The beginning of the end (probably)

Washington DC Tidal Basin_feistyharriet_June 2016 (4)

Today is not a day for celebration.

Today is a day for mourning.

All is not right in the world and the fear of what is to come is twisting my stomach into knots. And the thing that scares me the most is that all those (lovely, well-meaning) people who keep saying This is not America. This is not the real America… well, they are kind of wrong. This is happening. He may not have won the popular vote, but America has not risen up with enough force to change that.

I am attending my local Congressional District meetings. I am calling my national elected officials to complain about national issues, and my local elected officials to complain about local issues. I am DOING THE THINGS.

And some of my complaints (and thousands and thousands more like mine) have made some changes, halted some heinous legislation, and have made a difference.


He takes office today. His henchmen/women will quickly follow. Our world will probably never be the same.

I’m with her. I’m still with her. She is not perfect, but, people, she is not this.



A different kind of shopping: Giving Tuesday

I finished my Christmas shopping last weekend, I get super anxious having it wait any longer than mid-November, honestly. I set aside dollars for my Christmas budget January – October, so there is no reason for me to really wait. Also, I loathe Black Friday, so waiting for some discounts doesn’t factor into my thinking at all.

So, I skipped out of Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, and am getting a jump on Giving Tuesday. And if you’re hunting down the deals today, that’s cool, but consider throwing some dollars to some local and national organizations as well.

Planned Parenthood, in honor of Mike Pence, of course
National Organization for Women
American Civil Liberties Union
Southern Poverty Law Center
Standing Rock Reservation
Black Lives Matter
Water for Flint, Michigan (yep, they still don’t have safe water)
Dressember, fighting for freedom for current slaves worldwide
Aleppo, Syria Child Refugee Crisis (through UNICEF)
The Red Cross (all donations today will be matched)
Your local LGBQT activism group
Your local political party precinct
Your school board/district foundation
Your local K-12 school (their Arts department? Library?)
Your local humane society
Your local library
A local or national church organization that promotes equality and protecting the vulnerable, downtrodden, and oppressed (I should not have to specify, but not all church or religious organizations do this).

Thanksgiving just happened, let’s try not to forget all the privilege we have and our responsibility to help those who have less. Donations don’t have to be huge, $10 dollars to a few organizations that champion a cause you are passionate about can truly make a difference. If this last election disaster season has taught me anything, it is that EVERY single person counts, the little seemingly insignificant daily acts we do matter.





Coming out of the fog

Bryce Canyon National Park_feistyharriet_2015 (1)

Tonight I went to my first legislative district meeting, ever. I mean, I didn’t say anything, I clapped and supported and listened, but I showed up. I even donated the $8 I had in my wallet to their “we need to bump up our social media!” cause (and then I checked out their Twitter page, and uh, yeah you do. For the WHOLE of 2016 you have exactly two tweets. Monkeys and toddlers regularly do better than that!). Is one meeting for my super-local political precinct going to change the world? No. It’s not. But it is something. And, to be completely honest, it seems a lot more manageable to get my boots on the ground in my neighborhood than to somehow influence national politics (or, truthfully, more manageable than trying to have a conversation that will change the minds of my Trumpist relatives).

I’m not sure what my next steps are, I’m definitely planning on going back to my leg district meeting in December, and I offered to help their cause in any way I can (public speaking/presenting, writing, social media (PLEASE, let me help you!), event planning, whatever). I’m serious about this. If we want love to win, we have to treat love as a noun, as an action-word. (Coincidentally, I wrote a pretty rockin’ post about that back in July that I just re-read, and I like it more now than I did then. You should go read it too.) (Actually, in reading through the few posts under my own Social Activism label….this change for me has been brewing for months, it has taken me a while to get to the point that I can no longer sit still.) (I’m done with the parenthetical now, I swear.)

I don’t have some big announcement to nicely wrap up this post with a tremendous Ta-daaah! But I do want to call you to action, whatever that action means in your world, to do something to improve your local or national government. Is that donating the $8 in your wallet to a cause you care about? Does that mean getting involved in your local politics and elections for city council, or school board, or water conservation board? Does that mean volunteering at your local elementary/jr high/high school to help students achieve X, Y, or Z? What does that mean for you? When you figure that out, even if it’s one simple thing, do that thing.

It’s up to us, ya’ll.



Not yet. But, soon.

For months I have been struggling, I’ve written about that struggle here a little, and I’ve internalized it a lot. I’ve suffocated panic attacks, and also let them destroy me in the dark hours in the middle of the night, leaving me exhausted but finally able to sleep. I’ve sobbed through books and songs that are not sad, I’ve been desperate for understanding. I managed to allow myself a little bit of hope. My struggles are not on a single track, it seems an entire web of hurt and pain and fear has been slowly closing in on me, slowly squashing the happy and sunny parts of my life, replacing it with dead shadows. I want to be clear that this is not entirely political, but the combination of politics, the hurts of humanity, my own relationships and my own demons. It is a very complicated web that I am tangled in, and it seems the struggle has only made the tangle messier.

For me, that web all came crashing down last Tuesday, watching in horror, sobbing in anger and fear, as state after state turned red. There are a lot of shitty things in the world, and also a lot of goodness. But on Tuesday night The Shit won. When you’re already walking on a tight rope, trying to balance and measure every step, it doesn’t take much to make you fall. I wore black the next day, in mourning. I have retreated some more, probably to a scary degree, actually. I am grieving the loss of so many things, and I cannot be comforted.

My entire life I’ve taught my heart to throw up walls, to grow spikes, to protect itself. For the majority of my adult life I’ve tried to remind myself not to build the wall and cultivate the spikes. I’m a warrior who is at war with herself. Years ago I received a piece of advice I think of often, but sometimes am incapable of the required follow through: Insulate yourself from the hurts of the world so that you may move forward shielded by your own, conscious strength. I’m still not 100% sure what that means, how do you insulate something without burying it in impenetrable layers? How do you move forward without turning into a prickly monster?

This is a puzzle I continually solve and then forget the answer. So I have to start at the beginning, again and again. It is exhausting. My unexpected, very emotional spiral immediately following the 2016 election is another setback for me, I’ve taken some time to be angry, and sad, and depressed. I’m not quite to the acceptance stage yet, I’m resolved to never refer to him as “President” but I’m also not (seriously) planning to move to New Zealand or Sweden or The Bahamas. But I am closer to moving forward. There is work to do, and I will sign up for all of it.

I’m not ready yet to sound my battle cry, I’m still picking up the pieces. But, soon.



Confessions of a Bookaholic: Race, Civil Rights, and #blacklivesmatter

For the last few months I have been trying to educate myself a lot more about the racial tensions and battles in the United States, both in the days of yore, and also yesterday. As more and more black people are being targeted with unnecessary force I want to try to understand as best I can the history, what has changed, what has not changed, and the current situation. It is not light reading, my heart is heavy and I get angry, a lot, at the things I read. I imagine this will be something I continue to study as I try to understand. I started with some biographies and autobiographies of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X to understand a little more of the historical context of current problems, the difference between civil disobedience/peaceful protest and Malcolm X’s more violent activism. I also read John Howard Griffin’s monumental book Black Like Me, and I’ll be damned, but all four of those books discussed, extensively, how a black man should act when white police were around. Honestly, it’s the SAME problems that are happening on streets and in parks today. The New Jim Crow truly opened my eyes to the nitty-gritty problems in our criminal justice system, which I felt conversant in having watched all available seasons of Law and Order…uh, it’s not like that. Not at all. And I am embarrassed that I knew so little about what truly happens on a day-to-day basis for men and women who are arrested for drug possession, drug use, or, you know, just being black and in the “wrong place” at the “wrong time.” We have so much work to do, and while I may not have all the knowledge and details and background, and I certainly don’t have the memories of my own racial oppression to work from, but I can still be an activist. I can still try to understand and speak out against the unspeakable atrocities that are happening to citizens of this country.

The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by Clayborne Carson (4 stars). Firstly, this is not an autobiography, but a chronological collection of MLK Jr’s writings and speeches detailing his work towards racial equality in the US, up to his death. Secondly, I listened to the audiobook version, and many of the speeches are actual recordings of MLK’s words, complete with gritty technology and crowd noise. I really appreciated this book, I liked hearing MLK’s own words, I think the only speech I had heard him voice before was his “I have a dream” speech. I also really liked how detailed he was in his letters, opinion pieces, and other writings to detail non-violent protests, but I also really like how specific MLK gets about what will happen if there is no response to non-violent protest (spoiler: things will turn violent; Nelson Mandela came to the same conclusion; Gandhi did not have to come to that conclusion because the government in India made sweeping efforts to correct social and racial injustice around the country). I would now like to read an actual biography of MLK to fill in a lot of the details that are skipped in this collection.

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, by Manning Marable (4 stars).  I knew very little about Malcolm X prior to reading this book and I appreciate the author focusing on the ways that Malcolm changed and transformed his public persona throughout his lifetime. From a criminal, to a minister and teacher for the Nation of Islam, to starting his own Islamic church (branch? organization?)…from militant protests to a more inclusive and civil dialogue, Malcolm X was constantly adjusting his politics and his protests. I am still processing said politics and trying to figure out my opinion. I think there are a lot of comparisons between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr, their very different protesting style and brand of activism, and I think that both have valid points. Malcolm X was representing urban poor, which is a very different demographic from small Southern towns where MLK worked. Malcolm had zero formal schooling, and prided himself on being just like the people he worked with. MLK had a doctorate and his friends were similarly educated. I’m not saying one is a better leader than the other, I’m saying they are very hard to compare. Also, as a middle class white girl from the American West, I feel like I cannot make a judgement call on what Malcolm X or MLK Jr were to the different groups of people who followed them. I have a lot more reading to do.

Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary, by Walter Dean Myers (3 stars). This is a decent biography…for children. Malcolm X had a pretty rough life, and while his drug use and dealing is discussed, as is the fact that he was a “burglar” there isn’t much real talk about the horrible conditions and lack of opportunity Malcolm had in his early years, or much about the violence he preached in his middle years. He is a super controversial character, and part of his appeal to so many inner city black men is he had lived their existence and had served prison time for his crimes. This book doesn’t necessarily deny that, but it definitely doesn’t go into detail about the realities of his options, choices, and decisions when it comes to drugs, women, violence, and theft.

Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin (4 stars). I am so conflicted on my rating for this book; on the one hand, I am furious that the first-person narratives from people of color, of their every-day experiences are not taken as seriously as this book where an upper class white man essentially goes into black neighborhoods in the south in an elaborate “black face” disguise and writes about it is taken seriously. Now, that isn’t John H. Griffin’s fault, necessarily, and I think he makes a lot of excellent points describing the differences between his experience as a white man and a black man in the same neighborhoods in the same couple of weeks. Griffin’s experiment was in 1959 when segregation in the South was still very prominent in many cities and towns that Griffin visited. Also, some of the racism and action he came up against is still prevalent today, and that is something–as a white person–I need to deeply consider. I think this is a must read book.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander (5 stars). This was such a difficult book for me to read, the text is dense and full of statistics and stories, and the content is…heartbreaking doesn’t seem to cover it. Alexander discusses changes throughout the last 30 or 40 years in policing, the war on drugs, minimum required sentences, and how the vast majority of policies on a state and federal level surrounding those topics put people of color–the vast majority young black men–behind bars and with a felony record that bars them from many social services, job opportunities, and housing options, which, in turn, turns them back to a life of petty crime in order to survive. I am still processing this book, but in a time of so much unnecessary police brutality, in a time of race discussions and arguments, I think everyone needs to read this book.