How Lucky are We?

Can you imagine living in a country where you are in constant fear of having your door kicked in? How about living in a place where your neighbors can and will threaten your life and no one will protect you? Coming from my place of white privilege, I can’t even conceive of an existence in which I do not feel safe. It never would occur to me to worry that I couldn’t keep my family intact.

How lucky we are to live in America, right? Well, some of us, at least. Because I’ve been talking about America. Trump’s America.

Even as you read this, many of your neighbors do not feel safe. You are much, much more likely to be raided by ICE or incarcerated in this country than you are to be harmed by a terrorist. That’s even if you are someone who has been contributing to the economy for decades and have harmed no one in your entire life.

As noted in this story from Public Radio International, there has been a sharp rise in immigrants fleeing across the border from the United States to Canada in recent months. Winter months. These people are willing to risk frostbite to get away from us. From us. You can see pictures of some of these people in this article from The Guardian.

We are no longer the land of the free and the home of the brave.

I am so ashamed.

The only thing I know to do is add my tiny little voice to the many others who are saying, “This is not who we are.”

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My Daily Homework

Okay, I’ve had it. I’ve decided that I have to do more. I have to speak up and speak out, because this country is circling the drain. So I’ve assigned myself some daily homework.

First, I Googled my US Representative and my two Senators for my particular zip code. I wrote down their names and phone numbers.

Then I wrote myself a general script, based on things that have been floating around on Facebook:

“Hi, my name is ___________ I’m a constituent from  (city, state, zip code). I don’t need a response. I am (in favor of) (opposed to) __________ and I encourage the (Senator) (Representative) to please (oppose) (support) it as well. Thanks for your hard work!”

I’ll pick one issue a day and call them. Short, sweet, to the point. That frees up their phone line for the next person. And saying I don’t need a response frees up their time.

I’ll keep a list of issues and the dates I called about them, so I don’t repeat myself. Unless I really feel I need to.

I happen to be in a location where I’ll most likely be preaching to the choir. My congresswomen pretty much agree with me. But they are forced to swim in a very toxic soup, so it doesn’t hurt to remind them about what we really think.

One thing I was always good at was being a student. (It’s the rest of life that seems to be a challenge.) So I’ll be doing my homework faithfully. And so far, it has only taken about two minutes each day, because I’ve been getting right through. Care to join me?

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A Message to the World

Hello. I’m an American. Never in my life did I imagine that I would say this, but I am ashamed of the state of my country. I am embarrassed at the face we are currently showing to the world. This is not who we are.

Never again will I look at another country and assume that all its people agree with its government. Because I don’t. Never again will I think of the resident of another country as possessing a stereotypical characteristic based on that person’s place of birth. Because clearly, I no longer fit in here.

In recent months I’ve been seeing a great deal of ugliness. I’ve seen Americans spewing hate. I’ve seen selfishness and greed and intolerance. I’ve seen ignorance deified and intelligence vilified. I’ve seen science discounted and fantasy encouraged. I’ve seen violence. I’ve seen misogyny. I’ve seen fraud. I see more and more lies every day.

I am so sorry that things have gotten this way. I didn’t vote for Trump. I wouldn’t have approved any of his cabinet members or his choices for the Supreme Court. There is not a single thing that this man has done that I agree with. Not one.

I’m particularly mortified that his immigration policies are making so many people live in fear. This is not acceptable to me. I am a second generation American, and the vast majority of the people who live here are descended from immigrants. We have absolutely no right to do what we are currently doing.

We also have no right to treat the Native Americans the way that we do. If anyone should have moral currency with regard to how we treat the land here, it should be them. They should not be beaten down for wanting water that is safe to drink. Shame on us.

We, of all people, should not have the right to negatively impact women’s health at home or abroad. We should also appreciate the good work that other members of the United Nations do every single day. We should be good stewards of our environment, because what we do affects the entire planet.

I just want you to know that many Americans still believe in human rights, freedom, justice, the environment, freedom of speech, science, peace, and respect for all people who do good in this world. I want you to know that those of us who feel this way will not remain silent. We will speak out for the values that we all strive to maintain. Our voices might get drowned out by those in power, but please don’t stop listening for us. We are here.

Because what you’re seeing now is not who we are.

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Secret Revealed: Everyone in the US Owns Land!

Real Estate is without a doubt the best investment one can make. People fight wars over land. The song “This Land is Your Land” makes all of us proud. And it should. Just by virtue of being a US citizen, each and every one of us owns 84 million acres of land. Yup. That’s million with an M. We’re rich! Most people don’t even realize that.

And check this out: you don’t even have to mow a single blade of grass on all this land that you own. You don’t have to pull a single weed. The National Park Service takes care of all the upkeep for you. All you have to do is go and admire and respect it.

Long before any other country on the planet set aside land for its citizens, our national parks system was created. As a matter of fact, the 100th anniversary of the system will be rolling around pretty soon. According to their website, the National Park Service was created by an act signed by President Woodrow Wilson on August 25, 1916, and our first park, Yellowstone, was established by an act signed by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872. So this land was your land before you were even born!

Even more exciting is that this land is broken up into 408 different pieces and is scattered throughout the 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Chances are, you can visit some of your land without venturing very far from the place where you live. How cool is that?

And no two places are alike. The website also mentions that they include national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and even the White House. That’s a pretty impressive portfolio you have there, American! Don’t take it for granted!

Recently I had the distinct pleasure of spending 5 days in Yellowstone National Park, and it was magical. I’ll be writing several blog entries about it, but for now I will share pictures I took of some of your land, just for you. I wish they did it justice.

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Have We Forgotten the Ukraine?

I get it. We have neither the money, the time, the moral currency, nor the manpower to intervene in every international atrocity. God knows we’ve left Tibet dangling since 1951, Burma since 1962 and I could talk for hours about various coups in Africa and the Middle East.

But what stuns me is how quickly we’ve stopped talking about Ukraine. It was only a little over a year ago when unmarked Russian soldiers began entering that country and took over the Crimean Peninsula. Outrageous. Irrational. It would be just as insane if the US suddenly decided to take over Vancouver, just because we have more military might than the Canadians. Many Americans live in Canada after all, so let’s just take it because we can.

And yet no one says a word about the Ukraine anymore. Did we just decide that it would be easier to look the other way instead of getting into a big international kerfuffle? Or is our attention span that short? Are we simply stretched too thin in wars of our own making, or do we just not care about anyone other than ourselves?

I suspect that we’ll spend more time discussing Caitlyn Jenner than the people who have been driven out of their homes in the Crimea. What does that say about us? Putin knows exactly the thickness, or lack thereof, of our moral fiber, and that’s why he knew he could get away with such a b***h move. He knows us too well. So does the rest of the world. And that’s scary.

[Image credit: telegraph.co.uk]
[Image credit: telegraph.co.uk]

Would You Travel to Cuba?

With the negotiations for the normalization of US/Cuban relations, there’s been this huge spike in Google searches for Cuban vacations. It’s controversial, of course. Just because the borders may open up to us does not mean that human rights violations won’t still be in full force. Just look at China.

So yeah, I did that Google search too, but not without a certain level of guilt. But if I had to agree with the governments of every country I travel to, I’d never go anywhere. Frankly, I couldn’t even travel locally if that’s the litmus test. My government just voted that Global Warming isn’t the fault of human beings. I couldn’t disagree more. Does that mean I have to stay on my couch? I do not look at people the same way I look at governments. God knows I don’t control what happens with my own.

And let’s face it, the embargo didn’t ever work. All it did was cause a great deal of suffering for the people of Cuba. The government itself did not budge at all, even when they stopped being propped up by Russia.

I genuinely believe that the earth becomes a much more peaceful place with increased interaction and exchanges of points of view. I believe it’s harder to hate someone you have gotten to know. I believe that even though most travelers won’t see the “real” Cuba, staying well within the tourist zone, they’ll still have an impact. Things will change. People will change. And not just the Cubans. We could all do with a broader worldview.

Even so, I think I’ll hold off a few years and wait to see how all of this plays out. I’d also like there to be a bit more tourist infrastructure in place before I go jetting off to parts unknown. I suspect that it’s not quite time to be passing out Cuban cigars. But my fingers are crossed for the near future.

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[Image credit: globalcitizendaily.com]

Environmental Meddling

Anyone who lives in the Southeastern United States is familiar with kudzu. This amazingly insidious vine was introduced to this country by the Japanese at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, and since then, according to Wikipedia, it’s been spreading at the rate of 150,000 acres annually, which seems really intimidating until you realize that that’s roughly equivalent to the amount of rain forest that’s chopped down every day.

A great deal of time and money is spent attempting to keep the kudzu invasion in check, and nothing seems to work. It has been known to suffocate acres of trees, pull down power lines, and crush abandoned houses under the sheer weight of its proliferation.

Like it or not, we need to accept the fact that kudzu is here to stay. And since that’s the case, we should try to turn this negative into a positive. Most Americans would be surprised to know that kudzu is edible. It’s a great source of starch and is eaten regularly in Vietnam and Japan and other parts of Asia. It also makes great grazing fodder. Goats, in particular, love it. The vines can be used in basket weaving, and its fiber can be made into cloth and paper. Some people use it to treat migraines, tinnitus, vertigo, and hangovers.

In light of this, I say, why not let kudzu run rampant? Help feed and clothe those in need, and reduce the cost of feeding grazing animals. Even better, if we really let it take over, think of the time we’d regain by never having to maintain our lawns again. Each time we fertilize our lawns, more harmful nutrients are entering our water table, causing algae blooms in our rivers and doing untold amounts of damage to the environment. Kudzu is the perfect solution for that. All we’d have to do is cut new holes where our doors and windows should be every few weeks, and voila! No fertilizing, no other yard work.

We wouldn’t ever have to paint our houses, because no one would be able to see them. Also, as our ozone depletes, skin cancer is on the rise. Kudzu would greatly reduce this problem because it’s an excellent source of shade. In fact, if given half the chance, kudzu would ensure that we never see the sun again.

I also have a theory that if we introduced kudzu to the moon and mars, they’d both be lush and green and producing oxygen within a year. All thanks to a pretty little plant that never should have been here in the first place.

We humans are just sooooo good at fiddling with the planet. Why not go for it? What’s the worst that could happen?

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Yes, that’s a house.

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Kudzu gone wild. Every Southerner in the US has seen this somewhere at least once in their lives.