Blog Writing

Blog Writing

Mostly writing not published somewhere else.

    Moms Surviving Abuse in La Crosse County and Beyond

    Beth Mattson was pregnant in a recliner

    I don't want to break this news to you gently: mothers who speak up about domestic abuse are punished and lose custody of their children in abysmal numbers.

    Schmidt, Samantha. (2019, July 29) ‘A gendered trap’: When mothers allege child abuse by fathers, the mothers often lose custody, study shows. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/a-gendered-trap-when-mothers-allege-child-abuse-by-fathers-the-mothers-often-lose-custody-study-shows/2019/07/28/8f811220-af1d-11e9-bc5c-e73b603e7f38_story.html

    Dickson, Sean & Meier, Joan S. (2017) Mapping Gender: Shedding Empirical Light on Family Courts’ Treatment of Cases Involving Abuse and Alienation, Law & Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice. Volume 35, Issue 2, Article 10. Retreived from https://scholarship.law.umn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1576&context=lawineq

    Child Custody Outcomes in Cases Involving Parental Alienation and Abuse Allegations (2019); Joan S. Meier, Sean Dickson, Chris O’Sullivan, Leora Rosen, Jeffrey Hayes. Retrieved from:  https://scholarship.law.gwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2712&context=faculty_publications

    Joan S. Meier (2020) U.S. child custody outcomes in cases involving parental alienation and abuse allegations: what do the data show?,  Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 42:1, 92-105, DOI: 10.1080/09649069.2020.1701941
    To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/09649069.2020.1701941

    It's happening in and near La Crosse, Wisconsin.

    Moms say county is forcibly reuniting children with abusers

    https://lacrossetribune.com/news/group-of-la-crosse-county-moms-says-courts-unfairly-favor-abusive-fathers/article_e342cac1-d950-57b8-8fa3-6cd7f8ccd2f8.html#tracking-source=home-top-story-1

    http://www.momsandkidssurvivingabuse.org/

    I am one of these women. I'm posting about it on my professional writing site because my professional writing career was held against me as evidence that I have "trouble with boundaries," am guilty of "parental alienation" of my abuser, "exaggerate for effect," and "focus on the negative" too much.

    While I never use my ex-husband's name, while everything I say is true and corroborated by affidavits, and you can not search via this pen name (Beth Mattson) to find my other pen name that goes more into the details of my abuse as it unfolded, a La Crosse County Custody Assessment Team and Family Court Commissioner, decided to take the following professional writing as a signal that my previous sole custody, from the State of Oregon, should be changed to give primary custody of my children to our abuser.

    Barely Escaping The Patriarchy (essay on The Girl God)

    Single Mothers Speak On Patriarchy (anthology on Amazon Smile)

    They also cited my Twitter poetry notebook project, also without my abuser's name, as utterly outlandish behavior, "posting all over Twitter, Your Honor," as though Twitter is not a basic social media site for professional self-expression, especially for a poet.

    Beth's Poetry On Twitter

    They held my exploration of my queer identity against me as "untethered from reality," and my long-resolved coming out process as the sole reason for my PTSD diagnosis. They doubted by son's medical and educational diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder as me "coaching professional," which they also used to explain away my daughter's disclosures of sexual abuse and concerns of the same reported by mandated reporters. At no point in time did any official make an unannounced visit to my abuser's home, he didn't answer the door for a police officer trying more than ten times to collect a report, and when I provided a screen-shot of my abusers childish My Little Pony illustrated pornography (they only care to scour my online presence), they asked me, "I don't see a problem. What do you think is happening?" So he continues to dress my children as his favorite MLP porn character. Nobody but my attorney spoke with the other adult female survivors of my abuser's sexual assaults.

    In my area, there are now twenty-five locals moms, and counting, who have had abusive men and fathers preferred due to mothers and children speaking honestly about abuse concerns in court, to child protective services, to our county board of supervisors, and media outlets. They further insult us and fine us under the guise of forcing us to pay our abusive ex's attorneys fees, on top of not requiring abusers who share custody pay child support in equitable amounts. They ask our abusers if the abusers "feel that mom is ready" to return to 50-50 custody, while financially motivating abusers to keep custody and catering to abusers' control and malice. Not a single mother among our growing group has been reassigned the custody given to the abuser as "forced reunification," and most of our children's situations, trauma, safety, health, and education have grown far worse under this "forced reunification" with abusers, including spending more time with the abusers while school is out of session for the pandemic.

    There is no good reason for this prioritization of father's rights over all others' to continue. There is no reason that mothers should not speak up about this terrible paradigm of punishing women who speak honestly about abuse. There is no good reason not to collect data on outcomes for those who report abuse concerns.

    Contact everyone you can. Help us end this horrifying practice.

    Beth Mattson and kids splay toes on the beach of Pine Lake

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    Please Vote Like We're Family from 2020/10/30

    Please Vote Like We’re Family

    To my beloved chosen family this will be an already understood glimpse into life of those on the margins. For some of my beloved natal, biological, and legal family members and literal neighbors, my heartfelt begging will remain foreign, unrelatable, and ignored. Which is gutting, as we are, in fact, related. And you do, in fact, know how to read. You could practice listening if it’s still really so difficult.

    I come from the same backwoods as you. (Shoot, I still live in the backwoods.) I wear hand-me-down clothes, hunt with rifles with small magazines, drive tractors, have been licked by long, slimy calf tongues, and can still farmer-blow my nose like a champion. I chop wood when I am stressed. There is more than one old welding machine in the pole shed. You know me. We send holiday cards and share rotisserie chicken at reunions.

    Please, I am begging you.

    Stop acting, thinking, and VOTING like you don’t love a family member who:

    • Has a college education but isn’t a snob about filthy workboots,
    • Is deeply in debt for that precious education that liberals would like to make more affordable for everyone, so we can really get rid of that ignorant, isolated stereotype,
    • Has worked hard at a full-time job while also using food stamps, food pantries, and free lunch for the kids at school,
    • Is a teacher who lives in poverty while still budgeting money to buy my children’s school supplies, all of my own desk needs, and plenty for my students who have even less than I do,
    • Has been a peaceful protester, standing politely with a goddamn permit while being pepper sprayed and under the threat of police batons, rubber bullets, and water cannons,
    • Is consistently in need of protesting for basic human and civil rights like marriage, being listened to after sexual assaults, and not being lynched after announcing reaching for a wallet with a conceal to carry permit, crying on the ground for Mama, or calling for a medical, mental health emergency,
    • Has been treated horribly by police officers responding to a domestic incident call, and, in fact, yelled at to leave while bleeding from a fresh injury,
    • Is consistently treated as less reliable, honest, and worthy in the court system, because the other testimony is from a charming white man whose needs are the primary concern,
    • Has a collection of non-assault rifles for hunting, is still a better shot than you without even semi-automatic or a scope (yeah, you heard me; you’re bad at hunting and guns if you need more than a bolt action with iron sights to get a deer), and has never had ANY of them even close to taken away by fellow liberals (remember when Clinton and Obama didn’t take any of our guns away),
    • Is not white,
    • Loves a family member who immigrated to the United States,
    • Loves a family member whose first language is not English,
    • Loves a family member who is not Christian, but is Jewish, Muslim, atheist, etc.,
    • Loves someone of the same sex/gender/orientation and has been berated and discriminated against by society and community,
    • Has had an abortion, but will never tell you about it, despite the heartbreaking circumstances that even you would find valid, because you publicly and privately belittle women who have had to make this choice for themselves,
    • Has had children taken away due to speaking up negatively about the systems of abuse they were trying to escape,
    • Has been grabbed by the pussy and nobody in power cared about the multiple assaults, because the perpetrator was a charming white dude,
    • Has more than one medical condition that is considered pre-existing conditions, which can’t afford to be covered by insurance companies when young, lucky, healthier adults aren’t also paying into health care systems,
    • Has a visible disability that has been repeatedly mocked and derided just like that journalist mocked by a president for having an arm that works differently,
    • Has a farm pushed further into poverty by a needless trade war and farm subsidy policies that won’t ever lift farmers up, on roads abandoned by Republican state legislators who dropped gas taxes and asked us to live with the cracks and potholes,
    • Can’t declare bankruptcy, because Republicans made that more difficult for farmers, too,
    • Has switched to farming organic, cage-free, or free-range because they get paid better for these products, were taught to be stewards of the land, and because they don’t want to pollute the soil, water table, pollinators, and the workers who have to actually be exposed to the pesticides,
    • Has been in the hospital with anything contagious and dangerous,
    • Works in healthcare,
    • Studied chemistry, statistics, and experimental design,
    • Understands even basic high school biology germ theory,
    • Understands middle school histories of slavery, genocide, and authoritarianism, or
    • Understands basic preschool golden rules and empathy guidelines to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, not just another mean, grumpy, isolated, lucky, selfish, conservative born into a family taught to consider themselves better than others.

    A lot of those are me, myself, and I. Plenty more are our family members who I could name to you if they weren’t already hurt and afraid of your selfish, isolated perspectives on other human beings. We are your family. You are hurting us with your votes that are still dedicated to your hopes and dreams that you’re better than the rest of us, because you’re adamantly traditional. Like Jesus would tell you to build a wall to keep desperate neighbors out, and then pardon stealing their children as punishment, while not offering them a path to gladly pay taxes in exchange for a social security number? NOPE. 

    I have seen the posts from desperate, scared, angry, fed-up beloveds telling their family to unfollow them if that family continues to vote against their lived experiences that affect them each and every dang day. I don’t want to do that. I want you to hear me, and many others in our family, when we tell you that this is our real life in question. These aren’t distant, theoretical, academic, or political exercises and thought experiments (though, you could also learn how to carry out those with kindness and precision). 

    This isn’t a vague, loosely held belief that those who make more than $400,000 per year shouldn’t be taxed more than those making average wages, because maybe one of us could win the lottery some day and join them. (We’re never going to be up there. You’re always going to be down here in the mud with the rest of us. We know mud. Nothing wrong with mud. You’re not better than us. I do not have to respect your opinion that you are better than me just because you think of yourself more often than you think of others in need.)

    These are our everyday lives. Please VOTE like you care that I was punched in the vagina, that you love your nephew with disabilities, and you understand that the working poor have to buy smartphones to operate as modern adults in this world. 

    This is my real life. This is our real life. Our family is suffering from these biases. We’re abandoning our neighbors to these biases.

    Instead of unfriending me, just put on a goddam mask, wash your hands to and from the store in town, VOTE to be a good neighbor, uncle, cousin, and decent human being valuing your family more than assault rifles, rich people’s money (that we’ll never have), and xenophobia based on stereotypes that you’ve never really confronted. You either already do know all of these big words and concepts that you begrudge, or you would if you spent as much time educating yourself as this particular Mattson. You too could have moved beyond reading Grandma’s dusty collection of National Geographics. It hasn’t been easy. It has cost me a lot. But you know me. I’m not scared of the hard work of learning and fighting for what is right. You know us. You know all of those struggling in the above list of actual human beings in our family circle. You know that we were also once broke immigrants struggling. VOTE like we’re more important than scoffing at an imaginary liberal elite, in favor of a conservative elite that you will never be able to join.

    Please, VOTE like we’re family. 

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    We Don't Have To Live Like This from 2017/11/04

    WI Access Denied

    It would be not be so difficult to balance how we are all living. I make fewer than $20,000 per year, as a single mom with two dependents, but I recently lost my BadgerCare health coverage and SNAP food benefits, because I had one paycheck that was $13.95 too high. Most of my paychecks are not over their limit, and even the one larger paycheck will not put me above the $20,000 annual total. It doesn’t seem like a great plan to take food and healthcare away from a mother who is working really, really hard to claw her way out of poverty. That $13.95 over the line of public assistance didn’t cover the groceries I had to buy, not the health coverage I was now supposed to afford.

    I make these fewer than $20,000 per year as an adjunct language, composition, and vocational rehab specialist at a technical college that focuses on career success for its students, while not being able to do so for the labor upon which they depend. The administration of this school, like so many, claims that they cannot refigure their budget to be able to afford benefits for the many adjunct faculty on whom they rely. They say that they cannot possibly hire several of us full-time -- instead of more of us just beneath half-time, instead of new buildings to stay relevant as an organization, instead of recruiting top-level administrators who require large salaries -- to teach classrooms full of students waiting for our qualified expertise, because then they’d have to offer us health care among other benefits, like access to retirement savings accounts, which would further assist each of us out of an impoverished old age. So, unless the administration wants to take pay cuts themselves to get us into the doctor when we catch strep throat from students, we adjunct accept that the price we pay for groveling for these competitive and highly-skilled positions is a complete lack of benefits. Balancing educational budgets is being done on the backs of teachers, who are increasingly being kept in poverty while performing public service.

    We know we’re getting screwed but we appear thankful for these opportunities when we can, because we can see our schedules full of the classrooms who need instructors with our qualifications, and because we have no union to protect us from the realities of being told, “You can have the competitive job with sketchy compensation, or not have a paycheck from higher education at all.” We could go work at Target or some other location for full-time work with similar annual income and some benefits, but then we’d never use our educational know-how, which is desperately needed and should (read: could, maybe, someday -- increasingly unlikely) offer us more avenues to use our incredible skill sets and dedication to education to climb and claw our ways out of poverty. We know that the educators in charge of developing the professional, functional, literate citizens of this country should not be those bobbing along the surface of the poverty line in this country. None of us should be. Not while teaching at a college, and not while working at Target full-time, or in a shop welding, or in a public waterway sampling for pollutants. None of us.

    How is it possible that we as a society don’t want to provide enough support to extremely hardworking neighbors to climb out of these pits of our own creation? Why do we want the fabricator or arborist who lives nearby to pay thousands and thousands of dollars for an operation he needed? How is this entire system working against us? None of us should be working our buns off to assist the future of our nation and our own families when one paycheck of $13.95 over the cap for public assistance (but well under the cap for poverty) throws us back into debt for strep throat appointments and antibiotics, and back into buying food with credit cards. Food and medical care and basic housing should not so easily trap us in poverty. Being teachers or others in danger of losing professional ground and funding while working nonstop to better this country should not be asked to perform this work at the expense of the ability to see a doctor, buy fresh vegetables, pay for gas, own decent clothing for their kids, or pay an attorney to continually defend themselves from an abuser who uses remaining parental rights to repeatedly seek custody changes.

    There is no box on public assistance forms to say, “You’ve already robbed me of a decent income and health care by slaughtering state budgets for vital public careers that used to benefit all of us via my dedicated, hard work. You’ve already cut off my public assistance two months ago and asked me to completely reapply after I barely got my head $13.95 over the not-even-solvent line. You pretend that this is because many of us are lazy, reveling in drug use (we’re not!), or capable of overcoming addiction without services (none of the addicted are). I spend more than my annual income on an attorney who is the only person standing between my kids and my abuser. Stop asking me to put food and socks and laundry detergent and gasoline and on my credit card to appear like anyone’s bootstraps are enough, no matter how hard we work -- and that’s really, really hard.”

    We could solve this. We don’t have to shit on each other this way. We could have livable wages. We could make sure that all Americans have housing, food, and healthcare. We could stop collectively imaging that anything about anyone’s time in poverty is lazy or intentional. We could stop feeling better than other people, than our neighbors. Employers could stop railing against benefits for workers; could stop sending cheaper, even-more-pooped on jobs to locations that don’t even offer basic safety benefits; could stop blaming it on taxes that are only collected to prop up the public services that employers balk to provide. We could demand that they pick one: look out for us while we work for you, or pay for the public services that will do it on your behalf.

    We could stop busting unions that protect vulnerable laborers or use public benefits as the unions that look out for all of us. We could stop gutting the budgets of public services that are good for all of us. We could not cut taxes in the highest brackets in order to go into further debt as a nation which then must cut services to those of us who are already working our asses off to barely not drown. We could operate in the manner of any of the Scandinavian countries or Canada, which at least don’t associate walking or crawling into a scheduled appointment, urgent care, or an emergency room with spending the next decade of their adult lives impoverished and sick. We could stop disbelieving women when they tell us about dangerous men who delight in emotionally, physically, and financially terrorizing them after metered almost-escapes.

    We could off each other ANY one of these ways out of the traps that have been laid. I am an excellent teacher who is experienced in and dedicated to expanding the knowledge base of and increasing the likelihood that some of our most vulnerable students can become functional, contributing, literate members of society. Do you really believe that I should not have a livable wage due to education budgets being slashed and teachers’ unions being busted while I work far more hours than those for which I am paid? Do you think I should deeply be in educational debt for gathering the immense know-how that we are demanded to have even as we are told that we aren’t high quality? Should we require a union in any field in this country so that the workers do not go deeply into debt for basic life requirements and wages that do not feed the vicious cycles of poverty? Should any of us, including employers, rail against benefits for hardworking employees on whom profits depend? Should the minority of extremely wealthy be receiving such amazing salaries while we perform the most difficult toil? Should the gulf between us really be so, so wide?

    Should anyone not be able to walk into a clinic with an illness that needs to be treated without going into years of debt, buried beneath interest rates and collection attempts for healthcare? Should anyone in this country not have access to plentiful food, no matter their mental health, addictions, or percentage of their income spent on rent? Should we feel tax “relief” knowing that those of us who most need the money back in our pockets are going to have our other meager services cut in the name of “trickle-down” theories of economics that only work for the rich who do not wish to even see the rest of us? Should we live in a system where you are skeptical of a woman telling you that a man is dangerous, because we are systematically more interested in the dad’s perspective of family dynamics?

    I don’t think we should live like that. It’s not patriotic. It’s not kind. It’s not fair. We could just rebalance our systems. We could shun the idea that any of us should be living on someone else’s trickle. We could fund education and healthcare to help relieve our debt problems and national crises, including economic bubble bursts and addiction trends. We could allow labor unions to insist that there should be a balance between profits at the top and the benefits paid to those who provide the hardest labor. We could all act as each other’s labor unions to insist that we each be treated well inside of capitalism. There could be slightly less discrepancy between the living conditions of those with the most and those with the least. We could accept a sliding scale for just about everything. “Pay what you can,” is not hard to determine, and we don’t have to keep pooping on each other. We could stop distrusting each other about how hard we are working for how little. None of us need to keep laying out these traps for each other.

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    Lots of NRA-Aligned Dudes Want A Cookie from 2017/09/08

    This has recently been posted by many on social media:

    "

    A man driving his hunting, fishing, or otherwise flat-bottom boat with an elderly woman in a wheelchair as his passenger.

    Steve Reichert is with Frank Myers and 17 others.Like Page

    September 1 at 11:22am ·

    By ?:"

    To be fair, maybe a dark-skinned black man who feels really well-supported by the NRA and all of the other parties touted below wrote this piece, and Steve Reichert, the NRA, or his ilk just found it, and were super delighted to have their horns tooted, but that doesn’t seem very likely. Steve Reichert is white (and running for 2018 NRA Board Of Directors), the manly savior and the helpless lady in the photo of the boat are both white, and there are overt references that denigrate those who oppose white supremacy in the piece that follow.

    "Let this sink in for a minute.....Hundreds and hundreds of small boats pulled by countless pickups and SUVs from across the South are headed for Houston. Almost all of them driven by men. They're using their own property, sacrificing their own time, spending their own money, and risking their own lives for one reason: to help total strangers in desperate need."

    Hey, that IS great! Is this going to be a piece that busts gender stereotypes? Men CAN be caregivers! Will this be a rallying cry to action? Will it promote ways that more dudes who like to focus on their private property can use such to facilitate the needs of others? Huzzah!  

    "Most of them are by themselves. Most are dressed like the redneck duck hunters and bass fisherman they are. Many are veterans. Most are wearing well-used gimme-hats, t-shirts, and jeans; and there's a preponderance of camo. Most are probably gun owners, and most probably voted for Trump."

    Yes, we should bust these stereotypes! I myself -- a queer, registered Democrat, far left, hippie mom, domestic abuse survivor, tofu-and-beef-eating, masters-degree-holding nerd, etc. -- own guns, have been hunting since I was twelve years old, have killed and gutted Bambi, still live rurally, have three tractors, can farmer-blow my nose like nobody’s business, and can barely afford my own gas to get into town where I teach at a technical college with farmers, welders, mechanics, and the workers who install your air conditioning. We do deserve acknowledgement for the damn hard work we put in, the sacrifices we make, the poverty and educational gaps that we face, and for having more compassion than that for which we typically receive credit. Try to read the poem, “The Names Of Horses,” by Donald Hall, without weeping about our agrarian heartaches.

    "These are the people the Left loves to hate, the ones Maddow mocks. The ones Maher and Olbermann just *know* they're so much better than."

    Oh. No, wait a moment. I need a moment to sit with the sadness and outrage that I have again made space for all of my beloved, rural, often disadvantaged neighbors, but they have not made space for me. Again, instead of including me and my entire family in those who are about to explode the stereotypes of rural residents, I am vilified. Because we are teachers, union members, gay, not into mocking vegetarians, in favor of more restrictions on the idiots who try to walk around with guns like they know anything, and have beloved family members in South America, Europe, The Middle East, and Asia, … they now think that we hate them. Again.

    And it’s not true. It’s never been true. I didn’t hate the men whom I forced into teaching me how to hunt. I didn’t hate the Christians whom I forced into accepting that I was in love with and marrying another woman. I didn’t hate all of the neighbors whom I tried to tell that our family full of teachers and union members are being consistently pooped on by our state and federal conservative reps. I don’t hate any of the loved ones whom I ask not to speak words like “fag,” “retard,” or the N-word, because those are also real, flesh and blood loved ones that they are tossing around as insults. I have not even disliked the students who have peed on my car in the school parking lot when they felt angry and defensive as they even began to glimpse the reality of why I asked them not to make rape jokes about the prices of their tool sets.

    If anything, I have hated the system and culture that has raised us all to believe that these responses to hearing other humans’ stories are acceptable. I spend my career repeatedly introducing myself and anyone around me to these systems of oppression that affect us all. If there’s anything that I feel better at, it’s accepting my privileges and tenaciously studying my place in the system, and to varying degrees, so do the relatively liberal celebrities mentioned above. I won’t defend Maher, who I think is pretty douchey, nor Olbermann, who I don’t prefer to cite myself, but Rachel Maddow is quite down to earth and uses well-cited information and complex narratives (alongside Joy Reid) better than most talking heads. She’s damn brilliant, rarely mocks anyone who isn’t acting inappropriately, and frequently has the most rigorous standards that can bee seen on pop TV.

    I can’t speak for some of the talking heads, but most of us liberals don’t feel “better than” rural conservatives, and I constantly (hear me: constantly) figuratively shoot down those who try to make outsider jokes about farmers, rednecks, or hicks without being marginalized and identifying and living with us. The above was pretty much just a potshot at a beautiful, intelligent, kind, lesbian professional who, again, hands out some of the best contextual information I have ever seen. I was just excluded, again, from my beloved rural neighbors by virtue of being very dedicated to fact-checking and calling out marginalization of our local and  global neighbors.

    "These are The Quiet Ones. They don't wear masks and tear down statues. They don't, as a rule, march and demonstrate. And most have probably never been in a Whole Foods."

    Oh. Oh, blerg. My heart hurts. “Quiet Ones” is not here just referring to a down to earth, thoughtful, often Scandinavian-style stoicism that we really do sometimes possess (when we’re not celebrating our other social norm of uproarious bonfires, drinking, and riding free in the backs of pick-ups on unpaved roads). “Quiet Ones” is here referencing those who feel like a “silent majority,” those who feel put upon, tread upon, and very defensive as marginalized groups ask for equality. This is especially true because it is contrasted with those who “tear down statues,” which in the last few months has specifically been people of color officially and unofficially removing public tributes to treasonous Confederates. They are also contrasted with patrons of Whole Foods, implying that all those who do not want to celebrate the near-destruction of our union by slave-owners are the bourgeoisie, out-of-touch, elite shoppers who can always afford to fork over the dollar for organic foods. While I do want all of my agricultural neighbors to not be themselves poisoned by nitrates and pesticides that also enter our water tables and private wells, I resent the implication that I am not stoic, thoughtful, and considerate even when I am outspoken after much listening and research, and that all but they are loud, wild, and brash.

    "But they'll spend the next several days wading in cold, dirty water; dodging gators and water moccasins and fire ants; eating whatever meager rations are available; and sleeping wherever they can in dirty, damp clothes. Their reward is the tears and the hugs and the smiles from the terrified people they help. They'll deliver one boatload, and then go back for more."

    Yes, caregivers frequently face hellish conditions, physically and emotionally. Welcome to the club. Welcome to caregiver life. This is was it is often like for many of us. This is not shocking; this is status quo, and it is not being used to celebrate all caregivers, but only those who typically do not speak up and put their bodies on the line in the name of justice. These self-identified “Quiet Ones” often vote against and sometimes sneer at those of us who frequently put our bodies on the line in these ways, including nurses, teachers, union workers, social workers, those who routinely hug, feed, bathe, pay our taxes on behalf of,  and serve the mentally ill, developmentally disabled, hopelessly addicted, homeless, or survivors of every variety of trauma. Welcome to the club.

    "When disaster strikes, it's what men do. Real men. Heroic men. American men. And then they'll knock back a few shots, or a few beers with like-minded men they've never met before, and talk about fish, or ten-point bucks, or the benefits of hollow-point ammo, or their F-150.

    Ah, I see. Despite female caregivers routinely not receiving the credit, salaries, or protections that they deserve as constant heroes, this one instance of disaster wherein rural men felt themselves particularly helpful is a sore spot for those men. Again, welcome to the world of caregiving. You don’t always get a cookie for stepping up. It’s just the right thing to do, and the even more righteous thing to do here would be to not ask for credit, but to promote how more can join in.

    Instead, the author and many who shared this post, fall back on praising their traditional masculinity, reinforcing gender and ethnicity stereotypes rather than refuting or expanding them. Which men aren’t “real?” The ones that don’t drink because alcoholism is all too pervasive in our necks of the woods? The ones that don’t see the need for hollow-point ammo? The ones who are licensed social workers, addiction counselors, or family therapists who don’t drive trucks? The ones that were born elsewhere and have not yet been allowed to gladly pay taxes in exchange for a social security number?

    Why is the help of the “American men” here called out, not bothering to include the Mexican citizens who also flocked to Texas provide aid? Or anyone like Jesus Contreras, a DACA beneficiary and paramedic, who worked six days straight in the same dangers? They are not aligning themselves with the breadth of all those providing heroic care; they are contrasting themselves, putting themselves above the others who frequently step into caregiver roles. They are not seeking unity; they are seeking superiority.

    "And the next time they hear someone talk about "the patriarchy", or "male privilege", they'll snort, turn off the TV and go to bed."

    How nice that these supposed caregivers and heroes would snort at the wage gaps, abuse and violence statistics, incarceration and conviction rates, and double-standards that hurt and marginalize many of us. They profess that they’ve rescued us in their boats, but they ignore the rest of what we tell them about our lives, and decline to recognize any of the ways in which they are not as disadvantaged, harassed, and discriminated against as many of us. We make space for their challenges, but they scoff at us and turn off our voices, instead of listening to how we could all do this together if they’d just see us as peers worth hearing.

    "In the meantime, they'll likely be up again before dawn. To do it again. Until the helpless are rescued. And the work's done."

    You know who’s already in this club? Most of us. If only these up early, hardworking peers would also listen to us, recognize the system that keeps trying to make us helpless, and stop giving themselves savior complexes while otherwise shutting the rest of us down.

    "They're unlikely to be reimbursed. There won't be medals. They won't care. They're heroes. And it's what they do."

    Doesn’t it suck to be a caregiver who isn’t reimbursed or even noticed? Tons of us already knew that. Stop asking for special recognition for a small slice of the work being done. Stop turning off the TV and our voices when we try to talk to you about this shitty system that marginalizes each of us in turn. Go read about intersectionality and fragility. Join with those around you for justice. Maybe if we better recognized all of our intersectionality we could actually take down the 1%, who actually get the best rewards for the least work.

    The mostly men who have shared this piece of writing -- some of whom briefly shared their boats; most of whom largely identify with white NRA perspectives -- instead of joining forces with traditional caregivers and promoting further generosity, shouldn’t get the giant pat on the back for which they are asking. They should pause, take a deep breath, look around, and realize that they should be joining with the others who are also working without receiving what they deserve and take down the uneven system, not pan those who more frequently speak up against it. Instead of denigrating those of us who consistently perform this work and act with heroic generosity, they could vote, listen, and give credit more generously alongside their occasional boat usage.

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    Wisconsinites At Standing Rock from 2016/11/21

    Water Protector camp near Cannon Ball and Missouri rivers

    Some of my family and I just traveled to work for our neighbors on the Siouxan Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. We were only able to labor for 36 hours, hauling wood from a giant brush pile and driftwood from a river beach, but this place is so familiar. The Missouri is just like the Mississippi. There are more beef cattle than dairy cows, but these are familiar silhouettes of animals that we know well. Rock piles are in every field that has been tilled. There are small patches of oak savanna. We pitch our tent near four-legged dung – cattle, horse, bison?

    Here we glance nervously at police cars, as all those who have been given a healthy fear of what can happen when you try to explain yourself to an officer. I have repainted houses and outhouses just like these on other reservations. Everyone here knows how to drive old trucks or tiny, rear-wheel-rive cars on ice. The cooperative living is familiar to LGBT warriors where one chips in as much as one can before caring for oneself. Pagans and witches celebrate these same aspects of sage, cedar, and fire. We know these stories and settings.

    Something incredible is happening here. Something important. Something wonderful and horrible, and wonderful and horrible, and wonderful and horrible. Everyone who is capable and willing, or at least willing is gathered at the juncture of the Cannon Ball and Missouri rivers to protect Native life and rights and water and the environment on behalf of all of us. Here – near a river bend and side channel that should be called Sacred Stone for the beautiful mineral spheres that the two rivers used to create and offer forth as resources before being dredged and depleted – is a large drill rig and police barricade on a public highway, heavily fortified and protected by officers with guns, batons, water cannons, pepper spray, and rubber bullets used against citizens with signs about peace, water, and the rights to this land, which is about to be taken advantage of. Again.

    It is no small thing to camp and live here in this alternately scorching and freezing and always windy land. It is not a tiny endeavor to stand up and put one’s body on the line to say that it is inherently unfair that Bismarck, North Dakota was rightfully concerned about the environmental impact of the DAPL, but that the Native Peoples of Standing Rock, if not their governing bodies, should not be allowed those same concerns. This project was not forced on predominantly white town of Bismarck, but is being forced upon Native people and land. The same diligence is not being taken here to look out for rights and wishes, where rights and wishes and cultures have already been confined and relegated into poverty and out-of-the-way, neglected margins. The few sacred sites that were previously spared and the land scraps that were forced upon an entire culture are being tread upon again.

    And there is not enough infrastructure to support the outcries of true injustice that are being throated. Police agencies have managed to dig deep and find the resources to harshly defend a private oil and energy company instead of the public, peaceful, unarmed, water, land, and treaty rights Protectors. Our public tax dollars are being used to serve and protect oil money in extremely obvious and basic ways, instead of spent finding more sustainable energy sources like wind or solar or tidal. We are paying to erect these tall, bright, numerous spotlights to surveil Native peoples on their own land, instead of making sure they have electricity enough for their homes, which we as a country originally demanded they accept instead of their traditionally held lands that were brutally, unconscionably taken.

    Here is this place that is so familiar to so many of us rural folk who have tried to survive on cold, glacial-scraped land. We remember the tales of the French who traded cooking pots and rifles for fur. The Scandinavians who mingled with the Ojibwe and knew all about thriving despite ice and snow. The small loggers who knew about the dangerous work of felling without destroying. And then came the large logging companies that took advantage of all of their desperate workers and neighbors to make bigger money while tenderly framing atrocities against those that they paid too little. The copper and lead miners whose magnates knew better and drove more workers of every color into cold beds with shrunken stomachs and poisoned lungs. In the face of it, the Ho Chunk and Oneida who have learned to live off of casinos and commerce. The Menominee practice some of the best resource management on the planet. And so many more familiar tales.

    We who recognize these struggles in our our communities should be taking note of what is happening here in Standing Rock, in the three camps trying to defend against further treading all over the rights, lands, and cultures of our brothers and sisters. These are intimate struggles that we know all about: workers here are cold, with chapped skin and coffee water that is frozen by morning. Winter is coming and there isn’t enough wood or propane. The blizzards are just around the corner and those giant security spot lights will certainly shed visibility on where the resources are foolishly being spent, who is being protected, and at the continued expense of whom else.

    It is very clear. This is an old pattern that we should all be standing up to break. Again. Our neighbors are having land rights ripped from them in historic, horrible, predictable ways. The pipeline permits have been temporarily paused, but the construction continues, because the energy company can afford to pay the fines. It is not fair.

    During a political moment in our country in which we need to be prepared to stand up and continue to defend all of our vulnerable selves against the whims of rich, unaware, or xenophobic villains, we need to be present here. We need to stand up and continue to notice and make change. We need to show up to this fight: not to be spectators, not to take selfies, not to tour the sweat and tears being spent by others. Do not eat up camp food as you look without lifting, literally or figuratively. Do not send more used clothing that is not meant to aid winter survival in the place of what is really and truly needed in this microcosm of what we all sometimes need.

    We need to chip in by showing up and working as hard as we can for as long as we can, in whatever that form is. Bring fire wood, general labor, generators, gas, propane, sub-zero equipment and gear, or a vehicle with a plow. Pay to have a water well drilled and pump installed. Ship high quality coveralls. Write your representatives, The Army Corps of Engineers, and the management of Energy Transfer Partners. Speak with those in your region about this and similar local problems. Explore how we can be good global citizens looking across all of our borders, while also wondering how we could be using microloans, The Heifer Project, and other sustainable models to overcome our histories of not being good to each other. Do not expect accolades instead of performing hard works together. Get out of your comfort zone. Listen. Act. Be a good neighbor.

    http://standwithstandingrock.net/donate/

    http://sacredstonecamp.org/faq/

    http://thefreethoughtproject.com/10-protest-dakota-access-pipeline/

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    Pulse Gun Control from 6/15/16

    A gun shooting a cloth flag with a blank caption bubble.

    Dear Rural Hunting Family Members Who Love Your Guns,

    I’m not sure that you are understanding what those of us on the margins are telling you about our lives relative to guns.

    I’m walking around figuratively bleeding this week, as many of us do all of the time. Just aching. Hurting. Deep, deep pain about how we all live our lives at the many intersections of injustice.

    “Yes,” you say, “Mass shootings are painful. Don’t take my guns. Call out the real parties responsible.”

    I don’t think you’re listening, really listening to what we’re saying. Stop pretending that your logic is mightier than your empathy with us, other logical humans who are trying to tell you what this is like.

    I own guns, too. I loved the hunting tradition with my grandfather and father and brothers and male cousins. Even though I was the only girl. Even though I was uncomfortably welcomed and semi-ignored. While you don’t want to hear that being a girl was held against me, I can still tell you that I continue to own my hunting weapons, know how to use them, practice occasionally, and pet them, fondly remembering not only the times that I provided free-range protein for my family, but the mostly kind souls who taught me how to hold the guns safely when they weren’t teasing me for being a girl.

    You’re still not hearing me. And it is important that you listen. Because your retorts to me asking for an assault weapon ban and for firearms to be regulated in the same manner as cars shows me that you’re not really absorbing and feeling what I am telling you about how it is different to live with guns in a society that values your life less. We are valued less than your hunting privileges. We are in more danger.

    Do you know what it feels like to be afraid of the cops? Not because you have an open can in your cupholder, but because as soon as they see your skin or haircut or hear your voice, they are going to assume the worst of you? To realize that they are scared of you more than an average citizen? That you are millions of hair widths closer to their trigger than most?

    Do you know what it is like to walk down the sidewalk afraid, not because it’s dark and that gives everybody the wiggins, but because you’re extremely likely to be harassed, yelled at, called names, and the person with whom you are holding hands only increases those daily, hourly, certain risks? Do you exist completely within one or more of the major categories of people likely to be screamed at, avoided, or groped at on the street? Do you know what it is like to fall in love and then have that love be the primary reason that you are legally and personally discriminated against? Are you in the portion of the population likely to not only be hit and yelled at, but shot by your rapist, abuser, or live-in partner? Do you face protesters when you enter a doctor’s office?

    “Don’t take away my freedoms,” you say. Your freedom to feel like a cowboy, to escalate home robberies, to have frequent and deadly accidents, is not more important than our freedom to be even a tiny bit more certain that those who do own guns can’t take out fifty or more of us with just a few clips and that those who own even one clip have been put through at least as much education about safe and proper gun culture as those who can drive cars or board airplanes.

    Many of us are walking around emotionally bleeding this week and every week. You have maybe experienced this level of trauma when someone extremely close to you has died. Immagine the frequency with which mirror images of ourselves are killed and brutalized. You have felt afraid to enter a bathroom, because what if a queer is in there. There is a queer in there and the queer is twenty times more frightened of you. You have felt this fear on occasions that you have actually been physically violated and traumatized. Imagine how often we carry these traumas with us. It hurts. It hurts all of the time. On a level that you only occasionally perceive. And your right to think about frightening or harming a fucked up person who wants to steal your TV in the event of an unlikely robbery is not more important than our struggle to remove weapons of mass destruction from our daily lives. Your TV isn't worth a thief's life anyway.

    It can be done. Australia has done it. Other countries have done it. We did it with cars. We take our shoes off at the airport. Laws do work. Otherwise why have any at all? You can’t carry a concealed weapon above a certain BAC anyhow, and even a trained and armed off-duty cop couldn’t protect all of my beautiful, dancing, kissing loves who were gunned down this weekend in their place of refuge, where they were trying to be themselves when an entitled, confused, violent, arrogant cowboy took away the entire rest of their lives.

    Let’s not create more entitled, confused, violent, arrogant cowboys. That shooter’s fear of us was unjustified and so are yours. Our fears are not unjustified. We live with assaults every day. We are on the margins, and you, on the inside, have an obligation to hear what we are saying and put down your goddam privileges for a moment. I’m not going to take away your memories of hunting with your grandfather, your ability to feed your family, or the small clips required to hunt deer, elk, etc. Stop literally and figuratively taking away our voices that are telling you that we live in shitty conditions that we could fix with some listening, understanding, and sensible regulations.

    We know real fear and you’re nowhere near it.

    Stop. Listen. Put aside your less-than fear. Be less-than for just a moment. This isn’t about you. Listen to those who are actually in danger. We’re sick of your shit and we’re still trying to be reasonable. Listen to us. Allow reasonable gun regulations. Certain people shouldn’t have ANY guns and don’t nobody civilian need assault weapons, which we can work to define easily. We can change our gun culture, but only if some of us stop pretending to be righteous cowboys.

    Love,

    Beth

    Showing the entry and exit hole sizes of various bullets.

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