Stand up and fight!

A dear friend sent me an e-card for Christmas, filled with birds and flowers and music.

Her message, typically feisty, ended with: “And in 2017 we fight!”

An avowed, life-long progressive — and one of the smartest science writers I know (here’s a link to her terrific book, “Fevered” , about climate change and its effects on health, globally) — she’s full of piss and vinegar as  I think we all should be in 2017, and for the next four years.

img_20160928_183329860

There has been a shocking and dis-spiriting increase in hate crimes, physical attacks and appalling verbal abuse in the past few months, both in Britain post-Brexit and in the United States, after the election of a President who has vilified women, Muslims, Mexicans and many others.

Not acceptable!

By “fight” I don’t mean fisticuffs.

I don’t mean screaming abuse back at someone who’s clearly got boundary issues.

Nor do I mean seeking some shouty, nasty draaaaama, if that can be avoided.

But I do mean — stiffen your spine, no matter how scared you are of what might happen if you do. (Clearly, not if you live in an abusive situation, where your life and that of others is at risk.)

In the past month, after long deliberation and, yes, fearful of the consequences, I finally stood up and fought for myself in three difficult and enervating situations, one within my family (I wrote a long letter, snail mailed); one within my parish (ditto) and one with a client whose disregard for basic courtesy (and abysmal pay) were grim beyond words.

It takes guts to tell someone, (who can just blow you off completely): “Enough!”

It takes trust in your own judgment of what you truly most need.

It also means preparing for the potential consequences, the most frightening bit: loss of income, loss of affection, affiliation, respect, losing your welcome within a community.

But the costs of not fighting for what you know is right can be crippling to your mental, emotional and physical health.

To your self-esteem and confidence.

So, eventually, it must be done.

Ask for help before you do it, from a friend, a therapist, a loving partner, to steady your nerves and make sure you’re not about to self-immolate.

But we’re also living in strange and challenging times, politically.

So, it’s also time to go fight the good fight for social justice and economic progress that doesn’t , once more, simply re-enrich the already wealthy; 95 percent of Americans, according to a recent New York Times report, have seen no rise in their income in seven years.

If all we do is whinge and cringe, nothing will change.

So…

Write to your elected representatives.

Work hard – if you live in the U.S. — to get some Democrats elected in the mid-term elections, only two years away.

Donate your time, energy or money to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and other groups working daily to protect our rights, bodily and civil.

Write letters to the editor, in print; women, especially! Most of those appearing these days are written by men.

On-line, leave civil, smart comments.

If you’re a writer, send out some op-eds, essays and opinion pieces or reported stories to keep issues front and center.

If you see someone being verbally abused in a public setting, stand beside them to signal that you’re an ally. Speak calmly and quietly to them. Do not ignore cruelty; passivity signals assent.

It’s not the time to shrug and look away.

It’s not the time to say “Not my problem.”

It’s not the time to just soak up fake news and comforting lies.

It’s not the time to ignore the news because “it’s too depressing.” It’s our world.

Here’s a powerful example of exactly what I’m talking about — ignoring a child’s racist cruelty and why it’s a terrible choice:

There is never a “time and place” for cruelty. By staying silent, you robbed the little girl of the acknowledgment and the apology to which she was entitled. And you deprived the boy of learning the consequences of nasty behavior. He may not understand how mean he was. But your inaction ensured that his ignorance persists.

Here are some tools to help you be a useful ally.

If you oppose President-Elect Trump and his values and policies, here’s a 10-point plan of action.

 

IMG_20150111_141155213
The unity march in Paris. January 2015

Alaina Podmorow, 13, Raises $300,000 For Afghan Women

Topography
Image via Wikipedia

“The worst thing you can do is nothing.”

Alaina Podmorow heard those words — from Canadian journalist Sally Armstrong — during a speech on the treatment of Afghan girls and women. She was nine.

Now, Podmorow heads a non-profit, Little Women for Little Women in Afghanistan:

Poised and confident, Podmorow, 13, now gives inspirational speeches herself as the founder of the nonprofit Little Women for Little Women in Afghanistan, a fundraising organization that channels money for teachers’ salaries and training through Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan.

“I found that it doesn’t matter how little or young you are, you can make this difference,” she said in an interview during a conference on Afghanistan hosted by the Canadian Federation of University Women.

Her first fundraising effort in her hometown of Kelowna was aimed at raising $750, the amount she was told would pay an average salary to a teacher for a year in Afghanistan.

“We raised enough for four teachers’ salaries for one year and I was so amazed because that was more than I could have ever imagined raising at nine years old,” she said.

Chapters of Little Women for Little Women in Afghanistan have sprung up around the country and fundraisers have been held in many cities. The groups have raised about $160,000 from the public and almost the same amount again in matching funds from the federal Canadian International Development Agency, the foreign-aid wing of the federal government.

Canadian kids helping other kids overseas in so organized and sophisticated a fashion isn’t new. In 2002, Craig Kielburger — then 19 — was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his aid work, which he began at the age of 12. Kids Can Free The Children has built 316 primary schools around the world, allowing 20,000 children to attend school. It has 100,000 members in 35 countries.

I’m proud of kids like these. I wish their names and actions were widely-known — not morons like Lindsay Lohan.

Teens Meet Dalai Lama, Mia Farrow and Jane Goodall At "Rock Concert For Social Justice"

Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth and current Dala...
Image via Wikipedia

Talk about a field trip — yesterday in Vancouver 16,000 students gathered to hear social activists, from the Dalai Lama and Mia Farrow to Jane Goodall, at We Day, founded by Free The Children, a Canadian youth movement that has created 500 education and development projects worldwide and involved more than a million children and teens in projects focused on social justice in Canada and overseas in six countries, including Kenya, China and Ecuador.

The group was founded by Craig Kielburger, who, at 12, read a newspaper story about the murder of a child laborer in Pakistan. Enlisting 11 friends at his Toronto school to help, he began this charity, which now holds We Day in Toronto and Vancouver every year, a full day of inspiration. Toronto’s will be held October 5, webcast from 9:10 to 2:30 EST.

The Vancouver Sun reported:

“Michael Berglund, 16, who boarded a bus in Kamloops at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday after working until 11:30 p.m. the night before at a restaurant, was too excited to be tired.The Dalai Lama’s speech about compassion in particular inspired him, he said. “In social justice class we learn to express ourselves and work toward a socially just society and getting rid of our prejudices.”

There are more than enough opportunities to work toward social justice in Kamloops itself, the high school student said.“We have a lot of homeless people, and more can be done to help them,” Berglund added…Seymour elementary school teacher Jeannie Kerr said learning about global social justice was important for her 24 Grade 6 and 7 students.“I want them to explore for themselves the sources of the global inequities, who has them and why,” Kerr said.

Were you taught social justice in grade school? What do you think of the idea?