Category Archives: Small insurrections

I’m Done

By  Erin Branscome

FYI that I’m pretty much done with extended family and acquaintances who don’t believe that everyone should have access to healthcare.

To be clear, I’m not talking about people who disagree with aspects of the Affordable Care Act, or any other specific system. I’m not talking about people who agree that everyone should have access to healthcare, but who *disagree* with me on how best to accomplish that.

I’m talking about those people who believe that anyone who can’t afford health care should suffer and die. I’m talking about people who’s biggest complaint about “Obamacare” is that their premiums increased too much for them to be able to afford a new pool. I’m talking about people who believe as a matter of principle that you should be on your own when it comes to healthcare — if you can convince other people to help you out, great, but if you can’t do that, sorry; guess you’re gonna die a slow, painful, and utterly preventable death.

Because what every single one of you are saying, if you drill it down, is that if it were up to you, I would be DEAD.

This is not conjecture. This has been confirmed by multiple doctors. If I hadn’t been steps from an operating room when my intestines ruptured, I. Would. Be. DEAD. (I came very, *very* close to dying, regardless.) According to the ER doctor who admitted me that night, if I hadn’t had insurance — good insurance — I *wouldn’t* have been in the hospital, because at the time, they didn’t think I had anything that serious, and admitting me was a “better safe than sorry” thing. If I hadn’t had insurance, hadn’t had the ability to *afford* an optional night in the hospital, I would have pushed for discharge. The ONLY reason I didn’t go home that night, with what they thought was just an ulcer, is that I had insurance. I only had insurance because of the Affordable Care Act.

Without “Obamacare,” I WOULD HAVE DIED. Either alone and terrified in my bed, unable to cry out for help as the pain became excruciating and my lung collapsed — OR, were I able to crawl down the hall to my parents, I would’ve likely bled out in their arms while they tried to figure out what was going on, tried to get help, writhing in indescribable pain and suffocating to death on my own fluids, before mercifically losing consciousness and dying. Imagine the trauma to my parents and siblings.

And if you had your wish, that’s exactly what would’ve happened.

I’ve explained this, over and over. Again and again I strip naked for you, exposing my scars — flay my skin and rip it apart, letting you climb inside, *hoping* to find some scrap of compassion and always being disappointed. Humiliated, as you refuse to address the critical point and instead repeat talking points and lies, making it perfectly clear that nothing I said mattered. My pain — my *life* — doesn’t matter.

I’m done.

As so many people have said, I cannot teach you how to care about other people. I can’t explain to you *why* you should care; I can’t argue you into compassion. And I’m through trying.

But understand this: unless it’s preceded by a humble admission of guilt and a sincere apology, I NEVER want to hear “I love you” or “I’m praying for you,” or even “How are you doing?” ever again. I NEVER want to hear you offer your disingenuous concern or empty prayers to my parents, ever again. Your words are lies, designed to soothe your conscious and make yourself feel better, and I refuse to allow you that option, out of some misplaced sense of “civility.”

If it were up to you, I. WOULD. BE. DEAD. Period.

You’ve told me that you hate the ACA because of the non-essential items you were unable to purchase because of increased premiums. Even *assuming* that’s true — a big assumption — you’re *still* telling me that my LIFE means less to you than a new pool or a cross-country RV trip. And *I’m* the one lacking civility?

From now on, when you ask me how I’m doing, the answer will always be “none of your business.” When you tell me you love me, I’ll respond that I don’t believe you. And I sure as hell don’t want the meaningless, feel-good prayers you offer up to your false idols of American Nationalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism. (And if I see or hear about similar comments to my parents, my response will be the same.)

I’m. Done.

Screaming From the Margins

Quote by Maya Angelou. Black and White headshot of Maya Angelou with her hand partially obscuring her face Text: When someone shows you who they are, believe them. - Maya Angelou

Photographer and graphic designer unknown. If this is your graphic, please let me know so I can give you proper attribution.

Be brave during these difficult and trying times. Speak from your heart and your lives. Speak for your lives and the lives of our sisters, our brothers, and all our nonbinary siblings, everyone screaming from the margins! Make space, hold space for those with less voice than your own, for those who are brought forth to speak truth to power because the times demand that of them.  Speak out against violence, especially the systemic violence of racism, sexism, ableism.

Darken your profile or don’t darken your profile. Follow the news or don’t follow the news. Tell your story or wait until you find the spaces that are right for disclosure. Do not let the abusers and their apologists tell you what to do. Instead remember that this is a time of reckoning and the violent have a choice to hide who they are (or admit who they are) and reevaluate their actions or show us their body politic in all its brutality. The brazenness with which many choose to defend rape culture is truly impressive but unwise. 

We, the marginalized, the victimized, the silenced, the once silenced; are stronger than ever, though it does not always feel this way. Our secrets, the daily attacks on our body, politics that were conducted behind closed doors or under capes and hoods, under cover of night, are now out in the open. The perpetrators are scared and they are outraged. Their lifetime of entitlements are crumbling around them and the rules have changed.

It amazes: the number of people willing to defend abusers during these fragile times, on the social media walls of friends who have either stated or implied that they are victims of abuse without any sensitivity to the impact their words have on others. It is as if they think the world is split into the people they know and actual victims. It is as if the entire #MeToo movement went right over their heads: this happens to every woman, every day. We carry this trauma in our bones and in our cells, in the passageways of synapse, in the corners of memory. Listen to us to understand the geography of trauma. Believe us. We have no reason NOT to tell the truth once we break the silence. 

All you rape apologists showing us who you are. Watch out, some day your past will come up and bite you in the ass. It’s still a free pass for abusers but our day will come and your antics will be saved, for the record. We all known the likes of Brett Kavanaugh, in high school, in college, in the work place, in our kitchens and bedrooms. We know the abuse we brought down when we disclosed, when we named names, when we dared to tell anyone. We know the silence they assume and count upon as we carry their shame. We remember how funny it was to them to get girls drunk and abuse us, or corner us, or push us against lockers.  You’re all playing rapist bingo with your blame game. But we see what you’re doing. So yeah, keep showing us exactly who you are. We’re keeping receipts. There will be a day of reckoning.

Sisters and all people of the margins: feel free to set clear guidelines for your own spaces, including your social media spaces. This is not a violation of anyone’s right to free speech. They have their own wall on which to spew their hate. They have their groups, sanctioned by the powerful owners of the platforms. 

Use their self exposure to determine who you need in your life. Thank them for showing you who they really are. Plan accordingly. 

#PTSD #CrossGenerationalTrauma #MMIW #BlackLivesMatter #SayHerName #NoBanNoWall #DisposableJewishWomen #FeminismIsChoice #ScreamingFromTheMargins  #IntersectionalAgendas

Black rectangle

Burn baby Burn

I always felt Los Angeles was a very cruel city with a Hollywood front of pleasantries and falsehoods. The “have a nice day” “I can’t help you when you’re upset” snide of disconnections and dismissals.

The cruelty of those who claim to fight for justice, the unwillingness of activists to reflect

Concrete Realities #2 Image of a concrete wall, with shadows cast on the wall, the texture of the cement and very narrow depth of field.

Photo by Emma Rosenthal

on their own behavior and ethics all the while demanding huge changes in the entire structure of society has been extremely impressive here. The expedience of power and the currency of opportunism knows no bounds, the criminalization of breath, of life, of survival, ordinances that outlaw sleeping in one’s car or provide snitch clauses and heavy fees for the decriminalization of grey market labor in a desperate economy.

I have lived and worked in this city since the early 80s, but the only time I felt at home here was when I moved to Douglas Street about 10 years ago, even before home sharing.
In home sharing, I fell in love with this city, welcoming in guests from all over the world.
Those opposed to home sharing, with all the corruption in this city, have no heart for their neighbors struggling to get by, because it’s easier to blame everything on airbnb than really fight for housing justice. It’s a feel good response: we can do something about this, without really upsetting those with any real power.
By the time I leave L.A. watching it (metaphorically) burn, through the rear view mirror, I will be ready to leave.
View of the L.A. Basin at Sunset: Day End #1 Image description: the view of the L.A. Basin and downtown Los Angeles, just before sunset, seen From Griffith Observatory. Image is distinguished by saturated colors, cloud patterns.

Photo by Emma Rosenthal

All I own is the equity in this house, which I cannot access except by selling to the highest bidder. The most gentrifying thing I could do is sell, but if I cannot afford to live here, to pay this mortgage, live with whom I chose, do the work I can, from the home I live in. I will have no choice. The “anti-gentrifiers”, those trendy, hip, slick, cool, young, pretty activists and the hobnobbers whose names open doors,  who disregard the hosts, many of whom are undesired: elders, chronically ill, DISabled, outside of the mainstream workforce. This elite has been told. They have been warned. We have tried to share the struggle with them and our stories.

They seem to think the radicals of a former age just disintegrated and that old people were always old. What city will they be leaving for their older selves? When they can no longer just couch surf, crash at their parents’ homes or sleep in a tent?
Activism for the strong, beautiful  and powerful is just supremacy and when that ordinance is passed and I’ve reduced my 30 years of life in L.A. to what can fit into a moving van, I will be ready to leave it all behind, for a life I can afford, in comfort, somewhere else, where I may have to take up lawn bowling, and Andy can go play golf, hold protests over green jello and demand local community gardens, with raised beds that those in wheelchairs can reach.  And the L.A. radicals will outgrow their false idealism and start selling condos and make lots of money and live in those high rises that displaced so many, and justify it…
Because their parents had it so rough.

Real revolutionaries:

  • Know it doesn’t just happen in the streets and work to find ways to be fully inclusive
  • Don’t avoid difficult conversations on issues of marginalization: class, racism, sexism, ableism, agism, Palestine, settler colonialism, indigenous rights, antisemitism, Black lives matter, Say her name……
  • Aren’t afraid of complexities
  • Understand that the role of the movement vanguard is to defend the working class, not the other way around.
  • Don’t use “The Party” as a vehicle for abuse, demanding obedience or ostracizing dissident voices.
  • Draw the circle wide
  • Embrace intersectionality
  • Don’t use their social capital to marginalize, abuse and assassinate people and their character, who may be inconvenient, challenging or different
  • Don’t snitch jacket
  • DON’T make accusations without a whole lot of ——EVIDENCE!
  • Don’t avoid evidence when it’s right in front of you, just because the guilty party is your dudbro, homie, movement star, favorite author
  • Invent evidence just because the innocent party said something they didn’t like, made them uncomfortable or demanded greater inclusion and consideration
  • Don’t accumulate people according to identity
  • Don’t play racism, sexism, ableism bingo
  • Don’t avoid class analysis
  • Aren’t afraid to be wrong and can take criticism
  • Constantly take inventory
  • Hold themselves and others accountable
  • Recognize complexities
  • Fight for everyone: Justice not Just us
  • Don’t engage in self promotion at the expense of social justice, the collective benefit and the greater good
  • Use their skills, abilities, entitlements, resources and access for the growth of the movement
  • Don’t derail the discussion with platitudes like “Not all_____”
  • Hold events at venues that are accessible to people with disabilities, children, elders, people without money….
  • Don’t make excuses for exclusions
  • Don’t hold themselves above scrutiny
  • Don’t silence dissent or attack people with new ideas
  • Constantly work on themselves and enhance the movement
  • Give other people credit for group efforts.
  • Make a deep commitment to a place, a time, the group, the movement
  • Understand we are in this for a lifetime
  • Don’t use their identities as an excuse for lack of accountability
  • Don’t disregard their elders or the new generation of activists
  • Don’t use their entitlement as a shield of fragility against real conversations and human lives
  • Don’t play cheerleader for the abusers in the community
  • Support those who have been bullied, abused and maligned for the political expedience of opportunists
  • Call out opportunistic abusive bullies
  • Take difficult positions within the community of activists
  • Engage in grassroots organizing
  • Meet people where they are
  • Put principles before personalities, power and prestige (Opportunism isn’t a principle, it is the antithesis of principle)
  • Build counter cultural alternatives to the state to meet human needs in health care, education, housing, food production, transportation, child care, jobs, community, spirituality
  • Don’t ascribe to new age platitudes and spiritual fascism to blame the victim and dismiss individual and collective narratives
  • Continue to define the work of real revolutionaries, knowing that our work is never done and that a shield protects us against attack and also serves as a mirror for self reflection.

    Add your own, in the comments below!

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.

Diary of a Staycation #1: New Meditations

Diary of a Staycation #1: New Meditations

My life has changed so much since I started this blog. I’m older, my body is not at cooperative as it used to be, added a few more diagnosis to the mix of my DISabled life. I was terribly lonely when I started this blog. Isolated in suburbia, a single mother on a very limited fixed income, I was dangerously alone. Today I live in community, with very little privacy. A life of abuse, the resulting lack of boundaries, and so many years of isolation and I accept my lack of privacy as a choice and a blessing. We need each other more than we need time alone.  My partner, Andy and I along with an amazing team, including Glenda, Xeres and Carlos, run a modest and wonderful bnb out of our home, as well as provide a variety of community services. (Read more at dragonflyhill.wordpress.com, a web page and blog I also manage.) I handle most of the social media, from our airbnb listing pages, to our blog, twitter, facebook, yelp and google.  I did most of the photography for our advertising and our blog and most of our writing. Guests come from all over to stay with us, and we start every day with a huge community breakfast. We rarely know who will be joining us, including local activists, community members and guests.  Xeres and Andy and I comprise the board of the newly form The WE Empowerment Center (theweempowermentcenter.wordpress.com)

There’s a lot of physical, cognitive and emotional labor that goes into this space and maintaining community.  I haven’t had much time to court my muse, to write creatively or to do fine art photography.  And on the way, I’ve lost pieces of myself.

So today I’m starting. Today I’m taking myself back. Leaving the home business to my capable team, I’m taking a few days off and staying in the bnb of a local airbnb host and dear friend, for a few days of meditation and creativity.

Here are some samples of food for thought and where my mind is wandering, a map of sorts. If you’ve been following me, (and if I don’t know you, please reach out), watch out. I’m going to be posting a lot of new material, much of which has been 90% finished for some time, and has just waited for the time to focus on it, and craft it to perfection.

Music for meditation

Black and white image of a samuri in a forest. The image is very soft and slightly out of focus. Text: A student said to his master: "You teach me fighting, but you talk about peace. How do ou reconcile the two?" The master replies: "It is better to be a warrior in a garden than to be a gardener in a war."

H/T Xeres Villanueva who posted this to her facebook feed.

Inaccessibility Fatigue Rag

7/16/17

I am tired of negotiating my humanity to strangers.

Or trusting friends who just don’t understand.

Of trying to fit my body into spaces that do not accommodate me.

Only to be told how difficult I am to those who fit in, just right.

I am tired of accommodations to fads and fashions, to power and privilege but that DISability access is too demanding, or we did that the last time, we can’t do that EVERY time.
I am tired of loving  a world that doesn’t love me back.

I am tired of patience and desire.

I am tired of betrayal when an apology would be enough—mine or theirs.

I am tired of excuses and abuses.
I am tired of pity and scorn, and entitlement and hatred.

I am tired of the modern versions of the ugly laws and the look of disgust and contempt upon seeing me, by strangers who have no idea who I am.

I am tired of ableist jokes and insults
I am tired of abuse substituted for love, because there are good quiet crrpls and demanding shrews who need to be tamed.
I am tired of character assassinations when their arguments are no match for mine or because they will not be held accountable for their lack of real solidarity.
I am tired of infantilization and being treated like a child.

I am tired of excuses and favors because DISfolx aren’t seen as resources in our own experience.
I am tired of offense taken to be out argued or out spoken by a person like me, uppity, articulate crrpl that I am.

I am tired of having to ask for accommodations only to be treated with hostility for even posing the question.

I am tired of assumptions and accusations of  people who know nothing but think they know everything, like why if I can walk up stairs one day, in one location, why I can’t another day in another location.

I am tired of entitlement of others to define for me the parameters of my reality.

I am tired of people deciding for me what I need, what I should be happy with, what I should like and how I should behave.

I am tired of people who never read a single book on DISability access, schooling me and ‘splaining to me how it’s going to work.

I am tired of people who seem to be allies, only to find out that they were keeping score all along, and anything they did to create access was weighed against my next request. I didn’t know you were keeping a running tab and that I was now in debt to you.
I am tired of pity and stares and stairs.
I am tired of “well no one else complained” or “there were other DISabled people there so it must be accessible.

I am tired of the assumption that if I’m the only one complaining that others must be comfortable when really it means that others may be silent because they don’t feel comfortable speaking up, and some people will harm themselves trying to fit in, and others won’t show up at all because they know the risk in asking.

I am tired of blaming the victim, of disparaging a complaint, of killing the messenger, of the cult of positivity, of silencing dissent.

I am tired of those who don’t need accommodations deciding without even a dialogue what access means.

I am tired of the expectation of gratitude for half a ramp, or one day’s effort or half measures in general.
I am tired of trying to fit into public spaces at all.