Learned Blindness

When I think about how hungry I thought I was that day, after having missed just one meal, I feel ashamed. Because I never once worried about the hunger Sookie must have felt when—day after day, week after week—her mother failed to return.

While her mother was in the Monkey House, I still saw Sookie every day, but somehow I learned not to see her as well. It was difficult, at first, to pretend that things were normal for her. Then, perhaps because pretending so relentlessly begins to blur the distinction between invention and reality, it became easy to believe things were normal. Practice formed a new pattern, a new way of seeing.

In avoiding her mother’s absence, I became adept at ignoring the obvious regarding Sookie. I stopped noticing how pale and gaunt she became, how circles blackened her eyes, how her hair—wild and uncombed—inched past the approved school length. I forgot what she was supposed to look like.

Fox Girl by Nora Okja Keller

Admiration List: Monica Lewinsky

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Monica Lewinsky is someone most people would not include on an admiration list because of her connection to President Clinton and the scandal that brought the White House under investigation and significant political fire.

She was 22 when her affair with President Clinton was revealed and exploited by both the Republican party and the news media (read: ratings, revenue, non-stop-sensationalist ‘news’ stories about every possible sexually graphic detail…you get the idea).

I was also in my twenties at the time and, as details about the investigation hit the news media, all I could think about was how this women was a victim. She was seduced by the most powerful man in the world. He was her boss, a career politician and a well known serial-seducer. By all accounts, she was neither his first, nor his last, conquest. This was predatory manipulation of a naive young women and, possibly, harassment.

Unfortunately, the scandal occurred during the 1990s, which was also when the details of the Anita Hill vs Clarence Thomas trial were frequently challenged as ‘not really harassment’ by most of the adults I knew. That trial outlined a situation that could be defined as workplace rape, yet people continued to justify it. As for Monica Lewinsky – presenting her as a potential victim was incomprehensible.

Not surprisingly, Monica Lewinsky faced a level of public humiliation, shame and ostracism that is hard to comprehend. She was publicly cast as a home wrecker, a whore and a litany of other things; while Clinton was…you know….a powerful man. You can’t blame him, it was that woman.

Fast forward many years and Ms. Lewinsky has resurfaced as a strong, confident woman. She is an anti-bullying activist, putting her own experiences with public humiliation to good use as she works to prevent suicide and fight cyber-bullying, face-to-face bullying and mobbing.

I admire all people who have faced incredibly difficult experiences and, somehow, managed to reach the other side. I have great admiration for people who use those experiences to become stronger and more determined to help others who have also been through the proverbial fire. Monica Lewinsky has done that.

Ms. Lewinsky has been added to my admiration list because, frankly, she deserves it.

Poverty Survivor Pride: No Shame In Being Poor

Poverty Survivor Defined

Poverty Survivor (White) Tee Shirt

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A Poverty Survivor is any human being who has survived poverty. The individual may have been poor at some time in the past, in the throes of survival right now, or a member of a family that has (as far anyone knows) always been poor. It’s not about the duration or the cause, it’s about the ability to survive.

Why I Am A Survivor

There is no shame in being poor.
There is no shame in being born into poverty.
There is no shame in having family who is poor.
There is no shame in being homeless.
There is no shame in facing a serious financial crisis.
There is no shame in complete financial life change.

I Am Your Equal (white) Tee Shirt

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Poverty is a life experience.
I have faced this experience and lived to tell the tale.
I have gained skills.
I have made friends.
I have discovered inner strength.
I have successfully faced thousands of seemingly impossible challenges.
I have gotten through the worst, even when it did not seem possible.

I. Have. Survived.

Therefore, I am a survivor.
I have a right to my pride.

No Shame In Being Poor (white) Tshirt

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What Poverty Is NOT

It is not a crime.
It is not a sin.
It is not proof of God’s wrath.
It is not proof that a shameful/sinful/criminal act has been committed.
It is not proof of laziness or poor work ethic.
It is not proof of low intelligence.
It is not proof of poor money management skills.

Poverty Happens
People do not deserve poverty.
People do not choose poverty.
Poverty is not a ‘lifestyle.’

Poverty is not absolute.
Those with wealth may one day see poverty.
Those in poverty may one day see wealth.

Poverty Survivor (Black) Shirt

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Claim Your Pride

Discussions about poverty are to often overshadowed with shame and fear. The process of getting out of poverty frequently involves trying to pass as upper class while hiding both experiences and family connections.

There is no shame in being poor. Addressing the problems people in poverty face is a difficult process made more difficult by our own shame. Proudly declaring that you have survived poverty helps to break down that culture of shame.

We have the right to be treated with respect.
We have the right to aspire to better.
We have the right to hold our heads high.
We have a right to our pride.

Pity and Sympathy

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Pity and sympathy were such a waste. I’d been held in the hand of God. Her light was cast on everything now. I saw beauty everywhere, felt beauty everywhere. I was happier and more alive than I had ever been.

Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories That Kept Us Small by Amy Ferris and Hollye Dexter

From the Introduction:We invite you to join us at the Shame Prom—a place where we wear our ugly dresses, then shed them. Where we parade our shame in public, dance it around on our arm, and take awkward pictures with it. But afterward, we’re not going to roll around in the backseat making out with it. This time, we’re breaking up with Shame and driving off into the sunset, stronger in knowing that we are connected at the deepest, most human level. So put on your tiaras, people. Let’s get this party started.”

Shame and Human Drama

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I sometimes wonder if shame is the ultimate human drama, a kind of inner theater offering neither intermissions nor emergency exits. It can arrive from an exterior force, making us feel debased and defenseless, or emanate from within, when we know we have done something unethical, illegal, or mean-spirited.

Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories That Kept Us Small by Amy Ferris and Hollye Dexter

From the Introduction:We invite you to join us at the Shame Prom—a place where we wear our ugly dresses, then shed them. Where we parade our shame in public, dance it around on our arm, and take awkward pictures with it. But afterward, we’re not going to roll around in the backseat making out with it. This time, we’re breaking up with Shame and driving off into the sunset, stronger in knowing that we are connected at the deepest, most human level. So put on your tiaras, people. Let’s get this party started.”

Life and Bad Decisions

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Doing unrectifiable, stupid things is universal and shouldn’t stop one from moving forward in life.

Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories That Kept Us Small by Amy Ferris and Hollye Dexter

From the Introduction:We invite you to join us at the Shame Prom—a place where we wear our ugly dresses, then shed them. Where we parade our shame in public, dance it around on our arm, and take awkward pictures with it. But afterward, we’re not going to roll around in the backseat making out with it. This time, we’re breaking up with Shame and driving off into the sunset, stronger in knowing that we are connected at the deepest, most human level. So put on your tiaras, people. Let’s get this party started.”

Poverty and Perspective

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We knew, I suppose, that we were poor. Somebody knew; perhaps the landowner who grudgingly paid my father three hundred dollars a year for twelve months’ labor. But we never considered ourselves to be poor, unless, of course, we were deliberately humiliated. And because we never believed we were poor, and therefore worthless, we could depend on one another without shame.

-In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens by Alice Walker

 

Hiding, Stopping and Going Home

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And so the campaign began, the unconscious drive to hide the mess inside. I didn’t know what that mess was, exactly. I just knew I had to bury it. Maybe then people wouldn’t leave. Maybe then bad things would stop happening. I could be happy. I could go home.

Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories That Kept Us Small by Amy Ferris and Hollye Dexter

From the Introduction:We invite you to join us at the Shame Prom—a place where we wear our ugly dresses, then shed them. Where we parade our shame in public, dance it around on our arm, and take awkward pictures with it. But afterward, we’re not going to roll around in the backseat making out with it. This time, we’re breaking up with Shame and driving off into the sunset, stronger in knowing that we are connected at the deepest, most human level. So put on your tiaras, people. Let’s get this party started.”