Posts Tagged ‘politics’

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Poem 1612

4 January, 2017

​Injustice came and I ran.

I ran to the politicians, but they said you’ve no power here.

I ran to the courts, but they said you’ve no voice here.

I ran to my faith, but it said you’ve no redemption here.

I ran to the shelters, but they said you’ve no place here.

I ran to my blood, but its beat had stilled.

I ran to the rock and hid beneath it.

Injustice found me and used the rock to seal my grave.

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Draw the Circle Wider

9 December, 2016

​I do not like having to be political. I do not like drawing “us” and “them” lines when it should always be a collective us. I want to find common ground and shared hope. I believe that all people can work together for basic human rights regardless of their background. We are made more human by our willingness to listen.

I am heart-sick over the increasingly antagonistic posts I have been seeing friends make. Instead of working together to hold administrations accountable despite differences in politics or opinions, people are digging metaphorical moats to divide themselves. Instead of looking at actual actions taken by those in charge and rationally questioning their choices and motives, people are pointing fingers, calling names, and inflaming the aggressive fever ripping through us. Posts are becoming more polarised and less humane. In denouncing the other’s dehumanising actions more and more of my friends are resorting to stripping the other of humanity. Words like “libtards,” “croney-conservatives,” “sheeple,” and “brown shirts” are common place on my news feed. These words divide us from the humanity of those who have disagreed with us. These words divorce us from the reality that we are speaking about real people, with real struggles, and real fears. These words do not invite discussion or compassion or healing.

Now I am seeing people whose politics were in general alignment and whose interests paralleled one another flinging accusations at one another and blaming allies for what went wrong. Accusations of being too “politically correct” or too “moderate” or too “divisive.” People who should be comforting each other are instead othering their neighbours and blaming them for what has been lost. Our culture is becoming so fractured that we cannot even see the humanity in the very people we say we are trying to help. We carve up our country into camps of “rational” and “irrational,” “white collar” and “blue collar,” “urban” and “rural,” “queer” and “normative;” then we label those camps “righteous” or “self-serving,” “all progressive” or “all regressive,” “wise” or “foolish,” “heroic” or “villainous.” We drive equality from our nation because we no longer see all people as deserving respect and dignity.

I am put in mind of the Gospel of Matthew. The Jesus we see in Matthew is different than the Jesus in Luke and Mark and radically different than the Jesus in John. This Jesus is angry and draws lines. He divides people into two camps: those worthy of heaven and those not worthy of it. He says to the crowds, if you do this you are not worth to enter my father’s house but if you do that you are. Then, a while later, he says to those who were deemed worthy, if you do this then you shall be cast into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then he turns to those who remain saying, if you do this you are fit only to the pit and the never dying flames. Soon he is even drawing divisions in his disciples and then he is saying even to those left they have failed him by falling asleep while praying. And then he is alone but, in the end, even he is unworthy of God’s kingdom and love “for it is written ‘cursed is he who hangs on a tree'” and he cries out to God asking why he has been forsaken. He dies and in the story Matthew’s pen tells what happens is love. Love that reaches out past the tree and the forsaking to extend to the outcast, to extend to Jesus, but the catch of that love is it must then be extended to everyone else, it must be extended to everyone that Jesus’s lines excluded. There is no middle ground. All are worthy of respect and dignity or none are worthy.

I do not know how our nation can pull itself back together or even if it can, but I can offer a small example from my life. It is not an example of success nor is it an example with a happy ending, but it is an example of making the attempt:

My brother and I had a falling out several years ago and we are on very different paths politically and socially. He does not read what I post and I do not read what he posts. He no longer shares his political opinions with me and I do not share mine with him. But, in spite of all that is between us, I still hold his humanity at the fore. I still send him texts asking how he is, expressing sympathy when something bad happens, or just saying I love him. Sometimes he responds and sometimes he does not, but I do not let that interfer with seeing him as a person with struggles and concerns. If I allow my dislike of his politics to prevent me from recognising his heart and humanness than there will never be common ground between us and there will never be a potential for reconciliation between us.

I cannot bank on a person’s politics because politics are fleeting and change when convenient. I cannot trust in their understanding because their ability to offer understanding is so dependent on their experiences. I can only look for the common threads. I can only weave love with these threads and offer a garment of peace. If I polarise my life on the political alone, I create new enemies everyday. If I seek to build relationships on shared humanity, I open myself to potential allies and friends. Accusations and hate cannot bind our wounds, but maybe love and respect and basic dignity can.

As the song says, Draw the circle wide, draw it wider still. Let this be our song; no one stands alone (Gordon Light & Mark Miller).

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Privelege is Also the Privelege to Leave

30 March, 2016

I had another nightmare last night in which the tide of public opinion and policy had so turned against transgender people that I was forced to flee the country to seek refuge, but there was nowhere I could go.

This is something that people who are the “right” gender, the “right” religion, the “right” colour, the “right” orientation, and the “right” ethnicity don’t really understand. If the election or a policy doesn’t go the way they would like, they are not in true immediate danger and, as long as they hold a current, valid passport, they have places they can go. But where would I go? Other countries are also dangerous for me. They pass laws against me, they make it difficult to impossible to get the medical services I need, they have high rates of violence and discriminination against transgender people.

Part of what has made me safe here is the years I have had to build a life and a history that others do not immediately question. Part of what makes me safe here is Whitman-Walker, one of the few transgender health care clinics in the world. Part of what makes me safe here is the relative anonymity allowed to me as someone born and raised in this country.

If I were forced to flee the country, and it would be the result of being forced, I would have to abandon everything that has provided me with a measure of safety. Where could I go? Where could others like and unlike me, who do not fit into the white, cis, heterosexual, Christian mold go? We would be forced to abandon the safety nets that have taken years, decades, to build and to start over as minoritised people without the bits of safety and community that we worked so hard to make for ourselves.

Part of being privileged in America is having the privilege to pack up and leave when things do not go your way. For those of us who struggle and fight for basic human rights like the freedom to worship, the freedom to not be profiled, the freedom to secure basic documentation with ease, the freedom to use public restrooms without violence and threats of arrest, we don’t have that privilege. We cannot just say, “Well it’s time to become an ex-pat” and walk away. For better or worse, we are stuck here and, if priveleged people with a voice and relative power to influence policy and attitudes who can leave chose to leave, then it will be worse for those of us left behind.

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Regeneratio et Politica

5 November, 2011

The prevailing theory on the Doctor’s regeneration and personality states the emotions, situations, and general state of being the Doctor is in just before regeneration dictate the resulting personality of the next regeneration. This theory, the idea that we are the sum of our experiences, is one of insight and verisimilitude exposing the inner workings of the world. I have noted this in my regeneration from A to River. There are so many elements of my personality shaped by my situation as I began regeneration. From my bleak outlook on the possibility of being loved (my divorce) to the Buddhist like calm of River (the inner peace found in acknowledging who I am publicly) to the political activism that drives me (resultant of my work place and colleagues). Of these elements, it is the last that is so telling to the idea of situational personality.

As I began the regeneration process and began my (forced) public deceleration of intent, I was approached privately by a friend who—though I believe him to have been well meaning—said things I found more painful and heart wrenching than the divorce from my wife or the shunning by my extended family. He said that I was simply “[River] in a wig” and that he could accept my regeneration provided I did not “make it political.” How this came across to me was he would never see me as anything other than a fraud and that if I went down this path I would have no right to expect acceptance or fair treatment by society. It came across as, I will tolerate this choice but it is wrong and you are wrong to be open about it. That is, a denial of the right to self-determination.

The person of whom I speak is a good man, but he is one who is a possessor of power and privilege (as defined by Kate Bornstein and the Power Pyramid). He falls victim to the same blindness that all individuals in this position incarnate: an inability to recognize their own position and how different and biased it is from the majority of human doings. I am, however, understanding and compassionate toward this state of politica caecitas because I used to be a sufferer of the condition. It took a Parkinson’s diagnosis and regenerating to shake me violently enough to knock the blinders off. We cannot blame the privileged for their blindness to their own privilege; it is a regrettable but natural state.

Despite how forgivable his offense may be, it became a defining moment in my regenerative process. It helped open my eyes to the inherent bias in the American culture. The idea that outlaws and rebels, speakers for those with no voice, progenitors of change and revolution, protestors for equality and representation, are tolerable only in small disenfranchised doses is a linchpin holding the control of those in power in place.

The very act of regenerating made me a threat to the comfortable universe he lived in. But how? Simple. I represent, at my core, not just an alternative lifestyle, but the idea of tolerance for and acceptance of things his political and religious institution condemns. In most cases he would ignore this existence or even condemn it, but he could not with me. I was within his sphere of influence. He knew me, respected me, and believed in my basic decency and social acceptability. The moment I began regeneration I created a violently opposing dichotomy for him. Here is a person that embodies the more noble aspects of his private philosophy that simultaneously embodies the unacceptable, morally questionable, and sinful. This left him with three possible resolutions to this conflict:

  • ignore the positive qualities
  • ignore the negative qualities
  • redefine his personal schemata

To his credit he was not someone who could do the first, but engaging the third is such a huge undertaking it is not surprising that only the most committed or the most desperate are capable of it. This left him only one option: to ignore the aspects of who I am that are in direct conflict with his perception of me as a good human being. He had to ask me not to display these aspects in order to maintain the delicate mental and moral equilibrium his mind had created.

This also meant that he could not acknowledge my position to influence or sway others to the type of tolerant and accepting thinking that the opposing dichotomy and my position of instructor gave me. Unable to ignore the situation’s reality, he gave me a polite ultimatum: either be quiet about this and remain friends or be public (political) and be cut off. It was the only course a rational and thinking member of the powered and privileged could take. And, predictably, since transferring to a new teaching site, I have not heard from him.

Nor have I been capable of contacting him. Why not? Because the forced choice of being quietly myself or openly, actively, myself became a defining moment in my regenerative process. I was malleable at this point, subject to influence in a number of directions. This private conversation and subtle ultimatum pushed me in the direction of activist. I was so offended by the command’s audacity (as it was not phrased as either a request or a stance for consideration, but as an imperative declaration, “don’t make this political”) that I veered in the opposite direction. It is basic physics, sweetie, every action (the command against the political) results in a reaction opposite of and equal in strength to the original action (River becomes a political activist).

I know that I would have been aware of the political dimension of my existence even without this conversation. The degree of awareness and participation, however, would have been reduced. I was not one who paid attention to politics before regenerating. As a member of the powered and privileged I did not need to be, my position was secure. As a new member of the disenfranchised I could have focused only on securing the limited power and position my new life afforded me, a good white woman. But I was now aware of the bias and bigotry directed at those who make-up the bottom of the Power Pyramid. I was aware, I was emotionally charged, and I was malleable. My new personality was directly shaped by my situation, emotional state, and the people around me.

Who I am is still in development but the public outlaw, the hippie professor, speaker of truth is a fundamental part of my personality. I have been shaped, however unintentionally, by my interactions with the other—those outside myself. Whether the regenerating individual is the last of the Time Lords, a MtF, or just someone growing up and growing into themselves, who they become is intimately linked to who they were, who they were with, and how they responded to the world.