Wednesday, December 31, 2014

American Gun Violence

This could be an article complaining about police and American brutality against black and brown men and boys, or about violence in our American culture in general. Rather, this piece is about living in a society where gun violence leads to many unnecessary deaths of adults and children, and what we can do to change this fact.

I am not against all guns. I grew up in the Mississippi Delta where my family hunted and ate their kill. Now, the enormous amount of gun sales and the types of military artillery available to the public have escalated, and kids are growing up playing first-person shooter video games nonstop.

When I was a young, single woman living on my own, my father offered me a pistol for protection and asked me to learn to shoot it in case I ever needed it. When I birthed a child, I gave it back due to its dangerous presence in our home.

On December 31, 2014, an Idaho toddler reached into his mother’s purse at Walmart, pulled out her legally concealed weapon, shot and killed her with three kids watching. How will those children ever make sense of this accidental but extreme violence? The toddler shooter will never erase the visual, the horror, and the facts.

Last week, I watched a video from The New York Times: No Guns for Christmas. I paused to wonder what I can do as an individual to halt gun violence: emc=edit_th_20141223&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=58340336&_r=0&assetType=opinion

I believe in nonviolent action as a way to solve problems and have written much about issues of social justice, civil and human rights, violence, women’s rights, and income equality in the past. What I can do is to speak up again.

I understand we live in the Deep South. I understand that some people love to hunt or just shoot guns for sport. At Christmastime, my brother and I used to shoot down mistletoe from trees with a pellet gun. But, viewing this video where a young black man holding an air rifle at WalMart gets so quickly and inhumanely killed, makes me not only sorrowful but full of rage. Watching a 12 year old black boy get killed by police in Ohio within only 2 seconds of visual sight breaks my heart. When will our nation directly address and resolve these issues of unnecessary gun violence? And, why is there not more recourse when police kill so irresponsibly? If we stay silent, all victims’ blood is on our hands.

Doing nothing is an action. During 2015, please get more actively involved in the solution to this problem of gun violence, working together with others to discover new ways to decrease human and police brutality and accidents. We can change this tragic trend if we commit to this action. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

'Tis the Season to be Jolly?

’Tis the season to be jolly? Unfortunately, not for everyone.

For some people, the holiday season brings along with it no joy or peace but depression and despair. I am offering some hope.

I wish that all people could be joyful and peaceful on any particular day. But, that just doesn’t happen. We sometimes ignore or neglect those loved ones and others who seem down during the holidays because they make us uncomfortable. After all, depression can seem contagious. Or, we may want to fix it for those people and we may get irritated or sullen if they don’t take our advice.

Instead of trying to talk others out of such negative feelings like being disheartened, lonely, or anxious, what if we just acknowledge or accept that they may just be feeling those ways? What if we pat them on the back, figuratively or physically, and say that we are there for them during this season supposedly full of happiness and light? Maybe then, these people might feel a tiny bit of connection with and understanding from us. Or, maybe they won’t.

We cannot talk anyone out of their feelings. Not children, not parents, not friends. Life just doesn’t work that way. Yes, we would love for others to feel better. We also wish we could help them, but trying to tell a hopeless or depressed person that they just need to count their blessings and be grateful for what they do have, is like sticking in a knife and twisting it. That kind of talk often prompts them to feel worse. We, then, have to deal with our own feelings of being powerless to change their lives for them.

We psychotherapists have full offices at this time of year. Those without loved ones often feel terribly alone, and those who do have a support network can sometimes feel bad too because of conflicts within that group, maybe feeling excluded, rejected.

Those of us who do experience joy, peacefulness and hope can surely be available to help those less fortunate. But, how?

I recommend to all who know anyone who may be suffering around this time of year: Get in touch with just one such person. Tell them that you are thinking about them. Ask them how they are doing, and be prepared to listen if they want to tell the honest truth. Then, look deep inside yourself and see if you can remember a time in your life when you were feeling down, angry or upset. Did anyone reach out to you during that time? You can draw upon your own compassion for those in pain, even if their behavior is obnoxious at times. Respond to them with love and caring, or just listen and reflect their feelings. Know that you may have added just a tiny bit of meaning and connection to their experience during these often troubling holidays.

'Tis the season to be giving.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Marriage equality will not solve sexual orientation discrimination issues: Study finds economic vulnerability in states that allow discrimination

With growing acceptance nationwide toward marriage equality, the state-by-state approach as it regards employment non-discrimination and other forms of inequality for LGBT people has created a "good news, bad news" scenario for many, including those of us in Tennessee.

Good news: Marriage equality has gained traction and momentum in the last few years, a movement on the cusp of positive transition throughout the nation.

Good news: The Federal government has just announced protections for transgender workers, according to LGBTQNation, stating that:“The U.S. government is now interpreting federal law to explicitly prohibit workplace discrimination against transgender individuals. The Department of Justice says transgender individuals are covered under Civil Rights Act of 1964.” Progress is being made.

Nashville mayoral candidate Megan Barry agrees this is a good thing, and also acknowledges the bad news for Tennesseans. "I’m happy to see that the federal government will protect transgender Americans from employment discrimination by state and local agencies," she told me. "However, we still have a long ways to go to eliminate all forms of discrimination in the workplace. No person should ever be denied employment based on their race, religion, national origin, gender, or because of whom they love.”

Good news: Discrimination of LGBT people has decreased over the years and many Americans are happy about that change.

Bad news: Over half of the states in our United States have not passed non-discrimination laws.  How the new Federal ruling affects states will soon be determined.

A new report from the Williams Institute finds that “LGBT Americans in the 29 states without state laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation consistently see greater disparities than in the 21 states with such laws, including less social acceptance, greater economic vulnerability, especially among African-American LGBT workers, and wider household income gaps.” The report maintains that with the legal landscape of rights and protections for LGBT Americans shifting from state to state, LGBT Americans are suffering. We live in one of those places, the South. This may come as no surprise, but what we do about this is what matters.

Many LBGT people do suffer in the South. Think about the studies that illustrate the health disparities between African Americans and white Americans. African Americans have higher health risks than white Americans on average. Friends of mine in the Civil Rights Movement talk about the breaking of the spirit of those who are oppressed, those different from the majority, those who have less power and presence in our government. Breaking people’s spirits leads to serious physical and emotional health problems, to rage, apathy, depression and despair. Productivity decreases in workers, suicides increase, and families are torn apart.

Good news: Because of these disparities, the Human Rights Campaign has endorsed a federal LGBT non-discrimination bill to address discrimination in credit, education, employment, federal funding, housing, jury service and public accommodations for all Americans.

Perhaps if this bill passes there will be fewer differences between states in terms of how LGBT people are treated and respected. We can hope that the nation and our leaders respond affirmatively to this bill. Please speak to your legislators and other leaders about all of these issues.“Viewing gender identity discrimination as sex discrimination already covered in the law is a huge step forward for the safety and prosperity of transgender and gender nonconforming people," Chris Sanders, from the Tennessee Equality Project, said. "The safest course is to back up the federal interpretation with court precedent and federal, state, and local laws that explicitly protect people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. So the work continues.”

One day maybe we will be able to say that we are One Nation…. indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

We are all connected

We are all connected.

I am the hovering hawk.
I am the dainty dog.
I am the powerless person.
Rest in Peace, Brave Bean.