Friday, January 14, 2022

"Until Everyone Is Safe": Reimagining Social and Community Well-Being through the Lens of Vaccine Equity

“650 Million Doses Short”

Like many people whose community work involved being in close contact with vulnerable populations, I can’t adequately describe the relief, gratitude, and hope I felt when I received my first injection of a covid-19 vaccine in February 2021. In fact, not a day goes by that I don’t feel grateful, and with good reason. Natalie Musumeci reported this week on a recent research letter in JAMA Network Open that revealed, from December 2020 through June 2021, these vaccinations “prevented more than 14 million” covid cases and saved approximately 241,000 lives in the USA alone, cutting hospitalizations and deaths “by nearly half”.  (https://www.businessinsider.com/covid-vaccines-saved-more-than-240000-lives-us-research-says-2022-1 ) The vaccines have been both life-saving and life-changing. As a fully vaccinated and boosted person, I don’t have to live with the stress of life before the vaccines and I can’t imagine facing the Omicron variant without it. Tragically, I am one of the lucky ones with this option. While the main obstacles to an adequate vaccination rate we face in the Ozarks have been related to vaccine hesitancy and conspiracy theories, many places in the world have not had that luxury. 

Saturday, December 11, 2021

More Than Our Trauma: Healing-Centered Social Change

        For all the effort we put into social change, and all the discouragement we feel with how slow that change often is, sometimes I am amazed at how quickly and how much change is actually happening. And I don’t just mean in all the horrible, unjust ways. I’ll take it as a given that humans will continue to think up horrible ways to hurt one another and destroy the planet; that is disappointing and egregious, but it isn’t surprising. What continually brings me unexpected wonder is that so many of us keep figuring out ways to heal and grow. I feel a lot of joy that, when it would be so easy to give up, a significant number of human beings insist that there is another way, cropping up again and again throughout history and across cultures. People keep finding ways to insist on justice and compassion, using whatever tools are available. It is one of the most hopeful and fascinating things I can observe about humanity. 

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Gratitude is a Practice

Thanksgiving is a conflicted holiday for many of us. Despite the sacred civic myth that has grown up around it, Thanksgiving as the USA has come to celebrate it has roots in colonial violence and hides a much more complicated history. (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/thanksgiving-myth-and-what-we-should-be-teaching-kids-180973655/ )  But in 1863, Abraham Lincoln was not as interested in historical accuracy, or in reckoning with the nation’s colonial violence, as he was in creating a unifying national holiday amid the terrors of the American Civil War. Over the centuries, our collective avoidance has perpetuated a lot of harm that we are hopefully beginning to address. There are, after all, good reasons why many Native communities call it “Thanks-taking.” 

  The conflict comes when people (not me) have fond memories of Thanksgiving and genuinely enjoy the traditions and gatherings. Having just passed through another year of civic myths, televised parades, football games, and comprehensive coverage of Black Friday sales, it’s probably a good moment to reconnect with that kernel of goodness in Thanksgiving. That is, gratitude is truly essential to our health, both personally and socially, and practicing gratitude is something we can all do to make life better for ourselves, others, and the earth. 

Saturday, November 20, 2021

We Take Our Space in the World: Transgender Day of Remembrance

I offered a guided meditation at the close of our local Transgender Day of Remembrance as a practice to help us get in touch with our bodies and feelings; reconnect with our community and aspirations; and recommit to working together to create a world where justice, equity, and joy are the norms. 

Listening to these names and getting glimpses of the vibrant lives our trans siblings have lived, we realize the loss our communities have experienced and the deep pain that so many of us carry every day. Let’s pause to recognize and honor our feelings in this moment, whether it is grief, anger, fear, despair, hope, a mix of all this at once, or something else. 

(Bell)

Each time we gather like this, we can’t help but remember the world we live in. It is a world that makes it very clear that we are misunderstood and unwelcome. We have named that violence tonight, and we also recognize the violence that so often excludes our transgender and gender expansive siblings from families, jobs, housing, medical care, educational opportunities, and citizenship. We especially remember the harm inflicted on members of our trans family that are Black, Brown, and Indigenous, who also suffer the injustices of racism in all its forms. 

Thursday, November 11, 2021

“Almost All of the Land in the World is Claimed”

Necoclí is a small town on Columbia’s Caribbean coast, known mostly for, as one travel headline put it, “Crabs, coconuts and volcano swimming.” When Tom Heyden wrote that column in 2011, he could focus on how “the town’s charm relies on its surrounding natural beauty, which provides visitors with the opportunity to relax and soak up the sun.” His descriptions include gorging “yourself on sweet, juicy mangos,” crabbing, and walking to the local volcano, where you can jump “straight into the murky, muddy crater of the volcano. … The feeling is truly bizarre as you half-float, half-sink in the midst of this active volcano, toying with the squelchy, infirm floor beneath you.” (https://colombiareports.com/Necoclí-crabs-coconuts-and-volcano-swimming/ )

“No Choice But to Keep On Going”

It sounds idyllic and delightful, and I very much wished that this was all we could say about the lovely town of Necoclí. But I would guess that, if you have heard of Necoclí at all, it is not because of the juicy mangos or volcano swimming. Beyond sunny beaches perfect for napping in a hammock, the roads that take you there also take you as close as you can get to Panama, where refugees seeking asylum in the USA must cross a dangerous stretch of jungle known as the Darién Gap.  

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Halloween, a Holiday of Acceptance and Possibility

    Today is my favorite American holiday. It might have something to do with Autumn, enjoying the dip in temperatures without the worry of an ice storm, the steam on a mug of hot tea on the patio in the early morning, the vibrant purple of the asters against the golds and reds of the changing Maple leaves, and the simmering pot of soup on the stove. Halloween itself is pure revelry in the human condition. We return to make believe and fantasy. We face human mortality, look the skeleton in its eye socket, and make friends (or at least shake hands) with our own impermanence. We know the world is full of scary monsters, and Halloween is when we get to openly, if not playfully, be honest about our anxieties and fears, whether inside or outside of ourselves. And it’s never more true than when it comes to our own selves. We open the lid on what we are, or what we might be, with fear, excitement, or both. 

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Before I begin, a brief word about terminology may be useful. There is no universally agreed-upon phrase to refer to what we alternatively call domestic violence, intimate partner violence, gender-based violence, and family violence. Often, these phrases are based in a specific discipline and reflect that discipline’s approach. Moreover, definitions may categorize different kinds of violence, such as physical, sexual, emotional, financial, and social. There are also legal categories and definitions, such as battery, assault, and homicide. Then there is the question of who is included, since domestic violence can involve parents, children, lovers, ex-es, and extended family. Its affects can range from mild to severe, from temporary trauma to death. Whatever this violence is called, its effects are pervasive and destructive. And our personal and social well-being cannot be separated from bringing domestic violence to an end.