Sunday, December 29, 2019

A Failure of Imagination

"Nobody really thinks about it until it affects them personally."
A failure of imagination kept the
Apollo 1 crew from reaching the moon.
(I took this pic with a home telescope.
Cool, huh?)

That statement was given by an unhappy Trump voter in Brownsville, TX to a New York Times reporter regarding plans for parts of her retirement community in the River Bend Resort and Golf Club to be wedged in a gap between the US/Mexico border and an actual border wall. Despite living right on the border, she never imagined that the president's oft-touted plan plan to erect a border to keep out immigrants could negatively impact her own personal comfort.

I don't know why, but that simple quote really hit me the wrong way when I read it. I feel that saying "You never truly understand until it affects you personally" would be very accurate, but to never THINK about a major election platform of your preferred candidate until it affects you personally is - as the famous testimony about the Apollo 1 command capsule fire said - "a failure of imagination."

I spend a lot of time every single day thinking about issues that don't affect me personally. But I don't need to have a catastrophe to happen to me or any of my loved ones in order to act to protect people I don't know. Empathy and compassion propel me to advocate and vote to protect others. And, yes, I even vote against things that would financially benefit me and my family if it will help others who don't have enough for basic needs like food and shelter. 

I am blessed to have enough, but that's no excuse for me to close my eyes to the needs of others. If that's not sufficient to sway some voters, it's just common sense for them to use their imaginations to consider an unexpected time when they might not have enough. Today, because of our precarious health system many Americans can have their financial securities totally undone in a moment when a health crisis like a cancer diagnosis or a car crash suddenly disrupts a life.

I don't really know a sure fire way to reach people and increase their empathy, but I know ways to increase my own. I think these these suggestions are helping me and would help others as well...

Newspapers, novels, non-fiction, scientific journals...all of them offer windows to the lives of people who have troubles different from your own. If you want some suggestions, check out my Anti-Poverty Mom's 2019 Gift Picks list which was all made up of books to increase understanding and empathy.

Diversify your Twitter network
I saw a suggestion on social media (sorry I can't find the original post anymore!) that was helpful to me. It was essentially saying that if white people wanted to better understand the experience of African-Americans, that they should try following a handful of black people on Twitter and see how that changes the tone of the feed. But the most valuable part was the suggestion that the white people do so WITHOUT COMMENT. I tried it and found something really startling: it was as if caucasian Twitter followers could not help themselves from butting in with comments like "Well, actually..." and other things that would negate the feelings and observations of non-white tweeters. It made me wonder how much I'd done that to others in my life without realizing it. I think an infusion of lots of different kind of diversity into our social media could be a good way to break out of our bubbles and add insight...but are we able to do it without comment? Can we just listen and learn without stirring up trouble?

Talk...REALLY people who are not like you
If you find enough connections to people different from yourself, issues that never touched you before are bound to start affecting you personally. It's startling to realize how many people in the U.S. have been personally touched by gun violence whether it be from mass shootings, suicide, accidental gunfire at home, etc, etc. Maybe this is the hardest one because it's the one that falls outside of natural comfort zones for most people...including me. 

I'd love to hear about other people's suggestions in the comments. Like I said, I don't have all the answers on this one at all. I will leave you with a quote from Senator Cory Booker from a democratic presidential debate. He was talking about needing to take action on gun violence, but I think it applies to a lot of issues. 
“This is a crisis of empathy in our nation. We can’t wait for it to personally affect us. People can’t wait for this hell to be visited upon their communities.” 
- Cory Booker
Booker isn't necessarily my favorite candidate right at the moment, but I do like his ideas about courageous empathy. We all have the power to shape ourselves into more empathetic and thoughtful citizens before we head into the voting booths again.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

You're a Great Mom

I didn't write this. I wish I knew who did. Someone caring posted it on facebook with a note to share it. So, I'm just sharing this farther for all the moms I'm not connected to on facebook.

Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah to all. You're doing great.
To the mom that has 2 presents under the tree- you’re a great mom.
To the mom that has 30 presents under the tree- you’re a great mom.
To the mom that has no presents under the tree- you’re a great mom.
To the mom that has no tree- you’re a great mom.
To the mom that had to ask for donations this year- you’re a great mom.
To the mom that stood in line at the Salvation Army- you’re a great mom.
To the mom that has everything wrapped- you’re a great mom.
To the mom that hasn’t shopped yet- you’re a great mom.
To the mom that can't do anything this year- you’re a great mom.
To the grieving mother that is ready for the season to pass- you’re a great mom.
To the newly single mom that cries at the thought of Christmas morning- you’re a great mom.
To the mom that doesn’t celebrate Christmas- you’re a great mom.
To the mom that doesn’t tell her kids Santa is real- you’re a great mom.
To the mom that forgets to move the elf every night- you’re a great mom.
To the mom barely holding it together- you’re a great mom.
This season does not define how great of a parent you are.
Remember that. 
Feel free to share by copy and pasting.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Anti-Poverty Mom's 2019 Gift Picks

I wasn't going to do a Holiday Gift Guide this year because in past years, it's screwed up my personal gift giving when my gift recipients read my list. It kind of ruined the surprise, you know?

BUT, I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about the books on my "activist" shelf. These are books that I keep referring back to for inspiration, stories, statistics, and examples of how I would like to write. So, even though it's a little late in the season, I'm going to give a few of my recommendations for the anti-poverty activists on your lists! 'Tis the season for getting cozy with a book :)

Happy Holidays!

Keep Marching: How Every Woman Can Take Action and Change Our World 
by Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner
Keep Marching is all about maintaining the momentum we felt during the surge of Women's Marches after the 2016 election. This book is not only a handy reference when I need a quick primer on issues - like health insurance, wage inequality, U.S. maternal mortality - but it also provides brief snippets of advice on taking action as well. Reading this book and joining Moms Rising, the organization Rowe-Finkbeiner co-founded, is a great way to jump start your personal advocacy in the new year if you haven't been so active lately.

The First 1,000 Days: A Crucial Time for Mothers and Children - and the World
by Roger Thurow
Next year is going to be a big year for advocates working on global nutrition for moms and babies. RESULTS has already announced that it will be a major campaign. In December of 2020, Japan will be hosting the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit. It will be an unprecedented opportunity to set the world on a pathway towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals targets - in particular, to end malnutrition in all its forms by 2030 and strengthen the link between diet, food systems, and health.

That makes Thurow's book a must read for anyone working on nutrition. He followed the lives of pregnant mothers around the world (rural Uganda, urban Chicago, a village in India, Guatemalan highlands) striving to provide proper nutrition for themselves and their infants. With moving personal stories and informative facts, he illustrates how crucial the first 1,000 days of life (from conception to 2nd birthday) are in creating opportunity for children & families.

A Day at the FARE: One Woman's Welfare Passage 
by Pamela M. Covington
Covington wrote an easy-to-read, easy-to-relate-to biographic narrative. She perfectly sums up the reasons why it's so difficult for a woman with children to leave an abusive relationship and how grueling it is to navigate the American system of aid for mothers who need immediate help. It's a living nightmare for many right now and a lurking nightmare for mothers who don't earn their own salaries. This is an "it could happen to anyone" tale. I recommend it especially for men who will never be in her situation or women who feel they won't ever be. Read it for your own sense of empathy and vote accordingly.

The Girl Who Smiled Beads 
by Clemantine Wamarya
Wamariya writes a vivid biography about her time as a refugee living in a camp and coming to the United States. The thing that struck me most about this book is the poetic descriptions of her feelings. She sometimes refers to a time when she didn't have the words to describe her experiences...well, she has them now and we are blessed to be able to read them! The way the book skips back and forth in times helps me glimpse how disjointed the lives of refugees can be. It paints an eye-opening picture of the bewildering hardships of flight, refugee life as a child, the difficulties of accepting help, and building a new life without parents.

by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn

Okay, the trouble with this one is that it's not actually available until January 14, but it is currently available for pre-order! You can always print out a nice picture of the cover and put it in a card for your activist to open. Of course, I can't give you my impressions of it since I haven't read it yet, but if it's anything like their previous books - "Half the Sky" and "A Path Appears" - then it should be fascinating. I can't wait to read it. Here's the synopsis: "The Pulitzer Prize-winning authors of the acclaimed, best-selling Half the Sky now issue a plea--deeply personal and told through the lives of real Americans--to address the crisis in working-class America, while focusing on solutions to mend a half century of governmental failure."