“The next four years are going to be shit for anybody who isn’t white, straight, male and Christian, but we’ll get through it.” That’s what Dylan said the night Betsy Devos became Secretary of Education. The world shifted under my feet and I will admit to losing my cool but both my guys set me back on my feet and I remembered that blind panic never gets anything done.So I’m reworking an idea I started last year I’m starting a podcast but rather than being disability centered like my original idea was going to be, Project Valkyrie is going to be a platform for all the groups American politics and media would like to pretend aren’t being treated horribly.I’m going to set up an email for it in the next few days. As soon as its up and running I will post links to episodes here. I may end up talking mostly to myself but they only win if we let fear silence us and I will not let them have the satisfaction.
Tyrion Lannister is one of the strongest characters currently on television right now. When my sister’s at the time boyfriend loaned me the Game of Thrones books to read Tyrion instantly became my favorite character. Dwarf he may be, but nobody who meets him believes him a charity case or stupid after that first meeting Tyrion’s advice to Jon Snow is sad but accurate. Some people will always name us “other” so we as well call a spade a spade and own it. No one ever benefits from making themselves smaller for the comfort of other.
So Ann Coulter said that blind people and wheelchair users from other countries should be barred from becoming US citizens because of their disabilities. I’m not kidding, here’s a link to the recording of her conversation with Simon Conway’s talk radio show.She goes on to suggest that we should deport all disabled immigrants currently in this country, because “we aren’t running a charity.” What the hell? So just because you’re disabled you can’t want the opportunity to change your life? That is bullshit ableist talk Coulter and you should be educated enough to recognize it as such but maybe you aren’t as educated as I gave you credit for so let me explain it.Those things you said are ableist, that means that you believe your currently able status means that you are more entitled, more deserving of things than me because I had the misfortune of a premature birth.Let me remind you of an uncomfortable truth, Ann, “perfect” health is fleeting. You are one illness, one misstep in front of the wrong car, one fever away from being every bit as marginalized as I currently am. I am not petty enough to wish that on you, but perhaps you should remember that before you try to invalidate an entire segment of humanity.
I found the tracks for the musical Hamilton on Spotify last night. They have been on repeat since then and everybody in my house is probably sick of my singing by now. I don’t really care. It’s that awesome. I love the whole thing but my favorite song is probably “Nonstop”. “How you do write like you’re running out of time/Write day and night like you’re running out of time? / Every day you fight like you’re running out of time.”
This is what I’ve been doing, writing, whether conversations, emails, or blog posts, it has been near constant writing with just as much urgency, though the reason for the urgency is not something I can quantify or explain. I only know that I have to write. Writing has never held this kind of energy for me, never. Maybe we are heading for a second Revolution. Maybe this urgency comes from feeling the gaze of history on the back of my neck. If we do see a second revolution I hope we don’t see as much bloodshed as the first time. My experience as the daughter of two soldiers says that it is very likely a pipe dream. I find it interesting that Hamilton, who was, and is, revered for his writing, spent so much of his time wishing to be something more than a secretary while never once denying that his skill in writing was formidable. I feel as though I may as well be looking in a mirror. I would never presume to compare my writing to his that be crazy. I feel as though I have similar motivations. I have named myself Valkyrie, and if my sword masquerades as a pen so be it. When you’re living on your knees you’ve got to rise up, every story is worth telling. You have no control who lives, who dies, who tells your story, but maybe by being the keeper of other people’s stories now someone will tell my story one day
My name is Rachel Kestner and there’s a million things I haven’t done but just you wait.
If you had told me in 2015 that I would be here in two years time I would have shaken my head in disbelief. Of course, if you had told me how the election was going to pan out I wouldn’t have believed you either We now live in an America where many marginalized people find themselves not just ignored but actively persecuted by our federal government. During the campaigns leading up to the election, Mr. Trump gave a speech in which he said he would use the armed forces to deport American citizens of the Muslim faith. I didn’t see the speech but I know about it because a mother came home that day to find her seven-year-old little girl very seriously packing a small bag for when the soldiers came to take her family away. The mother posted about it on Facebook and response she got back from hundreds of former and current military as well as civilians promising to protect that little girl made me cry. The idea that Mr. Trump’s threat is even plausible now scares me.
A good friend of mine is getting married soon. Her mother moved to this country from Pakistan as a teenager. My friend isn’t Muslim and as far as I know the only other language she speaks is the Spanish she learned through our public school system. She and her younger sister really take after their mother and that has led to some very ugly things being said, especially after 9/11. Then it was just some scared poorly educated redneck teen, who much like the rest of us who hadn’t quite reached adulthood yet, was probably repeating things said by a family he assumed were correctly informed. Now, there is a poorly educated adult with a lot more power spewing the same narrow-minded trash talk.I am afraid for my friend’s family.
Is it just me or does there seem to be a social war waged against the trans community lately? I have always felt the necessity of standing with others in an effort to validate stories that aren’t mine. Except now, unexpectedly, these stories are part of my story. Now, this struggle puts an icicle of fear in my heart on a regular basis. I love a trans person with a much bigger part of myself than I would’ve thought possible if you had told me that this was coming two years ago. When I love someone I worry for them. Lots of times I know that my worry is blown out of proportion and I talk myself out of most of it.
I can’t do that this time.This fear doesn’t feel silly or overblown. I joke that I’ve become a bat now. I’ve been a night owl for a long time but it’s no longer uncommon for me to see a sunrise before I ever see the inside of my eyelids. I do this because talking to him feels similar to breathing, as unconscious and as necessary, and he works third shift.
I do this because somewhere in my head and heart I believe that if I talk to him during his shift I can keep him safe.If I can’t tell myself that my worries are silly, then I will be the sword at his back. There has been a half joke in our house for a while that our parents raised Valkyrie. I will be a sword at all their backs for as long as is needed. We are now facing the choice between what is right and what is easy.Trump was the easy choice, I’m still waiting to see if we can make the right one.
Most of us have probably heard “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” I have dealt with more than my fair share of verbal abuse in my life and I can tell you that words can hurt. Words can leave scars that last forever. I have only just begun to make peace with those scars, fifteen years after the fact.The current White House would like to use words to divide us. White, black, latino, middle eastern. Christian, Muslim, terrorist, patriot. Gay, straight, transgender, rich, poor. These words may be part of our identities but they are not the beginning and end of them. We are also mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends, neighbors, lovers and humans.Too many people want to turn us against each other because if we’re squabbling amongst ourselves we are too distracted to notice when much bigger issues We can’t let others dictate what makes us afraid.We are better, stronger than that.Before you let the political vitriol currently being circulated use your voice as yet another echo chamber use it instead to talk to those people you are supposed to hate and fear.Use your ears, heart, and voice as tools of compassion. John Lennon had it right all along, all you need is love and sometimes love is scary but it’s always worthwhile.
One of my favorite movies of all time is the Robin Williams movie Toys, if you have never seen it I believe it’s on Netflix and right now, or any time leading up to New Years is a great time to watch it. One of the songs from the movie,”At the Closing of the Year”, has a line in it, If I cannot bring you comfort then at least I bring you hope. That is going to be my goal for at least the next four years. I’ve said many times that the idea a Trump White House scares me, it’s more than an idea now, it’s reality. Now is not the time for quiet acceptance of Trump’s America. Fear tactics and hate speech and bigotry have no place in my America. We, the marginalized citizens of America have been conditioned not to make waves, to stay safely quiet and let white, mostly male, able, straight people speak for us, we’ve seen how well that turned out. Trump wants us swept farther under the rug at best and gone at worst. Speaking up and out is scary when you think you are alone, so to close this year and begin a new one I’m offering an open hand. Anybody this reaches is welcome to contact me, I will be a listening ear a steadfast shoulder. If you want to tell your story but are afraid of reprisals, I offer you the platform of this blog and the cloak of anonymity. Tell me your story, I’ll be your voice, do a guest post. Or I can just listen. It doesn’t have to be a story similar to mine. Anyone who needs a protected space is welcome.
Service dogs in public are working!I can’t say it any plainer. I don’t care if you can’t tell or not, if they are in a public space they are working, end of story. Most service dogs wear vests that say things like “working dog do not pet,”but American federal law does not require a dog to wear a vest or the owner to carry anything identifying the dog as a service animal, basically we use the vests to label our dogs service animals to save ourselves the headache of having a major argument about the dog’s presence every single time we leave the house. If you see a dog in a public space where dogs usually aren’t, vest or not, they are probably working. If you are interested in the dog’s presence, by all means. talk to the person on the other end of the leash. You may want to pet the dog, ask first, and realize that the handler is under no obligation whatsoever to allow it. Why? Service dogs in public are working. Even if all they are doing at that exact moment is sitting next to their handler or laying under a table. You do not know what this animal is trying to do and therefore even brief casual petting by a stranger can distract the dog and possibly put the human at risk. A good rule of thumb is to totally ignore the dog’s presence as much as possible It’s hard. I’ve had to find something,anything, for my hands to do so I wasn’t tempted to sneak pet another handler’s dog after they sad no, respect the no anyway. A service dog is an extension of the handler’s personal space . You don’t like strangers crowding your personal space, do you?Imagine you are at work and people are constantly calling your name, snapping their fingers, whistling, etc, trying to distract you from work. Chances are your employer is not going to be happy.However. if a service dog handler declines a request to pet our partner this is the response we often get”it’s just a dog,why can’t I pet him/her , often followed by an attempt to “sneak pet” them after I said no. It’s not just a dog. One of Gideon’s task is helping me cross streets safely(no I’m not blind but I have gotten hit while crossing the street in my wheelchair(before I got him) so now I have him check for cars even when I should have the right of way as a pedestrian. If some were to sneak pet him at the wrong moment while crossing a road that could be very bad. My personal policy about letting a stranger pet my dog while out in public is this, assuming you asked first, 80% of the time my answer will likely be yes, if I said no when you asked and you try to sneak pet either of them(my Aussie pup is going to start public outings soon) I will make as noisy as scene as possible , expect the same reaction if you don’t ask at all. You have been warned.
Author’s note: I will say again, I sometimes let others pet my dogs while they are in working gear.That is my personal choice,do not assume any other handler will do the same.