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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Let's Hear Each Other's Voices

I haven't written in forever.  An experience with the state temporarily crippled my fingers, but arthritic pain transformed into fire and now I have much to say.  One- take control of your life; two- anything you do may be illegal and you might be threatened, coerced, or punished for it; and three- in the words of my husband, "It's time that we wake the fuck up and take our freedom".

Beautiful to watch father and son.
How do we do that?  As mothers, we have so much to lose- our children would perish without us, or be scarred for life.  We are nurturers and protectors- how can we put ourselves on the frontlines of what is happening today?  Well, in case you haven't noticed, we've been on the battle front since 1519, and in 2011, we remain here.

Take Juana Villegas, who was wrongfully pulled over after a prenatal visit to her Doctor and unjustly arrested without explanation, leaving her three crying children in the car.  Later, she is forced to give birth shackled, hands and feet, and to top it off, she was immediately separated from her baby.  We are not all born equal if we are denied the nutrient and antibody rich first colostrum, baby's first food and building block for health. We do not have equal rights if our birthing mother is alone, shackled, pleading for one hand to be let free while in labor.  And when we are separated from our babies right away, not knowing if she is dead or alive, in a nursery or with her father, every human right has been barbarically violated.

We, indigenous women, keepers of the earth, face an intricate legal system, well organized, and strategically placed to disenfranchise us, intimidate us and to maintain the delicate balance where we live just within the margins.

The case of Nancy Jacinto, a young woman on trial, facing first degree murder and the death penalty, is another example.  After the accidental drowning of her two year old son, she was immediately imprisoned.  Pregnant and perpetually famished, she asked for more food.  They denied her.  She wrote letters home about her hardships, injustices in prison, and prison guards tore them, breaking her motivation to advocate for herself.  Like Villegas, and too many others, she was forced to give birth to her baby in shackles.  The same routine: separation; isolation; and this time, foster care was used. Jacinto's children had capable, willing relatives who cared for them often in the past, but instead, the family unit was dismembered. These tactics are developed to destroy the family unit, traumatizing our babies and remaining children, birthing them into the world with violence and subservience, in hopes that they will always be submissive and hopeless.

It used to be difficult to fathom that I could be arrested for an infraction and give birth shackled, have my family unit destroyed and be in a position where there is nothing anyone can do about it- it's all legal.  It sounds too much like 1492, 1519, Colombus and Cortez's European invasion tactics.

I will never forget seeing hospital shackling first hand.  A female sheriff at a local Los Angeles hospital, twiddling gray, metal chains in her hands stood outside the imprisoned mother's door, bracing herself.  I felt the woman in the hospital room begging me to enter- pleading for anyone to hold her, tell her she's doing beautifully, that she is a goddess, the gatekeeper of humanity.  My client was in the next room, I couldn't doula them both, but I could not ignore the situation.  When the viking walked out of the hospital room, I stopped her.

"Did you just shackle the woman giving birth in there?" I asked, concernedly.

"Yes, ma'am, we do it to all the women in here it's just protocol", she responded with sincerity.

"Well, how do you FEEL about that?", the pseudo-psychologist in me kicked in.  Her confidence crumpled, her pale face heated red.

"Well-uh-it's...It's my JOB", she played the confident cop role, but clearly, she is accustomed to being belittled.

I wanted her to ask herself the question she should have before blindly following orders.

"Yes, but how do you FEEL about it, don't you think it's wrong?  I mean, where is she going to go? What can she do?", I asked without making a scene, I didn't want to get kicked out.

"Well, it's my job, and you know what she's- she's not in there for doing something good, these people- she- she probably did something violent- she did SOMETHING to get in there--" she was stuttering and rambling.

"Well, can't you refuse? You feel bad about it, you have feelings, you don't HAVE to do that..." I tried explaining to her stiff, blinking surface.  It was too much emotion for her, she broke a sweat and said,

"You know what- I don't have to talk to you- I'm not going to talk to you. Thank you." she turned her back and kicked her heels away.
"THANK YOU", she said again to silence me.

We are on the front lines.  Our children born disenfranchised, without an equal opportunity.  If we choose to raise them outside the margins, we wait for the folks in suits to coerce us into staying in line.  If there is an accident that our family may never recover from, rather than being supported, they seize the opportunity to kick us while we are at our lowest, bewildered that there is still worse that can happen.

We can't fix the system, it's not broken.  It is the systematic suppression of creating children who reach their full potential.  It's A 500 year old, well-organized campaign, followed by legalistic procedures, and financed by the occupying elite.  We risk our families living our life style, being who we are, and I risk that the wrong people may read this, writing to you.  But as my father always said about my mother, "I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't". 

Speak. Sing. Write. Laugh. Scream. We need each other's voices.