The Problem With Patriotism

blind-patriotism

Photo Credit: Flint Hahn

 

Wikipedia defines patriotism as having a vigorous support of one’s country.

I have long been criticized by many for my refusal to call myself a patriot. It has been said that the way in which i analyze and often criticize my country equates to disrespect or lack of thankfulness.

So let me preface with this:

I am thankful I was born and raised in the United States of America. This is home to me and will most likely always be. Generations ago my ancestors from different European countries (I’m a mutt of different ancestry! 🙂 ) came here for opportunity.

I. Am. Thankful.

HOWEVER,

I will never blindly follow, praise, or trust anything or anyone. And I think if you do, that is very dangerous.

I voted for Hillary Clinton. Would I have supported every policy or program she put forward had she become president? Abso-feckin-lutely NOT.

I will never be loyal without question to a Democrat, Progressive, Republican, etc. Diet Coke may be the only thing I am loyal to without question.

Ok.

So, what is my problem with Patriotism?

Well, I think it is imperative to understand that a person’s definition of patriotism and what it means to one can vary. And this is where it becomes problematic.

What does it mean to be patriotic? What is the America you see yourself being patriotic to?

For so many people I know being patriotic means:

  • Ridding the U.S. of all religions except for Christianity
  • Making English the national language
  • White pride
  • Anti-immigrant rhetoric

 

Let’s talk about Jeremy Joseph Christian. The white nationalist that recently fatally stabbed two men in Portland, Oregon in the name of patriotism.

Christian began verbally harassing two African-American women, one who was wearing Hijab, on public transit in Portland.

He made comments such as:

“Pay taxes!”

“Get the fuck out!”

“Go Home! We need Americans here!” –> because you can tell they are not American because they are not white, right?? Because a Muslim could not be an American, right??

Two men stepped in to defend and protect the women resulting in a brutal stabbing. Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, of Portland, and Ricky John Best, 53, of Happy Valley, died defending these women.

Christian was recorded saying the following in the police car after his arrest, “I stabbed the two *expletives* in the neck and I am happy now…Think I stab *expletives* in the neck for fun? Oh yeah, you’re right I do. I’m a patriot.”

In court following his arrest, Christian said, “You call it terrorism. I call it patriotism. You hear me? Die.”

It seems that patriotism to Christian meant: don’t be a Muslim. Be white. Oh, and pay your taxes. Because apparently he could tell whether or not these women did by their appearance?

I understand that not everyone that calls themselves a patriot is going to go stab someone on the subway or metro. But these underlying beliefs and this hatred: it matters. Even if you do not violently act out based on your hate, it matters.

This type of violence is becoming more and more common. This is not an isolated incident.

There are wide-held beliefs by many Americans, some would say by our current president, that being American means: being white, having English as your native language (only language?), and being Christian.

We all understand that this land was never all white people for white people right? This wasn’t even white peoples’ land to begin with.

Native language? You want to go that far? I suppose it should be Ojibwe or another indigenous language then, yes?

I work in a multicultural setting and often get asked what is my favorite thing about being American. And it’s an easy question for me: the diversity! I love that you can see people of different races, people speaking different languages, eating different cuisines, sharing different beliefs, in the same country. There is so much beauty in that.

I will never call myself a patriot. And I hope you are thoughtful enough to understand that that does NOT mean I am not thankful to be American. I love this land.

If you are loyal to the United States without question, I worry for you. You will be duped. Perhaps you already have been.

Open your eyes, open your heart.

No one is asking anyone to give up their identity, their beliefs, their religion- or to be ashamed of who they are. No one.

But please- do not blindly follow the blind.

Do you consider yourself a patriot? I genuinely would like to know why. What does that mean to you? What is the United States you see or envision? Does your vision for the U.S. hurt or exclude anyone? If yes, why?

Repeat: you are NOT being asked to change your identity. I am asking you to celebrate others’ identities as well.

Stand up for those around you. Do not be a bystander.

And last of all, as I always say: spread peace and love, y’all.

xoxo,

 

Jessica

 

 

 

 

 

 

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white privilege, the white savior complex, and voluntourism

Here in the West, we are frequently schooled on just how lucky we are to live the way that we do…We are taught to pity the women, those other women, living in other places, who do not enjoy the same rights that we do. We are taught to be thankful that we are not these women. On the surface, these lessons seem to be fairly innocuous — after all, it’s a demonstrable fact that we in the West, especially white women in the West, face less oppression than non-western women of color. When we take a closer look at these statements, however, their core message becomes clear: our culture is better. We are more enlightened, more rational, and more civilized. Other cultures should strive harder to be more like us.

-Anne Theriault: The White Feminist Savior Complex

Before we move on to the meat of my post, let’s go through a few definitions:

  • White privilege: social, political, or economic benefits white people in western countries experience solely because of the color of their skin.
  • The White Savior Complex (definition from Urban Dictionary): White savior refers to (white) western people going in to “fix” the problems of struggling nations or people of color without understanding their history, needs, or the region’s current state of affairs.
  • Voluntourism: Going somewhere abroad to do some type of volunteer or charity work.

 

Recently, I read a Facebook post from an acquaintance going on and on about how she was so proud of the work she did in “Africa” to save those poor children and how one day she would continue the work somewhere else…maybe a Native American reservation. I did what I always do but regret later and read the comments beneath the status. Every comment was praising her- good job, praise God, bless you! I was internally vomiting. There are so. many. issues with the entire post and who it was coming from- a white woman (who also had a photo posted of her and a ton of little black kids).

First, can we FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS GOOD, stop referring to Africa as a homogeneous area (often referring to it as a single country) that all needs saving??  As westerners, especially as white westerners, we need to be mindful of how we speak and what we assume. Who taught us to pity anyone from any culture other than ours and why? Why do we assume that everyone outside of our country/culture wants to live like we (westerners) do? Did you ask these folks in “Africa” if they wanted your saving? Did your “help” come bearing a religious obligation that they may or may not appreciate?

And maybe for a moment one should stop and reflect- what did I REALLY do when I was abroad? I won’t pretend to know what this woman on Facebook did or what others who pride themselves on their abroad volunteering have done. I guess it would have been nice or at least informative to know that this woman did–before everyone was patting her back for being a good white girl. Did you go to Africa and play with the kiddos? Maybe you did provide a real service- who knows. But I think what we must CRITICALLY think about, again- especially as white westerners, is does said group of people want our help, are we helping or empowering, are we doing something purely to make ourselves feel better–what are our motivations?

Something that really gets me wondering is what one’s motivation is in posting a photo of yourself (said white person) and a bunch of children of color. Did you ask them if you could take/post a photo of them (are they even old enough to consent)? Why did you take it? Do you think you look like a “good” servant or white girl/boy–maybe even a good feminist? I have seen so many people post these photos…even some of my social work colleagues and I am just so curious. Why? Perhaps one of the best tumblrs I have ever seen is this one. It is a collage of all the photos from Tinder of (mostly) white people “doing humanitarian work” abroad. Why are these photos a thing?

The White Savior Complex may occur in actual travel/voluntourism or also just theoretically in conversation. One example of this I hear all the time is that “we” need to help the Muslim women in the Middle East and liberate them! I think I hear this one more than any other currently, especially in today’s increasingly hostile culture towards Islam. What is most important when one is speaking or thinking these thoughts is to ask yourself- Do I really know what the fuck I am talking about? Do I know about Islam–and not just from a radical right wing source? Have I met a Muslim woman (or man) personally and asked her why she chooses to wear Hijab (or if she is forced to)? Have you asked one of “these women” if they want your westernized “saving?” Also, what do you really know about women’s role in the Middle East? Did you know there are more women in government in Iraq and Afghanistan than in the United States? Have you considered the idea that western feminism (and of course white feminism) may look completely different from feminism in a different country? I mean—doesn’t that make sense? A different country with a different culture will likely have feminism that looks different. So let’s stop trying to “save” women in the middle east. Let’s pick up a book, listen to them, realize they have diverse opinions within their cultural group, etc. While you’re at it, check out this Huff Post piece that features a beautifully diverse group of women explaining what the Hijab means to them.

Ok, let’s wrap it up.

Important takeaways:

-white people need not and should not see themselves as saviors and also should not view non-white people as  in need of saving.

-next time you go abroad to volunteer, think CRITICALLY about your choice. why are you going? are you really just going to tour a country? that is cool; i love to travel. but let’s be real about our motivations. before you rush to someone’s “aid” ask them–do you want this from me?

-fight hard to dissolve preconceived beliefs about countries or cultures other than your own. go to the source: speak to someone different than you. have an open mind. it is amazing how far an open mind and respect can take you. it is unjust and unethical to hold beliefs about someone outside of your culture based on literature written BY (white) WESTERN people. Think about that. It’s simply illogical. What better way to get true and tried information than going to someone belonging to that group. You will likely be surprised at how eager they are to share about their culture or beliefs-just be respectful.

Questions? Thoughts? Comments?

Peace and love, y’all.

Xoxo,

 

Jessica

 

P.S. google “white savior cat.” You will thank me.

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eating disorder awareness

we turn skeletons into goddesses and look to them as if they might teach us not to need 

– Marya Hornbacher, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia

 

February 26-March 4, 2017 is Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

 

So let’s spread some awareness. 

  • In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life
  • By age 6, girls especially start to express concerns about their own weight or shape
  • 40-60% of elementary school girls (ages 6-12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat. This concern endures through life.
  • There has been a rise in incidence of anorexia in young women 15-19 in each decade since 1930
  • The prevalence of eating disorders is similar among Non-Hispanic Whites, Hispanics, AfricanAmericans, and Asians in the United States, with the exception that anorexia nervosa is more common among Non-Hispanic Whites
  • 46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets
  • Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives
Source: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/get-facts-eating-disorders

 

As many of you already know, I struggled with an eating disorder in my early twenties. I’ve written about this very publicly in my book, For Her. So these facts-these statistics- hit a very raw place inside of me.

I do consider myself in a healthy place. Do I never struggle with body image? Let’s be real. I am a woman living in 2017. I am faced with a media that shames me, tries to make me feel insignificant, trains me to be flaw focused, and overall works hard to make me not love myself. Buy this, wear this, lose this, gain this, etc. I still struggle. But I am dedicated to loving myself, even when I don’t feel like I love what I see.

I think back to my childhood, my teenage years, and even my early twenties. And I am sad. Sad for the years of detesting my body, my hair, my everything.

I came across the image below on the internet one day and it spoke leaps and bounds to me. (side note: do not know the source; if you do, holla at me and I will give credit!). 133078-harpyThis image represents how I felt about myself as a little girl and even into my young adult life. What kind of a world are we raising our little girls and boys in when all they want is to not be/look/feel like they do?? My heart. It hurts.

Eating disorders are not gender, age, or geographically limited. This is an inclusive monster. Remember that.

So what now?? 

First, let me speak to anyone out there that is currently struggling with an eating disorder. Please know that you are worthy and beautiful as you are in this moment. Please know that there is help. And I know it is fucking terrifying to get help. When I finally sought out therapy (which saved my life), I sobbed in the waiting room before almost bailing. Friends, you deserve help. You deserve love and health. No matter who you are or where you are in the world, there is help out there for you. Please click here and take the first step.

My goal in writing this piece is not only to spread the raw, painful reality of eating disorders, but also to spread the body posi LOVE!

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(source unknown)

 

Here are some of my favorite social media accounts that I go to for some body posi loving:

 

I also created an entire board on my personal Pinterest dedicated to body positivity and self love. Check it out. And send me more pins you find that also spread the love!

I also get teased sometimes because I love me a selfie. But I have come to believe that a selfie is an act of self-love. To be able to take a photo of myself and love what I see or teach myself to do so if I don’t instinctively, is empowering. It is liberating. It’s fucking radical.

Below is a photo of me in Budapest, Hungary. I had walked miles that day exploring the city, trying to find a SIM card, and trying to find my AirBnB. I had also been in Ireland for the week before this photo was taken; I walked so much in Ireland that I almost lost my two big toenails (grody, I know). My point being: when I see the photo below, I see a body that carried me across the world, explored two countries by foot, and still looks damn cute. Years ago, I would have hated this photo. Do I look too “soft?” Look at my little belly poking out (I actually find it adorable)…what will people think? Blah Blah Blah. For me- taking a selfie is an act of self love. I am so sick of people calling women that love taking selfies of themselves “self-obsessed.” GOD FORBID WE MANAGE TO FALL IN LOVE WITH OURSELVES IN A WORLD THAT TAUGHT US NOT TO. That is radical. Self-love is truly a radical concept. So LET US BE. Love us, as we learn to love ourselves.

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After you’re finished reading this, go in the mirror and start listing off things you love about yourself. Can’t think of anything? I call bullshit. Send me a message and I WILL tell you why you’re beautiful. Also, let’s remember that beauty is not only skin deep. I think it is important to love and cherish our physical beauty while SIMULTANEOUSLY remembering that we are so much more.

Love yourself. Help others love themselves.

 

Spread peace and body posi love.We all need it.

xoxo,

 

Jessica

 

 

 

 

 

Me, Myself, and Christianity

Today, I want to talk about religion. Specifically, I want to talk about Christianity as an organized religion.

Let me begin by giving a brief history of myself and religion:

I was raised Catholic until I was about seven years old. I made my first communion and went to catechism (PS. I had to google for so long to figure out how to spell that word).

When I was seven, my parents switched our family from a catholic church to a non-denominational christian church. I won’t go into great detail about what the differences are between the two, but do feel free to do some research of your own if you’re curious.

Throughout all of grade school and into college, I considered myself very religious. I went to church every Sunday. And Christianity guided my decisions- who I had serious friendships with, who I considered dating,  who I voted for in elections, etc. When I was eighteen, I went to a rally for Mike Huckabee; he had cast his first bid for the 2008 presidential election. I voted for John McCain in 2008. I did both of those things because I felt they aligned with my christian values.

In 2009, I moved away to Michigan State University. It is at this time that many folks in my life would say the liberal education system brainwashed me. However, I say- it is at this time, that my world view- my bubble- was first challenged.

I am a critical thinker. I am a philosopher. I like to know WHY I believe something. I am not someone that will listen to my parents, a church, my professor, or a mentor simply because they are an authority figure or someone I look up to. I have always been someone to question myself- and not in a way where I doubt my abilities or knowledge- but to challenge myself to consider ALL possibilities, all ideas. I am not loyal without question to anyone or anything. But I had very limited opportunities to explore, question, and learn as a child and young adult. I was surrounded by one worldview: at church, at home, and at my christian school. So going away to college was liberating; it was also information overload. I cried a lot, challenged myself, thought differently, questioned everything I had ever learned, and molded into a new person. *insert cliche: “i found myself in college” quote*

Today, I am not sure what I believe in terms of religion, in terms of god. And now is the first time I have publicly written about this. In part I haven’t written about this because I know how much it hurts my mom to know I am not sure. And also because I am someone that does not deal well with ambiguity. And I truly just don’t know what I believe. And I am coming to terms with the fact that that is OK. I will say-I do pray sometimes; it brings me peace. And as someone that struggles with anxiety, I will continue to do anything that brings me peace even if I am not sure I fully understand it.

***********************************************************************

Ok, so now that we have a brief history of me and my relationship with religion, I want to talk about what I do know and what I do struggle with within Christianity as an organized religion. Maybe this will help people see where I come from, why I have the worldview I do, and why I am so critical of christianity as an organized religion.

I don’t want to go too deep into history because I don’t have the stamina for that kind of research right now. I will say that my grade school education failed to properly and honestly educate me about the history of christianity and atrocities that christians have committed. Sidenote: I KNOW that christians are not the only ones that committed religious atrocities. I get it. But that is what I am talking about now. Let’s talk about colonization and the role of christianity- Indian boarding schools, cultural genocide, etc. WHY didn’t I learn about that? Why did everything I learn shine christianity in a positive light?

So there is my first issue: historically, christians have committed atrocities “in the name of god” and I just CAN’T get on board with that.

I can’t get on board with missionary work. I abhor the concept. First of all, it is usually white missionaries going to non-white regions of the world and shoving their beliefs, ideals, and values down another group of peoples throats. I get that the intentions MAY be good- PERHAPS even out of love. I just don’t support it. Often we have white christian youth going to an African country and “working” in an orphanage for a week or two to “spread the word” and then they leave. And little to nothing is done to learn from said group of people or about their culture! It is more of a “feel good” “volunteer” experience. Again, I can’t.

I find so many hypocrisies in christianity that it literally turned me away from the church. I feel that love has been lost in the church. I can’t sit through a sermon in a church anymore. I have tried and I have had to get up and walk out. Last time I was in a church years ago, the pastor was talking about how we had to fear the word tolerance. You see, christianity is an evangelical religion; so there is no accepting of other faiths or perspectives. And I find concern in not being able to value or appreciate different faith perspectives. It is quite literally my job to do just that.

I have written a couple of poems about my feelings re: hypocrisy within the christian faith and would like to share them here:

If I peeled open your heart

what would I find

would I find layers of love

reflecting the king you say you love so

&

You and your tattooes

And your divorces

And your hair cuts

And your masturbation

And your fornication

 

And yet you

 

With your hate

And your judgement

And your superiority

 

And yet you
Are no different than a pharisee

 

I HATE when Christians cherry pick what is wrong and what isn’t to justify their actions, their hate, etc. Who knows what I am talking about? We ALL know someone who does this. Heaven knows I do.

I understand that I am making generalizations. I understand…NOT ALL christians. I know that are actually some churches that have gay pastors and fight for social justice. And to those folks, I say, rock on.

But for now I am going to generalize based on MY experience within christianity and personal relationships with christians.

You know I love bulleted lists, so here we go- here is a list of issues I have within the religion:

  • treatment of the LGBT community
  • hate or simply a lack of love towards non-christians- let’s talk about christians blowing up planned parenthoods, denying assistance or entry (via votes even) for refugees, treatment towards Muslims. Hate is one of my biggest issues with modern day christianity. I don’t feel the love. Almost every christian I know perpetuates Islamophobia and Homophobia. Almost every Christian I know voted for Donald Trump. I won’t go off on a tangent here because I have already written about how hateful Trump is and how dangerous his rhetoric is…which is WHY it is so concerning to me that Trump won the christian vote in a landslide. Let me ask one question and just chew on this: how is baking a cake for a gay wedding supporting gay marriage but voting for a racist isn’t supporting racism???
  • I can’t stand when christians say they are being targeted in the US. This usually equates in my head to- “the US is becoming more religiously diverse and we [christians] are no longer the majority (even though they are) and we fear being the minority. I cannot with “the war on christmas.” Like, y’all need to calm down. I work at an interfaith center where many of the people do not celebrate christmas personally and everyone that saw me around christmas wished me a merry christmas. No one is trying to take away your holiday. No one is trying to erase your religion. Being more inclusive of other religions and ways of life does NOT mean erasing yours. There’s room for us all. Chill.
    • Also, I find it hilariously ironic that christians say they are under attack when their religious values are seen everywhere, especially in our public policies. Separation of church and state? Doesn’t exist. It is a complete hoax. Remember Kim Davis? Refusing to complete her job by signing marriage licenses for same sex couples because of her religious identity? Where is the separation of church and state there? If you’re working for a PRIVATE company and you want to deny goods or a service to someone based on your religion, fine. I get that and I simply won’t support your business. However, if you are a PUBLIC servant or work at a PUBLIC company, you should honor the LAW and not impose YOUR PERSONAL values on others. I.E. Kim Davis, Hobby Lobby & birth control, etc. Separation of church and state is a joke. Christian values are seen everywhere in our policies and laws, which is why it KILLS me when christians say they are under attack.
  • Denial of climate change. Literally. Almost every christian I know denies climate change. They think it is a hoax and that everything that is happening is “part of god’s plan.” And therefore, they are idly watching as our planet literally dies. Again, I can’t. Denial of science is not cute.

 

In no way, shape, or form do I want to come across as hateful. Mad, yes. I am mad. I am mad at what the church is and has become. Maybe it was always this way and I can now just see it? Again, I know there are some christians that are very different from the above descriptions- Mennonites, Quakers, and universalists- like I can usually get down with y’all.

I just cannot get down with hate, with judgement, with intolerance, etc.

I ask anyone reading this to question themselves. When you die, will you be remembered as someone that loved- and loved all? Because that is the only legacy I want to leave in this world. I want to be remembered as someone that loved everyone with open arms.

How will people remember you?

xoxo,

 

Jessica

reflections on mother-f#$%ing 2016

2016.

Where. to. start.

I am a reflector. I think it is all the years of social work education. Self-reflect, self-reflect, self-reflect. I like to look back at the good and the bad- learn from it, mourn, cry, smile, laugh, yell.

2016 has been a wild ride.

My heart was hurt. I learned so much about myself (cheesy, cliche- but ever so true).  I learned what I am willing to give up and what I am not willing to give up for love. I followed my heart and gut even when it hurt. And it did hurt.

I found love for new friends and grew stronger love for old friends.

I moved into a town home with one of my best friends and am loving it. Perhaps I will take this moment to say- Shay, I love being roommates with you. We get each other. I love when we come home, talk for a few minutes, make our own dinners at the same time in the kitchen, and then go be introverted alone in our rooms. I heart you so bad. I am really, really excited to see what 2017 has in store for you. P.S. SORRY for always leaving my clothes in the dryer. I have a problem.

I traveled internationally by myself for the first time in 2016. That trip is probably one of my fondest life memories, thus far. I can’t wait to travel alone again. If you know me, you know all I ever want to do is plan trips/travel–so stay tuned in 2017.

I had to watch my country elect someone I completely abhor to the highest office in the nation. That has been one of the hardest and shittiest parts of 2016- in large part because there’s no quick fix. We’ve got him for four years (or until the impeachment). I took some time to mourn and bitch, rightfully so. And now I am ready to enter 2017 and fight.

There have been so many “small” shitty facets of 2016 that it’s become a punch line in my friend group. Whenever something bad happens, we just go “2016 dude.” Flat tires, horrific dates, navigating health insurance when I turned the beautiful age of 26, Harambe, car transmission issues, sprained neck,  etc.

I really do love my life. And the people that are in it. I love my friends, my job, my family, and MY CAT. I’m thankful. My cup really does runneth over.

Yet, I am thrilled to say toodaloo 2016. See ya never again. You have been a shit show. I have some fond moments, too. But I truly am happy to see you go.

In with the new year.

Sending peace and love to all of you as we finish out this year and head into 2017. 

xoxo,

 

Jessica

 

PS:

Me saluting 2016 goodbye:

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processing a trump victory

 Today is a day of mourning. I am so sad. Yesterday, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and sexism won. And the whole world is watching. This great nation has raised hate up on a pedestal, not only condoning it but supporting it.


Yesterday taught me that you can literally do anything you want if you have money.


How ironic that all Trump talked about was the system being rigged against him, a white male billionaire. And then…once again in US history the electoral college fucks us over. Hillary gets the popular vote and yet, the white lash prevails and Trump gets office.

I watched the election results roll in at two of my best friends home. They are a same sex couple. And as they lay on the ground grasping on to each other watching the election results, I began to silently cry. Will marriage equality be overturned? Will years of advocacy and social justice work be overturned? I just want to see my best friends get married. I want to move forward, not regress.


I wake up to headlines of the KKK being overjoyed with the election results. Let that sink in. There is NO arguing that Trump is not rooted in bigotry and hate. I am terrified of increasing hate crimes. Trump supporters- any blood shed is on your hands. The world is watching. Your character has been defined.

I read an article this morning where a Muslim young woman tweets that her mom asked her to stop wearing hijab when she saw the election results. Is this country not founded on religious freedom? Or are we just talking about religious freedom for Christians??


People had to wake up and explain to their children this morning that Trump won. I read about a child that is half Puerto Rican and she feared because of that Trump would deport her from the state in which she currently lives. Children are LITERALLY scared for their lives and for their families lives. This is the United States of America and the world is watching.


This election is a direct result of white people fearing losing their privileges. Fear of the “minorities” taking over, fear of immigration, fear of religious differences—fear of ANYTHING different than white hetero christianity.

Today is a day of mourning. I don’t want to organize, advocate, or fight. My soul is weak. I am tired. I feel very defeated.

But rest assured- the work continues. I am not giving up. My work at a multicultural and multi-faith center is more important NOW then ever. 

Today, I mourn. But tomorrow we get back up. We fight to defend and protect our LGBT friends, our Muslim friends, women, immigrants, people of color. We are not going anywhere. This is OUR country too. And our work is just beginning.

Today I mourn. Today I process how a man that has sexual assault cases in the double digits lined up against him, a man that mocked people with disabilities, a man that said “grab em by the pussy,” a man that was endorsed by the KKK, a man that doesn’t believe in climate change—has become the President Elect of the United States of America.

I am also so fucking frustrated with third party voters. This was not an election for you to get off on some moral high ground. If you are a person that voted third party, I need you to reflect deep and hard on that choice. You knew better. And you let us down.

I want to take a moment to speak directly to those that are feeling scared for their lives, their safety, and their well-being. I promise to fight for you. I promise to do everything I can to leverage my white privilege to protect and advocate for you. 

Today I mourn. But do not mistake my current defeated spirit for weakness. The fire is burning in my belly. And now more than ever my work as a community organizer and social justice advocate is critical.

Fellow social justice friends, our work is just beginning. Take today. Mourn. Grieve. Accept. And then tomorrow we get up, we eat breakfast, and we fight for everything we believe in.

I think Jessica Valenti said it best last night:

Tonight is what backlash looks like – to women’s rights, to racial progress, to a cultural shift that doesn’t center straight white men.

But to all the people despairing right now: Please know that you matter, your lives and health matter, I am with you.

No matter what happens, we keep fighting.

Peace and love, my friends. If you want to process all of this with me, leave a comment with your email and I will be in touch with you.

xoxo,

Jessica

to my fellow Clinton voters

Anyone that knows me well (or even in the slightest), knows that I am voting for Hillary Clinton. I don’t love Clinton. I was and am a Sander’s supporter and volunteered on his campaign. But because I am working hard to opt out of a homophobic, racist, xenophobic, white supremacist apocalypse, I am voting Clinton.

Ok. My intention in writing this post is not to convince anyone to vote for Clinton, though please do (hahaha…really).

I am writing this TO my fellow Clinton voters. This one is for you, fam.

I am writing to say that it is ok if you don’t comment on or engage with every Trump supporter you meet.

I know you are tired. I can LITERALLY feel the tension among my friends, co-workers, and even strangers. This election is different. I am very, very scared.

In the midst of the coming potential-trumpocalypse, your mental health still matters.

If you want to ignore politics for one night and eat some shitty food and drink wine, you can.

You and your mental health matter.

I woke up one day this week in tears because I am so sad that this election is what the U.S. has come to. This is not 2016- it can’t be. The headlines I am reading cannot be real. The hate I am reading, hearing, feeling—whoa. It is a lot to take in. And I am in the most privileged group of people in this country- white people. So I can’t begin to fathom how my friends of color, non-Christian friends, my LGBT friends–how all of you feel. I love you all.

Please know:

You are not mandated to engage with bigots. You are not letting down “the cause” if you ignore a Trump supporter. 

Some battles must simply be won at the polls.

Take it easy, fam. We are in this together.

Tonight, I am excited to go to a good friend’s Halloween party. My friend, Jess, (you are my super hero) had the amazingly bright idea of throwing a Halloween party AFTER Halloween to prolong the joy. Tonight, I’m going to spend time with friends, have some wine and hopefully candy, and practice self care. You should do the same. Go out, dance, have a drink, have a cupcake–do you. Your mental health matters, even in the midst of all of this–no ESPECIALLY in the midst of all of this.

I will see you all at the polls on Tuesday.

And on Tuesday night, I am going to be up all night with my best friends Ceci and Meaghan watching the results and eating ice cream.

Take it easy, fam. We are in this together. 

 

 
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xoxo,

 

Jessica

#imwithher

my new gig

“Teaching” English abroad made me realize how much I enjoy the process and journey. Seeing someone improve their language abilities and knowing you had a smshutterstock_73189624all part in that process is a really beautiful feeling.

I’ve decided to create a little “side business” teaching English. And by teaching English,  I mean speaking English with non-native speakers. In my years of working with ESL individuals, I have found that speaking English with native speakers is one of the most beneficial ways to improve one’s language proficiency. Of course someone needs to have a base level for me to be of any help; but once they have that base level, we can talk and talk and talk–and watch your skills grow.

I JUST created a profile on Fiverr to advertise my services. The beautiful thing about the internet: I can teach English to anyone, anywhere in the world. Isn’t that cool?

So if you know someone looking to improve their English language skills, please share my Fiverr link:  https://www.fiverr.com/jrenae! Or refer them to me directly and we can arrange a chat.

Also, if anyone is out there trying to learn a language OTHER than English, check out Fiverr! There are people from ALL OVER the world on there offering to teach Spanish, Portuguese, German, French, etc. #globalizationFTW

Peace and love my friends!

xoxo,

 

Jessica

reflections of a solo female traveler

“It seemed an advantage to be traveling alone. Our responses to the world are crucially moulded by whom we are with, we temper our curiosity to fit in with the expectations of others…Being closely observed by a companion can inhibit us from observing others; we become taken up with adjusting ourselves to the companion’s questions and remarks, we have to make ourselves seem more normal than is good for our curiosity.” – Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel

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Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Months ago, when I was trying to decide where I should travel next and who with, I made a a decision that did not seem that profound to me- I would travel alone this time. In the past, I have traveled internationally with friends, with family, in groups, with a significant other, with my sister (best travel buddy to this day).

But this time I decided I wanted something different. 2016 has been a challenging year for me personally. And I decided I wanted some time alone to just “be.” I wanted time to revel in myself, experience new cultures, meet new people, and simply to do whatever the fuck I wanted.

Anyone who knows me knows I love to travel. And I love people! So when most of my friends and family learned I had decided to go overseas alone, they were a bit horrified. “Why not just go with friends???? You have so many friends!” And I do LOVE travelling with friends and loved ones.

But this trip taught me I also adore travelling by myself.

Why?

  • You can literally do WHATEVER THE HELL YOU WANT WHEN YOU WANT. I.E.: I am going to explore this museum; ok, over the museum- i want to shop; ok, i want some ice cream; ok, I want to explore this park and just relax for a moment; ok, i am exhausted and need a break; ok, i want more ice cream; ok, i want to go to the pubs for the third night in a row; and on the way home, i want more ice cream. 🙂 SERIOUSLY- I think everyone should go somewhere- doesn’t have to be international- BY THEMSELVES. It is liberating!
  • You meet people you would not otherwise meet. When you are travelling with others, even if just one other person, you get comfortable and explore the city together- WHICH IS FINE. But travelling alone opens many new doors. I did a free walking tour in Dublin, Ireland and met many other single travelers there. Later that night, we all grabbed drinks. Also, fun fact– on that same walking tour, I met a married couple that was from Sterling Heights, Michigan and their son lived in Depot Town, Ypsilanti!!
  • You are forced outside of your comfort zone. It is completely YOUR responsibility to navigate a new city in a new country. You may have to navigate a language barrier, traffic signs you don’t understand (traffic direction!), food you can’t make out, etc. My favorite example of this is trying to find a SIM card in Budapest, Hungary so that I could have data on my phone (all praise Google Maps). I tried to do a little research beforehand about where to find one- and I thought I would be able to purchase one in the airport.But the little store in the terminal at the airport was sold out. So I hopped onto a bus and headed to the city center to figure it out there. I was exhausted at this point- my plane to Budapest left Dublin around 5:50AM and I was at the airport long before. So there I was meandering around Budapest with my massive backpack trying to find a SIM card. I walked into a few stores with no success. And just as I was about to cross the street to try another pocket of the city, I saw an indoor mall. I went up to each floor and looked and looked and finally on the third floor there was a cell phone store! The digital menu for getting a service ticket was all in Hungarian (makes sense obviously), but a very kind bi-lingual staff member helped me. And just as I was about to leave the store, another English speaker walks in looking desperate and simply asks “SIM card??” I chuckled to myself and let him know YES they have them! He had just arrived from Israel–and we bonded over the necessity of Google Maps.
    • (P.S. you may be fine navigating without data if physical maps are your thing. They are not mine-LOL. Also, having data and keeping in touch/Facetiming was my mother’s ONLY request as I went abroad alone).

I have gotten a lot of questions in regards to if I felt safe travelling alone as a woman. My answer- yes. I think every individual, regardless of sex or gender, needs to make smart choices abroad- i.e. keep cash in your suitcase and purse in case of theft, make sure your passport is safe, keep your eyes alert to your surroundings. With that said, I did not let fear keep me from experiencing local culture. I went to the pubs every night I was in Dublin and that was one of my favorite parts! I met a lot of locals and other travelers. And when I was ready to go home, I did because I was alone and could do whatever DA FUQ I WANTED. 🙂

At the end of the day, it is empowering to travel alone. And if you haven’t done so, I encourage you to give it a try. This will most definitely NOT be my last solo trip.

xoxo,

Jessica

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