Posted in history, politics, Uncategorized

In case anyone thought it was about furniture sales and barbecues…

Memorial Day is a unique moment to honor a very specific type of Americans: those who have died, either in the service of our nation or after a career of military duty. Abraham Lincoln would characterize them, three years before the concept of Memorial Day came about, on a battlefield in northern Pennsylvania where sixty thousand Americans had been killed, as “these honored dead,” emphasizing that we must double our commitment to the “cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.”

The Day was first formally recognized in 1866, when Waterloo NY started a national trend of lowering flags to half staff, draping the village in black to represent mourning, and decorating the graves of soldiers lost during the War. This energy was propelled both by living veterans and loved ones of the dead.

Originally in the first week of May, the day was pushed back to later in the month as more communities began to acknowledge a day to memorialize their dead, likely to allow for more flowers to bloom before they were plucked by loved ones to place upon graves.

It’s unfair to stratify the impact of American military engagements by the number of deaths; each time the American military is involved in combat, lives of service members are in danger and, hopefully, the purpose is worthy of placing those lives in danger. However, the emphasis on the number of Americans killed in each war reminds us that although the Civil War is a far distant moment in history and no longer in living memory, it was, by far, the most quantifiable carnage in American history.

Tabulating data of wartime casualties will yield different figures depending on certain factors: the number of people killed during battle, weighing the inclusion of those who died from wounds or infections in post-war years, etc. As a result, official figures hover anywhere from 493,000 to 750,000 American deaths. Either way, the number of fatalities from the Civil War surpasses that of any other American war in history, and—accepting WWII—surpasses the combined sum of casualties from every other American conflict.

The United States population in 1860 was about 31 million people—a tenth of today’s population. Using the often-cited figure of 620,000 fatalities, about two percent of the American population died in the war. It’s fair to assume that literally everyone knew someone who either was killed in battle or died from disease in camp. Often, since regiments would be mustered out of a certain community or region, entire towns would be robbed of all military-aged men. Today, that ratio would equate to six million deaths.

It is doubtless that every war is a horrific and tragic experience for everyone it touches. Yet as Americans there exists a patriotic dedication bred in the bone, in which we honor and remember the fallen by redoubling our loyalty to the purpose for which they died. The difference of the Civil War is that while all others can feel resolute (or perhaps bereft) in lives taken combating some foreign enemy, in this conflict every death was an American death.

As President Lincoln acknowledged the blood-soaked soil beneath his feet at Gettysburg, he said it was the responsibility of the living to carry the torch of the dead, “that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

That’s why we have Memorial Day.

Posted in activism, politics, rape culture, Uncategorized, women

Before I start the workweek tomorrow, I gotta set this down somewhere.

If you know me, you know what I do for a living. If you don’t know me: I do outreach and education for the regional rape crisis program.

This time of year is our Superbowl, Oscars, and New Year’s Eve put together. The often-thankless field of victim advocacy has an annual moment to take the spotlight, along with the real reason we all do this job: not for applause, but the survivors and families that we support, and for the paradigm shift we can impress upon the community.

That paradigm shift is important: to prevent sexual assault—actually stop it from happening, not make sure someone else is victimized—society needs to acknowledge the unhealthy norms that provide a foundation that can green-light assaults. Comments like “you can grab ‘em by the pussy” being sidelined as “harmless, locker-room talk” sends a message that, because of the situation or the speaker’s level of fame/authority/POWER, attitudes like that are okay. As I’ve already discussed, behaviors and attitudes are indicative of beliefs and values, and an attitude like that speaks volumes about that person’s values.

Continue reading “Before I start the workweek tomorrow, I gotta set this down somewhere.”

Posted in Uncategorized

On behavior, attitudes, beliefs & values

People—individually or in a group—have a tendency to gravitate toward certain routines. They navigate a pattern of choices throughout days, months, and generations, each time reaffirming their routines and solidifying their own sense of normalcy. This is done both for survival and to plot a course through the complex hierarchies that embody our world.

We create structures, societies and rules of decorum—whether spelled out like laws or tacitly accepted like social cues and rules of etiquette. And within that spectrum people choose to behave in certain ways.

Behavior toward social situations, popular media and marginalized cultures are, in large part, determined by attitudes. Perceptions—whether fictitious, encouraged by media or informed by experiences—teach our brains to have attitudes about certain situations or sources. Our minds anticipate, as they revert to the familiar comfort of establishing a pattern, to reaffirm the outcome we have already determined when our attitude first formed about that situation, group or event. Continue reading “On behavior, attitudes, beliefs & values”

Posted in history, politics, Uncategorized

Previously known as John Brown’s Body

Six months into the Civil War, things were not going well for the Union (the north). Their army lacked effective leadership, comprehensive training, and many of the engagements took place in Confederate territory, allowing the advantage of familiar terrain. Virtually everyone had presumed the conflict would last 90 days; the terror, destruction and carnage that followed was difficult to fathom.

While in D.C. in November 1861 with her husband, Julia Ward Howe overheard the tune “John Brown’s Body,” the self-chosen theme song of regiments in the area, and entertained the idea of re-writing the lyrics. Later that night, she awoke from a sound sleep with the words in her head that would become the anthem of the Union Army, and subsequently the Union. Even today “the Battle Hymn of the Republic” is a familiar tune, although contemporary understanding is only the first verse, and little on its meaning.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

(Chorus) Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah! His truth is marching on. 

Continue reading “Previously known as John Brown’s Body”

Posted in activism, politics, Uncategorized

You can’t pour from an empty cup.

As you might (or might not) have noticed, it’s been a while since my last post. Like everyone else, I have been overwhelmed with the bombardment of breaking news and political explosions, exhausting everyone’s ability to deal with the current political climate with the numerous and egregious violations of the law, human decency, and common sense.

In the meantime, I’ve been doing what’s admittedly not often a priority for me—self-care; devoting time to coping with stress. I think activists and general “helpers” are consistently so busy assisting others that they neglect themselves—at least until they’re exhausted, have a breakdown or get sick. So I’ve gotten better at tapping into what my gut is telling me, and then listening to it. Continue reading “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

Posted in activism, politics, Uncategorized, women

My pro-life post

If you really are pro-life, then I assume you support everyone’s life—including the lives of black people; the lives of gay men, lesbians, and bisexual people; the life of a Syrian refugee child; the life of a transwoman or transman.

If you truly are pro-life…that means you’re interested in ways to support people through some of the most difficult moments in their lives—whether it was an intended pregnancy with a precipitous medical condition; a non-consensual experience; or despite all efforts to use effective contraception, that little plus sign appeared. These are not moments that happen blithely, as folks in business suits discuss talking points across a conference table. Pregnancies—both intended and unintended—are in the unsanitized realm of life—the messy, sometimes bloody, ooey-gooey part of our existence. And in those moments, people need support and compassion more than ever. Continue reading “My pro-life post”