Personal, Political

“I’m Gonna Take This Itty Bitty World By Storm…

…and I’m just getting warm.”–LL Cool J, “Mama Said Knock You Out”

I have a confession to make. After LivLuna changed creative direction and I left, I was lost. I no longer had a platform and combined with trying to pick up the pieces after my brother’s passing, I was shot. I couldn’t get angry the same way I used to. I’ve made a few attempts on this site, but they were all tied in with my brother or else a false start at a wellness blog. It’s been brewing inside me. I’ve been wanting to write again. But what little writing I did wound up in a diary or in short Facebook statuses (yep. I became one of *those* people.)

However, after the events of yesterday, I can no longer keep silent. In a single day, I saw my mother cry as Hillary conceded the election. I spoke to a friend from college in a private messenger where we raged about how fucked up the system is. I saw Facebook status after Facebook status where people were just so defeatist, I swear, it was all along the lines of “ho hum, oh well, all you need is love!!!! Let’s just be nice to one another and chill out!!!! We can always move to Canada!!!” without planning any real action. Who said we had to accept Trump lying down? Who said we can’t make change? This is supposed to be a democracy, not a dictatorship, for fuck’s sake.

But what really did me in? Seeing three girls in their early twenties just so jaded and defeated the same way my mother was. They’re too young. My mother is too young, frankly, but these girls are way too young. Two coworkers completely sad and distant as they walked out the door, while the third admitted to me that she was scared to come to work because of what Trump supporters would say or do. And then I realized–they don’t have the same space that LivLuna provided a few years ago. I gained confidence and wasn’t scared to fight. I wasn’t afraid to write about things that were fucked up. I was all over the 2012 election, calling out nasty senators that marginalized rape and wanted to implement racist and sexist laws against the poor.

Watching the girl who was scared to come to work interact with an older gentleman who was talking at her–not to her, at her–about why it was so great that the Obamas are leaving the White House when she was in a position to tell him “stop,” feel as if she had to take it because he was older and she didn’t want to ruffle feathers just broke my heart. We need spaces for younger women on the internet. We need spaces for all women on the internet to talk, to read, to feel empowered and not scared to say anything that may be considered outrageous or bitchy because they disagree with politicians or certain celebrities. I loved helping to provide that a few years ago. Facebook statuses are not enough. Sharing posts isn’t enough. I want to be empowering and encouraging again. I’m almost 31, so I’d like to think that I can give that guidance without being completely blinded by anger. LivLuna may not have been a household name, but we were woman owned and operated, which is a rarity anymore. HelloGiggles, Bustle, Jezebel, xoJane, all owned by media conglomerates run by men. Not me. There is Bust and Bitch, but Bust has become very Brooklyn hipster, while Bitch is more collegiate academic. We need both, don’t get me wrong. I want to provide a place where you don’t have to be intimidated if you’re not a 90’s punky alterna-girl or a PhD. candidate in order to contribute (although if you’re either one, you’re still welcome to contribute!)

So I’m done staying silent. I want to set an example for my younger female coworkers, as well as young women everywhere. I don’t have a catchy name, I don’t have a flashy site, I hate listicles, and I’m sure as hell not going to try and curate a lifestyle for people to follow, but I’m not letting that stop me from having a voice. I’ll figure it out along the way–I know I’m going to have lots to say from here on out. Take it away, LL…

 

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News, Political

Occupy Gezi: The Revolution is Not Being Televised

A small park in Istanbul has become a hotspot for a new political movement, Occupy Gezi.On Wednesday, a group of people (not part of any specific group) met to protest the demolition of Gezi Park. Last year, it was announced that the small park would be leveled off to be turned into a shopping mall. There are numerous malls in Istanbul, and protestors had enough, wanting to keep the park with 606 trees. The protests started off peaceful, with people bringing blankets and tents, to be ready when demolition started the following morning.

Sure enough, the demolition started and protestors stood in front of the machines. That was all, there was no media attention, just people standing up for what they believed in. However, police were called in anyway, bringing water cannons and pepper spray, causing the number of protestors to grow so large over night, the local government shut down all the ways leading up to Taksim square. This did not deter the protestors, many of whom who chose to walk. The police continued to use excessive force, even going so far as to burn down protesters’ tents.

Although the police lifted barricades in the hope of relieving some tension, Erdogan was still defiant, promising to stick to the government’s redevelopment plans. He called the protesters a “minority” that was trying to forcefully impose demands and challenged the opposition that he could easily summon a million people for a government rally. “I am not claiming that a government that has received the majority of the votes has limitless powers … and can do whatever it wants,” he said in a televised speech.“Just as the majority cannot impose its will on the minority, the minority cannot impose its will on the majority.”

Although Turkey has seen great economic growth under Erdogan’s leadership, he remains a divisive figure in mainly secular circles due to his strong conservative Muslim beliefs and is criticized for his often abrasive style. Why did he overreact to a peaceful, environmentally charged protest? It wasn’t about him until he decided to bring in pepper spray and water cannons to quell the protests.

Many social justice groups such as Amnesty International are concerned with the excessive police force used during the protest, especially as Reuters has reported that school children on a field trip were caught up in the tear gas. The protests are also exposing a larger issue in Istanbul–the disconnect between Tayyip Erodgan and the people. In a piece for the The New Yorker, Elif Batuman reports that on her television, CNN Turk was broadcasting a cooking show, while other networks were showing dance programs and a study abroad show. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and personal blogs are showing the truth; harsh photos, live tweets, etc.

While new stuff pops up on social media every day, I find it so appalling that the mainstream media in Turkey seems to be completely ignoring the story, and fueling the fire. Ted Turner’s vision for CNN was that it was news twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. In the US, Turner used to steal footage from the big news networks in order to get his stories. So why isn’t CNN Turk doing the same thing and aiding the disconnect between the government and the people? Occupy Geziis news. People need to know what’s going on so they can make an informed choice, to decide to get involved or to just hang back.

So, LivLunatics, what’s your take on the situation? Turkish LivLunatics, did I miss anything important? What’s your take on the lack of  mainstream media coverage?

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Political

No Food Stamps For Felons Is Racist and Sexist

The Conservatives just don’t know when to quit, do they? It’s not just about reproductive rights this time–it’s about the right to food. Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana) has created an amendment to a proposed Farm Bill that is currently being considered in the senate that would ban violent felons from being able to receive SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Acceptance Program, aka food stamp) benefits for life, no matter how long ago the crime was committed, or the circumstances surrounding the crime. If they’re currently receiving benefits, they get kicked off. The amendment was unanimously accepted by the senate, and is currently being reviewed by the House of Representatives.

The amendment reads:

“(1) IN GENERAL.—An individual shall not be eligible for benefits under this Act if the individual is convicted of—

  (A) aggravated sexual abuse under section 2241 of title 18, United States Code;

  (B) murder under section 1111 of title 18, United States Code;

  (C) an offense under chapter 110 of title 18, United States Code;

  (D) a Federal or State offense involving sexual assault, as defined in 40002(a) of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (42 U.S.C. 13925(a)); or

  (E) an offense under State law determined by the Attorney General to be substantially similar to an offense described in subparagraph (A), (B), or (C).”

Another paragraph of Vitter’s amendment is also troublesome:

“(2) EFFECTS ON ASSISTANCE AND BENEFITS FOR OTHERS.—The amount of benefits otherwise required to be provided to an eligible household under this Act shall be determined by considering the individual to whom paragraph (1) applies not to be a member of such household, except that the income and resources of the individual shall be considered to be income and resources of the household.”

This is a big, big problem for several reasons. Someone who may have been convicted years, or even decades ago, for aggravated sexual abuse or sexual assault, even if they have served their sentence and been released, would lose food stamp eligibility. Even if the crimes may have been convicted in someone’s youth (think statutory rape cases;) the person served his sentence and has since been integrated back into the community, but as a low-income person, needs food stamps. By Vitter’s standards, that’s enough for disqualification.

Why isn’t this amendment taking circumstances surrounding the crime into consideration?  What if the violent crime was an act of self defense? Should a woman protecting herself against a rapist or stalker be denied benefits because she was fighting for her life? Nope, because that’d be too much extra work. According to Vitter, all crimes are equal.

It also doesn’t take into consideration people who are raising families–the convicted is disqualified for the benefits, so the SNAP now covers a family of three instead of four. However, his or her income would still count against the household’s calculation for food stamp benefits, which barely feeds a family anyway. It doesn’t make sense.

Two-thirds of SNAP recipients are children, elderly or the disabled, and two-fifths of SNAP households live below half the poverty line.  The amendment would hit African Americans particularly hard as, according to Robert Greenstein, President of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

“Given incarceration patterns in the United States, the amendment would have a skewed racial impact. Poor elderly African Americans convicted of a single crime decades ago by segregated Southern juries would be among those hit.”

Of course, Vitter is claiming that his amendment is only aimed at preventing those convicted of violent crimes from obtaining benefits, apparently under the logic that stripping them of what may be their only form of income assistance will lead to less violence.

This whole amendment just reeks of racism and sexism. Once again, a wealthy, white, male politician is trying to keep the poor down. The Republicans talk a lot of guff about “people just need to work! Be like me, work your way up!” It’s all lip service. This is not about trying to teach criminals a lesson, this is about hurting specific demographics under the guise of “fixing a problem.” A lot of conservatives cry “focus on the family! focus on the family!” Okay. So, if this mother committed a crime, yet is trying to rehabilitate herself and raise her family yet needs some assistance, you take it away from her, it’s not helping. You’re just creating more poverty. (and by the way, telling someone to “get a job at McDonald’s” is not conducive. Many positions are only part time, and most fast food/food retail jobs don’t pay enough in non-management positions, so many employees qualify for SNAP benefits.)

So what’s a good solution? I’m at a loss, LivLunatics. I’m so angry about this amendment, that’s clearly targeting a specific group of people and feeding on stereotypes. What’s your take on this situation? Is Vitter’s amendment a good intentioned one, or should it be rejected?

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Political

Why I Can’t Say Anything Nice About Margaret Thatcher

When news broke of Margaret Thatcher’s death on Monday, my first thought was to write a small obituary the way we did for Gerda Lerner and Rita Levi-Montalcini. However, when it came time to say something nice like “she will be missed” or “what a great leader she was,” I couldn’t do it. I just could not do it. Why? While it was great that she was the first woman and the longest serving British prime minister of the 20th century, and it was sad that she suffered so many strokes over the past eleven years and is leaving a family behind, when you look more closely at what she accomplished while she was in power, she was far from the great leader many of her obituaries are making her out to be.

 

 

The biggest offense for me was the way she treated laborers and labor unions, instead choosing to focus on the individual, Although people did become home-owners, entrepreneurs, and bankers due to her approach, even more people became unemployed as well, especially in northern England–by closing factories and cutting social spending, Manchester quickly made a turn for the worse. In 1982, its unemployment rate was 32 percent. The greater Manchester area lost almost a fifth of its manufacturing jobs during the 1980s, and more than 125,000 people moved away. From 1979 to 1993, the poverty rate in Britain tripled. In the mid-90s, a U.N. report found that Great Britain had the most unequal society in the West.

 

 

 

Really? We’re supposed to celebrate a leader who hurt a great percentage of her population so she help give a leg up to some of the richest people in the world? It makes me furious. Yes, this is something that still goes on, but really? No wonder my dad’s response upon hearing the news of her death was “my heart is as broken as the lives of the laborers she destroyed.” Why should we give tribute to a leader who chose to hurt her country and not to really help it?

 

 

 

I could go on in great detail with other valid reasons why I can’t celebrate Thatcher–the Falklands, her friendship with leaders like Augusto Pinochet, the way she handled the Troubles in Northern Ireland (particularly the 1981 Irish Hunger strike) her stance against the unification of East and West Germany, the way she wouldn’t acknowledge the struggles of women while in a position of leadership herself (she didn’t believe in the glass ceiling)–but the labor one is the one that makes me the most angry. I feel she deliberately hurt her people, the ones she was supposed to be protecting, with her elimination of industry and the promotion of the individual over the group effort.

 

When politicians talk about the emphasis of the individual, they really mean one specific group of people–people who don’t really need anything as they’re well off to begin with. This is nothing new, and Thatcher wasn’t the only politician who followed this Rand-ian model of leadership, and she certainly won’t be the last. But I can’t sit here and say, “oh wow, Thatcher sure fucked up and helped set the tone for the current global political climate, but since she was a woman, I have to applaud her, she really made great strides for us. Who cares if she destroyed her people? Yay for firsts!” Nope. I can’t do that. Just because she was a woman doesn’t mean I have to agree with or even like her (in case I didn’t make that clear.) And thus, this is why I can’t say anything nice about her.

 

 

So, what’s your take? UK based readers, did I miss anything significant?

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