Category Archives: love

Diary of a Staycation: Waking up alone

I woke today alone.  It is cooler at Vanessa’s house in South Central, than in Echo Park. The breeze comes through the windows. It’s a bit warm for me, but not too warm. I will cool myself with wet scarves and iced tea which is brewing. My hair is a mess. I am wearing pajamas and a tank top.  I am slow to deal with breakfast or tea. There is no rush, no one else to consider right now. I can focus on craft and growth.

Vanessa had wanted to have coffee (tea) in the morning, but I messaged her to wait a day. I am also in a lot of pain, which is common with the fibromyalgia, especially after packing and moving yesterday. I usually give myself the first day on a trip, just to rest, as well as the first day back.  This systemic pain can be very limiting.

These days, I rarely wake up alone. Aside from my partner Andy, waking up next to me, there are all the guests, my team members, neighbors and the cat in my home, and morning is the most sociable time at our bnb at DragonflyHill Urban Farm. Once the workday has begun, my bedroom turns into a hallway for team members going to and from the laundry room. Since I need to work from bed, we have many bedside meetings. The bathrooms are all shared in our home, shared between guests and team members. I do not have a private bathroom, so just going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I’m at work. I check my hair, wear sweats to bed, not pajamas and check myself before leaving the room.  Breakfast is wonderful, as everyone gathers in our dining room, but it is also a daily obligation. It is home, it is family, it is community and it is work.

Image of a crafstman house dining room, with a huge breakfast spread: tea, coffee, eggs, bagels, sausage, fruit, condiments

Breakfast at DragonflyHill Urban Farm

Before DragonflyHill, before Andy, I was dangerously lonely. Loneliness is a huge health issue. It is rampant with so many people suffering from isolation, unable to maintain or find human relationships. Most workplaces are dehumanizing and impersonal and one is expected to be “professional”.  It is safer not to reveal much.  Outside of primary relationships, there is little emotional intimacy, and there are many people who are not in a relationship who are desperately alone. It is especially hard with a significant illness and for single parents, who are not alone, but struggle alone to take care of themselves and their children.  I am not so desperate now. I love my life and the amazing people in it. This for me is a huge miracle. Time alone allows me to reflect on that when I am not caught up in the bubble of “getting it all done”.

Today is wide open. I want to work on an essay that has been in penultimate draft for over a year, and get it out. I also want to update my photography web page. That should be enough for one day.  If I have anything else, I’ll report it later.

Words to Roll By:

  • Black Lives Matter
  • DISability inclusion always, all days,  every way
  • LGBTQIAA affirmative

    Wood or linoleum cut. Black letters on brown and white background. Text: If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together. Aboriginal Activist Group

    – Lilla Watson, Aboriginal Activist

  • Gender justice
  • Free Palestine
  • Refugees have right of passage & right of return
  • Antisemitism is racism
  • Fat is a DISability issue
  • The only safe borders are open borders
  • U.S. out of North America (yeah, you read that right)
  • Indigenous rights now
  • Universal human rights
  • Universal humanity
  • Workers’ Rights
  • A woman’s place is in the world
  • Trans sisters are women
  • LOS MARINES NO PASARAN!
  • DIALOGUE MATTERS
  • HONOR THE TREATIES
  • No ban, no Wall!
  • IF IT ISN’T INTERSECTIONAL IT ISN’T CLASS STRUGGLE
  • CLASS STRUGGLE IS KNOWING WHICH SIDE OF THE FENCE YOU ARE ON, CLASS ANALYSIS IS KNOWING WHO IS THERE WITH YOU (anonymous poster c 1970)
  • Decolonize!
  • Socialism the means of production
  • Honor youth
  • Respect your elders!
  • Age in place!
  • No means no!
  • Radical consent!
  • Healing is a community issue.
  • Health care is a human right

    White text on dark blue background over two hands holding each other in a u-shape under text. Text: If you're truly intersectional in your activism and advocacy you're going to make a lot of enemies.

    -Emma Rosenthal

  • No blood for oil
  • No U.S. imperialism
  • Antifa
  • Prison abolition
  • No torture
  • Bullying is bigotry
  • Solidarity not charity
  • Exclusion serves the oppressor. Inclusion serves the struggle
  • Nothing without all of us: Justice not just us.
  • Housing, education, health care are basic human rights
  • Honor the earth
  • physical beauty isn’t a virtue
  • Down with white supremacy
  • Don’t cross a picket line
  • Fight the labor aristocracy
  • Nothing changes without a complaint
  • Never Again
  • Never Again Anyone
  • I remember the Armenian Genocide
  • Jihad means struggle.
  • This is my jihad…

If I left you out, let me know, because none of us is free unless all of us are free.

ANY QUESTIONS? DO YOU HATE ME NOW? UNFRIEND ME UNFOLLOW ME.
Some bridges need to be burned

letter to a friend who suggests i am sick because i want to be

your ideas aren’t new to me. i don’t talk about my illness nor am i sick in order to get attention or because this is what i actually want. i have enough talented and intelligent, that if i weren’t this sick, could get a whole lot of attention doing a whole lot of things. as it is, i could get more attention pretending my illness didn’t impact my life the way it does. i could get a whole lot of attention pretending to be positive and happy, when i’m really not. i think there is a greater truth to be told, and a cost to that truth, but i also appreciate that my ability to articulate my experience is of benefit to those who also endure what i endure, but don’t have that capacity. —they tell me this! hearing from people who are validated by my words is priceless and makes my efforts valuable, to me, and apparently to others.

i think we live in a very compassionless society that blames people for their misfortunes and loves stories about people who “made it”. it’s a lot easier than actually taking care of each other. it’s easier than compassion, and it’s a politic that supports a brutal ruling class– that the rich got where they were, because they THINK better, that healthy, beautiful people are somehow more spiritual, superior.

it’s a politic that i embraced at one point in my life, and it rejected me. it doesn’t work. at a certain point all it does is create huge areas of denial –denial of pain, denial of people from the margins.

i do make healthy choices– eat healthy foods, do yoga, meditate, take vitamins, etc. i’ve tried many expensive modalities for treatment. i’ve thought good thoughts, etc. i’m sick. it’s just the way it is. (actually there are things i can do to get better, but some of them are too expensive right now. i simply don’t have the money.) thing is, when i get sick like this, speaking the truth about my condition, and resting resting resting is what helps. i’ve had this condition for 15 years. i know what it takes to manage it.

friends who want to help can offer to do so. they can ask my partner what they can do to ease his responsibility. they can give me rides to drs offices, bring over food, help out around the house, bring groceries, help raise funds for the care i can’t afford, support my work, or even, just visit. just sit and bear witness to what i real, what the present challenge is. — the things people used to do for each other, what they still do in compassionate communities.

life isn’t changed because we think good thoughts. nice idea, but it just doesn’t work that way. i’ve know a lot of people who were really silenced and marginalized with this thinking– people who have survived cancer, but not because they thought better than the people who didn’t. i lost friends to cancer who tried to be positive, ate all the right foods, did all the right things. i think it added to their stress, when what they really needed was to say exactly how frustrated, scared, alone they felt.

we tell people they create their own condition because it excuses a whole lot of injustice and marginalization, and because it makes us comfortable. it’s not easy listening to people in pain. it’s not easy listening to people who complain. it’s a lot easier to silence that in a spirituality of complicity and obedience. it’s certainly a lot easier than actually fixing this mess the world is in, and creating a society that meets human needs.

i also am not a fan of madonna. (the friend who this is to, used her as an example of positive actualization and insight).  she’s a very mean and narcissistic person who has left a lot of bodies in her wake. the way she treats people who work for her, in her own words, is hardly positive, kind or healing. she’s no one i look up to. she has masterfully marketed her extreme talent into meaningless pop drivel and sexual objectification. as for her attachment to kaballah– it’s an ancient tradition, not a passing fad. it is very complex, not something that can be simplified for mass production. cultural appropriation is never attractive.

i haven’t come to these ideas casually, nor have your suggestions failed to make their mark on my life, nor have i rejected them capriciously.

i think greater healing though is had through telling the truth, no matter how inconvenient or uncomfortable. i know i am at odds with the culture around me, but nothing changes without complaints and non-conformity. i would rather find myself a small counterculture of resistance than find ways to please and appease an intolerant and compassionless society that blames people for their conditions, instead of insisting on ways to meet human necessity and asking people what they need.

i don’t want to have this conversation more than once, because i find it very hurtful and isolating. there is something more negative than the negativity sick or otherwise marginalized people are often accused of. it is the negativity of negating the full range of human experience and existence. it is the negativity of telling people what they have to say, who they are as they are, has no place in the larger society and is their own fault, if they only thought better or adopted some magic protocol.

there is a difference between curing an illness, and healing. healing is a much deeper process that requires deep truth telling, process and transformation. it is often quite wrenching, lonely and painful. (it is why so many cultures have initiation rituals that involve pain).

(at this point in time, there are no cures for my condition, though there are ways of managing it.)

i am not interested in maintaining the world the way it is, on either a small or large scale. i am interested in the deeper transformation, the deeper healing, and we won’t get there by insisting we need to think positively. we will only get there when we can clean up the muck that keeps us apart, that separates, that exploits and that poisons us. we certainly won’t get there by telling people in difficult circumstances, that their reality exists because they want to live that way.

(anyone who really knows me, knows i have a tenacity and a spirit that is hardly complacent or stagnant.)

my illness is caused by trauma and environmental toxins. without going into the details here (storytelling doesn’t mean some things aren’t private), the trauma i endured most people don’t survive. the trauma i endured is rooted deep in the power relationships of a brutal body politic, that i am determined to fight, on every level.

i tell the truth. i don’t just lie in this bed, sick, meditating, waiting, eating well, etc. i share my journey and i express my journey as a political one, among the larger issues of the day, imperialism, health care, education, oil spills, domestic violence, genocide, racism, sexism, ableism, heterosexism, etc. and i challenge those systems that allow these negative realities to go unchallenged under a cloud of enforced positivity and false blame.

Kathy Running Horse Wells 1957-2010


kathy and i both came into dis-ability together, especially the intolerance within the teachers’ unions for full, dignified inclusion. we both shared the initial shock at the pervasiveness of dis-ability exclusion, ridicule and hostility. i have, we have lost a real sister in the struggle. i loved her so much. i will miss her very very much. perhaps those at this years nea convention, when the mourn for her, can, in her honor, demand the nea convention, at the very least, address the issues of accessibility (and dignity) that have gone ignored for years.
-emma

andy griggs, emma rosenthal and kathy wells

A Valiant Sister Warrior’s Crossing

It is with great sadness and love that we share the following message from NEA AI/AN Pacific Regional Director and CIEA President, our brother Clyde Hodge.Dear Brothers and Sisters,(I’ve just checked into Baton Rouge and am writing this as soon as possible.)

It is my very sad duty to inform you that our friend and ally, long time CTA and NEA AI/AN Caucus member and American Indian rights activist Kathy Running Horse Wells crossed over to be with her ancestors today, at about 4:00 PM Pacific daylight Savings Time, today, June 24 2010, at a hospital in the SF Bay Area due to complications from diabetes.

To quote Cheryl Whitney who called to let me know, “CTA and NEA AI/AN caucuses and Union work was her life.” We will miss Kathy and wish she were still with us, but we must celebrate her struggles, battles, and successes in the work she did for NEA, CTA, the AI/AN Caucuses, and the American Indian/Alaska Natives educational community. She was a Strong-hearted Warrior.

I trust you will say a prayer in your own way for the family, friends, and other loved ones Kathy left behind, and please allow yourself a prayer as well.

In sadness and solidarity,

All my Relations,

Clyde

It is also of note that we share and continue Kathy’s advocacy for disability access and inclusion at the NEA-RA. Kathy shared with Emma Rosenthal and others many times, the humiliation that was typically experienced by union activists with dis-abilities. Tommy Flanagan  CTA/NEA  American Indian/Alaska Native Caucus

ruth and kathy summer 2009

A tale of two inquiries (this is how we do it!)

As if there really were a god, the following invitation ran on my fb feed, just as i was addressing the issue of access at another event.  (see the previous post!)  I asked Yesi if I could publish our dialogue and use her name.  She agreed.  Please note, how, in comparison to the previous post’s example, i made the same inquiry,  in  much the same way, with incredibly different results. Unfortunately the previous post’s example is more often the norm.

When approached by anyone from a marginalized group, who asserts that your actions might be discriminatory,  especially if you have little experience with that area of  marginalization, Yesi demonstrates how to assertively and humbly respond to  such an accusation.

This is textbook, and in my opinion and experience, applies to race, gender issues, colonization, etc.  etc.  etc.

In exile,

Emma

Yesi King save the date!

Fundraiser and Website Launch Party!

Location:Self Help Graphics

Time:7:00PM Saturday, July 3rd

Emma Rosenthal it is my understanding that this is not a wheelchair accessible event.

Yesi King oh no emma, it definitely is! self-help graphics is wheelchair accessible! please come, i’d love to meet you in person 🙂

Yesi King i’ve actually updated the event page with that info. my apologies :/

Emma Rosenthal as i recall, the bathroom is not, and unless they installed an elevator, the entire upper floor is not, either. when i brought this up to a board member, i was addressed with hostile indifference, called necia and taken off of her fb list. so if it is physically accessible, it still isn’t dis-ability affirmative. — a very important consideration for pwds because hostility, ridicule and humiliation are more the norm in social environments than not.

Yesi King hmm, i actually haven’t checked out the place in a while, but i will ask. if it isn’t i will be very, very disappointed actually :/ …and i agree with you.

Emma Rosenthal better not say it’s accessible until you confirm. the humiliation and incredible inconvenience of attending an event that isn’t is devastating.

Yesi King good point :/

Emma Rosenthal yesi,  i very much appreciate the openness you have expressed on this issue. usually i am attacked brutally for the mere suggestion. i need a few days to sort things through, but call me and let me know how i can help you make this a fully inclusive event. 818 404 5784

Yesi King hi emma, i definitely will 🙂

Yesi King

Hi Emma.

You said to give you a couple of days to sort this through so I didn’t want to intrude by calling you too soon. So, I opted to send you a message instead. I hope I’m not bothering you.

I’ve read your blog posts (cool blog name btw 🙂 and I’ve really been thinking about the points you have made…and I feel HORRIBLE. You have every right to be upset, you make excellent points, and unfortunately, in order to create change, people have to be put on the spot and be made uncomfortable. I’m very honored to have crossed paths with you.

I’ve asked the people on the team in charge of securing the location about SHG. I haven’t been there in a long time and apparently some things have changed. So, unlike their website and other internet sites about them post, they are NOT wheelchair accessible. The place isn’t two stories; it’s only one story, the upstairs. The bottom spaces apparently don’t belong to SHG. The main part of our event will take place outside but the art gallery will be upstairs :/ According to my friend, SHG just simply has never had enough funds to take on that sort of project and they apparently don’t own the building anymore. They had to sell it a while back. It really SUCKS that the place isn’t accessible for dis-abilities.

Now, this is the context in which the event is being organized: we are not an official org (we are not a non-profit), we do not have an abundance of options for spaces for what we’re trying to pull off, and we do not have funds. We were actually lucky to get the space for free. We just want to raise funds for this website project…because we’re all broke and can’t afford it on our own.

Like I said, I feel horrible…and stupid…and ignorant. The items above are not an excuse. If it was any other situation, this would not be acceptable. What can we do? Please help…we want to make this as inclusive as possible. Forgive my ignorant question, but what exactly do we need to make this inclusive and accessible? I would like to begin making a list asap.

I can’t claim to understand where you are coming from, but I can surely empathize. I really admire you for standing up for this. I think about my son, whom I love more than anything. I wonder how I would feel if he was in a wheel chair, and let me tell you, I’d be PISSED AS HELL if places weren’t accessible to him.

I’m sorry for this. I know what I have to do. I have to ask my friends with whom I am planning this event, to either change the location or find a damn way to raise the funds to accommodate. If they refuse, then I will refuse to be a part of this event. Discrimination is discrimination period.

Thank you Emma,

Yesi

PS. Not sure which book signing event I will be able to make it to, but I will definitely make it to at least one 🙂

Emma Rosenthal

first of all, be easy on yourself. You’re addressing an issue that is new to you, in a very responsible way. (don’t muck it up with guilt- which is always destructive and rarely serves justice.) for me, your timing is perfect. your interest in very affirming. The reaction you observed in my most recent post, is more typical than we would like. (though this is the first time I’ve actually been accused of being racist and exercising privilege in the context of dis-ability access.) we need to address this, not individually, but as a community.

I tried to think of comparable situations—venues that might be inaccessible to other marginalized groups:

Homes in neighborhoods hostile to certain ethnic groups, or sexual orientations,

a strip club–i can hear the rationale now–“oh lighten up, it’s just fun and for a good cause (baby!)” ,

a venue near a police station or ins station,

certain religious venues.

But disability inclusion presents very unique (physical as well as social) obstacles. it’s why andy and i put out a call to the left to begin the dialogue to set up a protocol and find collective ways to address these issues, with short and long range planning.

Even well funded organizations can’t resolve these questions overnight. Right now we’re struggling with what to do if someone requests sign language interpretation. We haven’t found an affordable answer yet. Hopefully we will before the situation presents itself.

The last time I was at SHG they did have use of the first floor. Some possible “solutions” are to see if that space can be made available for the event. Since your event is outside, see if (this is a long shot) there is a way to make the artwork accessible, there. One (not so optimal solution, could be a video feed of the gallery. –-not okay as a long term solution, but certainly an improvement. If the bathroom is not accessible, an accessible porta potty costs a little more than $100 to rent. And our newest strategy is to see if a neighboring business has an accessible restroom that can be used. That’s what we’re doing at Imix in Eagle Rock. Their restroom is not accessible, but a coffeehouse nearby is. In establishing this, we instigated a dialogue that may change Imix’ approach to this issue in the future, and may have also fostered relationships between the two businesses.

I want to draw up a list of accessible venues, look into ways groups can collaborate, pool resources, share equipment. (We have a portable ramp, btw.) Imagine, again the community and working relationships this would foster – the benefit beyond addressing the initial issue.

if you can’t make the event accessible, and you can’t find an alternative venue, you can weigh the decision to have or not have the event, or to put it off until you can find a space that can meet your needs.

If you do decide to have the event, while it is never acceptable to discriminate, a statement that clearly delineates the access, the options for pwds, is essential in not wasting the time of pwds, who know that if it is not stated, not only is the event probably inaccessible physically, but it is probably not socially accessible either.—in other words, even if the space is structurally accessible, once it is full of people and materials, the likelihood that it will be a positive and safe space for pwds, is less likely. On the other hand, if the access is spelled out, it gives pwds a choice, and it also indicates that the issue is one of which the host is aware. (though I am starting to observe that this is being used more as a copout than a real solution. The two events this weekend that included such statements were not events where i would have felt welcomed and they involved organizations that had promised such misunderstandings and oversights would not happen in the future. Instead, what seems to be their position, is that it is okay to discriminate some of the time, as long as an advisory is stated.) it reminds me of the signs from the 1950s- “no dogs, no jews no coloreds.” –Good to know, but not exactly a revolutionary politic.

I hope this helps. It’s not a complete solution. But it’s a start.

Yesi, with your permission, I would like to publish our dialogue on the blog, with or without (preferably with) your real name. I think it is an excellent example of how to begin to address this issue and the appropriate way to address any dialogue on privilege, inclusion and bigotry.

in solidarity and struggle, for a world with no borders or barriers,

emma

Yesi King

thanks emma…but i tend to live on extremes, it’s something i’m working on 😉

also, i’m sorry but i can’t ignore something when it’s wrong. especially when it’s so blatantly wrong and unjust. i can’t ignore it…and you’re right we do need to address this as a community 🙂

my friend neil actually suggested that we rent a portal potty. so that, we can definitely do…thank you for offering the ramp. i will ask them if it is needed. also, regarding the art gallery, i’m workin on that and waiting for a response. oooh and i have a student who knows sign language so i hope she can help out 🙂

also, of course you can publish this dialogue. it IS an excellent example of how to address this issue, creating change, connections, and showing that it can be done 🙂

yesi

Emma Rosenthal

i appreciate what you are saying. i’m the same way when it comes to oppression and marginalization, though i try to temper my expectations in a less rigid praxis, understanding the contradictions and constraints we live with under capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy. i do know, with dis-ability, the social barriers are more significant than the physical ones. neither of the two events this last week, had obstacles to my participation. i can climb a few steps. but i know better to go into such a situation when it is full of people who have no understanding, experience, and awareness of dis-ability rights and solidarity. the hostility, indifference, resentment, the use of space, the way people move around, would have been very difficult and perhaps dangerous for a pwd. the problem with accommodationism, is it just doesn’t work. it never serves the one who is accommodating the marginalization– not in race, gender, colonization nor with dis-ability. it always ends up serving the marginalizer. it always obscures the marginalization. it always demands more of the person who faces exclusion when the real onus is on the entity that is the perpetrator of the marginalization.

emma

keywords: anatomy of a blacklisting

Renewing my Soul

Emotional Spring Cleaning

Affirming core principles through Kabala.

The last few years have been very hard on me. I am amazed at the extent of my marginalization as a person with a dis-ability, and as an activist who dares to speak up for Palestinian human rights.  The nexus of the two has had an enormous impact on my life.  Almost every time I leave my home I am exposed humiliating and even dangerous situations.  I have had to limit my contact with the outside world.  Pwds (people with dis-abilities) don’t have a ghetto to fall back into (except the  gulag of healthcare facilities and skid row.) We can’t gain comfort in the exclusivity of our exclusion. We make due in the world of those who may some day join us in this marginalized identity, by illness or accident, (serving as a deadly reminder of their own vulnerability).  Andy and I are building a space where I, where we can work, where people can gather, where we can hope to develop a community based on values other than moral relativism, cronyism, opportunism and greed; though it’s hard to go against the grain of the pervading culture. Fueled by the motion picture industry, this is a tit for tat (and a tit and ass) city, and it filters down into almost every relationship.  “What can you do for me?”

This year has been especially devastating for me.  Even limiting my interactions to my own home– an amazing compound that includes supportive neighbors, a small urban farm, a work studio, a gathering place to build connections, I am still constantly hit with messages of marginalization, usually in emails attacking my body politic, defending privilege, making excuses for exclusive events that don’t consider the input or inclusion of pwds as important, essential or valuable.

For middle class activists who have only minimally suffered the ravages of capitalism (if capitalism isn’t a boot on your throat, it’s all theory) there is great impatience.  Friends think I should be “over” this.  Since it isn’t “over”, since the blacklisting and the ridicule and exclusion continues, this demand demonstrates their own intolerance, their own need to see oppression as something that happens somewhere else to someone else, not someone like them.  Their activism is more about assuaging their guilt in measured bursts that don’t challenge their privilege, than about a real battle of life and death. It shows their own inability to understand that for many people, life is a series of events for which there may be little or no escape.  Tragedy isn’t the occasional experience, it IS the experience.  Their activism is based on charity, not solidarity.  They fear and reject seeing any connection to their own lives, the lives they attempt to defend. In my case, and it isn’t just my case, tragedy has revolved around loss of my job due to dis-crimination, the poverty and isolation of single parenthood, the marginalization of my own illness while raising a child with a serious condition, the brutality of the health insurance and “care” system, the social service industry, the educational establishment, lack of services, lack of respect for single mothers, discrimination against my gay, Jewish Mexican son, political marginalization, dis-ability discrimination,death threats, vandalism, sabotage etc. etc. etc.  This isn’t a reality one simply snaps out of.  I can’t just show up at a dinner party or a social or even a political event and discuss these matters as if they were happening to someone else, far away. I can’t avoid bleeding on fine linen.  For me, the death spiral of the capitalist system isn’t theory, and it isn’t temporary.

I find myself in the  grip of  a profound depression, afraid for the end of the world, the incredible loss of life  of those who are expendable to a brutal machine that needs our labor and our minds less and less.  Somedays I wish I could stop breathing. My grief is very deep.  I have an intractable hopelessness.  AND MOST OF ALL, I AM TIRED OF PLATITUDES.  Telling people to “think positive” when they are under attack and in the midst of a terrible reality is actually a very cruel and negative act.  Though it is much easier than actually bearing witness, listening, and taking appropriate action.

Today I woke up, bathing in despair,  thinking, “something has got to give.”  Somewhere in all of  this, there  has to be some salvation.  I hope that I can at least break from my own complicity in the attacks against me and rise up from under my own self doubt, hatred and demoralization.

Counting the Omer

Starting on the second day of Passover, it is tradition and enter into a   49 day period of study of the principles of Kabala. *1 Keter-“Crown” 2 Chochmah-“Wisdom”3 Binah-“Understanding”4 Chesed-“Kindness”
5Gevurah-“Severity”
6 Tiferet-“Beauty”
(Secondary emotions:)
7 Netzach-“Victory”
8 Hod-“Splendor”
9 Yesod-“Foundation”
(Vessel to bring action:)
10 Malchut-“Kingship”

So here I am, at a point where I am personally, politically and spiritually mandated to do exactly what is simultaneously indicated by the Hebrew calendar. I appreciate such sinchronicity.  It is rare in my life.

Of course, there remains my own rebelliousness.  Study of Kabala is forbidden to those under the age of 44, and I started studying Kabala when I was 40. It is also not traditional for women to study Kabala.  But unlike many of the Mosaic laws I have broken, I don’t think this one is a capital crime, so there is that!!!  (The religious enforcers may put down their stones at least on this account.)

A few years ago I underwent a deep study of Kabala.  Using my own drawings and writings as meditations,  I published those writings and drawings on this blog.  Feel free to join me and meditate with me on these principles.   I am very lost.  very very lost.  Help me find my way back to something resembling wholeness.

Day one:  loving kindness in loving kindness:

https://inbedwithfridakahlo.wordpress.com/2006/04/14/counting-the-omer-day-1-5766/

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sephirot

The Problem With “Think Positive”

Dialectical Materialism and Disability

a praxis for radical healing

Emma Rosenthal

Current popular ideology asserts that positive thinking alone can improve the individual condition.  Unlike Marxist material dialectics, which recognizes social, natural and physical forces on the individual, group, society, and history;  this mandate blames the subject for conditions in her life, going so far as to accuse those who speak honestly about their doubts, frustrations, marginalization, humiliation and discrimination, of “playing the victim.”

But within the tyranny of “positive thinking”  is the  insistence, not that the subject stop being a victim;   (because victimization is always external to the subject!) simply that she become the kind of victim society is more comfortable with: one that doesn’t complain, doesn’t demand and doesn’t speak out!

Like many solutions and analyses not rooted in theories of radical social transformation, this one too, fails to look at illness and disability in the larger social context.   Certainly;  while focusing on positive aspects of life can make even the most unbearable situations better,  the spiritual tyranny (what i call spiritual fascism) of constantly being told to “be positive” is extremely oppressive.

In her last weeks, activist, Barbara Franklin, as she died of incurable cancer, told me she thought she hadn’t been positive enough to fight the disease. This missive “be positive” only added to her stress and self-loathing, as her body was consumed by rogue cells.   This discussion was one of many we had in her final days, around a language of infirmity, which we found we could share with few other people.  

Healing is the process of transformation regardless of the outcome, while cure is the eradication of the condition. The former is always possible, while the latter, may not be. The truth is, we will all die.  There is no positive thinking protocol that can override that fact.  

Illness is its own epic voyage that involves despair as well as revelation.  To limit the process to the narrow realm of “positive thinking”  serves only the status quo and does little to really illuminate the larger and more significant journey.  Nor does it inform the subject in navigating the new landscape that the condition and social obstacles impose.  

Part of the healing process involves an empowering understanding of illness, disease and marginalization. The missive to be positive, makes the illness experience easier on the people around the subject, but may only provide the most superficial of solutions to the actual challenges of healing. And, in as much as the insistence to present an affect that is dishonest, isolating and counter-intuitive, may in fact do great harm. For social transformation to occur, one must speak truth to power. How does one do that if ignoring those forces   (and symptoms?) acting against oneself? And with illness and disability, in our society, the forces outside of the individual (access to health care, attitudes of loved ones, the health care gulag, discrimination, etc.) may be greater than the disease or condition itself. Thinking positive sadly, often results in self-blame and self-loathing. Whereas critical thinking, which doesn’t preclude gratitude, but includes assessment, activism and empowerment is a much greater healer.

Even better, if the subject can connect her inner process of infirmity or disability within the context of larger social constructs and movements for social change; that is, develop an understanding of illness, disability and infirmity within the larger body politic.

More powerful if she can find allies along the way and communities of inclusion that also don’t see illness and disability as personal, individual problems that don’t have a place in the public discourse beyond the scrutiny applied by those not subject to the conditions.

For the subject, the challenge is to seek out and find community and support that doesn’t dismiss the experience behind popular platitudes that lay blame by maintaining the individual nature of the situation;  but rather, can bear witness to the journey and explore and address the social injustices and indignities and provide empowered and informed advocacy.

For activists who have  never addressed these issues within a social context, the challenge is to listen and to advocate, as well as  to understand the radical value of bearing witness; not dismissing the experience, but rather, using it to name, address and define the experience in a language of self-definition, self-determination and empowerment.