Archives for posts with tag: feminism

Male following female into blue night shadows

Yesterday I was walking home from an appointment. The boys were at camp and preschool, I was enjoying a leisurely walk home alone. Headphones in, phone out, reading through my email. I normally do not do this when the boys are with me, but hey, momma was alone. I happened to have a great email giving me an assignment for our local newspaper. I was about to send a text to my husband and then mom, when a young man, ran up beside me, out of breath. Initially I thought something had happened. He immediately started talking to me, I removed one of my headphones. He said something along the lines, “I thought you were really cute and I just had to talk to you. What’s your name?” At this point, my body language must have changed from elated, over my personal good news, to utterly terrified. I said, “I am married.” He said, “You’re married? You look really scared right now!” I ignored the comment and said, “Yes I am married and I have two kids.” He mumbled something else, sorry perhaps, I am not sure. I was rather uncomfortable. Then he turned around and walked away. I kept walking forward. Changing the purpose of my text to my husband from job to street interaction.

Rewind to the week before. It was around noon, I was walking home from our local coffee shop. Pushing my two year old in the stroller. I was using our small stroller, so I did not have my cup holder tray. I had on a tank top and shorts. They kept riding up as I walked. I kept cursing them in my mind, because it felt annoying. Pulling them down was tricky with two full hands. It was blazingly hot outside. We were enjoying our walk home. I was balancing my coffee in one hand while pushing the stroller, uphill, with the other hand. My little guy and I were just kind of chatting. I noticed a man approaching, walking in the opposite direction. He was swaying back and forth. As we began to get closer, I noticed an open can of beer in his hand. Again, it was noon. We were walking through a very family friendly park. There is a playground with a splash pad. Lots of trees and beautiful landscaping. There is a small dog park. There is an open field area for fitness programs, sports, playing, or laying around with friends and family. It was noon! As he got to us he looked me up and down, very slowly. I began to feel incredibly uncomfortable. No one else was around us. Just him, my baby, and me. I felt a twinge of alarm. He spoke. With slurred speech he said, “Damn! You got a lot of muscles on you girl.” I did not respond at all. I quickened my pace, my heart frantic to get my child away from the situation. In my head I thought “I do! If you touch me, I will use every single one of them to beat you.” I was ready to fight him off, to protect my baby, if it came to that. I did not feel safe. We arrived home safely a few minutes later. My son, oblivious to the situation.

Rewind even further. I took my oldest son to see Neil DeGrasse Tyson on a Tuesday. We walked home that night. It was not overly late, maybe around nine. As we left the theater another drunk man sexually harassed another woman. It was not me in that moment, but I did walk up to her and ask her if she was ok. My son asked me why, and I explained it to him, in as gentle of a way as I could. We moved on and continued to walk home. As we got closer to our building a group of men approached. College aged boys, all shirtless, for some unknown reason. One of them got very close to me and my face and drunkenly said “You are really good looking.” I pulled my son to the side and said nothing back. Again, that fight or flight took over. When my children are with me, flight wins, so I can avoid a fight. I had to have a chat this time, about why that was wrong and what had happened.

As I replayed the interaction yesterday, and how the young man seemed truly bothered that I seemed afraid of him, I recalled these two specific moments. There have been many others in my life, but I could write a memoire if I included every incident. My instinct yesterday was to be afraid, even if his interaction came from a genuine desire to connect with another human, society has made it so that women are instinctually afraid. We must be on the defense because of men like the ones who harassed me. I am not looking for a connection with a stranger, I am married. I have a family. I am not writing this from the view point of a single woman navigating the dynamics of meeting people. I am writing this from the view point of a woman who has been a victim of sexual harassment too many times to count. While street harassment is not studied enough, a 2014 study did find that 65% of women had experienced street harassment. I can recall moments even as a preteen, men hollering at me out of their car windows. I have been dealing with this for most of my life. It is no surprise that when this man did approach me and I realized what he was saying, that my mental and physical reaction immediately braced for another round of street harassment.

In today’s overly digitally connected world we are often lacking the face to face human connection. This is something that is discussed at length, if you Google that, you will find 25 million results. However, how can we, as a society, learn to embrace that innocent human connection, when so many rotten apples have ruined it? When these offenders have made us feel defensive and unsafe just walking down the street, with or without our children. In the moment, it can be difficult to ascertain the difference between someone who just feels drawn to you and someone who is sexually harassing you. Putting up your defense is usually the safest and most comforting reaction. Perhaps for some, at the risk of losing out on positive moment.

I do not have a simple solution. I do feel drawn to talk about it, though. I want to hear your stories. How do you navigate this often tricky balance? How do you determine when a stranger is just being genuine or if they are a threat? Are you like me, always having defenses up, because too many times you have been a victim of harassment? You are not alone in this battle, there is strength and safety in numbers. I do not feel bad that I came across as afraid, it is not my fault, I do however wish that our society was different. I wish that a woman could walk down the street without feeling the need to constantly be aware of her surroundings. I wish a woman could walk home at night, with her son, and not be harassed. I wish a woman could walk home from grabbing coffee in the middle of the day, without being harassed.

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There are many people who woke up differently last November. Their eyes were opened and they felt shock and outrage that they may not have experienced before. While I rallied against him for the entire campaign, I think that I also felt shocked on a different level. I was distraught that so many people did not see beyond the simply phrased rhetoric and shut their eyes and ears to his ugliness.

I immediately joined the ACLU. As soon as I caught wind of the Women’s March I made reservations so I could attend it in D.C. I searched for groups to attend. The political and social justice fire inside of me was fanned and grew even larger.  I attended the march and it will remain one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

I also looked to get involved locally and on a grassroots level. I attended a couple meetings where I was living, but then we moved. I wasted no time in searching out new grassroots meetings to get involved with. I have now attended two in the city. Sometimes I have spoken up more and other times I have really intently just listened.

As I quickly walked the cold Chicago streets with my husband on our way home from a People Power gathering last night, I explained to him how I was feeling:

My favorite part of all of these meetings is the chance to listen to so many different perspectives. While, most people are there for similar reasons, it doesn’t mean that every reason is strictly the same. Gaining knowledge by listening to what someone else has gone through or is feeling really is important. I have learned so many personal challenges and hopes just by being in these meetings. I really think and wish this was something we all did. That we took the time to hear what other people have gone through. I think that the country would be in a better place if that happened a little more. 

I cherish the opportunity to hear respectful but sometimes differing dialogue. Last night we were all there for similar reasons, we felt called to action. The ACLU laid out a plan for us to tackle. In the group there were many differing opinions on how to go about that. Back and forth until a plan of sorts was agreed upon. It wasn’t a mean discussion. It wasn’t aggressive or ugly. It was just discourse.

I wrote about how a young Muslim girl I met on my D.C. trip described America as a salad instead of a melting pot. That hasn’t left me. This high school student taught me something. I have carried that thought with me. Hearing other people’s stories and experiences during and since the election has enriched my life. I am a white female. That comes with its privileges and with its struggles. I recognize that and I respect that. No two life experiences are exactly the same. Learning how other humans have lived and what they have dealt with has enriched my corner of the salad we live in. Opening your eyes to the fact that your experience differs from the next person’s experience can only make this world better. I want to think beyond a call for empathy. It is about being a decent human. Understanding the people around you are loved by other people just as you are loved by other people. They matter. You matter. We all matter. To forget that is at our own peril.

Take the time to listen to a stranger, a neighbor, a friend. Your salad will be even more flavorful.

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I have written a few times here about how I feel about the current political climate. I have written about my Women’s March experiences. I wrote about why I marched. On my other social media outlets I have written and posted rather extensively (or annoyingly to some people, sorry definitely not sorry). It is not something I plan to end anytime soon. However, I want to touch on how this is making our children feel. Or rather my six year old in particular.

Let me rewind a bit, to last summer when I was young and naive. When I thought there was literally no way this would be where our country is. Surely, enough people could see and hear what I could see and hear. Well, they did popular vote-wise, but do not get me started about my feelings on that. My then five year old told us at our kitchen table he liked (vomits a little) Donald Trump. We both were very shocked. Neither of us had ever said anything remotely nice about that garbage fire. However, being parents who have an open door policy on discussions here, we asked him why. He said matter of factly, “I think he is funny. He is like a cartoon!” We both let out a sigh of relief, this we could work with. We explained he does look and sound funny, for sure.

Then came the Clinton campaign commercial with women reciting all of the terrible, sexist, disgusting, and misogynistic comments he has said about women. I had him watch it. After, I asked him how he felt about it. I asked him if he thought those were kind things to say about women? I am a woman, his grandmas are women, his aunts are women, his cousins are women, how would he feel if we were the women Trump was speaking of? Would he be ok with mommy being called a fat pig? Making fun of my looks. He said those things were very mean and he would not like that at all. From that moment on his view on the funny sounding orange cartoon character shifted.

Fast forward to this week. During dinner we caught maybe two minutes of a Showtime documentary about the election and Trump’s campaign in particular. During those 1-2 minutes they happened to show the violence that Trump called for at his rallies. He saw protestors. He asked what they were doing. I said they are protesting Trump, like mommy did when I went to D.C. Then he saw one of them get punched in the face by a Trump supporter. Then he saw it again as they slowed it down. He kept asking questions. I frantically urged my husband to turn something else on. This was too much. We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. We moved on to something else.

During our bedtime ritual of all reading books together, I could tell something was bugging him. He seemed a little bothered, agitated, just not paying attention to the book. I stopped reading and asked him what was wrong.

“What if Donald Trump does bad things to our country?”

I was a bit startled, as that is not what I assumed was the problem. But I immediately knew, the brief 2 minutes had been burned in his six year old brain. I calmly explained checks and balances to him. That there are other parts of our government around to prevent the president from having all the power. He cannot do whatever he wants. He has other people to answer to.

“Ok. But what if he is sneaky about it?”

I said that is a fair point, but there are a lot of people who do not like him. A lot of people watching him. To make sure that he is not sneaky. Then I said it is nothing he has to worry about. I promise nothing too sneaky will happen. All eyes are on him.

I am sorry that show came on. I really am. I wish I had gotten it turned off a few moments sooner. My husband said to me later “he has to learn about checks and balances.” I let him know I briefly explained that. We also decided we need to be far more careful with our watching of news coverage around him in particular.

Our kids are watching and listening. They always are, we know this. The thing is, we shouldn’t have to feel like our children cannot be privy to what the Commander in Chief is doing. We shouldn’t have to explain to them the leader of our nation won’t be allowed to be too sneaky because we are all watching, but in the back of our minds not even believing that whole heartedly. I was always happy to let them be around when Obama was speaking. I never felt that he was going to make them afraid. My son never felt anxious during story time over something Obama said or did. There are times, during some of the countless mass shootings, that I turned the tv off, sure. That was more to do with the evil going on and not anything to do with how it was being responded to.

I am sad that we have to have these hushed conversations about the current situation. However, I will not stop telling him that I am protesting this. I will let him know that I am being vocal. When he has questions I will answer them and I will reassure him. I will try to shelter him from the worst of it. I will try to make him feel safe. Our children are watching. The next move is ours.

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It has been six days since my boots marched on D.C. streets. I feel like it was just yesterday. This week went by quickly as I was getting back into the routine around here, planning a move, cuddling with a toddler who seems to be needing to make up for lost time, and every other normal task I tackle daily. Realizing that it has been almost a week and the dust is settling felt a bit surreal this morning.

I wrote about my experience during the entire trip. I want to touch on why I marched. Why I will continue to march. I touched base on this via my instagram a month ago. I then tagged it properly and much to my utter astonishment, the Women’s March shared the post! I shared it knowing they asked for our reasons. I shared it not ever thinking it would be shared by them. Ultimately, I shared it because I am involved and want to stay vocal and active.

Why did I march? I will start with my opening point on the post. I march because I am a mom of two boys. Two little boys who will leave my home one day knowing that women are strong, equal, intelligent, capable, and worthy of respect. I refuse to put two more men into the world who treat women and other humans poorly. I will fight tooth and nail to help them be open hearted, tolerant, kind, respectful, and open-minded men.

I encourage them to dress and play with whatever they want. They love Shopkins and Minecraft. You can walk through my home and hear me saying “There is no such thing as boy toys and girl toys, there are just toys.” I let them grab items from the girls clothing department if they see a shirt or something they like. They will check out every aisle in the toy section, there is no invisible border for them between the clearly divided sections.

I repeatedly explain that “everyone is different.” My oldest has carried that with him into the world. As they grown they begin to encounter people who are not raised as they have been. Kids have given him a hard time that sometimes his water bottles do not have boy things on them. He replies “there are no girl or boy things. Everyone is different.” I asked him many times if it is bothersome to him when comments are made, and he always says no. I reassure him to be himself and I use blue water bottles, I use pink water bottles. Who cares what the bottle looks like, we just want the water! One time kids were harassing him to try ketchup, which he hates, and finally he told them (at the age of 4) “I don’t like it and that is ok because everyone is different!”

I marched because I have a responsibility to help shape the next generation of men. I only have two of them to guide and love, but two people can make a difference. Two boys can go out there and be helpers not harmers. I will end rape culture within my home. Boys will not be boys. Boys will be kind humans and do good works. I will do my best for them to see a strong woman with a loud and active voice. I will do my best for them to know that women can do anything they want, that men aren’t inherently better at certain things than women. I marched so that when they look at me and ask “Mommy what did you do to stop Trump? What did YOU do during this period in our history?” I can look them in the eye and say, “I fought with all my heart. I marched. I tried to be a voice that championed love, equality, kindness, respect, openness, and strength.”

I marched a woman who has experienced sexual assault. I marched because there is a man in the White House who openly admitted to grabbing women by the pussy, and yet a sickening number of white women still voted for him. Maybe they have never had their pussies violated. I don’t know their story. Everyone is different. But my story? That includes a sexual assault that left me blacked out before waking up in a hospital scared, alone, and not knowing where I was. When you talk about trigger warnings, he is one giant trigger warning for people who have been violated sexually. The most respected office in the country is filled by a man that flippantly discusses sexual assault and then is not in the least bit remorseful. In fact, he just attacks any of the women who then came forward to talk about their experience with his tiny grabby hands. I marched for myself, for the other women who have told me their rape stories, for women who may not have told me their stories, for women who haven’t been assault and for their right to not have someone violate them, and for women who unfortunately may be assaulted in the future. I marched for all of us in an attempt to change the narrative about rape. To shift the focus on the attacker and not the victim. It took me 13 years to come forward and open up entirely about this. Women shouldn’t be afraid. We shouldn’t have to walk to our car with keys in our hands. We shouldn’t be thinking “dont’ get raped.” The world should be shouting “Don’t fucking rape people! (or grab them by the pussy)” I marched because that is just one instance of sexual violation in my 31 years on this planet. There are many other smaller stories I have gone though. I am not alone in that. That is why I marched.

I marched because I am aware as a white woman with a comfortable income, that my experience may be uniquely different than my other sisters out there. That intersectional feminism is the only way we will move forward together. I recognize the privilege I have based on my skin color, sexual orientation, economic status, and life experience. I respect the fact that not every woman experiences sexism and injustice in the same way. There are layers to each person’s life experience and things are not so clear cut. I marched because I want to listen, learn, support, and engage in meaningful educational moments from women that are different from me.

I marched with my mom. I marched with her because I have seen a fire lit in her during this election. It has given me a push forward on my strong opinions. I marched with her because she has always told me I can do whatever I want to do. I marched with her because she is responsible for the eventual family motto I coined “everyone is different.” She instilled that in me growing up. I marched with her because marching with your mom is so incredibly empowering. I was not aware of how empowering that would feel. To stand arm in arm with the woman who birthed you. I was in the position of the child asking my mom “What did you do to resist this?” Her answer will always be, “I marched. I resisted. I refused to go away quietly.”

I marched for myself, my nieces, my sisters in law, my aunts, my cousins, my friends, the strangers I met along the way, and yes, even the women who are against this movement. I marched for you just in case you ever need a hand to lift you up. I hope not. I hope you can live your life without feeling marginalized, but if something changes, here is my hand, to hold and march with yours. I marched for all people who are aghast at the fact that this is where we are as a nation right now. I marched for our future.

Where do we go from here? There are many ways to stay active. There are more marches coming up. Personally, I will be attending volunteer expo event at the end of February. I have some ideas of where I would like to put my time, but I think the expo will open my eyes to even more choices. Then, I pick a place and I get involved. If you are in Illinois, this is a grass roots organization, Action for a Better Tomorrow . It started out of Pantsuit Nation and grew into its own movement. There are local chapters. I started to get involved in the local one in the ‘burbs where I am now, but we are moving, so I will have to shift focus once we are settled in.

The march is not where it ended. It was the beginning. Keep speaking out, writing, volunteering, calling your representatives, reading and researching, sharing  things on your social media. Do not become complacent now that our boots are back in the closets or shoe racks. Keep those boots dirty. Nasty, if you will.

 

Wrapping up my journey to D.C. with my mom for the Women’s March on Washington is not an easy feat. I am still decompressing and trying to wrap my head around every experience. I will do my best in bringing these experiences to written word.

We arrived late Thursday morning. Which gave us plenty of time to squeeze in some kind of adventure. We decided to head from our hotel in Virginia to D.C. We were able to see D.C. as a ghost town in some regards. Pennsylvania Ave was already blocked off. People could waltz down the street as they pleased, taking in the overwhelming atmosphere. The soon to be half filled bleachers were already set up. Not looking too different than the photos from the parade.

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The chilling feeling when reading this was incredible. I will hold this close to my heart over the next 4 years. 

We walked to the Capitol Building where there were sound checks occurring. I would say there were a mix of people there for two very different reasons. While we may have elicited stares, as our missing attire of support stood out amongst red hats and t-shirts, things were peaceful. I experienced one of the most thrilling and invigorating moments of my life. Climbing atop a railing in front of the Capitol Building, laying down, and flexing myself into a backbend. My mom took one of my now favorite photos. I felt so energized just doing that. One more place around the world where I have done a backbend.

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Seeing how the country sets up for the peaceful transition of power is something everyone should experience. As much as I loathe the current political situation, it is rather encouraging to see democracy in action. Be that, the peaceful transition of power, or women (and men) taking to the streets to exercise their 1st Amendment rights in a peaceful, productive, and supportive manner, it is wonderful to know at its heart, America stands for those tenets.

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Sad faces on Obama’s last night in the White House. We already miss you!

We had dinner in town and when we walked out we found ourselves literally in the middle of another protest. The energy was a bit anxious and agitated. The vibe wasn’t my kind of thing. We accepted some swag from them, but ultimately we moved on. Eventually we made our way back to our hotel. Later we realized that group participated in destructive protest Thursday and Friday. It is important to open your mind to the vibe of situations. Sometimes your intuition will tell you more than your eyes can discern in the moment. This was no different. We did not come to D.C. to destroy or harm. I strongly feel being vigilant yet peaceful is the journey I want to take.

Friday we stayed away from D.C. proper entirely. We made our way to Alexandria. Where George Washington’s very feet walked the ground my feet walked. If you don’t know me well or personally, I have a degree in History and my favorite president is Washington. The town is beautiful. It was lovely to see the Potomac. We encountered one of the most inspirational people I have ever had the privilege of having a random conversation with. A teenage girl who is Muslim. She was there with her school for the inauguration. We chatted for a long while. She explained her experience in America. She was very detailed and open with us. She plans to go into journalism and politics. I will never forget what she articulated to us. You know the old adage that America is a “melting pot”? She has a better description. She described us as a salad. We compliment one another when we are all in that bowl together. Together we are better. Yet we remain our individual selves. My mom and I continued that conversation over dinner that night. I brought up the fact that if you are a piece of spinach and the tomato next to you is moldy, rotten, and bad, that reflects on you. No one wants to eat a moldy tomato salad, even if the spinach is perfect and crisp. We all need to be good and work together for the salad to be delicious.

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Alexandria adventure

I am not sure how often we have vacations that help shape us into a better more enlightened person, but I have experienced such a trip this time around. My eyes are even wider now having listened to so many human’s stories. Humans I would never have encountered otherwise. I feel honored to have been given the opportunity to engage them. 

This brings me to the big event. Saturday. The Women’s March on Washington. I have to quote Hamilton at this point, “This is not a moment it’s the movement.” This was not one moment in time, but rather the beginning of an incredible movement. The proof that something was awakened on November 8th is hard to deny.

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Our journey back to D.C. began with a new friend that went on the shuttle to the metro with us. She was making her way down there alone to meet up with a friend and asked to tag along with us so we could help her navigate the metro. Absolutely! At this point we were pros as we used it to go everywhere. From there we met a mother, her son, and his husband. Nate put on thigh high red stiletto boots to march. He said that if we can walk around in heels all of the time, he can for the march. His mother radiated warmth, love, and adoration for her son. His husband had a pair of chucks shoved in his coat pockets just in case Nate changed his mind on his footwear. Unique and open people I would not have crossed paths with otherwise. 

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The train quickly filled up, the energy was palpable. The vibes were happy, empowered, excited, warm, and read to march. Striking up conversations with a person two inches from your face felt as natural as asking your significant other how their day was. Walking off of the train and up to the street came with this pulse of kinetic rays bursting on the scene. Women everywhere. A sea of pink hats. We arrived early in the morning and already we were everywhere. There was no hate. There was no anger. No one was rude. We were all in this bubble of kindness, acceptance, and general patience for one another. We were all there for the same purpose after all. We were there to celebrate and support one another.

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As the rally began you could hear how far the crowds stretched without actually being able to visualize them. You would hear this distant roar that sounded as if it pulsated slowly through the buildings and streets. Then you would hear the crowd around you cheer and clap and shout along. Deafening and empowering simultaneously.

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I feel honored to have been in the presence of such empowering humans. I saw and heard them speak. I was near the stage of the rally. I was moved to tears many times. I was proud to cast my vote for my Senator Tammy Duckworth during the election. My elation at hearing her speak and motivate us at the rally is beyond my descriptive capabilities. I remember shouting to my mom “That’s my girl!!!” Maxine Waters is also an amazing and inspiring woman. Just earlier in the week I had been watching videos and news coverage of her discussing all of this. Then there she was, before my very eyes, speaking to me with her powerful voice. There were so many speakers that moved me in so many different ways. I was brought to near sobbing tears by The Mothers of the Movement. Losing their babies. I was there missing my two sweet boys and they were just a plane ride or FaceTime away. My heart collapsed for what they have gone through. The variety of emotions that flowed through my body is wide. Empathy, empowerment, inspiration, joy, sorrow, anger, fierceness, elation, feeling awake, strength, and on and on.

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The march itself did not begin at the predetermined time. The rally went on and on. And then we finally marched. “Tell me what democracy looks like?” “THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!” I truly, with all of my heart, believe in that. Democracy looks like exercising your cherished 1st Amendment right. If that means, writing this blog or literally putting my boots on the ground and yelling until my voice cracks, I will not let anything stop me from enlisting that right.

I have been so stressed since the election. I think so many of us have felt that way. I have shed tears many times. More than just on November 8-9th. I have felt despair and utter disbelief that this is what we are stuck with. I get nauseated when I am reminded of the popular vote totals. I cannot wrap my head around that. I am not sure I ever will. I will say, this march was so refreshing. I felt this release inside of my chest. I was able to take a detoxing deep breath for the first time since November 8th. I slept easily last night. I was ready for bed by 8:30pm. I feel good. I think a lot of us needed this.

I also know it is important to not let this be the end. This was not the stopping point. This was not just one giant therapy session. This needs to be the start of the battle. We need to continue to fight in any capacity we are capable of. This may develop differently for each human on this side of history. That is fine. Maybe you talk to a stranger. Maybe you spread kindness. Maybe you write your congress person. Maybe you call them. Maybe you volunteer. Maybe you run for office. Maybe you find an organization that means something to you and you get involved. This morning I felt that I know the path I want to head down. I know the organization I want to get involved with. We are moving in February, and once we are settled in, I will get the ball rolling.

For me and my experience, this was not about destruction. This was about building up our nation through solidarity with one another. This was about cherishing equality for all persons. This was about lifting your neighbor up when they need a hand. This was about celebrating the uniqueness that lives inside each of us. My mom pointed out that it was really neat how all of the pink hats looked alike yet they were all a little different. Being who I am I said “Like vaginas!’” My mom laughed and said “yeah or like, people.”

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And that is the take away. We are all the same in some regard, yet we are all unique in our own right. Our choices, experiences, relationships, visions, and desires are unique. That is what makes this whole world so wonderful. We should embrace that, celebrate that, and respect that. There would be a lot less hatred in the world if we were less afraid of differences and more open to cherishing the opportunity to bump into one another, for a lifetime, a moment, or a movement.