The three branches of government won’t save us from Trump and Pence

One of the founding principles of this country is that no one person should have enough power to completely change the country. This is why the United States has three branches of government: the Executive, the President, the Legislative, Congress, and the Judiciary, our court system with the Supreme Court at the top. This multi-pronged system of government was instituted to ensure a system of checks and balances. Congress has to approve most of the actions taken by the President. The Judiciary has the right to rule on legislation that has already been passed, determining its constitutionality and its fitness to remain law. The President gets to make the tough decisions in the moment and is held accountable by both the Judiciary and Congress.
These checks and balances have been integrally important to the survival and success of the United States. Our Presidents do not drift toward autocracy or tyranny because their actions are being checked. Congress’ legislation is checked for fairness and constitutionality by the courts, so even the darkest stains in our legislative history eventually get corrected. The three branches of our government are why democracy has thrived in the United States. They are why the government even resembles a government of the people.
However, the checks and balances provided by these branches of government are weakening. Presidents Bush and Obama used Executive powers liberally. I’m not here to argue whether their uses of Executive powers were good or bad. I’m simply stating that they’ve both expanded the use of executive orders to get things done. While good things have been done with executive orders, the President’s ability to do whatever he wants without ratification from Congress is concerning. Executive orders can still be overturned by the Court if found unconstitutional, but the fact that the President has the power to enact legislation on his own, means that the office of the Executive is gaining power over the other branches.
In the past eight years Congress has also begun to exercise an unprecedented amount of power, the power of halting progress. During Obama’s presidency, Congress was largely controlled by members of the opposite party. They used the power of the legislative branch to show their opposition to the President by halting the passing of necessary legislation, literally shutting down the government, and by refusing to confirm Presidential nominations, like the nomination of Merrick Garland as a Supreme Court Justice. The current incarnation of Congress has proven that, should they choose to, they can halt the progress of the government by bringing it to a stand still.
This stand still created by Congress is one of the reasons Obama has chosen to rely so heavily on Executive orders. Congress flexes and so does the President. It can’t really be said that either branch is providing checks and balances. They are jockeying for power over the governance of this nation.
For the first time in many years both houses of Congress and the Presidency are held by the same political party. President Trump also has the opportunity to appoint a new Supreme Court justice, since Congress refused to confirm the nomination of Merrick Garland. The Supreme Court Justice appointment is particularly important. The Court is currently well balanced between conservative and liberal justices. The new Justice will be a tie breaker, and Trump has promised to appoint a conservative Justice. This means that all three branches of government will essentially be controlled by a single party.
I ask you this: where are the checks and balances in that system? The President gets to work with a Congress that has the same ideas as him to get legislation passed. If that legislation is challenged, it can be reviewed by the Supreme Court, which will have a conservative majority.
It’s happened before that Congress and the Presidency were all held by the same party. This is not something new. And the Court has had a conservative majority during those times as well. So why am I concerned?
I’m concerned because the current Congress believes in the policies that Trump and Pence have put forward. So will the Court once Trump nominates his Justice. All three branches of government currently support sexist, racist, and anti-LGBTQ policies, and they will have the power to pass those policies. And the people of this country elected those representatives to Congress. They elected these men President and Vice President. The majority of our country seemingly supports bigotry.
I don’t believe that democracy is falling apart. I don’t believe that the three branches of government are defunct. But I do believe that this country is facing a time where bigotry is going to be legalized within structures of our government.
I am young. I didn’t live through times where bigotry and racism and sexism literally were legal. I didn’t have to fight the powers that be to make sure that they weren’t. I was born in to a time where I was told that was all over, and I didn’t know it was a lie. I never imagined that our country would be here again, and a lot of the people who fought to overthrow the old systems probably didn’t either, but here we are.
If you believe that Trump and Pence will be kept in check by Congress or the Supreme Court, I’m pretty sure you’re wrong. That leaves it up to us. Up to the people. We need to be the ones to hold our government accountable when they will not hold themselves accountable.
It is time for revolution.

On November 9th 2016 I woke up in my recurring nightmare

For months leading up to November 8th I pictured how the day might unfold. For some reason, every time I visualized watching the election coverage I visualized being up all night watching an impossibly close race. I imagined hearing the worlds “Donald Trump, the next President of the United States”, and sobbing. For some reason, for the past four months, I could not visualize an election night where Hillary Clinton won the Presidency. In my heart of hearts I didn’t believe that Trump would win, but my gut told a different story. Something in me knew that Donald Trump would win this election.

This nightmare has haunted me for the past four months. When I rushed home to watch the election coverage last night it seemed that my nightmare was beginning to unfold. By 8:30 when I got home, Trump was already leading in the electoral votes. My husband and my friends told me not to worry. It’s early, they said. It will be fine, they said. Hillary can definitely still do this, they said. But the later it got the clearer it became that this nightmare was becoming reality.

The race was a nail biter, just as it had been in my visualizations. My husband and I stayed up as late as we could and eventually decided to just leave the news coverage on in our bedroom as we tried to sleep. When I finally drifted off around 2am the race still hadn’t been called. I woke up for just a moment around 3:45am and in a haze noticed that the coverage still blaring on the television had called the race for Trump. I shook my husband awake and said simply, “They called it for Trump.” He quietly replied, “I know. Go back to sleep.” He rubbed my back and held me close and we restlessly slept for three or four hours.

I awoke before my alarm because my phone was blowing up with text messages from people I love. People expressing their gratitude and love for each other in the face of a hate monger being elected President. I told my friends I loved them. I checked Facebook and Twitter, knowing that this was real, but hoping beyond hope something had changed in the few hours I’d been asleep. But, of course, nothing had changed. Donald Trump was legally elected the President of the country in which I reside.

I am sad. I am angry. But more than anything else, I am scared. A lot of people woke up this morning scared for their lives. There will be a lot of writing done and published about why people are scared for their lives. As a writer, I feel obligated to add to that collective voice. So, let me tell you why I am scared.

First and foremost I am scared because I am a woman. Donald Trump is a sexual predator. He is accused of raping a thirteen year old girl. The woman accusing him recently dropped the lawsuit because she was receiving death threats and was too afraid to appear in court. In addition to this lawsuit, a number of women have come forward accusing Donald Trump of sexual assault. These lawsuits and accusations did not stop him from winning the Presidency. In fact, a large portion of the country who supports Trump believed that these women were being paid by “the establishment” to lie about Trump so he would lose the election.

This blatant disregard for legitimate accusations of sexual assault and the victim blaming, shaming, and disbelief that has followed is clear evidence of the rape culture that pervades this country. Electing a man who has made it clear that he does not understand or care about consent speaks to the fact that this country does not understand or care about consent. As a woman, I find this terrifying.

Electing a man who talks about women the way he does without apology, who then turns around and says he respects women, says that this country does not understand what it means to respect women. He speaks about women in a way that makes it clear that he does not believe they are equal to men. He objectifies women and assesses their value based on their physical appearance and willingness to be subservient to men.

It is impossible to respect women while assessing their worth based on their appearance or sexual appeal. It is impossible to respect women while degrading them and dismissing them. It is impossible to respect women while not supporting their efforts to rise up in the world. As I woman, I am scared to live in a country that is making it clear that I am a second class citizen.

I am also scared of the potential anti-women policy changes that could come out of this Presidency. Though Trump’s stance on abortion has been unclear, Mike Pence’s has not. Pence has repeatedly stated his desire to overturn Roe v. Wade. He has also made it clear that he would work to defund Planned Parenthood. Pence has also been pretty clear about making birth control less accessible for women, and his Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana made it legal for businesses to deny services to customers or employees based on the business owner’s religious beliefs. In his support of this legislation he cited the Hobby Lobby decision, which allowed businesses to deny employees access to birth control on company insurance plans if the business opposed birth control on religious grounds. It is clear that Mike Pence does not want women to have control over their own reproductive systems or their bodies in general.

As a women with a chronic reproductive disease, endometriosis, whose life is only made bearable by having the Mirena IUD, I am scared that birth control may not be covered under my insurance in the future. Getting an IUD inserted without insurance can cost as much as $1,000. When I want to have a child, which I know I do, I will need to pay for the procedure to have the IUD removed. Then I will need to pay again to have the IUD reinserted, because not having the IUD is not an option for me, for multiple reasons. First and foremost, I have found it to be the most effective and convenient form of birth control I’ve ever been on. And since the responsibility of birth control is almost always on women, I’m going to choose the method of birth control that works best for my life.

Secondly, the Mirena IUD is the only form of birth control that hasn’t made me physically or mentally ill. I went on birth control for the first time when I was fourteen because my periods were so awful I missed school and on some occasions even ended up in the hospital. Side note: even though I was in constant pain from my periods for years, I was not diagnosed with endometriosis until I was 27. The medical field’s willingness to dismiss women’s pain and reproductive issues is a whole other story.

I have been on the pill, the patch, the Nuva Ring, and both types of IUD’s in my quest to find birth control that works for me and my body. The first birth control I went on was a high estrogen pill. Within weeks I experienced violent mood swings and became suicidal. As someone who already suffered from clinical depression, these symptoms could not be taken lightly and my birth control was switched. The Nuva Ring contributed to hormonal imbalances so severe that I was chronically ill for two years. On the Paraguard IUD, I spent 14 days every month, yes my period lasted 14 days every month, vomiting and writhing on the floor with abdominal pain so intense that I went to the hospital almost monthly. The Mirena IUD is the first form of birth control that didn’t make sick or suicidal.

Lastly, the Mirena IUD is the only form of birth control that has controlled my endometriosis symptoms. For almost two years I have been able to get through each month without taking time off work. I have been able to get through my period without vomiting. I haven’t been to the hospital because of period cramps. My chronic GI distress, which was misdiagnosed as IBS but which was really a side effect of the endometriosis, has subsided. I am healthy and relatively happy in my body for the first time maybe ever.

In a country run by Donald Trump and Mike Pence, I may not be able to afford the Mirena IUD. My life could return to being a constant battle with a chronic disease. My husband and I may have to change our plans for our future family. We had planned on only having one child, but if I don’t have control over my reproductive system that may have to change. My future and my family’s future is in the hands of two straight, white men who don’t believe I have the right to make decisions about my body.

I am a woman facing a future where my consent does not matter, where my voice does not matter, and where my body does not matter. Of course, I am afraid.

I am also scared because I identify as bisexual. As I have already stated, I am married to a man, so I am a straight passing queer. It has taken me a long time to recognize and claim my identity as a bisexual. When I started dating my husband five years ago after exclusively dating women for a few years I began to think of myself as a “hasbian” a pejorative term used for women who “used to be” lesbians. I began to truly believe that maybe it had just been a phase. Many of the people around me were quick to agree. I’d chosen the straight life, therefore I had probably just been “experimenting”.

It took me years to admit to myself and others that though I love my partner very much and eventually chose to marry him, I am still attracted to women. I started to read articles about bisexual erasure and realized that I had fallen in to erasing my own bisexual identity. And I allowed others to erase my bisexual identity. I allowed my sexual orientation to be defined by who I had married.

Slowly I began to own my bisexual identity, but only in quiet ways. In conversations I say my “ex girlfriend” instead of using gender neutral pronouns or just saying my ex. If it comes up, I talk openly about my experiences dating women. If someone straight up asks about my sexual orientation I say I am bisexual. But I am not loud and out about it. I have hidden in my straight passing status.

Today, as queer people all over the country fear for their lives, it would be much easier for me to continue to hide as a straight passing woman. I know that my straight passing status gives me privileges, even in a country run by Trump and Pence. My life will not be affected in the same ways. My marriage will not be threatened. My ability to adopt children will not be threatened. My ability to have legal parenthood of my partner’s children will not be threatened. My life will not be changed in the same ways. But it would be cowardly of me to address the hatred the LGBTQ community is facing as if it were only affecting my friends. It affects me too because I am a queer woman.

I have purposely not written about LGBTQ issues from a social justice perspective because I have been afraid to own my identity as a bisexual woman. I have been afraid of the judgement I might face from people I know and love. But as a writer I have to start writing about the way LGBTQ people are being treated across the country and the dangers of a Trump Pence presidency to their lives. To my life. And I need to start stepping up in my own queer community and taking action in my backyard. I cannot responsibly do that while erasing my own queer identity.

So, as a bisexual woman, I am afraid. Selfishly, I am a afraid of the judgement I may face for claiming my identity publicly. But I am more afraid of a Presidency that has talked about enacting legislation that will make it legal to discriminate against my queer community. I am more afraid of a country that will take away the legal rights of humans just for loving who they love.

Lastly, as a writer, I am afraid. Trump has been anything but quiet about his contempt for the media. He has repeatedly discussed legislation that would infringe upon the First Amendment. He wants to pass laws that would make it easier to sue publications and journalists for printing opposing viewpoints. Trump has also repeatedly threatened to sue publications and individual journalists, and has endlessly mocked reporters, including a disabled reporter. He does not hide his hate for writers who dare to criticize him and his ideas. Recently, a supporter at a Trump rally donned a shirt that suggested lynching journalists was the answer.

A Presidency where the First Amendment is under siege and journalists may not be protected by law is terrifying for a writer. Especially writers like me, who try their best to point out inequality and social injustice where they see it, which is everywhere with Trump and Pence. I know my voice is not yet large enough to be struck down by Trump and Pence, but I fear that legislation will be passed that will silence my developing voice.

When facing such fear of speaking up it would be much easier to stay quiet. I cannot. I have seen many social media posts about how giving in to anger means that Trump has won in more ways than one. But I am giving in to anger. It is time to be angry. It is time to raise our voices and scream. It is time to gather and loudly express the rage that this election season and result has brought.

The rage of the white lower class voters who have been ignored for so long was heard loud and clear early this morning. Men and women, mostly white, who have been ignored by the political system for years have made their voices heard by electing Donald Trump the next President of the United States. As much as I want to react to them with hatred, I know I need to listen. Their rage has brought this country to the place it is today. Their collective voice, screaming with the rage of being forgotten and ignored has been heard.

It is time for the rest of us to scream back. It is time for women to continue to scream that they will not be ignored. It is time for LGBTQ people to continue to scream that they will not be murdered and ignored. It is time for people of color to continue to scream that they will not be murdered and ignored.

But most importantly, it is time for straight white people, particularly straight white men, to start screaming. It is time for them to stop being complacent. It is time for them to stop thinking or saying “this doesn’t affect me”. It is time for them to join our collective scream of rage. It is time for them to stand up for us and say “we will not let this happen to our country.”

Because the truth is, the people who are most of afraid of a Trump Pence Presidency have been screaming for a long time. They have been silenced for a long time. They will continue to scream just as loudly and louder, but their voices will continue to be silenced. Their voices need to be amplified by those whose voices are given more space, which unfortunately means white men.

It is time for everyone to step up and find out what they can do to support communities of color, LGBTQ communities, and women.

No one should have to feel like I did this morning when I woke up to find out my recurring nightmare had become a reality.

I Got a Job via Twitter

The world is a crazy, awesome place sometimes. On Friday I got tweeted at by a woman who turned out to be an editor. She said she’d read my work and wanted to discuss an opportunity. I emailed her and she asked me to send some pitches. I was excited because it was my first request for pitches. Usually I’m just pitching blindly to a submissions email list. I send her the pitches, fingers crossed that she may be interested in one of them and might contract me for one story,
 
Last night at like 11pm i open my email and there’s an email from her. Two other people are CC’d. I read the email. I read it again. I read it eight more times. It finally sinks in that the email says they are offering me a job as a REGULAR CONTRIBUTOR on their site.
 
I cried. Then i woke up my husband. Then i cried more. I just sent them my bio and I just sent my first pitch to my editor. An editor who is actually assigned to work with me on a regular basis. As of today, i will be writing for the Beauty section of http://thetempest.co/.
 
They are a relatively new media company with a female CEO, run by mostly women, with mostly female writers. Their mission is to provide a space for diverse female voices. Their staff is multicultural and multiracial in a way i haven’t seen with other online entities.
 
So if you made it through all that you’ve gathered that a random editor read my articles, loved them, and offered me a job over twitter! i am floored. i keep checking with my husband to make sure this is real. I am honored to write for a company that has such an amazing mission statement and to share my voice with their readers.
 
Please friend me at https://www.facebook.com/robin.zabiegalski and follow @amiafeministtoo on twitter for all my articles.

On Hiatus

I’ve come to the very difficult conclusion that I need to set this blog down for a while. I have made the very exciting decision to pursue writing as a full time career. I don’t know what this will look like yet. My goal is to do freelance work for major online publications and maybe land myself a staff writing position in the future. I am also exploring more traditional journalism opportunities like working in a local newsroom for a bit. Really, I’m in the earliest stages of this transition and I’m open to whatever comes along and seems right.

I’ve already found out how time consuming it is to establish myself as a freelance writer. I’m a regular contributor on Blasting News, I’ve taken another ghostwriting assignment, and I’m in talks to work on a couple more pieces. In addition to that, I try to spend at least an hour every day writing pitches, sending pitches, and scouting new places to send pitches. As I commit to this as a more full time thing in the fall, the time spent in these activities will only increase.

As much as I have wanted to keep this blog going, I am finding it really difficult to commit to writing for this instead of writing for gigs that will establish me as a published writer. I’m also struggling to find the time to do additional writing when I’m already doing a full time job outside of writing.

In the fall I will either take an in office full time writing job, or I will cut down to part time at a second job and focus on writing full time. If I’m able to cut down to part time somewhere and focus more on my writing as a whole it’s possible that I’ll find the time to pick this up again. I hope that I do because some of my favorite writing has been done for this site.

I want to thank you all so much for reading this blog over the past year. I’m sad to leave it, but I’m excited to move forward in my career as a writer. Please check out my Facebook page, which I regularly update with the articles I’m publishing elsewhere on the web. I am so honored that anyone reads anything I write and it all started with you, here. I’m forever grateful.

 

I’ve Been Doing This All Wrong

Less than one hour of reading. That’s how long it took me to realize I’ve been responding to the tragedies of last week all wrong. I’ve been doing everything that people have expressed not to do. I’ve been making it about me. I’ve been making it about my feelings. I’ve been talking more than I’ve been listening. I’ve been spouting off my opinion without being sure of what I’m saying or whether what I’m saying is helpful. I’ve been assuming that my voice is more important than others because I’m a writer and I’ve been assuming that my voice is the one that will lead to change. I’ve been doing this all wrong. 

I won’t take anything back because it’s all part of the process of confronting my privilege and learning. I will change though. It’s time to do a lot of learning. Before I ever thought I could start a blog on feminism I read a ton of books about feminist theory. I should have done a lot more reading before I posted about this too. So I’m going to educate myself before I speak. 

This doesn’t mean my support or anyone else’s isn’t helpful, but I can be helpful in other ways. I can share articles by other people who know more. I can go to rallies. I can support my local NAACP chapter. I can listen to what others have to share. But I am going to refrain from sharing my opinions on Black Lives Matter until I know more. It’s my responsibility to educate myself and it’s yours to educate you. 

Because I believe news coverage is important, I will continue to cover the events for blasting news, but only based on facts and research, not my opinions. 

I have a lot of work to do. 

Can I Talk About Black Lives Matter?

I have spent a long time not talking about Black Lives Matter. I have spent years in silence while black men and women were killed by police officers. This is largely because I have been privileged and complacent. When Ferguson happened I was a busy college student and I just didn’t bother to do much digging, even though I was in a contemporary media class that gave me ample opportunity. When Sandra Bland and Freddy Gray died at the hands of police I read the headlines and thought, “that’s really fucked up and really sad.” I considered going to a Black Lives Matter protest in my town, but I had plans that night. I watched these events unfold and I thought to myself how unfortunate it all was, but I did nothing. I said nothing. Now, as a writer, I am ashamed that I didn’t read the news coverage. I’m ashamed that I didn’t educate myself on the true state of race relations in this country. I’m ashamed that I didn’t say something.

Another truth is I never felt I had any place saying anything. Every time I heard about another person of color being murdered I thought, “Am I allowed to talk about this since I’m white?” I thought, “I don’t know what these communities are experiencing so I shouldn’t mouth off without knowing what I’m talking about.” I thought, “I’m not educated enough to be having these conversations, so I should just shut up and let the more educated people have these discussions.” These may seem like stupid thoughts. The obvious answer the whole time has been to educate myself and speak out in an intelligent manner. That’s where fear and complacency come in. I fear that my whiteness precludes me from the conversation. I am afraid that I will say something stupid and people will think I am am stupid and hate me. I am afraid I will offend people and people won’t like me. I let my fear drive my complacency and I say nothing. I become complicit by being silent.

No more. When Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were murdered by police I spoke out. I spoke out late, but I collected the news coverage and wrote my own article for Blasting News. I took to Twitter and Facebook and started to voice my feelings and opinions. I didn’t try to pass them off as anything more than my own thoughts and feelings, but I decided it was time to have a voice. I want to be clear that this does not make me special. I do not deserve praise for adding my voice to the thousands that have already spoken much more articulately than me. I do not deserve a cookie or brownie points for making some status updates or writing an article. I am only doing what thousands of braver people have already done.

A lot of people are late to the conversation about Black Lives Matter and the racism that is pervasive in this country and especially in our policing systems. A lot of us have been complacent for a long time. I apologize for that complacency and I want to know what I can do to enact actual change, beyond typing words on a screen. I am completely aware that I am still ignorant to a lot of the race relations theory and a lot of the rhetoric. I am not yet qualified to make the arguments that others can and have.

What I’m asking for is time and help to get up to speed. I have seen many people who have been involved in these movements for a long time questioning people who are jumping on the bandwagon now, as well they should. We all should have been with this from the start, but we weren’t. The point is we’re here now and we want to help. We want to make change. Please, please help us get up to speed.

New Job

I’m excited to announce that I’ve accepted a Freelance Journalist position with a website called Blasting News. They are a European based news curation site that tries to keep the media honest by sourcing their news from freelance journalists who represent all positions. If nothing else it’s a way to get more published content out there for my resume. 
The topics will be wide ranging and represent an opportunity for me to branch out to new subjects. I’m really excited for this new adventure. 

Seeing as I’ll be writing for them at least a few times a week, my posts here will dwindle. I promise to post at least once a week with a provocative and well thought out feminist think piece. 

Here’s my first article for Blasting News:   http://us.blastingnews.com/opinion/2016/06/being-bernie-or-bust-is-a-vote-for-trump-00987903.html  

If you’ve liked what I’ve written here please consider following me on Blasting News or checking out my Facebook account where I’ll be posting links: https://facebook.com/robin.zabiegalski. 

Thank you all so much for your support over the past year. I am still amazed that anyone even reads what I write. Your support has enabled a dream of mine to come true.