Left-handed Lives Matter

My guy and I got into an argument at the breakfast table early one morning. I had asked the four-year-old at the table to please use her fork. She scrunched up her nose at me, picked the fork up with her un-practiced left hand and accidentally flipped scrambled eggs everywhere. “Sweetie, try using your other hand,” I suggested.

Since birth, she’s shown predominantly right-handed tendencies. I’m left-handed, and while it would have tickled my lefty-bone for her to have been also, I’m quite happy that she won’t have to deal with being left-handed in a right-handed world.

“Life is just easier if you’re right-handed,” I said nonchalantly while cleaning up scrambled eggs. I honestly believed the entire human species, or at least the people at the breakfast table, would concur disinterestedly.

Surprise. No.

My normally agreeable, right-handed partner became immediately defensive, and we had a heated volley with a little blonde referee interjecting as she could:

“Mama, don’t be mean to my papa.

“Papa, don’t yell at my mama.

“We’re not supposed to be loud at the dinner table.” It was breakfast time. I had to stop and smile at that one; she still messes up the names of meals.

It wasn’t an ugly fight, more of a passionate debate. I was stunned to the point of silence that a right-hander would try to tell me what it was like to be a left-hander. (“Right-splaining?”) He doesn’t believe there’s any real difference or hardships, and as proof, he knows other left-handers who have never complained. In essence, he was calling me a whiner, a pessimist, and overly-dramatic. He assumed it must simply be my negativity and propensity to play the victim while blaming others that made me believe life was so much harder for lefties.

Of course, I hadn’t said that life was “so much harder”, but when I suggested righties might have it easier, that is what he heard.

Right-handed privilege may seem paltry, but it is in fact real. Lefties deal with uncomfortable school desks, unavailable or more expensive sporting equipment, our dominant hands being “unclean” in certain cultures, not to mention the countless everyday items built specifically for right-handers that often cause accidents and even death for lefties attempting to adapt. Lefties don’t live as long for this exact reason. Approximately one in ten people is left-handed; we are not a mass market. But our lives still matter, don’t they?

After the exchange ended, I felt slyly excited about what I had just witnessed. This was a cut and dry case of a societal privilege so ingrained that it had become invisible to someone who benefited from said privilege. And when it was called out, the privileged person basically exploded in defensiveness, blaming the minority who doesn’t benefit from said privilege for any discrimination they might face. My character, my beliefs and whole way of being were called into question simply because I dared to suggest he might have it a little bit easier.

See where I’m going with this?

We’re hearing a lot more about “privilege” these days…male privilege, white privilege, Christian privilege, heterosexual privilege, cisgender privilege, and so on. None of these ideas are new, of course; it’s just that people of all walks of life are finally finding their voices and a more equitable platform on which to be heard.

But in large part, the comfortable majorities don’t like to talk about these kinds of topics. I get it. Hearing that others think we come from privilege makes us feel uncomfortable. We love our cozy bubbles and if we’re forced to look at those who aren’t so cozy, then darn it, we don’t feel as good about our cozy bubble anymore. We’re quick to pipe up about our tough lives while discounting the hardships of others. We all want the disadvantages we face to be recognized.

In truth, everyone falls somewhere along the broad spectrum of privilege, and frankly, it’s time to listen with compassion to those who don’t benefit where we do. On all fronts.

Acknowledging that I benefit from white privilege makes me feel, well, white. I haven’t had to “feel” my skin color before, and that’s exactly what privilege is. Simply being aware helps me see that there are a million examples throughout daily life where someone with a different skin tone would very much feel “not white”, not to mention be faced with pure discrimination. Especially now in the “get out of my country” Trump-era.

Speaking of male privilege, I am not male. Every single day I feel, in some minor or major way, the disadvantages of being female. This is not self-pity; I absolutely love being a woman. An unbroken woman has the fire and fight of a roaring lioness, beautiful in her power and cunning. Yet, undomesticated women are often vilified in their freedom, in their audacity to lead. They are torn down with a level of hate and vitriol male leaders simply don’t experience. (By the by, did you know that some research shows it is actually the alpha female who is the true leader of wolf packs observed in the wild?)

Women are turned into objects, possessions, and domestic role-fillers. We are diminished, discounted, and passed-over in ways that men will never have to worry about. We are abused, assaulted and killed by those closest to us in numbers men will never match.

The patriarchy is very real and often overwhelming in both its overt and invisible oppressiveness.

If you’re dismissive of this idea right away, slow down and ask yourself why you might be resistant. If it’s true for some, does that make it generally true or generally false? Remember the Women’s March earlier this year? My Facebook feed was full of derogatory comments from both men and women who were mistaking benevolent sexism for gender equality. Putting a positive yet patronizing spin on how women are treated as compared to men still points to privilege.

The idea of Christian privilege is sure to set some of us off like errant bottle rockets in a dry field. Mind you, I’m not saying you don’t have it rough, but faith-based persecution does not disprove Christian privilege. Your religion gets away with making laws out of your beliefs while other religions do not have that luxury. You get your religious holidays off, while Jews, Muslims and basically all other religions don’t. Your places of worship (except black churches) don’t get bombed, set on fire, surrounded by people openly carrying guns, and many other forms of targeted hate. Your religion isn’t seen as radical or inferior by school teachers who often openly normalize and subtly preach their own. You aren’t viewed by the general public as needing to be saved.

Before you fire off another Letter to the Editor cancelling your subscription because some woman dared to have an opinion, please know that I’m not saying it is wrong or bad to have privilege. All I’m saying is that life would be easier if you’re a right-handed straight white male who calls himself a Christian. Wouldn’t we live in a better world if we recognized our privilege and helped make it easier for those who don’t benefit where we do?

Perhaps you could let yourself sit in your discomfort for a little bit. Pray, maybe. At least just feel it. Hopefully own it. The unprivileged have to. Every day of their lives.

Or, you can bash about angrily, displaying your fragility for all to see, railing against the inevitable tides of positive change all these types of conversations point to. We all have a choice.

As for my family and me, we’re uncomfortable a lot. And that’s perfect; we want to grow in love and compassion. Even though it’s still a right-handed house, in doing research for this column, I learned that female cats are largely left-handed and since we have two, lefties are now the majority. Take that.

(Published in the April 2nd issue of the Warroad Pioneer. 120th Year, Issue 34)

A Minority Victory

(Column 41 – Published November 15th in the Warroad Pioneer)

It has been a tough week to stay positive. Trumpers everywhere are telling us to quit whining and to accept defeat with grace and dignity – in less kind words, of course, and just as they would have if Hillary had won, no doubt.

It was a cruel election season, and though the election is over the cruelty isn’t. It’s as if Trump’s indecency has given anyone who wants it the permission to be just as awful.

An acquaintance found out I was for Hillary and told me because of all the Trump flags and signage he had assumed “The Angle was safe” from the likes of me. A brother called me stupid for voting for her and said he was “pissed-off that I didn’t think like him.” A brother-in-law unleashed a whole smelly stream of vitriol on my Facebook page and when I asked him to take his negativity elsewhere, he flat out refused. He was the first person I unfriended. A sister texted me a propaganda video entitled The Clinton Pedophile Satanic Network with a cover photo of a presumably dead woman smeared in entrails and floating in a tub of blood. A sister-in-law posted dozens of cruel and hateful memes about Hillary Clinton and her supporters – as if there were still voting going on. She was the second person I unfriended.

These are all from what I would have called good, hard-working Christian folk. Golden Rule, much?

Being white, I haven’t been subjected to one of the hundreds of acts of blatant racism and violence happening around the country in the wake of the election.

It is not a good time to be anything other than white, Christian and conservative in this country.

So, fall in line, folks. Support our new president, Dems. Quit whining, bitches. Pull up your big girl britches and get back to work, sweetheart.

But I can’t.

And I won’t.

My little Hillary yard sign remains. Not because I think she should be president, but because I want everyone to know that I proudly did not vote for what is about to ensue in this country. And because I’m going to hold everyone who voted for him accountable.

You need to make sure that he “will create jobs like no one else.” You need to make sure that he provides something “better” than the Affordable Care Act. You need to make sure he makes life better for inner city blacks, where he assumes they all live. You need to make certain he fulfills all of his positive campaign promises. Were there any? Oh yeah, he’s going to bring the production of Oreos back to the States. That’s a good one. Let’s make sure we are making all of our sugary, fatty poisons right here in our own promised land.

If you wanted the wall and for Hillary to be locked up, sorry to disappoint you, but he’s already capitulated on those – just good campaign tactics, no doubt. They made for good rally chants, at the least.

After the election, I listened again to the book “The Four Agreements” by don Miguel Ruiz on my long and lonely daily drive to town. It’s a quick read and an even quicker listen; I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to live with integrity. It helped me remember to have hope in humanity, even the indecent ones, even the cruel ones.

Column 41.png

We are diseased, we humans. Sick in the head. We have all made a million little agreements about how to be and how to act. And, all our resulting beliefs stem from a fear that we will be judged for not meeting those millions of agreements. In truth, we are sleeping behind a functioning façade. But we can wake up, and I intend to.

The Four Agreements are:

  1. Be Impeccable with your Word

Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.

  1. Don’t Take Anything Personally

Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

  1. Don’t Make Assumptions

Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

  1. Always Do Your Best

Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

(The above summaries are not my own and I wasn’t able to find proper attribution as they are on numerous sites exactly as written.)

I break these agreements all the time, but with awareness I always come back to them and continue to grow in love and integrity. In a first draft of this column, I had outlined them using Trump as an example of what not to do, but that was not being impeccable with my word. I had to scrap it. I start over all the time.

Trumpers, you squeaked by in a minority victory. More people in this country voted for Hillary than for Trump. Please treat us with respect and dignity. You have extremists in your ranks, as do we. Let’s not judge the whole by the few.

If you voted for Trump, you now have a tremendous responsibility to hold him accountable, as we all do. I wish we could hope for a more presidential man, a man who would live by The Four Agreements, as if he’d magically change from campaign trail to Oval Office. But part of his appeal is “what you see is what you get.” He himself declared that he is very unpredictable, so that’s what we’ll deal with for the next four years. And believe you me, it’s only gonna be four years.

This too shall pass.

(Note: In print, the Pioneer substituted “horrifically graphic” for the phrase “presumably dead woman smeared in entrails and floating in a tub of blood.” They also edited out the profanity from “Quit whining, bitches.”)