Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Pride

If you’re anything like me you not only hate opening up your Twitter feed each morning but also feel compelled to in order to make sure you didn’t miss whatever new atrocity to come out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. After the Women’s March, I felt charged. I felt that whatever this administration threw at the proverbial “us,” I knew we could and would overcome it. Although that charge kept me going for a few months, there came a time where I just couldn’t go on anymore and that I was completely drained; then walked in a man named Brian Pendleton.

After the Women’s March on January 21, I didn’t know what to expect. The event was truly so successful that many of the organizers and coordinators were on an activist high as a result of what was a truly magical and divine moment. A few months came and went and the 45th President of the United States continued (much to our surprise) to be as awful as we all knew and expected. However, while I am able to exist in a world, no matter how oppressive, as a cisgendered white male and the full on privilege and power that comes along with that territory, many of the individuals and communities being attacked did not have those same freedoms; and like with the Women’s March and how that all took shape, in walked Brian Pendleton to my life to talk to me about the #ResistMarch.
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Although my involvement during the 120 days or more that led up to the #ResistMarch happened in a flash, one thing is for certain: miracles exist not because of divine intervention but because G-d places people on this Earth to make positive impacts. The beauty of the #ResistMarch was not just the passion of the organizers but the beauty of the rainbow that came out in full force on June 11.

The strength shown by our community was one that, for all intensive purposes, proves that love does conquer all. RuPaul couldn’t have expressed the common and conquering theme better than when he said: “It’s all about love; giving love and being able to receive love. That’s our secret weapon; that’s the one thing they don’t have: our love and our music. That is our activism. That is what we use and what we always use to fight the ugliness.”

That is the one experience that I took most out of the #ResistMarch: the power of love and friendship; the beauty in the unexpected conversation that leads to changing the world, again.  Thank you, Brian. Thank you, for bringing us all together to resist, recharge, and love.

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When we come together, we are the Divine.  I didn't think I could experience that twice in one year; clearly, I was wrong.





Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Welcome to the Resistance

There comes a time in everyone’s life when you have to make important decisions. What do I believe in? Who do I want to be? What and who will I stand up for? There has been a lot going on in the world lately and a lot of it, sadly, is pretty awful. While people are learning pretty quickly that elections have very real and long-lasting consequences, what is critical to overcome the next 4-years of this fascist regime isn’t just that we are taking to the streets to make our voices heard but we are willing to disrupt society at every turn to make sure that people on the other side of the proverbial political coin know we will not go gently into that good night.
I’ve been questioning G-d a lot lately; wondering what has happened to that shining “City on a hill” that John Winthrop called for in his 1630 sermon “A Model of Christian Charity.” The idea that the United States of America is “G-d’s country” due to the American exceptionalism present but not only the rich bounty of land and resources many would soon land upon but also the potentiality that America represented in a world full of monarchs.
Many Presidents have often recited the very same idea to the American populous. From John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan, America, although diverse and full of various communities from all walks of life, always presented a rich idea that we would be a beacon for prosperity, freedom, and dreamers. For myself (and many others I’m sure), that idea was called into question on November 8, 2016. We had come so far in the struggle for and the potential achievement of the “American Experiment” to fall before we got to the top and, as we have all felt since then, hit every jagged rock on our journey back down to the bottom. However, what we need to remember is that we’re not anywhere close to the bottom yet; all the symbolic bruises and scars we each have will only continue to grow as we keep tumbling down the rabbit hole.
Although the hits keep coming I refuse to let them get me down. I refuse to sit back and watch the country and communities I love be attacked by a tyrant and his cronies looking to cash in on people’s lives.
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On January 21, 2017, I saw the resistance rise. For me, the Women’s March was more than just 750,000 people from all walks of life taking part in a communal action across the world, it was an accumulation of what is not only possible but also the hope and dream of what is still to come.
What a lot of people do not know is that while I too, was a part of the crowd, I was also behind the scenes working on the march here in Los Angeles. I was fortunate enough to be 1 of the 13 co-organizers of the march which consisted of a group of women I now call my heroes.  Although I do not think that I’ll ever be able to put into words what the march or being part of its organization means to me, the one thing I do know for sure, now, more than ever, is that we are always stronger together.
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At the march, we went from “I” to “We.” We became part of something that we will never be able to understand. If that isn’t G-d, I do not know what else it would be. While November 8 had me questioning my faith, January 21 brought it back full force.
The night before the march, I was with three of my closest friends. We laughed, we cried, we shared in the love that we have for this country and most importantly, the love we have for each other. Falling asleep that night, the following quote kept me awake at night and I didn’t understand why until I got home after the march. The quote is:
The Devil whispered in my ear,
“You’re not strong enough to withstand the storm.”
Today I whispered in the Devil’s ear,
“I am the storm.”
While I believe the quote is perfect as it is, the only thing that I’d change is that on January 21, “I” didn’t just whisper in the Devil’s ear, “We” did.
Welcome to the resistance, my friends. The march happened. We all went home changed and more awake than ever before. Now, the only remaining question I have for you is: what’s next?
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John is a Ph.D. Candidate in American Religious History at Claremont Graduate University and holds an MA in Women’s Studies in Religion; an MA in Applied Women’s Studies; and a BA in English and Women’s Studies.  His areas of focus are women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, LGBT history, American religious history, and 20th and 19th-century American women’s history.  John is currently the Community Events Technician for the City of West Hollywood where he works on community events related to women, gender, sexuality, and human rights issues.   

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Letter to those I’ve Lost

Dear [Insert Name Here],
Something died on November 8, 2016, and I do not think I’ll ever be able to get it back. I sat there, walking back to my house, in disbelief and utter shock and scared for the next 4-years of my life.
For weeks leading up to the election, I had found myself praying in the copy room at my work almost daily. I would sit there, silent and alone, having just read some misleading article or alt-right post from a family member that called Hillary Clinton the devil, and wonder: when did everything go so off the rails?
Although we’ll spend years trying to figure the answer to my above question out, for me, it is a question I have been asking myself ever since election night and specifically knowing how certain members of my family would, and ultimately did, vote.  
I’ve always known that I had Republican family members (don’t we all?). However, what made this so troubling is that the election of Donald Trump was not just a normal Republican that they were voting for. This was the election of a man who would not only go after my rights as a citizen but also the rights of my female family members, friends, and a large-majority of people in my life that have always and were certain to become the main targets for further bigotry, hatred, and violence. I thought, at least for a second, that when they entered the voting booth, this would be in the back of their mind. They’d sit there, before selecting their nominee, and think about how Donald Trump would ultimately hurt a member of their family, directly and indirectly; boy, was I wrong.
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I expressed my concern to my sisters; having told them I was deeply troubled by certain members of my family having voted for Donald Trump having known and supported me as an openly gay man my whole life. How could someone that proclaims to love me, vote for a Presidential ticket where the Vice-President had advocated for electrocution of LGBT people to “correct” them and cure their homosexuality?
From that simple conversation, life in my family only got more complicated and much more contentious. If you know me, I’m not one to not directly engage with those that disagree with me. However, in this case, I never directly engaged any of my Republican family members out of the respect and sheer ability to see what would (and did) happen if I did. The situation only seemed to get worse. I shared an op-ed that I did not write stating that it “pretty much summed up how I felt about family and friends that voted for Trump.” The article stated that although I respect your choice to vote for whoever you wish, if you think for a second that I’ll forget that you voted for a racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic demagogue hell-bent on destroying the very fabric of America, then you have another thing coming. Upon sharing this article, my Republican family members confirmed that “we will not be coming together ever again” while members of their extended family proceeded to also viciously attack me.
In the sense of full disclosure, I did fight back and engage with these family and extended family members in a not so cordial way after their bombardment of attacks made it almost impossible for me not to while also casting doubt if I could ever look them in the eyes, let alone ever speak/see them, again. Having fully known what was occurring, I demand and still to this day await an apology for my family members attacking me without provocation. I refuse to speak or see them ever again until they own up to attacking me for my political beliefs, something that I never did to them.
The worst part of this election is that it has completely destroyed my wiliness to further engage with “those people.” I no longer care to make it a top priority of mine to reach out beyond the proverbial political aisle to hear about what they have to say; especially after they shared fake news articles about Hillary Clinton running a child sex-trafficking ring out of a pizza place or the countless other horribly vicious things they said.  
Maybe, our country is doomed after all. Maybe, our country deserves a ruthless dictator who will lie, cheat, and steal his way into the White House and destroy the very lives of those people that ended up putting him there in the process. Maybe, this is the type of President my Republican family members, who all benefit from the Social Security and Medicare programs likely to be on the chopping block in the next 4-years, deserve.
Out of all of these things, the one thing that has kept coming to my mind is G-d. What is he (or she) thinking? I feel like I’m back in one of my Old Testament classes discussing the harsh and cruel G-d that thrust so many horrible things onto their believers. Maybe, the worst part about the election isn’t Donald Trump, but it is the realization that G-d may be dead after all.
Whatever happens, the only thing that I know for sure is that I will never stop fighting. I will never stop fighting the bigotry, the hatred, and lies, the slander, and most importantly the fear that is going to be washing over the communities I care most about throughout these next four (and G-d forbid) or eight years of a Trump Presidency. I will never forget the lies and attacks thrust upon me by family members that I once took pleasure seeing and interacting with. I will never forget the hatred you endorsed with your vote and I will make sure that countless others like myself hold their family members that voted in similar fashions accountable as well.
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I vow to never stop fighting and believing that we are stronger together both now and more so in the future. I vow to do all the good I can, for all the people I can, in all the ways I can, as long as I can.
Sincerely,
John Erickson
#AlwaysWithHer
John is a Ph.D. Candidate in American Religious History at Claremont Graduate University and holds an MA in Women’s Studies in Religion; an MA in Applied Women’s Studies; and a BA in English and Women’s Studies.  His areas of focus are women's, gender, and sexuality studies, LGBT history, American religious history, and 20th and 19th-century American women's history.  John is currently the Community Events Technician for the City of West Hollywood where he works on community events related to women, gender, sexuality, and human rights issues.   He is, and will not be over, the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election for a very long time.