Have We Lost Our Humanity?

Or did we have any to begin with?

Street art in Washington, DC. Photo taken by author.

Let me start with this. Humanity has always been inhumane. Atrocities have been committed throughout history. And, while we aren’t experiencing Genghis Khan-level atrocities at the moment (though Ukrainians might disagree), the United States is certainly allowing smaller, more localized atrocities to continue unabated. The U.S. hasn’t exactly been the paragon of all that is good and right with the world, but this tacit acceptance of current violence is particularly noticeable given our place in modern society. Racism, classism, and misogyny have been problems for centuries. Aren’t we supposed to be progressing though? We’re supposed to evolve and learn and become better societies. It seems like somewhere along the way we’ve lost the plot, the thread…our humanity.

There was a mass shooting on May 6, 2023 in Allen, Texas that killed at least nine people, including some children. Last month, a man in Texas shot five people execution-style because they asked him to pause firing his AR-15 while their baby was napping. A former Marine strangled Jordan Neely, who was homeless, to death on the New York City subway because Mr. Neely was screaming about being tired, hungry, and thirsty. He held the man in a chokehold for approximately 15 minutes while others watched, most doing nothing. There was another mass shooting on May 3, 2023, in Atlanta, GA. The other day a meteorologist threatened a little girl after she rang his doorbell while searching for her missing kitten. He said he had his gun cocked and that he pulled her hair because we shouldn’t be ringing doorbells anymore. State legislatures are passing incredibly restrictive anti-abortion laws, anti-trans laws, anti-LGBTQ laws, anti-education laws, and book bans. They all have a few things in common: anger, fear, power, and an inability or unwillingness to recognize the human beings affected by this inhumanity.

When did we become so inured to horrors happening right in front of us? Are things worse, which is hard to imagine when the bar for accepted behavior is already on the ground, or are we just more exposed to it? When a man, clearly suffering from mental health issues and a system that penalizes the unhoused just for existing, is murdered in a subway car and folks just watch, it’s clear we’re devolving instead of evolving. When the governor of Texas, in response to the execution of five people, calls them illegal immigrants (which isn’t completely true) instead of flat-out condemning their murder, it’s clear we’re devolving. When our elected representatives gleefully pass laws that restrict people’s rights to bodily autonomy and privacy, it’s clear we’re devolving. When our so-called leaders do nothing while the entire country suffers under the scourge of gun violence, it’s clear we’re devolving.

It’s worth mentioning that politicians, at all levels, benefit from divisiveness. It’s advantageous to their careers to when the folks they represent see each other as enemies. They get talking points, money, and power from our anger. They get to stay in office.

Societies require human interaction. Interacting with other people allows us the space to see people as they actually are rather than as we are told they are or what we imagine. We can see that others aren’t the boogeyman hiding in the closet, but are just people; maybe a little different from us, but really more alike than not. The simplest interactions are more fraught and tense, and potentially dangerous. We invented modern conveniences, like grocery delivery, Amazon, online shopping to make our lives easier. They also fundamentally changed how we function as a society. They’ve made us see interaction as an irritation to suffer through instead of vital to humanity’s survival. And yes, I do mean humanity as both a noun and a verb.

The pandemic hasn’t exactly done any of a lot of good either. It drove us inside for an extended period of time and our isolation became physical. Our mistrust and our fears flourished while we all tried to live through a deadly pandemic. We turned on each other instead of choosing to help. We wanted out, but proceeded to act like monsters when in public. We now make jokes about limiting our human interaction because other people are awful.

I mentioned this on Twitter and a commenter said that the dangers of asking for help have driven introverts even further into themselves. I don’t think it’s about introvert versus extrovert. In my amateur experience, admittedly as an extrovert, introverts don’t shun human interaction altogether. What we’re experiencing today feels like isolationism on a very personal level. People cannot survive, as mentally or emotionally healthy, when completely isolated from others. It’s why solitary confinement is considered by many to be torture.

So how do we regain our humanity, or at least try to find it? We have to stop listening to the people who benefit from our “othering” people we don’t know. We have to practice empathy rather than apathy and callousness. White folks have to stand up and call out racism. Anyone with privilege needs to use their voice to advocate for more equitable systems. We have to give the majority of people the benefit of the doubt. Not everyone is operating with malicious intent. Mostly, people are out here trying to survive, be decent, and hoping to not be hated for some arbitrary reason. They just want to exist.

No one will escape unscathed if we don’t start seeing each other as people instead of inconveniences and irritations.

A Daughter’s Grief and a Mother’s Love

There are so many polite ways to say it; passed away, crossed over, called home, shuffled off this mortal coil. The plain fact is though, my mama died. She died suddenly and quickly on Saturday, March 11, 2023 and life won’t ever be like it was. She collapsed in church, with my father by her side, and a couple of doctors and and ER nurse trying to help her. As horrifying as it was, I feel like there’s some kind of karmic something to passing away in church.

I’ve been trying to write about this for at least a week now, with not much to show for it. The grief comes in waves, even as I put one foot in front of the other, doing the things that must be done. I’ve found that mornings are the most difficult since it’s when I spoke to her almost every day. I’m trying to find some peace in this grief; some comfort in the thought that maybe mornings are the time she comes to me.

I still want to call her, to tell her about things happening in my family’s life. We got new chairs in our dining room and my first thought was that I needed to FaceTime her because she’d really like them. I wanted to call her yesterday as we plan my almost 12 year old daughter’s birthday party. These moments are the most poignant. The minutiae of our daily lives, the firsts we will experience without her are the moments when I want to hear her voice so much it creates a physical pang of longing and emotion.

She taught me and my sister what it meant to be independent, intelligent “strong-willed women.” I’ve written about her, and the other incredible women in my life before, but our mother achieved what we’re striving for, a blend of hard work, smarts, and compassion.

My mama loved completely. It wasn’t always easy, gentle love, but it was complete and unequivocal. She and my father taught us what love is, for each other, and as parents. That kind of unconditional, supportive love is what I strive to provide with my own children.

You were always better with Mama on your side. She believed in the potential of all the people in her life and wanted the best from, and for, them. She was a fierce defender of those she cared about.

I think she sometimes underestimated the impact she had on people. She was kind. I hope she saw the number of people at her funeral, the number of people who have reached out to me, to my sister, my dad, my aunt and uncle, and it helps her understand how many lives she touched and how truly loved she was by so many.

She was, as my daddy used to say, “the woman what bore me.” She was a wonderful and thrilled grandmother. She loved my daddy so much. They were married for 48.5 years. She was Andrea. She was Andie and Andre (what her grandchildren called her.) I love her and I miss her more than she’ll ever know. She was my mama.

The Emotional Strength of Accepting Rejection

Somewhat Gracefully

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on unsplash.com.

My writing’s been rejected a lot. Sometimes, it wasn’t the right fit for the publication or they had something similar in the works that hadn’t been published yet. Other times, editors have said the writing was good, but they just weren’t interested at that time. And, I’ve been ghosted a very decent number of times too. The world of freelance writing, particularly writing like mine that skews strongly into the social commentary and personal essay realm, is a competitive market. I’ve chosen the hard road, like I’ve done most of my life.

I’m incredibly fortunate that I don’t rely on my writing for my entire income (I would be broke as a joke if I did.) I have a supportive husband and kids who encourage me all the time. Having all that doesn’t make rejection easier to take. It still stings and it’s discouraging. I know that, objectively, my writing is good, better than just good. It’s actually pretty terrific. I’ve been told this by people outside of my friend and family group, even by strangers. My writing style isn’t everyone’s cup of tea though. I write in a fairly conversational tone that doesn’t always jibe with traditional publications. That’s ok. My personality, outgoing, talkative, and exuberant, coupled with sarcasm and seriousness, has never sat well with some people, so it makes sense that my writing probably won’t either.

Lately, I’ve let the rejection get to me more. I’m definitely more hesitant to reach out to publications, even hesitant to publish things on my own website because I know that only about 50 people will ever read it. The fear of rejection is strong and will overwhelm you if you let it. Honestly, I was hesitant about even writing this piece because it sounds like self-pity and that’s gross. Oh, poor little privileged lady is getting rejected. Poor her.

“I’m good enough; I’m smart enough; and doggone it, people like me.”

— Stuart Smalley (SNL character created by former U.S. Senator Al Franken )

My life outside of writing is wonderful. My family is great, I have people in my life that I love and that love me back. I’m incredibly lucky to have friends that accept me as I am. I am generally a pretty happy person with a lot going for me. But, writing-wise, I sometimes feel sad. I’m not expecting tons of money or anything; I’d just like a few more eyeballs on my work and a little more money coming in (I won’t even bother telling y’all how much I made last month from writing because it was so little.)

I grew up with a badass working mom (she was a judge for god’s sake) and have a badass little sister who rules the corporate world in a way I never could. I’ve got a great dad who has worked hard all his life and a husband who does important things. I’m so, so proud of all of them and so incredibly proud I get to call them my family. But, my very modest readership sometimes feels like failure. None of them make me feel that way, it’s all in my own mind. I wish I could attribute it to jealousy, but it’s not. I don’t want to do what they do or have done.

I’m very happy with my little creative life, despite the lack of commercial success, and the feelings of failure that come in far-between waves.

I wanted to write this in case there’s anyone else out there feeling the same way. Just know that you’re not alone, you’re not a failure, and you’re enough. Wherever you are in life, feeling both self-assured and unsure is normal. We can’t let our fears overwhelm our courage. That’s what’s truly gross. Keep doing what you’re doing, keep learning, keep trying, keep doing your damndest in all things, big and small.

The First Amendment Has Restrictions; Why Not the Second?

Photo by author. Art by Yasmin E. Rice, Syncottia, and Ebony Byrd.

“And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never shared
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence”

The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel

This song became the one of the anthems of a protest generation; a generation watching atrocities happen, angry and distressed at the events unfolding in the U.S. and abroad, while the so-called leaders maintained the status quo.

Sound familiar to anyone? Does it resonate with you? In the U.S., we’ve begun a new year riding a wave of mass violence. Surprising? No, not surprising any more. It hasn’t been surprising for a long time now. Horrifying and disheartening? Absolutely. But, there is a way to end all of this. There is a reasonable argument for federal gun control legislation.

At last count, I’ve written at least five articles/essays/insert noun of choice here, about gun violence, most specifically about mass shootings. Numerous others, more famous and probably more erudite than I, have written or talked about, and continue to write and talk about this same topic. All of it seems to fall on deaf ears. We are often only reaching those that already agree with us.

But, according to a 2022 Quinnipiac University poll, nearly three in four Americans support raising the minimum age to purchase guns, 92% support universal background checks for all gun buyers, and over 80% support red flag laws that allow people to petition for the removal of weapons from a person at-risk for violent behavior. But, despite the mind-boggling number of mass shootings that occur in our country, only 50% of Americans polled support a federal assault rifle ban. This is the lowest level of support for a federal assault weapons ban since 2013. Even at its lowest level, it still means that fully half the country supports banning these kinds of weapons. What these numbers seem to show, and I am absolutely guessing about this, is that people clearly support restrictions to the Second Amendment, but find an all-out ban on any time of weapon to be a step too far.

I will end with a humble thought regarding our enumerated rights in the Constitution. The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights gives people the right to a free press, free speech, free assembly, the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances, and freedom of religion (including freedom from religion.) But, and here’s the important part, none of those rights are absolute. They come with restrictions that deal with public safety (incitement of violence, fighting words), victimization of those who cannot consent (child pornography and obscenity), the ability to protect one’s reputation from lies (fraud), and the right to not have any one religion imposed upon citizens by our government.

If those rights exist, but are not absolute, why can we not have reasonable restrictions placed on the Second Amendment via federal gun control legislation, like those suggested in the Quinnipiac poll referenced above? The victims of mass shootings are unable to consent. They are allowed an assumption of safety in public spaces and thus assault-style weapons present a “clear and present danger” to our citizens.

Americans, as we can see from the above poll numbers, overwhelmingly support gun control laws. Our lawmakers don’t seem to care. They talk in circles, send their thoughts and prayers, and blatantly ignore our protestations.

New Year, No Need for a New Me

New Year, New Me is such a great slogan, isn’t it? The notion of a new (aka – better) version of yourself and using the start of a new year as the spark is certainly tempting. Or is it? Why do we get a million articles and ads pushing us to be something completely new in a new year? Couldn’t we just do that anytime we pleased? And, why do we feel the need to be something new? I’m by no means, perfect, but then I don’t want to be. What’s the fun in that?

A long time ago I wrote an essay about parenting my daughters using the phrase “It’s a practice, not a perfect.” It’s something I heard a Peloton yoga instructor, Kristen McGee, say and it really resonates with me. It’s a great thing to bear in mind as we move into 2023. Lives are a constant practice, not a perfect. We’re all doing our best to get it right, but no one gets it right 100% of the time and that’s more than okay.

Resolutions can be a wonderful thing. I have a couple myself, including one to write more consistently this year. I purposely chose that wording instead of “write every day” because writing every day may not be realistic and I don’t want to set myself up to feel like a failure. Writing consistently is goal setting. Writing every single day is trying to be something I’m not. I’m a parent, and a human being, and sometimes life gets in the way. That’s reality.

We can choose our outlooks for the new year. We can choose to be incredibly hard on ourselves, trying to achieve some kind of personal perfection, feeling that “if only I do xyz, then everything will fall into place,” or we can choose to be gentle with ourselves. We can set goals and intentions that honor our desire to be the best version of ourselves, not the perfect version. There is no perfect version. What we can do is work our hardest and try our best.

Setting achievable goals is one way to silence that inner self-critic. You know the one I mean. That little voice telling you that if you don’t work out every day, don’t drink enough water, make the perfect nutritious meal, etc. that you’re somehow failing. Our internal monologue matters. I’m not talking about manifesting or creating an inflated sense of self. It’s reminding ourselves that “it’s a practice, not a perfect.”

I struggle with this. I’d love to be someone who has it all together. I’m not. I’m the one that’s fully dressed in an outfit I feel confident in, but with wet hair or no makeup. Or, as a parent, I may be the one who’s squealing into the drop-off line with one minute to spare. And, that’s good too.

We can work on accepting our okayness together, if you want. If you want a confidence boost, I’ll give you one. Maybe you can return the favor sometimes. We all need our hype men and women sometimes!

Now go forth, work hard, give it your all, and be gentle with yourself!!

The Patriarchy’s Moral Compass Points Due South

The road to Hell is paved with bad intentions

Photo by Narain Jashanmal on unsplash.com

Is the patriarchy ok? Are y’all feeling good about where you stand vis-à-vis society? From my perspective, things are looking more than a little rough. I mean, you must love knowing that you’ve got so many people under your thumb, but trying to hang on to that power that feeds your egos must be exhausting. And, the last couple of weeks have been particularly tough. Let’s recap, shall we?

Confirmed bachelor Senator Lindsey Graham announced his intention to pursue a national abortion ban for all pregnancies at 15 weeks or later (a number he plucked from thin air.) He was confronted, during his press conference, by a woman who told him that she found out at 16 weeks pregnant that her fetus had a fatal anomaly. He didn’t care, just reiterated his talking points, because to him, women aren’t people, just vessels for birthing.

Well-known bigot and former president, Donald Trump announced to the world that he can declassify some of our nation’s most sensitive information via telepathy. Never mind the fact that even viewing some of those documents outside of a secure space, let alone removing them altogether, is a massive violation of national security. He was the president and he can declassify documents just by thinking about it. Even Trump’s lawyers refuse to argue that the materials were declassified because any intentional misrepresentations in court would carry professional ramifications for them. His desperate attempts to avoid prosecution for a variety of crimes is a sight to behold. Anyone who calls out his lies is just jealous of him, and hates America.

We’ve also got Brett Favre, known sexual harasser and former NFL quarterback. He told everyone he had no idea where the money came from to build the volleyball arena at the University of Southern Mississippi. Except text messages between him and his politician co-conspirators make it crystal clear that he was 100% aware of, and complicit in the stealing of that $5 million in federal welfare funds from Mississippi’s poorest residents. It’s also come to light that, in 2019, he tried to get additional money to build an indoor practice facility for the University of Southern Mississippi’s football team. Oof, that’s got to sting a little. Ultimately though, he doesn’t feel bad because he doesn’t view those people as deserving of anything other than scorn.

Or, how about Robert Sarver, owner of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury being suspended from the NBA for one year and fined $10 million, for years of racist and misogynistic behavior, deciding to sell both teams. He got his feelings hurt that he’s not allowed to be awful so he’s taking his toys and going home. He didn’t do anything illegal, just gross, so he’ll walk away from his scandal as a billionaire (he’s currently worth a little over $800 million.) The impact of the Robert Sarver suspension and decision to sell is being felt in other sports as well. NFL owners are now considering pressuring Washington Commanders owner, Dan Snyder to sell the team voluntarily, and barring his voluntary sale, hold a vote to force him out.

To end this list of infamy, let’s turn our attention to Arizona and Idaho. An Arizona judge upheld an abortion ban law created in 1864, prior to Arizona being a state, and codified in 1901. They really are trying to set us back by 100 years. There’s no joke to make there. The truth of that statement is just depressing. However, the state attorney general, Rachel Mitchell, announced that she would not enforce the ban. She says, “… I know this is a highly emotionally charged statement and I want the community to know that I will not prosecute women for having abortions and no statute even suggests a woman will ever be prosecuted for her decision. Likewise, I will not re-victimize survivors of rape, incest, or molestation. I’ve spent my career defending people that have suffered those crimes.” Of course it’s a woman protecting other women.

In Idaho, the state’s new abortion law says, “… who willfully publishes any notice or advertisement of any medicine or means for producing or facilitating a miscarriage or abortion, or for the prevention of conception, or who offers his services by any notice, or advertisement, or otherwise to assist in the accomplishment of such purpose, is guilty of a felony.” This new law not only outlaws abortion services and the procurement of medical abortion drugs, but any and all birth control. The University of Idaho has already announced their halt of birth control because of the new law.

It is said that history is written by the victors. I love that thought. History is written by the victors. That line was clearly thought up by the victors as well. But history, real history, is written by the survivors. It’s written by those who refuse to let their stories disappear or be erased. Oral histories are never really gone, even if they spend years in the shadows. They’re whispered from one person to another, one generation to another, until the day arrives when they no longer have to hide.

We can’t let our history be rewritten by those who seek to do us harm. The minority majority can win if we all work together. We’ve done it before and we can do it again. Why don’t we become the victors and write our own history.

Do the Things that Scare You

Photo by Varun Gaba on unsplash.com.

Yesterday, I did something completely out of my comfort zone. It was terrifying; I was worried about embarrassing myself, and it seemed borderline ridiculous. I did it anyway. And, that’s something to celebrate. We should all be doing more things that make us uncomfortable.

Ok, let me start at the beginning. Earlier this year, I saw an article about a movie filming in Washington, DC that was looking for extras. I’d never done anything like that and I decided to at least sign up as a potential extra. They ended up casting me. I did the fitting, the mandatory COVID testing, etc. and was all set to do the one day of shooting. Then, the set got abruptly shut down due to health concerns. It would’ve been fun, but it wasn’t the end of the world. I didn’t think any more about it.

Cut to this past weekend. Something popped up on my Instagram feed (damn Instagram and its algorithm!) about open casting for Law & Order: SVU. Well, who wouldn’t want to be on an episode of everyone’s favorite long-running cop drama?! On a whim, I filled out the interest form assuming it would be basically the same as the movie extra situation. Wrong! Turns out it’s a casting agency and I have to prepare a very short monologue for a virtual casting call. I was horrified.

My first thought was, “Nope.” I’m a 42 year old mother of two with exactly zero acting experience. I have no business getting involved in an actual casting. Who do I think I am? I’m not a pretty young thing looking for my big break. I’ve got wrinkles and a c-section shelf, for god’s sake! Even the notion of it was vaguely humiliating. I talked to my husband about it and he told me I was being ridiculous. He said, “It sounds fun. Just do it.” As an aside, lord, I love that man. He’s endlessly supportive and for that I am forever grateful.

After much more thought, and much more self-doubt, I decided to at least try. Sure, I was terrified, but what’s life without a little terror in it, right? Are you really living if you don’t push yourself every once in a while? I memorized one of the monologues from the casting agency’s website, did my hair and makeup (such as it is, since I don’t wear foundation or powder and don’t highlight or contour,) and got dressed appropriately.

With my nerves buzzing, I logged on to the virtual casting call. I’m there along with god knows how many other people. We listen to the whole spiel from the agency rep, learning about both modeling and acting castings and how everything works. In the end, I didn’t do my monologue because the agency wanted a nominal upfront fee and monthly fee to get access to their casting call lists. I think the agency was perfectly legit, but I wasn’t signing up for anything without having an attorney look at the contract, especially as it pertains to the entertainment industry. But, whether or not I actually performed was beside the point. I was prepared to do it. I didn’t let the little voice in my head telling me I was a fool win.

It’s taken a long time, but I’ve finally internalized that the only person that dictates whether something is foolish or out of line is me. We are the only people that get to decide whether doing something new is a bad idea. Our own feelings are the only ones that truly matter. If we let others’ opinions dictate what we do, we’ll never try new things. Yes, it might’ve been a fool’s game and it probably wouldn’t have led anywhere, but at least I was willing to try.

Writing was no less a scary decision than the casting call. Deciding, at close to 40 years old, to change professional direction, again, was not easy. It’s still not easy. Trying to find your spot among the many talented writers out there is no mean feat, but here I am, plugging away.

At least I was willing to try. As one of my favorite content creators, Elyse Myers, said, “Because I do things regardless of being scared, that actually makes me a brave person, not a scared person.”

Get out there and be brave, y’all !

Roe v. Wade Is Dead, but We Are Not

The outlook is bleak, but we keep making good trouble.

Protest signs in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, DC. Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash.

Rhetoric. The fiery things we say to rile folks up. They’re things we believe, edited down into pithy soundbites.

Me Too! Black Lives Matter! Love is Love! Bans Off Our Bodies!

All of these things are true and easy to remember. Morals condensed into three or four word slogans. They’re all different, and yet, when broken down to their base, remarkably similar. They’re all demands, pleas really, to honor each other’s humanity. They’re furious, hot tear-stained pleas, often falling on deaf ears, to treat each other as equals.

The overturning of Roe v. Wade is about abortion and about the rights of all women and pregnant people. It is also about so much more than that. A raft of other precedents, all predicated on the right to privacy, are now up for challenge. In his concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas specifically mentioned three decisions he thinks the court should revisit: the original decision that gave all Americans a right to privacy, the right to contraception access, and marriage equality. I wrote more in depth about privacy in a previous essay, Privacy — The Most Important Unwritten Right in the Constitution. And, just to clarify, because the internet is full of hot takes, Thomas didn’t mention Loving v. Virginia, the case that legalized interracial marriage because it rests on the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment, not the due process clause.

Making abortion laws a states’ rights issue is not technically a national abortion ban, but it’s allowed for many state-level bans already, with more to come. It will, as many terrible laws often do, primarily affect poor people and people of color. It will make those who most need help significantly more vulnerable. But, it affects all those who are able to be pregnant. Without the ability to make decisions about their own bodies, without bodily autonomy, none are truly free. Women, and all those able to become pregnant, are merely chattel, existing for the sole purpose of birthing babies, no matter the circumstances.

Most of us learn, from a very young age, to be nice to one another. We learn to say please and thank you and share with others. What they don’t teach us is that as we get older, more people will hate us just for existing. More and more people will place their value judgments upon our heads and find us wanting. They will want to break us down so we will submit to their will, whether we agree with it or not. I’ve always been taught to be polite. “You’ll catch more flies with honey instead of vinegar.” The problem is, I’m kind of, for better or worse, “full of piss and vinegar.” I’ve tried to articulate my point over the years in a way that doesn’t fully anger those who disagree with me, but I’ve never shied away from expressing my opinions (even to those much older than me, much to my mother’s equal measure of horror and pride.) But, I’ve decided the time for polite is long over. Now is not the time for going high when they go low. Now is the time for speaking our minds, angrily and with venom.

They want us to give up, give in, and concede defeat. They want to break our collective soul. Good luck. They can try, but history skews in favor of the oppressed. Slavery, Jim Crow, oppression of women, hatred of the LGBTQ+ community, interment camps, reservations, bans on certain types of immigrants, police brutality; we’ve lived through it all. Despite the best efforts, we haven’t broken yet, and this latest blow won’t either. Each and every one just makes us stronger, fiercer, and more determined. We’re coming for you and we’re going to burn it all to the damn ground.

You can start by making donations to local organizations that support those seeking abortion services. A list of both local and national organizations can be found through this link at abortionfunds.org. You can also contact your representatives and Senators in Congress and insist on meaningful legislation to codify the reproductive rights of all people able to be pregnant. We all deserve bodily autonomy and privacy in our decision making. You can find your House Representative and Senators at congress.gov. And finally, there is a Bans Off Our Bodies Walkout on July 13, 2022, organized by Planned Parenthood. Find out more about that here.

As Beyoncé, and Big Freedia, so eloquently told us, “You won’t break my soul. You won’t break my soul. You won’t break my soul.”

The Plague of Young Men with Guns

This was first published on my LinkedIn page, earlier in the day on May 24, 2022.

ACTIONS TO TAKE NOW: Donate to Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Brady Campaign & Center to Prevent Gun Violence, or March For Our Lives. I did. Call your Congresspeople and Sentators. TAKE ACTION!!!

Another day, another mass shooting. This time at an elementary school in Texas. At least nineteen children and two teachers are dead. It is the deadliest elementary school shooting since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut in 2012. Children aged 11 or younger. We just had a mass shooting in Buffalo, NY. Why do we continue to allow this to happen?

I know this space is supposed to be for writing about work and leadership, but this is too big to ignore. Let’s make this about leadership. We need leaders to stand up and say “NO. No more.” We need people, of all races, of all political stripes, of all socio-economic classes to say, “NO! We will no longer allow this to happen. The money will no longer flow to politicians who oppose common sense gun laws.”

This should be a non-partisan issue. Why do we allow our leaders to shrug their shoulders, send their thoughts and prayers, and move on when things like this happen? First Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut and now Robb Elementary in Texas. This was their last day of school.

In 2019, I wrote an essay titled, “What Do I Say to Her?” after the first anniversary of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School school shooting in Florida. I updated it in December 2021 after a school shooting in Michigan. It’s about talking to my older daughter (who was eight years old at the time of the original writing) about school shootings, why they happen, and why our leaders don’t do anything to prevent another one. The points I made in that essay are just as salient, and as poignant, today as they were then.

We owe it to our children to be leaders, elect leaders, and cultivate leaders who will put lives above guns, and who summon the courage to do the right thing, even when it’s the hard thing.


Privacy — The Most Important Unwritten Right in the Constitution

The side of a building in New Orleans with a face painted on it. The face is multi-colored and has a large pair of eyes staring out.
Building art in New Orleans. Photo taken by author.

Privacy is a notion that we don’t consider very often. There’s an assumption of privacy within our homes, at our doctors’ offices, and even within our relationships, to some extent. We all have private thoughts that we don’t share with anyone else. We have an expectation of privacy in most bathrooms (at least until you become a parent and then children often decide they need to be with you at all times.)

We don’t want our doctors going home and telling their families, or unauthorized people in our own lives, about our medical problems. We don’t want our jobs to discriminate against us because of medical issues. Even though it’s not written down anywhere we assume that certain conversations with our friends and partners will be kept private. We feel upset, angry, and violated when someone breaks the trust that’s supposed to exist.

As adults, we know that the decisions we make, good or bad, have adult consequences. We get to make decisions about our lives without input. Isn’t that what every kid thinks? “When I’m a grown-up, I can do whatever I want and no one can tell me not to!”

But, where is it written that adults get a private life? Point me to that rule, that law, that amendment. Oh right. It doesn’t exist. It’s an implied right, not an explicit one. It is an natural expectation that we, as human beings, have some right to privacy within our lives.

What if I, a complete and total stranger, found out that you, a total stranger, needed a potentially life-altering medical procedure? The procedure is not necessarily a medical emergency or necessity, but it will alter the course of your life in some way. Now, what if I came to you and said you weren’t allowed to have it? What if I told the authorities or the government that it violated my religion or my moral code for you to have that life-altering procedure and they decided I was right to impose my version of morality onto you, a total stranger, and forced you and your doctor to stop?

What if you were viciously attacked on the street, beaten to a bloody, but alive pulp and no one came to help? What if, after you were attacked, you were instead told by the police that you were not allowed to seek medical help? And, that if you did attempt to get medical help for your multitudinous injuries, that you would be in violation of the law and would be arrested. And, that your attacker could sue you for trying to get help for the injuries they inflicted.

What if you wanted to date someone, in this case let’s say a woman, and you were told that you weren’t allowed to make that decision for yourself? A group of strangers who don’t live in your town are the only ones who get to decide who is allowed to be an a relationship.

What if every decision you wanted to make, as an adult, was privy to government oversight? Not decisions that might adversely affect large numbers of the population, but decisions that will only affect your body, your person?

The right to privacy may not be explicitly enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, but it’s, hands down, one of the most important and one of the most widely held beliefs by all people. The debate over abortion is a heated one, filled with moral outrage. The right to privacy isn’t. The majority of people in this country believe that we should have a right to privacy. This Pew Research study shows that 93% of adults say that being in control of who can get information about them is important and 88% of adults say that it is important they not have someone watch or listen to them without their permission.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the consequences far outstrip the abortion debate. It will hit right at the heart of what many believe to be American values, privacy and individual decision-making. The ones who can afford to travel to more “friendly” states or countries will do so. Those who have always been marginalized, poor communities, Black and brown Americans, will be further marginalized and forced into life-threatening decisions.

We shouldn’t need to have this conversation at all. As you can tell from what was written above, the idea that strangers should decide what you do in your life is ludicrous. The discussion about whether a woman’s right to abortion, to bodily autonomy, to privacy, is not a federal government versus states’ rights issue. These rights are neither of those things. They should not be decided by the government at all. Ever. Abortion is not a public health crisis. It is a personal and difficult decision that no woman takes lightly. But, if nothing else, people with uteruses should have the same inherent right to privacy in their decision making as men.

The right to privacy, to make choices without interference from others, may not be written down, but it’s arguably the most consequential right Americans have. We must fight to protect it.

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