy. Maybe she does, but it’s part of her training to hide it well.

Thank you nurses at UCSF Mission Bay. Thank you nurses everywhere.

The Politics of Mardi Gras Beads

Not only was my trip to New Orleans during Mardi Gras fun and fascinating, it was also educational. I learned about hierarchy and power through the glorification of strands of beautiful, plastic, beads.

photo by Ronald Losure via Panaramio

Mardi Gras beads come with rules. The beads with the name of the Krew throwing them are more desirable than just plain beads, even if the plain beads are a more beautiful color. And the ones with medallions are even more valuable. People will brawl over a strand of gold beads with a Bacchus medallion. I kid you not. A woman gouged my hand with her long, lethal finger nails to snatch a strand of beads from me. But there is also a wild camaraderie in the crowds begging for beads and people will often congratulate you for  catching a good one. Someone draped with 20 pounds of beads is viewed with cheerful respect (25 pounds is not an exaggeration. Real Mardi Gras beads are heavy!). The Krews earn respect by the amount and variety of beads they throw.

The cost of those beads determines who gets to throw them. The wealthy can afford a seat on a float in a Krew while the poor either march in one of the marching bands or stand on the road begging for beads. Young, blond women get the most beads because most of the riders on the floats are wealthy, white men. Not all, and the Krews are becoming more egalitarian as times change in New Orleans. Sadly, I witnessed two young black girls, probably about 10, become heartbroken when they weren’t thrown beads like all the other, whiter children. I talked with their grandfather who explained how black people get fewer beads. He grew up in New Orleans and was now in his late 60’s; his entire family has dealt with the reality and now his granddaughters were feeling it first hand.

The power of the beads extends throughout the French Quarter. Bourbon Street is notorious for young women showing their breasts for strands of beads. This year, the police were writing tickets to anyone who bared her breasts, but women still did it. On one night, I stood on a balcony far above the chaos and watched the people beside me toss beads at partiers below. One young man had a huge strand of large beads and he waived it above the crowd like a fisherman waiving bait at a trout. A young girl stood below him and danced for the beads. He demanded she show her “tits”. She didn’t want to, but the young men she was with on the street coaxed and teased until she hesitantly lifted her shirt. Everyone cheered. The man on the balcony smiled and then tossed her a strand of thin, cheap beads, not the ones she had shown her boobs for. He laughed at her disappointed face. I turned to him and said, “Wow. You’re an asshole.” He called me a bitch. I walked away before I hit him with his giant strand of plastic beads.

The fight for beads was more intense this year because of the dockworker’s strike in Los Angeles. The city of New Orleans had ordered an extra shipment of beads from China, but the container holding millions of strands of beads was stuck in the LA harbor while the dockworkers and the port fought over a labor contract. That meant many of the people in the crowds were from other Krew’s hoping to fill up their bead stock before their parade the following day. No Krew wants to be known as stingy with beads. A group of women in matching yellow t-shirts held a large basket hoop with a box attachment to encourage bead throwers to aim for them. I was told they were from a rival Krew.

After four parades and numerous tours around “the Quarter” I had about 40 pounds of beads to haul home. I tried giving some away but was told by my husband (a native of New Orleans) “No!” Our beads were our booty, something to brag about and hang proudly in the window of our living room. The more you have, the better.

I wonder what will happen to the shipping container of beads now that Mardi Gras is over?

A Pornographic Elastic Heart?

First, watch this video

Then tell me, what is it about?

Is it truly pornographic?

There are so many stories portrayed in this one dance piece, which is why I love dance so much. The movement of an arm and the twirl of a head can shout a hundred words in an instant. In this video, I see a father and daughter trapped by expectation and patriarchy, fighting each other for understanding. The father is hoping to tame his daughter so she stays with him and does what he needs her to. The daughter is trying to break him down, destroy him if need be, so they can both be free. That’s just one story.

Another story is a man fighting his inner demon. If he can only tame it, he’ll have peace. But at the end, even when demon is calmed, the man is still trapped. The grief on his face is heartbreaking.

It’s sad that the only thing so many people can see is a man in skin colored trunks trying to seduce a little girl. Is it the color of his trunks, or her tunic, or that he’s a grown man in a cage with a child? I agree, all of those things could make you uncomfortable, but is it impossible to see beyond the visual and give the art a chance?

The Elastic Heart video is brilliant because it is complex, daring, and controversial. It tells a story we can all feel, while challenging us to feel more.

Art requires fearlessness, not just from the artist, but also from the person experiencing the art. Break out of your comfort zone a little bit and you’ll be amazed by what you’ll discover.