My Statement – January 20, 2017

Earlier today I read a post, “Let the Record Show” by John Pavlovitz, that pretty much exactly sums up how I feel about the upcoming four years. Not everything, but about 90%, which is pretty darn close.

This part, in particular, resonated:

“History has been littered with horrible people who did terrible things with power, because too many good people remained silent.”

I don’t want to remain silent and I won’t. However, I strongly suspect that once this post is published, this blog will be finished. I have small children to think about, their safety has to come first, and I believe we are entering a period of dangerous political ideologies. I’ll keep writing, of course, and talking to people I care about, both in person and online, but publicly posting my thoughts and opinions as myself doesn’t seem to be a great idea any longer.

I have a dear local friend who is elderly and was harassed horribly and stalked online because she dared to share her political opinion, similar to mine, in a local paper. She’s the sweetest person you’d ever want to meet, but how dare she share her opinion and expect to ever feel safe in her town or even home again! I have several other friends who have experienced violence, either verbal or physical, simply for existing around people who felt emboldened by the new atmosphere.

That seems to be the accepted mindset now. Violence, or the threat thereof, against any words of dissent or disagreement. Then subsequent denial of that violence because it’s “only fake news” or “people are just making it up.”

“Get over it” are the words of today on Facebook. I’m sure that I’ll have them directed at me too despite the fact that I’ve never told anyone else to “get over” someone who was elected. I cannot even fathom doing so. I’ve also never voted for a winning president in my life, but prior to now there were only political differences involved.

I firmly believe that the previous presidents, whom I didn’t vote for and vehemently disagreed with politically, were all good people who truly wanted to be president so that they could do a good job. I do not believe that this time. I see a self-serving man who wants money, power, and popularity. A man who will say anything to get a crowd to cheer for him. Who doesn’t seem to really understand how complex most of these issues he speaks about actually are. I’m not saying that he’s unintelligent – clearly he is very intelligent – but that’s not exactly a comfort in this situation.

I see the dissent that has already been sown in my friends and neighbors.

I see the violence on both major sides.

I see clearly the utter lack of caring, primarily from the Republican side, about anyone who dares feel even the slightest bit uncomfortable with this situation – let alone those who are genuinely worried about their basic needs and survival.

Most importantly, I see the most vulnerable people in our society fearing for their lives and the lives of their children – the poor, the ill, the elderly, the disabled. The “expendables” to many, it seems.

Interestingly enough, most of those I’ve seen saying “get over it” are not actually people who have exhibited a lack of empathy about other topics in the past. Not to my knowledge, at least. What makes this so different?

Why is this a situation where other people’s feelings are so easily and cavalierly dismissed and invalidated?

Let my record show, in addition to most of the things John Pavlovitz already said:

My values are incongruent with those of the incoming administration. They are mutually exclusive. I am not represented by them at all.

I highly value the various vulnerable populations in our country and will do everything in my power to speak up on their behalf whenever possible. All the way from nationally to locally.

If any of my friends, especially those who belong to any oppressed or minority group, find themselves in a bad situation, I will be there for you in whatever way I can be. Please let me know and I will help to the best of my ability. We always have food here and we have a house with extra space. Please don’t struggle in silence.

I will be the first to admit to being wrong about this situation, if I am.

Finally, my hopes:

That the next four years will be relatively uneventful and that things will be easier and better for everyone who is currently struggling or fears struggling more under the proposed plans.

That healthcare will somehow be improved.

That the public school system will be accessible for all children.

That tempers will be held.

That no nuclear weapons will be used.

That taxpayer money is spent wisely to help those who need it and to rebuild our infrastructure.

That nobody (else) dies as a direct result of the dissent and hatred that has been stirred up.

That I am dramatically, unequivocally, and indisputably wrong in my concern about the next 4-8 years.

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US Election Aftermath

My dear friends and family members. Words finally came to me, so I wrote them. If you want to read them, please feel free to. If you want clarifications about anything, please message me.

Before I get to my actual post: I care about you all, I trust that you all thoughtfully arrived at your perspectives, and I’ve done my best to listen to everyone during this election cycle.

Mostly, though, I’m so tired of seeing all the fighting, chastisement, and blame.

I also really just want to safely wrap up (all cozy like in a blanket) all my friends and loved ones who have been or likely will be negatively affected by this election result and take care of you all and make it all better    I’m here for you. This is not a happy result for me either.

I am disappointed.

I am also in a position where I don’t particularly need to fear for my life or the lives of my children because of the election results. After all, I’m a member of only one group that’s been explicitly targeted by Trump’s rhetoric and only one other group that’s been indirectly targeted by Trump’s rhetoric.

Many, nay most, of my loved ones are not so fortunate and they’re in the process of grieving for the rights they’re about to lose, the security they’ve already lost, and/or the realization that they aren’t particularly welcome in their own country and communities any longer and maybe haven’t been welcome there for a very long time.

The election result just happened about 48 hours ago. Expecting people whose very lives are endangered by an election’s results to just “get over it” or “stop letting their feelings control them” – especially this soon since the election happened – is the height of entitlement.

You’re happy about the results? Cool. Be happy then.

You’re meh, but okay about the results? Cool, be that way too.

You were devastated but got over it real quick? Awesome! But it’s not a race.

And for the love of all that is good and holy: Please let others have their time to grieve! Maybe listen to them to find out WHY they’re upset. I have not seen any “sour grapes” “sore losers” on my social media. Instead, I’ve seen people who are legitimately worried about their own lives or the lives of their loved ones.

Obviously I don’t know what’s on anyone else’s social media, but there are plenty of people out here who are hurting and scared and need time and support from the people they thought cared about them. Not to be chastised about how they’re handling it (or not).

And yes, some people are harming or threatening others in response and that’s not okay either. I’ve not seen anyone say it is.

I’ve spent this entire election cycle listening to people from all sides. There were valid concerns on ALL sides.

There are real live people represented on all sides.

Multidimensional people who are not a monolith along with the rest of the “left” or “right” or “independents” or “3rd party voters” or “people who stayed home” or whatever group with whom you disagree the most.

I’m quite sick and tired of the hatred and vitriol. I’ve mostly seen this coming from the Trump camp so that’s what I’m focusing on, although I’m well aware it’s a growing problem on (again) all sides.

Personally, I would love to see all sides listening more to actual people and less to the media. That the media has played a large and devastating role in this election is probably one of the only things about which I agree with Trump (and I’ve listened to his actual words, not media renditions).

I have very specific things to say to both sides before I sum up. I even color-coded them so you can see where the sections begin and end:

If you’re one of my loved ones who is devastated/scared by these results, regardless of whom you voted for (if you voted), then please take the time you need to grieve. I’m happy to listen and commiserate with you and support you in practical ways however you need me to and as far as I’m able.

I love you and am here to help in any way I possibly can, my friends and loved ones who stand to lose the most from these results. I’m sorely grieved by the outcome myself for many reasons and I can only personally hope that Trump remains a liar and won’t accomplish nearly as much as he’s promised.

If you voted for Trump, well, I’m going to trust that you had legitimate, non-hateful, reasons for doing so. I love you and care for you too, but my focus has to be on supporting my friends who are hurting right now.

If you’re one of the folks who’s upset about people calling you a racist because you voted for Donald Trump, please let me tell you something that might help:

Sometimes (often) people make incorrect inferences about others’ lives from the company they keep or the votes they make or the social media posts they post/like/share/comment on.

If you’ve been called a racist and people are incorrect about that assumption, then maybe it’s time to publicly and vocally stand up against the hurtful rhetoric that came along with the positive things you were voting FOR. Consider giving support (in whatever way you’re able – emotional support is totally free and can go a long way) to your friends who stand to lose the most during this presidential term. Show them that you really did just vote for Trump because you wanted better jobs for the middle class! Or whatever reason you actually had.

I’m speaking now specifically to those of us who have the means, support, ability, and (yes) privilege to actively listen to people from other sides and try to find solutions to fix the mess we’re all in:

Regardless of who you voted for, please use this time to get better at listening to your fellow Americans instead of watching/reading the media while surrounding yourself with people who largely share your demographics and viewpoints.

This polarization happened on all sides and important life-altering concerns from other groups of people were missed on all sides. And this is the result.

The last year has been an ugly, ugly time of polarization. Let’s please try to use this experience to do better in the future.

Fear, Understanding, and Politics

This Onion article seems to be particularly on-point regarding Trump’s speech, from what I’ve heard and seen of last night. Fear and inaccuracies seemed to play a rather large role.

I’m going to start with a very brief two-paragraph history of my own: I grew up with the network news on in the background daily when my dad would get home from work. Then 9/11 happened when I was a college freshman, living on campus. I stopped watching the news about two weeks later, primarily because of all the fear and hatred being spread around. The network news broadcasts were starting to remind me of the two-minutes hate in 1984, which I had recently re-read at the time. The news was also constantly on wherever there was a television set at my college and it quickly became overwhelming for me.

So I went cold turkey and purposely didn’t watch any news at all for about a decade, aside from clips that were shown during college classes or occasional documentaries I watched. My quality of life improved significantly and immediately upon cutting broadcast news out of my life. I periodically would read news articles – but they were mainly local or relevant to my life in some other way. I heard about significant international events primarily through blogs or personal interactions with friends. Over the last 5 years I’ve slowly added in more written news stories that are of interest to me and carefully avoided much broadcast news, preferring to read the news rather than watch or listen to it anyhow.

Given my news hiatus, it seems obvious to me that, in the past 15 years, things have not gotten better on the spreading fear and hatred to everyone front. Instead they appear to have gotten remarkably worse.

***Now, I want to be very clear that not all fear is unjustified – fear is not a dirty word and it doesn’t imply anything negative in and of itself. Healthy fear can even be life-saving at times.***

However, I would like to encourage all of you, my friends and readers, to look deeply into the things you fear and consider why you fear them and maybe even if you should fear them. It can be difficult to do this at first, it certainly has been for me, but it gets much easier with practice.

These are some of the things that have helped me the most with my own endeavor towards greater understanding of opposing viewpoints and that I think might possibly be of use to others – feel free to take note of any that sound helpful and leave the rest: 

Seek out and listen to numerous perspectives.

Consider staying away from the more dramatic news sources or at least limiting their influence in your life.

Keep at least one or two reasonable friends who don’t hold the same political stances as you do.

Have calm, reasonable discussions with friends who don’t share your political beliefs.

Listen, listen, listen!

Ask for clarifications before assuming what someone meant – especially if they didn’t explicitly say it.

Clarify your own words when asked.

Try to avoid becoming defensive or thinking that someone merely said what you were expecting them to say – especially, again, if they didn’t explicitly say it with their words.

Move beyond pithy, partisan sound-bites and dig more deeply into the issues.

Take frequent (or even long) breaks if you find yourself getting frustrated or overwhelmed. A wise friend of mine once said that the words will still be here when you come back. To a degree, that can sometimes not be true if people decide not to stand by what they said and instead delete comments, but hopefully you’ll be mainly talking to reasonable people who are willing to let their words stand for the sake of the larger discussion even if they’ve since changed their perspective.

Set boundaries for what topics you are not willing to talk about in an online group setting. For example: I have no desire to talk about gun control. I have good friends on both sides and have a good grasp of both sides, I’m somewhere in the middle, and those discussions get nasty very quickly these days. I don’t see any reason for me to either host or participate in those discussions at this point when I can instead save my energy for topics that I still need or want to delve into more thoroughly.

It has been well worth my while to listen open-mindedly to a diverse mix of people and I believe that more people doing so can only benefit our society as a whole – particularly in these fearful and divisive times.

One Independent’s View of the GOP, the SCOTUS, and the POTUS

While posting and reading online earlier this afternoon, I realized that I would be hopping mad about the political posturing regarding the newly vacant Supreme Court Justice position if I was a Republican instead of an Independent.

Sure, it probably sounds delightful to many Republicans on the surface – “I hate Obama and the Republicans who represent me aren’t going to let him appoint a SC justice! Right on!” But looking a little deeper:

It seems clear that a moderate or conservative-leaning nominee is the only type who would stand any chance of getting approved right now with the present political climate. This is a good analysis regarding what prospective justices would likely need to be in order to be approved by the current largely GOP congress.

Personally, given the above analysis, along with the fact that there is not a precedent for waiting until the next president is elected should a vacancy occur in an election year, I believe that it behooves the Republican side to at least seriously consider whomever Obama decides to nominate.

The Republicans already have a history and public perception of being obstructionists. Given that history, these outright statements of refusal by GOP bigwigs to even consider any nominee put forth by Obama could end up hurting Republicans badly in the general election – especially with those of us who are opposed to voting along party lines and/or identify as Independents. That consideration is particularly  important given that the number of voters identifying as Independents has risen dramatically in the past few years.

Also, if a Democratic candidate is elected this fall, the composition of the Senate and House could change as well. With Hillary being pulled left by Bernie, or if Bernie himself gets elected, the now-vacant SCOTUS seat could conceivably be filled with an infinitely more liberal justice which would put the Republicans’ refusal in an even worse light for their supporters.

I would be beyond livid if my party’s representatives had stalled for nearly a year just to have someone I disagreed with even more be appointed as a result of their unconstitutional shenanigans.

Basically Republicans are gambling that they’re going to win the general, despite showing themselves to be obvious lying, hypocritical obstructionists, and instead of working with (or even just trying to appear as though they’re working with) Obama to appoint a moderate to the SC, they’re going to publicly gamble with that chance.

Moreover, I’m not sure it’s a gamble that the Republicans can easily win in the end, leaving a very real possibility that the Democrats will win the general and can then appoint someone even more liberal, especially given how many Independents already had negative views of the GOP. Needless to say, I’m pretty appalled that they’re willing to play with those kinds of stakes even though I’m not a Republican.

If I was a Republican, I’d be pretty darn pissed off.

As an Independent, I’m significantly less than impressed.

Judging Parents by Their Own Behavior

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Subtitle: Parents Behaving Badly

There’s a trend in our society that has always bothered me somewhat. We compliment parents when their children are well-behaved and we, likewise, condemn them when their children are ill behaved. Given that nobody can completely control anyone else’s behavior, why aren’t we judging the parents on their own behavior instead of on the behavior of their children?

Yes, parents absolutely do need to be teaching their children how to behave in public and how to handle themselves in various situations, but the idea that one person (even a parent) either can or should have such complete control over another person (even a child)’s behavior is just a bit troubling to me. Teaching someone is not the same thing as controlling them is and when we judge parents by their children’s behavior, there seems to be an implicit assumption that the parents should be controlling those children and keeping them under control!

Before even mentioning any practical issues regarding children and their behavior in public, I think that it’s important to recognize that children are people too. They have good days and bad days. They have days when they eat too much sugar, too little food, or miss a nap and go bonkers in the grocery store or other public place. Children, just like adults, are prone to lose their tempers, get grumpy, become frustrated, and lash out.

Children also possess far less impulse control than adults do, which is why it rather puzzles me that we, as a society, seem to expect children to behave even better in public than we expect their parents to behave.

Often, children’s inappropriate behavior is precipitated by an unwise decision on the part of the parents (like taking a young child shopping during naptime), but we should hold the parents accountable for their unfortunate decision rather than the reaction of their child to the parents’ ill conceived decision (a possible meltdown or tantrum during the aforementioned naptime shopping trip).

Truly, I think that this expectation, that parents should be “in control” or “controlling” their children’s behavior causes a lot of bad behavior on the part of parents themselves. In an effort to show their children as well as everyone around them that they are “in control” or “doing something about” their children’s bad behavior, parents will often resort to threats or even physical violence against their children.

Public threats and physical violence are not something that we tolerate from any other group of people other than parents when the threats and physical violence (spanking) are directed at their children.

Why is this? Why is it socially acceptable for parents to lose their tempers and threaten and yell at or even hit their children in public?

I think it’s because we, as a society, also believe that such threats and violence establish the parents’ appearance of “control” over their children, which is more acceptable to us than seeing children behaving like children and being taught respectfully how to behave in public or being removed from a situation when it has proven to be too much for them at this time.

I think that it would be more productive for parents to be judged by their own behavior. I’d far rather see a parent calmly handling the issue of a tantrum-ing child in public, trying to figure out the underlying issue and treating the child with respect, than to see a parent lose control themselves while dealing with an out of control child.

How can we expect children to exhibit self-control in public most or all of the time when we, as parents, cannot even exhibit perfect self-control in public all of the time?

Practically speaking, I don’t believe we can.

I think that we need to have more grace and patience for children in public situations. I think that we need to recognize that they are people and that when their basic needs aren’t met, they are going to react badly to situations, just as any adult would except more so because they don’t have the impulse control or experience to handle situations as well as adults should be able to.

I think that we need to better support parents in teaching their children with grace and patience so that they don’t feel the need to react in a heavy-handed manner to their children’s childish behavior, whether in public or private.

In somewhat related news, I rather enjoyed this article by the Onion this week. Sometimes there’s just so much truth in satire… 😉

A New Look!

Oh my goodness. Has it really been two and a half years since I last blogged? Time flies, as they say, and like most sayings, it has a great deal of truth in it. I’m not entirely certain where the time has gone, but it has, and here I am.

In the past three years I have become an apprentice midwife, started a doula service, helped to found a chapter of BirthNetwork National in my town, started midwifery school, learned how to encapsulate placentas, written two first drafts for two novels, taught two children how to read, and had a new baby. I’ve been involved with groups to improve birth options for women in my part of the country and I’ve learned more about birth politics than I ever could have dreamed there was to even know in the first place. I have become quite active on a wonderful message board with members who encourage me in Grace Based Parenting every single day that I read there and I have made a wonderful circle of friends locally, in real life, who encourage me in the same way.

There have been a great many other things that have happened, of course, but I don’t think I could even begin to remember them all, let alone write them all down in the amount of time I have right now.

So, in honor of coming back (really, I’m going to try and stick with it somewhat this time around!), I’ve chosen a new theme for the blog and I hope that this will help with my motivation a bit more as well.

It’s been a busy last few years, but it’s been a very good sort of busy! The very best kind of busy – the kind that involves children, reading, births, babies, friends, and good food (that last one is extremely important, of course).

Here’s to a new look!

~B.

Babies and Overindulgence

It’s very difficult for me to write about topics that I think of as obvious or simply common sense. Once I’ve researched something to death and the conclusion I’ve reached has become obvious to me, it’s easy for me to forget that others probably don’t see the issue in the same way that I do. I think that’s true for most people, actually.

Occasionally this fact is really brought home to me by a friend or acquaintance who says something that I didn’t realize people still believed, and the obvious-to-me thing that I want to write about tonight is babies. Newborn babies in particular, but really all babies at least up through 12 months of age.

I was reminded this evening of a common phrase said to and about new mothers who actually hold their babies and nurse on demand, “You’re spoiling that baby!” or “She’s going to spoil that baby!” This is usually uttered by a well-meaning older relative or friend who was warned against spoiling her own baby when she was a new mother.

After doing extensive research into the way other cultures raise their children and into the biology of how babies develop once outside the mother’s womb, I came to the obvious-to-me conclusion that babies cannot be spoiled or overindulged. I personally prefer the term overindulged because it is a more accurate representation of what people actually mean when they say a child is “spoiled.”

So, why do I believe that a baby cannot be overindulged? First of all, during at least the first year, a baby’s needs and wants are the same thing. Babies are not manipulative – they are not complex enough to manipulate their parents or to even understand what that would involve. Babies simply know that they are hungry, lonely, wet, tired, or uncomfortable and they cry until someone responds or until they give up on someone responding.

Once they get what they need, babies are generally content until they need something else so it’s mainly a question of figuring out what they need and ensuring that they get it for as long as necessary. Some babies need to be held constantly, others seem to need to nurse constantly, and there’s nothing wrong with holding or nursing a baby anytime they need it. It is not overindulgence because if they need it, they want it and vice versa.

Wants and needs become gradually more divergent as a baby gets older, but it’s very clear to me that babies were created to have their needs met during the first year and that they cannot be overindulged during that time – perhaps longer. Studies have even shown that babies who are responded to more quickly in infancy are less whiny and clingy as toddlers and preschoolers. Perhaps they’ve fulfilled their need for being close to their parents and are better able to move on. This is explained fairly well with Erickson’s first of eight stages of personality: trust versus mistrust, and has certainly been borne out in my personal experience with my two daughters so far.

My older daughter was held all the time when she was a baby until she began to crawl everywhere at 6 months and to walk full-time at 9 months! She was nursed on demand until she was a bit over a year old. She has gradually become more and more independent and is now almost 4 years old, an age where I could certainly overindulge her if I continued to treat her as a 4 month old since her wants and needs are often very different now. Still, treating her as I did when she was tiny, feeding and holding her on demand, did not cause her to be overly dependent on me as a preschooler and it certainly didn’t hinder her gross motor skills at all!

My younger daughter is basically following in her older sister’s footsteps. We no longer hold her all the time – she’s been walking for well over a year now – and many times when she asks to nurse I’ll offer her something else like a cup of water or milk and she’ll take it instead. Generally asking to nurse for her means that she’s hungry or thirsty and I really don’t have any milk right now since I’m pregnant so it’s important to for me to fulfill her actual need as well as to help her realize that she needs to eat or drink when she feels hungry or thirsty. If she wants to nurse because she’s hurt or tired then I don’t refuse or redirect her because that’s a need to nurse while cuddling and not a need to eat or hydrate.

I haven’t personally received any comments about “spoiling” my children in the past, but now that I’m living in a different part of the country, as well as living closer to my extended family, I’m expecting to hear that phrase at least some after this new baby is born. While I appreciate the concern that I know lies behind the statement, I am fully confident that I have done the right thing in the past with my babies and that I will be doing the right thing with this baby when I hold or wear him/her as much as possible, co-sleep, and breastfeed on demand.

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