Archive for the ‘civility’ Category

Agape – and Values for Going Forward

Loving kindness and compassion – agape – isn’t as easy as it first appears. Each day I find myself reviewing situations where I could have responded in a better manner. I am becoming hopeful that enough individuals around the country and the world will want to bring about peaceful change. The following was in my inbox email a week ago from the Obama Foundation, and I share the bulk of it here with you as we attempt to move toward a peaceful, equitable society and world.

“A little over a year ago today, President Obama walked out of the White House for the last time as President and stepped out onto the street as a citizen.

Since then, working alongside tens of thousands of people like you, we’ve been building something new — an organization that bears the Obamas’ name, but belongs to all of us. An experiment in what it means to be an active citizen in the 21st century….

As we head into this new year together, our work will continue to be guided by your input, and by our values — the pillars that hold this organization up. Our values are what we stand for — what we all have in common….

So I wanted to share those values with you directly. They’re what drive my work each day — and I hope they serve as a source of inspiration for you, too:

Teamwork. We’re building a global community that will work together and support one another. We’re invested in the success of others, we treat each other with respect and kindness, and we will work diligently to lift each other up.

Humility. We share a passion for impacting the lives of those around us. Sometimes that means speaking up and other times that means stepping aside to create space for other voices….

Integrity…How we do our work and how we collaborate with others is just as important as what we’re seeking to accomplish.

Inclusivity. We value each other’s contributions and hold the conviction that only from diverse backgrounds and divergent points of view can we find the best solutions.

Stewardship. We roll up our sleeves, work hard, and focus on what we’re giving back to our communities — rather than what we are gaining ourselves….

Fearlessness. We have a fearless mindset. We’re not afraid of taking risks, sharing a new idea, meeting new people, or admitting when we just don’t know the answer. Something great might come out of it.

Imagination. We strive to be novel thinkers. Unconventional ideas and new perspectives are why we’re here. We’re willing to make big bets on ideas that haven’t been tried before as we aim to solve the hardest problems of our times. Be yourself, and be bold.”

David Simas, for The Obama Fountation

Random Ramblings

In honor of marching – this was made last year as part of the Threads of Resistance project. I hope to show it this year…in another law office – we shall see if it gets “censored” again. You can see the full story of the resistance quilt “Women’s Work is Never Done” here and here.

Back to my regularly scheduled ramblings….

Yikes, what a busy three weeks! My organizing system is working really well – as is my “self-care” plans to keep me healthy. I am discovering a number of things with my lists – I get lots done, I don’t have to remember all the time, but I also get tired and don’t get my sewing/quilting/artwork done. With all the shows this year, that needs to change quickly – move to the top of the list. I won’t even talk about cleaning….just not happening, and maybe if I just consciously did one thing a day – like wipe down counters – I could accomplish that in baby steps.

My word for the year – agape – is proving to be very interesting. I am reading “Conversations with God”, book 1 – and I will get a copy of my own, as I want to reread this many times. Love, trust, belief in oneself – all things I need to work on. At the same time, I am taking an online course from called Love as a Force of Social Justice. Fascinating, and the readings to go with it are wonderful – there is a book to download where we have exercises that go along with the readings, and they are proving to be very powerful. Plus an amazing TED talk that is worth every minute of your time – one I will watch again and again to inspire me – changing our lives of our community through generosity and love. At a time when the nation is in such dire straits, I need to feel like I am helping and making a difference. I struggle with the idea that simple random acts of loving kindness and compassion make anything more than a small difference. But I need faith that the ripples will spread, while I await those opportunities to step up to others in an impactful way. I missed the new march today because of care-giving duties, but I am trying to consciously send compassion out to all who are making a statement.

I was particularly disturbed by an article that talked about 45’s problems and that he could conceivably start a nuclear war to take our minds off all his missteps, incompetence, and craziness. What on earth (literally) will that mean for us? These are the kinds of things that keep me awake at night, feeling helpless while trying to control my anger. Talking, helping, providing food and shelter, sharing ideas, creating art – sometimes it feels like less than a drop of water in the bucket, but I know there are many of us doing exactly this – so we will prevail, but it might be in a different world than what we knew as children – or know now.

In the meantime, I want to write and create and contribute. Screw the housecleaning….


The past couple of weeks have seen my activism rise. Phone calls, emails, petitions, talking to other folks to learn about their views, searching out reliable news outlets – and I’m walking in the Women’s March in Montpelier, VT. just three months out of knee surgery – this is too important for me to miss.

But back to art. I am a strong believer in the power of art. On January 8, 2011, there was a mass shooting in the Safeway parking lot in Tucson. Six people died, including a 9-year-old girl, and 13 were wounded, including my Congresswoman, Gabby Giffords. The following week was very difficult; being a teacher means you are a “first responder” at times – Monday morning after the shooting, Wednesday when President Obama came to town for a memorial, and Friday when the Westboro Baptist Church threatened to boycott funerals. Try explaining to teenagers whose brains emotionally are not fully developed that responding to the hate of Westboro Baptist Church was not a healthy response. No time to process my own feelings, just to be there for kids who weren’t sure what was happening – and especially since so many of them had already seen violence up close and personal in an urban city.

With that background, I had to create something, so I made a small piece of quiltart that spoke to my feelings. The piece made itself…from the choice of background (chicken-wire for fencing) to the words printed on cotton. The local newspaper did a brief story, and in Arizona (as in many places now) the trolls came out and said “If only I’d been around to give Hitler a quilt, everything would have been better.” Others reacted to my premise: that words have power; a woman from Australia said the words weren’t the cause, the man was mentally ill. Yes, no question the shooter was mentally ill, and no help from a broken system (thank you Ronald Reagan)….but words can push a person over the edge, even in the best of times.

My original post is here. I just reread it – raw writing for me. Here is the piece – 8.5 x 11 inches.

Binding looks like bullet holes, as does the stitching around the holes. People objected to the words, felt they were inflammatory for someone who was mentally ill. This was after Sarah Palin had a page on her website with a gun sight right over Arizona and Giffords’ district. I believed then that words caused this man to lash out, that words triggered his mental illness to another step.

We see just how far we have come 5 years and 11 days later. We don’t even talk about mental illness, nothing happens at the state or federal level, the body count keeps growing, and we are entering dark days. Hard to believe we are only now recognizing the words of the past months as hate speech, as power, as darkness.

I will keep speaking out through my art. Predominantly I am working with environmental statements concerning climate change. My Wetlands piece is the first attempt to look at a vanishing resource. there are so many issues and problems ahead for us. As artists we must be active.

I welcome comments.


Thoughts on Voting

This is an important election, not like some I remember when it really didn’t seem to make any difference who was elected. Voting is our right and our privilege. Women have not had the vote for 100 years yet. And the picture I have in my mind is of the purple thumbs of the people in the Middle East and Africa who are voting for the first time.

Speaking of the first time, I went to register to vote while I was still in college, but I couldn’t prove I graduated from high school. I had to take a literacy test. This is 1968, with the Voting Rights Act still new. I was incensed, but I had a much better understanding of the struggle to vote. The only time I missed voting was in 1994 when we moved to Tucson, and we just didn’t get registered in time. Enter Fife Symington in Arizona. Hey, we left Arizona a week after Evan Mecham was elected, and we come back to Symington.

There are a lot of articles and innuendo floating around about being denied the right to vote this year. I’m not sure what’s true and what isn’t. I do know that NOW is the time to make sure you are registered and have everything you need to vote. The days are gone when all you had to do was give your name at the polling place. I made sure my license has our current address, so I can’t be denied my ballot. You are running out of time to register before deadlines. Check. Re-check. Verify. Get your ID ready. Do what you need to.

I had my tutoring student, who is 19, tell me he wasn’t sure he was going to vote. It didn’t seem worth it, he said. I went politely ballistic, with a brief lesson on the struggles for suffrage. I said I didn’t care who he voted for, but he had to vote.

Here’s an interesting article: Voting as a Responsibility: How Hard Should It Be. Do your part and be ready.

And…as part of my own personal attempt to support and practice civil discourse, here’s an editorial by Captain Mark Kelly on this problem.



Thursday Thoughts – The Rise of Incivility

It has been an interesting 24 hours in terms of comments I have received. Now, I am still, at 64, a pretty naive person. I believe in the good in everyone until I am proven wrong. In the past I’ve only had one situation where I was backstabbed in a job. Most times I can ignore unpleasant people, and I can work with just about anyone. Part of this ability, I am convinced, is the result of an alcoholic parent. I’m an adult child of an alcoholic, and as such I have always been concerned with keeping people happy.

Over the years I have come to see that this has been an asset for me in working with teachers. I listen to what people want and then try to make it happen, while always taking their needs into account. That said, I know that incivility is rapidly o the rise in this country, and I have been slowly eliminating blogs and such where the message is one of hate or discrimination or just plain nastiness. I was doing pretty well…

…until yesterday. Wow, I was confronted with two situations that really troubled me, as this is becoming the norm in dealing with people. Situation 1: I had sold a small art quilt in a specialty auction on Tophatter. I debated putting this piece up on line, as I really liked it, but I am trying to bring in some additional money. I put this piece up, description was accurate, price was good ($30 plus $5 in postage). I know a number of people would say price was way too low, but hey, my decision and I needed some money. And…the piece sold. I was thrilled and it went in the mail to its new owner.

Yesterday I went online to schedule some new items for auctions on Tophatter to find that I couldn’t schedule anything until I took care of negative feedback. Huh? We’ve sold on Ebay for 8 years and have 100% feedback. The closest we came to negative feedback was a neutral, and as it was, we refunded the money without even asking. Here’s what I read:

“What a waste of money! Don’t buy from this seller unless you want to just waste your hard earned money. I’ll make something 100X nicer. All he sent was a 9′ by 12″ piece of lousy fabric, hand sewn with metallic thread in a few spots, and had the gall to charge $35.00 for it. We, quilting night at my house, just laughed, and burned it. Must be VERY lazy. I will NEVER buy a thing from him again. What a RIP OFF! You should be ASHAMED to call yourself a quilter…what a joke.”

That “lousy fabric” was a piece of hand-marbled denim, which no one does that I’ve been able to see. This was a small art quilt, and it was billed as such. They burned it!

This was just vicious. Never emailed and said they didn’t like it. We would have refunded the money. We have an “on the wall” policy for folks who buy our art quilts. Put it on the wall for a week to be sure you like it. If you don’t, it comes back to us for a refund.

I have asked for resolution from Tophatter to get this feedback reversed. I had to respond to the person, and I did, nice and sweet…well, at least rational and no name calling. Over the years I have become less PMS-y when it comes to dealing with most people, except for politicians. If I call, they get the full brunt of my sarcasm. But I would NEVER even consider responding to someone this way.

So I pulled an item from an auction for today, same auction that the person bought from last week, as I just don’t need to deal with this.

So as I was slowly getting over this yesterday, I get an email with a returned newsletter that had just gone out. We use MailChimp, and every newsletter has a place to unsubscribe, and you are only getting a newsletter because you opted in for one. Here’s the email with this one:

“I am so disgusted with your narrow, small-minded attitude about GUN CONTROL that I never want anything to do with you or your products.  Take me off your email list. NOW. “

Okay……..You can certainly boycott me; I don’t have a problem with that. But I wasn’t aware I had this attitude. I have been very careful to keep my political posts as balanced as possible in this climate. The posts I do tweet or share are as reasoned as I can find. Such was the case with the gun post over the weekend. I can only assume that was what she was referring to. Other than that, I’ve never said a thing about gun control. Now, I am not a fan of Jason Alexander of Seinfield fame, but I thought his post over the weekend was well done and had good points. That’s what I shared.

A couple of months ago I posted in another Thursday Thoughts that I would really try to look for balance in politics. I am reading some hateful things in blogs in an attempt to understand what people are thinking. I’ve had to stop a number of those blogs, because they are just ugly. This also applies to both sides of the political fence. I found an article from Addicting Info that would have been so much better had the sarcasm been eliminated.

The headline is antagonistic, and it doesn’t need to be. A better, less inflammatory headline might be “20 Lies That Will Shock You.” You’ll probably get more people reading the article. Here’s a paragraph from the article, as is:

9) You don’t have a “right” to anything that other people have to pay to provide for you. Then you do not have the right to police protection, a fire department or even a 911 emergency line. You do not have the right to clean air or safe food. You do not have the right to a military to protect you from foreign invasion. You do not have the right to a single thing that is government-run. Oh? What’s that? You pay taxes so you deserve all of those things?

Exactly, you stupid bastard. If everyone else was not chipping in, i.e. “paying to provide for you,” you would not be able to afford all that nifty stuff. It’s called “socialism” and only very stupid people think they are completely self-sufficient.

Pretty inflammatory. I would rewrite this:

9) You don’t have a “right” to anything that other people have to pay to provide for you. That includes police protection, a fire department or even a 911 emergency line,  clean air or safe food,  a military to protect you from foreign invasion, or any single thing that is government-run. If everyone else was not chipping in, i.e. “paying to provide for you,” you would not be able to afford all that.

Probably would not sell as many articles, but a lot more civil.

So I will continue my own campaign, despite nasty, vicious people and all. I have to believe that the actions of one can make a difference. Thoughts? And be civil about it, or I will delete you…..

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