Category Archives: Politics

Exhaling

IMAGE: John Giorno, It’s Not What Happens It’s How You Handle It, 2016, rainbow silkscreen print; seen recently at the Rubin Museum of Art

I may be problematically superstitious. I don’t trust when things go too well for too long. I start to look around suspiciously, holding my breath and waiting for something to go wrong. I used to think it was a kind of distorted karmic balance, that I could not have something exciting and positive happen (completing my master’s degrees) without something catastrophic and painful too (losing my grandmother). As the years have gone by, I have embraced a different reality, that life comes at you as it does, good, bad, and sometimes both at once. But I still find myself on edge at times.

For the past few months (I can date it pretty precisely back to a time in 2016) I have felt trapped in an onslaught of fear, bad news, cataclysm, worse news, and this cycle of uneasiness that has made me afraid to exhale completely. The good times have felt like stepping out into the sun after torrential rains, not knowing if the day is getting brighter, or if I’ve moved into the eye of a hurricane. The bad times have felt like just another step in the march toward disaster that seems increasingly irreversible and inevitable. Depending on how closely you read the news and where your family lives, I reckon you have probably felt similarly at times.




Falling Water – Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, southern Iceland. (Prints available)

I set a challenge for myself this year to dig deep and mine my strategic reserves of positivity and optimism, to be strong enough to maintain hope and believe in the fundamental benevolence of nature and humanity. I have made a conscious shift in my art to move away from simply reflecting the present moment of uncertainty or trepidation to instead present a long-view vision of hope, healing, and beauty wrought from the complexity of experience and time. I still believe it is the only way to move forward: we cannot create a better future if we can’t imagine it. But lately, whew, the universe has been piling it on, hasn’t it?

I used to think it was a curse that my body would betray me at the times I needed to be my strongest. Odds are way too high that if I am on a work trip or have some massive opportunity, I will suddenly come down with bronchitis or pneumonia. To my great astonishment, I got all the way through my exhibit and almost through the end of the second show I was in this summer before I was sidelined with intense, piercing chest pain that was so severe I couldn’t draw a complete breath or lie down on my side. At first I thought it was from a pulled muscle from being clumsy with luggage or moving paintings around, but as it intensified, it seemed most likely to be pericarditis, an old scourge I’ve battled a few times since high school. The main treatments are rest and an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen, and I was reminded how crucial it is to actually mind the rest part.

At one point a few weeks ago while not resting, I found myself in another uncomfortably familiar situation: over an hour and several transfers away from my apartment with my hands full of too much stuff, rushing around trying to do too many things, stricken by pain and wondering how I was going to make it home. I took a (shallow) breather on a park bench and texted my mother to whine. After declining her offer to pay for a car back to my apartment (I didn’t want to add motion sickness to the cocktail of blech), I promised that I would not overdo it, reading and rereading her sweet closing line on the way home, “Please take care of yourself baby. We only have one Vicki.”


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Lavender Clouds – Soft pink and light purple cumulous clouds at sunset over New York Harbor.
(Prints available)

I started to realize that it didn’t particularly matter if I was sitting on a hot subway platform trying not to smell people or lying uncomfortably in my bed trying not to roll over the bulwark of pillows onto my left side. My chest was going to hurt for as long as it would, until I gave my heart the time and stillness it needed to heal. That sounds so much more poetic and metaphorical than the literal reality at the time, but it felt instructive in a larger sense that is applicable now that I am better. Whenever my body forces me to take a pause, it lets my mind catch up, and when I let myself heal I come back stronger and more collected than I was before.

I struggle because I keep taking on the emotional weight of all the things I can’t control. No one can stop the forces of nature that are ravaging the world right now with hurricanes, wildfires, and floods. Yes, we all know that they were exacerbated by global warming, but it’s already done. I personally don’t have the power to stop the full-on genocide being perpetrated against the Rohingya in Myanmar any more than I can compel Saudi Arabia to stop their campaign of annihilation against Yemen or depose Bashar al Assad myself and set up infrastructure repairs and irrigation to start healing Syria. The frustration and pain of this helplessness, coupled with the rage brought on by violations against the sanctity of life, can be white hot and blinding. But I can’t help anyone from a place of anger or without a clarity of thinking. I am not adding anything to the world when I am holding my breath or overwhelmed with sadness. I need to let the feelings run through me, then dig deeper and be creative if I will find ways to inspire change.



I need to remember my mother’s urging: we only have one Vicki. I can’t fix racism and white supremacy and all the ugly things that hate drives people to do. I can raise awareness and try to change people’s minds when I see it though. I can’t fix the mess we have made of our environment by myself, but I can lift my own standards and encourage concern for nature in others. I can’t heal my friends’ and family’s illnesses or take away their pain, but I can be there with them and make sure they know how much I love them. I don’t have the kind of money that can buy a senator or influence policy change, but I can give whatever I can to the causes I believe in and encourage others to donate. I don’t have a loud voice, but I can take care that I use it as effectively and mindfully as I can, in writing, in actions, and in my thoughts. I am just one person, but so is everyone else.

I don’t want to walk around holding my breath anymore, waiting for the other shoe to drop, answering cheerful greetings from friends with heavy sighs and “all things considered” caveats. There was suffering and inequality in the world before, and unfortunately, there will continue to be; it seems hard-wired into humanity still. I can’t fix it all, and I’m not sure I can really make a difference at anything. But I can be fully present with the people in my life and give my whole heart (occasionally impaired though it may be). I can write and make art and do everything I can to inspire compassion and kindness in the world. Many hands make light work, so I can join my hands with others for what matters.

And I can remember to breathe. I can’t take the next breath until I exhale.

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The Headwinds of Change

Sailing is like wizardry, computers, or electricity to me. No matter how many times people have explained how it works, how much I’ve read about it, or how many times I’ve seen its observable reality as a means of movement and transportation, it’s still an utter mystery and I’m stunned it actually works. I acknowledge that the words used to describe the forces at play make a kind of sense, but in the inner part of my mind, let’s be real – it’s an amazing superpower we’ve discovered and pretend is normal (c.f. consciousness, the taste of tomatoes and cheese together, music, and the way we feel when making eye contact with animals).

One of the few things I understand intuitively about sailing is that it is a balancing act of precision and flux. When sailing into the wind, to move forward as efficiently as possible, you often have to find the place to put your sails that is as close to being straight into the wind as you can get, without going too far to the other side and having the wind blow back around behind the sail. It is a process of finding and creating the perfect arc, which depends on all kinds of factors including wind speed, temperature, water conditions, drag, but ultimately, magic. When you find that sweet spot and hold it, the boat snaps into place and literally sings – you can feel it soaring just-there, like humming in exact resonance with a pure pitch in music. It is as exhilarating as if you suddenly took flight because, in a lot of ways, you have.

When learning to sail into the wind, it takes a Sisyphean process of trial and error. You edge closer and closer, then hit a wake in the water or jerk the tiller a little too far and get a gust of wind that makes all your sheets blow around like mad (luffing), so you have to pull back. It is enormously tempting to overcorrect and pull back so far away from the wind that you fall off from it entirely, sometimes even accidentally making a tack and spinning in circles, so you not only lose ground but become convinced that the direction you were headed was impossible anyway. With perseverance, patience, and confidence in the boat and the particular variety of magic in the universe you’ve chosen to recognize, you can not only learn to sail into the wind, but find it is one of the fastest and most exciting ways to move forward.

I use sailing as an analogy all the time for vastly complex experiences of being human that I struggle to discuss in their own terms. Love, and our ability to care for other people (even those we’ve never met) is another form of magic that we often take for granted. I have never been able to fully explain the overwhelming emotional response I feel when I read about terrible things that have happened, cruelties and hurts inflicted on innocents, and injustices in the world. That visceral, raw feeling is a scary and seemingly too-powerful headwind, and I recognize that my inclination (and I suspect most people’s) is still toward self-preservation, to turn away from it and to adjust my course to something easier, if slower-moving or regressive. A nice distraction by switching to an article about fashion or a quiz about what 1980s movie boyfriend I might have had often eases me out of it.

This week we have been at the confluence of some dizzying, terrifying winds. So many times I have literally closed my eyes and said, “It’s just too much,” before retreating away from reality. That is the path of cowardice and selfishness, so I know I need to come back and face it.

I have not been able to wrap my mind around the scale of terror experienced by the residents of Grenfell Tower in London, nor the intense coupling of helplessness and rage that the families of the fire’s victims must feel. It is beyond trying to put myself in their shoes and imagine how I’d feel because they are occupying a headspace that no person should ever have to. To know a loved one’s life might have been spared if the building owners had sprung for the fire-resistant cladding, a sprinkler system, or repairing the faulty refrigerator that seems to have started the whole disaster is a scope of cruelty and dehumanization beyond the conscionable. In the decision between human safety and cost-saving, it was ultimately decided that these lives were not worth enough to justify the extra expenses. How can a person ever reconcile that fact with the unutterable scale of grief?

The targeted shooting of Republican members of Congress at an early morning baseball practice in Alexandria this week was not just a senseless act of violence by a delusional man. He was intentional and calculating in attacking what he believed were the advocates and crafters of inhumane policy. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s A+ NRA rating and open advocacy of unrestricted Second Amendment liberties is not ironic or coincidental, but it is also by no means a reason why any such act of violence should be seen as anything but the horror it is. The shooter was not lashing out against the system, but is rather a product of it, the inevitable extension of increasing tolerances of cruelty, hatred, and dehumanizing violence being perpetrated daily.

Put more directly, I am deeply concerned with the erosion of the social contract of the sanctity of life. In many conversations about escalating police violence and extrajudicial executions, I am flummoxed by those who are able to justify these warped and brutal actions with thinking along the lines of, “The rules of law and order are clear, and if you break them, your life is forfeit.” (That is an actual quote from last summer that made me physically ill with disgust.) I guess on the very surface it seems like sound or defensible logic, and it gives people comfort to believe that the system is fair and those who die at its hands broke the rules, but… that is not actually what our society stands for. The deal is not “Follow all traffic laws or you may be executed.”

Last summer, I was shaken to my core by Philando Castile’s death. Everything I read and saw about the traffic stop – from both sides – had me honestly shocked that a man could do nothing wrong but end up shot seven times in front of his girlfriend and her child then left to bleed out and die. I asked those among my friends and family who are the strongest proponents of Second Amendment rights and responsible gun ownership what he could or should have done differently. We debated it for an uncomfortably long time, and the best rationalization one person came up with was that sometimes police officers just get “jumpy” when they are afraid. I don’t want to alienate everyone I know who disagrees with me, but I was so frustrated that our conversations kept turning toward the loss of police pensions or reduced pay as a reason why less qualified officers are on the force, or how maybe the media is actually to blame for constantly portraying men of color as the bad guys in fiction. And yet, I don’t think I successfully convinced anyone that a police officer killing an innocent man should be as alarming to them as it was to me.

No one enjoys confronting the ugly realities of racism and prejudice in America. We are a nation that was built on the massacre of Native Americans and the mass enslavement of African and Caribbean people. There is no history of America without subjugation, violence, and dehumanizing cruelty. We can’t pretend that’s not what happened, we can’t attempt to justify it by saying, “Yeah, but lots of people had slaves then,” or the most bafflingly racist argument I hear a lot, “You know there was slavery in Africa before white people, right?” The ongoing violation of the sanctity of lives of people of color is undeniably real, and it can be traced in a direct line through reluctant abolition, Jim Crow laws, desegregation, and our current iterations of institutionalized racism.

I realize that the deflection tactics and denial I see around me (and in myself) are driven by fear. It is easier to believe that people who lose their lives because of implicit racial biases had a failing of personal responsibility or behavior than to confront such a massive and terrifying headwind of normalized racism and violence. We want to believe that our system is set up fairly to protect people and respond with justice to crime because it allows us to feel basically safe and sleep at night. If we (white people here) don’t do anything obviously wrong, then we should not expect to be shot dead in our cars or in the street. We tell ourselves that we’re not criminals in the capital-C sense (a little jaywalking, some underage drinking and weed in college, or low-level white collar crimes aside), so when people of color are killed in extrajudicial executions, they must have done something wrong, they must be criminals, and there must be more to the story. Facing full-on that our society treats the bodies and lives of some as lesser, or that the system was established to protect property over lives, or that the militarization of police forces is a cynical scheme to maximize profits for weapons manufacturers that has nothing to do with public safety, or that so many of the forces that are endangering our fellow Americans are in place out of greed, and not humanitarianism – that’s a gale-force terror.

I don’t need to have been in the courtroom to know what went wrong in the miscarriage of justice that acquitted the man who killed Philando Castile. I already know what happened and why, and I am once again outraged and disgusted at a soul-level. It hurts my heart that his is another name to add to the list of lives taken carelessly for no reason, with no justice. But it just plain breaks my heart that people of color are told once again that their lives matter less than others. I will never stop fighting against this reality – but that means facing it first.

I have taken to heart something a friend said when I was texting him tearfully in the middle of the night last November wondering what was wrong with my country. “If you didn’t even talk to your own friends and family about the issues you’re so upset about, who should have? I know you didn’t want to get in fights, but was it someone else’s job to help them see another perspective?” He was not born and raised in America, so maybe he is able to see it more clearly than we can, or maybe he is just way smarter than me, but his words echo for me often. I live in a city where the majority of the people I encounter every day share my values and espouse more progressive, humanitarian ideals. I don’t believe it is a coincidence that this same city is one of the most culturally and racially diverse on the planet, so I have had countless opportunities to know and understand people with different experiences in life than me. New Yorkers are generally solidly good, kind, and fair people, no matter what fearful tourists may feel, and I think it comes from living harmoniously with such a vibrancy of beliefs, backgrounds, and sheer volume of interacting with others that we have to learn patience, tolerance, and compassion. So how do you bring those lessons and that respectful open-mindedness to people who have never met a Muslim or Jewish person in their lives and genuinely believe they are evil? How do you help people who live in economically, racially, and ideologically segregated areas of the US understand the commonalities of experience and humanity that bind us all worldwide? How can empathy be cultivated where it’s lacking?

I similarly do not believe it’s merely coincidence that a greed-driven mass loss of life in London, a terroristic shooting in Virginia, and the acquittal of an innocent man’s killer should all fall in a row in the same week as the two-year anniversary of the Charleston church shooting, one of the more grotesque modern-day hate crimes. The universe is not ironic, but purposeful here, and the winds are gathering force. We are at an inflection point in history, where we can choose to face them head-on, to confront the harsh and unsettling realities of the erosion of the sanctity of life in the face of greed in our society. We can decide to make massive and essential changes in forward progress because we are unified in our common humanity and belief in the sanctity of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. Or we could turn away from the wind, retreat into partisan squabbling and the distractions of constant corrupt administration scandals, declare we are exhausted of politics or “divisiveness,” and lose ground.

I am not giving up on America or the sanctity of life. I am not letting the people I love avoid reality or accept unjust inequality rooted in hate and ignorance. We can’t close our eyes or look away, and we must not abandon ship.

All human life is sacred. No human life is inherently better or more valuable than another, especially on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, or ability. Human life is more important than profit, property, or power. We need a new social contract that unifies us in the sanctity of life; this change only truly happens in the hearts and minds of our fellow humans when we can see each other as equals. I will never stop facing into this wind and steering as hard as I can toward positive change.

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Keep Your Powder Dry

A few weeks ago, one of my high school friends who consistently brightens my day with her thoughts and photos put up a status on Facebook saying ordinarily she’d like to talk about a silly little event in her life, but in this current political climate, it feels terribly shallow or self-absorbed. I was bummed out to read her self-censorship because I know she is a deeply engaged, caring person, and I couldn’t imagine anyone in her life believing she’d gone into ostrich-with-head-in-the-sand mode, yet I understood where she was coming from (and have maybe been doing the same thing). I was relieved to see another of her friends point out that Facebook is a bit like a cocktail party, and if all you ever did at a party was launch into lengthy political diatribes or microanalysis of current events, you would be just as tedious as if you only ever talked about your recent haircut or your cat.

(For the record, I literally never get tired of talking about cats, and if you’ve ever got like fifteen cat photos you’d like to share with someone, I am your girl.)

I’ve been accused of being overly political, usually by people who haven’t seen me in person in a while. I find it somewhat laughable because I censor probably 98% of the political comments, rants, articles, petitions, etc. that I’d like to share, so the remaining 2% is too much for those who aren’t interested in, well, any politics at all. There are two extremes of the current polarization, both of which are actually fairly aggressive stances, and it seems many people are pulled between them in their lives at the moment.

1.) The “La-La-La No, No Politics Please!” Earmuffs Stance




Image via the Ear Plug Superstore blog, which is full of similarly adorable photos of babies protecting their hearing, awww.

This one can seem innocuous, shouting over conversations that they are tired of all the politics, and asking, “Can’t we talk about something else??” or posting about why social media isn’t joyful and fun for them anymore. Sometimes it’s a pointed refusal to engage in anything remotely political, or to even acknowledge that they live in a political world (I’m sure we all have those friends steadfastly posting diet and workout photos or inviting us to leggings “parties” or vaguebooking about relationship drama or whatever their thing is). I don’t mean the people who refrain from discussing politics publicly for professional reasons (which is an accepted form of capitalistic oppression, but that is neither here nor there) – I mean more the stance that politics are inherently unpleasant or rude, or the people who, to be blunt, can’t be bothered.

A guy who had been hitting on me at a club for an hour actually put his hand over my mouth when I made a political joke and said, “Please, you’re too pretty to think so much about these problems!” (That is a whole separate issue, and I know he was drunk and thought he was being clever, but still, ugh). I’ve been editing them out of my life, but I have had friends who brushed aside any mention of current events with, “No, I’m so sick of that stuff,” then steered the conversation to television shows and gossip. Dates who insistently redirected to what they did for leg day (NOPE).

2.) The Everything-Political-All-the-Time Stance




Jacques Louis David, The Death of Socrates, 1787, oil on canvas, collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I am grateful for the friends always ready to call me out on my privilege, identify what they perceive as points of culture that reinforce white supremacy or heteronormativity, and help me constantly question society through a political lens. Sincerely – I think they make me a better person, and I’m glad they put up with me. But I have observed a shift toward aggression and anger that can become alienating and just as oppressive as that which they would like to fight. We all have friends and family on both sides who went overboard with political posts during the election and the post-election period, and I will admit I still have a lot of people hidden online and I have been relieved to be really busy lately and able to duck out of some social events with the more exhausting of them.

This is the type I fear I can be to the people in my life, so I may be overcorrecting to seem an earmuffer. I guarantee I am always reading and overthinking something (usually many things), and if something has happened in the world, you can be reasonably sure I HAVE THOUGHTS ABOUT IT. But I am trying to temper how I express myself so it is not all-caps all the time.



I know that the people in both groups care very much, that they are expressing either their passion for harmony and community (which can be mistaken for complacency or acceptance) or their passion for justice, fairness, and engagement (which can be mistaken for militancy). I am trying – and often struggling – to strike a balance between the two. I think I’ve made my bleeding heart liberal politics crystal clear for years now, but I am also passionate about my interests. I don’t see these things as unrelated, especially when the arts or the environment or human rights are under threat, but I do think it’s important to find balance in one’s life, so we are not trapped in fixation.

I’ve questioned if my art was “political enough,” or if I should be more overt and direct (we’ll talk more about this over on the studio blog soon). I’ve gone through days where my entire existence felt pointless in the face of these massive events and threats, and it felt shallow comforting myself with the apocryphal Winston Churchill quote that if we cut funding for the arts to fuel the war effort, there is nothing worth fighting for. I’ve made my peace with what I’m doing and what more I will be doing, but I still have this uneasiness of feeling like I need to justify the audacity of existing and carrying on, with an attenuation I hadn’t experienced prior to last November.



Here I am grateful for the elasticity of the mind and the way it can simultaneously care intensely about protesting an unjust immigration policy and about a new cake recipe. I once spoke with a veteran who, after a harrowing day with an IED, cried at the book he was reading and wasn’t sure if it was because of the story itself or his relief that he would get to read through to its sad but beautiful ending. There is still music, and it still transports the soul. Awful things are happening in the world and humanity, but rather than spend all my time lamenting them, I need to balance them with kindness, action, creativity, and compassion. I think we all do.

My strategy has become, essentially, “Keep your powder dry,” coupled with “Choose your battles.” There are a lot of people in my life whose political views are intransigent, and just as I will never change my beliefs about egalitarianism or humanitarianism, I know they will never change theirs. It doesn’t make it okay, but ranting at them will only isolate them and prevent any further communication and consideration between us. I believe it is also taking a psychic toll on many people in subtly observable ways, as fatigue sets in from the public performance of citizenship and scrutiny turned on ourselves and one another instead of those we should be holding accountable. I am trying to encourage my friends and family to save their strength for the bigger fights, and to not get mired in petty day-to-day nonsense (that is, after all, the hypernormalisation strategy being deployed) so we can catch the signals through the noise.



Often lately it has been super tempting to lie on the floor and listen to “Holocene” on repeat. But to quote my dad, “This is a lot right now. But we can’t let this be all that there is for us.”




(My dad is hella wise.)

We need to continue making life and culture, engaging each other as full human beings, and finding pleasure in life without stripping the joy away through our guilt or fear. We have some control over how we interpret our experiences, and we can tap out when we need to. As Kumail Nanjiani put it:

During jury duty this week, I was involuntarily subjected to several blaring hours of cable news programs, and I watched the energy of the room shift from a general malaise of boredom or annoyance to acute anxiety to utter exhaustion and exasperation. My district in the Bronx is full of people directly affected by discriminatory policies on immigration, repealing healthcare, institutionalized racism, and the other topics that were being discussed. My district is one the president loves to impugn as the “disastrous inner cities,” mischaracterizing life here as a hellscape of misery, desolate poverty, and unending violence, when my actual experience has been one of a vibrant, beautifully harmonious, and loving community that looks out for everyone in it. It is the most civil and human place I’ve ever lived in New York.

I looked around and chatted with a few fellow jurors, always beginning with a shared eye roll about how we wished they’d turn the televisions off. I started to recognize the face of David staring at the Goliath of a political system gearing up to steamroll everything they cared about, but instead of fear, I saw patience and stone cold determination. One woman who had just described her fairly immediate and urgent concerns about losing healthcare said, “But we’ll outlast them, I know that,” then pointed to Michael Davis’s powerful Equilibrium sculpture overhead emblazoned with MLK’s quote, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” I was stunned at how comforting her words and unshakable faith in humanity were.



When you think of all the hardship and struggle trees go through, clenching everything significant about themselves into a bud and hoping it’s not frozen or nipped off through seemingly endless months of bitter cold and darkness, it is nothing short of a miracle that we have flowers each spring. They don’t do it because they are brave or heroic, but because that is what they were put here to do: they have a biological imperative and a natural drive to persist and thrive. So too, humans were put here together to help each other and be good stewards of the planet, whether everyone does it or not. I believe we are in a winter of humanity, but spring is coming.

I don’t mean to diminish the seriousness of what is happening in the world right now – it is truly as big a crisis as it feels – but I think we need to focus, tap into our reserves of strength and integrity, and organize. We need to resist “either/or” false dichotomies and traps of illogical, lazy thinking or tautology. We need to be critical and clear, use precision and purity of thought and language, and always let compassion lead our principles. It is possible to sacrifice truth for dogma no matter which side of a debate one finds oneself on, so we must resist the attempts to divide and alienate our country wherever they are coming from. Expressing anger is cathartic, and it pains me that some people have not felt able or empowered to express their objections before now, but we have to think about the end games and goals. We should not abandon a good mission over imperfect execution. We should not attack our allies, but instead come together and find our common ground.

We’ll get through this, and I have to believe we’ll eventually be stronger and better for it, if we preserve our humanity and follow our hearts. Nothing is more powerful than the love we share for one another.

Progressive Postcards

I believe strongly in contacting our representatives because the pen is forever mightier than the sword. So I was delighted when the 10 Actions for the First 100 Days began with postcards to senators outlining concerns and requests.

And it turns out, I had quite a lot to say to mine.



I made postcards for 13 of the many, many issues that concern me, then I wrote specific requests for rights I want protected and actions I want taken. With each card, I focused my intentions, and it was a powerful meditative and emotional experience.

I’ve made my designs available for download, if you’d like to print them on cardstock or photo paper to send your own. The PDF download is formatted to print two 4″x6″ postcards (for each of your senators) or you can print one at a time by downloading the JPGs. If you follow USPS postcard regulations, you should be able to mail them using a 34-cent postcard stamp.

If you’d like the whole set, you can download it from Dropbox here (JPGs also on Flickr).




Mni Wiconi: Water Is Life
Download – JPG | PDF




Women’s Rights
Download – JPG | PDF




Environment
Download – JPG | PDF




Health Care is a Human Right
Download – JPG | PDF




Don’t Turn Our Backs On Humanity: Immigration, Refugees, and Ethical Foreign Policy
Download – JPG | PDF




Love Is Love: LGBTQIA Rights and Freedoms
Download – JPG | PDF




Support for Veterans and First Responders
Download – JPG | PDF




Black Lives Matter: Addressing Institutionalized Racism
Download – JPG | PDF




Make America Think Again: Education
Download – JPG | PDF




Disability Access, Independence, and Opportunity
Download – JPG | PDF




End the Epidemic of Gun Violence
Download – JPG | PDF


ERA

Equal Rights Amendment
Download – JPG | PDF


Workers_Rights

Treat Workers Like People: Fair and Humane Labor Policies
Download – JPG | PDF

I feel obliged to put the usual disclaimers that while our values may differ, I think it is essential that you also communicate yours. I’m happy to share what specifically I wrote about each issue, if you’re struggling to find words or have questions about my stances. Politics are nuanced and complex, as our conversations should be.

And while I doubt it’s necessary, I also feel obliged to remind you to please use respectful, clear, and concise language while communicating with your representatives.

The Women’s March on NYC

I had hoped to just write about what participating in this weekend’s Women’s March on NYC, a sister protest of the Women’s March on Washington, meant to me personally. But I also see there are a number of misunderstandings about what the march was about, what it was like, what marchers personally stood for, how marchers behaved, and general purpose nay-saying, so I will address that a bit too.



First, some background. The Women’s March movement was begun with a Facebook post by a woman in Hawaii, shared with friends, and it went viral, gathering momentum through the stages of grassroots organization into something global. With the need to organize millions of people and apply for legal permits, they gained partners and sponsors. (If you are inclined to think it was a bunch of women acting like sheep and somehow organized or funded under the aegis of George Soros, the DNC, the Clinton Foundation, or some vast left-wing conspiracy, I suggest you stop reading right now and if we are friends on social media, do me the favor of changing that.) There were a lot of questions in the early phases of planning, which coalesced into the decisions to include sister cities and to march the day after the Inauguration, in part so that the marchers would not be included in the administration’s attempts to fudge Inaugural attendance numbers (of course they still tried, #alternativefacts).

The march was not simply anti-Trump or pro-abortion, as I’ve seen many falsely claim, but in fact has a number of Unity Principles, which clearly reflect the nonviolence built into the Women’s March Mission and Vision. Not every marcher supported every principle, but the consensus agreement was to use First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly in nonviolent protest. This march was not affiliated with any protests that occurred on Inauguration Day, including those that advocated violence or destruction of property and were characterized on the news as riots. I was surprised that my brother and father still texted us a few times during the day to check if we were safe, but when I later saw how the first wave of protests were covered, I understood a little better how they misunderstood the nonviolent missions of ours.

(I don’t like that I keep feeling like I must have such a defensive or over-explaining tone, but it seems like a lot of basic facts I’ve taken for granted are being warped and not getting across to all my friends and family, so I am trying to be perhaps excessively clear. I am, of course, always happy to discuss anything further one-on-one or in the comments.)

I chose to see my participation as a march FOR and not AGAINST, though I was marching for both. To this end, among other things I was marching FOR:

  • equality and sanctity of humanity regardless of gender, race, religion, age, sexual orientation, wealth, or family status
  • human rights, civil rights, reproductive rights, and freedom of conscience
  • environmental protection and responsible policies in the face of climate change
  • ethical treatment of Native American and First Nations people and respect for their lands and culture
  • equitable and ethical treatment under the law for Black lives and all people of color because extrajudicial executions and institutionalized racism are reprehensible
  • immigrants and refugees, who deserve a safe haven in the world and a path to citizenship
  • universal, affordable health care because I believe health care is a human right
  • veterans and service members whose health care, benefits, and job assistance services should be nonnegotiable; increased access to mental health care and support for PTSD
  • preservation of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, along with the other social safety nets that protect vulnerable people when they need help
  • protecting disability rights and ensuring disabled people have access to education, independence, and opportunities to work and thrive in society
  • a living wage for hourly employees, expanded family leave, and protections for workers’ rights
  • protection of women against violence, rape, and sexual assault, including removing the biased institutional policies that protect perpetrators at the expense of survivors (Brock Turner, for example)
  • preservation of voting rights for all citizens and expansion of access to polls by making Election Day a federal holiday and removing discriminatory voting registration laws
  • peace and not waging untenable wars that destabilize entire regions over oil
  • honesty and transparency in our government, answerable to all citizens and not just corporate donors or SuperPACs



And that is the short list. The thing is, I was marching for everyone, as some of these concerns don’t affect me personally, though others do or could. That is what “Liberty and Justice for All” means. Mostly I was marching for what I believe is right, for the principles our nation is built on, and for what I consider ethical and morally responsible comportment in the world. I know that not everyone will agree with where I land on every issue, but some are nonnegotiable. If you are okay with the government making policies that are specifically designed to disenfranchise people of color because it benefits your candidate, you are supporting institutionalized racism. If you are okay with our government discriminating against poverty or disability in the guise of “fiscal responsibility,” then we have a much bigger discussion about morality and the role of government ahead.

So now that we’ve established just some of the reasons why I marched (I could go on), I want to move on to how incredible it was to be part of it.

A few weeks ago my mother and I started discussing the Inauguration and people planning to protest it. We discussed the Women’s March on Washington and what a peaceful demonstration could plausibly achieve. One of us pointed out there was a sister march in NYC, and I said it meant more to me to march in my beloved city than the Capitol. I wanted to be with fellow New Yorkers, to make our presence known where I live. We continued a then-hypothetical conversation about the goals of the march, the history and spirit of nonviolent protest, and by the end, we both felt compelled to join the Women’s March in NYC. I registered us with the organizers (so they could apply for an appropriate amount of permits), we worked out our logistics, and we were in. I don’t know what possessed me to, but I asked my mother, “Will Dad be cool with you marching?” and she laughed, “Frankly, it’s not his decision, now is it?” (He was, for the record, not only cool with it, but wholly supportive, proud, and said, “This is something really important.” You can’t grow up with a strong mother and five sisters and marry my mother without being an avowed feminist.)

A few days before the march, I decided to knit our protest hats. At first my mother and I weren’t going to wear any, as we were concerned they were infantilizing or made light of seriously life-or-death concerns. The more I read about the Pussyhat Project and discussed it with fellow knitters, the better I understood its power as a unifying symbol, summarized well in this article. I appreciated that these hats were handmade, as individualized as the people making them, and they served a practical purpose in January weather. Some knitters and crocheters made and donated dozens of hats for other marchers, and I wish I’d made more than our two.



The night before the march, we ate pizza, talked at length, and painted our signs. I went with Hillary Clinton’s quote, “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights” and my mother made a more specific message, “Complacent Is Complicit / Strong Women Stand Together” in a somewhat retro style to reflect that she has been fighting for equality and basic human decency her whole life. As we made our way to Midtown through subway delays and extra transfers, we started to see more and more pink hats and marchers, and it was a genuine treat to feel like we were joining our tribe. People stopped us to take photos of our hats and signs, and we instantly bonded with other New Yorkers in ways I wouldn’t have considered possible before. By the time we got to Grand Central, there were hundreds of marchers in every direction, and I’ve never seen such a pleasant, considerate mood in New York.



The start times of the march were staggered by last name, so we could already hear thousands of people marching down 42nd Street as we made our way to the start point. It was an astonishingly beautiful sound. When we got to the plaza where the march was assembling, we were amazed at the sheer volume of people, dazzled by so many hats, signs, and such beauty in literally resplendent afternoon light (I have a mild sunburn on my cheeks to show for it even though I was wearing SPF 30). As we waited for our start time, we participated in chants and pointed out particularly clever or emotionally impactful signs to one another. Say what you will about New Yorkers, but our reputation for being an exceptionally literary city is well-earned. I can be hypersensitive to spelling and grammar mistakes, and I saw almost none. Just pause for a second to recognize that of the thousands of signs I read over several hours, I may have seen a total of three grammar errors or misspellings. That by itself is kind of miraculous.



© Jenny Sowry, via Mashable, #WokeBaby

I observed an incredible diversity of people marching, representing more causes than I could possibly list, with varying levels of specificity, complex emotional nuance, and unbelievable creativity. As an artist, I was deeply touched at all the people who took the time to express themselves visually, and I was stunned by how truly effective many of the signs were (including, of course, #WokeBaby from the Charlotte march, above).

The march picked up as we turned the corner onto 42nd Street, down a corridor of amazing architecture toward the gleaming Chrysler Building. I have literally never seen so many people in my life, a sea of humanity united as far as I could see, and it was just plain staggering. The family behind us lifted their children onto their shoulders to show them how far the march stretched in both directions, and their mother said, “Look at how many people are marching for what they believe in,” as my mother and I simultaneously became overwhelmed with emotion.

They continued to explain how everyone was marching for people like those in the children’s lives, whom they named by name and cause, including “so Grandma can still have her medicine,” which hit me right in the feels. They told the brother how all these people want to make sure his sister and mother have the same rights and freedoms as him and Daddy. Right about when I’d regained my composure, they said, “But it’s important that no matter what, you decide what you believe and that you care about that as much as we care about this.” Considering our family motto growing up might as well have been, “Don’t ever let anyone tell you what to think, including us,” my mother and I both turned to thank the parents for raising socially conscious children and encouraging them to think for themselves. That family gives me so much hope for the future.



I didn’t take many photos, but I will never forget some of my favorite signs, chants, and experiences:

  • The Resistance is Fertile (imagery of plants and the earth)
  • A photo of Malala Yousafzai captioned just, “EDUCATION”
  • A young woman marching in memory of her grandmother, a feminist and civil rights activist who had passed away in 2017, noted “With Us In Spirit”
  • A 9- or 10-year old girl beside us shouting, “My Body, My Choice!” at the top of her lungs
  • The call-and-response style of men chanting “Her Body, Her Choice!” after women
  • People playing upbeat songs out of their apartment windows to energize the marchers; one guy saying he didn’t like the song one group was playing and his friend quipping, “Hey man, her apartment, her choice.”
  • A man in head-to-toe rainbow clothes waving a Pride flag joking, “How did they know I love this song??” when “YMCA” came on
  • The same strength and enthusiasm of chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “No DAPL” as everything else (this shouldn’t be remarkable, but it still is)
  • A group of women marching with the Statue of Liberty’s torch
  • The incredible feeling of shouting, “This is what democracy looks like!” and knowing it was true
  • In Grand Central, a man carrying a sign as tall as him reading Don’t Be a Dick
  • The admittedly somewhat petty and slightly mean-spirited chant of, “Hands Too Small, Can’t Build the Wall!”
  • The second line and drum bands leading the marchers in singalongs of “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful”
  • Several police officers being given pink hats to wear over their uniform hats, cheering for various signs and chanting along with “Black Lives Matter”
  • Speaking with several college-aged women about how for some marchers like my mother, it wasn’t clear if they were protesting Again or Still; the awe in their eyes as they asked how she could stand it, and the fire in my mother’s as she said, “By insisting we don’t go backwards.”
  • An image of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia with “A woman’s place is in the resistance”
  • Pithy one-word signs that got the point across, “UGH!” and “NOPE.”
  • An elaborate drawing of the earth surrounded by flowers and hearts, against a backdrop of space, “I Love the Whole Universe”
  • The spectacular echo under an overpass as we chanted, “This is not normal!”
  • Signs in Spanish that repeated 70s-era feminist slogans like, “I am woman, hear me roar”
  • Weak Men Fear Strong Women (one of my badass friends in Los Angeles had a great version of this one)
  • Fight Like a Girl
  • Shortly after an anti-Wall chant, “Have no fear, you’re welcome here!”
  • “We need a leader, not a creepy Tweeter”
  • You Don’t Need to Suppress the Press If You’re Not Doing Anything Wrong
  • Very young boy’s sign decorated with the Twitter logo Xed out, “Quit Tweeting and Get to Work!”; his explanation, “Sometimes I play video games when I’m supposed to do my homework, but the President shouldn’t be bad.”
  • Save the ACA If You Insist On Making Us Sick
  • I’m With Her, with arrows pointing in every direction
  • A moment I shared with a Black woman in about her late 70s, when she stumbled in a low spot and I reflexively offered her my arm. She looked me in the eyes, nodded, smiled, then said, “Thanks, sister” like she meant it.
  • A group of young women starting the Meredith Brooks song “Bitch,” but everyone forgetting the words past the intro, mumbling to the refrain, then one yelling, “The point is bitches are complex and beautiful!”
  • A quote from Hillary Clinton’s graceful and inspiring concession speech, “[To] all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world…”
  • The fact that very few of the chants mentioned the President by name, and none of them had expletives (the latter by request of the organizers)
  • Science is Not a Partisan Issue
  • Without the Arts, I Would Be Dead
  • Without the Arts, I Couldn’t Make Such a *Glorious* Sign (beautifully lettered with loads of glitter)
  • Incredible quotes by MLK and other nonviolent civil rights leaders and thinkers from history
  • And lastly, this guy, who truly pulled off that bow:


  • (You can see loads more here.)

    When we were finished marching we walked back down Fifth Avenue near the New York Public Library, where an impromptu gallery of signs had been set up (a much larger display was being established at the President’s tower). I’ve seen another misguided criticism of the marches that slams people for “leaving their trash behind” as if the signs were just discarded litter, but it was clear that this was an intentional installation so the message could continue to be considered and spread after the march. We saw crowds of pedestrians and tourists thoughtfully reading and photographing the signs, clusters of conversation among strangers discussing the issues presented in the signs, and we were stopped to have our photos taken by people who particularly responded to our messages.

    After the march, we had one of the coolest, most healing experiences of my life (I will write all about that soon) and I went home positively glowing.

    As I looked at photos and read accounts from literally every continent on the globe the next morning, the full reality of what we’d participated in hit home. We marched at the same time as millions of people in other states, for causes so important that women around the world organized in solidarity. The collective positive energy of nonviolent protest and determination was palpable, and I believe we were heard. We participated in a powerful moment in history, and I will be proud for the rest of my life that we refused to be complacent. I felt more connected to humanity and the universe in that one day than I ever have in my life, and it was more beautiful than I could have imagined.

    Naturally, I have also seen plenty of cynicism and criticism, misconstruing the tone and intent in ways that seem woefully ignorant and needlessly partisan. The march was held on a Saturday so most people would not have to miss work, yet there are still plenty of people sneering that maybe if the marchers had jobs they wouldn’t be protesting. I’ve seen attempts to bash the Women’s March as a bunch of self-involved, overprivileged white women whining because our candidate didn’t win an election, using the gaslighting technique of criticizing marchers for not doing anything about oppressed women in other parts of the world; to this I say, it’s not either / or, and I was specifically marching for their rights too. (Also, do you support NGOs that help women in India escape domestic violence or sex slavery to achieve self-sufficiency and economic freedom? Because I do, and I have met these women – it’s part of why I’m so passionate about women’s rights.)

    I’ve seen friends ordered by out-of-touch relatives to stop posting “such vulgarities” because “men are watching this!” and I’ve seen people suggest that if every marcher cooked a meal for a veteran or homeless person that day we could actually make a difference (but of course, they didn’t do anything charitable that day – I think they had something really important to do like go grocery shopping, run errands, and comment on Facebook posts). There is a common and mystifying misconception that the women who marched aren’t also actively involved in volunteer work and community organizations because they took one day to make a stand against bigoted institutional policies. As I learned about other causes and efforts made by my fellow marchers, I saw how that couldn’t be further from the truth. But while we’re at it, when did it become okay to police how others spend their free time??

    The work, obviously, is just beginning, and it’s never too late to join. Check out the 10 Actions for 100 Days, and don’t hesitate to contact your representatives to make your voice heard. Seek out local and grassroots organizations where you can volunteer or donate to national organizations to help the causes you believe in. Even something seemingly small like tutoring for adult literacy or ESL can make a world of difference in someone’s life. Above all, please never stop speaking up for what is right, and never stop standing up for what you believe in.

    I, for one, refuse to sit down, shut up, and behave myself ever again.