Very Passionate Baby

Passion & Protest

Free-flowing days are the best.

I used to hate days like this with every fiber of my being. Those days where I’m not scheduled to do anything or be anywhere. “Oh god, whatever will I do with myself?” used to be my train of thought in these situations. Now, not so much.

After spending my morning sleeping in until noon (because “exhaustion”), I spent my afternoon at a violin concert [held in a church in the Pittsburgh area] for my friend Anat. I’d seen her play before here and there, but this was the first time that I’d seen her play in a more formal setting. And wow, is she talented!

She plays with such concentration, such emotion, and such joy! And as she furiously played different concertos & sonatas, my mind began to relax. I became ‘at ease’. This was talent. This was passion incarnate. And I had the honor of sharing a space with it for a few hours.

I’ve also experienced passion in a different context this week with the outrage over the Ferguson debacle. Many of my friends and associates were/are passionately outraged over the decision, which I can understand in some respects. Some even went to protests designed to raise awareness on the issue. I cannot help but to feel that this passion is fleeting, though. Sure, we need protesters in order for society to continue to function as a democracy and not morph into a dictatorship. To wait until issues reach a boiling point to address them, though, is nothing short of irresponsible.

And to show spurts of passionate intensity, only to revert back to a state of steady apathy, harms us all in the long run. It leads those of us that are involved with social issues on a regular basis to believe that we have more allies than we actually do. For movements of social justice & equality to ultimately succeed, we have to have people that are consistently motivated to do the right thing. That means taking action at times other than when the media shows us an especially troubling case on television and in newspapers.

It is not a show of disrespect when someone says “People die everyday.” It’s absolutely true. I say that to people to make the point that we should be constantly vigilant about instances of wrongdoing by people that are supposed to be our leaders. We should be vigilant, and we need to hold them accountable for their actions – every single time.

I have to wonder how many protesters voted this year in the midterm elections. This question isn’t meant to down anyone; however, one cannot continue allowing the same ineffective leaders to hold their positions – and then demand change when dire circumstances hit us. Also, simply voting in elections and claiming that one’s job as a citizen is done is a failing strategy. For everyone that made it to the polls a few weeks ago, thank you from the bottom of my heart. But, that’s only half of the solution. The other half is holding these guys and gals to the standard of doing what is in the public’s better interests. They can only get away with wrongdoing if we allow them to. And we have allowed them to get away with their misdeeds for far too long.

We need protesters and rallies because these visual displays of passionate outrage show our leaders that we demand change. Consider this, though: our leaders do not take us seriously because many of us do not participate in the democratic process on a regular basis. Our participation is rare, if it exists at all. And really, why should we be taken seriously if we only show up when the US is on the absolute brink of ruin? I’m not giving our leaders a free pass, but we all have a stake in how our nation is run. Don’t abdicate your responsibilities, and then ask for your throne only when it’s convenient for you. We are all captains, and if this ship goes down, we’re all going with it. Do your part consistently, and do it with steady passion.

My friend Anat knows the principle of passion perfectly, and she taught it to me by the masterful playing of her violin.

Talk soon,
Liberty ❤

Liberty Bell

On Ferguson: A Plea For Unity

I have personally refrained thus far from commenting on the Ferguson debacle going on this week. However, I have seen a million different viewpoints displayed on the Internet through various media outlets – and I didn’t even have to look too hard to find them (who could miss the clogging of social media with extreme opinions from both sides of the spectrum?).

Actually, I didn’t look at all because (sorry, not sorry) I don’t have an especially strong viewpoint on the case. I just don’t. I do, however, have a strong opinion on this:

How long will the public be “outraged” at this instance of societal injustice before everyone forgets about it? How long until the Mike Brown uproar becomes another ‘Trayvon Martin’ type of ballgame? You know, where everyone’s darn near ready to overthrow the government – until something else comes along that citizens deem to be a more pressing issue?

Don’t get me wrong, this case has been troubling to watch, and yes, #blacklivesmatter…. but so do other lives. ALL LIVES MATTER, regardless of race, economic status, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and any other arbitrary category with which we as human beings choose to label ourselves. Until we stop giving importance to any one group over others, then society will not move forward. I consider it to be hypocritical to work for justice for one group of people at the exclusion of others, and for this reason I refuse to join in any movement that places an undue level of significance on one category of people to the exclusion of others – even if that category might be my own (I’m just waiting for someone to take this quote out of context).

You know, the definition of “broken” (courtesy of a quick Google search) is this:

“having been fractured or damaged and no longer in one piece or in working order”

Society is not in one piece; and it is quite clearly not in working order. How does one contribute to the fracturing of a nation? By finding ways to divide its people. By pitting its people against one another. By stating that #BlackLivesMatter while disregarding unjustified murders of Caucasian Americans, Hispanics, and other sectors of the US. By attempting to paint victims as bad people that are somehow deserving of their fate, thus pissing off people on all sides of the issue.

Might I offer everyone this quote from a famous Abraham Lincoln speech:

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

For a president that led a war effort with the primary goal of preserving the Union, I think that he’d know a thing or two about the dangers of dividing people. If a fight is to be had in the United States (and indeed, one is well overdue), it needs two necessary components:

1. It must further the cause of ALL Americans, not just one group of people, and

2. It has to be sustained over a longer period of time than a couple of weeks

**Bonus tip: It needs to treat the root cause, not just the recurring symptoms**

To speak to the second tip, I generally do not take modern-day protests seriously because citizens get worked up over an issue – only to go back to their normal lives (about a few weeks later) of watching TV, absorbing themselves in useless pop culture, and hating politics because (insert invalid reason). Many of the movements are shallow, and the results of each “movement” reflect that.

That brings me, though, to my bonus tip. Perhaps this is the most important one of all. Even sustained action is useless if that action only treats surface-level issues. Yes, Mike Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, and people are understandably outraged. I see numerous detailed accounts of historic discrimination in America (Captain Obvious, I know). But to claim that the opposing side is the devil and your side is an angel is wrong on so many levels. There are no lambs here; neither are there lions. What I cannot wrap my head around is how people can be so self-important as to believe that they’ve done nothing wrong. Both sides made mistakes; both sides could have done things differently. To continue this mentality of divisiveness, though, is going to shatter what little that we have of a cohesive country.

These killings (that happen every day, by the way) are symptomatic of a much larger, more complex issue that is at play. As a people, we need to nail down the root cause (and no, just saying “racism” is a FAIL), and attack that. We have a contagious epidemic engulfing the United States: the epidemic of “population division”, and we need to work on curing it without delay.

Because unless we are working on justice for everyone, then the result will always be justice for none.

Talk soon,
Liberty ❤

Angela Davis quote

To Have Or Have Not?

I was working out in McKeesport yesterday for Planned Parenthood/Wolf For Governor, and realized a few things as I was talking to residents:

1. McKeesport is not Pittsburgh.
2. Half of the neighborhood consisted of abandoned structures.
3. I am privileged.

Wait. I, a 24 year old that has to regularly hustle (and hustle hard) just to make a living, am privileged? I take public transportation everywhere, I budget shop at Aldi, and I’m privileged? My bank account is so anemic that it requires iron pills to survive, and I am privileged?

Yes. This story will prove it.

I was speaking with a resident for the campaign yesterday evening about issues of import – business as usual. She said to me that she was surprised that I came “all the way” up to her house to speak with her. She wasn’t used to people caring about her opinions enough to make the long trek to see her. As a result of my persistence in climbing a steep flight of steps in McKeesport just to speak to this woman, she asked for more information on the Wolf campaign (as you can imagine, I was overjoyed!). When I left, I felt pleased at her kind words, grateful that my work was paying off, and thoughtful as to why she felt the way that she did. Then it hit me.

In our supposedly democratic system, we are governed by the assumption that everyone’s vote holds equal importance (in other words, one vote = one vote). That’s a logically sound assumption, by all accounts – but that’s not typically how the process plays out. For Planned Parenthood & the Wolf For Governor campaign, we generally make an effort to travel to many different types of neighborhoods, regardless of the socioeconomic background of the residents. However, it is readily apparent that neighborhoods like Ross Township and Shaler Township tell a different tale than, say, Homewood or McKeesport. For one, residents in these wealthier neighborhoods are used to being asked for their opinions and their money because, well, money. They are used to feeling included and like they’re important in the grand scheme of our democratic process. It is always fascinating for me, coming from a blue-collar background,  to walk around these wealthier neighborhoods and look at the nice houses/cars that surround me for the four hours that I am communicating with residents.

It is equally fascinating for me to walk around less wealthy neighborhoods because it gives me pause. What actually causes this disparity in lifestyles? Is it a lack of pride by residents? Or, does that pride exist, but it is masked by a strong veneer of apathy due to the fact that residents feel consistently ignored by their elected officials and major media outlets? One thing that I’ve come to learn is that what you do is irrelevant; how people feel & how they perceive your actions is everything. And through my various positions of employment the past couple of years, I’ve come to see that residents of less wealthy areas feel slighted, and for good reason.

All I tend to know about places like Homewood & McKeesport is what most everyone else does: crime and tragedy. For this reason, I typically have a personal bias against working in certain neighborhoods; this bias is usually dissipated once I get to have conversations with residents. I’ve noticed that residents in neighborhoods of lower socioeconomic status are just like everyone else: they work hard to support their families, they want their kids to be successful in life, and they eat dinner together as a family unit. But most importantly, they want to be seen as equals by the rest of society, and that’s something that society is failing miserably at doing.

In a sense, I am admitting my own guilt in “believing the hype” that the news media puts out on a regular basis. I live in Highland Park, one of the wealthier neighborhoods in Pittsburgh (though I am nowhere close to being wealthy yet 😁😁 ). I am less than a stone’s throw away from Starbucks, Whole Foods, Target, and beautiful green spaces. Most of my friends live on this side of town; I absolutely love living on Pittsburgh’s East End. Sometimes I wish that I could curl up in my beautiful enclave and pretend that these societal imbalances do not exist. It’d be really easy for me to do so. You know, go to a nice coffee shop with WiFi or a nice brunch spot and drink orange juice from a wine glass (they do this at E2 in Highland Park).

But I can’t.

After two years of doing AmeriCorps programs and working my current campaign position, I can no longer be blissfully ignorant to the ills that exist within the broader community. I can no longer “not pay attention” just because something doesn’t affect me. One can’t unsee what one has seen, try as (s)he might. I may not come from a wealthy background, but I am privileged beyond measure for a number of reasons. The main reason is this:

I carry with me the privilege of being able to choose whether or not to pay attention to the existence of inequality.

Talk Soon,
Liberty ❤