What Does it Mean to be An American in 2017?

Well, I think it is safe to say that the start of this new presidential administration has been anything but smooth.  Keeping good on many campaign promises thus far, President Trump has managed to alienate just about every decent person in the country right now.  Immediately following and during his inauguration, protests broke out all over the country.  And the largest inauguration protest in US history took place just one day after his swearing in on January 21, 2017.  The Women’s March on Washington is the single largest inauguration protest in history with an estimated 4 million people participating in the United States and around the world.  That’s right, you read that correctly, around the world.  From the coasts of Australia to the streets of London to Antarctica, the world joined the citizens of the United States and united around solidarity and standing up to hate.  Something that the President ran on during his campaign.  We are trying to show the world that we will not tolerate hate, bigotry, xenophobia, homophobia or anything like that in this country.  We are better than that.

So right now in the country we are at a vital moment.  We are at a defining moment.  And we have a question to answer, What does it mean to be an American in 2017?  It isn’t as simply as you think.   We live in a time where a person elected to office has signed 20 executive orders in just 8 days that are seeming to redefine what and who we are as a country.  We live in a time where just the mere thought of protesting these actions has people questioning your allegiance or patriotism.  So what does it mean to be an American in 2017?  Does it mean that you just accept things as they are?  Or does it mean that you fight back for those who can’t fight for themselves?

When you look back at history you can see a pattern of resistance against injustice, just as we are seeing today.  We don’t look at those protests and marches as anything but patriotic and heroic.  So why is it different today?  Why is there such a hang up on the resistance movement we are seeing today?  There are 65 million Americans who are trying to fight back as we speak.  They are standing up to the injustices that are happening and it hasn’t even been a month yet.  They are defining right now what it means to be an American and it means that we don’t take things lying down.  We overcome and we persevere.  So to those just taking a back seat, I ask you, what does it mean to be an American in 2017 to you?

The Day the World Stood Still and A Call to Action

So it would appear that it has happened.  What I thought was virtually impossible happened.  Donald Trump is now the 45th President of the United States and I still can’t seem to wrap my mind around it.  I still don’t understand how or why it happened.  I mean, he lost the popular vote by almost 3 million votes.  He lost but won.  It doesn’t seem real.

But it is real and now the real work begins.  For those of us who worked tirelessly against hate, bigotry, misogyny, racism and corruption, our work begins.  We must stand up and fight.  Now is the time to not stop and cry to move forward and fight for the good.  We must oppose the hate, the bigotry, the racism, the xenophobia.  We must fights for reproductive rights, equal pay and safe passage for our immigrant friends.  Get out and volunteer, join a group, knit a hat.

We can’t just let the tears and hurt take over.  Get out and make a difference.  Run for office, create art, lead a march, organize.  We’ve got this.  We are strong.  We will not back down.  We will fight.  And I will be right there with you.  I will not back down.  I will fight for and with you.  We got this.

History Does Repeat Itself

When you are a student studying history there is one thing that you learn fast.  After countless lectures and swearing you have heard the same thing one million times, you realize something.  History does repeat itself.  Always without fail you can relate something that happened in 1860 to something that happened in 1760.  Or something that happened in 1965 to something that happened in 2016.  Why is this?  I would argue that we tend to not learn from our history.  We don’t see the lessons in the actions of those who came before us.  We don’t see the warnings.  Many would argue that this is happening now again since the election.  That the rhetoric that Trump uses and the people that he surrounds himself with should be a warning.  That this is becoming all to familiar.  That the white supremacist groups that support Trump are trying to take something back.  We must remember that several hate groups in the United States such as the American Nazi Party and Klansman  David Duke endorsed Donald Trump.  These endorsements have a striking resemblance to past historic events.  So, instead of trying to explain it, I leave you with this video which does a much better job than I.

This video from TED Ed, from the creators of the TED Talks give a brief history into the rise of Hitler.  One can’t help but notice the striking similarities between the then and now, but I will let you be the judge of that.  Watch the video, think about that is going on now and form your own opinions.  Maybe se can stop history from repeating itself again.




Why The Worlds Laughs

One of the things that we pride ourselves on here in the United States is the that we have the right to vote.  We can vote in every election from school board, to state legislatures to the President of the United States.  This is a right that was fought for and many died securing it for us.  It is a right that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Now having said that, with the recent Presidential election for 2016, voter turnout was at a 20 year low.  In this election cycle only 56% of those eligible to vote actually turned out. Which is down from 2012 where 58% turned out to vote, which is down from 2008, which had the highest turnout rate in recent history, but still with only 61.6% of those eligible actually voting.  In 1980 the voting turnout was 54.2%.  So what is going on here?  Why is the nation that boasts itself on freedom and democracy having an issue getting its population to come out and vote?

Compared to other modernized countries the voting turnout in the United States is a joke.  According to the Pew Research Center, in 2014 in Belgium, where they have a registered voting population of 89.4%, in their election 87.2% turned out to cast their vote.  I repeat, 87.2% of those registered came out to vote!  In Turkey, 85.2% turned out to vote in 2015.  Only 56% of registered voters turned out to vote in the 2016 Presidential election and we ended up with Donald Trump as President.

So why don’t we vote in the United States?  Well one reason could be that voter registration in the United States is hard compared to other countries.  There are various reasons as to why voter registration is hard, but one of the reasons is that in the United States is that we have deadlines as to when you can register to vote.  In Germany and Sweden you are automatically registered to vote when you become eligible.  Now this rule varies in the US with some states like Minnesota that allow you to register to vote on election day, but for the  most part, there is a deadline that happens before election day.

Other reasons include the fact that many people believe that their vote doesn’t count or that it is too inconvenient to vote due to long lines and the elimination of early voting in many states.  Still another reason that many don’t vote is that we are bombarded with more elections than any other country.  Voters are tired and have had enough.  Whatever the reason may be only 56% of those registered voted in the this current election.

While we take a right that many don’t have for granted, the world laughs.  Voting is taken seriously in so many countries, yet it is thrown by the wayside here in the United States.  Many fought and died for the right to be able to cast a ballot and only 56% did in 2016.  Shouldn’t we take this more seriously?



U.S. voter turnout trails most developed countries


A New Reality

It has been about fives days since the Presidential election of 2016.  It has been five days but the shock still has not worn off.  I have been in mourning since I woke up Wednesday morning to hearing the news of a President elect Trump (ugh, sorry, just typing that made me nauseous).  This can’t really be the new reality, but it is.  My heart is broken.  Let me start from the beginning on how I got here.

Hillary Clinton was not the candidate that I supported.  I was and still am a #stillsanders person and I still #feelthebern.  When I voted in my home state primary my ballot was cast for Bernie Sanders.  And as woman, I got a lot of slack for that.  Slack for not supporting a woman who was running for the highest office in the land.  It isn’t that I didn’t like her, Sanders just spoke to me more.  I’m 34, my husband is ill making us a one income household, I’m a minority, I’m Native American (and Sanders made it a point to meet with various tribes to discuss policy), I’m on the older side of the millennials and many issues Sanders spoke to, spoke to me.  So I fought hard.  I watched the debates, cheered for Bernie, voted and helped to spread his message.  I cried when the convention took place and he so eloquently stepped aside and put his support behind the first woman ever to receive a major party nomination for the Presidency of the United States.  It was hard, but I followed suite.  I didn’t publicly make it known that I was going to vote for Hillary, but knew that it had to be done.  We couldn’t allow Donald Trump to win the White House.  And while it seemed like a no brainer, I would still cast my ballot for Clinton, just to make sure.

Election day came and I tried to vote in the morning before work, but the line was ridiculous!  I didn’t have time to wait.  So I went to work and left about five minutes early so I could make it back to my polling station so I could vote.  I proceeded to fill out my ballot by filling in the appropriate bubbles and reading various proposals.  I saved the presidential voting for last.  I stared down at my ballot and just thought for a moment.  Hillary wasn’t my first choice.  She wasn’t my second choice.  Up until that moment I was still struggling with casting my vote for her.  But the more I stared, the more emotional I became.  As I filled in my bubble for Hillary Clinton I knew that I was apart of history.  I took a moment and thought about all those women who came before me.  The ones who made it possible for me to vote, the ones who made it possible for a woman to even be running for President.  It all became too much to handle and I began to weep.  But these were tears of pure happiness.  I was overjoyed and so completely hopeful.  The same way I felt in 2008.

When I woke up the day after the election, to say that I was stunned would be an understatement.  I was floored.  I couldn’t believe it.  I still can’t believe it.  I went to bed Tuesday night believing in my country and knowing that it does the right thing.  I woke up Wednesday morning and was told that I don’t matter.  I was told that my fellow friends who are immigrants, minorities, LGBTQ, have disabilities, those who rely on the ACA, or women and survivors of sexual assault, you don’t matter.  We are scared.  I am terrified.  How did we allow this to happen?  And now we are told to just get over it.  To move on.  Well to my friends in protest, you don’t have to move on.  You don’t have to get over it.  I don’t have to get over it.  We matter, our voices matter.  We understand and know that #lovetrumpshate.  The cries of #notmypresident are real and true.  I’m told that I must respect the new President-elect.  I argue that respect is earned.

So this is our new reality.  We now live in a new era.  We must fight the hate, bigotry, sexism, misogyny, Xenophobia and Islamophobia that so many people on Tuesday showed that they are okay with.  We must continue to fight.  We must look at those who are afraid and let them know that we are with them.  We must stand against hate.  #iamasafeplace #safetypinmovement

Thank You Colin Kaepernick

My favorite season is finally upon us and I’m so excited!  FOOTBALL!!!!!!!!  I grew up in a household where football was king and the Green Bay Packers were our team.  The season never disappoints and my Sundays, Mondays and Thursday are blissful spent with a game on and the leaves changing outside.  And as expected, this year is going to great.

Pre-season has already started off with a bang and some controversy.  San Francisco 49er’s quarterback, Colin Kaepernick has already made headlines.  No, not for his amazing arm or great skill, but the headlines he has earned lately have been because of silent, peaceful protest he started by not standing up for the National Anthem at a recent pre-season game.  At a game where the 49er’s faced the Packers, Kaepernick intentionally chose not to stand for the playing of the National Anthem.  And of course, people began to Tweet, Facebook and Instagram their outrage immediately.

But when asked why he didn’t stand for the National Anthem his explanation was simple and brilliant and seemingly ignored.  Kaepernick explained that there are many things going on in this country right now that are unjust.

“There are a lot of things that are going on that are unjust [that] people aren’t being held accountable for. And that’s something that needs to change. That’s something that this country stands for — freedom, liberty, justice for all. And it’s not happening for all right now.”- Colin Kaepernick

He goes on to state rising numbers of black and brown bodies that are laying in the streets and the inequality that seems to have become normal these days.  And while he isn’t the first sports athlete to make such a stand, we seem to be questioning his patriotism.  We seem to forget athletes like Muhammed Ali who refused to fight in Vietnam and took a stand.  Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists to protest poverty and inequality among black Americans.  All acts that we look at now and commend their bravery and courage.  Yet we criticize Kaepernick for doing the same thing.

It was in the days after this silent yet powerful protest that I found myself admiring the act.  To me Kaepernick embodied something that I hadn’t yet had to courage to act on.  For years now I would stand for the National Anthem and wonder why I was standing in allegiance to a flag and a song that represented a country that from the start engaged in a constant genocide of the original inhabitants of this land, my ancestors.  The treatment of Native Americans in their own country has been abhorrent with lives lost and treaties constantly being broken.  Forced to live on reservations and in poverty, we are expected to be grateful to a country that has taken and never given.  In his moment of protest, Kaepernick made me feel like I wasn’t an outsider or strange for questioning whether or not I should be standing for the National Anthem.  It was his moment of silent, peaceful protest that I finally felt at ease.  So to that, I thank you Colin.  This strong act of patriotism is something that I admire and I’m not afraid to admit it.  Thank you.





Native American Series Part 1: Independence Day For Who?

Here in the United States fireworks will go off and the American flag will be waved proudly.  There will be parades and cook outs and gathering of friends and family.  On the fourth hot day of July as a country we celebrate the ratification and signing of the Declaration of Independence.  The infamous break up letter between the 13 colonies and their mother country of Great Britain.    And while this is great in the history of independence for the United States, we seem to forget that long before the colonists showed up that there were millions of people already living on the land and roaming freely.  The Native Americans were here long before the colonists and settlers decided to come over and then declare their independence on this land from an oppressor.  So the question begs, as Native Americans where do we fall on Independence Day?  What are we celebrating?

With the inception of a new nation, other nations were dying.  While the settler population increased, the tribal population decreased.  Disease, poverty and war became the daily life for many tribes.  The United States was growing and the Native American population was getting in the way.  Who is Independence Day for?  Cultural and traditional ways of life for the Native American was constantly being regulated by US government policies.  Something culturally was always being taken away.

If you fast forward to the early 1800’s the Religious Crimes Code was established by the Department of Interior, Office of Indian Affairs.  This code prohibited Native American ceremonial life.  Many things became illegal.  Native American religion was outlawed.  Many tribes used Independence Day as a way to honor Native American veterans and warriors and at the time agents or superintendents saw the ceremonies as fine because they believed it would help assimilate Native Americans into white culture.  So again, who is Independence Day for?  Even in a small celebration, there were always ways to try to rid a people of their culture.

Others see that the celebration of Independence Day as a celebration of genocide.  In the expansion of the baby nation, many Native Americans were murdered and pushed off their land in order for the nation to grow.  The Oglala Lakota of South Dakota especially view this holiday with ill feelings.  The Oglala were the last hold out in the westward expansion of the United States and they were treated with great inhumanity.  The greatest example of this is the 1890 massacre that occurred at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation.  So who is Independence Day for?  What, as Native Americans, are we celebrating?

Native Americans have been continually stripped of their identity and culture.  With the institution of the infamous boarding schools and Christianization of many tribes, history was lost.  The US Government, the government we celebrate on the 4th of July, continually put in measures to suppress Native culture.  Whether is was outlawing religious ceremonies or  the forced cutting of hair, tradition and culture were forced out.  While the new nations was expanding and celebrating its independence, millions were forced off their land and fenced into reservations, essentially taking away their independence.  It is a complicated question, but one that should be asked.  Who is Independence Day for?  Who gets to celebrate it?  Those who fought for a new nation and freedom from their oppressors?  Or those who became the oppressed by the newly free?