Standing against Racism–Lingering Thoughts on Charlottesville Riots

I wrote this after the Charlottesville, VA riots and murder.   I wasn’t sure if I wanted to post it. But then I wondered—if I don’t speak up, does it look like I am in tacit agreement with the displays of racism?  And if you read here, you know that I  am the opposition (or the opposite, but opposition sounds more active). So, here goes…

I watched. I read. I listened. I cried. I almost vomited.

I am so angry, disgusted and appalled at the outright bigotry, racism, and ignorance that was on display in Charlottesville, VA. This was especially true after watching the entire Vice.com video. Have you watched it? Listened to the hatred, trying to their justify actions?

I never thought that I would see Americans gathering again in such large numbers preaching for the KKK and Nazism. Disgusting. Carrying Tiki torches, like they were at a party, while chanting their nasty, ignorant, racist lines. Then one of their kind killed Heather Heyer,a counter protestor, and injured others—horrifying. We have barely hear anything about the 2 state troopers who were killed, when their surveillance helicopter crashed.

So many people have died standing strong against this bigotry in the past–both as victims and and forces fighting against these groups. Here, it has slithered up again.

Then to have the President of our great nation not stand up immediately and denounce this racism and bigotry was appalling. Embarrassing. At least VA Governor Terry McAuliffe called out the protestors,  telling them they were not wanted in VA.

I know this bigotry has bubbled under the surface for years. But, with the current administration, these voices have become louder, more strident.

I believe in free speech. I also believe that when a group filled with hatred and weapons is given a right to gather, it is only logical to think that the other side will also be there– especially when the organizing side is speaking vitriol and ignorance.

I also believe it was wrong for people to then tear down Confederate statues with no permission, no warning, no discussions.  I agree with their sentiments, but there were other paths. This was vandalism.  I know that many cities have now followed suit and hastily removed statues.

I am doubtful this is the last time these protests and even deaths will happen this year.

I think it is sad that we need to become more vigilant, louder, stronger just to maintain human dignity in this country.  I will continue to resist this movement, and I will speak against bigotry, racism, hatred.

The journey continues.

C

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Why I Marched and What Comes Next For Me

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Panoramic shot of my view of the Chicago Woman’s March, 2017.

I wrote most of this post before the world went crazy with people sniping and commenting for and against the Woman’s March last weekend. To me, this event was democracy at its finest.  Aren’t we lucky to live in a country where we we can stand up for our beliefs, try to affect change?

If you chose not to join, that is absolutely your right. If you participated, I hope it encourages you to engage. Instead of women (and men) ripping on each other for their choices about the rallies over social media, and the negativity that has spread, try to TALK to people who might think differently than you: learn WHY we joined, we watched, we marched, why we spoke. Don’t let the outcome of this worldwide event divide us further.

I choose HOPE as the new administration starts office. I also choose awareness, involvement, and vigilance. And don’t be daft enough to ask if I voted—of course I did.

MY experience
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I joined an overwhelming estimated 250,000 women and men this past weekend during the Woman’s March in Chicago. My first protest rally ever! The thought that people were marching around the country and world only lifted my spirits more.  The aerial shots are amazing.

It was a gorgeous, sunny January Chicago day. I was buoyed by those around us—every age, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, physical ability represented. The mood was so empowering, curious, bold, and positive, volunteers and vendors welcoming, the police calming and strong, drivers engaged as we marched through the city after the rally.

Amazingly, we ended up 10 feet from the main stage during the rally. We listened to a wide range of speakers talk passionately about their life experiences. And many who work on the front lines daily with organizations involving women, immigration, Native Americans, LGTBQ, Chicago Teacher’s Union, Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood, and many more spoke. A complete list can be found here.

(note: leads from Hamilton spoke, then led the crowd in singing “Let it Be”)

The organizers tried to cancel the march, since the route was overflowing with participants (5 times the expectations!). But the masses ruled that day, filling the streets with pink hats, engaging signs, strollers, wheelchairs, joy, purpose, calm. The shouts of “this is how democracy works” filled the air, as the streets of the Loop became one. From what I heard, there were zero participant arrests among 250,000 in Chicago.

Why I participated
People have asked me, why did I choose to be part of this event? I joined for myself, for my daughters, and family, for my friends, for those on the bubble of so many women’s and human rights issues in our town and country. Not agreeing with the misogynistic words and previous actions of our new President,  I wanted be part of an event that lets this new administration that we will be watching what they do with women’s rights, with immigration, with health insurance. It far surpassed my expectations.

So what now?
As one speaker said, “if do you do nothing after today, then this just becomes a giant pep rally.”

I think we need to personally choose the area(s)  we want to help galvanize, by involvement and/or supporting financially. There were many number of issues discussed at the event; it would be impossible to be involved in all of them.

We need to watch the changes this administration implements, to not move women’s rights backwards. I will take some time to select which group(s) to become more personally involved with.

For work, I will continue to speak and write about promoting women working in technology, since we are woefully under represented.

And if you chose not to participate, or do not understand our fears and anger, that it okay too. We are fortunate to live in a country where we can have a variety of ideals. .

And why did I share my personal story?  So I remember.  And am counted in one of the largest single day demonstrations in the world.  Time to march forward.

C

Conquering Men’s Uninvited Advances

Thank you, Donald Trump. Yes, thank you. Since that video of you surfaced talking about “grabbing her pussy” and the myriad of similar follow-up accusations, the conversation of how women are treated, taunted, poked, and prodded with bodies and eyes has become an open conversation.

Women are angry. Women are vocal. Girls and women like myself are talking about acts that happened to us years or a recent month past. We are admitting to ourselves things we might have buried or denied happened (TOO MANY TIMES) to us.

Trump’s misogynistic behavior has brought to front of my mind harmful words and hurtful ongoing occurrences that have impacted my body image, my eating habits, my relationships with others, my thoughts on sex, fashion, and the world around me since I was a child.

I planned to include some of these events in this post. However, after I wrote them all out, I am so furious and disgusted—and even a little ashamed though I did NOTHING to deserve these slivers of my history—at things that were done and said to me growing up that I have chosen to not include any specifics. Taken singly, they may not seem overwhelming. But collectively they have been staggering to my psyche.

They simmer in my brain, clog my throat with bile, frustrate my soul, and cannot heal that wounded child who stays hidden in my heart. Until now, when viewed all together on paper, they boil over and transform me. Stronger. Purified, like the jack pine tree pine cones that only burst during wildfires. Birth.

I am buoyed up by the women who surround me. Also, by those who have shared their revelations on TV and in the papers this week. I hope that we can gather those memories, pile them high only to light afire, then stomp over them in a dance of fury. These occurrences are part of our histories, our being, but they cannot control us. We will then kick them aside and embrace a new reality of acceptance of ourselves. And other women, with the knowledge that many we know have been forced upon and exposed to, verbally and physically.

I hope that this dialogue continues. I hope that this language of rape, of overpowering, of taking what IS NOT WANTED continues. I hope  it whispers breaths of anger and NO into our daughters, our friends, our silent neighbors, our families. And those tentacles of anger and hope reach into other countries, where women have far less freedom to say NO than here.

C

Jeans for Jake for Genes! 30 Day Countdown begins…

Imagine if every minor illness for your child could result in multiple seizures and a visit to the emergency room, then an extended recovery period. Imagine if your hope for your eight-year-old was for him to simply sit up unsupported.

But imagine the joy of watching this child learn to hold toys the past year.  Imagine this child who cannot speak but lights up a room with his smile.

Michael and Nicole Zane lived with the realities of two different fevers turning into aspiration pneumonia and parainfluenza virus in the last year with their eight-year old son Jake.  But, they are happy he now can choose his own toys—especially vibrating ones that will make him giggle.

Jake was born with Pallister-Killian Syndrome (PKS).  According to the PKS kids website PKS is a chromosomal abnormality that can include the following characteristics:

  • Low muscle tone
  • Facial features such as high forehead, broad nasal bridge, and wide spaces between the eyes
  • sparse scalp hair at birth
  • high, arched palate
  • hypopigmentation
  • extra nipples
  • cognitive and developmental delays
  • diaphragmatic hernias

PKS is considered a rare disease, with fewer than 1000 cases diagnosed in the US.  But it is far from the only rare disease.  Did you know that 1 in 10 people are afflicted with rare diseases?  That’s over 350 million individuals worldwide!  Sadly, 30% of children with rare diseases die by their 5thbirthday.

30 days from today is the World Rare Disease day!  The R.A.R.E Project, which supports advocacy-research-education of rare diseases, encourages you to WEAR JEANS on 29 February 2012 to increase awareness of rare diseases, since 80% of rare diseases are genetic in origin.

You can also help unite 1 Million for RARE on the Global Genes Facebook page, or donate a bracelet to 7000 bracelets for Hope campaign.

To help support the R.A.R.E Project, I am part of a blog-hop today.  There are over 40 bloggers committed to spreading word about rare diseases, which impact so many families.  Feel free to read any of the blogs writing about rare diseases today

Hopefully by joining forces with other rare diseases, additional funding can be found to find a cure for some of these so-called orphan diseases.

For today, Jake and his two siblings, six-year old twins named Brandon and Kayla will live and love within their family.  Brandon might play soccer or ride his scooter after school, Kayla might start a new art project or attend gymnastics class. Hopefully Jake will grab onto one of his vibrating toys, while they are all surrounded with family and friends who treat Jake like any other family member.  His parents truly believe that having Jake in their lives will make his siblings more compassionate adults, as they help and love their brother daily.

Nicole, Jake, Kayla, Brandon and Michael Zane

I am blessed to be able to “share the joy that is Jake”  (quote from Jake’s mom Nicole) with all of you. C

PS.  Here are all the other blogs sharing about rare diseases today.   I am having trouble getting all the Avatars to show (WordPress issue, not mine), but you can link to any of them here.

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Raise Your Voices LZ 95 Parents

Kids, those speech classes your dread?  Consider them valuable practice for real life experiences. I attended and spoke at my first LZ district 95 school board meeting last week, to read the letter I emailed them–and my last blog post below or found at https://haveanopinion.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/parents-parent-and-schools-shoul–about the potential drug testing in the high school.

I forgot how intimidating it can be to speak in front of a group of unknown people, especially when it is on a controversial topic, and you do not know who is for and against your opinion.  We do not walk into the meeting and sit of separate sides of the room or wear colors to state our opinion.  Some people were at the meeting to discuss other agenda items, which muddled the audience more.

The previous meeting had been solely about the proposed drug testing, with about 100 attendees, the majority speaking out against the proposal from what I have been told and read about in the local papers.  This meeting only six people signed up to speak, four against it and two for it.  Only one person for the proposed drug testing and me against it had not spoken previously.An interesting side note that neither person who spoke for it has students currently in the district but both live within the boundaries.

After speaking, the board decided to send out a second survey to LZ District 95 parents this upcoming week.  ALL DISTRICT PARENTS should read very carefully and respond to this survey.  The last survey was so poorly written and skewed to achieve their goals of pushing this agenda through–inane questions similar to “Are you against drugs?”  that I encourage you to respond directly to the board if you feel there is bias in this survey’s questions.

Also, I think that EVERY parent should reach out individually to the board to tell your opinions.  This passion and reasoning are what the board should be listening to.  Attend the next open meeting to state your opinions (early November) before the school board puts this proposal to a vote potentially in November.  The board seems to be putting a HUGE stock into this survey, so make your voices heard.

Even if your children are in elementary school, you will be impacted by this proposal.  Do you want the school district given the authority to randomly test any students involved in extracurriculars and with parking privileges at any time–no parent present–or do you want to be able to monitor your children’s activities yourself?  The supreme court has previously ruled in other cases that all students cannot be tested, which to some of us means that there is inequity in the education if the school district proceeds with this.

No matter which side of this sensitive issue you fall on, this is such a great opportunity for us to talk to our children about drugs–what are THEIR thoughts on the proposed drug testing?–and show them that we care enough to get involved in this important issue.

A synopsis of the meeting I attended last week from the Daily Herald can be found at http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20111014/news/710149902/   .C

1/2/2011 addendum:  The random drug testing was voted down by the school board after reading the results from the survey and listening to the parents.  This process really showed me–and taught my kids–that speaking up CAN have a difference.  We can’t always win (like this time) but it would be worse to not say anything, lose, and WISH we had spoken up.  C

Parents Should Parent and Schools Should Educate

Note: Our school district is considering random drug testing .  I was unable to attend the open meeting about it, so I wrote and sent this letter to the school board.  I will send it to the local paper as well.  C

Dear Lake Zurich School District 95 Board Members:

As the mother of three children in the LZ District 95, I am opposed to drug testing at LZHS, or anywhere in district 95.  I am also adamantly against ONLY drug testing of kids involved in extracurricular activities and those with parking passes.

There are several reasons for my opposition. First and foremost, it is MY responsibility as a parent to monitor or test for drug or alcohol usage. I do not think that “randomly” choosing students—who are involved in school activities—to test is the job of the school district.

Second, I feel this is a huge invasion of privacy for our children.  Though I cannot change rules already in place about repercussions from other offsite drinking/drug use, I personally do not think that the school district should be testing for things students do off site, off hours, off school days.

By implementing drug testing, you are assuming that my children are guilty until proven innocent.  Unless they are behaving strangely or putting themselves or others in danger, I do not think that they need this additional stress or imposition in their daily school lives.  Worrying about exams, classes, homework, social pressures, participating in teams and activities, and outside jobs is stressful enough for these teenagers. They should not have to worry about being pulled out AT ANY TIME for being drug tested.  Being singled out will add additional stress to each day, wondering if they might be next.

What about the hair testing itself?  Online research will show that hair testing shows a bias to dark haired or dark skinned individuals.  While that may actually benefit my children, I do not think this is fair for ANY child.  And you will penalize a child for activities they may have participated up to 180 days ago?  Wow, that is shocking.  Maybe I should be grounded today for things I did in college.

Has the board seen the many websites that sell products to help pass a hair drug test? The kids who might try something one time probably won’t buy these products, and they might fail a test.  Some of the “cusp” kids who aren’t quite sure which road to take might take the easy route of either buying those myriad or products or simply falling “out of notice” of the school board random testing by uninvolving themselves in all activities—and perhaps moving down the wrong path.

Finally, my daughter currently at the high school and I talked at length about these issues – which is exactly what parents are supposed to do.  In addition to having similar feelings, she insists that the results will not stay confidential.  With texting making the gossip grapevine almost instantaneous, students will be able to communicate who is tested, who is removed from activities, etc.

While I think that the school board had good intentions with this effort, I strongly believe that the board should listen to the residents and let us parent our children and the district educate them.  And remember that these are teenagers, who will make mistakes.  Isn’t that one way we learn—even as adults?

Coffee Break

Unplugged for one morning, a country came undone. 

While Suzanne and I sipped our tea and caught up–talking about the blizzard, families, work, vacations, college visits, the importance of our girlfriends–the Egyptian people surprised, shocked, overjoyed as President Hosni Mubarak announced his resignation from the Egyptian government.  While we caught up on the stories that keep our lives full and challenging and funny and changing, a leader toppled, people cheered, women wept, children hoped.

We will watch, we will follow, we will pray that the wrongfully imprisoned will be released, that women will be given more freedom,  that families will reunite, that children can smile, that the economy will grow, that the beauty-the mystery-the ancient worlds will be restored,  welcoming people again.

Don’t blink. What will we miss next? C