Ohio Needs A Wendy Davis.

I’m angry. Why am I angry? Ohio is my home. I am a woman. To watch a group of white men blatantly strip away the rights and resources to women after those who have worked so hard to get them infuriates me. Moving to New York City, people from the urban northeast don’t know too much about good old Ohio. Many people picture it all cows and cornfields (which honestly is what my town, no, my village actually is). What they don’t realize, is everything there is to love about it. Though I am someone passionate about culture and diversity, people don’t realize how friendly Ohio is. How beautiful and peaceful the wide open spaces are, but at the same time how, believe it or not, progressive some of the cities and universities have become. In fact, I found my love of diversity and fighting for rights at Ohio University. A university that had one of the best international programs in the country and students from around the country and world from all different backgrounds, all of which I loved learning about.

Ohio

That love and sense of home is what boils my passion when I hear about nonsense legislation that gets nation wide attention such as Kasich’s latest budget bill. Some may think that this is typical for Ohio, ignore it, and move on. But it’s not…it’s disgusting and unacceptable. Even though Governor Kasich did take the time to veto 22 line items, he very much deliberately left in the ones that would cause a huge blow to women’s progress in Ohio. In fact, the bill has very similar qualities to the nationally popular one in Texas that has Wendy Davis fighting hard against. I loved her, her fight, her passion, her strength and courage. Ohio is in desperate need of a Wendy Davis.

Headlines read again and again “budget bill will close abortion clinics” or “budget bill will cut abortion funding”. The expected debates quickly take hold: prolife vs prochoice. However it’s not that simple. The “a” word is not that simple. In fact, using it so often without researching the deeper measures of this legislation is hiding even more of the issues that will become detrimental to the wellbeing of many Ohio women. I think very few women are “pro abortion”. Women don’t WANT to get abortions. The irony is, the more of these resources that get stripped away, the more abortions (and unsafe abortions at that) will occur. For those who strongly oppose terminating a fetus, what better way to avoid this than providing the health education and family planning measures to help avoid getting to that point? Some 99% of women use a form of birth control. Regardless of what belief you might have, what gives anyone the right to take away something from that kind of majority? Here’s a quick look at what Ohio women are facing:

  • Rape clinics could lose funding if they are caught counseling victims on abortion.
  • Reproductive health clinics will close due to lack of funding making them less accessible to women in those areas. This is more likely to occur in areas already facing economic hardships, which is often where women need them most.
  • Planned Parenthood and similar organizations will be last on the list to get “left over” state funding. Whatever that means.
  • Reproductive health clinics are forced to cut their ties with public hospitals. This leaves only private hospitals, which are often religiously backed and therefore me refuse any sort of partnership.

So what does this mean? Well, in a nutshell, women are going to be lacking sexual health education, access and understanding of contraceptives and family planning options, cancer screenings and overall healthcare for those who can’t afford to see a private physician, counseling, and will lose an overall place to turn to that they’ve been able to rely on when they have nowhere else to go. When all of these issues add up and a woman in difficult circumstances does become pregnant, there is a sense of panic. This same point that someone might come to is exactly why so many women ended up at Kermit Grosnell’s horrific clinic in Pennsylvania. Once they do end up in an unsafe situation after feeling like she has no other options (mainly because she has little chance of knowing them without these resources) the clinic will not be able to quickly and easily get her to a hospital to help either her or her unborn child. What kind of sense does this make?

I want to see abortion numbers go down as much as the next person. However, taking them and these resources away so abruptly will do the opposite. We have already learned this lesson over the years, why are we back here again? Why are we going to let history tragically repeat itself? People need to open their minds before they open their mouths. Every person’s circumstance is different. Put yourself in various positions and really see the struggle that some women are facing out there and how much they rely on this help. Whether they are a victim of violence or of poverty, or not a victim at all; everyone is fighting their own battle. Just because this may not affect you directly, think outside of the box. Realize that this is a bandaid on a bullet wound. Well, more like pouring acid on a bullet wound really. Women are people, and people have a right to their own bodies and their own choices. Let your beliefs be where they are, but open your eyes and see that not everyone is the same and can’t be treated as such. Though this might not affect you and might just make you feel a bit more settled in your mind that your “religion is being respected” as you sit at home on your comfortable couch, realize that this is causing so much more damage to others that will last throughout their entire lives.

Wendy

I’ll never forget Leymah Gbowee’s speech at the Women in the World Summit 2012 when the “war on women” and reproductive rights was reaching its height. This African woman called on American women and asked, “where are all the angry women?” And where are we? If this strikes a chord in you like it does to me, you aren’t wrong. Don’t be afraid to stand up and fight this much needed fight. Women are strong and influential. As I read more about the legislation I was shaking with anger. This is my home. This hits me right in the heart. Shame on these men. I’m calling on you Ohio. Fight.

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A Whirl Wind Week of Politics

This has been an extremely busy week in terms of politics in the U.S. Both good and bad. Here’s a quick wrap up on the steps forward, steps back, excitement, emotion, and disappointment. 

Early in the week the Supreme Court chose to gut the Voting Rights Act. This has been an issue that I’ve always been on the fence about. It didn’t sit right with me that only a few states were singled out to have their voting decisions basically babysat by the federal government, though I did understand why. However, within days of the decision, these states were immediately taking steps forward to take measures that would make voting difficult or even impossible for minorities, young people, and low income communities. After seeing these reports, that’s when the anger finally became apparent within me. One argument used to strike down the Voting Rights Act was that “this is no longer 1965”. It was said that our country has come a long way since those days and measures such as VRA were no longer necessary. However, it is very apparent that in fact some of our country is still living in 1965 and has not joined the rest of us here in 2013. Texas, for example, wants to move forward with its strict voter ID law that would require either a passport or a birth certificate to vote. Passports are not affordable for everyone in this country and a birth certificate isn’t something that many immigrants or people in general have easy access to if any at all. This is just one example that has already come up, but NPR has reported on others as well.

On a good note, the Supreme Court DID strike down DOMA! I sat at my desk at work with tears in my eyes and goosebumps throughout my body as I thought of all the people who have fought so passionately hard for this change. This decision will change the lives of so many in a positive way as they are finally recognized by the federal government for being who they are. I got to celebrate that night with good friends of mine who were ironically also celebrating an anniversary. It was so amazing to see them finally able to discuss their future and look forward to plans that they were unable to have prior to this incredible day. I could go on and on about DOMA, however, I’m going to wait. Sunday is the Pride Parade in NYC and I get to participate with Amnesty International this year. I’m sure the photos and energy of the day will add even more to this celebration that I look forward to capturing. I would like to say congratulations to California though who Human Rights Campaign announced can resume same sex marriage immediately today after years of dealing with the ugly shadow of Prop 8.

Another inspiration of this week was Wendy Davis in Texas. This woman stood for 11 hours–no food, no bathroom breaks, and unable to sit down or lean against anything. She did this to stand up for the women of her state. Texas is working to pass a budget bill that will essentially close reproductive health clinics throughout the state only leaving around 6. Think of how big Texas is. That fact will make these resources inaccessible to the majority of the state, especially women in low income communities. Despite the majority being against her, Wendy stuck it out with an incredible filibuster that caused time to run out before the bill was passed. At the end, dozens of Texas women joined her in support, and as news spread, so did women around the country as #standwithwendy began trending on Twitter. Unfortunately, Rick Perry (who I cannot stand), is of course bringing the bill back to the table. There is a similar budget bill trying to be passed in Ohio, my home state, which saddens me when I think of the women whose health care this will effect. Closing clinics will not stop abortion, it will only cause more unsafe instances such as Kermit Gosnell. And even more than that, these clinics are not just about abortion. They promote family planning education so it doesn’t get to the point of abortion and healthcare such as cancer screenings. 

Immigration reform. Amazingly, the Senate passed the immigration reform bill that was put together by the “gang of 8”. As it has been expressed, the bill is not perfect, but something needs to be put into motion and amendments will then be made to fit our country best. However, to get to that point, something must be passed. It infuriates me that the Senate was able to come together to get to the point, but before it even hits the House the GOP representatives are already saying they will absolutely reject and not let it true. The partisan issue to me has turned into people acting like children and just holding out for the purpose of being difficult and not working together. We will see what happens, but it’s not looking good. And our country wonders why we can’t get anything done. 

Through everything that has happened this week and in general, it’s important to keep the important aspects of life above politics. People seem to forget that we are dealing with actual human lives and that everyone is different. Any inequality or abuses on human rights in unacceptable. This world is not black and white, people’s lives have circumstances that might be different from another’s. I encourage you to open your mind, put yourself in a situation that is different than yours. How would you feel? What would you be facing? Be willing to think differently, have conversations, and remember that politics is not just a game. It is something that has an impact on a person’s life for better or worse. It concerns me when I see the lack of empathy.  For example, as I watched the news the day that DOMA was struck down, I saw same sex couples crying, so emotional and passionate about what their lives would now be like. How can anyone seeing that, those REAL people with feelings, not be happy for the more positive life they are now able to have? I think it’s something to take a step back and think about, don’t you?

 

Lessons Learned and Ideas Inspired by Kofi Annan’s Memoir

Kofi Photo

After recently finishing Interventions: A Life in War and Peace by Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, I found myself not being able to stop thinking about many of the points he made. After jotting down random notes, underlines, and bookmarking several pages, I wanted to put this all together somewhere that I could reference in the future. His ideals on peacekeeping made so much sense in a world that is often chaotic with unnecessary conflict. Without letting himself be influenced by major powers, including the United States, he stayed true to what he believed in even if it led to disagreements with the security council or permanent UN member states.

A Christmas gift from my fiance, he bought it for me because of my curiosity for the UN, passion for peace keeping and preventing mass atrocities, and recent experience in Ghana and admiration of their culture. It resonated with me how Annan’s ideals and values seemed to stem from the culture I experienced while I was volunteering in Ghana this past summer. It also coincided with my belief in the benefits of cross-cultural communication and understanding. Not only would it eliminate conflicts essentially based on cultural misunderstandings, as many of the wars in the world often resonate, but also nations could learn how to better themselves by taking in lessons and ideas from places different from themselves. I know the United States and other major western powers often spread their practices to other countries with intentions of bettering theirs, but there is a lot that these powerful nations can learn from others as well. I thought of this a lot once I returned from Ghana and reflected in a post on who really are the rich and lucky ones in the world, and how are those two areas defined. In Annan’s writing, I found another example that especially if the United States related it to congress and our partisan conflicts today, might help finally move the country forward.

“For Ghanians, the concept of the African palaver tree has always been a tangible part of our heritage, and a source of the relative peace and harmony among myriad tribes and religions. A place to meet and talk, to seek compromise and settle disputes, to bridge differences and foster unity–this was the meaning of the palaver tree.”

“If you have a problem and you can’t find a solution, you meet again tomorrow and you keep talking until you find a solution. You can disagree with behavior or a particular position, but you do not resort to calling an opponent worthless. This notion extends to the relationship between traditional chiefs and their tribes, where there is accountability in the case of abuse or arrogance, including providing for the removal of chiefs who have lost the trust and respect of their people.”

What if this was the way for Congress and the White House today in the United States? Annan also highlights similar lessons he learned from his father.

“He taught me that when others insisted that sides must be chosen, and that it had to be either/or, there was another way that was truer to the reality of a complex world. His own life had been defined by the coexistence of tribe and language, place and purpose–the mix of heritage and hope that could bring Africa a new beginning, with dignity at its core.”

Annan also brought up a point of spreading democracy. An area I always questioned, because different cultures have different needs, he claimed that African countries are actually not being “westernized” when accepting democracy. It is in fact an idea that used to exist for them before colonization though not called democracy at the time, but contained many of the same ideals. As an African, he also stood strongly on the fact that colonization could no longer be used as an excuse for Africa’s problems. They need to look forward rather than letting the past inhibit them forever. Many countries such as Rwanda and Ghana have proven to be successful and peaceful democracies in recent years. They can serve as a model for states around them with cultural similarities, but who are still stuck under the result of a long military coup that took over once they obtained their freedom again and allowed corruption and prejudice to run rampid.

Under Annan, The United Nations also made poverty alleviation a global fight. Prior to September 11th, Annan reflected on near success of having the permanent member states ready to commit their share to make this goal closer to a reality. However, after September 11th this was pushed to the side. A very ironic move considering that poverty and all of the aspects that come along with it (lack of education, hunger, disease, etc.) are often what push men into extremist terrorist cells. Fighting poverty would likely have a considerably better result on the fight against terrorism than going in and fighting in countries that are already facing instability. This new tension, fear, and instability only leads to the growing number of terrorist activity which is now showing up in recent reports from the use of drones, for example. Imagine constantly living in fear and anxiety as unmanned killing machines flew above you without ever knowing when they would unleash their weapons. I think that may be enough to drive any person into a panic.

He touched on the importance of empowering women to make a substantial difference in the world, a common theory arising today and the importance of contraception access to give women these equal opportunities and also in reducing HIV/AIDS infections that continue to make it impossible for state’s with lack of awareness and resources to rise above.

In the situation in the Middle East he stood for the change the Arab Spring was working to bring, and sympathized with the battles they faced to finally have a better future that must include focus on young people and women to fully succeed. He reflected on lessons in Bosnia and Kosovo (an area I need to learn more about), and the cruelties between Israel and Palestine. To this day Israel continues its disagreements with the United Nations, seeing them as siding against them. Annan showed it in a way that showed the instability rising up over history, but the extreme retaliations often coming from the Israeli government only deepened the instability. That, and their persistance to not recognize international law and Palestine as a state, giving Palestinians a chance at rights and growth rather than keeping them oppressed, again something that feeds into growing extremist groups. An example here being Hamas.

He touched on the struggle during Rwanda as the world turned its back was especially interesting, since after the tragedy in Somalia gave nations reluctance to put troops on the ground in a country again. This has consistently undermined the theory of “responsibility to protect” that holds true how our world today is more interconnected than ever. A threat to peace anywhere is a threat to stability everywhere. We are very much a part of a global society.

As you can see there is so much inside the pages of this book, I’m sure I could go on talking about it forever. It’s great to read a perspective of someone who is on the side of all the world’s peoples rather than biased by what nation he may belong to. This was especially apparent to me in the chapters regarding the U.S. invading Iraq despite disapproval from the security council. We are seeing the results of this mistake now as we leave the country still in turmoil.

Annan consistently kept hope alive throughout the horrific tragedies he was faced with. Important to do in order to inspire future peace makers and not turn anyone away from a situation that may seem impossible.

“A Swahili proverb holds that “You cannot turn the wind, so turn the sail.” Turning the sail-from conflict prevention to economic development, peacekeeping, human rights, and climate change-is now more than ever in the hands of each and every one of us. The wind will follow its own unsettled course, but men and women in every society today have the ability to determine their destiny in ways unimaginable in past eras. Tyrants and bigots, warlords and criminals, the exploiters of human capital and destroyers of our natural resources, will always be with us, but their sails are not the only ones that can harness the wind.”

His main goal in working to provide more legitimacy to the United Nations was to show that sovereignty was not something that a state could hide behind any longer to deny its citizens their human rights. The United Nations was “for the peoples” along with for the states and governments must be held accountable for the behavior toward its citizens.

It Doesn’t All Have to be Black or White

Gun control? Mental illness? Less gun control? Religion? Media? In the wake of a tragedy, there seems to me arguing than coming together and appreciating anyone. It is infuriating. No matter what the opinion is, we’re all really trying to get to the same solution-less violent and tragic deaths. That seems like a pretty good thing to want, right? So why are we all fighting with everyone else who really just wants the same thing? 

Has it occurred to people, that perhaps there is more than one solution? And that fighting over which is better, we can actually discuss how to compromise and combine to make an even better end result than any one could ever have? In my personal opinion, I believe our country desperately needs stricter gun laws, better mental health education, and the media has got to get ahold of themselves. Here is why:

  • Gun control-There is absolutely no need for people to just have semi-automatic weapons. I mean really, why? These are weapons that are only used in war for the most part, why would you ever need one in your house? You don’t. Most of the mass shootings across the country have happened by people who have  obtained guns legally. It’s terrifying.
  • Mental Health Education-Our society doesn’t seem still to handle people who have health issues that aren’t worn on their sleeve. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. If you grow up with a mental illness, your environment can truly affect how you react to it. You might be bullied, taunted, ignored, etc. The more people understand about mental illness, hopefully the better society can react, and the lives of those who must live with this can be better overall. As someone who has anxieties of my own, it can be truly inhibiting and also embarrassing to talk about. But why? It’s not embarrassing if you broke your leg, or have cancer. This is also something out of your control. We need better programs for those who have the illness, and education for those who don’t as well.
  • Media-What is wrong with the picture of forcing a microphone down the throat of a 5 year old in the most traumatic moments of their life? Is it really worth it to get the story? Is that what’s most important? And, do people really believe it’s a coincidence that once these tragedies occur more and more stories like them come out of the woodwork. Already they had threats in Oklahoma, Indiana, and even a church in Newtown, CT. If you make the suspects famous, it puts ideas into the heads of others. If they are already delusional, here’s a way they can go out with everyone knowing who they are. I spoke with a friend in Canada who said that their media refuses to report the name of the person who commits these crimes. Therefore, less people will try to copy the action with the idea of seeing their name become famous in all the headlines. All the media seems to care about is being the most successful in reporting. How about showing a human side and maybe even making a difference?

I do not believe less gun control is the answer, nor do i think religion is. Here’s why.

  • Less gun control-I have seen tweets saying that the solution would be to have 5 year olds carrying weapons. What? I personally would never want a gun, and as someone living in NYC, I would be terrified every single day knowing the millions around me have them. One argument for this solution is that if good people had guns, they could stop the bad people. The flaw? Not everyone wants to carry guns. For this theory to even have a chance of working, it’s almost like you would have to make a law obligating everyone to have to carry guns. Second, a gunman has never been stopped during a mass murder by someone with a gun to date…so why would it start now? Third, people panic.  I think that more people would be shot by racially profiling, missing the target, or jumping the gun (no pun intended) in a year than the amount of people who actually die in these tragedies to begin with. I also don’t think I would even trust my child’s teachers to have guns in the classroom. Accidents happen, kids get a hold of things, and teachers are people, some people make bad decisions.
  • Religion-I keep seeing posts saying that the reason this is happening is because we have taken God out of our classrooms and out of our laws, therefore letting evil in. These things have always happened. And if there is a God, I would surely hope that he would not cause harm to innocent people and children just to prove a point. That would make me very angry with him. 

Those are my personal thoughts. I think there are many things we can do to make a difference. Instead of arguing “gun control must change” “no mental health must be addressed”, why not both? Not everything is black and white, but our country has become so partisan that even during a crisis when we all really want what’s best for people, we are still viciously attacking each other. Can anyone have a rational conversation? And how do we look at Congress and get angry with them, when our country is doing the exact same thing: irrationally arguing and fighting wasting all our energy on negativity, and in the end coming up with nothing good so that we keep dealing with the same problems over and over.

I’ve seen it on my page. I am so sensitive to other people and all I want is to create a better world, a more fair world, for everyone. Yet on the way friends and family viciously attack what I post you would think that I was trying to actually make the world turn for the worse. I accept different opinions, and I even take time to think and consider them. But I do not accept rude attacks, especially at a time when we are all feeling sad and have the best intentions.  How can we expect to make a more peaceful world and country, when we are all so vicious with our words toward each other, especially when people just want to make things better, that will only discourage everyone. And what kind of example is that?

I even saw one post saying that “Liberals have no right to be sad about these deaths because they are fine with death through abortion.” How can we label people like that? We are all people. And maybe someone, like me, who is Liberal, only feels comfortable with abortion as a well-thought solution. You never know what is going on with people and why they decide what they do. Isn’t judgment supposed to be the worst sin? So why are people using religion as a means to judge everyone, including people like me who may have beliefs different from theirs, but still wants what’s best for everyone and even take their words into consideration. That is incredibly hateful and hurtful, how is that getting us anywhere?

Politics have become black and white, but they shouldn’t be. Not everyone who identifies with a party is exactly the same as everyone in that party. It has gotten ridiculous, and I think these past few days have really brought this to light. Learn to educate yourself, learn to listen, learn to discuss instead of argue, and please, respect people no matter what their opinion. We are all hurting during these difficult times. Being cruel to each other will not help anything.