Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Transcendent Beauty of Inclusive Community

I could've been called worse considering the context. The girls and I each wore one of the many knitted and sewn pink "kitty" hats of the Women's March, mine with a Santa Cruz patch pinned to it. We walked across the street downtown at a brisk pace, hand in hand, on a mission to Bookshop Santa Cruz to buy some earned books for the girls. The peaceful march crowds were already thick and growing steadily and I needed to hurry us so we could me the Mama (what I lovingly call my wife) at our designated meeting time.

"You're not even a woman, man," someone said to me.

Two young guys, probably early twenties, passed us crossing the street. One of them had made the crack. Peripherally I could see each had long hair and scraggly beards. They were laughing.

We kept moving toward to the bookshop against the clock, my comeback coming too late.

Yeah, well, you look like a women, man, I thought, but didn't say out loud.

It was dumb, I knew. Even inappropriate considering the sentiment of the day. But as quickly as it happened, it faded from immediate memory when we entered the bookshop.

The girls and I had already had a busy morning and then we headed back to downtown Santa Cruz to have lunch and go to the bookshop to buy a book each because of their latest star earnings for reading. The back-to-back rains we've had in California gave us a reprieve for most of the day, so we went to our local community center first where there's a fun playground for kids.

That's where we ran into the Mama. Being of the local organizers of the Women's March, she was at the community center setting up for the post-march community event (the community center is called Louden Nelson, named after a former slave who lived in Santa Cruz in the 1850's). The Women's March mission is to stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families -- recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country. 

Of course there's subtext here due to our recent contentious U.S. election, but it's about so much more now for us and millions of others around the world. The Mama's inspired activism and civic duty has moved and motivated me more than any moment since the day we met. I've never been involved in anything like this before. Neither has my wife. But we've always looked out for our family, our freedom and our future.

We're both white and come from broken homes from one the lowest of socio-economic stratum, me from a conservative Christian one, and yet we grew up and lived our lives, went to college and came together one day on the beach in 1997. Now we're called "coastal elites" because we live on the coast and celebrate an inclusive liberal-to-middle-of-the-road progressive perspective.

That doesn't matter though, because today the stakes are higher than they've ever been for us in our lifetimes. Because now we have young children in a country and world resurgent with misogyny, racism, bullying, xenophobia, intolerance -- and just blatant anger and hate -- from the top down to the cracks in between. 

We will not stand by and let our girls grow up in this kind of world, restricting the rights of the many for the oppressive rights of the few.

So we're all in.

That's not to take away those women, people of color and the LGBT population around the world who have suffered and sacrificed themselves for generations, fighting for their rights and the safety and security of their families (and the rest of us). We have never been beaten in a peaceful march or protest because of our gender or color or sexual preference, or because our land was taken away, or because some or all our rights were taken away -- or hosed down, or sexually assaulted, or arrested and locked up, or had our houses set fire, or strung up in a tree and hanged.

No, not to take away from any of what's come before us and those who have given their lives to making a difference, but to finally rise up ourselves and lend our voices to help ensure social justice, positive change. Just everyday like you and you and you, people doing everyday incremental things to affect and maintain a better world for our children and generations to come.

That's why my wife got involved. That's why we marched. All of us. Including our girls. Initially there were only supposed to be 1,000 to 2,000 people coming to march peacefully from city hall to the Louden Nelson Community Center. There ended up being anywhere between 10,000-15,000 people in all (probably closer to the 15K).

I've never experienced anything like this before. Not even growing up with a loving extended family who, with its own share of daily dysfunction, was still loving and supportive of itself, God and country.

No, this was something so much more. All kinds of people from a myriad of backgrounds swallowed us up once we met up with the Mama near the center of the march. This was a community, like the many others around the world and the main one in Washington D.C., that had come together in support of democracy and something bigger than our sometimes divisive perspectives. Of reminding ourselves that we're the power, the 99%, the difference between a police state and a populace governed by itself.

And so we marched, spirits high, and we sang, laughed and cried. Thousands of us in varied ethnicities, husbands and wives, domestic partners, mothers and fathers and grandparents, many of us with our children and babies, marching slowly and safely through the streets where we live in order to keep them this way.

Yes, there is still a disparate divide. Yes, some of us will always feel like we're going in the wrong direction regardless of who's in power. Yes, there are still too many social and economic problems we must continuously work on. Yes, the world can be a dangerous place, godless and dark and brutal.

But yesterday I witnessed no carnage, no global apocalyptic omens portending the end of us all. Only inspired millions worldwide adding to the momentum of a positive movement, the transcendent beauty of inclusive community. One where we keep ourselves and our leaders accountable, that we must sustain and build on together, or as much together as we can muster.

Now that the initial march is over, for those interested, check out the new Women's March campaign: 10 Actions for the first 100 Days

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