Saturday, January 28, 2017

On Being an American

Photo Credit: Google Public Domain Photo

Ten years ago, when I began this blog, I explained that as a writer and educator words had power - the power to heal, the power to raise up and the power to destroy. Over the past year or more, the rhetoric that has been loosed in this country has become increasingly hateful, damaging and destructive. The power behind the words used in the press, in politics and in every day life comes from the privilege of being American. Yet, many of the same people claiming to be "true" Americans have never read the two documents this country is based on, nor do they know the men who wrote the words that we live by.

The Declaration of Independence is a work of fearless resistance by a committee of five Founding Fathers - Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, John Adams and Robert R. Livingston. Thomas Jefferson is considered the architect of this document. A talented writer, Jefferson was influence, like all writers, by the words of other wise authors, specifically, John Locke. 

The words of our Declaration of Independence set the foundation of what it means to be an American.  No longer desiring to be under the rule of the, then, oppressive British monarchy, the Founding Fathers were declaring a new nation - a nation in which it "becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

This statement is immediately followed by the words that are the cornerstone of our country. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

In the Constitution, James Madison, and several other Founding Fathers, framed a document that is our Law of the Land. Influenced by the writings of various Enlightenment authors as well as the Iroquois Nation's, Great Law of PeaceThe Constitution of the United States begins with the words, "We, the People." 

These words, built on the ideals found in the Declaration of Independence, clearly form the archetype for our democracy. Interestingly, the Framers of the Constitution realized early on that what was written was not enough to rule this new nation. Therefore, the Bill of Rights was written, adding to the Law of the Land. (One point that is important for us to remember, the freedoms listed in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights are afforded to ALL living in the United States, regardless of citizenship.)

The Constitution provides Americans with an outline of Rights and Responsibilites. What are these Rights and Responsibilites of being an American?  

The Rights are:

  • Freedom to express yourself;
  • Freedom to worship (or not) as you wish;
  • Right to a prompt, fair trial by jury;
  • Right to vote in elections for public officials;
  • Right to apply for federal employment requiring US citizenship;
  • Right to run for elected office;
  • Freedom to pursue "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
The Responsibilities are:

  • Support and defend the Constitution;
  • Stay informed of the issues affecting your community;
  • Participate in the democratic process;
  • Respect and obey federal, state, and local laws;
  • Respect the rights, beliefs and opinions of others;
  • Participate in your local community;
  • Pay income and other taxes honestly, and on time, to federal, state and local authorities;
  • Serve on a jury when called upon;
  • Defend the country if the need should arise.
When people use hateful speech, when they use words to hurt, oppress or promote injustice, they are - based on the Constitution of the United States - unAmerican.  Both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States were written with words of hope, words filled with love for humanity, words that lifted up all people, not simply a privileged few. 
May we all remember the words that this country was built upon. May we live by these words fearlessly. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Women's March

Public Domain through Google images:
I was asked why I am attending the Sister March in Greenfield today, the day of the Women's March on Washington.  Why????

I am marching to honor all the fearless and fierce women who came before me.  Women from my own family who survived the tyranny of hate in countries far from here. Women from my own family that survived poverty and pain.   Women from my own family who stood for suffrage, so that I might vote.   Women in my own family who climbed Martin's mountain hand in hand with other Women - Women of color - so that their children and their children's children could live together in freedom and equality.  I am marching for my daughters and my granchildren because we are still not totally free and equality is still not found everywhere.

I march for all the Women around the world that have been abused, oppressed, hated and tormented.  The Women of the world for whom fear becomes their closest friend.  The Women of the world who hold their children, wrapping them in prayers for their safekeeping.  The Women of the world who daily rise with hope in their hearts, smiles on their faces but terror in their hearts that today there will be no change.

I march for all People of the Earth that this show of strength and fearless resistance will show the leaders of our world that we MUST change, now!

I march because I must. 

Please hold all in your thoughts and prayers today and in the days ahead as we continue to strive for the values that will bring true Peace to our world.  If you can, leave your thoughts on our Facebook event page: Prayers of Support for the Women's March


Friday, January 13, 2017

Social Media and PTSD

A friend just posted a request on Facebook that I feel is worth discussing.  He asked that people refrain from posting horrific pictures of abuse, war and other horrors because these images as well as words used in the discriptions can trigger serious symptoms in people who have suffered from PTSD.

I agree.  Why do we need to, for lack of a better word, terrorize others with such images or abusive, hateful language?  To be honest, I have blocked people who constantly show such horror on social media.  

My belief is we reap what we sow.  Therefore, let's sow seeds of love, understanding and acceptance.  

My dear, dear teacher/writer friend, Maryam Dilakian Passley wrote on her blog what she called the, Resistance Anthem.  I would like to share it with you all:

May everything I write this year be an act of rebellion. 

May my pen draw its ink from an ocean rising in fierce waves of collective resistance. 

May these waves come crashing down on everything and anything that threatens peace and justice. 
May we all roar until our voices come together into waves so fierce that they will sweep bigotry and tyranny out of all the spaces where they reside. 

May the fruits of our resistance be worthy of the righteousness of our struggle. 

May we see our country settle into a place that belongs to the people, even if all that is likely to be left at the end of a catastrophic storm are ruins and rubble. 

May we then build up, brick by brick, cementing together a home with walls resilient enough to keep away all beasts and monsters born of hate, and doors open wide enough to welcome all who come in peace and solidarity. 

I echo these thoughts.  We must join together and call others to stop acting mindlessly.  We must think about our actions and what ripples they send out into the world, for when they return, we don't want them to be tidal waves of hate! 

Let us send out Love, so that what returns to us are the soothing waves of Peace and Unity. Let us be fearless!


Sunday, January 1, 2017

My One Word for the New Year - Fearless

Lighting the Path (c) 2016 Linda M. Rhinehart Neas

In the wee hours of this New Year, I was struggling to find My One Word for 2017. In the past, the word for the year jumped out at me long before the old year ended. This year...nothing.  Then, this morning, as I searched for my word, there it was on the first site I opened - Fearless!

Fearless -  to be without fear; bold or brave; intrepid. Easier said than done! How am I going to do this?  After all, the idea of My One Word is to find an adjective that you can meditate on, in order to personify it in your own life. Me, fearless??  Yikes!

So, I immediately began to meditate on this word. Who do I see as fearless? What makes them that way? What is a fearless act? 

I typed in fearless women, into Google. And, there she was. One of my all-time heroines, Rosa Parks. What made her fearless? She had had enough of being pushed aside because of her race. She was tired and wanted to keep her seat on the bus. She knew she could be arrested, or worse, but she was just too tired to kowtow to Jim Crow laws. Her quote, "I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free… so other people would be also free," says it all.

Other women jumped into my mind: 
  • Josephine Baker, the jazz singer, dancer and activist, was the only woman officially invited to speak to the crowd with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the dais at the March on Washington in 1963. 
  • Malala Yousafzai, the young girl who said, "I don't want to be remembered as the girl who was shot. I want to be remembered as the girl who stood up." And, stand up she did! She has become an icon for women and girl activists, everywhere.
  • Frida Kahlo, the artist who never let tragedy stop her from creating. Frida was horribly injured in an accident, yet survived beyond the doctors' expectations. Her art shows her pain, but also her fearlessness. I love her quote, "Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?"

The list goes on and on.  I realized I had many examples to follow; many women who had done extraordinary things in ordinary ways that made a huge difference in their world.  

Being fearless for me at this moment in time on this New Year's Day is to continue to believe that Love, Kindness, and Acceptance will prevail. Good people will continue to be good people. Shining my light, sharing my love and being the best "me" I can be will continue to be my goals this year. 

May we all face the future fearlessly!