Baby Dust Diaries

A Life Less Ordinary

Author: Admin (page 2 of 52)

Why I Don’t Pledge Allegiance

I don’t believe in saying the pledge of allegiance. Funny, since I was the person to read it aloud every morning of my junior and senior year.

People react strongly when I say this. How dare I not love my country!

It would be easy for me to use the excuse of the “under god” line which was added in 1954 as my reason for not reciting this oath. And that is one reason. I don’t believe in the tyranny of a state mandated religion. One persons “god” shouldn’t be anywhere on our money, court rooms, or schools.

But that is only one tiny reason. There are several others I’d like to share:

1. Taking a pledge.

Have you ever reflected on what it means to pledge something?

Pledge means a solemn promise or undertaking.
synonyms: promise, undertaking, vow, word, word of honor, commitment, assurance, oath, guarantee

First, should five year olds, who can’t legally make decisions or enter into contracts, be pledging to anything?

Second, to say this pledge I have to solemnly (seriously and earnestly) take a vow or oath. This shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. I can only evaluate if I can take such a serious oath based on careful review of what I’m pledging to.

2. Allegiance and Patriotism

Allegiance is to give loyalty and devotion to a thing. It was historically used by subjects to swear fealty to a monarch. In this case we are swearing allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.

Giving allegiance to a flag is just stupid but the implication is that you are giving you allegiance to is The United States of America so I’ll focus on that.

So, let’s talk about loyalty. Loyalty is about being reliably faithful to a person or thing. This is easy to see in interpersonal allegiance. I have an allegiance to my husband as I’ve agreed (taken an oath even) to be loyal to him.

My loyalty has limits imposed by my own morality. If my husband murdered someone I would not help him hide the body (sorry babe) because murder is immoral. This is what makes it different than fealty which doesn’t really care about your morality which is completely subsumed to the sovereign you are giving your fealty to.

Loyalty to an impersonal thing like a government should also have caveats for morality. This is why we expect soldiers to disobey orders when they are morally wrong as in the My Lai Massacre or the Abu Garaib torture. Loyalty in this instance means follow orders but not at the expense of morality.

Patriotism is defined as love of country and of our compatriots (fellow countrymen). I’ll talk about love of country in a moment but love of compatriots seems a simple thing. Of course I love my fellow Americans. Especially when we prove how loving and powerful we are as when we came together after 911. It warms my heart. I want all my compatriots to be happy and fulfilled.

Here’s the problem with love of compatriots. Compatriots are, by definition, those you have a common country with. Whether that is land, government, language, or ethnicity, the whole concept is based on Us and Them. Saying I’m “patriotic” implies I have love for other Americans instead of (at worst) or at least more than (at best) non-Americans.

This is where we get the idea that loving our country also means “there is no country I’d rather live in” which quickly slides in to: my country is the best. Better than yours. My compatriots matter more than you “others”.

I don’t think this is ever a positive view to hold but even if it were you better be sure your country deserves such devotion which I’ll talk about in a moment.

So patriotism and allegiance. Do they go hand in hand? Patriots are usually very allegiant but those with allegiance aren’t necessarily patriots.

For example, a mercenary has allegiance to his employer but isn’t necessarily a patriot. Their allegiance comes from a choice to act on behalf of a country/government not out of love of said country. Someone who is allegiant but not a patriot can not always be counted on to give “blind” allegiance.

A patriot, on the other hand, holds allegiance so strong that they will forgo their own sense of morality in order to show undying love for country/government.

For example,

“Stephen Nathanson contends that patriotic loyalty is not always a virtue. A loyal person can, in general be relied upon, and hence people view loyalty as virtuous. Nathanson argues that loyalty can, however, be given to persons or causes that are unworthy. Moreover, loyalty can lead patriots to support policies that are immoral and inhumane. Thus, Nathanson argues, patriotic loyalty can sometimes rather be a vice than a virtue, when its consequences exceed the boundaries of what is otherwise morally desirable. Such loyalties, in Nathanson’s view, are erroneously unlimited in their scopes, and fail to acknowledge boundaries of morality.[17]”http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loyalty

In other words, loyalty driven by patriotism and nothing else is a vice not a virtue. For your loyalty to be virtuous it must have an accompanying morality that isn’t dictated by the object of the loyalty. It is the ultimate check and balance.

Allegiance can’t be given lightly. You have to think about the actions of the object of your loyalty. How likely are you to have moral conflicts with the object of your loyalty? Is an act of morality that might not be loyal seen as “unpatriotic”? Is loyalty valued over morality?

If any of these are true the object in question might not be worthy of my loyalty.

3. The Republic

The pledge’s next line is about our allegiance to “the republic” represented by said flag. A republic is a form of government where the people rule through direct democracy or through elected representatives.

American republicanism is a bit different from other concepts of a republic in the classical world.

“Republicanism is the guiding political philosophy of the United States. It has been a major part of American civic thought since its founding.[1] It stresses liberty and “unalienable” rights as central values, makes the people as a whole sovereign, rejects aristocracy and inherited political power, expects citizens to be independent in their performance of civic duties, and vilifies corruption.[2]“http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republicanism_in_the_United_States

This sounds like something I would be willing to pledge allegiance to. But, only if the current state of our country was represented by this definition.

Is the CURRENT republic worthy of allegiance? Are liberty and unalienable rights central values in America today? Do we have inherited political power? Do we vilify corruption?

Or has corporate money eclipsed any true republicanism? Is corruption seen as an unavoidable feature of the system or rooted out wherever it is found?

4. Liberty and Justice for All

The final phrase of the pledge also sounds great but only if it is in any way true for us and our compatriots.

Liberty is freedom. Are we free? Are we all equally free? Or do we lead the world in imprisoning our compatriots? Are our compatriots of color given the same liberty as white compatriots or are they three times as likely to be jailed for equal offenses?

Do we all have access to justice? Or does money become the ticket to justice instead of it being a birthright of our country?

Does our country act justly in its relations with other countries. Do we keep our treaties? With the Western Shoshone Nation for example? Does our country respect justice when enacting trade laws? Or do we enslave and ravage other countries in order to promote the interests of our compatriots only?

If I’m going to pledge allegiance to something I’m going to have to take that seriously and ask some hard questions before I do. I want to know that this country deserves my allegiance and that my loyalty will not be immoral at least some of the time.

I don’t pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. The republic for which it stands has been corrupted by corporatism and the aristocracy of capitalism. Our nation doesn’t operate under any god I recognize. Liberty is dependent upon your skin color and net worth. Justice is entirely dependent upon immoral and selfish interests and applied unevenly based on skin color and net worth.

The United States of America does not deserve my allegiance. It is unworthy of it. I don’t pledge it out of blind patriotism. I don’t recognize my compatriots as more important than my non-American brothers and sisters.

When my government realizes it has become completely unworthy of your pledge it will be the first step towards deserving it.

I pledge allegiance to humanity and all the kindness and good for which it is capable. I pledge allegiance to the cooperative spirit and peacemakers that work everyday to make the world a more just and free place for everyone. Not just compatriots defined by outdated lines of nationalism.

And my kids won’t say the pledge until they can cogently answer these questions for themselves.

FAQs:

“Then get out”
If you can’t understand the right of an American citizen to NOT pledge allegiance then you don’t understand anything about this country.

“You can only say this because of the freedom of America”
Agreed. There are certainly many countries where I could be killed or imprisoned for refusing to pledge allegiance. I don’t think the only criteria for allegiance to my country should be that “it could be worse”. I have a higher standard than that.

“No country lives up to your standards”
Agreed. I could tell you dozens of countries doing a better job in a lot of these areas but that isn’t really my point. I don’t want the US to become like some other country and then I’ll pledge. I don’t want to pledge to a country. Nationalism is an antiquated idea that no longer serves the needs of the Earth or humanity. Technology has made us smaller, closer. We have the opportunity to erase our arbitrary boundaries that make us hate and kill each other. We can move beyond us and them and realize our future is only secure if we are WE.

“But the troops…”
My refusing to pledge allegiance to this country does not mean I don’t love our troops. My dad and husband both served. I’m a pacifist and don’t believe in the military at all. That doesn’t change the intentions behind their actions when they enlisted. There are many beautiful things our military does. It isn’t the fault of individual soldiers that warmongering is such a big part of our current ethos as a nation. Someday, without war, these military men and women will continue their peacekeeping work without the violent side.

That Time Good Morning America Talked About My Daughter’s Hair

http://abcnews.go.com/video/embed?id=31000091
ABC News Videos | ABC Entertainment News

I Shaved My Daughter’s Hair

AellynshairEvery month my kids see their Daddy shave his head. Last week my younger son wanted his shaved off too. When Daddy was shaving Boston, Aellyn said she wanted him to shave her head too. Daddy said she’d have to ask mommy since I wasn’t home.

She asked if we could and I said sure. We weren’t home so it was easy to say yes. I decided I wouldn’t bring it up and maybe she would forget.

Wrong.

She talked about it the rest of the day and the next. So, last night, we shaved her damn near bald.

First, let’s talk about this from Aellyn’s perspective. This wasn’t a hard decision or even a big deal to her. She’s never been told how “girls are supposed to look/act” because we parent outside of sexist stereotypes whenever we can* (I wrote the book Gender Neutral Parenting if you are new here). We talk about sexism a lot and I told her the morning before we cut it that some people think girls shouldn’t have shaved heads. She said, “no way. Girls can have their hair anyway they want.” I said I know but some people might say something about it or call her a boy. She said, “That’s ok mom, I’ll just tell them I’m a girl.”

Look at this video I took during the cutting.

It’s amazing to see her nearly blasé attitude about it. Isn’t that how we should all be? I mean it is only fucking hair!

I, unfortunately, was very much indoctrinated by my culture to put great importance on my appearance and my hair in particular. I had very long blonde hair as a child. Other girls in my class would fight to stand next to me in line so they could play with my hair. The adults in my life always told me how beautiful my hair was.

For my tenth birthday I cut all my hair off. The stylist kept asking me over and over, “are you sure, honey?” As she began cutting I felt this nauseating sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. When she was done I bawled my eyes out.

No big deal. I’ve overcome much of the “laws of femininity” that society tried so hard to force on me. I’ve had many a pixie cut and just last year I buzzed my hair with a 1″ setting.

And yet my deep, gut feeling about my daughter shaving her head sounded something like this: “DEAR GOD NOOOOOOOO!”

Yep, really enlightened, huh?

That’s the thing about this cultural conditioning I talk so much about. It forms roots so deep in our psyche that I know I’ll never be completely free of them. But I can always try to observe my gut feelings and NOT MAKE DECISIONS BASED ON THEM. To instead question my assumptions. Peak behind the curtain of cultural conditioning.

I really, really, REALLY wanted to talk her out of it. I wanted to fawn over how beautiful her hair is. In fact, I knew I had that power over my daughter. What I think – as her primary caregiver and friend – has a huge impact on her. I could have used just the right words to talk her out of it.

Or, maybe not. Maybe she would have put her foot down anyway and cut it.

Either way, I would have told her that her appearance is important TO ME and that she exists for the consumption of others. That how others view her is more important than her internal voice, sense of adventure, and inherent value. That her decisions should be made based on external “rules” and not her own sense of what is right or wrong for her.

Even worse, I would show my daughter that manipulation is something that people do to control someone else. That love means power.

Hell no. Not even remotely worth it. I will take the discomfort of seeing my daughter without hair over teaching her that she is a doll to be dressed up for others’ pleasure or that any future relationship she is in she should allow someone to manipulate her or dictate her appearance.

But, guess what?

She looks beautiful with her head shaved. Not just beautiful in the way of aesthetic beauty (although she’s that too. Have you seen eyes and cheek bones on a shaved head? Swoon.) but beautiful in her complete purity of self. She knows herself without the layers of rules, expectations, and worries that most of us carry around every day.

As Pete shaved her in sections I was so worried she’d hate it and regret it. I was waiting for her to experience that sinking feeling in her gut as the hair fell. I didn’t want her to experience the crippling fear of change or “being ugly” that plagued me as a child.

Nope. Not for her. The idea of regretting something as stupid as hair would probably never cross her mind. To her, this was FUN!

IMG_4397-2 Once again, these tiny people in my life teach me so much. Parenting has, bar none, been the best personal development class in my life. I try so hard to remove my conditioned sexism from my parenting and they remind me how easy it is. They show me who I am under my conditioning. What a gift!

I still hold worries about what others will say to my daughter about her hair. I’ll write more about our experience with her having a not-traditionally-feminine hair style in the coming weeks. I’ve already had one person tell me to “keep it private” and I was happy to tell her how marginalizing that is and how telling people to hide is how the status quo keeps its power. Would we tell gay people to “keep it hidden”? /facepalm. Well we shouldn’t.

We should encourage people to be true to themselves and who they feel they are authentically. Then no energy would be spend crying over cut hair in a beautician’s chair. Energy that can be spent making the world a better place for all.

Are Parents a Friend or Foe?

1010206_802204776492736_3804007470436320531_nThe meme was making its way around Facebook yesterday to a chorus of “hell yes” and tagging teen offspring so they know you’ll “hunt them down.”

I’d like you to try a thought experiment with me (suggested by my friend Ginger). Replace parent with another relationship in your life like your husband/partner.

I am your husband.
I will stalk you
Flip out on you
Lecture
Drive you insane
Be your worst nightmare
Hunt you down when needed
Because I love you.

Does that sound like a healthy relationship? When someone says they love you is it ok for them to treat you like this meme suggests? Of course not! We recognize if your “love” holds such control and conditions that it is not in fact love at all.

For children we throw all the normal rules of healthy relationships out the window. This is a particular crime because kids learn how relationships work from watching their primary caregivers and the way the treat others.

As parents we model relationships for our kids. Everything they take into adulthood about how relationships should be come from their earliest formative experiences with the adults in their lives. Do you want this to be the message your kids hear?

This meme isn’t about loving your kids. It is about controlling them, wielding power over them and teaching them that life is a hierarchy and they need to submit to those above them and force submission from those below them. This meme is about a non-consensual relationship where the object of “love” has no say in their treatment. It is one sided.

There is another way. And guess what? It works better. Lectures? Anyone who has a preschooler knows lectures work about as well as spanking. Which is to say it may cease the behavior but it never lasts and carries the scars of knowing mom only loves you if you “behave”.

Luckily Joni over at Tales of a Kitchen Witch created a much better version of this meme.

11026039_921735471180943_1973685582210676202_nNow replace this one with “partner” or “spouse”. Does that sound like a relationship you want your daughter to have one day with her significant other?

Instead of stalking, lecturing, and being a nightmare how about we listen, guide, and be a cheerleader.

That is the definition of love I want my kids to see when they think on our relationship. I want them to know from this example that ANYONE who treats them like an object by lecturing, stalking, and hunting them is a predator and they should not have a relationship with that person because they deserve unconditional love and always a consensual relationship.

Matisyahu to Krishnamurti

The past decade has been a real spiritual journey for me. I moved through several Christian sects before finally moving beyond Christianity as most people know it. At the same time I began studying Buddhism. For a long time I was both: A Christian Buddhist. Not really impossible and many people (including prominent Christian clergymen and women) practice Buddhism and Christianity. Buddhism is non-theistic and non-dogmatic. The Buddha is neither god nor final decider of the rules. He tells his followers to ignore what he says and find out for themselves.

After I moved out of Christianity (I don’t like to say I “left” or “turned away” or “renounced” because I really feel like Christianity was part of my path and that it was the thing that pointed me to my current place. I didn’t “Leave”; I followed where it led) I called myself a Buddhist and an atheist. I thought it was important to differentiate myself from people who believe in god, especially the christian “Father”-type god. I was still practicing Buddhism so that title seemed fit.

I still use Buddhism in many setting because it quickly gives an overview of some of my core values. But it isn’t really true. Buddhism isn’t a fit label for me and the concept of the labeling is itself damaging. This is the journey I’d like to describe for you.

Do you know this song? 

I first heard this song in 2006. This was before kids. Before my worst bout of depression (2007). Before I moved out of Christianity but just shortly after I began actively studying Buddhism.

I LOVE this song. From the very first time I heard it there was something so compelling about it. I used to listen to it multiple times a day or even have it on a loop in the background while I worked. The words moved me. The music was both soothing and rousing. It never got old for me. I felt the same powerful emotion each time I heard it. No matter how many times I heard it.

I bought the rest of Matisyahu’s songs (and still do). He is really talented mixing beatbox with reggae beats and soaring, passionate lyrics. I shouldn’t really need a reason to like his music. But my friends considered it weird that I was so moved by the lyrics when it is so overtly Jewish. I tried to put it into words: When he says,

What’s this feeling?
My love will rip a hole in the ceiling
Givin’ myself to you from the essence of my being

You really BELIEVE he means it. If I put the passion of every Brittany Spears song together it wouldn’t equal the raw passion of his words.

The song moved me they way my religion moved me. Not all the time, of course, but when I wasn’t defending the faith to the world against those twisting it to sanction hate, I really felt my religion. The words Matisyahu spoke were how religion was supposed to feel,

You’re like water for my soul when it gets thirsty
Without you there’s no me
You’re the air that I breathe

Religion, when it felt right to me, was like air and water – everything I needed for perfect contentment. Peace.

When I look to the sky where my help come from
And I’ve seen it circling around from the mountain
Thunder!
You feel it in your chest

Yes! You feel it in your chest. A brief moment, in the words of the Christian bible, of a “peace that surpasses all understanding.”

That’s the Thing. The single anchor of desire that kept me searching. Seeking for answers to spiritual questions. Or, rather, THE spiritual question: Who Am I?

The answers Christianity gave me: I am a child of god, a sinner in need of a savior, on trial for my every behavior with punishment expected for behavior deemed bad were becoming incompatible with my inner “truth” meter.

If you’ve known me at all you know that, as a parent educator, I point out not only the benefits of non-punitive, gentle parenting but I also share what science is learning about the human design for non-punitive, gentle parenting. We are literally biologically-primed for freedom and choice and to resist coercion or control. Like a plant deprived light, humans deprived of freedom and choice wilt. Plants need water to thrive and humans need to be free.

In the public sphere of my life this looked like my talking about feminism (the right of women to thrive without the control of patriarchy), racism and colonialism (the right of brown people to thrive without the control of white colonists) and parenting (the right of children to thrive without the control of their parents).

What I had was cognitive dissonance – discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values (source:wikipedia). Everything I believed about secular life – freedom, choice, absence of violence was in direct opposition to everything I believed about my spiritual life – that I was constrained by rules, my choices could be judged “evil”, and a religion both founded on and perpetuated by indescribably horrific violence and genocide.

Cognitive dissonance must always be reconciled. It isn’t possible to live in your mind with two opposing views. You can read on wikipedia if you want to read some of the ways people resolve cognitive dissonance (trigger warning: their examples are fat phobic) but I believe this is what kept me searching. I knew where I was wasn’t comfortable. I had to keep looking.

Of course by this time I’m learning more about Buddhism and experiencing the amazing affect of meditation and particularly, metta meditation which is like body building for your compassion muscles. I had experienced that my mind wasn’t me and was, in fact, kind of a pain in my ass. Telling my brain to shut up became a new mantra. (Now I love my mind even when I tell it to shush. I say, “old friend, you aren’t trying to pull that again are you?”).

The Buddha said,

We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.

This began to coalesce with my studies of feminism in the context of cultural/social constructs. In my book, Gender Neutral Parenting, I spend some time explaining how to step outside our cultural constructs like “gender” by thinking of the compass. There is no objectively described “north” or “south”. We collectively decide to label these places with these words to helps us communicate about our environment. There is no north (or spoon, ha!).

In The Teaching of Buddha by the Japanese Buddhist organization, Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai, it says,

In the sky there is no distinction of east and west; people create the distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.

Here the beliefs of my secular life combined with the beliefs of my spiritual life. I will probably write much more about spirituality and feminism since this is an area that I’ve received much push back from other feminists. For now though I’m going to focus on my journey.

So one day, I’m listening to King Without a Crown again and I notice this line,

Strip away the layers and reveal your soul
Got to give yourself up and then you become whole
You’re a slave to yourself and you don’t even know
You want to live the fast life but your brain moves slow

This captures the practice of Buddhism well: pick through all these thoughts. Quiet them and see who you are underneath all of your cultural constructs and conditioning.

Looking up to the sky and searchin’ beneath the ground
Like a King without his Crown
Yes, you keep fallin’ down
You really want to live but can’t get rid of your frown
Tried to reach unto the heights and wound bound down on the ground

And how hard it is. From the moment of our birth we begin to layer ourselves with words. Words aren’t all bad – they help us know each other, love each other – but without understanding that they aren’t you, words can be dangerous.

We say I’m Paige.

I’m a girl.

I’m intelligent.

I’m an American.

I’m white.

And we forget who we really are without all the words.

For me, Buddhism is a great practice for removing the words. It isn’t religion. I don’t “believe” in Buddhism. I practice it. I find the suggestions that are credited to that ancient Hindu man name Siddhartha Gautama really work for me when I practice them each day. I do metta meditation and I see tangible results in myself. I see a grouchy bank teller and I feel love not annoyance.

I know there are people who have taken the words credited to the Jewish man named Jesus and interpreted them in a much different way than the mainstream Christians and they use them to practice what Jesus taught. The same is true for nearly every mainstream religion. It is a thread connecting all religions and it is spiritual not religious.

When the philosopher, Jiddu Krishnamurti, broke away from the Theosophical society of white colonizers he said,

I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path. You must climb towards the Truth. It cannot be ‘stepped down’ or organized for you.

This was even stronger than what the Buddha said. There is no way to go, no directions to find bliss. Which, let’s face it is the primary purpose of all religion. Buddha said to find out for yourself. Krishnamurti expounded that finding out for yourself is the only way. There is no path but the one you are on.

bella RIPThe problem is that we have all these ideas. Religion gives us ideas. Buddhism is an idea for how to find bliss. It has worked for me but it also tethers me. If Buddhism is a label I wear that creates an anchor to my thoughts then I’m not really free to move past the circle of my beliefs.

Like a dog on a chain is “free” only in the circle allowed by his chain (please don’t do this). When we label ourselves as Buddhist or Christian we drive a tether into the ground and cut ourselves off from understanding.

Matisyahu says this too,

You want God but you can’t deflate your ego
If you’re already there then there’s nowhere to go
If you’re cup’s already full then its bound to overflow

If you are identifying with a religion, or any label, then your are filling yourself (your cup) and it is no long open to receive new understanding. Krishnamurti again,

Psychologically I think it is true, because self-discipline implies a mind that is tethered to a particular thought or belief or ideal, a mind that is held by a condition; and as an animal that is tethered to a post can only wander within the distance of its rope, so does the mind which is tethered to a belief, which is perverted through self-discipline, wander only within the limitation of that condition. Therefore such a mind is not mind at all, it is incapable of thought. It may be capable of adjustment between the limitations of the post and the farthest point of its reach; but such a mind, such a heart cannot really think and feel.

EmilysQuotes.Com-nationality-violent-reason-separating-mankind-belief-tradition-violence-understanding-religion-politics-wisdom-amazing-great-intelligent-Jiddu-Krishnamurti-500x323If you can completely untether yourself from all thoughts and identifications (Buddha calls them distinctions), you will know the real you, which Buddhists call enlightenment. Although I think it is a horrible thing to focus on. Spirituality shouldn’t be goal oriented. That’s what religion does. It says do xyz and avoid jkl and you will receive bliss.

It isn’t about the answer or the goal. It isn’t about rules or a path. It is about questioning, seeking, and remaining open.

And see, I lift up [in] my eyes where my help come from
And I seen it circling around from the mountain
Thunder!
You feel it in your chest
You keep my mind at ease and my soul at rest

Read more: Matisyahu – King Without A Crown Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Gently,

Paige

Why I Love Facebook

good-vs-evil facebook eggs-resized-600Facebook gets a lot of grief in my circles and rightly so. Their sexist double standards about how breasts can be used (selling beer? ok. Nursing a baby? not ok.) is a huge sticking point. There is also much talk about how “bad” facebook is for us and our kids. Everyone is always “trying to cut back” or “taking a break” from facebook.

Don’t get me wrong being able to balance our use of technology is important but there seems to be this general feeling that facebook is primarily a vice. A silly diversion at best. I’d like to argue in favor of the great wonder of facebook.

(I’m going to talk about facebook specifically because it is by far the largest social network in the world but the same could apply to twitter or pinterest or any other person-to-person connection tool.)

Five Reasons I Love Facebook:

  1. I meet great people that I’d never have the chance to meet otherwise. I have friends from San Diego to Maine and every state in between. These are people I’ve never been within 100 miles of physically but who add to my life in indescribable ways. And that’s just the US! I got a Christmas card last year from a favorite blogger of mine who lives in Belgium. I have friends who give me hard time by posting sunny, summer pics from Australia when I’m under ten feet of snow in Ohio. I hate them. 😉 No I don’t, I love them so much. I am unbelievable grateful for facebook putting these people in my life.
  2. Making enemies usually ends in making wonderful friends. Like getting kicked out of a feminist group because I don’t vaccinate my kids (ouch) and then having five people friend me because they agree with me and thought I was treated unfairly. Or when my long time friend and neighbor comments negatively on my son wearing a “girl” shirt (ouch) and then having twenty people friend me because they too are gender non-conforming or transgender and want other parents to know you *can* support your kids. That’s some serious silver lining there.
  3. I can cultivate whom I am influenced by. Facebook often gets slammed for changing the word “friend” to mean non-hostiles. I get what they are saying. Many of the friends I mention in #1 and 2 aren’t the people I’d call in a crisis. They only know one slice of who I am and I only know one slice of who they are. This is usually seen as a bad thing but I like to look at it a different way. Facebook is a place I can nurture my passions and share my struggles. I have tons of friends filling my facebook feed with social justice, peaceful parenting, and generally, positive, world-improving views. When I’m feeling frustrated with parenting I know that I’ll be getting advice from people who share my values. My facebook feed is carefully cultivated by the “friends” I make to be a place of safety and nurturance for my journey. I’m so grateful.
  4. I cultivate my own news channel. These friends I’ve made because of a single issue (like they liked my post about my “cross dressing” three year old) are people who’s views I respect. So, when they post something outside my wheelhouse I am apt to listen. Social justice is a HUGE arena and none of us know everything. The diversity of my friends list exposes me to ideas I wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to. Like my vegan friend who posts about animal rights or my Jewish friend from whom I’ve learned a great deal about Israel/Palestine. Instead of relying on one news outlet I have this great network of people sharing snippets of news from every corner of the independent news world.
  5. My worldview is larger. I grew up in a tiny little town in Ohio. I was 18 before I ever met a black person. I know, right? Sometimes I think it isn’t any wonder that so many white people are so ignorant about racism. They’ve literally been shut off by their own homogeneous environment. Even though I dream about living in a diverse city circumstances have kept me here. I try to embrace that since middle america needs awakened people too. For people who live in all-white areas and aren’t in the tax bracket that can travel, facebook is an amazing window to differing views. It is hard to understand your own subconscious assumptions when everyone you interact with daily has the same subconscious assumptions. Facebook connects me with people who share my passions and yet are very much different from me because of differing backgrounds. I’m no longer bound by my place or financial status. By hearing non-white, non-american, non-middle class views I can better challenge my own lens on the world.

Facebook has its downsides – ads, sexist rules, and horrible marginalization of pages that don’t have million dollar budgets to “boost” their posts – but it is only a tool. And YOU control the tool.

If you get on facebook and feel worse then change your facebook! Unfollow family and friends you can’t “unfriend” that fill your feed with hateful things. Join topical groups about the things you like and friend request people you have synchronicity with. Unlike any page that doesn’t enrich your life. Like, share, and comment on threads you appreciate. It will help facebook show you more things you like.

Facebook isn’t static. It is what you make it. As your passions migrate, change your news feed by unliking old pages and liking new ones. Make it work for you and you’ll feel less guilty when you use it.

And remember the days before facebook (or ask your mom, lol) when our worlds were smaller and with it our minds and ideas. I’m a better person because of facebook. Hands down. I’m grateful for facebook and what (and whom) it has brought into my life.

Namaste.

Whiteness, Cultural Appropriation, and Spiritual Power

Powerful point. Did you know Nelson Mandela has said he never felt powerlessness in all his years behind bars. Where is this deep rooted resilience and power? Why don’t white people have it?

(I think the rest of this requires you to know that race is a social construct and thus “white” isn’t a thing. It is a lie we’ve been blanketed in.)

I do think white people are drowning in meaninglessness which is the strongest definition of powerlessness. We all inherit a legacy of intense evil. Millennia of rape of the land, peoples, and personhood of millions. Then we are raised with the lie both that we are good for the world (manifest destiny) and that our social structures are good for all. The lie that our culture allows anyone to rise to the top, that we have a mobile culture where initiative and hard work are all it takes to rise up. It is cognitive dissonance from the moment we are born.

We feel a phantom pain because these lies are impossible for a soul to pretend is true. So, in order to keep this social stricture in place we’ve also had our souls suppressed. We have an empty, third-person religion dominating us. A religious tradition (Christian, Jewish, and Islamic – basically this is a “feature” of monotheistic religions) that tells us we are sinners in need of a savior, that this world is just a test and thus not inherently important (manifest destiny again), and that “others” are our enemy. We are discouraged from knowing ourselves, our souls, we are punished for finding personal empowerment.

I think every single white person in the US (perhaps all western cultures) knows a deep rooted but un identifiable malaise that comes from the disconnection we are forced to believe in order to maintain the status quo. We manifest this in mental illness, violence, and a cult of busy-ness that keeps us from hearing the truth that our souls are crying out to us to discover. That we are one with every other being on the planet and with the planet itself.

To understand cultural appropriation we have to unveil the lies. To recognize that we are *continuing* to rape people’s cultures (instead of the lie that these things happened “before”) requires awareness that we are empty and powerless and disconnected. This is painful and many people can’t tolerate the soul pain caused by seeing without blinders on what it means to be white.

I encounter these white people in my work everyday. They can’t even swallow the fact that they have privilege. It is too painful and they’ve been taught that self reflection or listening to the voices of their soul is a sin (religiously) or condemned (socially). They are powerless and trapped in their whiteness. Cut off from their own source of power.

How could such a person understand cultural appropriation? They will always use the scripts of white culture they’ve been taught: we share culture, these people are better off with our culture because we bring them medicine and salvation. What we do is benevolent. They have to believe this or face the fact that they are part of a system of demonstrable evil.

I think when white people are able to break through their conditioning – and it is a break: painful rending of our white facades to expose our souls who’ve been neglected and forgotten – they then feel lost. When everything you know and everything you’ve done and had done to you was damaging your soul and (since we are all one) every single other person and living thing on the planet it can be easier to hide. Get busy again so you don’t have to think or feel.

Some social justice minds call this the colonized mind. We (white people) colonize indigenous peoples taking their culture and language but we never take their souls because they know their power. They know they are one. But, in order to make us docile accomplices to white colonization we also had our minds colonized. We operate and are victims of racism too. Racism takes our power by disconnecting us from our souls.

The spiritual traditions of indigenous people all have the same root. The way the “major” “religions” of the western world have the same base – literally the same “god” – indigenous belief systems, from Tibet to the Yucatan, share the common thread of flowing from personal power instead of personal submission.

When we first hear a spiritual tradition that wakes up our dormant souls we don’t know how to make it our own. How could we? We’ve been told to look outside ourselves for spirit since birth. So, we drape ourselves in the outward appearance of the tradition. We wear saris and bindis or start smudging everything with sage. I’m not saying those things are necessarily bad but they are the empty shell of the spiritual tradition and veer toward cultural appropriation.

This is why social justice work is so important to spiritual development. They can’t happen in a vacuum. Without understanding how to decolonize our minds we will continue to “adopt” native cultural traditions in a way that continues to demean and harm said culture. But, with the hard work of dismantling our colonized attitudes and beliefs we can reclaim our power. Our power that we are all one and that any harm to the least of us harms us all.

This is the way we find our own spirituality. I don’t think it can be done without the examples of native cultures. We need a lighthouse to help us navigate in the dark until we can shed the layers of lies that are “white culture”, find our own power and then turn it back on the white culture that sought to harm us in the first place.

The Lottery of Birth [Documentary]

Do you shape the world or does it shape you? Drawing on leading thinkers from around the world, and with a torrent of mind-expanding ideas and information, THE LOTTERY OF BIRTH will make you think again about what it means to be free.

This is an excellent starting point for awakening to the reality of the human condition. I watch this a few times a year and learn something new each time. The best part is that between viewing you start to see your other passion topics through this lens.

Speakers include some of my favorites:

Tony Benn

<a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00GKP70W0/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00GKP70W0&linkCode=as2&tag=thebabdusdia-20&linkId=JVWE3LH3SU2CTKZQ">Creating Freedom Episode One: The Lottery Of Birth</a><img src="http://ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=thebabdusdia-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B00GKP70W0" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />The premise of this documentary is how the completely random chance of being born into a specific society shapes our very reality. How would your life differ if you had been born a San Bushman or a heiress in Europe? The documentary also talks about how this social conditioning guides us into a role in our social order. This is important to me because the current social order literally kills millions of people every year not to mention the damage done to our planet. And yet most of us play a role in the social order that keeps it stable and in place. If we want to see peace and freedom and social justice prevail we have to tear down the walls of the social order keeping these things from happening. To do this we have to understand our culpability in our role and how social conditioning, based on our birthplace only, trains us to ignore this culpability in our busyness.

I also love Vindana Shiva (in all things) when she talks about our tendency to see parts and not the whole. This is what I mean when I say that we have skewed too far to a male energy dominated paradigm. Linear, logical, parts-based. We desperately need a female energy balance. Curves, creativity, holistic. Male and Female energy has nothing to do with the sexes. Men and women both have male and female energy. In eastern traditions this energy duality is called yin/yang. I’ll be talking more about this in other posts. Anyway, Vindana points out that she nearly completed her doctorate in nuclear physics without ever learning about the health risks of radiation. This is a poignant example of how narrowly focused our society encourages us to be. Each person picks a very narrow slice of the pie of knowledge and then wears blinders for life. The result is the economic, justice, and ecological disasters our world is facing. Fixing these problems will require a holistic view.

I really can’t recommend this documentary enough. It is an “oldie but goodie” in my house – which means watch it often. Give it a try!

This documentary is now part I of the Creating Freedom series.

This post includes an affiliate link. If you happen to purchase this item based on my recommendation, Amazon provides a percentage of its profit to me for the referral. I appreciate your support.

I Wrote A Book

Our culture has strict rules for acceptable behavior for men and women. But what about kids who fall outside the boundaries of prescribed roles? This book is a guide for parents in the practical application of Gender Neutral Parenting – a parenting style based on respect for a child’s self-identity and providing latitude in exploring their own version of gender and gender expressions.

In Gender Neutral Parenting you’ll learn the Five Skills Essential for GNP:

5 Essential Skills For the Gender Neutral Parent

Skill #1: Become Aware of Genderization
Skill #2: Become Aware of Your Gender Bias
Skill #3: Create a Gender Diverse Environment
Skill #4: Start a Dialog About Gender
Skill #5: Dealing With Family and Friends and Dispelling Myths

With practical examples and real world scenarios, this book will give you the strong foundation needed to implement GNP in your home and with your children. You’ll learn about gender stereotypes for boys and girls and how to counteract them as a parent. Stereotypes covered include;


Girl Genderization Stereotypes:

    • Stereotype: Girls Are More Social and Less Physical
    • Stereotype: Girls Are Princesses
    • Stereotype: Girls Are Boy Crazy, Sexual Temptresses
    • Stereotype: Girls Are Pure and Virginal

Boy Genderization Stereotypes:

    • Stereotype: Boys Are Physically Active But Behind Socially and Verbally
    • Stereotype: Boys Are Emotionally Stunted
    • Stereotype: Boys Are Slaves To Their Sex Drive
    • Stereotype: Boys Will Be Boys

You’ll also learn how to deal with family and friends (and strangers) that don’t understand your parenting approach. I’ll answer questions like;

“Won’t that make him gay?”

“Why are you so anti-feminine/anti-masculine?”

“Do you think she’s trans*?”

“You’re raising a person not a social experiment.”

“She’s going to hate you and need therapy.” Or, “He’ll be bullied.”

“I can’t believe you let her play with Barbies! Don’t you even care about her future?”

 This book is for any parent, grandparent, or childcare teacher that wants a guide to raising kids without the strict limitations of gender roles and who wants to engage kids in conversations that will make them savvy media consumers and critical problem solvers around issues or gender and equality.

Available for Kindle or in print wherever books are sold and at;

A Lesson On Sex & Gender for People Over 40 (Like Me)

I recently answered some questions on the Gender Neutral Parenting Facebook page that were asking about non-binary genders. I found with this person’s questions, like many others, I have to first correct misconceptions about sex and gender before we can even begin talking about the intricacies of gender.

If you find this stuff confusing don’t feel bad! I was born in the seventies and went to school in the eighties. I can say for sure if you are my age or older (and many people younger) there is no conceivable reason you would understand sex and gender (unless you work in the fields of human sexuality). Why? We were taught it incorrectly!

People sometimes get so defensive in being corrected about these topics and it really isn’t anything to be upset about and I’ll tell you why.

You know how in 1975, when I was born, no one had a home computer? I think it was 1988 before we got a computer and I, being middle class, got it before lots of people. In school we played Oregon Trail on a DOS computer, right? My point is – look at us now! I’m writing this on my iPad as I lie in bed. This tiny device isn’t hooked to anything. It is magically pulling information out of the air for me and holds more power than NASA used to put a man on the moon.

If computer technology went so far, so fast in the last forty years then why wouldn’t the study of psychology? Child development? Sexuality?

Would you insist on using FORTRAN when you can use a newer (and less eye stabby) computer language? No way! Times have changed and you’ve happily left your middle school science class in the dust because YOU KNOW BETTER NOW.

For some reason we feel that psychology, the study of the human mind, was complete when Freud laid it down in 1885. What? The human mind is so much more complex than this ipad and yet we accept that what we learned in seventh grade must be true 25 years later?

It is just silly! So, let me give it to you straight: THERE IS NO REASON IN THE WORLD YOU SHOULD KNOW WHAT I’M ABOUT TO TELL YOU ABOUT SEX AND GENDER. Please don’t feel bad. Your seventh grade teacher told you what they knew to be true at the time. Times change and you’ve been busy living your life which probably didn’t involve chromosomes or dipliod cells. It’s ok not to know this stuff. 

For those of us of a certain age EVERYTHING we know about sex and gender is WRONG. Not your fault. Not an idictment of you as a person or meant to call you stupid. You aren’t stupid and you aren’t a bad person. You just haven’t learned what we now know about sex and gender.

So, please, it is without any shame or judgement that I share this information with you. Because I didn’t know it either and I’m glad someone told me.


Here is my answer to the person asking about gender but saying “male and female” because I think it will help lots of us!

First: male and female are names of SEXES not of genders. Sex is comprised of both chromosomal arrangement (called genotypic sex) and physical presentation (called phenotypic sex). Neither of these are binary. There are dozens of chromosomal arrangements in humans. For example xy, xx, xo, xxx, xxy, and so on. There are millions of arrangements of physical sex characteristics from one you’d never know about like an xy individual having androgen insensitivity and developing characteristically female body parts despite being genotypically male to a wide array of genital presentations that are neither male nor female. 

I imagine you aren’t asking us about sex but about gender. Gender is asocial construct. That means it isn’t a concrete or scientifically observable phenomonon (unless you’re an anthropologist!) it is merely an idea social groups of humans use to make sense of their world. Social constructs can be bad. E.g. Race. There is not a “biological” concept of race, rather it is something humans make up to divide us. Social constructs can be good. E.g north, east, south, and west. These things don’t exist in any quantifiable way. They are simply ideas we’ve all collectively decided to use to help us navigate our space. 

Gender, as a social construct in most western countries has developed thus: we see (erroneously) two sexes and we are going to set rules for how each sex should behave and then call this gender. Because of this incorrect definition of gender we have the social concept of two genders: man and woman or boy and girl. In non-western cultures these man-made rules are completely different and many societies haven’t incorrectly assumed that there are only two sexes and thus their idea of gender is also not binary

Simply because gender is a social construct doesn’t make it any less real.Money is a social construct too and people kill and die for it all the time. Should I say “money doesn’t exist” because it is a man-made idea? No. Same with gender. Gender may be man-made and culture-specific but within those cultures it is very important. 

Here’s the good thing about social constructs though: than can change when we learn more. As a society we can no longer ignore the millions (yes, millions) of people born everyday that do not fit into the male/female sex binary nor that millions are born that do not fit into the man/woman gender binary. Our social concept needs to catch up with reality.

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