Thank you, Meryl Streep

Thank you, Meryl Streep. All of us, actors, reporters, housewives, factory workers, the unemployed, the rich, ALL of us have a responsibility to raise our voices to fight against the abomination that is taking the White House in just a few days. All of us need to fight the hateful majority in congress that cares for nothing more than lining their own pockets with lobbyists’ money. All of us need to call out abuse where and when we see it, whether it’s in the checkout line or on the floor of the Senate. All of us are responsible to shout from whatever platforms we are given that this is not OK and that we will never normalize it. All of us need to support the press when they say that the emperor has no clothes and chastise the ones who normalize the deplorable. Meryl Streep was both right and duty bound to use her platform last night to address the coming storm. I will continue to use my little soapbox, as well. Will you?

So, How Does One Escape A Closed Belief System, Anyway?

I read this article (An Insider’s View: The Dark Rigidity of Fundamentalist Rural America) and I got myself thinking: How did I get out of that closed system, because I was surely every thing mentioned in this article?

It started with a small shift in my thinking and I don’t know what sparked it. After years of hearing how anyone who didn’t accept Jesus into their heart as their personal savior was going to hell. I asked my dad whether a child in the jungles of Africa (the most remote place I could think of at the time) who lived his life as good as is humanly possible but who never heard of Jesus, would go to hell when he died. The answer was that God would come to him in his heart and this hypothetical African would spontaneously accept Christ as their lord and savior and that, if he didn’t, he’d go to hell. Even at 10, that seemed absolutely preposterous. That moment began my departure from this closed system in which I was raised.

In my teens, I became an alcoholic and at 18, went into treatment and heard a concept that shook me to my core: I could choose my own concept of a higher power. I struggled with that one for 30 years.

At 19, I met an older lesbian couple and realized that what had been confusing me all my life was that I was naturally attracted to women. I called my daddy again, certain I was going to hell for this one. He told me, “If a bird flies over your head, it probably won’t hurt you any. Even if it lands on your head, it probably won’t be a problem. But, if you allow it to build a nest in your hair and live on your head, then it’s a problem.” And I stayed in the closet for the next 8 years.

In high school, I went around handing out graphic anti-abortion flyers and ranting about how the ERA would make us have to share restrooms with men (horror of horrors). Then I had an unplanned pregnancy at 24 and realized that no one else understood all the emotions and circumstances that were unique to me in that moment and in that instance, I KNEW that I could never tell another woman what to do with her body again.

At 33, I went to college, convinced I would get a better job and live happily ever after once I graduated. And my mind opened up even more.

I don’t know how to induce this kind of awakening in others besides sharing it, but I’m going to do my damnedest to find out, because the system is playing them and us and it’s only going to get worse, not better. Let me start with this: “Hi, I’m Shannon and I’m from here. May I talk to you for a while?”

Get Over It? I Don’t Think So.

For those who have told me to get over it, “No.” What I will do is get involved in or join either the Green party or the Democratic party and work for the rest of my life to ensure that none of the vile things this man has said that he will do come to pass. What I will do is live my life as a constant protest against the rhetoric of hate that he has incited in his followers. What I will do is continue to shine a light on the lies and deceit that he and his followers perpetuate.

Advice for folks who are new to social justice actions

1. Water makes pepper spray worse. Use milk or liquid antacid and water. Don’t wear contacts.
2. If you get tear gassed, when you get home, put the contaminated clothes in a plastic bag for later decontamination and shower with cold water to avoid opening your pores.
3. Come with friends and don’t get separated. Avoid leaving the crowd and watch out for police snatch squads.
4. Beware undercovers, but beware snitchjacketing and collaborator ‘peace police’ even more.
5. The far right is very good at combing through pictures and doxxing people. Mask up if you don’t want to be identified.
6. Write any necessary phone numbers you may need directly on your skin in sharpie.
7. Have an offsite plan for emergencies if you have not been heard from by X time coordinated with someone offsite.
8. Make sure all mobile devices are charged!!
9. If you plan on going to jail, plan it: bail, lawyer, time off from work, witnesses i.e.: a cadre. Don’t just go to jail without training.
10. Beware folks inciting violence. Most of them are police/ feds. Watch out for hook ups for the same reason. Get to know the crowd. They will set you up.
11. Pack musicians or industrial workers disposable earplugs in case of sonic devices. They cost about $2-$3 from pharmacies.
12. Pack a spare change of old clothes in plastic bag in backpack in case of water cannon.

Why I Protested the 2016 Presidential Election

I’ve seen a lot of people talking down to those of us who protested this year’s election and wondering why we’re even doing it at all, so I’m going to explain, one more time, why I was there and what I believe.
I didn’t leave my house except for two very necessary trips from Tuesday after I voted until Friday, when I went to Gretchen’s for the weekend. I stayed inside because I am an obviously lesbian woman in rural Henry county and I am afraid for my safety. I am afraid that the rhetoric issued from the president-elect will incite strangers to openly express their hate for me violently because it has been legitimized by their candidate. Gretchen and I even discussed eloping on Saturday to ensure that we are married (legally) before that right is taken from us.
One of the first reasons I went to the protest on Friday night was to stand up to my own fear and to the hate that is being expressed against me, my brothers and sisters of color, and my spiritual family, including Muslims and faiths that support the LGBTQ+ community. When Olympic Park reopened after it was bombed during the 1996 Olympic games by a right wing domestic terrorist, I went back on the first day that it was open as a way of saying, “I will not let you make me a prisoner to my fear.” Marching on Friday night was a way of doing that. There were times that we were terrified that night, because we didn’t know if we would be attacked by the police. We were not. I’m extremely proud of the restraint shown by both the police of Atlanta and by the protesters with regards to the lack of violence.
Secondly, I protested because I wanted to express to the people of the world that I am not OK with a president-elect who espouses hate. I am not OK with a president-elect who believes that it’s alright to mock a disabled man. I am not OK with a president-elect who wants to require all Muslims in this country to register with the State, much as the Jews had to in Nazi Germany. I am not OK with a president-elect who incites fear of otherness in his followers. I am not OK with a president-elect who promises to exclude human beings from our nation based on their race or nation of origin. I am not OK with a president-elect who has pledged to restrict women’s right of access to abortion and who wants to remove my right to marry. I am not OK with a president-elect who surrounds himself with advisers who express even more violently extreme right-wing rhetoric. And I was there to let the rest of America, Canada, Mexico, France, England, and the rest of the world know that he does not speak for me.
Third, I was there for the young people. I only saw 4 people, including Gretchen and myself, who looked to be over 40 years old Friday night. My generation has failed the young people in this country by failing to ensure that they have access to healthcare and education. We have failed them by failing to ensure that they have access to clean water, clean fuels, and clean air to breathe.
Fourth, I was there for a woman named Annette, who Gretchen and I met at the Waffle House at Five Points that night. Annette is my age and looks a decade older. She clearly needs some form of mental and physical help, yet she’s homeless and hungry on the street, still wearing her armband from Grady but not welcome to come inside and eat with us because she has no money and acts out. The privatization of healthcare and prisons in this country have insured that the Annettes of this country will never have a better life. The epidemic of greed in this country has led us to pharmaceutical companies that care more about treating diseases than curing them, hospitals that “treat ’em and street ’em” instead of addressing real health issues, and prisons that charge states more money if they have empty beds, leading to a system that creates a demand for criminals to be incarcerated rather than a system that rehabilitates inmates.
A small group of people burned two American flags Friday night. It is not something I would do, and I heard many people around me saying the same thing. Also, there have been reports that we tried to get onto the expressway. Again, I will tell you that the protesters that I walked with on Friday night had no intention of ever walking onto the interstate. Our goal was always to walk on the city streets to the Capitol. Period.
I was not there to “whine” because my candidate lost the election despite winning the popular vote. I was there to make sure no one believes that I am OK with this. It was my first step into greater involvement in my community and in my country. I will not go back into the closet and I will not sit down and shut up.