Wednesday, May 24, 2017

What's Wrong With Your Girl? A Guest Post

                              Photo is not the location of the incident.


I've previously shared here about the experiences of racism and bigotry that I endured as a kid when my parents and I lived in a small Midwestern town back in the 1970's. 

Aside from that era my life, (well, except for that time I had a Russian boyfriend and his family made it clear that having an American friend was just fine, but a woman who was both Black and American was most definitely not good enough to marry. But I digress.) I had not experienced obvious racism as an adult.

That changed last week. Although at the time, I didn't actually know it was happening.  Below, is a guest post from my husband, aka MickGee


My Black wife, our son and I (White guy) were traveling east on the 299 Fwy heading inland from the coast. After about 2 hours on winding mountain roads, we arrived at a small town 2/3 of the way to our destination. My beautiful bride and our 11-year-old son needed to stop and use the bathroom. We looked for a gas station. The two of them wanted one with a food mart so they could get some snacks as well.

I pulled into the small gas station and watched my family walk away from the car toward the bathrooms on the other side of the parking lot. I stood at the rear of the car and waited. Just as they walked out of sight a woman who was sitting on the curb in front of the store, near where I parked our car, yelled something at me.

It sounded like, “Hey, what’s wrong with your girl?!”
Since I wasn’t exactly sure what she said, I responded with, “What?”

I was in luck as the woman spoke again repeating her statement and then offered more. She said,
“What’s wrong with your GIRL, she said ‘F@#k that white woman!’ and then your BOY looked right at me”.

I was shocked and stunned… however only for a moment. My mind now began to race in the seconds I had to analyze the situation, I wondered a number of things; is this woman sitting here in front of this store just here to start S^&t or was this the first part of a scam with the store owners? Were some guys parked in one of the trucks around the corner or across the parking lot about to drive up and threaten me or worse?

I thought, does this woman distract me while someone runs up and slams my wife and kid? Could it be she is so completely racist that the moment she sees a black person she can’t help but start the assault first with words and then try and draw you into some escalated conflict?

I quickly scanned the parking lot and did a 360 assessment of our surroundings to be sure we were not in any serious danger. That is when the rusted white and muddy Ford pick-up rolled up between me and my wife and son blocking the front door to the store. Next, I watched the driver enter the store only to be followed seconds later by my wife and son.

I didn’t want my wife to fear that anything was wrong and I didn’t want to escalate things so I smiled at my family as the two of them entered the store.  I then responded to the woman,
“You must be talking about someone else,” I said
Then after a brief pause, I added, “Sounds like you are making stuff up.”

This time the woman didn’t respond. However, in the minutes that passed, I noticed she did seem to know everyone who came and went at the gas station and they seemed to know her.  
I started counting to 30. This was all the time I was going to allow my family to be alone in the store. I was ready to go in after them if I saw one more ‘Local’ go in the store. 

Full disclosure, I had warned my wife just before she had left the car, “Let me know if anyone gives you any trouble.” I said this because I grew up in an area like the one we were in and had that sense of the ‘attitude’ of the environment.  

So I held my breath and tightened my stomach (and my ass) as I prepared for some kind of hit-n-run confrontation. I was ready to launch an assault against whoever was trying to accost my family. In case we had to make a mad dash for the car and the open road.

Lucky for all of us after the two most valuable people in my world came from the store, walked past the woman sitting on the curb out front,  and returned to the car, I asked my wife if the woman sitting on the curb had said anything to them. She said, “No… why?”

I lied saying, “No reason” not wanting to expose my son to this drama and not wanting my wife to freak out.   
It was in that moment that it struck me. I was the one being shown racism and prejudice here. In a microsecond of time, I was getting the smallest sliver of what it is like to be a person of color in most parts of America today. I felt like the whole world (or at least town) was out to get me. Like I was isolated and vulnerable. It was terrifying. Like I was going to have to fight for my life and those I loved at a moment’s notice for no other reason than because of who I was or who I was with.

Now I am not going to pretend that I experienced racism like a black person does. But for one small instant, my understanding expanded well beyond what it had been just moments before this racist white piece of S%^t tried unsuccessfully to traumatize my family.

It is because of that helpless terrifying feeling that I can now share this. There was one other series of thoughts that went through my mind. Okay, maybe 2. The first was a response I might have said if I wanted to be ‘that guy’ with an attitude.
When the white racist lady asked ‘what’s wrong with your girl?’ I wanted to respond with “You know what? Absolutely nothing, that’s what I love about her.” Just to piss her off and throw her off guard.  

I also had this response rolling around in the part of my brain or manhood that wanted to saywhile shoving my face 2 inches in front of her face so she could feel the heat of my anger and murderous hate,
“You F%^king sack of S&*t! You say one more thing about my family and I will chain you to this cement pillar and burn you and this f#$king store to the ground. Say something else. See what happens Mother F@#ker! I guarantee they will be THE LAST WORDS YOU EVER SPEAK!!!”
Or something along those lines.

But because I know that every man has his limits and as big as I am I can’t fight everyone in town at once. So with that in mind, my family and I then calmly got into the car and got the hell out of Hicksville.




#BlackLivesMatter2Me #EndRacismNOW!   

Friday, May 19, 2017

Rebel Hell: Disabled Vegan Goes to Prison



                        America is a Prison Nation. Plain and Simple.
                                           -Jan Smitowicz





I had the pleasure of first meeting Jan a while back at a vegan potluck hosted by a friend of mine.  We struck up a stimulating conversation about social justice issues that eventually led to him mentioning his time in prison.  And being the nosy curious girl that I am, I asked what landed him there.
Without hesitation, he told me. And now, over two years later, that complete story unfolds in Jan’s memoir Rebel Hell: Disabled Vegan Goes to Prison.

His story reads like a fast-paced novel as he enters into the Illinois prison system, serving time(after being arrested following an illegal search and seizure) for transporting a quarter of a million dollars worth of medical grade marijuana across the country.

Jan’s writing style is over the top raw and vulnerable, not to mention unsettling at times, with shall we say colorful language throughout. 

But, that didn’t keep me from laughing out loud often in response to his brilliantly sarcastic wit.
Throughout this great work, we are treated to an in-depth education on the sheer magnitude of the US prison system. Although, as a white man, Jan is fully understanding of his relative advantage in comparison to the plight of people of color due to mass incarceration.

As a vegan, Jan smashes the stereotype that those involved in the animal rights movement care nothing about the suffering of human beings. His passion for seeing all animals free of oppression has not blocked his tremendous empathy for all.

His circle of compassion is wide and his heart is immense.

To write a memoir at such a young age, may seem odd to some. But, I believe had he waited until an ‘acceptable’ age to begin, it would take several books to contain the many adventures I suspect are still to come. 

I cannot stress it strongly enough.  Get your hands on Rebel Hell. It’s one of the most compelling works I’ve read in a long time.  



To connect with Jan and to purchase his books directly, check out his website.  http://jansmitowicz.com/









Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Myth of Police Brutality

No, this is not part of my book review for The Myth of a Christian Nation, (I’m still working on it. It’s coming) but I thought it would be a fitting title.  For some reason, there are people who appear to believe that the idea of police brutality is indeed a myth. 

I’ll be honest, I started working on this post several days ago, before I attended the panel discussion between local law enforcement and the community last week.  You can read about it here.
Since that meeting, I’ve felt optimistic and hopeful that there can be more understanding between police departments, Black and other communities of color.

The reason for this post is a meme I came across.  A meme as you can see, that basically dismisses the idea of police brutality and puts the blame on the so-called spoiled, entitled brats doing what? Resisting arrest, I guess.   Interesting.



So apparently that’s what is really going on in the opinion of the person who created this heartless, ignorant, narrow-minded meme. 

It must be nice for them to live such a smug existence, confident in knowing that they’ve never made a mistake in raising their perfect offspring.  It reminds me of the bible verse that I often heard quoted as a guarantee of obedient children who’ll never stray from the faith..ever.   “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Proverbs 22:6
So what does it mean if your child does stray?  Well, that you’re not a good and godly parent of course.

But, back to the meme in question. I guess these are the people they were referring to.




Robert Leone, young man with bipolar disorder
                           




                   Charles Kinsey, mental health therapist






video

                       80-year-old Geneva Smith, pepper-sprayed









                         video
  
                               Nineteen-year-old Dylan Noble





Joseph Hutcheson. Video footage narrated by his brother





                      
                          Tamir Rice, twelve years old







  

                                         Rodney King 1991
     

I think you see where I’m going with this.  

Look, we have police officers themselves along with government officials (many conservative) coming forward to verify this is happening.  To ignore that is black and white thinking and putting law enforcement on a throne in my humble opinion. Yes, they put their lives on the line every day and take risks in order to keep us safe. I am thankful for the good cops who have been and are doing that.  That being said, they are still human beings just like everyone else.  They are not infallible gods.
Throughout the last couple of years of what seems like an increased open season on Black bodies, I have learned a bit about the history of policing in the US.  Did you know that much of what became the law enforcement of today, had its origins in the slave patrols instituted in the colonies during the eighteenth century?   I sure didn’t.

The birth and development of the American police can be traced to a multitude of historical, legal, and political-economic conditions. The institution of slavery and the control of minorities, however, were two of the more formidable historic features of American society shaping early policing. Slave patrols and Night Watches, which later became modern police departments, were both designed to control the behaviors of minorities.”  Victor E. Kappeler, P.h.D., School of Justice Studies, Eastern Kentucky University
*See link below for full article.

As I write this, I can just imagine some folks shaking their heads accusing me of being a cop hater. This line of thinking still baffles me. If I were discussing corruption in the teaching profession and calling out bad teachers, would they say the same thing?  Would they say that because I want to see bad teachers held accountable and removed if necessary, that I’m a teacher hater? Or how about this, some doctors are irresponsible, incompetent and should never come near a patient, let alone pick up a scalpel.
Am I an enemy of doctors everywhere if I point this out?  I could do this all day.   

This idea of seeing everything as black and white or everyone as all good or all bad is something common among the very young.  As we mature into our teen years, we hopefully develop the capacity to see and acknowledge the complexities and nuances of life.   For example, like understanding that it is indeed possible to be anti-police brutality without being anti-police.








Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Night A Cop Made Me Cry

Two nights ago, our local university hosted an event that brought together law enforcement (black and white), people of color and the community at large. The purpose was to foster communication and understanding on all sides.  The panel consisted of local sheriffs, university police and city police, along with students, faculty, and other leaders on the university campus.

It’s difficult to put into words how it felt to be there. The hall where the event was held was nearly full of students and other concerned community members from many different backgrounds.  It felt energizing to be there.

After all the panel members were introduced, the process of answering questions and concerns submitted by the attendees began.
Many there that night brought with them their honest fears of law enforcement. Some fears were based on personal experience, others on the negative experiences of loved ones.

One of the officers, a white sheriff, shared a story of a citizen recently asking for advice on how to ensure the safety of an induvial during a traffic stop.  He said that he gave the advice to simply follow all the directions the officer gives and they’ll be fine.  Later that same day, he came across a video that he first believed was a hoax.

It was the video of Charles Kinsey, a black behavior therapist in Florida. He works at a group home where an autistic man in his care had wandered out of the facility on his own. Charles had followed him, attempting to keep him safe and get him back to the home.  In the video, his client Arnaldo Rios can be seen sitting in the middle of the street.  Police officers arrived on the scene, based on reports that there was a man threatening to shoot himself.   Both Charles and Arnaldo were ordered to lie on the ground. Charles complied, held his hands up, yet was shot by an officer anyway. Thankfully, he survived the encounter.

With that, came the realization that simply following directions is no guarantee of safety. His view basically changed overnight.

Another officer on the panel, also white with over thirty years in law enforcement, answered a similar question that was posed during the event.  Only it was more specific to what he thought a black individual should do. What came out of his mouth next caused me to nudge my friend sitting next to me and whisper “who is this person?”.

He humbly expressed that he may not even have the right to attempt to give such advice since he is a white man who has never had to deal with such a concern. I repeat.  A WHITE police officer said this.  I heard it with my own ears and saw his face with my own eyes.  Just thinking about it again brings me to tears.

I was surprised when I heard another officer state strongly that ‘stop and frisk’ does not work and is indeed racist, no matter what some politicians would have us believe. Yes, this officer was white as well.

One student campus leader on the panel shared how they experience racist remarks on a regular basis in their classes. Fellow students that just don’t seem to get why it’s inappropriate to use the N-word, whining back with justifications of how “ blacks get to say it, why can’t we?”
I learned that the results of today’s racial climate(which is not new at all) are having devastating emotional effects on many students of color in our area. There’s a weight that lies heavy on their young shoulders as they go about the business of getting their education. I envy their strength and determination.

Getting to be in the same room, hearing the experiences and feelings from everyone on that panel, has been more impactful to me than anything else I’ve watched or listened to online around these issues.

Now I know there are some white individuals who might say to those who shared their stories the other night, that they must have misunderstood, it’s not that bad, stop playing the victim, or my personal favorite, they’re just looking for something to be offended about.

It must be easy for them to sit safely behind their computers typing away thoughtless comments while posting ignorant, hateful and downright racist memes.  

As I sat there with my family (yep, we brought the kid. #socialstudies) I also felt immense frustration and sadness. I thought of dozens of people I wished were there to hear those stories, to look into their eyes and see them as real human beings.   Many of those 'missing' friends I’ve known for years. These are people I love and care for a great deal, including those I referenced above whose posts often make me cringe. 

Then I thought, if these long-time police officers were willing to open their hearts and minds to the experiences and concerns of people of color in our community, actually caring enough to really listen, what’s preventing others from doing the same?  Why not the classmates of the student panelist who talked about the racism they face on a regular basis?
Why not the people in my life who with good intentions, have told me that they don’t see my color, not realizing that is far from being a compliment?

I realize that no one can force others to see things the same way they do.  But it's important to remember that because of where we are now, there is more to consider than just differences of opinion, especially when lives at stake.  







Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Tale of Two Churches: Remembering Birmingham

September 15th.  

On this day fifty-three years ago in a little country church, in a small Georgia town, there was a wedding.  

The young bride and groom met a few years prior at Savannah State University.  The year before they wed, the groom spent several months overseas with the military.

Now, their day had finally come. Surrounded by family and friends, they began their new life together. Within a few hours, they were on the road, heading west to California, where the bride had always dreamt of living one day.

That same day in another church only 200 miles northwest, five excited young girls were downstairs in their church’s basement preparing for Sunday school.  Sadly, the lesson they would learn was one of hatred and death.  Demonic, murderous hatred for no other reason than the color of their skin.  They attended the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. 

When the dynamite exploded beneath the church building, my hope is that they didn’t suffer and were already in the arms of the Lord before they had any awareness of what had been done to them.



The blast killed four of the girls: Addie Mae Collins (14) Carole Robertson (14) Cynthia Wesley (14) and Denise McNair (11).  Sarah Collins, the younger sister of Addie Mae survived the attack, but lost an eye and needed to have several reconstructive facial surgeries.

The young couple whose wedding I began this post with, were my parents.  Birmingham was my father’s hometown, and without realizing it they would be spending their wedding night in a war zone.    I asked my mother once if she and my father knew what was going on that day.  They had heard some news about it but did not know the full extent of what had transpired.

Our 11-year-old son is homeschooled.   Today, our social studies lesson was about the terrorist bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church and the devastating role it played in the civil rights movement.   After watching a short film about the attack, my son’s face was solemn, his eyes close to years.  Mine were as well.

My husband and I proceeded to educate him on the reasons why someone would bomb a church of all places, without having any thought or care about the death left in their wake. 

We also talked about Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black boy visiting family in Mississippi the summer of 1955, who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered for supposedly flirting with a white woman. 

Today I had to make it clear to my biracial son, that there were and still are people in this world who would have no problem killing Black and biracial children as well as adults, convinced they’d be doing the right thing.    

As I type this, I’m sad that it was even necessary to tell my son about such atrocities. Not "out there" in another country, here in our own. But, this is the world we live in.  

So, it’s with a heavy heart tonight that I contemplate the lives of those four little girls and their unwitting sacrifice.  Their lives stolen, not by some foreign terrorist group, but four* fellow Americans, Ku Klux Klan members, drunk on the ideology of white supremacy that has never really left this country.  Yes, even with a Black family in the White House.

It has only become more subtle over the decades, and as a result, harder to prove.  

May we never forget.

Addie Mae Collins

Carole Robertson

Cynthia Wesley

Denise McNair

Rest in Peace and Power
Amen

#blacklivesmatter

#Birmingham














"Terrorism is Part of Our History": Angela Davis on '63 Church Bombing, Growing up in"Bombingham"
Martin Luther King Jr. 'Eulogy for the Young Victims September18, 1963



Birmingham Sunday, Joan Baez





*I don't feel the need in this post to list the names of the guilty. The info is easily found by a simple Google search.


Friday, August 12, 2016

The Myth of a Christian Nation, by Gregory A. Boyd: A Book Review Series


                                         
                                                                                                                                                Introduction

The first time I read The Myth of a Christian Nation was around the summer of 2012.  It shook up so much of what I was conditioned to believe as an American Christian.
So much so that I suggested it as the book we study together in our small group.  And since it was an election year, what better timing to stir up stimulating political conversation with a few friends?

I know that may sound scary to most whether you’re a Christian or not.  What is it they say? When in a group of people, don’t discuss politics or religion.  Well, here we were about to do both…at the same time!  It may sound like a recipe for disaster, but our group had weathered other controversial topics in previous studies, managing to get through them with as much love and care for each other as we went in with.

So Greg Boyd’s work actually didn’t start as a book project at all. He decided during the 2004 election year to do a series of sermons at the church he pastors on a subject he felt was of utmost importance in the American church.  Those sermons became the basis for this book.

The main idea that Greg suggests is that a large portion of the evangelical church in the States has become idolatrous in Its wedding together belief in the Kingdom of God thru Jesus Christ with political power and nationalism.  
In the introduction, he warns the reader that they will be challenged with ideas and information that may seem foreign, anti-American, ungodly, and in the opinion of some, downright Satanic.  Yes, you read that right. These were the kinds of responses he received from some in his own congregation.

As a result of teaching this series, twenty percent of the members left. That was one thousand people.   But, most did stay and the topic received positive responses from many who had been feeling the same way (that much of the Evangelical church has slipped into political and nationalistic idolatry) but kept it to themselves to avoid the disapproval of fellow Christians.

Greg shares what he sees is the root of this phenomenon.  It is the sincere belief that we are a Christian nation and it is our duty as believers, to take back America for God. To the nonchristian mind, that may sound a little unnerving, huh?  Take it back from who? How? Take it where and back to what?

The Myth of a Christian Nation attempts to explain much of the “how”. As an evangelical Christian, sharing the faith with others is a given.  But by a growing segment of the Church, it’s assumed this includes a mandate to make our voices heard in the political arena.  So much so that winning the culture wars which includes outlawing abortion and gay marriage, for example, have been at the top of the list of ways to bring America back to its allegedly moral, Christian beginning. 

Yet over time, our country has become much more diverse since its founding.  The power of assumed Christian-ness in the U.S. is giving way to an increasingly pluralistic society. 

The result of Americanized Christianity as Greg points out, (pgs 13-14) is that:
“This myth harms the church’s primary mission. For many in America and around the world, the American flag has smothered the glory of the cross, and the ugliness of our American version of Caesar has squelched the radiant love of Christ. Because the myth that America is a Christian nation has led many to associate America with Christ, many now hear the good news of Jesus only as American news, capitalistic news, imperialistic news, exploitive news, anti-gay news, or Republican news.  And whether justified or not, many people want nothing to do with any of it.“

Greg concedes that it’s just as problematic for the Church to attach itself to left-leaning or liberal political parties.  Yet the “Religious Right” is much more vocal and has wielded a greater amount of power over the last few decades.

Next time, we’ll begin with chapter one: The Kingdom of the Sword.  I’ll share key points and also a bit of my own commentary.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough.  If you choose to read along with me (and I hope you will), I would love to hear your thoughts, positive or negative. Just share them in the comment section below. 



Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Sound of Silence Beneath an Ocean of Denial


              (photo credit: Marine Mining on Investing News Network 2010)                                                                                                                         

So, I’ve had some things rolling around in my head for the last few weeks, questions that I hope to receive honest answers to.

Due to emotions running high over the latest police killings of black men, the assassinations of five police officers in Dallas by a sniper, and another three in Baton Rouge, LA (both shooters ex-military) a few days ago, I’ve been having some, shall we say spirited online conversations.

The most challenging have been with white individuals who seem to prefer in these times to defensively respond with #allivesmatter, believing that saying #blacklivesmatter is exclusionary and racist.

During the back and forth expressing our opinions and facts as we see them, complete with links to sites and memes sure to prove the other wrong, I have noticed a common thread in all of these interactions.

 I asked for their thoughts about the #crimingwhilewhite phenomenon from a couple of years ago when thousands of white people took it upon themselves to share online, actions they committed over the years without so much as any rough treatment by police. One I read said they even received a friendly police escort home to ensure their safety.  This person had been drinking!   Many of these personal stories included eyewitness accounts of seeing their black friends get treated like criminals for some of the same behavior, or simply “looking suspicious”. 

Another was a Facebook friend who took it upon himself to create a mini #crimingwhilewhite list on his own page, asking for his fellow white friends to share examples of their privilege on his wall, beginning with himself.  The list was long and their empathy great.

Then I asked my discussion partners for their opinions about the fact that many police officers, public officials, and even some conservative republican politicians,are admitting that there is, in fact, a racial bias against blacks (men especially) in this country, and racism is indeed institutional and systemic to our society.  No matter how subtle it may seem or how non-existent (because they are not on the receiving end) it may seem in the minds of some.

So, in their responses and attempts to discount most of what I’d shared, (and there were many) none of them ever acknowledged the situations I’ve listed above.  
Not. One. Single. Person.

Not even a response of disagreement or dismissal.  It was as if I never mentioned those facts at all.

Maybe they didn’t see them?  Maybe they did but simply believed that those individuals made it all up.  

ALL those #crimingwhilewhite contributors, cops, public officials (one a governor) and conservative political leaders (who aren’t exactly known for being too publicly vocal about racial discrimination issues) simply LIED. For what?

What would they have to gain by going to all that trouble? When it comes to police officers releasing info about the racist attitudes and treatment they see, it means putting their jobs and possibly their lives in jeopardy.

During these chats, it hasn’t been uncommon for some to request ceasing to continue these conversations after I’ve shared the above info.   

Maybe because the facts don’t fit the narrative they’ve been conditioned to believe, they refuse to engage?

It looks as though many have convinced themselves, and attempt to do so with people of color like myself, that it’s best to just move forward, pretend our country’s racist founding never happened, (or that it wasn’t that bad) come together, and stop being so divisive.  Or, stop playing the race card.  
Tactics used to attempt to silence us.  To those statements, I ask what (or who) is really at the root of this division? Who created that deck of cards in the first place? I think we all know.

I do find it interesting that we are never encouraged to forget and move on from the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  In fact, the very slogan for that terrible day is “Never Forget.”

Why are brown and black people expected to just let go of the past and move on when it comes to the atrocities committed against us by our own country, yet not those that are perpetrated against the U.S. by others? 

In my opinion, if it’s so essential to study and remember the events in our history like the terrorist attacks of 9/11, World Wars I and II, and many others (which I believe is necessary), then we should also with just as much determination, acknowledge and work together to dismantle systems of oppression, many of which have their foundations in white supremacy. 

Pretending these problems don’t or no longer exist will ironically keep us trapped in these realms of divisiveness that many say are caused by people like myself and others who refuse to stay silent, no matter how emotionally uncomfortable it gets.

So yes, if anyone out there can present logical explanations or answers to my questions on these issues, I’m all ears. Seriously.




Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Lord Spoke To Me...In a Tow Truck

You have heard it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy'. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.  
Matthew 5:43-44

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.
Luke 6:27

..And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.
Luke 6:33

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?
...And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?
Matthew 5:46,47

-Jesus


Having trouble seeing the video?  click here.

When I first read about this story, I thought surely no business person would be that petty or sink to such a level.  But I guess when someone believes "God spoke to them", that can justify just about anything.

To say the political climate here in the U.S. this year is volatile would be an understatement.  The protests, fights breaking out at rallies, and political parties eating each other alive from within, is at a level that I've never seen in the history of my voting life.

Unfortunately, the conflict doesn't stop with the players in this election season drama.
There are stories of family members and friends who have decided for the sake of the relationship, not to discuss their disagreements over the candidates they support.

And now, this division has apparently seeped into business dealings as well.

The story from several days ago in North Carolina, that's referenced in the video above, I found infuriating.  A young woman was in an accident, her car now undrivable.  So, like any of us would do, she called for a tow truck.  When the driver arrived, he proceeded to hook up her car to his equipment. Well, he did until he noticed the Bernie Sanders bumper stickers on her car.

See, Ken Shupe of Shupee Max Towing, is a self-described conservative Christian and Donald Trump supporter. When he saw the political affiliation of the customer, Cassy McWade, a stranded disabled young woman, he believed that the "Lord came to him" telling him to "get in his truck and leave."

This was for no other reason than her support for Sanders. Shupe believed that he wouldn't receive payment from Cassy because he assumed she was a socialist.

In his defense, he said he'd been "Berned" (his spelling)before by these socialist types and not gotten paid.  Ok, fair enough. If someone has had a number of people with particular political leanings refuse to pay for services, I guess that would explain the fear that it will always happen, therefore, needing to protect themselves.

Though to me, this appears to be just an obvious situation of prejudice.  Pre-judging someone because of their alleged beliefs. Sure I'm not naive enough to think that this wouldn't happen if things were reversed and the tow truck driver were a Hillary or Bernie supporter and the stranded driver had "Make America Great Again" bumper stickers on their vehicle.

Either way, in my humble opinion, it's wrong.  But here's the issue I really want to stress; Ken made a point of stating his Christian faith and that his actions were God-led.  

One of the important aspects about this faith(in It's more evangelical form) is that we are to share it with others throughout our lives so that they may come to know Jesus as well.

We are also encouraged to be a "good witness". That's basically Christianspeak for don't be an ass and expect someone to be all happy dappy doo to hear about the God you serve when you've just refused to do your job and help a customer, (cough, cough) I mean to behave like a decent human being..

Now, I'm not saying that Christians corner the market on being kind, friendly, giving, etc.  We don't, even if "leading someone to Christ" is not the goal in relationships, which in my opinion shouldn't be anyway. Otherwise, it becomes about earning brownie points with God. Few Christians would admit that (not even to themselves) but it's often the case.

My intent is not to judge this driver in a condemning way.  But to say that the Lord told him to leave a young woman stranded due political views and that he's a Christian in the same breath, (I'm going to use a churchy phrase again) hurts his witness as someone who professes to serve a God and Savior of mercy, kindness, and love.

No, I don't expect us to be perfect in all of our personal interactions, or in our business dealings, but to refuse to tow someone due to the political candidate they support?  Really?
Come on now.









Sunday, May 1, 2016

Barefoot Vegan



The May/June 2016 issue of Barefoot Vegan Magazine is out now and I've written an article that's included!     "How an Introvert came to Run the Vegan Society of Humboldt"

This issue is themed around ‘Business’ and features Mainstreet Vegan’s Victoria Moran on the front cover, who talks about her vegan journey and what it takes to set up and maintain a successful vegan business.


You can download a PDF of the latest issue for free or subscribe to read the magazine via a web browser or app that supports iOS and Android devices. Go to www.BarefootVegan.com. All profits go towards the Barefoot Vegan Farm & Animal Sanctuary.

Thanks for your support!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

On Their Own Terms: Animal Liberation for the 21st Century, by Lee Hall: A Book Review




 
The first (and only) time I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Lee Hall in person, was at the 2011 VegFest in San Francisco.
 
A friend and I sat in on Lee's talk in the main lecture hall. We found Lee to be as engaging as they are knowledgeable on the issues of animal liberation and the state of our planet.   
  
But, this was no feel good or warm and fuzzy presentation.  And to be honest, afterwards my friend and I had feelings of doom accompanied by a “it just seems hopeless” attitude.   This was no slight against Lee.  It was just that hearing in one sitting all the gory details of how we as humans have reeked such havoc on the Earth and all of its inhabitants, leaving so much death and destruction in our wake, was a lot to digest.

I have absolutely no regrets because it was worth it to hear and see one of my favorite activists in the vegan community.

Lee's work has always challenged me to think more critically about our relationship with animals and theirs with us.


So a few months ago when Lee asked if I would read a draft of their latest book and give my feedback, I felt honored.  Even more so when I learned that Lee would include my questions in the final draft when it was published. (In chapter six)


The book, On Their Own Terms: Animal Liberation for the 21st Century is an updated edition of the same title originally published in 2010.  The common thread throughout is one of uncommon respect for both the Earth and all its inhabitants.  I say uncommon because while the popular vegan slogan “why love one but eat the other?” comparing our pets (dog and cats) with animals raised for our consumption is compelling, Lee asks us to question whether it was ever right to do either?   


Lee makes a strong case for taking an active role in reversing the effects of centuries of selective breeding.  Universal neutering is presented as the most logical action to take, along with making the choice to breed no more.   Over time, this could enable their counterparts in the wild (like wolves and wildcats) to regain more of their original habitats lost due to domestication. 


While Lee concedes that much of our interaction with domesticated cats and dogs is positive and loving, there are still millions of them that end up abused, abandoned, or euthanized.  They are forever dependent and at our mercy because they’ve been bred that way. 


When it comes to farm animals, I hadn’t considered the negative consequences beyond the slaughter that awaits them at the end of their short lives. But they are not the only ones who suffer as a result of our appetites.  Those in the wild pay a high price as well.
From chapter one, page seven, “ …Meanwhile, free-living animals remain invisible. How do they stand a chance as long as we entitle ourselves to the lands on which they live, and they are not seen by us as having any such claims at all?”


Lee also questions the understandable feelings of outrage over factory farming and animal mistreatment as the motivation for going and remaining vegan and shares what else needs to be considered. 


I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  If you are open to stepping out of your comfort zone and having your assumptions about animal rights and veganism challenged, you will not be disappointed.

To learn more about Lee' and their work, check out the links below..



Lee’s blog

with Priscilla Feral