Hope Sparked by a Tweet (Kavanaugh/Ford)

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All night, my phone has been buzzing, from 7 pm to noon. As of the last count, my tweet has garnered 1,025 retweets and 1,651 likes. Last night those numbers hit me hard. Every ping and buzz of my phone – every new retweet and like made my chest concave.

In a small, isolated way this huge jump in my social media impact was an indicator of how many people, in my own small realm of influence, have been affected by sexual assault and trauma.

My tweet was in reference to RAINN’s (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) phone helpline spike in calls last evening. Last night that spike was 147%, this morning it’s been bumped up to a 201% spike in calls to the hotline.

The fact that this hearing, that Dr. Ford’s willingness to be examined and questioned about her assault in front of not only a committee of senators but also in front of the eyes of the nation, would not only resonate with so many – but also cause so many to relive their own personal traumas shatters me.

There are so many of us, walking around with this experience, living inside of us, churning and clawing. We do so much work to move beyond our traumas – to heal and thrive despite them. Yet, even with all of that work, it only takes an assault being front and center in the news, and it all comes flooding back.

That churning, clawing thing grips on tighter, and every horrid detail your brain has neatly packed away launches from it’s carefully controlled cage and comes out to play. However, perhaps, what is more terrifying, then having to relive those details – what is really traumatizing us all over again is the fact that we all know despite Dr. Ford’s testimony, despite the allegations, we all know its not enough.

The ruling party will vote Judge Kavanaugh in – and yet again, a victims testimony will mean nothing. The alleged perpetrator will not only walk free but will be allowed to bloom while the victim has to once again, center themselves, readjust their skin over the gaping wound they just exposed, and attempt to regain the strength they’ve spent years carefully cultivating.

I hope to God; I’m wrong. I hope that this is the turning point where an accusation of assault is enough to make people question. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land, and it’s a position that once Judge Kavanaugh is appointed to, he cannot be fired from or removed from. Thus I would hope Judge Kavanaugh would be held to the highest standard, yet accusations of assault didn’t stop this current America from electing our current President.

And, I fear that once again, this government will side with the accused attacker, and once again every woman who has ever been assaulted will know that our stories are less than that of our attackers and that our culture cares not for our experiences or traumas.

Again, I hope I’m wrong, but as the 1:30 vote approaches, my gut tells me Judge Kavaughn will be believed, and Dr. Ford, despite her bravery will be a poster child for all our survivor (male and female included) experiences.

So, allow me to say this, my fellow survivors – to the over 1,600 people who have resonated with my tweet – know that you are not alone. You have a commandery that none of us would have chosen, but none the less found ourselves a part of. We must take care of each other. We must continue to speak about our experiences – in the hope that our voices joined together can create a tipping point. Perhaps, before too long, the victim will be believed over the accused. However, more than that, I want us to walk hand in hand, to care for one another and to protect future generations from this pain.

We can do that. We are strong. We survive.

Even though it’s not fair, even though our experiences contort and test us, even though days like this make us relive all the pain, fear and terror again – know that we will survive.

And, to those who are voting today, know that we are watching and we will not forget what you do.

The Day of: Quebec Coffee

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It’s dark, but not as dark as I feel right now.

Sitting hundreds of miles away, I’m surrounded by Canadian hipsters sipping their artisan coffee while absentmindedly scrolling through Facebook.

I’m sure they’ve seen it; another mass shooting in the USA.

Another madman with a gun.

Another American tragedy.

But they can’t know that this one, the worst in US history is less than a mile from where I call home.

Where I’ve danced and had a few too many.

Where people I love, the ones that make me smile and laugh through a thirteen hour shift, feel safe and accepted.

But here in Quebec City, these coffee patrons have no idea how it feels to watch your world crumble while you’re so far away, so unable to help.

For them it’s just another image on their screens.

They can’t comprehend the churning of my stomach or the panic in my chest.

They can’ know that as they scroll through their feeds – liking cute selfies, adoring wedding photos and digesting other trivial Facebook news – I’m screaming on the inside.

(Written June 12th)

 


 

At 6 am on June 12th my sister messaged me to tell me about the mass shooting. I spent the first two hours following up with all my friends, who I knew went to Pulse, making sure they were safe. After I heard back from them all, confirming their safety my brother and I went to a coffee shop down the street from our hostel. As I sat in that coffee shop and watched all the images of Pulse on TV I felt completely heart-broken. I held in my tears, knowing that these people sat down at their computers couldn’t understand the weight of what I was feeling. Not that they wouldn’t be sympathetic or understanding, but there was no way they could feel the hole boring its way through my chest. This, illogically, made me angrier; I wanted them to feel what I was feeling. I wanted to scream at that. To stand up and yell ‘how can you just sit there, while people are dying?’ It wasn’t until a few days later, when I began to process my emotions, that I understood the irony in that feeling. After all, only a little bit ago we had witnessed the Paris attacks and I had gone about my day, while people in Paris were feeling what I was feeling now.

We left the coffee shop, wandered around Quebec City and somehow it just felt wrong. It felt as though I was disrespecting the dead by being in such a beautiful place, by not being in my city to mourn, to help somehow. As we wandered, my sister kept me updated on the news. She told me how the death toll had risen to nearly fifty. Every new piece of information felt like a dagger to my gut. The entire day I felt restless in my skin. I wanted to be at home; I wanted to help, even though I had no idea how. I needed to be with my city. I needed to see Pulse, and the distance between Quebec and Orlando felt like a universe away. Pulse was somewhere I had danced and been drunk with my friends. I was supposed to go to Pulse with a couple of co-workers only the Tuesday before, but I had gotten out of work late and couldn’t go. I had spent many a night, a little too tipsy, in the bathroom where the hostages were held. As the day continued we avoided telling people where we were from. It was too raw to say. We were afraid of the looks, of the awkwardness, of the anguish the confession would bring. At the end of that day, which barely felt like a day, we took an Uber to the airport. The Uber driver wanted to know where we were from, my brother said it, ‘Orlando’. I held my phone in my hands, like I had been doing the whole day, waiting for any new pieces of information. I didn’t want to hear his reaction.

He apologized, and asked if we knew how many had been hurt. I told him we were hearing conflicting reports. He was nothing but sympathetic and concerned, but every word he spoke grated against my skin. Not because of anything he was saying, but because of the subject we were discussing. I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want it to be real. As I sat in the back seat and gazed out of the window, he told us about a shooting that had happened at a club in Montreal and how thankfully how a couple of people were hurt. He told us that guns were what scared him about America. “Me too,” I whispered under my breath. When we arrived at the airport he handed us our bags and wished us peace, as difficult as that might be.

We walked through the airport, my brother wearing a purple hoodie and an Orlando City hat (which was completely unintentional). Facebook asked us to check in safe, due to us both being located in Orlando. We did, but not being there felt like we were cheating. When we finally made it on the plane, my brother and I were assigned seats on opposite sides of the plane. I tensed as I sat down, knowing that Orlando would be the topic on everyone’s tongue. Sure enough it was and when the Canadians in the row next to me began to discuss Orlando, guns, the military and Trump I remained silent. I looked out of the window and wished for time to speed up, to be back in Orlando. When we landed, the plane had to taxi and an older couple were clearly impatient to get off the plan. Nathan, my brother, was stood right behind them, and as my row was at the front they were stood in the aisle next to me while we waited to disembark.

“We have connections to make,” they grumbled and a fellow passenger asked them where they were heading. “Oh, back home to Pensacola, FL,” they responded and the man winced and said “Oh, Florida. Did you hear about what happened in Orlando?”

“Yes, we did. It’s a real shame but we’re from the panhandle. Things like that don’t happen there. We’re much nicer up there.”

I glanced at my brother – who I repeat was wearing an Orlando City hat – and he could sense my frustration.  Didn’t they see how insensitive that comment was? Also the shooter wasn’t from Orlando, he had driven from Port St. Lucie to Pulse to carry out the attack. But even if he was from Orlando, what difference did that make? A tragedy was unfolding in my city and these people had the audacity to brush it off with the apparent ‘niceness’ of the Panhandle. What was Orlando then? A hive of hate and sin? If I hadn’t been in so much mental turmoil I might have spoken up, but I knew if I did I would break down. So I held it in. I bit into the side of my cheek, as I had done many times as a child to keep myself from saying something, and focused on that pressure in order to push their comment as far away from me as possible.

The plane doors finally opened, the older couple rushed off to their connection, and I let go of my inner cheek – tasting blood mixed with salvia. We stepped off the plane, rushed through the airport, and stepped out to the pickup area, feeling that rush of warm wind that is so particular to Florida.  Our sister picked us up and warned us that we would have to go a long way home because the entire area around our apartment complex was blocked off. As we drove through the streets from the airport to our downtown apartment we discussed what we knew so far. The shooter was from Port St. Lucie. He had been shot by police after a hostage standoff in the female bathroom.  The death toll had jumped from 25 to 50 with countless more in the hospital. An emergency response center had been set up in the senior center directly behind our apartment complex.

The drive was exceptionally long, but that small inconvenience was insignificant in so many ways. When we finally arrive in our area it was akin to a war zone. Police cars, sirens and flashing lights filled the entire area. FBI, homeland security and SWAT trucks clogged up the roads. Helicopters flew overhead and I could feel it, the tension in the air. We had to park in a random spot because the parking spots for our apartment complex were in the senior center’s parking lot – which was filled with government/police cars, and media outlets setting up with reporters. There were so many lights, so many sirens. The emergency center was right at the end of our complex. The only way to be closer was to be in the center. We walked past officers, who had surely been up all night, to get into our building. I’ve never experienced anything like it. We entered our apartment, and turned on the TV to the local news station, which had been live for almost 20 hours at this point. You could see the exhaustion and heartbreak on the reporters faces. They switched between the reporter stood on Orange Ave, (which on a regular day would be four lanes deep with traffic) who was as close to Pulse as the FBI would allow and a reporter who was stood outside the senior center, at the end of our apartment building, where family and friends had begun to gather to find out if their loved ones were alive.

The reporters talked about how they hadn’t identified victims yet because their bodies were still laying on the floor of Pulse, with their phones buzzing as loved ones tried to reach them. The reporters assured us it was protocol – that the FBI had to gather evidence etc before they could begin to identify and move the bodies. They told us there would be a conference in the morning, where more details would be shared. They told us they weren’t going anywhere. That they would stay live throughout the night and their hearts would be with us. There was a connection throughout the city that night. Everyone could feel it. We were united by grief, loss and heartbreak. And resting underneath that concoction of confusion and pain was the undeniable sense that this city, our Orlando, would never be the same.

It’s All a Little Absurd but None the Less Necessary

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Two days ago I voted in my first general election. It was a long road to get here, and as a first timer I might be able to offer a unique perspective on this three ring circus we call an election cycle. It all began last summer when my sister and I found a handy, dandy list that included all the political candidates on both sides. We spent a merry thirty minutes researching every candidate from Jill Stein to Jeb Bush. As first-time voters we wanted to be informed. My family gained our dual citizenship back in 2014 and so this was it, the first time we’d be able to exercise our civic duty. We were too young to vote when we left the UK and still on our visa/green card during the 2008/2012 election cycles. For those years we watched, but never really gave the process too much thought as we knew we had no power to cast a vote either way. We just had to sit back and enjoy the show. One of the perks of the American immigration system is that you spend years working your way through the system legally, paying the same taxes as citizens do, and receive no representation in the government.

It’s a grand ole’ time. Anywho, back to the beginning of this thing. We carefully combed through the stances and issues each candidate represented. I fell in love with a man named Bernie Sanders. From that point to the heart-breaking day he stepped down and endorsed Hillary, he was bae. I have no doubt he will always be my most ardent political love and my most soul-crushing political heartbreak. I phone banked for him, canvassed, went to rallies and went to awesome parties themed around him like Berniefest. If you’d like to know why he was the man for me, feel free to check out my previous blog  https://gracehatton.wordpress.com/2016/03/15/why-i-used-my-first-vote-to-vote-for-bernie-sanders/

I found the process of volunteering for him thoroughly edifying and even when I was being yelled at over the phone for supporting a socialist, or being flicked off by T-ump supporters I held my ground. I believed in him. I found the argument that people wouldn’t vote for him ‘because he couldn’t win’ utterly baffling. People seemed to like Bernie much more than Hillary, but didn’t want to vote his way because they felt he couldn’t win the primary. I wanted to scream at them ‘Of course he won’t win if you don’t freakin’ vote!’. I grew even more frustrated when I asked my fellow Bernie supporters if they had registered to vote and if they were ready to vote on March 15th (Florida’s primary). Most gave me silly excuses like they had an old address on file and were worried they would be committing voter fraud by going to vote with another address, or that they were registered in another state. All of these things could have been easily changed, but that seemed too much work for most people. Instead they continued to offer social media support in droves, and if this election was based on who received the most social media traction Sanders would have won (dank meme stash anyone?) However, that’s not how elections work.

They are decided by votes.  Yet it was clear so many were uninformed. The amount of people that had no idea when the primary was, or even how the primaries worked irritated every molecule in my body. Despite this frustration, I continued to remain stand fast in my commitment to the primary process. I followed every state. When Sanders won I was overjoyed, when he lost I felt defeated. My emotions were so closely tied to that man from January through June.  I came home crying after Super Tuesday because, as much as no one wanted to admit it, I knew T-ump was going to win the Republican side and from the looks of things Hillary was going to get the Democratic side. I knew the majority of voters, including myself, didn’t wholly trust Hillary and that would lead to an extremely tight race between Hillary and T-ump.

Like many of my fellow Berners, I held out hope all the way to the Democratic National Convention. We wanted some freak of nature to happen, the DNC to admit their wrongdoing and in turn put Sanders forward as the nominee. When the e-mails came out showing the DNC had systematically worked against Sanders, we all thought, THIS IT! Surely the DNC will see the errors of their ways and put our man Sanders up for the nomination, but there were dead set on Hillary. Then it happened, Sanders endorsed Clinton and she became the nominee. You could hear it, the communal heartbreak that resounded around the states. Bernie represented something more than just politics. He represented change, progress and a democratic socialist movement. That was lost when he endorsed Clinton. Here’s a recap of the pain my fellow Berners and I felt during the Democratic National Convention.

 

I ignored social media for a few days after that. When I was phone banking I had multiple older people tell me they were glad I was so fired up for a candidate, but I should prepare to be let down. They told me that very rarely does the political candidate you love make it to the final push. I had assured them they were wrong, that Bernie couldn’t be stopped. I was wrong. That was a hard pill to swallow. Then came the process of deciding if I was going to vote for the woman I had been fighting against or if I was going to vote third party.

Let me be clear: I don’t believe a third party vote is a wasted vote. If America is ever to move beyond a black and white, Republican vs Democrat mentality we have to embrace other parties. To those who say 3rd parties candidates never become president, remember Lincoln was a 3rd party candidate. At the time of his election, the Democrats (who weren’t so great at that point, cough, pro-slavery, cough) and the American Party (also known as the Know Nothing party and the Native American Party) were the two dominant parties. The Republicans came up on an anti-slavery platform and the undeniable presence of Lincoln allowed them to rise from obscurity to the white house. At that time the Republicans were “third party” but if voters would have neglected to vote for them just because they weren’t one of the major parties, we wouldn’t have one of the most iconic Presidents in history and most likely slavery would have continued for much longer.

Granted, this was a long time ago, but it shows that it hasn’t always been this Republican VS Democrat system. Also, there is nothing in the constitution that says only two parties can have majority. We don’t have to accept the current system. Yet in order for change to happen, we have to remove the stigma of voting third party and more people have to support third party candidates. Jill Stein, of the Green Party, tempted me. She had very similar values to Bernie and had even been willing to give Bernie her nomination. Yet as T-ump gained steam, for some reason I still can’t fathom, I realized one thing: he was practically unstoppable because the only group he hadn’t offend was the group that showed up to vote.

T-ump had avoided offending older, white men. Of all the demographics, this is the one that shows up  consistently– ranging from 60 to 70% attendance. This meant although he had virtually offended everyone he had befriended the community that actually shows up to vote, meaning he had a hell of a good chance of winning. This was the thought that absolutely terrified me. I cannot fathom a T-ump presidency. The amount of bigotry, hate and misogyny that man spews out is diabolical. Besides that the amount of backsliding this country would do under his leadership is truly terrifying. The man suggested getting rid of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Board of Education for heaven’s sake! Our planet is in peril, our education system is failing, health care is far behind many other developed countries (who are almost all on government run single payer systems) and gender inequality is very much a real thing. Obama has made huge strides, but in order for that progress to be built upon I knew our only hope was to elect a Democratic nominee.

So I spent weeks mulling it over and considering every angle, until I decided that the only way to stop T-ump was Clinton. I decided that she would be the best option for this country at this moment in our existence. I received a lot of backlash from my religious friends. To be clear, not religious friends my age (who are mainly democratically inclined) but instead old friends from England and older Christians. Apparently I’m going to hell guys. Never mind the whole believe that Jesus is the risen Son of God, admit your sins and confess him as your Lord and Saviour thing. Apparently that all goes out the window when you vote Democrat. But I pushed through it.

I tried not to let my brain explode every time I met a T-ump supporter or saw T-ump literature etc. I tried to remember that everyone is valid and is entitled to their own experiences. I enjoyed all the late night shows commentary, all the memes and the general craziness that went all with things. Then the primaries for Congress, Senate etc rolled around and I received my sample ballot. I find the ballots confusing, bulky and unappealing. None the less the same way I researched every Presidential candidate, I researched everyone on a local level and made an informed decision.

Side Rant: It is amazing how many people running for public office don’t even have a website and how hard it is to find the voting record of Judges. This was ridiculous to me, if you want my vote – pay $10 to HostGator and get yourself a website, like a grown up.

 

Again, the amount of people who still weren’t registered and had no idea another primary was even happening blew my mind. Civic engagement seems to be almost non-existent. I’ll admit every ballot I’ve received has taken me a few hours to get through all the names and research all the candidates. This is not a fun process. Many political websites look the same and have similar talking points. It can get a little blurry. Then there is the hassle of getting to a polling station, etc etc. There are many flaws in this system, (check out the video below). Due to these issues a very small part of me understands the low turnout.

 

However, the larger part of me, the part of me that is made up of me being a woman and an immigrant (which you know is a lot) is incredibly irritated by this country’s almost lethargical approach to civic engagement.  My female ancestors had to fight for the right to vote, they were arrested, they were beaten and they were ridiculed. But they made it through. Every woman should be energized to vote. As an immigrant I’ve had to endure years of this system, years of ignorance and sitting by not being able to do anything. Every immigrant who is lucky enough to make it to the citizenship stage, should be enthused to vote. Yet we’re not. Then we complain about the laws these officials make.

Three times now I’ve walked into a polling station to vote for candidates I did my research on and believed in. I might not have agreed with everything they stood for 100%, but I believed in their ability to move my city, state and country forward. Yet when I see this lack of engagement I grow disheartened and when I see all this ridiculous laws about ID etc being imposed I get livid. On top of that don’t get me started on how most states are ‘winner takes all’ (like seriously, WTF) and the Electoral College. That all being said I took all those feelings of rage, frustration, disappointment and general bleh-nesss and turned them into a catchy slogan, mainly for me, in my head, to keep me calm: It’s all a little absurd, but none the less necessary.

To speak to the ‘absurd’ part of that sentence here are two other nifty videos explaining deep, deep flaws with the electoral college/election rules. One is short. One is a little longer.

 

 

 

Now for the ‘none the less necessary’ part. Don’t get me wrong; I firmly believe this system needs to change. Unfortunately unless we’re willing to go all ‘1776’ or ‘Viva La France’ on this, we have to implement change by electing officials that believe the system is broken and can be improved upon. Yet we cannot elect officials if we don’t show up to vote. We have to adapt the system from the inside out, thus the ‘necessary part’. Right now a majority is voting (those lovely older white men we discussed) and unless we all commit to doing our research and showing up, they will continue to run this country while we bitch about it on Facebook.

Don’t let that happen anymore. You can be the difference with a few simple steps.

Do your research: yes its annoying and time consuming, but much less time consuming than putting up with elected officials you hate.

Fall in love with candidates and fight for them: I will never regret feeling the bern, and I will continue to look for candidates like him that support a progressive vision for this country.

Get Registered and Informed about Primaries etc: Registering is actually very quick, but keep in mind each state is different in regards to what you declare yourself as and at what points you can vote. Many states have closed primaries etc, which limit what you can vote for in the primaries and mids. Which I also found maddening, but again we’ve got to shake things up from the inside.

Be Nice to the Poll Workers: Polling stations and supervisor of election offices etc are severely understaffed and many states have dramatically cut down on stations (cough, Arizona, cough). This is not the poll workers fault, those laws are passed by the people we elect. Remember that those poll workers are not trying to steal your vote or screw you over. They are doing a job and have been given a certain set of rules to follow. Smile at them, thank them and make your voting experience as smooth as butter.

 

Here’s the deal. The American system is flawed, some might argue extremely flawed. My own experience has been far from perfect, but I can say I’m proud of how engaged I’ve been. Through every step of this thing I’ve known what I’ve stood for and the reasoning behind my decisions. Yes, it’s been frustrating, I might even goes as far as to say maddening, but here’s the crux of the issue – I get a vote. As a woman that’s something that had to be earned. As an immigrant that’s something that had to be earned. Thus I don’t take it lightly. I consider it a duty.

You have that duty too.  You get a vote. A vote many people had to fight and die for your right to have. Keep in mind there are millions of people around the world who don’t have that opportunity. Don’t take it for granted. Not voting is still voting. Not voting gives your vote to the majority. Don’t allow that to happen. Educate yourself and fight for your right to vote. Take responsibility for your country.

As far as tomorrow. At this point, you’ll have most likely made up your mind one way or the other. Nothing I say here will change that. So I won’t try. I won’t attempt to convince or cajole you. I will only offer you my hope.

I hope you chose optimism, love and acceptance over fear, hate and bigotry. I hope you chose the grander tapestry of every color, creed and nationality in this country over placing blame, anger and resentment on one group or religion. I hope you remember our future children and what they will see when they look back at this election. I hope you choose to leave them a legacy of inclusion and forward motion, not isolation and backpedaling. I hope you see the beauty of this country the way I do. I hope you choose to build, not tear down. I hope you choose the prospect of a brilliant future, not some delusion of a grander past.

Exercise your right. Let your voice be heard. Vote.

Sincerely,

A woman, an immigrant, a survivor, a believer and a first-timer.

 

 

P.S – I’ll be on Twitter live tweeting election results etc from about 6 pm EST onwards, most likely drinking copious amounts of tequila at the same time. Feel free to join me @gracehatton

Treme Gold

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There’s a square called Lafayette, a pretty little green thing nestled along St.Charles – where dark statues of old white men gaze upon a stage (they’re sharing the view with the few folks that don’t care about the parade quite yet). On this little stage six men stand with instruments  that shine like jewels as the sun finally reveals its face. ‘Treme’ is the name stretched across the tuba.

A name written in gold. Gold that’s akin to the sound coming from the trumpets, horns and alike. Smooth like honey but sexy like a slow dance, just the right amount of motion to make you feel a little something something. The dark statues that gaze on get a taste of life from that big easy sound, just a touch enough to remember the sounds of times gone by – of cracked oyster shells, street car screeches and Mardi Gras cheers.

As the days of old and the sound of Treme gold combine the dark statues gain just enough life to smile down on this, the heart of New Orleans.

 

 

  • I wrote this when I was in NOLA (sitting in Lafayette square listening to Jazz) back in February for Mardi Gras. I also took the photo 🙂

 

Why I Used My First Vote to Vote for Bernie Sanders

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A way back, before Sanders was winning states and the race for the white house had really begun, I told a friend of the family’s (a female minister) that I was voting for Sanders. Her face dropped as she responded with “But he’s a socialist.” I responded with “I know.”

I could see the utter shock on her face and in her body language. I am, after all, a Christian, and it seems in this country being Christian equals being firmly in the GOP camp. Now I’m also a Christian, who went to the most liberal college in the country, Warren Wilson College, and it was my time at Wilson that allowed me to come out from the shadow of a lifetime in the church and truly define my own opinions and moral compass. This is also my first election and the first vote of my life. I was too young to vote in the U.K before my family left and on a visa/green card I was not allowed to vote (which is taxation without representation, but that’s another story). My family earned dual citizenship back in January 2014 and thus this, at 24 years old, is the first time I have ever voted.

I say all of this to provide some background on myself and the seriousness of this vote for me. I voted for Sanders this morning, and I could not be prouder. However, I would like to let you know that why as a young, white, Christian female I voted for an old Jewish democratic socialist.

Let’s begin with that word socialism. I came from a socialist country, and we didn’t leave the U.K to run away from socialism, no we actually rather liked it. Yet in America, the word socialism is synonymous with communism and dictators and bad people, etc. Merriam-Webster defines socialism as “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.”

Essentially socialism comes from the viewpoint of certain things should be evenly distributed to everyone from a collective pot of money, i.e., taxes. I would like to point out that America already has elements of socialism, driven on a public road lately?

I would also like to point out that the top ten happiest countries in the world (this list of countries comes from the 2015 better life index report released by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development or OECD. This report is based on several factors including education, employment, life satisfaction, income, health, and the environment) have governments that have socialist ideals.

The top ten happiest countries are (from #10 to #1) are the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Australia, Iceland, Austria, Denmark, Canada, Norway and Switzerland. All of these countries have a very high full-time employment rate ranging from 73% to 98%. They all have extremely high literacy rates, between 99% and 100% – which stems from all of them having free or heavily subsidized education systems. For example, in Iceland students only have to pay the initial registration fee for their undergraduate education. They all have free or partly free healthcare systems. For example, in Norway all citizens get free access to emergency/basic health care, children under 16 receive free care and all costs related to pregnancy and giving birth are covered by the government. Beyond emergency, essential and pregnancy-related care adults in Norway pay an annual deductible before becoming eligible for an exemption card. The card entitles one to free healthcare for the remainder of that year. All of these countries also have a very high life expectancy, ranging from an average of 81 to 87 years.

On the other hand, the USA’s employment rate is the only thing that is even close to these countries. The US employment rate is currently at a high with 95%. However, this includes all part-time workers and workers on unemployment benefits. A US news article back in 2014 stated that researched show (at that point in time) the full-time worker rate was actually at 49.9%. America’s literacy rate is a dismal 86% with 21% of that reading below a 5th-grade level. Our education system is far from free with the 2015 graduate (graduating from a four-year college) averaging $35,000 in debt. A sobering statistic on top of that is that the combined debt of all 2015 graduates is estimated near $65 billion. As far as healthcare goes despite the USA being an insurance based system, we spend more on healthcare than any other developed country with poorer results (as far as life expectancy, etc.). Here’s a direct quote taken from a CNBC article from October 2015

“The U.S. spent an average of $9,086 per person on health care in 2013, which translated to more than 17 percent of gross domestic product, the fund noted.

That level of health spending relative to GDP is about 50 percent more than any of the countries studied for the report, which are Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The Commonwealth Fund said that in the U.S., the life expectancy in 2013 was an average of 78.8 years. By contrast, in Switzerland, which had the second-highest health spending per capita at $6,325, life expectancy was more than four years higher, at 82.9 years.”

As you can see these countries, which have some socialist ideals (many of which Sanders wants to implement) are doing quite a bit better than the USA currently. I hope the figures speak for themselves but here’s this awesome video about socialism, which is better than anything I could write.

 

Now onto the reasons I voted for Bernie:

A Completely Independent Candidate: Super PACS are, in my opinion, a horrifying part of the American political landscape. That and lobbyists but lobbyists don’t come into play too much during the election, or we could say Super PACS are the lobbyists of the election period. Anyhow Super PACS became a thing in 2010 and essentially is a group of people and or corporations/unions creating a fund that is then poured into a candidate’s campaign.

PAC’s (Political Action Committees) have been around for a lot longer, but the term Super PACS relates to the landmark Super Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The case was decided in a 5-4 vote, and the decision argued that, under the First Amendment, the government cannot prohibit independent spending by corporations and unions for political purposes.

Therefore, all of a sudden mega corporations, businesses, and unions, etc. could band together to support and subsequently influence a nominee. Unlike traditional PAC’s, there is no limit on who contributes to Super PACS and how much they contribute. The Koch Brothers alone (who are despicable in their unapologetic abuse of the planet, you can find out more about them through this Rolling Stone article http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/inside-the-koch-brothers-toxic-empire-20140924?page=5) contributed over $400 million to the Republican party through Super PACS in 2012 and are estimated to spend over $290 million in this election.

As much as Super PACS are not supposed to influence candidates can you guess who benefits from Republican ideologies and policies concerning fossil fuels and climate change? Oil barons like the Koch Brothers who pour money into Republican candidates to keep policies that benefit them, not the people or the planet, alive. Also, fun fact the Koch Brothers were major backers of George W Bush and profited quite a bit from the Iraq war.

Every candidate apart from Sanders and he who shall not be named has received support from Super PACS – thus meaning every candidate has backers with millions of dollars and very particular interests. Don’t you think that might come into play during the White House years? On another level Super PACS have created an American Oligarchy that has made it nearly impossible for people without prior political connection and or fame to run.

See what Jimmy Carter had to say about it:

 

Sanders, however, is beating the odds. He has raised all of his funds through individual donations – averaging at $27 a person. As he raises support from individual donations, he is proving that not only can a grassroots movement take a candidate all the way to the White House it can support a candidate who owes nothing to any major corporation or special interest. Sanders policies and plans are his own, and no one can come back at him at a later point and try to use their Super PAC mega millions to influence future policy.

A Man for the Family: There are many issues Sanders brings up in regards to the family, creating a living wage, streamlining healthcare and education, but, in my opinion, one of the most important issues Sanders is bringing up is paid maternity leave.

Now I could quote so many statistics here but as most people respond to visuals better, here are some cute videos.

The sweetest and shortest one:

 

The hip/Infographically fun Buzzfeed one:

 

The Super in-depth and hilarious (in a really depressing way) one:

 

Did you see in the Buzzfeed video that Estonia gives 108 weeks of paid leave? Estonia is kicking America’s butt, which never happens any other time. Women and men are losing their jobs and their income so that they can stay with their babies after birth!

Now here is a really sobering fact: under the Animal Welfare Act in 17 states (including Nevada, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Illinois) it is illegal to sell a puppy before eight weeks old (Virginia also has a law banning puppy sale, but it’s before seven weeks). This law is there because it is deemed cruel to separate the puppy from its mother while it is still adjusting and feeding from the mother.

To put that in contrast, a puppy (and I love puppies) is better protected by the law than a human baby! After all, there is no law requiring human mothers to stay with their babies for eight weeks to adjust/be adequately nourished. Yet a puppy has that protection in 17 states. If you cannot see why this is not only an issue but morally wrong I would implore you to think about your own mother and your future children. Don’t you think your mom/your wife/sister/yourself (if you are planning on having a baby) would be much happy and more rounded and content and healthier if they could spend the same amount of time as a puppy is allowed to spend with its mother?

I would also like to point out that the last legislation to even come close to providing maternity leave was in 1993 and merely provided job security (i.e., you can leave, but we’ll keep your job) for women with full-time salaried positions. This did nothing to provide funding for new mothers or anything for the millions upon millions of women who are self-employed or work part-time.

If that does not convince you, please watch the below Buzz Feed video of men experiencing childbirth pains:

 

Now imagine going through that and being told to get your ass back to work, if you know you want to keep your job, or maintain your level of income to you know, provide for your child.

Sanders has a plan to bring about a paid 12 week period of maternity leave and has cosponsored a bill called the FAMILY Act with Senator Gillibrand that is currently in review. This would be covered by a small tax (two-tenths of one percent), similar to social security, coming out of a check and an amount matched by the employer – which amounts to about $1.50 per week on each end (employer and employee). I would gladly pay $1.50 a week to contribute to other women’s ability to stay home with their children and eventually my own.

It is an absolute disgrace that the USA has no coverage for mothers, and we should be ashamed that we are so far behind. Again we care more about puppies and Estonia is kicking out butts. Remember that.

A Protector of the Environment: I live in a state that has Rick Scott as a governor. There are many many things I could say about this snake of a human being. However, I will just say this Governor Scott has banned the words ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change’ being used in any official Florida reports. Despite the fact that we are in a state that if sea levels continue to rise will be half sunk.

If you want to learn more about this real thing, please read this informative Huffington Post article http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/12/rick-scott-climate-change_n_6855006.html

As a resident of one of the most vulnerable states I am tired of living under a government, both locally and nationally, that continues to deny the existence of climate change and its effect – despite the mountains of evidence for it.

Again people tend to respond better to visuals, so here are some nifty videos.

The Leo Finally Gets his Oscar/ Don’t Take the Planet for Granted One:

 

The Bill Nye Gives You the Basics One:

 

The Why Your Brain Wants to Fight Climate Change One:

 

BONUS: What It Means for US Cities

 

If we do not begin to work towards creative solutions to the climate change issue, soon the results will be disastrous, and the USA is embarrassingly far behind the rest of the world when it comes to policies that combat climate change.

Sanders’ plan to combat climate change includes reclaiming democracy from the billionaire fossil fuel lobby (Koch Brothers anyone?), accelerate a just transition away from fossil fuels (solar in Florida anyone?), investing in clean and sustainable energy (again solar in Florida people), revolutionize electric and transportation infrastructure (you know like building better public transport, trains, etc. like the rest of the world has), and lead the international community to solve climate change and prevent international combat (fewer resources = more wars over those resources, unless we work together to solve the problem globally).

I believe Sanders has the best plan for combating climate change and has the guts to implement it. The thought of having someone like Rick Scott in the oval office terrifies me because every minute the government chooses to be ignorant is another minute we are blinding marching towards destruction.

We have the resources to move towards a clean, sustainable future, and Sanders can take us there.

A Life Long Champion for Justice: Sanders has been politically active since the 1960s when he was a student in Chicago. In 1962, he organized a sit-in at the University’s Presidents Office at the University of Chicago because the college dorms were segregated. This was done with UC’s chapter of Congress of Racial Equality. Sanders went on to become the president of that chapter in his junior year.

The same year he protested a local restaurant chain for their discrimination toward African Americans. In 1963, he attended the March on Washington and later that year he was arrested. He was arrested for protesting segregation of schools, in this protest he was chained to an African American woman and was arrested for resisting arrest.

CNN recently reported on the video that was found proving Sanders was at the event and was arrested (as some people have doubted it)

http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2016/02/20/bernie-sanders-1963-arrest-video-pkg.wgn/video/playlists/bernie-sanders-2016/

There was also a newspaper article written back in 1963 that covered the event and listed Sanders as one of the four arrested.

This whole period of his life shows that Sanders was standing up for what’s right from a young age. Sanders stood up for people who were being oppressed by the government and culture of the time. After all, Sanders was a white Jewish boy standing with African Americans to protest segregation; this was a not a popular thing to do in that period, but he did it anyway – because it was right.

Thanks to this history many African Americans have come out in favor of Sanders including Spike Lee, Erica Gardner, and Harry Belafonte. His latest ad is highlighting that record.

 

Sanders became mayor of Burlington, Vermont in 1981 and from there he began his political career.

Now if I am being honest, the first video I ever saw of Sanders and got me #feelingthebern was the one below. In 1995 – when LGBT rights were a far off dream – Sanders stood up to Duke Cunningham (who in 2004 pleaded guilty to taking 2.4 million in bribes during his time and spent a few years in prison before disappearing to Arkansas) who felt the need to bash gay men and women serving in the military.

 

When I saw this, I essentially saw a good man standing up to a bully. A bully that felt the need to make one group feel smaller so he could be taller. Whereas Sanders, rightly so, saw the overt disrespect to people that give their lives to their country simply because of their sexual orientation.
This video showed me what kind of man Sanders is. A man who has been fighting for justice for underrepresented groups since he was younger than me. The fact that he has spent a lifetime fighting the fight that was never popular or easy but was always right should be enough to earn him your vote.

The Most Consistent and Ethical Politician I’ve ever Seen: We all know that as we grow and mature our opinions and stances on things change or evolve. So one would expect a politician to change a little over 30 plus years in politics. Sanders has not. His message of equality, wealth distribution, taking care of the less fortunate, avoiding world conflict, providing education, protecting the American middle class and fighting for what’s right has been the same since he began his journey.

Allow Sanders own words to confirm this:

 

I’ve never seen a politician with such a consistent and committed message. Sanders has also been at the forefront of issues, again standing up for what’s right when it is not popular. Sanders was one of the very few that voted against the War in Iraq and voted against the beast that is the Patriot Act (an act that essentially lets the government do whatever it wants when it comes to surveillance and interrogation under the guise of suspecting terrorism). Here is his speech from 2002 when the invasion of Iraq was on the table.

 

Sanders has also been an opponent of unnecessary warfare for years, check out 1992 Bernie:

 

Sanders also famously filibustered for eight and a half hours against the Bush Tax Cuts in 2010. The whole video is on YouTube – if you want to look it up.
Moreover, if you are wondering about Sanders political experience here it is. Sanders served as the Mayor of Burlington, VA for eight years (1981-89) and during that time he was voted one of America’s best mayors and Burlington has consistently been ranked as one of the USA’s most livable cities, Sanders was then elected as a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Vermont (Jan 1991-2007), then as the United States Senator from Vermont (Jan 2007-2015), and as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (Jan 2013-Jan 2015). In 2012, he was reelected as Senator with a 71% approval rating.
Another thing I would like to point out is Sanders saw the 2008 crash coming thanks to the set-up of the American Economy and for years has been attempting to show the corruption of Wall Street.

This video was recorded in 1998:

 

If you look at Sanders opponents on both sides, no one has the voting record that he has. No one has such a consistent message like he does. Sanders knows his message; he knows that the middle class is suffering, and he is for the people. He has always been for those who are being persecuted, and even when he was on the wrong side of the popular opinion, he was on the right side of morality.
I have researched all the candidates, and no one comes remotely close to Sanders years of truthful and persistent message. His record and his stance on many issues for years almost make it seem like the USA is catching up to him as far as morality.
He protested segregation and fought for the rights of African American’s when it was not popular, he fought for LGBT rights and respect years 20 years before gay marriage became legal, he opposed the Iraq war and the Patriot Act while everyone was in post 9/11 war fever, he saw the recession coming and tried to motivate the government to monitor and keep big banks in check for years upon years, and he has fought for the rights, especially the medical benefits, of Veterans for years.

Sanders is the most consistent and authentic politician I’ve ever seen or heard.

 

 

In Closing, there are many more reasons that I could go into as far as Sander’s stance on issues (like healthcare, education, Veterans, gender equality and wealth inequality) that make me want to vote for him, but then this would be an even longer essay so please check out http://www.berniesanders.com and read the issues section.

 
Regardless of the issues, I will say this I know I used my first vote ever to vote for a man that has been consistently ethical, consistently for the people and consistently opposed to corruption and immorality.

 
This country is at the precipice – we can continue forward seeking to create a better life for our citizens, or we can give into old mindsets, prejudices, and fear – which may be pleasurable in the short term but will eventually hurt far more than help.

We have an opportunity to elect someone that genuinely cares about the people of this country and wants to move us to a healthier, more sustainable and peaceful future.
Please don’t let party lines and old rhetoric come between that. I am not saying that Sanders will fix everything, indeed, there will be many hurdles for him to overcome, but I believe Sanders is our best shot at a future that we can all be proud of.

 
However, this future can only happen with votes. The right to vote is something people were beaten for, something people bled and died for. A hundred years ago I would not have been able to vote because of my gender. As an immigrant, I was not allowed to vote. Be thankful for your ability to vote and take a stand.

 

I am honored to use this, my first, vote for Sanders. I chose Sanders as a woman, a Christian, and a first-time voter.

 
As a woman, Sanders fights for my right to be treated equally – to be paid the same as my male co-workers and to be able to provide for my children, through healthcare and maternity leave, when I chose to have them.

 
As a Christian Sanders allows me to back a candidate that values the good in life – through his desire for peace, through his, believe in human equality, through bringing corruption to its knees, through his fight for those living in poverty and through a respect for all religions that is rare in politics.

 
As a first-time voter Sanders gives me hope – hope for a future where we work together to fix the issues facing the planet and the people on every level. But more than this he gives me hope that someone can run who is not a puppet of any corporation, Super PAC or political elite and actually make a difference. He gives me hope that good men, who have dedicated their lives to the protection of the less fortunate, can succeed and can fight the bias and inequality within a broken system.

 

 

He gives me hope, and I believe soon I will have the honor to call him my President and actually be proud to say such a thing.

 
The political revolution is on.

 
Are you in?

 

 

 

 

• P.SThank you for reading and hearing what I have to say. I have sources for all my information, which I will be more than happy to share if you’d like, and please don’t forget to vote.

 

 

 

 

Listen to This: We Won’t (Jaymes Young and Phoebe Ryan)

Video

I recently watched How to Be Single and Phoebe Ryan’s single ‘Mine’ was featured on the soundtrack, which by the way is an incredible track on its own.

From looking up all her music this gorgeous collaboration came up and both lyrically and soundwise its super pleasing. I love its chill vibe and how its describe the mutual decision to see that despite how fun or pleasurable a relationship may be sometimes its just too obvious that its never going to work out. This song is a beautiful exploration of that place.