Source: Katia’s blog http://tongerwolkje.blogspot.com/
There is snow on the ground today. Big piles of soft fluffy white stuff, a near-spring snow, wet and puffy. Inches and inches of it, some piles as high as my knees, in drifts at my door. The trees are more than dusted; it looks like a magical wonderland out there. It is the kind of snow people write songs about, go play in and then warm up at the fire afterward. The kind of snow that makes for those photos you see in National Geographic or on photography magazine covers. It’s stunning and I have put a single foot in it since it dumped on the ground four days ago.
I’ve been in my house for the better part of five days. I haven’t left and won’t in the foreseeable future. I am not under house arrest. I am not paranoid. I am a 34 year old mom of two small kids who happens to live with fibromyalgia and host of other debilitating health issues. Going outside takes me hours to prepare for, particularly in the harsh weather. Once out, I don’t last long before the fatigue and pain forces me back home. It often takes me days to recover from such an outing. It has to be pretty special for me to make these treks in the seven month long, often sub zero winters in Wisconsin. In the three years i’ve been here I get out maybe a dozen times in those seven months. For a gal who used to travel the world with a backpack and a few bucks DJing her heart out to crowds of hundreds, living off will and desire alone, I find the forced Isolation pretty fucking awful.
When I was in my twenties, I began opening my heart to new ideas in a way I never could have imagined before. Having been raised a Jehovah’s witness, I saw all people outside my “faith” as the enemy. Something not only to be avoided, but feared. Always a lover of people, all people, this idea never truly resonated with me. That does not mean it did not hold me in the clutches of fear; I live daily with the result of that kind of upbringing. When I started college at the age of 22 I found my passionate activists voice and began protesting online and in person when I felt my voice could make a difference. I had, mere months before entering college, left my husband of three years and the faith that bound us together, and begun a life of letting love in and telling fear to take a fucking hike. I have always believed that one person can do amazing things if they just believed they could. I always believed one day I could, if I tried hard enough.
Somehow this ideal never materialized.
Over the years I became disheartened. Though I did in fact change lives and make a difference in my work, I still felt disconnected. I found that often I was quite literally the only one protesting. I became immobilized, self-centered and gave up my external fights, working on the personal and giving up the political. Little did I know how closely the two are bound together.
My last two years in college I traveled the west coast DJing and taking photos and writing about my life. My last year of college I wrote a study abroad proposal that was accepted by my faculty at the Evergreen State College. I took six months off from my life in the states, packed up everything I owned and headed, camera and notebook in tow, to Europe to figure out what the hell I wanted and where I was going. The rock star life style had left a bitter taste in my mouth and I figured I’d write a book, get my B.A. and and settle into a single life of writing poetry, prose, and drinking cups of coffee till dawn. Instead, I met a Frisian, fell in love and very, very quickly started a family. To give an idea of how quickly: we got pregnant 3 weeks after deciding to “let it happen on its own”. It was during the span of my two pregnancies that my health began to deteriorate to the point of near complete debility, and landing in Wisconsin in 2007 after three years in the Netherlands with near zero support system. I hunkered down for long winters, isolation from family and friends (all more than 2,000 miles away) and a life of mothering without that village I’d so hoped I’d have in place when I dreamt of what parenthood might look like for me.
Having come from an extremely poor background – I lived well below the poverty line the first 22 years of my life – I found my education, and choices based on that education, afforded me the ability to provide for my kids in ways I’d only dreamt of as a child. I gained in college what I lacked in childhood, a broad and open-minded perspective on the world at large – this opened new doors for me that would have previously gone completely unnoticed. Opening those doors gave me the opportunity to find a kind of financial security I never knew possible in my youth. We have a house, a car, insurance on both and food in the cupboard. This was not the case for me for most of my life. Raised by a single mother who suffered a severe back injury at 24 years old and lived on less than $400 a month, I never once had all of those at the same time growing up; we always had to choose. We go without a lot now – we are by no means rich – and given the assault on the middle class (of which I am now a part), I wonder if that will remain a thing I can claim; but for now our necessities are covered, something I didn’t know was possible before becoming educated and watching my hard work produce results in improving my living situation.
Last week in Wisconsin I saw a threat to that minor gain. I began to see the careful work of constructing my American dream unravel. My schooling, hard work and careful planning began to be torn apart in front of me. I saw my children’s future threatened. How can they get a good education if there is no one left to teach them well? How can they get a job if none are there that will meet and, dare I say it, potentially exceed their needs? I saw this and many other actions like it around the USA and how they threatened to dismantle the middle class and stick me and my family under the line again. But what could I do? I was disabled. I was at home. I couldn’t go to Madison, a two hour drive, in the middle of winter and protest. Particularly not with two small children in tow. I was truly heartened and deeply grateful for those protesting these actions but I felt impotent in my isolation. As my friends in Wisconsin began to converge in Madison I fed my Facebook feed with instructions and news articles letting people know where to meet and telling my worldwide friends list what was happening here.
And then it happened: A 21 year old Egyptian took photos of himself during a protest in Egypt with a sign that read “Egypt supports Wisconsin Workers – One world, One pain”. Having followed Egypt’s growing tide of activism and the extraordinary actions of the Egyptian people in bringing a dictator down, seeing this image was like a shot of adrenaline to the heart. I cried. I could not believe that this kid, putting his life quite literally on the line for his brothers and sisters in Egypt, was supporting MY family, MY friends and MY people in their plight against oppression. I immediately contacted him through Facebook and thanked him with my whole heart. He friended me and I saw as hundreds of others in Wisconsin added him and thanked him deeply for his simple act of solidarity. I watched as the Huffington Post ran his story; I read as he asked his FB friends what he should do now that CNN had contacted him. I felt proud to be a part of this raising global awareness of our very HUMAN struggle for the right to choose our path and support the health of the global village. It was amazing. Then something unexpected happened. He blogged about the media attention he was getting, his feelings on it and his desires regarding the use of his images. It was hastily put passionately written but, English not being his first language, and writing being my main form of communication (and really my truest passion) I saw where it could be improved. So I took a chance and posted a couple of suggestions. What happened next kind of amazed me. He asked ME to rewrite it for him. I was stunned, and overcome. I did NOT expect this! I spent about an hour researching copyright law as a refresher and gave him a way to express his requests in the best possible way I could find. I gave him the words to voice his heart to the world. His response brought me to tears. In his grateful reply he could not even continue in English and thanked me over and over in Arabic. I was beyond moved. The implications of these exchanges have had me weeping for joy and in love with the world wide community that is waking up and rising to the challenge. I am gobsmacked that a 34 year old disabled mom of two from Wisconsin could so directly connect with, and support, a 21 year old Egyptian in his fight for freedom for all peoples, half a world apart. This is amazing to me. It flies in the face of those that say we cannot organize, that we cannot make a difference, that as individuals we have no contribution to make. Lies. All lies. We can do these things. We are doing these things. We are working together toward raising our human family above tyranny in a real and deeply felt way.
I have no idea if Muhammed, my Egyptian brother, will survive his actions. He is now fighting for the people of Libya, taking it into his own hands to help in organizing convoys there to stand arm to arm with those that are forcing the degradation of the people of that country. But he has forever burned into my heart the absolute knowledge that it takes only a single step, in his case a sign of love and solidarity, and in mine a simple thank you for heartfelt gesture of that love, to make a huge difference in the lives of many. I have never been more proud of what I’ve written than the words I was able to help him find. I have never felt more honored and humbled by gratitude than that which he has shown me in posting those words to the world on his blog. I have never felt more connected to the human family than I do right now.
This is what we are fighting for. The ability to connect and love each other freely and without the oppression of poverty or division by class, age, gender and dare I say it…disability (oh, what a MISNOMER THAT IS!) Our fight is for the people of the ENTIRE world. Not just those that can line our pockets or promote our agenda. Our fight is for the people, by the people. Our fight is one of Love. Our agenda is Peace. We are fighting for you, all of you. Do not think you have nothing to add to this fight. You are the fight. Start with a single gesture of love and watch how it grows.