Charlottesville: #This IS Us

Originally published in the LA Times.

2017 is blood-washed sidewalks, tear gas streets, the furious glare of flashing phones. 2017 is not peace. 2017 is familiar territory, unsurprising, but somehow regrettable, even when we knew what would happen. 2017 is not justice. 2017 is hypocrisy bleeding out of politicians’ mouths, contradiction embedded in their “condemnation” of a hatred they helped ignite and normalize. 2017 is not equality. 2017 is trembling, bitten lips, clammy shaky hands joined together to form a circle in the battlefield of what America is and what we know lives under the surface. 2017 is not fairness. 2017 is black bodies flung and slammed and spit on, torn apart on the concrete, citizens not at home in their cities, in their towns, in their country. 2017 is not what it should be, but it is what it is. To deny the progress we have made is certainly, undoubtedly, a great disservice to those who have so tenaciously fought for equality in this country. But, equally, to deny the horror is to deny history itself. So let’s be graphic here for a moment, if that is what it takes. Let us be brutal in our descriptions, our words, our pleas, as they are brutal in their violence, their hatred, their undying, unyielding, unwarranted and logically baseless spite.

If you are a white person living in America right now, please do not get defensive. Do not resort to that kind of personal offendedness. I am half-white, and I am well-aware that even though I hate it, even though I wish it weren’t so, even though I try my very best to dismantle the structures of it as best I can, we are still unwitting beneficiaries of white supremacy. We cannot flee from that truth, however uncomfortable it may be. We can afford to be uncomfortable when people of color are being murdered for existing, I think. I sound angry, because I am. Try to understand. There’s many sides to this that you don’t know. Empathize.

I cannot empathize with the men and women that stood on the University of Virginia’s campus with Nazi flags and KKK chants and bloodthirsty, senseless, passionate hatred. I cannot see the other side of this, because there isn’t one. This cannot be excused anymore. These people are not victims of multiculturalism; they are not complacent or uneducated. These people are aware of what they are doing and yet they do it anyways, proudly, gleefully. Look: empathy and compassion are important. They are what makes us connected, good to one another, makes us able to fight for justice where we see it being compromised. And- the First Amendment is important. It is a fundamental pillar in the maintenance and exercise of American democracy. But. Empathy and compassion are very hard to give to those who don’t give us it back. The First Amendment does not protect or justify violence. No one is “oppressing” your right to your opinion when your “opinion” kills human beings, stains lives, and considers some people less than fully people.

What the white supremacist terrorists – yes, they are terrorists, and that is what I will call them- in Virginia are actually “protesting” is beyond my own comprehension. To be a white male! The privilege, the entitlement to violence, to terror, to destruction. No rights have been historically, systemically torn away from them. This country did not institutionally enslave their ancestors. They have not been endlessly lynched, segregated, dehumanized, and legally disadvantaged. Protest is meant to have a purpose, to actually be against something actively compromising your individual liberties and human rights. The thing is, what they perceive as a threat to their “liberty” is actually just a threat to their privilege. We cannot afford an ideology respect when it kills people for existing as they are. There are opinions that deserve consideration, but white supremacy’s “merits” don’t exist and never will. We can’t pretend that this is just a normal exercise of free speech. It’s not.

And, of course, to the President: to “condemn” the situation in Charlottesville via Twitter, with no calling out any of the organizations or people causing that “situation” is not enough. You are responsible, in a grave way, for allowing this kind of toxic “belief system of whiteness,” to paraphrase Ta-Nehesi Coates, to thrive, expand, and perpetuate itself. You incited this, made any non-white, non-male person in America the enemy, the one to blame for adversity and all hardships. You helped make this violence erupt. So do not play innocent now. We all remember. We won’t forget. The same message goes for the rest of the GOP who have helped Trump at every turn of the way, most particularly Paul Ryan. If backbone and morality could’ve become before partisanship, before winning, before undoing our first black President’s legacy, think about what you could’ve achieved, what this country would look like now.

You complied with the President. You fought for him, defended him, pretended that you were somehow more innocent, more decent, than him. That is an insult to American citizens, to think that we wouldn’t notice the supreme contradiction in that behavior.

So what do we do now? If you are a white person, again, you need to reckon with this fact: you benefit from white supremacy. So what are you going to do about that? You need to get up, even if you’ve never been interested in politics or activism before, because you are an American, and if you really believe in that concept, you will agree that nothing is more important or urgent than fighting for every American to truly be free in this country. You will wake up. You will go to – or host! – a rally, a vigil, a symbolistic action of solidarity with the brave students who stood up to those hundreds of torch-wielding white supremacists in Charlottesville, a symbol of solidarity with all people of color in this country- you will donate as much as you are able to to ensuring that victims of the violence have their medical expenses covered, feel loved and respected; you will call your representatives, pester them relentlessly until they acknowledge and adequately address this hatred, and emphasize that it is not okay; you will donate to and support the NAACP of Virginia, aid the next steps and where we go from here. You will, most importantly, not do nothing. You will not rest or be silent. You will do something.

I know that the hashtag #ThisIsNotUs, popularized by Lady Gaga and other celebrities that I myself admire, was well-intentioned. But the thing is, this is us. Racism is literally the undercurrent, the blood, the clogged artery, of America. We are built on it, created on it. It is us, and failing to see that, to reckon with the inscrutable fact, is the biggest challenge to dismantling it. That we have a President who is seemingly physically incapable of genuinely admitting that yes, Nazis and white supremacists are bad, is not a surprise. It should not be. It is the dirty, darkest, most visible manifestation of a culmination of racial resentment and hatred boiling under the surface of this country. That we dare to embrace multiculturalism is a threat to these people, to those that want to thwart and destruct the very idea of equality. It scares them. When they say they want to take their country back, I wonder, from who, exactly? Europeans came here and caused the genocide of millions of Native Americans, so this country doesn’t belong to white people. It’s been stolen by them, through genocide, through enslavement, exploitation, oppression. We don’t want America to be that way anymore, but we must realize the past if we are to cut it short.

2017 can be resistance. 2017 can be love. But only if we make it so.

What We Do Now

Originally posted December 10th, 2016. 

  The Castro neighborhood in San Francisco, a favorite area of mine.

The Castro neighborhood in San Francisco, a favorite area of mine.

In the aftermath of all this, after heartache, deflation, morose underperformance in school, a begrudging reluctance to crawl out of bed every morning in the weeks following, I wrote a lot. At first, nothing came out. I sprawled amongst my pillows and allowed myself to bask in something untouched and unspeakable. I hurt. I hurt and hurt until the memory no longer scathed my brain but instead lost its impenetrability and shifted into a dull background ache.

I thought about how to say what we’re supposed to do, what I am supposed to do. I am expected to do something, after all. I am the girl incapable of complacency, and because of this I am incessant in all that I do, apparently. Yet the world is too hard around the edges to constantly hold onto. I had to take a deep breath and recollect the reasons I fought at all.

The election did not go the way I desired, clearly, and my heart thrummed direly inside my hollow cavity until I let myself adjust to this newfound reality. I read Hillbilly Elegy. I absorbed all that I could. I confronted my utter naivety. I dismembered blind spite in favor of compassionate exhaustion. So here I am. The worst thing that could happen did, and I’m still existing, still breathing, still writing my way through this, somehow. The questioning will not relent, and my head is still spinning with the bitter force of what-ifs. Yet here I am, here I go, and I want to write to all of you.

Where do we go from here?

In all honesty, I have no idea. All I know is that we must keep going.

In Bret Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero, a stunning, painful, cold piece of brilliance, there is this conversation between Clay, the protagonist and narrator, and his friend: “And later when we got into the car, he took a turn down a street that I was pretty sure was a dead end. “Where are we going?” I asked. “I don’t know” he said “just driving”. “But this road doesn’t go anywhere” I told him. “That doesn’t matter.” “What does?” I asked, after a little while. “Just that we’re on it, dude.” He said.”

We are at that cruel impasse of self-hatred and pointed fingers; callous sprees and dried resentment. We cannot afford to linger here too long. Let us grieve the presidency we wanted, the colorful, spirited America we believed in, but let us not forget that the fight has only just initiated. We make art. We carry ourselves and one another high, with our arms interlocked and our fingers aching to create. We do not allow ourselves to adhere to idleness and passivity because that will be our hell. An America that will crumble in exhaustion is not one we can afford to live in.

In Lin-Manuel Miranda’s beloved, earth-shaking, canonical dream musical Hamilton, a young, eager Hamilton sings, “I may not live to see our glory/but I will gladly join the fight.” I have listened to the musical endlessly since the election, and it has embodied an entirely new meaning for me. Glory is not victory. It is the fight itself. It is the resistant and the unbreakable. Us. The upcoming administration that will hold our highest offices in the nation is a disturbing, nepotism-hued, cabinet of men that many of us feel do not represent who we are. I will not feel supported, protected, or represented come January 20th. I will feel afraid, bitter, and helpless. I cannot adorn this truth in pleasantries and blind optimisms that have failed me so brutally in the past.

Yet I also know that we cannot generalize or umbrella-statement an entire constituency of voters who voted for the man we detest. There is no healing to be found in polarization anymore, and we have to be able to open ourselves up to empathy. Do not be mistaken: I am furious. I am devastated, wounded, and frightened. However, I recognize now that I should have seen this coming long ago, and I should have thought about how it got this far before it did. I am no mere victim in some extralegal, alt-right political scheme. I am accountable for not doing enough to recreate the nation before it turned down this dark path. I am a queer, young Latina woman and I am angry. But the rhetoric that has infused and normalized alienation, resentment, and scapegoating aimed at my communities does not anger me, rather, it mobilizes me. I encourage you to think about your feelings, however chaotic and turbulent they may still be, in this manner. 

My brain is an unrelenting instrument, harboring my stirring ambitions and debilitating self-doubts. I am restless, frustrated, and, like Hamilton “young, scrappy, and hungry.” I inhabit a brain that does not allow me to ever stop. I feel like I must create, create, produce, produce, change, change. It is a curse to feel so helplessly voiceless, and I did, for a long time, until I found activism. I fell headfirst in love with things like Youth & Government, and I am now currently running to be one of California’s Secretaries of the (mock) Senate for the CALYMCA region. I vocalize my passion through Model United Nations, inhabiting beliefs and policies that do not necessarily adhere to my own opinions, but offer me an extraordinary opportunity to empathize and entertain all different perspectives in my mind. I created a literary magazine dedicated to empowering the voices of marginalized youth through art and the written word. I explore feminism, gender, sexuality, politics through art and engagement, and I exist for it. I make art. I found Frida Kahlo and Sylvia Plath and Toni Morrison and Lucien Freud.  I found Courtney Barnett and the Smiths and Nina Simone. I reconnect the dots of myself through pens and paintbrushes. My heart exists through expression, through activism, through passion, through public service. I owe creativity my life.

I am not going to allow any one man or president to dismantle my creativity, to barter or steal it away from me. It is a piece of myself I am inextricable from. Know this. Know how you own your creativity, you own yourself, and that utter, intrinsic freedom is one no one can ever take away, no matter what they tell you. We build now. We rebuild. We deconstruct the disfigurations of deceit, gaslighting, and manipulative, exploitative prejudice and focus on fact, investigation, social action, and most importantly, compassion. We heal together or not at all. I created Project Femme because I cannot allow myself to bask in the privileged luxury of despair. I must fight until my knuckles swell and my tongue burns from all of the discussion, debate, and activism. I want you to join me. We do not end here. We begin here.

Donald Trump is not my president, but we are his constituents. We are what comes next and what will ultimately stand on the right or wrong side of history, not him. How wehandle this gruesome quagmire is how our legacies and lives are shaped. He has power. But we have one another. We have unity and a ferocity he will never contaminate or touch- the ferocity of goodness, of compassion, of fact, of hope. I will not doubt that if you promise not to either.

Join Project Femme. I cannot do this alone. I need you to believe in what we can create together.

The A Word

This was originally published on OpinYoung on September 5, 2016. 

  Art by Barbara Kruger at the Broad.

Art by Barbara Kruger at the Broad.

“No woman can call herself free who does not control her own body.” – Margaret Sanger

The free reign of rape apologists and anti-abortion activists (often synonymous)– is a topic we ought to scrupulously dissect. However, in a country as embedded with deep-seated fear of the potential “dangers” intrinsic to women possessing autonomy over their bodies, we allow these “activists” to actively thwart gender equality without much action on our pro-choice part. There exist numerous legislative acts aiming to protect the unborn, the fetuses, “The Right to Life.” There are a very scarce and scattered amount of such effectual acts in place to protect the rights of the woman herself (or any human in possession of a functioning uterus).

I am, as one might interpret from my obnoxious liberalism and feminist ramblings, unwaveringly pro-choice. I feel a deep strangeness at even having to declare that. I believe in reproductive justice, and I would go even farther in my “radical” opinion that abortion is not only a fundamental human right, but more so, an act of social good. I did not develop this concept in a solitary thinking; I have been influenced by a number of feminist activists, and I find an undercurrent of frustration even within our own pro-choice movement- the recurring thought that although we preach about our advocacy of pro-choice policies, we often do so in a way that is unconsciously stigmatizing abortion more.

In Katha Pollitt’s excellent and highly acclaimed book Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rightsshe says, “A man’s home is his castle, but a woman’s body has never been wholly her own. Historically, it’s belonged to her nation, her community, her father, her family, her husband—in 1973, when Roe was decided, marital rape was legal in every state. Why shouldn’t her body belong to a fertilized egg as well?”

Pro is, refreshingly, an unabashed and intellectually provocative argument for abortion rights, and I encourage every person to read it- particularly those, as Pollitt puts it, in the “muddled middle” when it comes to the topic of abortion. Pollitt expertly connects the fear of female empowerment, and the consequent societal paradigm shift, to the underlying stigma of the frightful A word. Furthermore, she makes the connection, as many others have, between rape culture and reproductive rights (or our lack thereof).

To begin, let’s talk about this whole messy, odd, grey area-concept of what anti-abortion activists like to call “personhood.” Personhood, most of these people believe, exists directly at conception, and thus, such persons immediately are entitled to as many rights as a fully formed, conscious person is. This may seem rational and not too inane, yet if you take a deeper look into this concept, holes begin to show up in its flimsy fabric. If personhood starts at conception, why do we not protect all zygotes, then? Why do we not protect every portion of potential personhood, no matter how minute? The thing is, even if one does consider a fetus a human being, it is unlike any other “human being” in the undeniable fact that it is completely dependent upon its mother’s body for survival. No other type of “human being” is in this state of drastic dependency.

As said by Margo Kaplan in a piece for the Washington Post, “The disparity between how the law treats abortion patients and IVF patients reveals an ugly truth about abortion restrictions: that they are often less about protecting life than about controlling women’s bodies. Both IVF and abortion involve the destruction of fertilized eggs that could potentially develop into people. But only abortion concerns women who have had sex that they don’t want to lead to childbirth. Abortion restrictions use unwanted pregnancy as a punishment for “irresponsible sex” and remind women of the consequences of being unchaste: If you didn’t want to endure a mandatory vaginal ultrasound, you shouldn’t have had sex in the first place.

An enormous number of fertility clinics exist in the United States, most of which provide IVF. Most patients of IVF produce a huge number of embryos, much larger than the number they will actually ever use for reproduction. If said embryos go unused, these clinics will often “dispose of them and donate them to scientific research.” If anti-abortion activists are truly “pro-life,” there should logically exist a persistent uproar over this common practice. After all, the potential for human life and personhood undoubtedly exists in these discarded embryos, so where are the protesters waiting to harass women in the process of receiving IVF? Why are fertility clinics not utterly demonized and hated by these same activist groups?

In Gary Gutting’s piece “On Abortion and Defining a Person” for the New York Times, he says, “Why think that implantation confers personhood?  The only plausible reason seems to be that an implanted egg is on a natural path that will, if all goes well, lead to a full-term birth.  But the same is true of a fertilized egg.  So it’s hard to see that the potential to develop into a newborn morally differentiates a fertilized egg before and a fertilized egg after implantation.”

Gutting lays open the fundamental logic between common anti-abortion arguments, and asks, “The DNA criterion seems to be the only criterion of being human that applies at every stage from conception to birth.  If we agree that it does not apply at the earliest stages of gestation, there is no basis for claiming that every abortion is the killing of an innocent human person.”

This is an insightful point. Is this so-called “personhood” formally inaugurated at the moment an embryo possesses human DNA? If so, that scientifically dictates that every egg, no matter if implanted, and fertilized, is inherently entitled to the comprehensive list of human rights every fully developed human being is entitled to. This is interesting, and clearly unconsidered by the majority of anti-abortion proponents, due to the blatant illogic of it.

Should women, then, be punished for having miscarriages? Let’s take it a step farther. Should women be punished for not giving life to each and every egg- should the eggs we release during our menstrual cycles be valued as people, too? Why is an unfertilized egg less person-y than a fertilized one? Why do we not spend millions of dollars preserving all embryos and starting  an  #AllEmbryosMatter hashtags, then? If human DNA is equivalent to life, well, then, science ought to catch up as well, because in the field of biology, when human life begins is an incredibly complicated, controversial topic. There exists no widely accepted consensus on when personhood begins, so why do anti-abortion activists refer to this concept as if it were an unquestionable fact? Dare I say their research is not too thorough? There exists endless ambiguity and no clear line, not even an arbitrary one, for the definition of what a “person” or “life” is, and pretending otherwise is disingenuous and exploitative.

If every single zygote in existence (and then some) must be accounted for as a full human being, my god, the seemingly ludicrous logistics and semantics of this issue would cost unfathomable amounts and require enormous organizing. Arthur says, of this concept, “If anti-choicers want fetuses to share the same human rights as the rest of us, this means they should enjoy the constitutional freedoms of religion, speech, assembly, and other basic freedoms. Since fetuses are physically incapable of believing, speaking, or assembling, they cannot have or exercise any constitutional rights. This puts them in a totally different category than regular human beings. To give another example, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms says that “Every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada.” Fetuses obviously cannot qualify for such a right on their own. Ironically, the Charter also says “Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned”— if fetuses did have rights, this would outlaw forced pregnancy!”

Anti-abortion activists like to throw around disheartening, dramatic phrases such as “personhood” and “unborn babies,” but not only are these words incorrectly unambiguous, but scientifically inane as well. A zygote (a fertilized ovum) has no nervous system; thus, no brain, no consciousness, no ability to feel or think for itself. The vast majority abortions take place before the third trimester, when this “personhood” would theoretically occur. Only 4 doctors in the United States openly perform third trimester abortions. In fact, only about 1% of all abortions performed in the U.S. are third trimester abortions. 90% of abortions are performed in the first trimester, when this consciousness does not exist.

As Arthur says in her essay on personhood, “Also, both a fertilized egg and a cloned cell represent a potential, not an actual human being.”

Science and anti-abortion arguments are not able to coexist. Fact is not even a mere afterthought in any anti-abortion stance I have heard from (primarily male, cisgendered) politicians- the sole reasoning given is a book and a higher power, and a religion many do not have any obligation to believe in. Yet supposedly the Republican Party represents everything that the Democrats apparently are not- like noninterference in citizens’ rights from the government. Yet why does the GOP preach the importance of noninterference from government in healthcare, education, the economy, corporate monopolies, but abruptly decide to wholly interfere in women’s decisions of what to do with their bodies? Apparently a corporation cannot be made to adhere to legislative regulations but women can be. There lies an insidious and rather nauseating pattern here, in this contradictory rhetoric, and that is the concept that women are less than human in their existence. We see this idea everywhere, whether we are aware of it or not, but here it becomes undeniable.

Politicians in the “pro-life camp” often undermine their own masked language, and make gaffes that reveal the true intent of their anti-abortion, anti-contraception beliefs. In 2014, Mike Huckabee said, “If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government then so be it! Let us take that discussion all across America because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be,”

Hey, Mike Huckabee, did you know that not every woman has equal access to decent sexual education classes, probably due to your party’s highly ineffectual abstinence-only version of sex-ed? If we all had sexual education curriculum like the Netherlands or the UK, things would certainly be different, but we don’t. Similarly, not all contraception is 100% effective; every single form has a failure rate, even if used perfectly.

The amount of logic and basic human reasoning in his argument is- you guessed it- zero. First of all, Huckabee implies that women can somehow magically “control their reproductive systems.” Wow, I have female reproductive anatomy and I never even knew that I could do such a magical thing! Yet another unsurprising, miraculous, scientifically absurd argument from the GOP- side by side with Todd Atkin’s “legitimate rape” argument. Furthermore, painting women seeking birth control as sex-crazed, brainless creatures while simultaneously claiming that the Democrats are the ones who are sexist would have an amusing amount of irony if it weren’t so utterly terrifying. Also, do Huckabee and his Republican colleagues not know about sexual assault? About the fact that 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes; that non-consensual sex (rape) isn’t exactly “preventable” by victims? Where is the corresponding demand of men to control their libidos and reproductive systems? Why are we not demonizing men for accessing vasectomies? Why are men not scolded for impregnating women? Men are not expected to take part in unwanted pregnancies they are a part of, they get a get-out-of-jail-free card due to the fact that the said pregnancy is not taking part in their body, and that, they’re men.

If Republicans were really anti-abortion and pro-life, rather than anti-woman, they’d fight tirelessly to reduce the horrifying statistic that 1 in 3 men would commit rape if they knew they could get away with it. They would fight the nauseating truth that 1 in 16 men are rapists in this country, and that, 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year. They would say, hey, men, stop both having consensual sex and also sexually assaulting women so damn much; get your act together so we can prevent abortions.

Another thing is the hypocrisy. I am one of the first to point out the many flaws and hypocrisy apparent in even my own camp- the pro-choice field, yet the anti-abortion rhetoric is absurdly hypocritical. Republicans are big fans of the Constitution. The 2nd Amendment, too. The 2nd Amendment, despite its clear grammar and unambiguous language, is utilized as a defense for anti-gun control laws, and the Supreme Court decision to extend the 2nd Amendment to individuals is respected and utilized heavily as defense for their positions. Yet Roe v. Wade, which constitutionally guarantees every woman the right to an abortion, without an undue burden imposed upon her, on the basis of privacy (which is flawed in itself but that’s another story) is somehow ignored and made a mockery of. As Trevor Noah said of the GOP on this topic, “Human life only holds value until you take it out of the package, and then it’s worth nothing.”

Jeb Bush responded to the 45th school shooting in 2015, at Oregon Umpqua Community College, by saying, infamously, “Stuff happens.” He did not even provide a reasonable, even if anti-gun control, remedy for such “stuff.” If Bush and his Republican colleagues were as adamant about stopping these tragedies as they were about legislating female bodies, (and autonomy) can you imagine the endless scope of lives saved? Where is that pro-life spirit now, Mr. Bush?

Another common argument is that pregnant women wishing to obtain abortions are taking the “easy way out” or/and that they’d really like motherhood if they just tried it. However, 59% of women obtaining abortions are already mothers. These women know what motherhood is and still seek abortions in order to do what is right for them.

The consequences of unintended and unwanted pregnancies being carried to term are profound and often devastating for women. The renowned and recent Global Turnaway Study, conducted by researchers of UC San Francisco, found much highly enlightening and unprecedented information of how these pregnancies impact women. The study found that women who are turned away from abortion services yet seeking termination are three times more likely than the women who obtained abortions to fall below the poverty line in the following years, and only 48% of these women turned away from abortion services had a job. As said by the Gawker affiliate i09, “When a woman is denied the abortion she wants, she is statistically more likely to wind up unemployed, on public assistance, and below the poverty line. Another conclusion we could draw is that denying women abortions places more burden on the state because of these new mothers’ increased reliance on public assistance programs.”

Additionally, women unable to receive wanted abortions are more likely to stay with abusive partners. The psychological, emotional, and physical consequences of unwanted pregnancy are far more damaging than those of getting wanted abortions. The majority of women who have received abortions do not regret their choice. There is virtually no correlation between abortion and increased depression, or other mental disorders.

Meaning, women know what they want to do with their bodies, and are not thoughtless, emotional creatures unable to make well thought-out and informed decisions on their own. Meaning, their bodily autonomy belongs not to the government but to themselves.

Making abortion illegal does nothing but make safe abortions illegal. It does not decrease the number of abortions. Worldwide, 1 out of every four pregnant women will choose to have an abortion, and this number will not somehow magically decrease if abortions are made illegal or highly restricted, as they are now. 20 million of the 42 million abortions performed per year are unsafe. Women in need of an abortion, particularly low-income, marginalized women, will get an abortion. The difference is that their abortion will not be a safe one. According to Women on Waves, “Globally one in eight pregnancy-related deaths, an estimated 17%, are due to an unsafe abortion. Every 9 minutes a woman dies needlessly as a result of an unsafe illegal abortion.” Furthermore, they state, “Romania provides a unique case study of the factors that influence the use of unsafe abortion: in 1966 legal abortion was restricted and the abortion-related maternal mortality rate increased sharply, ten times higher than the average for the rest of Europe; in 1989 abortion was again made available on request and the number of maternal deaths fell sharply. By contrast the Netherlands has the lowest reported abortion rate Of the 29,266 abortions performed there in 1997, the complication rate for first trimester treatments was 0.3% with no resulting deaths whatsoever.”

Another thing I want to talk about is guns. Not guns themselves, but the accessibility (and need) of guns relative to the accessibility (and need) of abortions. In Alabama, as of 2011, there were 8 abortion clinics, while there are 859 gun dealerships there today; there is a 48 hour waiting period on abortion while there is no waiting period on purchasing a gun there. In Alaska, there are 9 abortion providers and 612 gun dealerships. Even in California, there are 512 abortion clinics and 2,209 gun dealerships (but we have a 10 day waiting period for all firearms). Since 2011, around 162 abortion clinics have closed due to Congressional restrictions, most with absolutely no scientific or legal precedent, (including the law being argued over in Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt) many being proven unconstitutional. In 2014, a 72-hour waiting period bill was passed in Missouri that did not even allow exceptions in the cases of rape or incest. This kind of waiting period tells women, you are not clearheaded or competent or intelligent enough to make such a decision on your own; you will second-guess something you obviously have spent a lot of time considering, yet 28 states have these waiting periods. If you are a young, low-income woman who does not have the means to travel to one of the few abortion clinics in your state, and somehow get off of work/school, rent a hotel room for the waiting period, not have your safety compromised if you are the victim of rape/incest or are in an abusive relationship, then sorry, says the GOP, your constitutional right to an abortion is nonexistent. In other words, you can go induce your own unsafe, possibly life-threatening abortion- either way, you’re screwed, and it’s not our responsibility.

Until 1869, even the Catholic Church permitted abortion before movement of the fetus, and punishment for abortion after that year was mild, equivalent to a misdemeanor rather than an act as extreme and morally heinous as murder. As Joyce Arthur writes, “Another key difference is that a fetus doesn’t just depend on a woman’s body for survival, it actually resides inside her body. Human beings must, by definition, be separate individuals. They do not gain the status of human being by virtue of living inside the body of another human being—the very thought is inherently ridiculous, even offensive.”

As said simply by Chris Hallquist, “The fact that an embryo has human DNA does not prove it is a person, because human tissue samples have human DNA and human tissue samples are not people. .

Simply because one is an (uninvited) guest in one’s body is not unequivocal permission to stay, to reside, to utilize all of the resources of the host’s (the woman) body. This idea of a host and a guest in reference to a woman and a fetus is also unnerving, due to the long-held metaphor of woman as vessel rather than person herself. And to assume that a body is inherently, constantly available for any guest to use at their will, is ludicrous and unprecedented in any other circumstance. Bodily autonomy enforces this concept. For example, even states cannot force individuals to donate their organs and blood, no matter how dire the consequences might be. In our society, particularly American society, the Constitution (a beloved document by so many originalist Republicans) is the primary creator of our culturally precious right to autonomy, to free will, to freely exercise these rights to choose. If the Second Amendment were abolished, hell would break apart into this country, and overpowering cries of “but it’s our right” would be heard in the streets. Yes. If one believes it is their right to own a gun, despite the potential for unnecessary mortality inherent in that gun’s existence, why is a woman automatically denied her right to her own body, even if there exists the merest potentialfor human life inside of her? Why does this uninvited creature take on rights even she does not have, and override her autonomy?

Arthur states, “A fetus is not a separate individual—it lives inside a pregnant woman and depends on her for its growth. In fact, the biological definition of “parasite” fits the fetal mode of growth precisely, especially since pregnancy causes a major upset to a woman’s body, just like a parasite does to its host. I’m not trying to disparage fetuses with the negative connotations of the word parasite; in fact, parasites and their hosts often enjoy mutually supportive relationships, and this obviously includes most pregnancies. However, the parasitic relationship of a fetus to a woman means that its continued existence requires her consent[11]—if she continues the pregnancy unwillingly, her rights and bodily integrity are violated.”

Another aspect of anti-abortion rhetoric and policy is the permission of abortion in cases of rape or incest. This is an exception, however begrudging, made by anti-abortion activists and political figures to somewhat placate the general left-leaning populace that although they believe every fetus has a right to life, this right, is, as Arthur says, “negotiable” and “not absolute or paramount.” This is an antithetical, and even ironic, idea, because this certainly, for once, values the well-being of the woman over the fetus’s. Yet it is also highly problematic and contradictory. To permit abortions solely in the cases of rape and incest is to coercively, and often unsafely, force a survivor of extreme sexual abuse and trauma to report her trauma, which is an entirely different and horrific battle in itself. If rape, or as the disturbingly uneducated Todd Atkin likes to say (and many other members of his party), “legitimate rape” is the definitive open gate to abortion, is abortion given to a woman who says she was raped or a woman whose rapist is prosecuted? Given that 1 in 4 women are raped, and out of every 1,000 rapes, 994 perpetrators will walk free (according to RAINN), it is highly implausible that these anti-abortion activists will actually be able to act on their promise to protect survivors. The primary anti-abortion base, the Republican party, has, historically, done extremely little to correct the grave flaws of the criminal justice system’s handling of sexual assault- in fact, the party has often done far more worse to rape victims than good. Also, why is a fetus conceived from consensual sex intrinsically more human, and why is their life more precious, than one conceived from assault?

Concludingly, there looms one nauseating, soul-crushing question left to be answered by the anti-abortion movement: does the autonomy of the woman or the fetus gain precedence? Which is more valuable, a clump of cells taking unsolicited refuge in a woman’s body with a scientifically undetermined potential for future, theoretical “personhood” or the living, breathing, conscious, alive human being- the woman- who will have to live with the immeasurable consequences and ordeals built-in with parenthood?

In what grotesque formulation of society do we value the unborn over the born? A society in which women are regarded, both legally and culturally, as less than human, as “vessels,” as “asking for it”- both rape and pregnancy in their possession of vaginas and working reproductive systems, as bound to motherhood from day one of their humanhood, as creatures conceived to repopulate rather than to live? In what society do we punish women for being women, or punish any person with a certain organ for having said organ?

Women will not stop getting abortions. Never. Before Roe v. Wade, approximately 5,000 women died annually from illegal abortions. Even if there existed legal, official rights of a zygote, of a fetus, even if every type and manifestation of abortion and birth control were outlawed, even if any of the most obscenely dehumanizing notions of anti-abortion advocates were granted to reality, even then- we would not stop getting and giving abortions, and you can guarantee that we will also not stop dying from them, if you outlaw the practice. Those at the forefront of restricting abortion are also, even if unintentionally, at the forefront of inadvertent murder to women- femicide, a rather paradoxical truth for those who claim to be “pro-life.” I am aware that you do not want women to die, but even if you do not think you will cause that, by restricting something that not all women, contrary to popular belief, really want, you will lead to fatalities and unsafety, you will lead to irreparable harm to primarily a specific gender.

There are 0.6 deaths per each 100,000 legal abortions performed in the US each year (according to WHO), while childbirth- what these anti-abortion advocates wish to universally enforce- is far more fatal, with 8.8 deaths per each 100,000 childbirths (according to WHO).

Interestingly, according to the Guttmacher Institute, “the abortion rate is 29 per 1,000 women of childbearing age in Africa, and 32 per 1,000 in Latin America — regions in which abortion is illegal under most circumstances in the majority of countries. The rate is 12 per 1,000 in Western Europe, where abortion is generally permitted on broad grounds.”

One can therefore reasonably conclude that restricting abortion will not lessen the number of abortions performed, but instead lessen the number of safe abortions performed, and thus, increase the number of women harmed. The undue burden of accessing an abortion, or even reproductive care in general, is inarguably one of the primary trademarks of misogyny in our time. Any person unwilling and/or unable to become a parent in possession of a uterus is automatically subjected to the will of legislation written and passed by overwhelmingly cisgendered, white, hetereosexual men with little to no factual understanding of how abortion actually works. (link samantha bee video here). I often question if the world I am existing in is reality or The Handmaid’s Tale, and I cannot ever really decide on an answer where I do not feel an unnerving malaise at the prospect of even the potential of pregnancy. I do not feel safe in my own body, because I do not own it, it does not belong to me. My body supposedly belongs to a handful of uneducated and rampantly misogynistic white males who will never be pregnant, and statistically, likely never sexually assaulted, unlike my 1 in 4 chance. Gender parity simply cannot occur without the comprehensive legalization, without any restrictions, of abortion, and to utterly shift the way in which we think and talk about abortion and reproductive rights. It cannot. To inhibit women from abortions is to inhibit us from living as human beings.

We know that not all women possess equal, or even remotely similar, opportunities and access to sexual education and reproductive services. Women of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and numerous other disadvantaged groups face an ungraspable burden in attempts to control their bodies and minds, and this disproportionate struggle cannot go unacknowledged by the pro-choice movement. It is fundamental to our rise and success to empower all women, not solely the white, cis, heterosexual, upper-middle-class, educated women we like to assume as the default searcher of an abortion. We are more than the privileged default, more than a one-size-fits all feminism, and abortion access is absolutely key to enforcing this somehow-revolutionary ideal. Control of our reproductive lives is essential to our liberation. As said by Louise Melling of the ACLU, “Women currently make up 57 percent of college students (up from 42 percent in 1970) and are obtaining advanced degrees in record numbers. In the mid 1970s, women made up only 16 percent of medical school graduates; today they constitute nearly 50 percent. Likewise women holding science and engineering doctoral degrees have more than quadrupled since the late 1960s. And the ranks of female Fortune 500 CEOs have grown from 1 in 1973 to 12 in 2007.” The timing of this uprise is not coincidental. It is the direct, explicit evidence of the correlation between our bodily autonomy and our freedom to live as we please rather than as we are expected to.

When, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 61% of women having abortions are already mothers, the argument that every woman is inherently cut out for motherhood really begins to disintegrate. Many of those seeking abortions are already mothers, thus, they know what motherhood is actually like, and their desire for an abortion is a highly informed choice unlike any other. A similar argument is that abortion is psychologically harmful, and can lead to depression, even PTSD, and other mental disorders. However, the American Psychological Association, a nonpartisan organization, claims otherwise. In fact, I would argue that forcing a woman to undergo a pregnancy and unwanted motherhood is just slightly more “psychologically damaging” than an abortion.

I would argue that waiting to have children until one is ready and psychologically, economically, and emotionally able to do so is far more responsible than forcibly going through a pregnancy and attempting to support a child that cannot truly be supported to one’s best abilities. Abortion can lead to better motherhood along with, of course, no motherhood for women like myself. And each choice here is not more or less valid than the other.

A topic I cannot discuss abortion without mentioning is Planned Parenthood, and the intractable, mostly ludicrous, misinformation and controversy surround its existence and services. The GOP attack on Planned Parenthood is perhaps the most antithetical and self-destructive partisan attack in existence. The logic is mind blowingly nonexistent. Republican party members, such as Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and endless others, preach incessantly about the perils of Planned Parenthood; detailing illegal fetal tissue dealing (that has ended in a lawsuit and has been proven to be highly edited and false), the encouragement of abortions and “female/adolescent promiscuity.” Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit organization, serving 4,665,000 people (of all genders) per year, with 79% of those patients under the poverty line, 75% of the patients there to receive “services to prevent unintended pregnancy,” and one that prevents an estimated 515,000 unintended pregnancies per year

The term “pro-life” is misleading, when there is all the evidence to the contrary- “Anti-life.” No anti-abortion advocates have been murdered for their views, no “emergency crisis centers” (which are disguised as abortion clinics but only dissuade abortion and shame the woman with false statistics and infactual science) have been bombed or gunned down. The first abortion clinic arson happened in 1976. The first provider was killed in 1993, and there have been around 11 murders and 26 attempted murders due to anti-abortion violence, including the recent, most infamous one in Colorado at a Planned Parenthood.

If you take a look through the National Abortion Federation’s Violence Statistics Page, (linked here) you can find detailed accounts of the countless and immeasurable number of violence at abortion clinics.

If this sounds a lot like extremism, that is because it is. Extremism is defined as “the holding of extreme political or religious views; fanaticism.” This is a textbook case.

One last thing is this: a woman can have an abortion for any reason she sees fit. This may seem audacious; too many pro-choice advocates argue that rape/incest are the most/only valid reasons for one to obtain an abortion, that there has to be numerous 100% valid and unquestionable reasons for her not wanting a child, but the simple fact is that, contrary to patriarchal popular belief, not all humans possessing a uterus want a child. Not all women want a child, or another child. That should be enough reason in itself. If I do not feel ready or desirous of a child, I should be able to not have one. It works to our collective benefit when we legalize abortion without restrictions. There is an intrinsic misogyny in a pro-life stance, and if I have yet to find a valid argument to counter that statement. When banning abortion senselessly kills more women, when poverty increases due to unintended pregnancy, when women are treated as second-class citizens unable and incompetent in their own thought-processes, I do not see how a pro-life stance is at all “feminist.”

There are infinite reasons behind why a woman might not want to be forced through an unwanted pregnancy, but let me name just a few. First, giving birth to a child in a hospital can be extremely expensive; costing around $3,000 and $37,000 in the United States, yet I see nothing about expanding Medicaid to these (often low-income) women you want to force into childbirth. The GOP is clearly not a fan of universal healthcare, so the logic is already crumbling. Also, childbirth is a whole lot more dangerous than abortion, in fact, childbirth complications are the sixth most common cause of death for 20-34 year old women. Also, the stigma that often accompanies pregnancy and isolation is unknowable if you have not experienced it. A pregnant teenager can, and often will, face enormous alienation and shame from her peers or even be kicked out of her home; a rape victim will often be put into unspeakably dangerous situations due to her pregnancy and face the full-on force of rape culture, not to mention intractable trauma at carrying her rapist’s child inside of her body. The act of pregnancy itself can be horrifyingly dangerous and traumatic depending on the circumstances, and there are so many different circumstances Republican cisgendered white men will never know. A woman of color, or an LGBTQ+ woman face extraordinarily different challenges throughout pregnancy, and yet Republican policies want to make life harder for most of these minorities.

Many argue that taxpayers should not have to be forced into paying for abortions, but guess what? Taxpayers pay for all sorts of things they may detest or disagree with, such as our entire military, and also, check out the Hyde Amendment that bans the use of most federal funds to pay for abortions except in a few special circumstances.

There are immeasurable social, economic, and medical benefits brought into our country and world through accessible, legal abortion. The comprehensive study Legalized Abortion and the Public Health thoroughly describes, factually, how this is true in numerous ways, and I invite you to read through the entire thing. As stated by the Huffington Post, “Access to safe, legal abortion influences women’s decisions about unwanted pregnancies. The most compelling evidence comes from the impact of the Hyde Amendment on poor women. The discontinuation of Medicaid funding for abortions for poor women accounted for about half the increase in African-American women as heads of households. Parental notification and consent for abortion have been linked with a small increase in white women heading households.”


The most vulnerable and marginalized women depend on the accessibility and option of abortion. Again, stated by the Huffington Post, “ Pregnancy and childbirth are especially dangerous for older African-American women. Women at higher risk of poor medical and social outcomes of pregnancy disproportionately rely on abortion.”

There is also excessive evidence that unwanted pregnancies, due to a lack of accessible abortion, lead to higher child abuse and neglect rates. This trend continues, as decreased abortion accessibility leads to an increase in children reliant on social services.

Abortion is an act of social good. It furthers gender equality in both explicit and subtle ways by its full, unquestioning allowance of women to be treated as human beings in this country able to make the right decisions for themselves and their lives. It allows women to choose their own lives over the enormous, and frequently unmanageable, effect a child, or simply pregnancy, will have on their lives. It allows women to put their autonomy first rather than the ignorant, misogynistic gender norms coercing their bodies into being soulless, reproductive machines. Pro-life advocacy focuses on this one concept: we are pro-life, but selectively. We are pro-life until you are a Mexican, undocumented immigrant, or a rape victim, or a Syrian refugee, or anyone who does not fit impeccably into our constraints of those lives we deem worthy of protecting and preserving. We are pro-life of embryos and zygotes and not actual, living, breathing, conscious human women with lives to live and minds of their own.

If I ever receive an abortion, which is not unlikely, since 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in their lifetimes, I will not feel shame for my decision, because I know I will have chosen what was right for me, as an individual, as a citizen, as a human being with integrity and autonomy and self-awareness. I will not allow stigma to override our independence or self-knowledge, and I urge you to not, either.

http://ecademy.agnesscott.edu/~mzavodny/documents/AERPP_abortionandchildabuse.pdf

http://www.nap.edu/read/18521/chapter/1

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/279965687_Decision_Rightness_and_Emotional_Responses_to_Abortion_in_the_United_States_A_Longitudinal_Study

http://www.womenonwaves.org/en/page/380/safe-abortion-saves-women-s-lives

http://www.oneinfourusa.org/statistics.php

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8765248

http://healthresearchfunding.org/21-compelling-third-trimester-abortion-statistics/

An Ode to Planned Parenthood

Originally posted on August 24th, 2016 on my old blog. A poem.

I am not a wallpaper to growth
I am not a house to provide for an uninvited guest
I am not an
insignificant.

I am not

isolated entity of unconditional,

reproductive promise

I am not a hotel;

not meant to serve an embryo while my mind does not exist

I am not less than the bean sized being inside of me
I am not background blur to a half formed thing thriving on discontent
I am a human and my body is mine. It belongs to no intruder

nor is anyone,

no matter how small,

entitled to it.

I grow at my own rate.
I choose.
I do not belong to a sperm and an egg’s interaction;

my existence cannot be defined by one night one choice one experience.

slut whore careless irresponsible cold bitch compassionless selfish cunt
I do not cower to your words

to your outcry at my self-respect,

at my exercising my human rights.

I am not your country to colonize.

why do you scrutinize my womb while you allow men to freely rape without consequence?
why do you turn me into an incubator while you provide me with no means to provide for the being?
why do you look for ambivalence in private corners while we find coat hangers and kitchen knives instead of the 24 hours and the money?
why do you restrict my uterus while you dismiss thousands murdered a year at the legal hands of death, male hands holding legally bought guns?
what is it about my womb that makes you want to own it?

republicans do not want to socialize our government but
they have no problem with socializing our bodies.
they want less government interference, protect our rights, our guns, our ideas of correct marriage, our whiteness
but not women. don’t protect their rights. protect our control over their lives.

I am not my anatomy
I am not void of agency and deliberation
I am not selfish

a woman is not what a woman should be
she is who she is, she is a human being
she is.

and she cannot hold herself hostage
in a womb.

life begins at respect for women, not respect for undeveloped,

unconscious embryonic cells.

pro-life is a mask for anti-woman.

because how are you

a feminist if

a woman has no autonomy over herself?

how are you a feminist if
you tell her she is here solely to create rather than to live?
how are you a feminist if
you do not see a woman’s choice as valid
but see a man’s choice as law?

The Bernie Legacy

This was originally posted July 12, 2016 on my old blog.

Change is not an easy nor uncomplicated concept. Change is enormously challenging, complex, and often unforgiving. The fight for change hurts and can be destructive, but ultimately, it is worth it. Revolution is something entirely different. It breaks hearts and belief and tells us we are over-idealistic at first. Those who benefit from the status quo usually tend to defend it and protect it. Revolution takes time and quite a lot of heartbreak.

Today, I have lost quite a bit of faith in change, but I hope, and believe, that I will soon regain it. I like to think of this a strengthening, definitive moment in our history and our ambition. Today, Bernie Sanders finally, unsurprisingly but disappointingly nonetheless, formally endorsed the presumptive Democratic nominee for President, Hillary Clinton. This decision, to the majority of diehard Sanders supporters, including myself, comes as an expected yet painful blow. The efforts of this campaign are historically revolutionary and transformative. This campaign, unlike so many others, truly has focused on the collective will and efforts of us, the 99%, human beings living and striving in America rather than the select, elite few. That is not solely my socialist, populist bias coming into play- that is an unprecedented endeavor, and all of America recognizes it as a non-partisan truth. Today, we, as the millions of Americans young and old, of countless ethnicities and sexualities and genders and experiences, we, today, cannot deny the impact we have all made on America forever. This sounds rather absurd and quixotic but I assure you, it is not only the newbie, political junkie in me speaking. It is the truth.

Look at what we have made. Dissect it and digest it. This campaign has raised 222.2 million dollars through solely contributions from regular, true Americans, without the unjust upper hand of large corporate interests and Super PACS, with an average donation being just $27. This is not going to change the world alone, but it is an enormous and important step. We are more than one candidate, one political race. We do not, by any means, end here. We continue on. We won almost two dozen states, something believed to be impossible in the beginning of this campaign. We claimed victory over Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire by 22 points. Small contributions comprised 75% of Sanders’s campaign. The leftist, democratic socialist, independent Senator from Vermont, with his unruly white-grandpa hair and bright-eyed fervor, soared far beyond the scoffs and disbelief of wearied politicians and devoid explanations of pragmatism. Look at us. This campaign has mobilized millions of exploited and mistreated, unheard Americans, and brought us together to strike fear into the hearts of those unwilling to respect our existence. We’ve won so much.

 

 

my backpack supporting my feminist agenda! yay

I want to thank Bernie Sanders for so much. I want to thank him for helping me find a movement I can be an active and adamant part of. Bernie Sanders, for all his flaws and strengths, represents change to the American eye. The youth have supported this man with unprecedented fervor and we will continue to support the “political revolution” his movement has effectively inspired and given a voice to. The Sanders Campaign’s unparalleled passion in this campaign is the striking tenet of this election cycle. It is historically unprecedented that both presumptive nominees (Trump and Clinton) possess such high unfavorable ratings. 67% of Democrats would prefer a third term for Obama rather than a Clinton administration. This election functions as an inescapable “lesser of two evils” paradigm rather than an inspiring, uplifting example of the beauty of our democratic country. Democracy, at its heart, cannot be perfected, nor is it constructed to. The Constitution is, like its creators, a fundamentally flawed and dated document. The Constitution does not exist as the miraculous, immutable basis for true democracy and liberty, as it is not a document constructed by some untouchable group of demigods. The Constitution must be reformed as a living, breathing artifact of the beginnings of our country, but utilized more effectively to be reshaped along with the world and time we exist in now. It must be modernized and adapted to embrace the immeasurable challenges of the contemporary world. The Sanders campaign transcends one mere man. It transcends even one moment in history. In the words of the brilliant Lin Manuel Miranda, “This is not a moment, it’s the movement.” This movement is more than one election cycle, one President, it is so much more than that.

 

As a young, leftist, socialist-leaning, progressive (intersectional) feminist, I often find myself utterly defeated by the innate disappointments of the American government and electoral system. I find myself wishing for a country that truly represents the voice I possess. I am unable to vote (I’m sixteen), and this is a frustration in itself, but I am well aware that one vote does not define an election. I am more concerned with the system rather than the nominees. The disgraceful attempts to both invalidate Sanders’s supporters and sabotage their collective efforts at every turn, by the Democratic National Committee and the corporate media, only serves as a brutally pessimistic example of the corruptive nature of this country’s establishment. Campaign finance is a heinous, quintessential example of the perils of our hyper-capitalist commitment to corporate welfare, no matter the costs or morals involved. It must be reformed.

It is an unyielding, unfathomably painful blow, to believe so passionately in something, only for that thing to lose. When Clinton won the California primary, I locked my door, sat in my bed, disregarded the (awful) pile of algebra homework on my desk, and cried. I did not feel proud nor whatsoever valid in my tears. I felt melodramatic and unspeakably idiotic. I am sure most people in my grade did not break into unceasing tears over a presidential race, and I wish I had more integrity, but I do not regret it anymore.

I felt disheartened by the political system and I came, for the first time, face to face with disillusionment, a disillusionment countless others have felt and hurt to before me. I am sixteen and I am already severely pessimistic about this country and our politics, but I also am proud to have been a part of something revolutionary, no matter how small. I do realize and acknowledge that this movement has been ongoing and is not merely catalyzed by solely Bernie Sanders. Individuals across this nation have come together and unified in order to voice their desperate, relentless desire for change in this country. There is so much to be heard and said. Black lives do matter, and all lives cannot matter until black lives truly do. Every day, 89 people die by gun violence in this country, and, the amount of those affected are disproportionately people of color. The inconceivable amount of gun violence is a ferocious problem unique to the United States in 2016. The LGBTQ+ community is in great distress. A woman’s fundamental right to control her own body and thus, her human autonomy, is being severely threatened and compromised by a largely white male conservative demographic, who will never be pregnant nor educated on what reproductive services even entail. There is so, so much to fight for. The struggle continues as it always will.

Bernie Sanders has endorsed Hillary Clinton as of this morning. I am not interested in weakly sugarcoating my feelings in artificial optimism and empty idealism. I do not believe that Hillary Clinton will achieve all that she grandiosely promises to. I do not agree with 99% of her record, and I adamantly believe that she has done far more bad to feminism than good, as it is clear she has long had no such concept of intersectionality. That is an entirely separate article, but if you’d like to understand my distrust of her, please read False Choices: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Rodham Clinton, an excellent, thoughtful, and unbiased/non-sexist dissection of Clinton’s clickbait brand of elitist feminism (that was passive-aggressive, I admit). However. I do trust Bernie Sanders. I do trust that Hillary Clinton, although a corporate fiend, is ultimately far superior to the alternative uneducated, anarchist, misogynistic, racist, excuse for a presidential candidate that is Donald Trump. I do believe, more than anything, that Clinton will not undermine the very basis of individual liberty and will (somewhat) work to free those in this oppressive society. The system, I would argue, is not broken, rather, it is functioning exactly how it was intended to. It is inherently oppressive. American government was conceived up by white, cisgender, presumably heterosexual males. The American government is not an imaginative, revolutionary innovation. It is the result of gruesome, unsparing compromise and backdoor deals. It is the result of bipartisan disagreement. It is working as it was intended to, and that intention cannot work for the 99% of us. We must be unafraid to criticize our politics and our country. It does not mean that we must detest our country. We may take pride in our accomplishments but we must also thoroughly understand the perilous effects of capitalism on the disadvantaged, marginalized groups, and how our government works to fund a sourly neoliberal agenda rather than a democratic one.

Bernie Sanders inspired me to believe in something real. I did not transform him into a god. I believed in the movement and the ideas behind it. I felt a part of something so much greater than myself. The will of the people surrounding me at the rallies felt like history being made. The passion nearly knocked me over and swept me off my feet. I often found myself receiving countless eye-rolls and sneers at my “obnoxious Bernie-or-Bust mentality” (as stated by one such perpetrator) yet I could not compromise or sacrifice my belief in Bernie for the sake of being seen as an unconscious participant in suppressive politics. Most interestingly, I was accused frequently of being a “bad feminist” for not unquestioningly devoting my loyalty to the female candidate in the race, despite her long track record of being an enormous detriment to intersectional feminism. I argued with Clinton supporters yet often found that the sole argument was that not supporting Hillary was sexist. As if supporting a candidate because of her gender was not sexist and the antithesis of feminism. I respect a great deal of Clinton supporters, including my mother. I respect the numerous ideals and truths we share and embrace their intelligence and passion. Yet I will be a halfhearted supporter of her in this election, and this is the great disappointment to me: this election is undoubtedly a lesser of two evils election. A great number of Americans are unhappy with both presumptive nominees, yet are forced to choose the one they believe will not be the absolute worst choice. What a time to be alive. Sarcasm intended.

But. Bernie Sanders has shaped the Democratic National Convention’s platform in an unprecedented and beautiful way. It is the most progressive platform in our history. The progressive aspects include: the abolishment of the death penalty, legalization of marijuana, a minimum wage of $15, a written commitment to ending harmful trade deals, and the list continues. Our movement’s impact on this platform cannot be denied.

As predicted by a number of political pundits and analysts, Sanders has forcibly swerved Clinton to the left on numerous issues. However, this is thanks not solely to the Sanders campaign, but rather, to the collective will of the American people, primarily the unwavering ferocity of fervor in the youth. This is where we begin to catalyze revolution, and we will not, cannot, stop here. The work has barely begun with Bernie. According to John Cassidy of the New Yorker, “In order to win over Sanders and his supporters, the Clinton campaign has made policy concessions in a number of areas, including education, the minimum wage, and the death penalty. It would be going too far to say that the runner-up in the primaries is dictating policy; on trade, fracking, and some other issues, the Clinton campaign appears to have stood firm and rejected demands by Sanders and his supporters. But the deal that Sanders and Clinton have struck will shift the Democratic Party further away from the centrist, New Democrat philosophy that Bill Clinton campaigned on in 1992, and closer to the social democratic, or “New Deal liberal,” approach that Sanders has long promoted.”

The New Deal, socialist-esque liberal agenda first conceived of by Roosevelt utterly shifted and transformed the ways in which the American presidency functions and the power it holds. It struck America with the teeming, successful potential of socialist policy and change that seemingly could not be achieved (and yes, the New Deal did not end poverty/unemployment but it did revolutionize our presidential office). Bernie has continued this subversive advance of our democratic system. In fact, the platform committee has awakened to the prevalent, urgent demand of the people for an increasingly progressive Democratic platform. As Democrats, and as youth, we must restore the faith we once felt in our party.

Now, though, things have changed for me. To be honest, I personally, wholeheartedly and truly, support the brilliant Green Party candidate Jill Stein and all that she stands for. She is an incredible woman and a truly intersectional feminist and now best represents what I want for this country. Yet I do know how ridiculously slim the chances of her winning are (virtually nonexistent). So I will support Bernie’s choice, if unenthusiastically. Rather than focus on the candidate herself in this election, I will continue to focus on and support the unfinished progressive ideals this campaign has tenaciously and unsparingly fought for. I will continue to scrutinize and inspect the political tactics and policies of both parties, even the one I identify with. I believe that our democracy requires debate and discussion to function. We are not gods. No candidate is. No political system is perfect nor systemically free. Our republic certainly is intrinsically oppressive and caters to the elite, and rather than disguise this fact in beguiling pride, we must instead seek reform. To be honest, I have little optimism, and I suffer to find faith most of the time. But this is personal.

I refuse to be a bystander to oppression and injustice that will undoubtedly continue and thrive if we do not elect a Democrat to the White House in this election. I refuse to submit to self-centered pessimism only to compromise the safety and liberty of the disadvantaged and marginalized communities in my country. I understand the ideals behind Bernie or Bust, and I commend those who will follow this mentality down the line, but I also do know that I trust Bernie Sanders. I trust him and this movement he has created and given life to. I, as a teenager, have a reason to be involved and newly in love with politics, because as harsh and disturbing and colorless as this political atmosphere often feels, and is, there is some reason to go on and fight for what we believe in. We have to be educated and shrewd and realistic, but I will not become jaded. I am fed-up with the oppression of black lives, of women, of the LGBTQ+ community, of so, so many. I am sick of the oligarchical current this country is following. I know we can do more, and do better than the status quo and its many limitations.

To be clear, I am extremely disappointed with this election. I am tired, and weakened by this blow, and I will not deny that there lives justifiable anger in all of our weary hearts. We believed in something brilliant and we fought for it ceaselessly. We lost, yes, and I wish we had won. I believe we could have won, if the electoral system was not inherently rigged in favor of the establishment candidate. I believe that voter suppression had a grotesquely unjust hand in this election, in California, Nevada, New York, and several others. Election fraud is not a chimerical threat. It exists and thwarts democracy.

Yes, my heart feels broken right now, as I am sure many of you understand. Yes, I wish this reality we are all distraught with were utterly different. I wanted Bernie Sanders to become president, not only for myself, but for us. For the infinite different, multifaceted, unique individuals who comprise that “us” I speak of. For those who feel unheard and dismissed as less than human by the political system. For those desperately believing, for the first time, in something colossal and powerful and momentous, and remarkable. For the youth wanting to contribute to this country rather than spend heaps of money and time and sanity on paying off student debt, people who want to construct a world worth living in instead of barely sustaining their existence on a lifeless minimum wage. For all of us exhausted with the duty of being the silenced majority of this country. I am hurting because of this loss, but I do not believe that we, as a whole, have failed at anything. We are much, much more than this crooked political system tells us we are. We are more than one man or campaign. We are more than we are trained to believe. To rebel peacefully rather than chaotically and violently is to challenge the blatant defects of the norm. We do not stand back and sit down when we are told to. We keep on.

Yet, in spite and because of all of this, there lingers the cryptic, disconcerting question to many: what next? This is difficult, because we are a mobilized, unified, passionate group of people, and to find the next step in the midst of this kind of heartbreak is always going to be a difficult and daunting challenge. Yet the fight cannot be over. We cannot allow it to end with Bernie’s campaign. Our beliefs and our movement cannot be a moment. It must live onwards and upwards. How do we accomplish something so paramount and seemingly unreachable? There are so many ways.

We must elect Democrats to all public offices this election cycle. We must campaign and rally and educate and promote and fundraise. The caliber of this responsibility cannot be understated. In order to protect and expand our progressive agendas and convictions, we must take back the Senate and ultimately the House as well, even if the latter stands as a far more ambitious battle to win. Furthermore, our support of Bernie cannot waver. I will not forcibly demand for anyone to vote for Hillary, because backing someone you are unable to believe in, no matter the circumstances, is unbelievably laborious and can often feel like sacrificing your identity for the politically “right” thing, and I honestly do not wish that upon anyone. However, we cannot allow a man like Donald Trump to be our President. I understand that many equate Clinton’s flaws to being just as bad as Trump’s, but she cannot possibly destroy our country as unabashedly and brutally as Trump can. It is now a lesser of two evils election, and this is a truth I wish to never see again. I want this country to be somewhere I want to be myself in. I want this country to feel like it truly belongs to every one of us. I do not want to have to feel an endless cycle of preventable, unimaginable grief everytime another black human is gunned down and murdered by the police. I do not want to see another LGBTQ+ safe haven transformed, in a matter of moments, into a hunting ground for the mercilessly hateful. I do not want to feel unsafe because of my gender or sexuality or Hispanic identity in this country.

I cannot compromise my integrity and dedication to justice and liberty in the country and support Hilary Clinton. I endorse Jill Stein, but I also endorse, still, Bernie Sanders, and all I want is for this country to thrive. I encourage you to contemplate both Jill Stein and Clinton throughly and to make the decision for yourself, but know that being part of the Sanders movement does not have to be as divisive as the media makes it out to be. We all want a liberal leader in the White House, yes, but more crucially, we all want radical change. Slow and gruelingly inactive change cannot be enough anymore, not for those of us who are suffering under the status quo.

I want this country to belong to all of us. I want us to recognize that we are a nation builtupon slavery, and to confront this bitter truth head-on and challenge it rather than force the dismissive and oblivious concept of colorblindness in America (“I don’t see race”) down our throats. Racism is alive and thriving and we cannot defeat it by denying it. Sexism is alive. Homophobia is alive. No prejudice or specific hatred is defeated, not yet. And Donald Trump surely will not fight these prejudices and the tragedies that senselessly accompany them.

I want to raise the minimum wage to $15 dollars and to recognize both the hardships of Israelis and Palestinians. I want a better, more diplomatic and less neoliberal foreign policy. I want us to realize how truly detrimental a capitalist economic system (not political) can be to the 99%. As said by the late Jude Wanniski, “What we should admit to begin with, if we can, is that good socialism is better than bad capitalism. The logic of the statement is really inescapable. It is only when capitalism fails that people and nations resort to alternative forms of political economy. A socialist system that is working well is one that is fully deploying the nation’s resources through a central plan that has the approval of the people. It would be superior to a capitalist system that is working so poorly that its adherents must find excuses for mass unemployment, widely diverging income classes, and deepening social pathologies. The price paid for any form of socialism is the loss of some degree of individual freedom, but when the only alternative is bad capitalism of the type described, a people willingly pay that price.” I want the disgraceful, fatal wealth inequality in this country to end. I want poverty to end. I want capital punishment to be abolished in this country by the Supreme Court. I want all transphobic domestic policies to end. I want my right to possess bodily autonomy over my uterus to be preserved and respected as my own rather than invalidated and threatened by misogynistic, restrictive abortion policies. want I want equal pay for women of minorities. I want inclusive, effective immigration policies to aid rather than to stifle. I want change, in so many areas, in multitudes of ways, and it feels so impossible. It will not come at once. I know this. But Bernie Sanders allowed us a gateway to unity and to collaborative efforts to redefine America as a nation representative of who we really are, instead of a handful of elite, white, heterosexual, cisgender, upper-class males. Bernie Sanders is well-aware that his visionary campaign will transcend him.

November is not here yet. We have a very long way to go. Giving up is not an option for any of us who want our revolution to one day occur.

I am not finished fighting this fight. I will never be finished.

Respect existence or expect resistance.

Fight on, my fellow Sanders supporters. This fight begins and ends with you and me. Believe in it. We’ve all come to look for America and we are going to find it.