Deconstructing Freedom

Land of the free, because of the brave.

I see this quote going aroud all day on July 4th. So, on this Independence Day, as we get drunk at cookouts, wear American flag clothing items, watch fireworks, and loudly bellow “patriotic” things at each other, I’d like us to more carefully consider what we say and what we celebrate, starting with this quote.

“Land of the Free”

For so many Americans, this land is not free. When you can’t legally marry the person you love, when you can’t go out in public without fear of being killed because of your skin color or your religion, when you can’t be paid equal salary or wages as a male counterpart, when you can’t speak about sexual abuse because you will be blamed, and so many other scenarios, we cannot consider America a “land of the free.” This land is not free for so many people: LGBTQIA+ people, African Americans, Muslims (or people who “look” Muslim, whatever that means), immigrants, women, sexual abuse and rape survivors, Latin Americans, homeless people, people living in poverty, and so many other minorities and underprivileged groups of people. This land is not free for them.

“Because of the Brave”

We are certainly “free” thanks to the many Americans who fight for our freedom–and I in no way mean to belittle the sacrifices that so many Americans have made throughout the decades–but the “brave” are by no means limited to the military and are by no means the only people who have made America a “free” land. Our “freedom” has been built on the backs of enslaved, underprivileged, and minority peoples who are underpaid (or simply not paid, in the case of slaves), undervalued, and underrepresented (to name a few).

For those of us who are lucky enough to confidently say America is a “Land of the free, because of the brave,” think about who you are excluding. How your freedom impacts others and has been built upon disadvantaging others. Be grateful, but think about how you can leverage your freedom and your privilege to help the millions who are not as fortunate as you.

A Day Without A Woman: Power and Choice

Today, International Women’s Day, was also “A Day Without A Woman” for many across the US. Organized by the same group that orchestrated the Women’s March on Washington, the idea of A Day Without A Woman is that this general strike would highlight the significant contributions women make at work and in society and provide another day when women could rally for their rights. I loved the idea of this strike–if we actually had a day without women and every single woman was a no-show, a significant number of people would struggle. So if even a fraction of the female population went on strike, at least another fraction would get a better glimpse at the contributions we make every day to life and to the world.

But in talking with my friends and coworkers, some pieces of the choice to not work, to strike, didn’t sit as well with me as they originally had. The one thing that by far bothers me the most about the strike is that it is, at its core, however unintentional it may be, a classist movement. Some of us, myself included, are privileged enough to work somewhere where we can accrue leave and make the choice to use this leave for A Day Without A Woman (or come to work anyways, as I chose to do). But what about the women who are not so privileged? What about the women who don’t have a choice, and they have to continue going to work so they can support themselves and their families? Being able to take leave–to take a day off of work to strike–is a privilege that not every woman has. And what happens when the women who choose to strike, do? Whose shoulders does that work then fall on? Some of the work may fall on men, but it will also fall on women and non-binary individuals–the more vulnerable minorities. How are we to think of ourselves if, when we strike, we force our burdens onto people less fortunate, less privileged, than ourselves? If a school district closes, as some did, what burden are we then putting on mothers who may or may not be able to take off work or find child care? What work are we making invisible, rather than visible, by striking? By saying that taking off work and staying home (as some women chose to do, rather than go to rallies), are we not making invisible the work of stay-at-home moms? Are we not conflating what they do every with “not working”?

It’s heartening and inspiring to see other women think deeply about these issues, recognizing their privilege and leveraging it to help fight for others who could not strike. To see women recognize the faults of this strike but take leave, knowing that their actions will spark a conversation somewhere. We–women, men, everyone–should absoutely fight and protest against an economic system that has long exploited women’s work and neglected us. But in choosing to fight via strike, we should be careful in thinking about how our actions will affect other women who may not be able to fight in the same way and women who may not be in the traditional workforce. Having privilege and choice is a powerful thing, but we must constantly be thinking about how the choices we make because of our privilege can put undue burdens upon the people for whom we are fighting.

Thank You / Here

Thank you
For assuming the worst of me
For making false accusations

Thank you
For claiming we’re adults but not speaking to me, for shunning me instead,
For being condescending and patronizing

Thank you
For [not] giving me the same chance you gave everyone else
For lying to those who lent you a sympathetic ear

Thank you
For not admitting your own mistakes
For not taking any responsibility for the mess you have helped create
For continually playing the victim while scapegoating me

Thank you
For showing me what our friendship really means to you
For showing me your true colors

So here
You won’t find sympathy or forgiveness–

Here
You will find a smile plastered onto a fragile, cold veneer
With cracks running deep below the surface.

Decision 2016

I’m writing this post with much trepidation–I hate getting involved in politics and typically remain silent, but this election, as so many people have noted, is different. Horrible, horrible things have come out in the course of the election campaign. One of things that saddens me the most about this election is the blind adherence to party labels and affiliations. I know many conservatives/Republicans, and they plan to vote for Trump–they are even proud of their party’s candidate and platform. And to them I say this:*

I know you. I know this man–if we can even call him that–does not represent even the slightest piece of you. I know you would never, ever endorse sexually assaulting women–in fact, you would balk at it. You know women who have been sexually assaulted and abused, and to this day I know you have not forgiven the man who assaulted, abused, and damaged someone you love. I know you love and deeply respect the women in your life–your mother, your sisters, your wife, your daughters. And yet you support a candidate who clearly does not respect women, who constantly degrades  and bullies them and treats them as if they were far inferior to himself. You support someone who brags about assaulting women who would probably congratulate you if you “got some” and/or assaulted someone.

I know you do not yearn for the “good old days” when black people were disenfranchised and enslaved. Unfortunately, you still see the vast majority of blacks as inferior to yourself, but you would never wish a return to the old. I know you do not believe that every practicing Muslim is a terrorist, that every Mexican is an illegal immigrant out to steal jobs. Yes, you have your highly problematic racial prejudices, but I know you do not fully apply these prejudices to each and every person you know who fits the profile. I know you view these people as people. And yet, you support a candidate who goes beyond the blanket application of stereotypes, prejudice, and racism–you support someone who actively and aggressively spews hate speech towards these groups of people and talks about them as if they are inanimate objects, who does not even respect them at their most basic level of humanity.

I know you take pride in yourself and the great education you received at private universities or public ivies. And yet, you proudly support a candidate who cannot string one intelligent sentence together, who cannot apply any of the critical thinking and analysis skills that you hold so dear.

I know you despise people who constantly threaten lawsuits and sue anyone with whom they disagree. In fact, you are disgusted by litigation-happy people who sue for anything and everything, who use lawsuits to worm their way out of responsibilities. And yet, you support a candidate who does exactly that, who has cowardly hidden from his responsibilities and debts behind a personal army of lawyers.

I know you hate how much money you pay in taxes every year–that the government “takes” from you–and you hate people who don’t pay taxes because it means an even heavier burden for you. And yet, you support a candidate who has not paid taxes in decades, who believes he is smart for not paying them–who has put an unbearable burden on you.

I know you value the truth. You absolutely hate it when people lie to you, and you have no patience for people who are not willing to be open and honest with you. And yet, you support a candidate who has lied throughout his entire life, who has lied and deceived at every step of this race, who continues to lie to you, me, and the entire American people.

I know you value freedom and independence. And yet, you have condemned yourself to the exact opposite–with this blind, Pavlovian trailing and support of Donald Trump because he claims to be Republican, you are surrendering your freedom and becoming the ultimate dependent.

Donald Trump does not represent you or your values. Open up your eyes and stop blindly following someone just because he is “your” party’s candidate. Take a look around, pause, and think about who and what he is actually representing. And realize that he is not representing you. Donald Trump represents hatred in a dangerous form. I know you are not like this–do not vote for someone who doesn’t represent who you are.

 


*I write this only to the conservatives I know because I can’t speak for them or their values.

I am

I am hurting and I am healing.

I am waiting.

I am finding my way.

I am constantly questioning, examining myself and the world around me.

I am intelligent and perceptive. And yet
I am still surprised and stung by the things people do and the things people say.

I am sometimes mistaken for a weak, impressionable young woman, but
I am not.

I am a strong young woman.

I am capable of making my own choices, and I do.

I am capable of forming relationships and standing my ground in those relationships, keeping them healthy for me, and I do. I have a backbone.

I am respectful of the people and relationships around me, but
I am not shy about asking for the things that I need.

I am more than the boxes and categories that people try to fit me into.

I am hard working, professional, and dedicated to everything that I do.

I am confident and
I am constantly working on my confidence.

I am a dreamer.

I am charming, vibrant, radiant.

I am a fierce, compassionate woman with an enormous heart.

I am loved and I am love.

I am careful and careless with my heart.

I am not a second choice.
I am not a replacement.
I am not a sometimes.

I am constant, unwavering, yet always changing.

I am a contradiction.

I am me.

I do not want or need the people who don’t respect and appreciate who
I am.

Thoughts on Innovation

“I wonder if we’re so busy trying to be innovative that we’ve lost sight of the educational goals.” —Jennifer Orr, “Educational Innovations: Oxymoron?”

I wonder this same thing so often—about education and about society in general. For so long we as a society have pushed progress, but I think most of the time it’s progress for the sake of progress and nothing greater. It’s a means with no clear end. I think the same thing can be said for “innovation”—it is the thing to do right now. We innovate because everyone else is doing so too, but oftentimes there isn’t a clear end. It’s a tool without a project. What good is a tool without a project? Wouldn’t it sometimes cause more damage on its own than if it had some direction? I have a hammer, but I don’t use it all the time just because I have one. I use it when I have a project that clearly needs a hammer and/or can be enhanced (whether that means ease or efficiency) by using one. Don’t get we wrong, innovation for improvement with a clear goal in mind is perfect and is what we should be doing, but I feel that most of the time there isn’t a goal. We just innovate to innovate.

I’m of the mind that “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It may sound simple-minded, stagnant, and even regressive, but I just can’t always buy into the idea of progress. It isn’t always necessary. If something is functioning well on its own and meeting the needs of its users, then I don’t see any sense in attempting to change it. However, if there is room for improvement, x-thing stops meeting people’s needs, and/or part of x-thing breaks, then innovation/change is necessary and ideal.

Here, too, I’m also thinking about our definition of innovation and Jen’s list from Educon—we so often conflate innovation with shiny, new things and forget that innovation can be borrowing a traditional element from elsewhere or utilizing current tools/elements in a different way. Innovation doesn’t have to be new—it can simply be rethinking and reconfiguring to better fit needs and goals.

To Jen’s last thought, “Maybe innovation is actually slowing us down and holding us back…,” I think in many ways innovation is slowing us down and holding us back because we are so fixated on innovation and the next big, shiny thing that we forget about the resources we already have. We forget about the things we do that are already working, and we spend so much time and so many resources in the name of new innovation, but we don’t often have much to show for it.

ADDENDUM: After reflecting more on this topic, I was still left thinking, “So what?” I’ve done some thoughtful complaining about innovation, but now I need to do something with that. I’ll take this opportunity as a sort of call-to-action for my friends, colleagues, and coworkers: it’s time to think more deeply about innovation. How have you tried to innovate in your classes? Why did you decide that you needed to innovate? Did it work? What parts about the innovative method did/did not work? If you haven’t jumped on the innovation train, why not? What are the benefits and pitfalls of innovation? Will it add something to your course? Will it take away from your course? Does the potential good outweigh the potential bad? Is the time and effort worth it? Who are you considering as you weigh these outcomes–yourself? Your students? The system?

Instead of innovating to innovate, let’s think deeply first about why we think innovation is a necessary and good improvement for each individual thing that we want to change. Truly effective and valuable innovation cannot come without thoughtful and thorough consideration.