What Matters

What Matters

As I approach my 62nd birthday (August 22), I reflect on the news stories I see/hear almost daily, now, that corroborate and validate most of my life’s choices, values and beliefs. Sharing, now, so you don’t all have to re-invent the wheel. Mostly I/we were right. Get with it.

Interactions matter. Treating all humans with respect and meeting humans needs (food, clothing, shelter, meaningful and well-paid work, safety) properly are right. Equality, egalitarianism, acceptance, compassion, kindness and respect are the right ways to greet, treat and live with all others, regardless of perceived or actual differences among us and changes in circumstances. Ending oppression, discrimination, bias, prejudice and all forms of subjugation must occur.

RespectKindness
image from http://www.tomvmorris.com
Respect

Government and economics matter. Democracy (when it works) and socialism are right: we must listen to and take care of each other.

Conflict resolution matters. War is wrong, especially war that only makes profits for a few corporations and individuals and ruins land, kills/maims people and destroys economies for everyone else. All the “police actions”/wars the USA has engaged in since World War II (and some of our actions during World War I and World War II) were/are horribly wrong. Millions have been harmed or died for NOTHING except to enrich a few. We must learn to communicate better, de-escalate, use diplomacy, engage in dialogue, compromise and yield.

Give-peace-a-chance-no-more-war1-e1442090350987
image from http://www.popularresistance.org
Peace

Health matters. Eating healthfully and organically is right: better for us, better for the farmers, better for the environment. Contact sports that cause head injuries must end: change the rules or close down those sports completely for children and teens and give adults information that allows them to make educated choices about participation. Sugary foods and drinks, salty and fatty snacks and other negative-impact foods should be made less available and/or taxed very highly so fewer people can eat/get them so readily.

Other beings matter. Treating animals with respect at all times if we are going to use, eat (which some would argue is wrong), imprison and otherwise subjugate them (less stress and pain during and before slaughter, while being raised and during captivity of all kinds) is right.

Consumers’ choices matter. Choosing to purchase items that are made by people who are paid well, treated well and free to come and go is right. Choosing to purchase items whose production (harvest/manufacture/acquisition) does not harm or destroy the planet, the economy, or the people involved is right.

you-can-make-a-difference
image from http://arabedrossian.org
Healthy planet

Parenting requires time, effort, knowledge, education and support to be done well. Childcare can be a positive aspect of young children’s lives as long as they also have good parenting.

Minds and bodies matter. Meditation, yoga, stress management, play, listening to each other better, being outdoors more and learning/listening to music/making art all help families, businesses, schools and individuals in every possible way. Beauty, nature and gratitude are important. Learn/include and do these. Drink a lot of clean water. Sleep more and in better conditions.

healthy body and mind
Healthy choices

Reproductive freedom and rights are integral to a woman’s dignity and independence and are the business of no one else besides each woman and her chosen medical team.

Religions whose leaders or principles restrict the freedom or impinge upon the safety of or intend to demean anyone, inspire divisiveness or hatred, or foment disrespect for non-believers or some members of their own sects because of gender, age, sexual orientation or other characteristics are not to be tolerated any longer and must be ended.

BigotryLifestyle550
image from http://www.patheos.com
Civil and personal rights

Facts are not subject to opinions. No one cares what anyone thinks about facts. Facts are not optional. People who misunderstand, misuse or misguide themselves or others regarding any facts (about the impacts of climate change, the dangers of fracking, etc.) are not to be given any credibility or listened to by anyone with even moderate intelligence.

Tyson quote
Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson, Ph.D., facts quote

Play time matters. Violence begets violence: video games, TV shows and films, music lyrics that demonstrate/engage users in repeated and frequent incidents of violence (personal, sexual, group) desensitize the viewers/players and generate much more violence overall in the culture. Games/shows that degrade women/girls and depict members of particular ethnic or other groups as “the enemy” or the objects of degradation cause users/viewers to adopt these perspectives and behave badly towards these individuals in actual encounters. Children’s and teens’ time using these games or watching these shows must be curtailed. Bring back more outdoor play, longer and better equipment for recess play indoors and outside. Sports and games that encourage coaches/leaders to discriminate among, exclude or otherwise demean participants or activities in training or play that cause players harm must be changed or stopped.

recess
Play

Excellence matters. Skills, talents, education and intelligence are not all equally distributed or acquired. We are not all the same even though we are to be treated with equal respect. Not everyone wins. Everyone is not equally good at everything. Not everyone can earn an “A.” 49.9% of any group is below average, by definition. Get used to it.

Collaboration matters. Governments, organizations/groups of all types and businesses of all sizes operate more successfully when they utilize collaborative, inclusive engagement rather than hierarchical, exclusionary dominance do better economically, have higher morale, have lower attrition/crime rates and better attendance/participation.

collaboration-background4
image from http://www.cptwebs.com
Collaboration

I could have provided a lot of research URLs to back up each of these claims, but I don’t need to, any longer. They are all true. YOU do the research.

Art Exhibit, 6/3 – 7/31: “Hidden Messages: The Subtlety of Oppression,” St. Louis, MO USA

Art Exhibit, 6/3 – 7/31: “Hidden Messages: The Subtlety of Oppression,” St. Louis, MO USA

My most recent #author guest on CHANGES conversations between authors Darian Wigfall (Episode 49, 6/1/16, on Google+ https://goo.gl/OYRt1H or YouTube https://goo.gl/x5IxVZ), is also an artist, activist and community organizer in St. Louis County. His #art is part of the exhibit that opens TONIGHT, 6/3/16, and runs through July 31, 2016, in St. Louis, Missouri, USA (yes, where #FERGUSON is), with that of many other #artists whose work interacts with #oppression, #activism, #intersectionality and #hope.

GO! TELL OTHERS! Free & open to the public during gallery hours.

Grand Center Arts & Entertainment District
501 N. Grand Blvd. St. Louis, MO 63103

(Closed Mondays and Tuesdays)
Wednesdays 11 AM – 6 PM
Thursdays 11 AM – 6 PM
Fridays 11 AM – 9 PM
Saturdays 10 AM – 5 PM
Sundays 12 PM – 5 PM

June 3 EXHIBIT OPENING, 6 – 9 PM

Poetry and interpretive paintings by Emily Timmerman exploring oppression in the areas of race, class, and gender.

About:
Oppression is being exposed all over the world. From the Arab Spring to Black Lives Matter, people are waking up to the fact that we are being oppressed by those who have the money to control the narrative about people and how they are punished.

These paintings are interpretations of the messages that our oppressors have handed down to us to keep us under control. Over time we have adopted these messages for ourselves, reinforcing and perpetrating the oppression against ourselves. The last piece in the 4 stanza poem is a warning that our comfortable lives will be destroyed by the forces that create the artificial comfort we enjoy.

Darian alone
Darian Wigfall

Darian art
image from gallery’s website

http://kranzbergartscenter.org/calendar/current-events/item/hidden-messages-the-subtlety-of-oppression

The Kranzberg Arts Center is a non-profit organization located in the heart of the Grand Center Arts and Entertainment District at 501 N. Grand Blvd. It houses three distinct, multi-use spaces: a gallery space dubbed the Kranzberg Arts Incubator, a flex-seat 100 capacity black box theater, and a 100 capacity cabaret/lounge performance space with pro audio & lights. The basement of the KAC is home to the Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design Education Center while the Black Box is the home of resident theater companies UMSL & Upstream.

Connect:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/kranzbergartscenter
Twitter/Instagram: @KranzbergArts

For Inquiries: chris@kranzbergartscenter.org

Advocacy, Entitlement and Knowing When to Complain: The Rights of Poor People

Advocacy, Entitlement and Knowing When to Complain: The Rights of Poor People

If you are new to this blog, you may not know that I was in an accident about two years ago that resulted in a broken nose and concussion as well as other injuries. The concussion was not one of the “good” kind, meaning, I have still not completely recovered.

This deterioration in my health caused me to run through my savings and unemployment benefits in California and have to rely on others. Finally, I am privileged to benefit from my mother’s having space and a generous heart, allowing me to move in with her in St. Louis about 18 months ago.

Missouri, however, is not a great place to live if you are indigent. This post is the third in a series about my experiences here. This third one is on poor people’s rights. The second was on food for indigent people in Missouri (published February 16, 2016, http://wp.me/p2bP0n-1BL). The first one was on health care (published February 9, 2016, http://wp.me/p2bP0n-1By).

This post is important because it looks at the underlying issues that make a difficult situation (being poor) worse or better for each person. The intersections of perceived or claimed race/ethnicity, perceived or claimed gender, perceived or claimed social class, perceived or claimed age, home/best language, physical and mental health and (dis)abilities, perceived or claimed religion, perceived or claimed sexual orientation, and economic status in the city of St. Louis, Missouri, USA, in the mid-20teens, can adversely influence, improve or neutrally affect one’s experiences every moment.

“Intersectionality” is an important part of understanding how poverty impacts each person and family differently. Therefore, in this series, I need to bring in the politics of social identity. We all have to learn to address these overlapping oppressions and unfair treatments to help ourselves understand how everything is NOT actually “equal” regardless of the similarities in two people’s incomes.

intersectionality
Intersectionality includes all of these components of one’s social identity.

It’s not “all good.”

It doesn’t have to be this way.

It ISN’T what it IS “naturally”: people and then institutions run by people make things this way and create/perpetuate systems that keep them this way.

Missouri is one of the worst places to be if you’re poor, but it’s not even the worst by any standards. Your experience all depends on the other components of your social identity. If you’re believed to be a white male, seemingly in good health and able-bodied, perceived to be heterosexual, assumed to be Christian, speaking mid-Western-accented English like a native, have at least some college education and otherwise seeming to be a USA “mainstream” guy between the ages of 25 – 65, you are going to be much better treated and fare better even when you’re poor than if you do not claim or cannot pull off having others believe you have all or any of those social identities.

If you’re also not a felon, have a place to live (a legal address) and (the use of) a car, you’re probably not going to be poor for very long.

Unless you’re obese. Unless you’re smelly. Unless you’re an addict. Unless you’re perceived to be “not one of us” in whatever way “us” is defined: then, you’re in some trouble. But, even with those cards stacked against you, as a poor assumed-to-be-white & -Christian with some education who speaks adequate English and can pass for straight and male and under age 65, you’re still going to be better off than anyone who isn’t.

no isms allowed

Change one aspect—gender—and things automatically get much worse. Change two—ethnicity/race and gender—and you’re doomed.

Check this out, from Everyday Feminism, June 20, 2015 by Carmen Rios “These 5 Statistics Prove That We’re Feminizing Poverty (And Keeping Women Down in the Process)” http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/06/feminizing-poverty/
— “Despite the overall poverty rate declining in America, 18 million women remain below the poverty line.”
—“Women are poorer than men in every state, regardless of education or geographic location. And for women of color, elderly women, and LGBTQIA+ women, it’s even worse.”
—“The poverty rate for Native American, Black, and Latina women is almost double the poverty rate for white women.”
—“For women, and especially women of color, the fight to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 or $15 is very personal—and could be the difference, for them, between barely surviving and finally thriving.”
—“…over a lifetime, women lose an average of $434,000 to the wage gap.”
—“One of the most important aspects of intersectional feminism is the understanding that when we fight for the most marginalized women, we liberate all women along with them.”

And, from other sources (see below) that add in education and other factors to race/ethnicity and gender with income levels:
—“White households take home between $10,000 to $20,000 more per year than their Black counterparts in every age bracket”
—“Enrollment in ‘high poverty’ schools for Black children is 41 percent, 38 percent for Hispanic children, 31 percent for American Indian/Alaska Native and a mere six percent for Whites.”
—“Even when Black and minority children attend mixed schools, they are more likely to be tracked into remedial or basic classes while their White counterparts take advanced, honors level courses.”
—“70 percent of students arrested or referred to law enforcement for school-related infractions were Black or Latino.”
—“While people of color only comprise about 30 percent of the US population, they account for 60 percent of those imprisoned.”
—“There is no such thing as unbiased, unpolitical education.”
—“People with ‘Black’ or ‘ethnic-sounding’ names are less likely to get callbacks for interviews.”
—“Blacks are more likely to be born into poverty and are less likely to escape it.”
—“Whites are 2-3 times more likely to make it into the middle class in their lifetimes compared to their black counterparts.”

poverty-is-violence
from http://iamarevolutionary.wordpress.com
Poverty IS violence. It has to stop.

Find a well-vetted nonprofit that advocates and works to end poverty and understands intersectionality and contribute, volunteer, blog about their work! Here is one: http://www.results.org/

Good news! We made this mess; we can clean it up.

Mandela quote about poverty
Nelson Mandela, Audre Lorde, Martin Luther King, Jr., Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem and so many more have spoken out about the nature of the human-made elements of our social and political systems and the oppressions they systematize.

WE are the ones who must advocate, complain, recognize that we are entitled to better and that so is everyone else, and ACT!

—Do not sit by and watch passively when others are mistreated, disrespected, unfairly scheduled or managed, especially when you are in any position of better privilege: it is your DUTY to advocate whenever you are able.
—Write letters, blog, make phone calls, picket, march, show up and let those in power know you are not satisfied with the “status quo.” Be specific.
—VOTE! It is your DUTY and responsibility as a USA citizen who can vote (if you are one) to use that right in EVERY election. It is the LOCAL elections that most affect people who live near you, and regional and state office holders who make laws that affect us all. Federal elections matter, too, but not as obviously or as immediately.

WIN_20141104_095753 I VOTE! And, as of early March, I am working as a election-day supervisor at a local polling place!

—THEREFORE, do not ignore bond issues, council and mayoral elections, county positions, state office holders’ elections and only vote on presidential ballots. ALL VOTES MATTER!

Want to know more? Have a read:

From October, 2015, inGenere.it: “Intersectionality. Putting together
things that are often kept apart” by Jeff Hearn
http://www.ingenere.it/en/articles/intersectionality-putting-together-things-are-often-kept-apart

From February, 2015, NPR: “Study: Black Girls Are Being Pushed Out of School” by Karen Grigsby Bates
http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2015/02/13/384005652/study-black-girls-are-being-pushed-out-of-school

From February, 2015, the the Frisky: “18 Things White America Needs To Reconcile To Truly Become Colorblind” by Tiffanie Drayton
http://www.thefrisky.com/2015-02-26/18-things-white-america-needs-to-reconcile-to-truly-become-colorblind/

If you appreciated this series, please reblog/share it, comment, ask to be a guest blogger and contribute your own point of view or write on a related topic: http://www.sallyember.com

This third post was on advocacy and intersectionality (published on February 23, 2016, http://wp.me/p2bP0n-1C2).
The second was on food for indigent people in Missouri (published February 16, 2016, http://wp.me/p2bP0n-1BL).
The first one was on health care (published February 9, 2016, http://wp.me/p2bP0n-1By).

“Family-Friendly” is a Thin Disguise for Discrimination: They are on the Wrong Side of History

“Family-Friendly” is a Thin Disguise for Discrimination:
They are on the Wrong Side of History

Who else is on the “wrong side of history” regarding expressions of and legal sanctions toward and behaviors sourced by prejudice, bias, discrimination, hatred against ethnic, racial, religious, gender and other social identity groups?

Adolph Hitler. Austria and Germany. George Wallace. Richard Nixon. Phyllis Schlafly. Anita Bryant. The United States of America. Several Catholic Popes. Margaret Thatcher. Great Britain. Mao Tse Tung. China.

The list is, unfortunately, endless, if we keep going into history and across the globe. Humans seem to have an unlimited ability to be irrational and small-minded.

Fortunately, we do learn. We do grow. Some more slowly than others, as we see all too often, but change we do. One of the main ways people change is through exposure, a personal “eye-opening” moment that educates them (“leads them out”) away from their irrationality and biases.

The other way is through enforcement, such as the enlightened few and the majority collaborating to change the laws that require citizens to change behaviors accordingly. When behaviors change, minds can follow: not always, and not completely, as we see with the laws of integration and other civil rights for Blacks in the USA NOT eliminating racial biases and racism, but these are certainly steps in the right direction.

The current social and political landscapes—right here, right now—are changing rapidly with respect to fairness, acceptance and legal rights for those with all sexual orientations and gender identities exactly as they did with racial intolerance in the 1960s.

As usual, some are being dragged, kicking and screaming, into this new way of being. They are simply not keeping up, are they? Laws often get “ahead” of some people’s mindsets. AREN’T WE LUCKY? The haters may keep on hating, but they have no legal, moral or individual “right” to impose their “opinions” any longer.

Some definitions, for those unclear on these concepts:

3definitions
from: http://littlelaughter.wordpress.com

bias-prejudice-discrimination-5-638
from http://pt.slideshare.net

Current circumstances:
I am an author who publicly proclaims myself a feminist. Anyone who knows me or reads me online or reads my books also knows I am Buddhist, Jewish, and bisexual, and I am vocally an anti-discrimination, anti-oppression activist.

I am also a reader who occasionally does reviews. Therefore, I do agree that each reviewer has the right to refuse to review any book we do not want to review. We do not have to give reasons, either.

However, I do not agree with the opinions, prejudices and biases this reviewer expresses when she gives some (but not all) of her reasons for discontinuing her reading of and refusing to review my book.

In fact, when we allow such actions to be fueled in these ways, not commenting, not confronting, we are aiding and abetting the institutional oppression rampant in literary circles. “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem” is never truer than in these circumstances.

Some would say that she would have been off not saying anything, but since she did, here we are.

Read below and comment, please! http://www.sallyember.com/blog

After finding me on a reviews-seeking site, this reviewer emailed me, saying that she wanted to review all three books in The Spanners Series. She wrote a few days later, saying she had started and was liking my first book.

Then, the next day, this potential reviewer sent me this email:

From: xxx

I will not be able to review your books. I have just come to a part that is [sic] conflict with my site. I have a family friendly blog and your book contains content that my readers would find offensive. It would also put at risk some of my advertising spots on my site that demand only family friendly content.

I understand that you were just trying to get across the point about non-discrimination but your content concerning sexual affiliation will not work with my site.

Best of luck to you,

xxx

“Hi, xxx,

“I have no idea what you mean by ‘not family-friendly’ or ‘offensive,’ since my books are accepted by ‘[Facebook authors’ group],’ a strict group on Facebook which promises readers fiction that won’t make them recoil. For example, I use no swear words stronger than ‘damn’ or ‘shit,’ there are no explicit sex scenes, no gratuitous or obvious violence, and no traumatic scenes in my books: they are PG-13.

“If you are objecting to any mention of or acceptance of alternative sexual orientations and gender identities to heterosexual or straight people or cis-gender people, if that would be something you or your followers find ‘offensive,’ then, please: DO NOT READ MY BOOKS.

“And, by the way, discrimination, bias and prejudice are NOT ‘family-friendly’ to any families I would want to be connected with, ever. Use of that terminology to describe what you are perhaps claiming is absurd.

“Since more than 10% of every population of humans on this planet are actually gay, lesbian or bisexual and at least 5% are transgendered, whose families are you ‘protecting’?

“If what I am assuming, in fact, are your positions, I find your views to be extremely offensive, and so would most of the rest of the world, at this point in time. Marriage equality and sexual identity acceptance are legal in many countries, including this one, and discrimination is NOT.

“I welcome you and your readers into the 21st century any time you’re ready to come.

“If I have misunderstood, I apologize. Please explain. I would welcome your further description of what, exactly, is ‘in conflict with’ your site and specifics as to your presumptions about your advertisers’ objections to the content of my books.”

Sally

She responded:

From: xxx

What is offensive is that you mention any sexual affiliation at all. I would not blurt out in a book that I was heterosexual. I would not refer to sex at all. It is irrelevant and has no place in a family friendly book. You can have any sexual orientation you want and that is your business but I don’t have to and will not promote it on my site. The fact that you felt you needed to make a political statement with your book is your business but I won’t be a part of it.

As I said Good Luck to you but I will not be doing this review.

xxx

Curious as what others who might be “in her camp” would say, I posted our email exchange on the group site I am part of, the one I mentioned, above, and asked for opinions.

I received the following anonymized responses (I didn’t include them all; some are repetitive or off-topic).

Then, I wrote a few responses, below.
Why do I bother? Because Education.

stop_prejudice_now_prop_watermark
from: http://teachersteachfromtheheart.blogspot.com

“Need[ Facebook Group members]’ opinions, please! Just had this exchange with a potential reviewer and I’m burning mad. (She approached me, BTW, asking to review my books via a [reviews-seeking/reviewers-finding site] last week!).

“She emailed me this earlier today…” (same as above, posted)

FB group’s responses:

From AAA:
“She has the right to her viewpoint, and I don’t think she should be dressed down, scolded, or insulted for it. I thought your words were rather condescending and insulting.

“OTOH, she should have done her research first before approaching you, and rather than try to take YOU to task for what she didn’t agree with in your books, she should have just politely said ‘sorry, I was wrong, it’s not going to work out this time.'”

From BBB:
“The old saying I’ve tried to remember is not to lower oneself to another’s level in order to argue or debate. It’s not ever worth it.”

From CCC:
“It’s her site, she can do as she wishes, just as you are able to write about anything you want to. This enters into the forbidden realm of writers who snap at reviewers for not liking what they wrote. She didn’t give you a bad review on her site, which she could have. She simply declined to review at all. It could have gone a LOT worse for you.”

From DDD:
“Sally, I totally get where you’re coming from, having experienced this kind of reaction (my books include gay characters who are treated as normal people). I’m living vicariously through your email because I’ve wished I could say something like that to reviewers who’ve one-started me because of it. smile emoticon But I’m inclined to agree that it’s better to steer clear of these rhetorical boondoggles. I’d just let this go and get on with writing. Your audience is out there, but it’s not this lady or her blog followers.”

From EEE:
“It’s her site. She is entitled to her opinion and the way she manages her site. We have our rules here, but IMHO, even shit and damn are not family friendly. She was polite. I’m sorry that you were not.”

From FFF:
“I have to say also, the reviewer could have gone ahead with her review, as she’d promised you one. She could have been completely open and honest about her opinion, and put it on her public site.
“Instead, when she saw it was something that she didn’t believe she could endorse, she privately messaged you, letting you know that she’d have to back out.
“This was gracious of her to do.
“So to be treated badly was not something that I feel she deserved.”

From GGG:
“PG-13 does not constitute ‘family-friendly’ in my mind. I have a 9, 7 and 4 year old, and I don’t even let them watch most PG movies.”

From HHH:
“Unfortunately, I have to agree with what many others here have commented. In addition, I have to point out that you ASSUMED her problem with your book was the fact that there are gay characters. She simply wrote that she came ‘to a part’ that conflicted with her site. The thing that may have bothered her could’ve been profanity, or whatever else is in your book. It can be dangerous to reprimand someone for their stance – especially since she could always turn around and decide to write a poor review, or even one-star your book.

“On a personal note, I write both Christian AND secular stories (things that would give Junot Diaz a run for his money in the department of shock value). So I can honestly say that even the words you listed are not ‘family friendly,’ meaning appropriate for all ages. As far as homosexuality is concerned, I have a #LiveAndLetLive philosophy on life. That means that I do not judge someone else for their lifestyle choice. However, that doesn’t mean I want my six year old reading about it. Again, it’s a subject not necessarily appropriate for all ages.”

From Me:
to HHH: “She came right out and stated what her concerns were. I didn’t assume what she objected to at all. I assumed her reasons, because she did not state them. Also, I did not expect any 6-year-olds to read this book; it’s way too complicated and sophisticated. PG-13 is the rating i always state. Thanks for your comments, though.”

From JJJ:
“Wow. And she was so polite…”

From Me:
“Since when are expressions of bias, prejudice and discrimination ‘polite’??? If her objections were obviously about my having Jewish or Black characters, would you be defending her ‘family-friendly’ smokescreen???”

From JJJ:
“She made her reasons for choosing not to include your work on her site clear to you in a very polite manner. Tolerance works both ways.”

From Me:
“To JJJ and others here: I appreciate all your comments, but for some of you, I am disappointed. SOME don’t seem to know the difference between being ‘impolite’ and being against someone else’s being discriminatory, Number 1.

“Number 2, it is not the job of those who are not being tolerated to return such intolerance with tolerance. I was not ‘impolite’ to her: I was direct and I expressed my thoughts and feelings. I did not call her names, I did not insult her.

“Remember: she VOLUNTEERED to read my books and had already sent me an email prior to this saying how much she was enjoying the first one. Then, she came to a part she didn’t ‘tolerate,’ which she and her groups, of which some of you are obviously members, seem to think it’s just fine to insult and demean. That is plain wrong. She doesn’t have to like it. She could have just said “It’s not for me” and DNF or not even written me. But, she chose to ‘explain.’

“Those who are not heterosexual or cis-gender do not deserve to be treated as if we are threats, are wrong to be ‘this way,’ or by our very existence, are ‘problems’ for ‘families.’ We ARE in families!

“I will defend to my dying day the right of all who are discriminated against to object strenuously to such discrimination, wherever it appears, however ‘nicely’ it is phrased.

“Maybe some of you are too young or didn’t have these experiences, but I grew up in Missouri under Jim Crow laws. I grew up with signs on stores and country clubs that said : ‘No Dogs, No Jews, No Niggers Allowed.’ Should I have greeted those racists with ‘tolerance’????? I am a Jewish, female bisexual. Our country is in the exact same place now with LGBT rights and biases as it was then with Jews and Blacks.

“Remember when women weren’t treated as ‘humans,’ weren’t allowed to vote, sit with men, drive, own property? Would you all be so ‘tolerant’ if she had said her ‘family-friendly’ group doesn’t want to read books with autonomous female characters, that all women be subservient to their families’ males to be considered ‘family-friendly’? Whoever doesn’t see the connections, here, I’m sad for all of you.”

From JJJ:
“Comments about the relative politeness of exchanges of views are not an automatic acceptance of intolerance or prejudice. In fact they are no comment at all about the relative merits of the content of the exchange – just the manner in which comments have been delivered.”

From Me:
“Thanks for all of your ideas, comments, and responses, here. Group. I am sorry that some of you still believe that strongly worded disagreement is ‘impolite,’ but we’re going to have to agree to disagree, there. Best to you all.”

hate-crimes-305
from: http://www.calgary.ca

Okay, Followers/Readers and Other Peeps: Weigh in! What do you believe/do?

Please leave comments on this blog! Thanks! Best to you all!

1) Should we authors all just “be polite” when confronted with reviewers’ prejudices?

2) Should we authors “be silent” when potential or actual reviewers express their biases and refuse to “serve” us at the “review” lunch counter because our books or characters don’t meet with their “approval” (don’t have a right to exist)?

3) Is it incumbent upon us all not to allow any reviewer to give or imply that their personal, political, religious or other biases as/are sufficient “reasons” for refusing to review a book? Or, do you recommend letting that go unchallenged?

4) Does simply having LGBT characters make a book “unfriendly” to “families” and/or inappropriate for youth?

Bisexual, Female, Western and Buddhist: There are a lot more of us than you might think!

Bisexual, Female, Western and Buddhist: There are a lot more of us than you might think!, by Sally Ember, Ed.D.: written in response to Black, Bisexual, and Buddhist: Zenju Earthlyn Manuel is not afraid to embrace who she is. by Kimberly Winston, August 05, 2015
http://www.tricycle.com/blog/black-bisexual-and-buddhist

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel relates that she “often sees surprise in the faces of the students as she is introduced.” She believes this is due to the fact that “she doesn’t look like many of them expect. She isn’t Asian. She isn’t a man. And she isn’t white.”

ZenjuPic4
Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, photo from TRICYCLE article in online Buddhist magazine, http://www.tricycle.com/blog/black-bisexual-and-buddhist

She recently published: The Way of Tenderness: Awakening Through Race, Sexuality, and Gender, known here as “her second book of dharma, or Buddhist teachings, published in February by Wisdom Publications. In it, Manuel, who follows the Zen tradition, calls on Buddhists not to ignore those ways they may be different, whether it’s because of their color, gender, or sexual orientation.”

She and others call this idea a “‘multiplicity of oneness’—–[which] is somewhat controversial within Buddhism, where the teachings have tended to focus on moving beyond the physical to find the spiritual. But Manuel and a handful of other Western Buddhists—–including a number of African-American teachers–—are embracing the idea as crucial to enlightenment, a state free from anxiety that is the ultimate goal of Buddhism.”

Manuel and I have a lot in common, so I felt moved to respond to this article about her and her teaching, her writing and her spiritual life. I resonate with some aspects; others are quite different for me.

Manuel is 62; I am about to be 61. That means we are contemporaries who are natives of the same country.

She reports that she “has had a multiplicity of lives, all of which inform her work.” My C.V.—my academic and total resume—is over seven pages long. I have also moved over thirty times, having lived in states on both coasts, the midwest and the southwest of the USA. These varied aspects of my professional and personal lives must constitute a “multiplicity,” don’t you think?

Her personal history includes “violence, poverty and prejudice,” which my life contains, also. Heavier on the violence and prejudice than the poverty, for me, but all were there.

Manuel states that she has “been an activist since the tumultuous 1970s”; I started being a vocal, active feminist activist while still in grade school, moved into anti-war and anti-nuclear power activism, continued with feminism and got into reproductive rights activism and other issues as well. I started earlier by about 10 years, but then we both kept on keeping on.

Manuel says that she “has also known fear and rejection because she is bisexual,” but I mostly do not have that experience, perhaps because I didn’t “come out” publicly as bisexual until the 1990s, when it seemed almost no one cared anymore and I was a confident adult with a supportive community and family. I did lose a female friend in college in the early 1970s when I clumsily invited her to be my lover, but usually I did not experience either rejection or fear due to my sexual orientation. Not everyone I approached agreed to be my lover, but their rejections had nothing to do with my being attracted to both genders. So, our lives diverged there significantly.

She “was raised a Christian but discovered Buddhism in 1988,” whereas I was raised Jewish and discovered Buddhist in the early 1980s. However, I had already been meditating in the Transcendental Meditation (T.M.) tradition since 1972. Similar, but not the same, here.

Mostly, though, we share significant components of our cultural, personal and historical location and background. The major difference is that she is Black and I am White/Anglo. Our other intersecting social identities create affinities that few other commonalities could, especially since our experiences led us both to become immersed seriously and deeply in Buddhist practice.

Appallingly, however, she had the misfortune to have had a couple of Zen teachers who “suggested if she ‘dropped the labels’ of ‘African-American,’ of ‘bisexual,’ of ‘woman,’ she would ‘be liberated.’ That is ridiculous and has nothing to do with authentic Buddhism. I’m sorry she had those teachers or allowed them to affect her. Obviously, by trying to accomplish this (the impossible), she was not “liberated.” Furthermore, these attempts did not ease her suffering; in fact, she reported that she became more unhappy.

Eventually, she discovered on her own what Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism (my tradition) has always taught: embrace everything, cling to nothing. While bushwhacking her own path through Zen traditions that were not friendly to her, she arrived at, in her words: “’complete tenderness’—–the experience of walking through her pain, knowing it, living with it, but not being controlled by it—–by confronting her suffering caused by her upbringing and identity as an African-American bisexual woman.”

I challenge this idea, though, that her suffering was “caused” by her identities at that point. I would conclude instead that her suffering was exacerbated early in her Zen journey by the ignorance and arrogance of those Zen teachers who misdirected her, then aggravated by her willingness to follow their misdirections for too long. It isn’t who she was that was the problem; it’s he ways a few teachers positioned who she was with respect to her spiritual path that caused her pain.

Despite being misled by some teachers, Manuel continued within Zen all the way to becoming ordained as a Zen Priest, when she was “given the name ‘Zenju,’ which means ‘complete tenderness.’” She now leads a small, all-female sangha that meets where she lives, in Oakland, California (near San Francisco), many of whom are also identifying as women of color.

I’m glad she found a way through all that, but it was so unnecessary. There are many USA-based Zen sanghas, some right near her that I am personally aware of, in which she would not have had those experiences. We could say it was her karma to have had those encounters, and we’d be correct, since everything we experience is always due to our karma.

But, it is not inherent to the nature of Zen or Buddhism to treat students in those ways. I need to emphasize this truth, since it appears from this Tricycle article and perhaps her book (I haven’t read it, so I’m not sure) that it is inevitable that students of backgrounds similar to hers will encounter prejudice and extreme difficulties due to their social identities everywhere they go in Buddhist communities. Simply not true.

I have observed, though, that too many Buddhist communities in the USA and Canada are populated by a disproportionate number of middle- and upper-class Whites/Anglos in comparison to the number of participants from other ethnicities and class backgrounds. I’m glad to say that these imbalances have been recognized by most leaders and other members: many sanghas are doing extensive outreach to rectify them.

I don’t know if Manuel’s Oakland Zen sitting group is deliberately all women or intentionally mostly women of color; perhaps it is open to everyone, but her being who she is, as the teacher, attracted more practitioners similar to her. That does happen, that spiritual teachers attract students who see themselves as similar to their teachers.

The only similarity that actually matters, though, is that we are all human and we all need to train our minds, develop more compassionate hearts, and liberate ourselves from delusions that cause suffering. Therefore, I believe deliberately segregating ourselves by gender, class, background or any other social identity is a mistake when it comes to creating and maintaining spiritual community. I know there are specific occasions when such segregation can be useful or necessary, but mostly, let’s not.

Clearly, the Buddhist path works well for Manuel and she believes it can work well for other women of color, bisexual or not. In that, we agree.

The Buddha supposedly taught over 84,000 types of meditation so that each individual who wants to practice will be able to find a path that works. In a large enough community with sufficient numbers of paths and teachers, I’m sure that is possible: everyone who wants to learn to meditate in the Buddhist tradition could do so.

Northern California, USA, is such a locale, with dozens or even hundreds of Buddhist teachers and sangha options scattered throughout the rural, suburban and urban areas, each slightly or very different from the other. I used to live there and I miss it a lot.

St. Louis, Missouri, USA, is not such a locale. It is not bereft entirely of Buddhists or Buddhist communities, but there is none in my exact tradition. I find that I am not so interested in attending the groups that are dissimilar. I enjoy meditating on my own just fine. I do miss my sangha and those important, guiding interactions, but not enough to join some other group, yet.

Meanwhile, this female, bisexual Buddhist who was raised Jewish and is White/Anglo is meditating and attempting to liberate in this lifetime alongside or including, but not despite, my social identities. I am lucky to have occasional conversations with my spiritual teacher, Lama Padma Drimed Norbu, by telephone, and regular contact with geographically distant sangha members via SKYPE, social media and email.

May all beings benefit. I wish you all the best in your practices.

Buddha thinking creates happiness

Part II: Science Alert, Serious Wonder, Brain Pickings Weekly and Cosmos Up

Part II: Science Alert, Serious Wonder, Brain Pickings Weekly and Cosmos Up

[All three posts in this series have the same introduction, but I choose info from each of the four science compilation sites separately for each post. This post focuses on gleanings from Serious Wonder and Brain Pickings Weekly]

INTRO: I should have been a research scientist. I love science. I’m extremely intelligent, determined, creative, and organized. I coulda been a contenda for a Nobel prize. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Why am I not a scientist? I had a series of misogynistic (one of my teachers hated the four girls in my advanced science class so much he would pith [paralyze] the frogs by holding them in the air directly in front of one of us so that each frog would urinate on our blouses), anti-Semitic (another one wore his “John Birch Society” pin to school every day, displayed prominently on his lapel; there were three girls in my class and he insulted each of us daily), incompetent (in an lab accident at his “real” job, this poor man had lost most of his sight and drive and spent each class time mostly ignoring all of us) and otherwise horrible science teachers in 8th, 9th, and 10th grades.

With better teachers in those critical years, my life could have turned out very differently. Those terrible teachers turned me so far off science I only took one more “hard” science course (because it was required, in undergraduate college), despite many more years of education, through getting a doctorate.

As an adult, I became enthralled with quantum physics, health/anatomy, nutrition, child development/learning and the multiverse/astrophysics, so I read. A lot. I also watch documentaries. I am not even close to understanding some of the physics stuff, but the rest I got quite adept at utilizing. To “keep up,” I subscribe to many science-oriented blogs and curation sites.

My favorites are: Science Alert, Serious Wonder and Cosmos Up. I also subscribe to Brain Pickings Weekly, which I include in the Serious Wonder post. I will excerpt from some of the “best of the best” of what I’ve recently perused. Part II is all from Serious Wonder.

I hope you enjoy! Go subscribe!


SeriousWonder.com

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Astrophysics and Quantum Physics/Mechanics
1. 9/11/14, Your Cosmic Address, BY STEPHEN P. BIANCHINI of Serious Wonder

When you were younger, didn’t you sometimes write your “return” address in a similar way? Well, now you have a more exact way to locate yourself…In case you send mail to aliens, for example.

“…[T]his is the cosmic address you may want to use: Earth, Solar System, Milky Way, Local Group, Virgo Supercluster, Laniakea,” in case someone not from this planet needs to know.

What/where the heck is “Laniakea,” and why do we not already know about it?

Astronomers informed us recently about “the large-scale structure of the Universe” which has “…four huge areas identified so far: Laniakea, its neighbouring Perseus-Pisces supercluster, and two other superclusters, Shapley and Coma, on the far side of the universe.”

Elmo Temple from Estonia explained: “‘[The name Laniakea]… is taken from the Hawaiian words lani, which means heaven, and akea, which means spacious or immeasurable.'”

So, time to re-do those multiverse business cards, eh?

http://goo.gl/9wPLOJ

  1. 2/1/15, The Absurdity of Infinity: Astrophysicist Janna Levin Explains Whether the Universe Is Infinite or Finite in Letters to Her Mother, by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings Weekly

It is so illuminating for the rest of us when highly intelligent, inquisitive people ruminate on deep questions and share their thoughts with us, isn’t it?

“In 1998, while on the cusp of becoming one of the most significant theoretical cosmologists of our time, mathematician-turned-astrophysicist Janna Levin left her post at Berkeley and moved across the Atlantic for a prestigious position at Cambridge University. During the year and a half there, she had the time and space to contemplate the question that would eventually become the epicenter of her career — whether the universe is infinite or finite. What began as a series of letters to her mother, Sandy, eventually became an unusual diary of Levin’s ‘social exile as a roaming scientist,’ and was finally published as How the Universe Got Its Spots: Diary of a Finite Time in a Finite Space (public library) — a most unusual and absorbing account of the paradoxes of finitude.”

From Levin’s book/letters: “‘We’re all intrinsically of the same substance. The fabric of the universe is just a coherent weave from the same threads that make our bodies. How much more absurd it becomes to believe that the universe, space and time could possibly be infinite when all of us are finite.'”

Levin concluded: “‘I welcome the infinite in mathematics, where … it is not absurd nor demented. But I’d be pretty shaken to find the infinite in nature. I don’t feel robbed living my days in the physical with its tender admission of the finite. I still get to live with the infinite possibilities of mathematics, if only in my head.'”

Where do you stand on the multiverse as infinite-not infinite subject? I tend to veer way from her inescapable logic into the infinite possibilities of the multiverse, but where each of the versions of the universe so conceived is probably finite.

http://goo.gl/p6ucpj

Child Development/Learning
3. 9/11/14, Telepathy is now a Thing, Thanks to Technology , BY B.J. Murphy of Serious Wonder

It warms my telepathic heart-mind when tech geeks prove what the rest of us with E.S.P. already know!

“As experiments like the one above show, telepathy is a very real concept which need be aided by our own innovations – the creation of techno-telepathy.”

“Could you imagine what our world will transform into when our predominant means of communication is via thought? Everything will change fundamentally, from our markets to our governance.”

Then they have to go and ruin it, with scare tactics….

http://goo.gl/IIblvE

  1. 3/8/15, This Idea Must Die: Some of the World’s Greatest Thinkers Each Selects a Major Misconception Holding Us Back, by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings Weekly

I ADORE this book, which “Edge founder, John Brockman, collected by posing his annual question — ‘What scientific idea is ready for retirement?’ — to 175 of the world’s greatest scientists, philosophers, and writers,” and the accompanying article/review. So inspiring!

Here is my favorite excerpt, based on the responses from one of my favorite scientists, biological anthropologist, Helen Fischer, “…who studies the brain on love….[She] points to romantic love and addiction as two concepts in need of serious reformulation and reframing — one best accomplished by understanding the intersection of the two. Fisher argues that we ought to broaden the definition of addiction and do away with science’s staunch notion that all addiction is harmful. Love, she argues, with a wealth of neurobiological evidence in hand, is in fact a state that closely resembles that of addiction in terms of what happens in the brain during it — and yet love, anguishing as it may be at times, is universally recognized as the height of positive experience. In that respect, it presents a case of ‘positive addiction.’…'[B]esotted lovers express all four of the basic traits of addiction: craving, tolerance, withdrawal, and relapse.’”

And, even though this excerpt belongs in my post’s section on quantum physics and the astrophysics, above, I had to put it here, since it comes from this article:

“Science writer, Amanda Gefter, takes issue with one particular manifestation of our propensity for oversimplification — the notion of the universe. She writes: ‘…[T]here’s my universe and there’s your universe — but there’s no such thing as the universe.'”

An expansion of many of my own thoughts on a variety of subjects and more than I could ever have thought of on others await me. Gotta get this book!

http://goo.gl/7Z5Weo

Anatomy/Biology/Zoology and Gender
5. 4/18/15, AIR SHEPHERD: ANTI-POACHING DRONES SEEK CROWDFUNDING, BY B.J. MURPHY of Serious Wonder

I’m not a fan of drones (given most of their current uses, but this is a great idea! To protect elephants, rhinos, and other endangered species: “‘We fly drones, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that have infrared cameras and GPS on them and can send back thermal images of animals . . . and poachers.’ – Air Shepherd.”

Air Shepherd‘s crowdfunding campaign deadline has passed (April, 2015), but the goal was not met and they would appreciate donations at any time: https://goo.gl/hfi9u1 for the IndieGogo page and more info, including http://www.AirShepherd.org for the website itself.

http://goo.gl/uaqlMu

  1. 3/8/15, The Best LGBT Children’s Books: A Sweet and Assuring Celebration of Diversity and Difference, by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings Weekly

As a parent, a bisexual, a feminist and a long-time educator, I am extremely committed to enlarging perspectives, particularly for young children. This list of excellent children’s books on gender, sexual orientation and other related “differences” whose authors embrace diversity in all its guises makes me very happy since it helps many who work with and raise children to find great reads on these important topics.

Plus, who doesn’t love Maurice Sendak’s books, regardless of your age and politics? We lost one of the 20th Century’s greatest writers for children (and adults) when he passed recently.

Books in this list were published in the 1990s and afterwards and range to one about gay penguins, a grandmother who speaks about lesbians to a granddaughter who asks, a prince seeking a spouse (not a bride, as it turns out), a gay human father and more. Each has excellent illustrations, demonstrates acceptance values, and provides the types of dialogue and storylines adults will be glad to read and re-read to the young children until they can read them on their own.

You might think this list of children’s books doesn’t belong in a post about “science,” but science includes advances in social and emotional health, right? Include these books in every library, school, daycare facility, summer camp and home and we’ll see a huge rise in the mental health of LGBT youth and a great increase in the number of LGBT Allies as well.

http://goo.gl/BNr6qJ

Health and Nutrition
7. 2/1/15, How Playing Music Benefits Your Brain More than Any Other Activity, by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings Weekly

I am a musician. I come from a family of musicians. My son and his father are musicians. Many of my lifelong and new friends are musicians. I am currently helping two kids (ages 7 & 11) learn about music and to play the piano. I have been a paid accompanist, musical director and songwriter. To say I believe in the value of music would be a vast understatement, but this article about the health benefits of music encourages and uplifts me enormously, particularly since I am in the unexpectedly long process of recovering from a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)/concussion which occurred over a year ago.

According to the latest research: “…[P]laying music benefits the brain more than any other activity…[and] it impacts executive function and memory…” which are two of the areas most affected in me by my recent TBI.

I love the way musician/author, Glenn Kurtz, explains in his book, Practicing, exactly in what ways playing (not just listening to) music improves our brains: “‘Because making music also involves crafting and understanding its emotional content and message, musicians also have higher levels of executive function — a category of interlinked tasks that includes planning, strategizing, and attention to detail, and requires simultaneous analysis of both cognitive and emotional aspects.

“‘This ability also has an impact on how our memory systems work. And, indeed, musicians exhibit enhanced memory functions — creating, storing, and retrieving memories more quickly and efficiently. Studies have found that musicians appear to use their highly connected brains to give each memory multiple tags, such as a conceptual tag, an emotional tag, an audio tag, and a contextual tag — like a good internet search engine.'”

http://goo.gl/aF3y3z

Brain pickings logo
Brain Pickings WeeklyBrain Pickings Weekly


Look for Part I, published on June 1, which focused on info gathered by Alert.

ScienceAlert.com

Science Alert logo

Next, look for Part III in late July, info from Cosmos Up.

CosmosUp.com

Cosmos Up logo

from B*TCH MEDIA, “#Feminism and #Science-Fiction” #Podcasts

from B*TCH MEDIA, “#Feminism and #Science-Fiction” #Podcasts

If you are a feminist, interested in feminism, a science-fiction writer or reader, or all four, you MUST listen to these 4 podcasts from Popaganda of B*TCH MEDIA.

You can listen to them all in a row (first window) or listen to each one separately. Here are the titles of the four podcasts in this Episode of Popaganda:

fem_sci_2

“The beautiful ‘feminism and sci-fi’ illustration is from Voyage by Molly Mendoza. Voyage is a visual essay on the Voyager Interstellar Mission and is embedded with the themes of wonder, distance, and exploring places far away from home.”

  • DEEP THOUGHTS ON ELLEN RIPLEY: Ellen Ripley and Gender in “Alien”
  • INTERVIEW WITH WALIDAH IMARISHA: Peace, Justice, and Octavia Butler
  • INTERVIEW WITH ADRIENNE MAREE BROWN: What Can Social Justice Activists Learn from Science Fiction?
  • AN ESSAY ON FAMILY, SCIENCE, AND POP CULTURE: The Laws of Familial Thermodynamics

If you don’t subscribe, yet, to BiTCH MEDIA, an unavoidable pop-up comes with this link, below, asking for you to subscribe. Sorry. I don’t know how to disable it, but honestly, you SHOULD subscribe and, if you can afford it, donate. BiTCH MEDIA is a great source of info, critique and news.

LINK TO ALL PODCASTS:
http://bitchmagazine.org/post/popaganda-episode-feminism-and-science-fiction