Friday Videos: How to Make Friends and Influence Politicians

In this video, Omar Ahmad tells us the best way to influence politicians. Follow his directions step-by-step and you will make a difference.

New Clothes, Part 2

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I committed an environmental faux pas recently. On the 18th I wrote a post extolling the virtues of new clothes and four days later I wrote a post for Earth Day on how we’re ripping off Mother Earth by using up her resources.

Well, okay, one way we do that is by buying new clothes. At the very least I should have recommended buying green clothing. However, one reason I didn’t is because of my own confusion about what constitutes green clothing. Until I found this invaluable article on Treehugger about that very topic.

Turns out buying new is the worst thing you can do for our environment. The only reason to stop wearing old clothes is if they have to be dry-cleaned, which is definitely bad for the environment. What if the clothes are out of style? That’s a good question. There are a few ways to deal with that problem:

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Tuesday Tirade: Tough Talk About Immigration

Imagine you come from an area in Mexico where hundreds of women have been murdered over the last couple of decades. Or that you live in a neighborhood where you have to worry about gunfire as you take your children to school. You want a better life for yourself and your children. You decide to emigrate to the U.S. But doing it legally could, and often does, take years. Your children are young now.

Personally, I think immigration policy in this country is, and always has been, too restrictive. We are a huge country, with plenty of room and resources to support many more people than now live here. We just don’t want to share. We don’t want to have to make accommodations. And we most certainly don’t want to take on the problems of other countries.

Well, guess what, folks? We’re going to be affected by world-wide events whether we like it or not. Take Arizona for instance. From what I’ve read, Arizona has good reason to fear the violence coming over its borders from the south. But is the answer to stop any suspicious person on the street, demand identification and possibly arrest them? All we can do is deport them. What does that solve?

We need to work harder to forge alliances with the countries we interact with so that we can aid them in their efforts to better their situations. Instead, we stick our noses in their business, stir things up and then refuse their people access to our country when they find life untenable in their own.

Take Iraq for instance. I’m against the war, and always have been. But even if I were behind it, I would still feel that we need to help those whose lives we’ve disrupted. Instead, we make it next to impossible for an Iraqi to emigrate to the U.S. Even those who have served as translators for the U.S., and are at risk from reprisals,  find it difficult to find refuge in America.

There are several issues related to immigration that we need to come to terms with:

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National Poetry Month: Feminist Poets

What makes a feminist poet? Is she a feminist who is a poet, like Audre Lourde and Adrienne Rich? Not necessarily. When I looked up “feminist poets” on the Internet I found lists that included Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay. As far as I know, neither of those women was ever associated with the feminist movement.

But here we fall into a philosophical argument: is it possible to be a feminist without identifying as one? I think it is. And nowhere is this more evident than in the case of poets who write for and about women. I’m not talking about hearts-and-flowers love poetry or sentimental paeans to motherhood. I’m talking about poetry that describes what it is really like to be a woman. The poet doesn’t have to be a feminist to get inside a woman’s heart, mind and soul and write about what she (or he) finds there.

So we find women on these lists who were never feminists, maybe didn’t even care about feminist issues, but who still were able to access the themes that define a woman’s life: sexuality, gender roles, position in society, relationships, marriage, motherhood, spirituality. Today I’m going to contrast two of my favorites who, although they came from different centuries, both had their fingers on the pulse of a woman’s heart.

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2010 Amelia Bloomer Project

The Amelia Bloomer Project was started in 2002 to serve two purposes: 1) to alert young readers to society’s opposition toward women’s equality and 2) to highlight the progress that has been made toward this goal. Books are chosen for feminist content, quality of writing, and appeal to young readers.  Subjects include women’s history, female trail-blazers and the identification of problems that women (and girls) face today, along with possible solutions. For 2010 the Project members selected 54 books for children from pre-school/beginning readers through young adult (Grades 7-12).

Children today are certainly more sophisticated than they were when I was a child. For example, one of the books on the list, which is recommended for grades 2-4, is Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story From Afghanistan by Jeanette Winter.  This is about a secret school in war-torn Afghanistan where girls seek to gain an education that is forbidden to them by the Taliban government.

Another title, this one recommended for grades 9-12, is Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas. This novel is about a family terrorized into silence by their father’s sexual and emotional abuses and one daughter’s struggle to find the courage to reveal her family’s secrets.

The Amelia Bloomer Project is part of the Feminist Task Force of the American Library Association’s Social Responsibility Round Table. For pdf and html versions of the lists since 2002, click here.