Worrying about Others Is Nothing to Fear


Every day I think about my friends in Honduras and I worry about them. I wonder what they’re doing and if they’re OK, and I wonder if they’re worried about today or tomorrow. Then I worry and wonder about my friends in Argentina who I haven’t seen in a little longer. I feel bad that I owe them a visit and I am concerned that I have lost touch with some of them. But most of all I worry about how much they’re being affected by the deepening crash of the economy, increasing social repression, and overall sense of crisis reaching infamous 2001 levels. I also think about how I owe my good friend in prison a letter, and I wonder how he’s getting along too, and I hope that he knows that my longer than usual stretch without communication doesn’t mean that I’m not thinking of him often.

I feel connected to these folks, and my worries are personal rather than abstract. The problems they face—in the form, often, of risk to their lives—are elements of large social problems of the kind many of us read and hear about in the news. The visibility of these problems happening to people who are faraway makes both the people and the problems seem invisible. But they are not abstract social problems. They are everyday problems faced by real humans. They are the concrete problems faced by my living breathing friends, even if these concrete problems are overwhelming oppressive social structures.

It seems to me that I also know many people who have refused to face or even acknowledge these problems. Their reaction, it seems to me, is one of fear. They fear, perhaps, becoming sucked in to the sense of worry that I described above. They fear, perhaps, becoming overwhelmed by the extent of the world’s problems. They fear, perhaps, their sense of helplessness. It is true that “you can’t help everyone.”

But I wouldn’t trade my constant sense of worry and obligation for the disregard or the protective ignorance or the fear or whatever it is that stops people from engaging. Despite the fact that injustice will never be solved, I know that I am connected horizontally in relationships with others that are mutual, loving, and creating alternatives everyday to the systems which tear us down. I am engaged in nurturing myself and others. I know that I am not hiding from reality.

Every week I try to do what I can. It is overwhelming, and so I try to work first on the corner of the giant puzzle of injustice closest to me, while keeping the whole picture in front of me and making sure that my piece will still be able to connect. I work on always increasing my network of solidarity and especially its diversity. And I try to hand puzzle pieces to passersby, who happen to know me but no one else, and get them involved too, and I guess this for me is also part of how solidarity works.

Sometimes I fail, but every day I worry and I make all the room in my life I can to change the world. I reflect, I criticize, and I work at it. I know that I am obligated to others because my humanity is bound up in theirs. Without them, I am not fully human.

Happy Birthday to Me

This year I decided to step out of my comfort zone and ask everyone for a big gift. I will admit that I was inspired by Facebook’s prompt to start a fundraiser, but as an incorrigible nonconformist, I did not start a fundraiser. Instead, I asked all of my FB friends to engage in some form of social change action in my honor.

Here were the rules:

  1. Choose a form of social change/resistance to participate in before Oct 31.
  2. The idea is to “take one step up” from wherever your current level of political engagement is, so actions that count should be something that you would not otherwise do. (Ex.: Voting is a good action if you were not planning on voting and don’t usually vote, but not a very good gift if you were already gonna do that. The same goes for donating money.)
  3. Post what you did as a comment on this thread, or if you prefer send me an email about it.

It was a big ask, but I received some truly humbling birthday gifts:

  • I have joined Alliance at UWS to help advocate and learn more about my LGBTQ+ friends.
  • I will attend my first Witness for Peace Midwest board meeting in November and, if all goes well, lead my first delegation in March.
  • Sent out over 100 emails to “BFs” in Duluth and sent in a Letter to the Editor to the Duluth News Tribune to campaign for Keith Ellison
  • And another for Keith: just signed up to do GOTV for the Keith Ellison campaign
  • Last night, I spoke publicly at City Council about the economic degradation and impact thereof related to NW Jacksonville.
  • Raised funds and did a walk for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
  • I’m speaking at a labor and disability rights event, I’ll step it up in your name! Just know I get in the most trouble when I ask, what would Meghan do? And I ask this question often!
  • Researched and donated to Trans Women of Color Collective.
  • I’m embarrassed this was outside my comfort zone, but I went to a showing of a film “Doctrine of Discovery: the domination code” by Steven Newcomb at a local community center and signed up to receive emails on how to help spread the message. It has to do with the federal governments (and European) policy of domination of indigenous peoples and the religious ideologies they rely upon to justify their actions. I truthfully would most likely not have gone if you hadn’t made your birthday request! It was important for me to see.
  • Recent traumatic events in my family and seeing rape culture play out on the national stage have been very triggering of my own trauma of when I was raped at 17. And for my daughter staring down similar demons, and for every other person who has survived sexual assault, abuse, or rape – I am going to stop running. I’m going turn around and tell my 17 yr old self everything I’ve been telling my daughter. And I’m going to take every bit of power back that the fear has held over me and use it to file a police report and name him. The statute of limitations expired years ago, I doubt he’ll ever know I reported as there’s not potential for charges so I don’t think they would even do an investigation. So that is how I’m taking your challenge of one step up. I’m going to name him and file a police report.
  • I’m going to teach Constitutional Law through Duluth Community Ed, for free, so that people with money are not the only people who understand the constitution, in addition to my work on criminal justice reform (for example Warrant Resolution Day to keep people out of jail)
  • I recently started helping a lawyer friend translate documents from Spanish for immigration cases she works on.
  • Engaged in deep discussion with someone pushing a political candidate I don’t care for.

My idea was that we live in an individualist society and political action is, well, hard. We could all use a little bit of a push and also some mutual support to engage more in our communities, to do something we’ve been meaning to do, and to know that what we’re doing really counts for something. I wanted to create another little web of solidarity and light in this world which can seem so dark. I hope that others will be inspired by these ideas and actions whether you are a seasoned community activist or just getting out there or something in between, because as one of my friends said, we could all use a little inspiration.

Fearless by Alina Tauseef

Art by Alina Tauseef

Saturday Recommendation: When They Call You a Terrorist

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir – Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele

I do not think I have ever met anyone who could not somehow benefit by reading this book. White people, middle class people, and anyone who experiences the privilege of not being Black in the US will find a lot illuminating in Khan-Cullors powerfully told story of growing up in a culture which simply does not value your life or those of your loved ones. The honesty and vulnerability with which this contemporary story is told means that there is a lot to be learned even for those who feel that they have done a lot of listening, learning, and studying; there are new nuances here that are important. This same emotional heft means that the book has value (at least, I imagine so) for those who do share her experiences because it is validating. Its intersectional dimensionality – careful attention is paid here not only to gender but to sexuality, trans visibility, and more, including how communities and movements have succeeded and failed in organizing at certain moments because it is always a struggle—mean that there are opportunities for everyone to learn. Organizers and activists will also find Khan-Cullors’ words inspiring , validating, and simply nourishing. Those who are not activists will find the book helpful for understanding why others, such as the three women who founded Black Lives Matter, do what they do.

Two short passages that occur near the end of the book:

 “…now it was late, maybe 1:00 in the morning, and I was heading back to my cottage where Mark Anthony was supposed to be sleeping but instead was standing outside our home, barefoot, in pajamas and with his hands cuffed behind his back. … They were able to gain entry to our home because in St. Elmo’s, before this, we never locked the doors. But on this night, the police entered through the back door. They said he fit the description of a guy who’d done some robberies in the area. They offered no further explanation. … Later when I hear others dismissing our voices, our protest for equity, by saying All Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter, I will wonder how many white Americans are dragged out of their beds in the middle of the night because they might fit a vague description offered up by God knows who. How many skinny, short, blond men were rounded up when Dylann Roof massacred people in prayer? How many brown-haired white men were snatched out of bed when Bundy was killing women for sport? … Mark Anthony’s cuffs are finally removed, but the police do not leave my home for another two hours, taking down all kinds of information about him, running his license, hoping to find any reason to take him away, this man they yanked out of his own bed in the middle of the night in the house where he lives in a community where he is loved” (pp. 193-195).

And then, a discussion about the formation of the BLM:

“We agree that there is something that happens inside of a person, a people, a community when you think you will not live, that the people around you will not live. We talk about how you develop an attitude, one that dismisses hope, that discards dreams” (p 199).

This book is a record of life in Van Nuys. This book is a record of a movement. This book is a record of state terrorism. This book is a record of a dream.