October Newsletter – Unbending Will

Hello Good People!

A dear friend of mine recently sent me a piece of writing in which she related her commitment to vegetarianism to her commitment to combating white supremacy. She said that her commitment to not eat meat involves deciding to not consume meat in many situations where it would be easier and more convenient to do so; just like the commitment to be anti-racist involves deciding to not participate in or benefit from racist systems, to the extent possible, and to confront racism when it happens, even when it would be easier and more convenient to let it pass (i.e. at the dinner table with your best friend's parents).

I am not a vegetarian, but I found that I knew exactly what she meant. I recently found myself in a similar struggle, but mine was with cloth diapers. 

Bear with me here.

I started trying to use cloth diapers on Siobhan about two months ago. I had tried this with Finn, but could never get the hang of it, and instead opted for the flushable gDiaper, and then chlorine-free disposables, internally berating myself for giving into the sense of self-congratulatory do-goodery provided by green capitalism. When Siobhan was born, I committed to trying again to use cloth diapers. I know the statistics on the global use of and accumulation of waste generated by disposable diapers. They are about as depressing as those pictures of seagulls choking on plastic, so I won't review them here - suffice it to say its a heck of a lot of plastic-wrapped fecal matter that gets thrown away and doesn't biodegrade. Literally, more than can be imagined by the human mind. Which is why, unsurprisingly, we don't tend to think about it. And the cycle of waste continues.

So I got some special diapers and some special snappy covers and I renewed my commitment to cloth diapering. It was really hard at first. I would become easily frustrated, often reverting back to using disposables in the middle of the day, then using them through the night and the next day, before getting back on the horse (so to speak). It took me a few weeks before I figured out why I was so frustrated. It wasn't that cloth diapers were so hard to use. They aren't. It's that disposable diapers are so easy. They soak up the pee and poo and disappear. No mess! And I thought to myself, it's just a few years. It's no big deal. It's just one baby.

Then I was reading an enthralling, imaginative non-fiction book called The World Without Us, which explores what would happen to planet Earth should humanity up and disappear tomorrow. How would the earth recover? And what of our human legacy would remain? In answering that question, author Alan Weisman devotes a small portion of the book to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, a former chemical-weapons plant that formally produced mustard and nerve gas, napalm, and insecticides, that was decommissioned and redeveloped as a National Wildlife Reserve. As I am reading about this place, and the super-contaminated Arsenal lake that had to be drained and sealed because any duck unlucky enough to land on it would die within moments, and the bottom of the aluminum boats used to fish out their carcasses would rot within a month, I think to myself, "See! Disposable diapers aren't THAT bad." 

But as soon as I had that thought, I remembered my vegetarian, anti-racist pal, and her ethic of making the harder choice because its right, instead of the easy choice because it's convenient. And I know that while my kids poo wrapped in plastic may not be the residue of napalm production, or DDT, or weapons-grade uranium with a half-life longer than the time our planet has left, it still has no business in a landfill.

I cannot divest myself of the privileged position of being able to choose whether or not to poison myself, or of being able to choose the extent to which I will poison the world around me. I can, however, find every opportunity and accept every invitation to challenge the system that depends on that choice. That confrontation looks like making the extra effort to put a cloth diaper on my daughter's bum, and wash it later, when I could just as easily have used a disposable and thrown it in the trash, where it would eventually make its way back into the environment in the form of poison. And that confrontation could also look like building the possibility of all mothers and care-takers of children being able to make that same choice. It is a thought, that becomes a lifestyle choice, that leads to change at a systemic level. 

I may have the chance to make some of that systemic change as I take the next major step in my transition to being a citizen of the good state of Minnesota. I am so pleased to share that I received a fellowship from Intermedia Arts, Minnesota's premier multidisciplinary, multicultural arts organization. I will be participating in their 2010 Creative Community Leadership Institute, a learning laboratory that brings together artists and community organizers to conceive of and develop projects that cultivate sustaining communities. Should be awesome!

For those of you waiting for the forthcoming story of Siobhan's birth, written by myself and my esteemed midwife, Marcy Tardio, I am sorry to say you will have to wait a bit longer. We wrote it for Sarah Lawrence College magazine, but the editor who had initially accepted the story pulled it at the last minute because she couldn't see fit to include mention of a certain part of the body, through which a baby must travel in order to see the light of day (those of you on this list who are SLC graduates will appreciate the irony of our college's alumnae magazine refusing to mention a vagina). We are currently looking for another place to publish our story, and I will keep you in the loop.

On to brighter things...In this edition of Iambrown, I am sharing information about a project I think rocks and that I hope you will consider supporting, as well as a set of new consensus and facilitation resources recently uploaded to my website:

  • Survivor Theater Project
  • NEW Consensus and Facilitation Resources

-----
Survivor Theater Project

The Survivor Theater Project is a traveling theater company "engaging and empowering survivors to create brave new works of art and speak out to end sexual violence." They are currently presenting an original piece called Resuing Persephone: Surviving and Transforming Sexual Violence. The play is about four women's experiences with rape and sexual abuse, and the social stigmatization that accompanies sexual abuse. The play closes with an in-depth Q&A that generates community discussion about sexual violence. All of the performers are survivors of sexual violence.

The company is about to start touring Massachusetts and New York and are greatly in need of funds to support their trip. They are trying to raise $5000 to cover transportation, food, and modest venue rental fees. You can support them by donating through their website.

-----
NEW Consensus and Facilitation Resources on Iambrown.org

Visit the Resources section of my website, and you will now find a set of articles, tip sheets, and maps that I have developed for my consensus and facilitation trainings, plus an excellent article written by Jo Freeman that I assign to all of my consensus students. Please download, read, and share with others!

Hello Good People!

A dear friend of mine recently sent me a piece of writing in which she related her commitment to vegetarianism to her commitment to combating white supremacy. She said that her commitment to not eat meat involves deciding to not consume meat in many situations where it would be easier and more convenient to do so; just like the commitment to be anti-racist involves deciding to not participate in or benefit from racist systems, to the extent possible, and to confront racism when it happens, even when it would be easier and more convenient to let it pass (i.e. at the dinner table with your best friend's parents).

I am not a vegetarian, but I found that I knew exactly what she meant. I recently found myself in a similar struggle, but mine was with cloth diapers. 

Bear with me here.

I started trying to use cloth diapers on Siobhan about two months ago. I had tried this with Finn, but could never get the hang of it, and instead opted for the flushable gDiaper, and then chlorine-free disposables, internally berating myself for giving into the sense of self-congratulatory do-goodery provided by green capitalism. When Siobhan was born, I committed to trying again to use cloth diapers. I know the statistics on the global use of and accumulation of waste generated by disposable diapers. They are about as depressing as those pictures of seagulls choking on plastic, so I won't review them here - suffice it to say its a heck of a lot of plastic-wrapped fecal matter that gets thrown away and doesn't biodegrade. Literally, more than can be imagined by the human mind. Which is why, unsurprisingly, we don't tend to think about it. And the cycle of waste continues.

So I got some special diapers and some special snappy covers and I renewed my commitment to cloth diapering. It was really hard at first. I would become easily frustrated, often reverting back to using disposables in the middle of the day, then using them through the night and the next day, before getting back on the horse (so to speak). It took me a few weeks before I figured out why I was so frustrated. It wasn't that cloth diapers were so hard to use. They aren't. It's that disposable diapers are so easy. They soak up the pee and poo and disappear. No mess! And I thought to myself, it's just a few years. It's no big deal. It's just one baby.

Then I was reading an enthralling, imaginative non-fiction book called The World Without Us, which explores what would happen to planet Earth should humanity up and disappear tomorrow. How would the earth recover? And what of our human legacy would remain? In answering that question, author Alan Weisman devotes a small portion of the book to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, a former chemical-weapons plant that formally produced mustard and nerve gas, napalm, and insecticides, that was decommissioned and redeveloped as a National Wildlife Reserve. As I am reading about this place, and the super-contaminated Arsenal lake that had to be drained and sealed because any duck unlucky enough to land on it would die within moments, and the bottom of the aluminum boats used to fish out their carcasses would rot within a month, I think to myself, "See! Disposable diapers aren't THAT bad." 

But as soon as I had that thought, I remembered my vegetarian, anti-racist pal, and her ethic of making the harder choice because its right, instead of the easy choice because it's convenient. And I know that while my kids poo wrapped in plastic may not be the residue of napalm production, or DDT, or weapons-grade uranium with a half-life longer than the time our planet has left, it still has no business in a landfill.

I cannot divest myself of the privileged position of being able to choose whether or not to poison myself, or of being able to choose the extent to which I will poison the world around me. I can, however, find every opportunity and accept every invitation to challenge the system that depends on that choice. That confrontation looks like making the extra effort to put a cloth diaper on my daughter's bum, and wash it later, when I could just as easily have used a disposable and thrown it in the trash, where it would eventually make its way back into the environment in the form of poison. And that confrontation could also look like building the possibility of all mothers and care-takers of children being able to make that same choice. It is a thought, that becomes a lifestyle choice, that leads to change at a systemic level. 

I may have the chance to make some of that systemic change as I take the next major step in my transition to being a citizen of the good state of Minnesota. I am so pleased to share that I received a fellowship from Intermedia Arts, Minnesota's premier multidisciplinary, multicultural arts organization. I will be participating in their 2010 Creative Community Leadership Institute, a learning laboratory that brings together artists and community organizers to conceive of and develop projects that cultivate sustaining communities. Should be awesome!

For those of you waiting for the forthcoming story of Siobhan's birth, written by myself and my esteemed midwife, Marcy Tardio, I am sorry to say you will have to wait a bit longer. We wrote it for Sarah Lawrence College magazine, but the editor who had initially accepted the story pulled it at the last minute because she couldn't see fit to include mention of a certain part of the body, through which a baby must travel in order to see the light of day (those of you on this list who are SLC graduates will appreciate the irony of our college's alumnae magazine refusing to mention a vagina). We are currently looking for another place to publish our story, and I will keep you in the loop.

On to brighter things...In this edition of Iambrown, I am sharing information about a project I think rocks and that I hope you will consider supporting, as well as a set of new consensus and facilitation resources recently uploaded to my website:

  • Survivor Theater Project
  • NEW Consensus and Facilitation Resources

-----
Survivor Theater Project

The Survivor Theater Project is a traveling theater company "engaging and empowering survivors to create brave new works of art and speak out to end sexual violence." They are currently presenting an original piece called Resuing Persephone: Surviving and Transforming Sexual Violence. The play is about four women's experiences with rape and sexual abuse, and the social stigmatization that accompanies sexual abuse. The play closes with an in-depth Q&A that generates community discussion about sexual violence. All of the performers are survivors of sexual violence.

The company is about to start touring Massachusetts and New York and are greatly in need of funds to support their trip. They are trying to raise $5000 to cover transportation, food, and modest venue rental fees. You can support them by donating through their website.

-----
NEW Consensus and Facilitation Resources on Iambrown.org

Visit the Resources section of my website, and you will now find a set of articles, tip sheets, and maps that I have developed for my consensus and facilitation trainings, plus an excellent article written by Jo Freeman that I assign to all of my consensus students. Please download, read, and share with others!

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