Adaptability and Uncertainty: 1st update on the Santa Rosa fires, 1 week after

(I’ve decided that I would do weekly updates on the fire’s effects so people know what’s going on from a personal perspective not just the news one, both providing data and my own experiences. If you’re interested in following you can subscribe to the blog by putting your email in the sidebar on the left)

 

Original article: please read and share, will have links to updates as they’re posted

Important information:

Total fires in California as of now: 28, 16 of which are 100% contained (none of the ones near me are yet, the main one affecting the people I care about, the Tubbs fire, is now 36,432 acres and 75% contained)

Death toll is now 41 in Northern California, with 88 people still missing.

As of 4 days ago, Santa Rosa (city that has been destroyed) has lost 2,834 homes and 400,010 square feet of commercial space.

Important fundraisers if you can help: My friend’s farm could still use help, the city of Santa Rosa has a fundraiser, my old school (the picture) has a fundraiser to help rebuild, and a reservation has opened its doors to many evacuees and is trying to build tiny houses purchase camping equipment and other things to be a better shelter


 

The school for autistics that I went to and plan on teaching at with a picture of students in front next to what the school looks like now.

“We all fall down and we get right back up again”

Broken English, Rise Against

Life in my city has altered radically in large and small ways.

The small ways are things like how small talk now includes “is your family ok” as a common question, more common emergency vehicles, and now only smoke in the distance if you look hard.

The large ways are how there are multiple places that have converted to shelters (4 that I know of, I’ve volunteered at three), and seeing the places which I knew and was familiar with converted into temporary homes and donation centers for survivors.

In the original This is our time: Thoughts on How People Respond to Disasters, I said that after natural disasters is when the best and worst of humanity is shown, when people can show who they truly are.

In the wake of the fires, my county has shown to be downright amazing.

Multiple donation centers are at full capacity, unable to hold anything else because so many people donated. At the Elks Lodge where I used to have Scout meetings, there was a huge dinner for people after we volunteered, with food that my mom recognized as coming from a family owned restaurant locally. When I volunteered at the fairgrounds (a weird experience in itself, a place that I’m used to having rides and animals becoming a massive center where trucks full of donations and many people are located), I helped unload a truck full of donated food (including far too much bread). There were bagged lunches that people had put together for survivors, many of which had messages drawn on them telling survivors to “stay strong” and many other things on the bags that were telling the evacuees they were cared about. It’s amazing how my county has adapted everything to fit the need of supporting those in need. I saw people I haven’t seen in ages volunteering, people from my Scout Troop (I got my Eagle Scout 8 years ago and turned 18 [when you can’t be a Scout any longer] 6 years ago) and old classes. The people here have fallen in a lot of ways but managed to come right back up in a new form designed to help each other.

It hasn’t been just the best of humanity here though…9 people have been arrested for trying to start new fires (5 individuals and a group of 4 teens) in the areas where the fires in North California (thank the Gods not just in my county), and I heard that some houses have jacked up in price to take advantage of the people who need homes.

However, with all this help…it’s all temporary. Eventually the fires will be out, and people will no longer be at the shelters, people have already gone back and seen their destroyed homes in places where the evacuation orders have lifted. As the picture shows, the school I went to is utterly destroyed, and tomorrow I’ll be going to a meeting about its future (which will be mentioned in the next update). It’s awesome seeing what is happening now but in the long term that’s when we’ll need you more. There’s a lot that’s still up in the air, we don’t know the exact damage, people don’t know if their homes are still here or not because they aren’t allowed to look yet, and it’s too soon to know what we’ll need. It’s only after the fires are out when we’ll know, and that’s when the news coverage will stop…please don’t stop paying attention then. We need you. I’m going to keep writing these updates so please subscribe, if enough people do I might ask others to share their stories of what they’re going through.

The struggle is going to go on for quite a while, whether or not you’re paying attention. For all those who have lost so much, I beg you to keep doing so.

This is Our Time…Again: Thoughts/a plea From Someone Going Through A Natural Disaster (with updates)

(With the goal of making it so people can follow what is happening, I’m going to make weekly updates with data about the fires and my own personal notes and put them at the end of this article, please subscribe on the left if you want to get them, if enough people do subscribe I’ll ask other people who were actually affected to give their stories as time goes on)

(The picture is of my friend’s and his family’s farm, their animals were evacuated but they need help so please click this, donate, and share along with/instead of the article [if you don’t want to share this, I want people to know what we’re dealing with but it’s not as important] , they need it)

My friend’s destroyed farm

“Neutrality means that you don’t really care

Cause the struggle goes on even when you’re not there

Blind and unaware.”

Collapse (Post-Amerika), Rise Against

When I started this article a couple of weeks ago, it was going to be very different.

It was going to be about Trump’s response to Puerto Rico, how he demeaned its leaders, said it wasn’t a “real tragedy” like Hurricane Katrina (the response to which inspired the rage in the first time I wrote on how people respond to natural disasters, This is Our Time, thought I would rewrite it after so many others were happening) because there were only 13 confirmed deaths (confirmed because death certificates take labor to do that a destroyed island can’t really do), and capped it off with saying he had fun, how he donated $1 million to help Texas in the wake of Harvey which is nothing to him and how he paid 5 times as much to find Obama’s birth certificate which was basically just a racist dogwhistle.

That was before Monday, when I learned that a fire had started during the night that was ravaging the main city in my area, burning down a friend’s farm and another’s mom’s home that has all their stuff in it while they’re in Los Angeles and forced many people I care about including my godparents to evacuate.

There are now 22 fires ravaging California and 21 dead statewide, and the fire here is 29,800 acres, has destroyed 576 buildings and threatens 29,192 others, and has caused 5,000 people to evacuate from 20 shelters as of Tuesday night. While the fire itself is about 19 miles away, thanks to going to a school for autistics in the area (which was also destroyed) a lot of my old classmates, friends, and people I care about are in danger if not already affected.

From going to volunteer and seeing the devastation in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina for 6 years I have always felt connected to survivors of natural disasters.

I have watched as the country constantly fails them, with government programs consistently being terrible to the people who need it most and people as a whole sinking into apathy when the fires go out or the floods recede when they’re actually needed the most.

I became jaded and bitter as the same betrayal happened after each disaster, the Valley Fire in the county north of me, Katrina, Irma, Harvey, Maria…but now it’s my home and the people I care about.

I look out my window and see yellow light because the sun is being filtered through smoke that is said to be as far as San Francisco which is 47.6 miles away.

I’ve been breaking down crying off and on through the past three days, am now as I write this.

So instead of asking you to not forget flooding in Baton Rouge I’m asking (rather selfishly as other places are going through worse), to not forget us. We’re human beings as well that deserve your care even after the fires are out, especially because these are going to leave a scar on my state for many years to come. Part of me is expecting people to do what they always do and stop caring after the flames go out when we need people to help because that’s when we’ll actually be able to do anything, when the news decides that the fire was the pretty thing that was what actually mattered and moves on from us.

However, I’m begging you not to, to actually think of us as people who need and deserve help not just some spectacle to look at and turn away from like has happened over and over because we actually need you. Donate to my friend if you can there’s also this for the city of Santa Rosa, share articles about us and let people know, life is hell right now and the feeling that it’s going to go on with people ignoring it all like it they have in the past is only part of it.

CalFire for the fire here is this link, this is the fires in general throughout the state, and my friend has been updating this for information for locals.

I’m begging you not for myself because I’m safe for now but for those I care about don’t forget that we’re here and need help, the whole state pretty much, and that’s going to be the case for a while.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

“Now I know we’re gonna be alright”

Parts Per Million, Rise Against

One thing that you don’t realize happens when you’re watching from afar is what your community becomes. Yesterday I saw something amazing as I worked at shelters…donations from everywhere, people rallying together for those who need it, and it was beautiful. It’s not enough for the long term, but if it’s hell to see the suffering of people at least it’s awesome to see what people do to help those going through it. I’ve never been more proud of my city until now, as we’re not affected directly but have rallied around supporting people who have evacuated here…if that same spirit spreads to others, and everyone rallies around those in need, maybe we will in fact be alright.

Updates:

Update 1: 1 week after the fire

You’re Not As Important As You Think: on “Being Divisive”

Remember folks: If you don’t hold your oppressor’s hand while softly explaining to them things they could just as easily google and maybe make them some cocoa to help them feel comfortable learning about your lived struggles, you’re just a big ol’ meany who doesn’t deserve to be treated like a person.

Remember folks: If you don’t hold your oppressor’s hand while softly explaining to them things they could just as easily google and maybe make them some cocoa to help them feel comfortable learning about your lived struggles, you’re just a big ol’ meany who doesn’t deserve to be treated like a person.

“Like a fire
Don’t need water
Like a riot
Don’t need order

We don’t need them”

Red Flag, Billy Talent

If you’ve followed me since the beginning, you’ve probably noticed that the most common topic is allies I don’t want. I’ve said I don’t want allies who can say they care about Trump, allies who can be turned away by us not being nice, conditional allies, or performative allies.

A common accusation that people get is that people who have my particular tone including many of my friends are “being divisive”.

In the radical leftist side of Facebook (known as “Leftbook” by those of us involved in it), a popular accusation when minority activists speak out is “you’re dividing the Left”.

I find this accusation humorous because not only do I know I’m being divisive, it’s deliberate and a core of my activist practice.

As I touched on in By Our Side or Out of Our Way, I used to be nice in the old blog I was part of before Trump was elected.

I sought to reach out and change minds.

Nowadays, I have come to realize that in this burning world if what’s happening isn’t enough to make you steadfast against oppression, you’re not going to ever really change.  This regime is getting more and more oppressive and decent people will stand against it and by our side believing we deserve to live without investment of labor. I don’t have spoons to invest labor in presenting myself a certain way and nurture people, if the fact that people want to hurt people like myself just because of aspects of our humanity won’t move you to action I can’t trust that you will help me when I need it the most.

My goal now isn’t to reach out to people but to push people away. I need to know who I can trust, and that means seeing who can be moved from caring about my life.

There are a lot of people who tell us that we should be nicer if we want more allies…but my question is why would we want people who would require us to police our language around them, censor and watch our words when we’re in hell?

There are so many people who claim the title of ally and expect it to matter (to the point where we have created the term accomplice instead of ally to be more specific in what we want) to us that anyone who says they are one honestly makes me skeptical.

I need to know who is willing to help and stand by me and mine and who will ditch us when they don’t feel fulfilled. The only way to do that for me is to be hard and challenging in my words and actions so that people need to confront themselves and realize that they are doing wrong and this system is something that they need to be fighting or that I am the problem and they need to stop helping me.

I’m not creating division but exposing divisions of values and commitments. If these people can be turned from thinking I’m a human who deserves help, they never truly believed that. Believing that we deserve rights should be a matter of morality not comfort. My goal is to shake things up, expose who people truly are, and that ends up polarizing and angering people because they don’t like being called out on harmful behaviors or can’t handle me saying that their feelings aren’t actually the most important thing in the world. I’m not the one who is breaking people apart in their ideals, I’m exposing divisions that are already there.

I don’t need everyone and nobody is extremely important to have when the net result of them being here is going to be a drain on my sanity trying to make myself presentable enough to keep them around. People I know and love are suffering and I refuse to prioritize anybody else’s feelings over them. I’m not going to be nice all the time to people who have the luxury of being able to just ignore the reality of what is going on with the world because I frankly don’t trust anyone who is willing to look away from the horror that is happening and say that if they’re going to stand by my side against it I need to be nice to make them feel like there’s a reason to fight, who requires more than the fact that people are suffering and dying to do anything.

When people are suffering from oppression it’s a moral imperative to stand strong and say that is wrong. When the government is doing things that are going to kill innocents, you fight back. You tell yourself this is wrong, you do what you can, which if you’re one of the people who are suffering might just be existing and living, which is huge if a system wants you gone. But if you aren’t you should be doing what you can to help because you know in your heart that it is immoral that the system that makes it so you don’t have to worry about what is happening is making others suffer. We are fighting, rioting because it’s the only language that has ever been heard, rising on wings of fire and broken glass to burn this corrupt order to the ground, and if the way we are fighting, the way we have to fight, is too much for you, we don’t need you. Turn your nose and roll your eyes, complain about our tone and get offended by how we aren’t making sure to exclude you from our venting or following the rules of what you think is acceptable rebellion, I frankly care not, you aren’t important compared to the threats against us and my fellow strugglers. But if you know in your heart that this is wrong and will stand by our side unconditionally, use your voice to carry our own, I’m glad to have you by my side.

The choice is yours, the division between action and inaction not created by me but by your own morality.

Make the right one.

Your Time is Now: a Call to Activism

If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive. - Audre Lorde

If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive. – Audre Lorde

“Now, the time is now
We can still turn it around
Raise your voice like a weapon
Til they fall to the ground

Light, let there be light
Without a shadow of doubt
We will fight tooth and nail until
Salvation is found”

Viking Death March, Billy Talent

I usually write articles from a lens of anger, calling out harmful acts, telling allies who aren’t being screwed over things that I feel are wrong and that I see them if they keep doing them.

This isn’t that.

This time I want to call to my fellow strugglers.

I know you’re suffering and every day is a new barrage of darkness.

I know the world is crushing you and hates you for what you are.

You may feel powerless, unable to do anything.

But you’re more powerful than you know.

No you can’t stop Trump on your own, can’t somehow control his cabinet and Congress with a wave of your hand.

But under a regime that wants us gone, who is seeking to pass the AHCA that is pretty much designed to kill us (I explained how it’s not a stretch to say that it’s meant to kill us and is genocide in Pick a side), when the Nazis want us gone, our fight to exist is an act of great power itself.

You might think that you are unimportant and don’t deserve to be heard.

No matter what has been ingrained in your mind, you’re wrong, your fight is important and your voice and experience matter.

You’re reading my voice (probably) because of that, and I’m a 23 year old jobless college student. (trying to hopefully make money through his Patreon).

What makes us important is that we’re fighting against a system that wants us dead that people are accepting as normal, helped by a media which always focuses on the things that affect the majority over the issues that specifically harm us.

This has always been true, but now more than ever it’s needed.

In the face of this system which wants to crush us we need to stand up.

When the media and the majority will pretend that anything not affecting them isn’t happening we need to step up and speak out, become unable to be ignored.

We can’t let them control our narrative, not when so much more is at stake, not when it seems like each day our lives are more in danger.

This is your time to speak out. We need to raise our voices to cut through the noise, force people to realize it’s not alright, that we are suffering and won’t accept it.

Do what you can, take care of yourself, but act.

We may not have the money they do, the privilege they do, but we have things they don’t.

We vastly outnumber them, and while they have had everything given to them we have needed to fight every step of the way to simply exist.

We wouldn’t be alive if we weren’t able to fight. You might want to wait until a better time, but to quote a wonderful friend, It Doesn’t Get Better. You Do.

We have numbers but those numbers don’t matter if we let them keep us down.

Is this easy? No.

Is this a mindset that you’re a bad person if you can’t keep up all the time? Absolutely not, I feel sometimes like I’m barely clinging on.

Will we accomplish anything? I feel like we are taught to value big acts but in reality this is a fight in people’s minds, and thus every share every person who hears us is someone who has changed, and when you add that up it’s a lot…if you speak up.

Isn’t it difficult to start up a blog (if this is the type of speaking out you want to do)? My goal with this platform was to make it a place where any of our voices could be heard, I would only need your email and name to add you to this (message me at Garrett Winters and I can easily set you up with an account on here…this platform does have ads, when the balance gets to where the money actually will deposit I plan on dividing the revenue equally between writers…I can’t pay you per article but it would be something).

We need to fight no matter the difficulty, to get back on when we can, because the only alternative is to let them get what they want unhindered.

And when what they want is us dead, there’s no choice at all.

 

Our Tools, Your Toys: An Autistic with ADHD perspective on the Fidget Spinner Debate

Fidget Spinners

Multiple fidget spinners in different colors

Something…interesting has been happening recently, a phenomenon that shows the effects of when something that is ordinarily meant to be a tool for people of my neurologies becomes a mainstream toy.

But while it’s interesting to someone like myself who likes analyzing cultural changes, it has also become incredibly harmful to my kin, hence writing an article hoping to give some understanding of what these are to us, what the effects of mainstreaming it have been, the pushback against it, and who this actually hurts.

Obviously, I’m talking about fidget spinners.

First off, what exactly are fidgets to us? Fidgets, like the spinner or the fidget cube I have which also has become rather popular but hasn’t seen such an attack, help us focus, as well as providing something to stim with (stimming refers to the things we do to deal with overload and focus [read A Cognitive Defense of Stimming for a more scientific defense for why we should be allowed to do so and the effects that stopping us from doing it have] and also just feels good, all of us have different stims, and everyone does it not just us, things like pencil chewing or doodling in class are the same exact thing…it only becomes a problem when we’re autistic). As you can see, that’s rather important. It’s a multifunction tool that helps us cope with the world, focus on class, and just makes everything easier for both us and the people around us (because it is better for everyone if we can focus and deal with everything better not just us).

We’ve always had stim toys, sometimes just things we pick up (I like messing with a shoelace between my fingers) or more speciality items, like stuff found on Stimtastic. Because they are designed for us specifically, they are much more limited in selection, harder to find, and often more expensive because they can be, and often can only be found online because there isn’t exactly an autistic store chain.

However, fidget spinners changed all of that, and this has had both positive and negative effects.

The positive one is that, much like how the gluten-free fad helped people with celiac disease find food that they could eat easier because suddenly every brand of food capitalized on the fad instead of being a speciality item sold by few, fidget spinners can be bought everywhere in different colors and shapes and prices, which is cool to be able to do.

The negative one is that, much like people with celiac disease ended up being lumped in with people who bought into the fad (the dangers of which can be found in this article), we have been lumped in with those who use it as a toy, and that’s what has caused the huge pushback.

There’s something that is…darkly humorous about something that helps you becoming the center of a nationwide controversy. Reading articles calling it dumb but also a metaphor for 2017, called cigarettes for kids and saying that “it encourages the abdication of thought…at a historical moment when the President has proved himself to be pathologically prone to distraction and incapable of formulating a coherent idea” (imagine having a tool for you called encouraging selfishness and…comparing it to Trump when the neurology the tool was made for is a pre-existing condition under the AHCA…I don’t know whether to get angry or laugh), and seeing Forbes advertise metal ones as the office toy for 2017 when all you really want is society letting you use something that helps you is…unique. But beyond the endless thinkpieces, schools are banning them because they are becoming a distraction to people who aren’t autistic/have ADHD, with some students throwing them and doing other stuff. It doesn’t help that the overall tone of every article completely makes the fact that it extremely helps us just a quick aside before they address how what matters is that it’s actually a huge problem and a passing fad, to where this CNN article just says special needs, a term that, while problematic in itself, in context completely removes who it actually helps from the conversation by being vague instead of specifically mentioning us.

So what’s the net result, who is really getting hurt, and what should we do? Personally, the net result of good and bad isn’t at all easy, as those two aspects of them becoming mainstream are both important from my side. However, it is really hurting us, as bringing them out in any situation even ones that they would help a lot seems like we’re just messing around, and the idea of them being a kid’s toy makes it so it might have a negative effect on adults who use them. I can understand the effects on teachers from neurotypical students using them (before I wrote this article someone asked me what I thought about gatekeeping and saying that only neurodivergent kids should be able to use them ever. To be completely honest, my first snarky thought was, “Well, we’re the only ones who use them right”), but an outright ban seriously stops us from being able to focus as well (what I said before as snark may in reality be the solution in school situations, allowing only us to be able to use them in class settings because we won’t be using them as a distractor), which makes us worse students. I really don’t feel I’m demanding much when I say that our focus should be less dystopian Trump metaphor more helping humans function in a world that is difficult for them based on their neurology, and saying that schools could be a bit less reactionary and more considering of the needs of their students when it comes to these tools. I also have no idea what will happen to the accessibility and availability of these tools if the “fad dies out,” as this is something which has caused such positive and negative effects and I have no idea what the consequences both societal and material would be if the focus goes away.

I have seen the total joy when a friend gets one of these and talking about how much they help them, and my only goal here is to make it so our voices can become part of this conversation, because what everyone considers a toy is actually a tool for us and I don’t think I’m being too selfish when I say I wish that our ability to function was a priority.

 

Pick a side

picture of a wooden post sticking out of water, up above in white text it says "This is a "non-political" post. You're welcome." with the post having a speech bubble that says "My refusal to engage with politics is in itself a political position, and one that inherently supports injustice!" (the original version of the picture lacked the quotation marks and the bubble just having the post and the caption, however someone edited it to show the problems with that position)

picture of a wooden post sticking out of water, up above in white text it says “This is a “non-political” post. You’re welcome.” with the post having a speech bubble that says “My refusal to engage with politics is in itself a political position, and one that inherently supports injustice!” (the original version of the picture lacked the quotation marks and the bubble just having the post and the caption, however someone edited it to show the problems with that position)

“You can turn your back, but it won’t go away

And you don’t look scared, but you should be afraid

You can shut your mouth, but you still have a say

And you just don’t care, for tomorrow, today”

Turn Your Back, Billy Talent (feat. Anti-Flag)

Yesterday the American Health Care Act, informally known as Trumpcare, passed the House of Representatives. If this law passes the Senate, anyone who has the conditions in this list has a rather likely chance of death if their premiums rise to the point where they can’t pay for them.

My feed on Facebook has had multiple friends tallying the amount of conditions they have on that list (which this article has more of), one of them is autism meaning that my whole community no matter what else we have is fucked over (bipolar is there too, they’re missing ADHD to complete my neurological trifecta). It’s also going to majorly affect trans people, mentally ill people, and people with cancer.

It is literally low key genocide and they literally want us (us, because as I’m autistic and bipolar #IAmAPreexistingCondition) to die.
I can see you rolling your eyes through the screen considering this hyperbolic and an appeal to emotion, but while I’m not going to lie and say I don’t want to make people feel, I don’t lie and it’s simple logic.
They were cheering as it passed the House. If it passes the Senate, it’s going to kill us because a lot of us are poor. They want something that will kill us if they happens, they want us to die.
Now, genocide, huge word, but…this is a program they know is bad, which is why they made it so they keep the protections we lose (the article links to an article that says that loophole will be closed, but the linked article was updated to say that’s a lie). Anyone who has one of those pre-existing conditions is likely to have their insurance spike and if they are poor they will not be able to pay and will die, and considering that systemic prejudice against POC, LGBT people, and disabled people makes it so we’re a lot less likely to be rich, and thus are more likely to die as a result than those who aren’t minorities.
According to the dictionary genocide is the deliberate killing of a group…which is what that is. You can’t say that they don’t know that this is going to kill people because they deliberately made it so they kept those protections, they’re keeping themselves safe and killing us.

Under the spectre of looming death I’m…more angry than usual, and then I saw this tweet when a friend posted it on Facebook:

When I Googled it I found article after article after article saying not to shame the poor Trump supporters.

This pushed me even farther to the left because this is bullshit (to be fair most of the replies were disagreeing but the 1,215 hearts still say a lot).

No, I don’t feel bad for them, because the people they are hateful to are…people like myself.

They chose this. The only thing that Trump clearly articulated was his hatred. He said he would do this, he had the goal, they chose everything happening.

We knew how bad he was before he was elected, we saw the effects that I described in Wait and see? Really? in the very first days after the election (I’m hoping all the people who told us that are enjoying the effects now that everyone can see that we were right all along, actually worse than we thought possible…if only the results weren’t likely to kill us then I could be happy to say I told you so).

They might not be a bigot, talk about sexual assault being fine, or anything else that he does personally…but they looked at someone who believed all of that, who articulated his hatred of us, and decided that he should be in power (also, stop using the “but the white working class” stuff it’s nonsense).

They chose this, and they deserve to be held responsible for their actions.

It’s time to pick a side.

Us or them.

You definitely know someone who is going to be screwed over by the AHCA, for two reasons: one the list is so long that I find it impossible that you wouldn’t know someone personally who has at least one and, well…you’re reading the words of one of them.

You can not simultaneously love us and feel sorry for the people who voted for the person who caused this thing that will kill us if it happens, who promised to do it.

That doublethink isn’t possible. You can turn your back on the issue, on us, but this isn’t going away, and by doing so you are choosing their side, letting them continue instead of challenging them.

For simple self-interest alone you should be afraid because you or someone you know might end up getting one of these things.

If you shut your mouth and don’t act (which is as easy as sending texts to this bot, text RESIST to 50409 and it will help you), you are saying that you are fine with this happening.

And if you care about the people who are doing this to us, you don’t care about the Outcast, because you can’t actually simultaneously support the hateful and those they hate.

You need to choose a side, and as the picture says not choosing and being “apolitical” is choosing them. Lives are on the line because they chose the person who pledged to act this way. A person who considers me subhuman and whose plan is going to cause massive death.

There’s no neutrality in situations like this. You might think otherwise, that you can stay out of it, agree to disagree, but they literally chose something that is possibly going to kill us and if you don’t think that’s a bad thing that you should stand against, something that is literally threatening our lives, what does that say about how much you care about our continued existence?

It says that our lives aren’t important enough to you to stand against things that threaten us, that you think views and actions that threaten our lives are good and should be allowed to continue unopposed.

Our lives should be more important to you, important enough to fight for, speak out for, and if we aren’t, no matter what you claim, we know who you have chosen.

The Revolution Needs All Kinds of Minds: on Slacktivism and Ableism

photoshopped blue and white disabled sign with a facebook anger react and a Russian hat as its head with the hammer and sickle on its chest and spoons in its hand

Delightful picture from Bobby Whittenberg, the spoons come from Spoon Theory (communism is my political ideology but not necessarily any other writers that may come on here, a good friend made the picture)

(As I am punning off of her The World Needs All Types of Minds speech, I would feel remiss if I didn’t also call attention to the issues with her, especially when most people think she’s an excellent authority…the articles here, here, and here cover that in detail. If you are a disability activist and want to fight back I’d recommend Resisting Fascism While Autistic, Disabled, Housebound, or Otherwise Human)

A couple of days ago something truly beautiful happened.

On the campus of UC Berkeley, people rose up against Milo Yiannopoulos, a gay Nazi (I call him a flaming Nazi, he’s a terrible human being) who, when allowed to come to a campus in Milwaukee outed and shamed a trans student.

The students said never again, rose up and took the streets (watch the beautiful live video here and an on the ground account here), rose on wings of fire and broken glass to defy the hatred that Milo represents (and by doing so apparently saved undocumented immigrants from being outed).

This was marvelous, but I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be there. I would not be anywhere near the protests. I honestly would probably be inside with my headphones on, covering my ears while watching the tv or on my computer.

Why is this? I’m autistic with sensory overload issues, and despite the fact that the protest was important, being outside with that hell would probably leave me in meltdown. In fact, I can’t handle phone calls either, both of which are considered traditional activism.

In fact, most of what I actually can do is what is called slacktivism. I can text, share articles, press the like button, and hopefully write, but I’m unable to do traditional activism without severe mental stress.

That doesn’t make my convictions or actions less valid, however.

While my I will not fade article was specifically about my journey, it does represent a current trend. The disability community is rallying against Trump, and it’s been a beauty to behold as my community rises against the regime, standing for our kin under this new threat.

However, the issue remains that our ways and abilities are vastly different from our activist peers. There’s an honest fear that the ways we can act aren’t going to be considered as valid because they don’t fall into the set mold of True Activism™.

However, the revolution needs all kinds of minds. The playing field has changed, and will change even more. We need people of all different skills and abilities, and if those abilities are different than the norm or we don’t have the ability to do the norm, that’s not a bad thing. What would be wrong is shutting us down if we end up acting in a way that’s different from you. We’re extremely diverse in our capabilities and we’re doing the best we can…our lives are on the line, after all. Just because you’re capable of other things doesn’t make what we can do less valid.

Rebellious Joy: On Pride Movements

(Dedicated to the trans women of color who made it so Pride month is possible and who are fighting to this day.)

While the article is the same as the one from April, I'm changing the picture to Philly's new pride flag with the black and brown stripes which I feel (though it was unintended) do something to acknowledge the trans women of color who made this month of Pride for queer and trans people possible

While the article is the same as the one from April, I’m changing the picture to Philly’s new pride flag with the black and brown stripes which I feel (though it was unintended) do something to acknowledge the trans women of color who made this month of Pride for queer and trans people possible

The key thing that makes minority pride different from majority pride is that society tells minorities that they should be ashamed of being such. For instance, this month is what many people consider Autism Awareness Month, where people are donating and corporations are going to make partnerships with an organization which had an ad which depicted my neurology as a sinister force that breaks up marriages, bankrupts our families, robs families and children of their dreams, and many other fucked up things (back when I wrote autism stuff I wrote this article on autism acceptance, our movement this month). Autism $peaks controls the narrative of autism, even Trump will be lighting the White House up blue (though nobody is surprised considering that he also thinks we’re broken).

A$ wants us down, to be ashamed and feel like we should be cured. Being proud of being autistic in the face of that narrative which is a constant bombardment year round but becomes the focus this month is total defiance.

For minorities, being out and proud of ourselves can actually be extremely dangerous as well. Yesterday was Trans Day of Visibility, but many of my trans friends talked about how being visible is a privilege, a fact that the murder rates of trans people show. In a much lesser effect I was personally targeted by someone for my internet activism with a video (much much much lesser, the video was utterly ineffectual as were the two after it which had screenshots of my page, but it did make me realize that if he had a larger audience or I had more personal information I would be fucked).

And of course, being proud and open about who we are always gets people running to shut us down and tell us to stop. There’s always someone there to ask why not straight pride, why not white or men’s history month (as someone who studies ancient cultures and some historical stuff, I can tell you that most history is about and written by white men so having 30 days where we put some effort in recognizing the history of people who aren’t that is hardly much to ask). These people are coming to in effect silence our voices, not allowing us to speak and be proud of ourselves by asking when we do it (and only when we do it, it’s always a refutation never starting it themselves, making it obvious that their point isn’t to have pride in themselves but to silence us) why can’t they do it as well.

But if you’re having pride in being the majority, it doesn’t have those aspects. Being proud of being white or straight and making movements of such doesn’t have any rebellion in it, any defiance, but is taking pride in your privilege in this system. It’s taking pride in that which gives you power over us based on how this structure of oppression works, and that’s what makes it so much of a problem. We’re doing it as an act of defiance claiming what makes us devalued by the system and rebelling against that which tries to keep us down, while those who take pride in being the majority are celebrating the power they have by doing so.

Right now, standing up is hard. Being proud in the face of such oppressive forces that would rather us be gone is making trying to exist a challenge. But I feel like now it’s more important than ever to stand and be ourselves, be defiant in the face of oppression if we can, especially because there are so many who can’t safely. The need to call for acceptance and to make people accept us by being impossible to ignore is ever greater the harder it is, and I don’t have any easy answers on how to do that or how to manage the pushback. To all my fellow Outcast, all I can really say is that I stand by your side. I wish there was more.

Want to actually help autistics? Please donate to The Autistic Self Advocacy Network here

Call to Action for Californians to support the disabled and elderly

State Capitol building

Wednesday of last week I went down to a budget hearing for In-home Supportive Services (IHSS). This is the program that provides elderly and disabled people care in their homes and it’s currently facing a $623 million cut. The article following is one written by myself and another Outcast Shelby Munsch for the organization that we work with and that I went down to the capitol with here in Sonoma County that covers what happened at the hearing, however the most important thing you can do is contact the members of the budget subcommittee here (link goes to a list of each member and allows you to contact each of them) and Governor Jerry Brown here asking them to oppose the $623 million cut on IHSS. They will be meeting again, it used to be next Wednesday but is unknown at the moment, if you’re in Sonoma County and would like to come down with them next time, would like more information, or would like to volunteer with a wonderful organization that is working to make change in many ways for people in this county, please email me at valothoros@gmail.com, it would be greatly appreciated.

(Another issue currently facing disabled people not just in the State but nationally is a bill that threatens the ADA, a law that forces businesses to provide ramps for wheelchairs and other things to make businesses accessible to disabled people. Please click this link to contact your representatives and tell them to stop this bill from setting us back even farther.)

Before public comment two panels of speakers presented. The first panel from the Department of Finance claimed that the $623 million dollars was not a “cut,” and that no recipient would see any difference in their care. However, every other speaker from people who would actually be harmed by the cut, both the public comment and panelists, gave a very different story about how much of a disaster it represented.
Matt Cate from the California State Association of Counties said all counties believe the CCI was good, helped people and saved money, and that they’re concerned with the $623 million shift, that it would be a devastating hit on counties which aren’t doing as well (Silicon Valley and Southern CA experienced growth, but the rest of the state did not and that it would be a devastating hit on counties which aren’t doing as well (Silicon Valley and Southern CA experienced growth, but the rest of the state did not). Program growth, from more people needing IHSS, would cause the costs to as much as triple. The counties are not prepared to handle the program cost growth. As a final note, he also said the unions should bargain with the state as a whole rather than with each county.
Other panelists, including Frank Mecca, the Executive Director of the County Welfare Directors Association and Karen Keeslar of the California Association of Public Authorities spoke out about how the cut would not only adversely affect IHSS but also other vital county programs like child welfare and mental health. Tia Orr, the Government Relations Director with SEIU, stated that “the government’s actions will cause holes in our system we’ll never be able to overcome.”
When public comment came multiple speakers from the organization I went with spoke about how the program affected them and also mentioned how if the state can manage to give $48 million in tax breaks a year and give Lockheed Martin and Disney a total combined amount of $696 million in subsidies, they can probably handle the $623 million to support the elderly and disabled people in this state. Personally, the choice between supporting the disabled or Disney is an easy one, but apparently to some it’s complex.

I personally spoke as a disability activist telling them that, “The situation for disabled people in the United States is incredibly bleak, not only with the Affordable Care Act that many disabled people, including many of my friends, rely on to survive under threat but also with Sessions and DeVos both being against the IDEA, the law which provides us our accommodations in school. While you can’t do anything to change that on the national level, what you can do to help disabled people is to oppose this cut that affects the lives of many disabled people in the state.”
In addition to our representatives, a range of members from other organizations spoke. Representatives from almost every county spoke against being forced to come up with the funding. A representative from Congress of California, Senios, said that bankrupting the counties would be shortsighted. Multiple representatives from unions called for the collective bargaining program to be expanded statewide, instead of being entirely removed. Several IHSS workers and recipients also spoke about how important the program has been to their lives.
After all speeches from the public, the panelists got up to speak again, and the Assembly members questioned them. They asked about the Department of Finance’s plan for handling the negative effect on the counties. The Department of Finance director reinforced that this “is not a cut,” and that they’re “willing to work with counties to mitigate the costs.” He said, “The boards have basically had a half billion dollars of ‘good times’” to which many audience members scoffed. Assembly member Blanca E. Rubio (D from Baldwin Park) asked how they would do this, and if they had times scheduled to meet with the county representatives. He said they would be coordinating with them soon. She criticized him multiple times for not answering the questions in an upfront way, and emphasized that they’re dealing with real people’s’ lives. The other guy said, “Right now, there’s no potential solution from the administration.” She thanked him for at least being honest.
Devon J. Mathis, a Republican from Visalia, said the counties should be “entitled to another two weeks to mull it over,” and “that they should be able to know that their families are taken care of without fear.”
Joaquin Arambula, the chair of the committee, said, “I agree with all of the testimony given today. I find it unconscionable to cut the whole safety net. There are many hard working IHSS workers helping our communities. I thank you for coming and adding your testimony. We are in troubling times in the government today…We are going to have many hurdles to take… I have concerns, which is why our staff has done so much work on this…” He said he couldn’t call a vote because they didn’t have enough committee members and they would reconvene to vote on this topic on March 22nd (since has been changed to some future date unknown at this time). He asked us (i.e. the audience) to come back at that time.

Free Speech vs Free Will

 

rulingsword

Drawing from my ex-co-blogger of an image that I created on the computer, shows my core values of love, unity, truth, knowledge, and free will

I already wrote my opinion on this issue in No, you don’t have the right to your opinion: on tolerance for bigotry as “free speech”, and its reactions were…argumentative as I desired (a friend taught me that the best way to provoke people was to say that they don’t have the right to do something, and my goal was to provoke conversations and opinions).

But we can write article after article on opinions for or against “freedom of speech”, but it doesn’t get to what the essence of this conflict for those like myself actually is.

In my view, this fight is between two concepts: free speech and free will.

My problem with my opponents is that they believe that people should be able to say anything no matter the consequences of their words, but don’t think about what that actually means and the effects it has. It’s a conflict of priorities: the right for the oppressor to spread fear, hatred, and stigma vs the right of the oppressed not to be stigmatized, hated, or live in fear.

The instance that inspired this article happened today in an argument with a classmate in class regarding Milo not being allowed to speak at Berkeley by the protesters, an incident which I touched on briefly in the introduction in my article on the ableist notion of slacktivism. She stuck to her guns even as I mentioned how he was planning on outing undocumented students on a live stream, saying that they could file lawsuits…against a rich celebrity guy that would probably fail while being afraid for their lives and at risk of harm or worse because their names were released to people who have already shown that they’re more likely to harm undocumented people in the wake of Trump’s increasing anti-latinx rhetoric.

Our conflict essentially comes down to this: which is more important:

Milo’s right to say whatever he wants?

Or the right of the people he targets not to be hurt or afraid for their lives?

In my article Tell Me I’m Exaggerating where I called Nazis Nazis, I described how someone told me that autistics are horror shows will be aborted in the future and my friend was told by someone who he thought was interested in him and her friends on a phone call that the world is too good for us autistic fucks to live in.

Which is more important, their rights to tell us that the world is literally not meant for us to exist in or my friend to not be driven to the edge of suicide by that 45 dehumanizing hate speech?

People will claim “well, the first amendment,” but…personally, the words on a paper written hundreds of years ago by racist sexist rich white men, many of them slave owners, are less important to me than the safety of my fellow humans today.

I believe that humans deserve to be free of hatred, fear, and stigma based on things intrinsic to their nature like orientation/disability/gender/mental illness/etc, and that we should be protected and protect others from degradation and dehumanization.

I believe it is right and just to protect people from harm from those who seek to cause them harm.

I believe that we should choose the freedom of the oppressed over believing in free speech of their oppressors, enabling them to incite violence and fear.

When given the choice between first amendment rights and something that I consider a basic human right, I’m choosing the latter, and honestly feel like the morals of those who choose to love the hateful and enable them in their tyranny instead of caring about those they hate and seek to bring harm to are fucked up. My morals aren’t based on the Constitution (which really only protects people from the government not from the court of public opinion) but on the belief that humans deserve to be happy and free from hatred. I refuse the notion that I should consider speech that hurts my fellow Outcast sacred and deserving of my defense just because old dead people said so. I seek to unite those who are fighting against that oppression in The Outcast Army Facebook group because I see so many who are determined to enable those who hate us to cause us harm. The choice between the oppressor and the oppressed should be an easy one, but to people I honestly consider immoral in their defense of hatred, it somehow is. To them all I can say is that we see you, and know who we can trust.