2017 Economic and Social Council Youth Forum

As the US has desended into mass protests, I sit in one of my favorite places on earth – the United Nations – and listen to hundreds of youth from around the world actively discussing one of the most pressing issues on the international stage: implementing the Sustainable Development Goals worldwide.

For those that don’t know much about the UN, here is a basic overview:

Contrary to what the new US regime believes, the UN is a forum where individuals from around the world – not just world leaders, but also non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – meet to discuss topics of interest to nations around the world (not just “a club for people to get together, talk, and have a good time“). Trump did get one thing right: the UN is a forum through which people are able to get together and talk, but it is not pointless. The UN is the only forum in the world – and in the history of the world – where national governments of every nation in the world (exceptions being Palestine, Taiwan, and Kosovo which are all disputed territories [if you are interested in why, let me know and I’ll happily explain!])  and civil societies (aka NGOs) are able to meet and discuss issues of importance to them.

Through the UN, the world has been able to pursue a wide variety of projects to better the quality of life worldwide. In honor of the UN’s recent 70th birthday (Octoer 24th, 2015), they released a list of 70 successes the UN has had. These include: preventing nuclear proliferation, clearing landmines, combating sexual assault in conflict zones, fighting hunger, improving global trade, acting as a global thinktank, improving literacy and education, ending apartied in South Africa, promoting the rights of disabled peoples, providing safe drinking water, helping disaster victims and refugees, eradicating diseases such as polio and small pox, etc. People can easily look at the UN and say: “Look at the world; there are conflicts all over; the UN has clearly failed.” But this is an ignorant conclusion – no, the UN has not prevented all conflicts. The world still has many issues, but those issues would be exponentially greater without the work of the UN. As previous UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld said, “It has been said that the United Nations was not created in order to bring us to heaven, but in order to save us from hell.

Over the next two weeks, I will be participating in the UN Economic and Social Council Youth Forum (Jan 30-31) and the UN Commission on Social Development (Feb 1-10). In honor of this, I will be creating a new series on my blog: “Getting to Know the UN,” outlining the UN,  how it works, and why it is so incredibly important to support. [Side note: if you have any topics you want me to specifically address, let me know. I’ve spent the last 13 years of my life studying the UN, and I’ll happily teach anyone anything they want about it!]


Also, fangirl moment: OMG I HAVE A UN GROUNDPASS AND IT HAS MY NAME AND PICTURE ON IT OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOGMOMGOMG THIS IS ALMOST AS GOOD AS SEEING BAN KI MOON (previous UN SecGen) SPEAK AHHHHHHHHHH 😁😁😁😁😁😁  Okay, enough fangirling, but really though. UN Groundpass. So happy.

Why the Muslim Ban Will Actually Help ISIS

Recently I was asked by a friend on Facebook why I believe the Muslim ban imposed by the new regime will actually help ISIS. And I ended up going on an insane rant. But it’s a rant because I feel really strongly about one of the key concepts behind it – the Accidental Guerilla.  So I decided to use it as a blog post.

The biggest reason the ban will support ISIS – Think about it. If a country decided ‘US citizens are no longer allowed’ would we see them as a friend or an enemy? ISIS depends on the populations in the countries it exists to join their fight, ‘radicalizing’ the people there to their version of Islam. And it’s like in the US, if you have never been to a place, you will believe whatever the media tells you. So when someone from this nation starts hearing about the ban, about the government sanctioned discrimination, about all the terrible things that are happening to Muslims in the United States, they easily will believe that the US is in fact at war with Islam (despite the fact that a significant amount of people in the nation is fighting to support the rights of the Muslims). So if you have someone who is already leaning towards joining the fight, they are more likely to join therefore making ISIS stronger.

There is also this concept of the ‘accidental guerilla’ (really amazing book about it, written by David Kilcullen, easily one of my favorites that I read all through my degree). Basically the concept says there are three types of people:
1) Always going to support radical islam
2) Never going to support radical islam
3) Could go either way

The biggest group of people are those in the 3rd category. These are people who may have leanings towards radicalization, or maybe they fear for their lives because ISIS is in their village and is killing everyone who doesn’t support them. When these people see that the US has banned Muslims, those with radical sympathies become radicalized (because of what I first explained). But then there are those who fear for their lives and the lives of their families (who would also get killed). They realize their only option is to support ISIS. They have nowhere else to go. They could risk their lives by fleeing and end up in giant refugee camps that lack the resources to support the amount of people they have (especially since the proposed cuts to funding for international organizations that support the camps – even worse, ISIS has infiltrated some of these camps and is recruiting those who end up with radical leanings because of the horrible living conditions). Maybe they end up in Europe, but again – you risk your lives significantly getting there, and there is some pretty messed up stuff happening with refugees in Europe too. An insane amount of refugees get killed on their way to Europe. Or worse, they risk fleeing, then get sent back to their original country when they are denied refugee status, and end up getting brutally massacred by ISIS as an example of why people shouldn’t flee and should just join ISIS. OR they could just give in and join ISIS, even if they really don’t agree with them, because it will keep them and their families from being massacred. (A lot of horrible shit could happen to refugees really. There are very few good options for refugees in the current political climate – which again, the lack of support, the idea that the Christian world is treating them with such disdain, can easily cause people to become radicalized.)

The reality is: the more people ISIS has access to, the larger the recruiting basis for them. By refusing to accept refugees, we leave people within their territories, meaning there are more people that are vulnerable to their recruitment tactics (honestly, the most common one is join or we will kill you. The taliban did this too, there is a really fucking disturbing book about it that I could tell you the name of if you want). And this helps their cause – the US lost Vietnam because the Vietcong had an insane amount of people. For every 2 we killed, they only killed 1. But we still lost. Just like we will with ISIS if they keep their recruitment basis. To end any insurgency, you have to take away their ability to recruit, which we should be focusing on – not banning an entire religion that makes up 23% of the world, or banning all citizens from certain Muslim countries (side note – the people who planned 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia, yet Saudi was not on that list. Osama Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, and there is evidence to suggest they were hiding him, but Pakistan wasn’t on that list. It’s actually more common for radicalized American-born people to attack the US, than for foreigners to attack. And there are no documented cases ever of refugees committing terrorist attacks on US soil. Ever.)

Something else to note – the world has always treated refugees horribly. Always. And when we look back in history books, we vilify those who pursued and supported denial of refugees. Its also a really common sign to see before the breakout of significant, large-scale wars in history.

The Continued Struggles of Lena vs. the Lion’s Mane

Over the past few days, I have written at least 5 different blog posts about politics – none of which will probably ever be published here because they are basically my endless ranting (something I prefer to keep to real conversations, not one-sided blog posts). Even beginning this completely non-political blog post, as you can see, I have an extreme desire to start ranting again. But honestly, everyone at this point needs a break from insanity, so I decided to write an update on my archnemesis – the Lion’s Mane.

I kept saying I would get a haircut. Over and over during Europe, I’d think ‘As soon as I get home, the Lion’s Mane is getting tamed!’ But, life happens, and nearly a month after getting back from Europe I still hadn’t tamed the beast. I’m super paranoid about getting a bad haircut and had spent two weeks asking friends around Vancouver who I should have cut my hair, followed by hours of research into the best hair stylist out of the options I had gotten. Until one day, while talking to my friend and debating what to do with my hair, my friend looked me in the eye and said ‘Lena, stop procrastinating, just cut the damn mane!’

I’ll let the pictures talk for themselves –

 

First, a reminder of what the Lion’s Mane looked like, even when it was confined to its braid prison:

img_3397

And then the fateful day when the Lion’s Mane would be tamed:

Its natural state wasn’t actually too bad that morning – the day before I looked like the bride of Frankenstein.

img_3395

Pretty right?? So straight and beautiful! AND TAME!!!!! But as I’ve learned, the Lion’s Mane always looks pretty after being manhandled by professions. The real test of a good taming is what the mane does after the first wash, when it is back to just me and the mane in our never ending struggle:

img_3390-1

Annndddd the afro returns….. Successful taming? Sort of. It’s not tangling as bad, so bright side – less headaches after brushing.

 

But I still look like Simba.

be79f23c7488db4b9c4ecbfdaaedb7d7

Women’s March on Washington

Like yesterday, today was a pretty emotional day not only for myself but for many Americans. Why? Because the overwhelming amount of emotions which flooded into our hearts as we saw protesters – both American and not – around the world meet together to advocate for rights which the Trump administration has threatened to remove.

 

Originally I had intended to travel to Washington DC and stand with my fellow ‘Nasty Women’ today, but as any readers of my blog will know – life does not go as I originally plan most of the time. So instead, in a bit of a spur-of-the-moment decision, my close friend and I ended up at the Vancouver edition of the march. And let me say now – I’m 100% surprised I wasn’t balling within 5min (I nearly was; I had to fight back tears all day).

 

Why would I cry at a protest shrouded in controversy around the globe for ‘lacking inclusion’ – whether it be of pro-life individuals in the US, or of Black Lives Matter individuals in Vancouver? Because it isn’t about the organizers. It’s about the hundreds of thousands (most likely millions) of people around the globe who care so deeply about the rights my fellow Americans and I risk losing that they showed up in droves to support our Resistance. Because it proves that hatred and fear are not the rules of the day; it shows that many – not only in my nation but world wide – are standing together to support one another in our darkest of days. Because I know that if my rights are taken away, there are hundreds of thousands of people who will help in the fight to get them back – just like I will if this new administration attempts to remove rights from any black, muslim, LGBTQ+, disabled, or underprivileged people. Because humanity has not been lost, like I have been fearing since the election, but rather it has been pushed under a rug by spiteful rhetoric and now it is kicking and screaming to be set free once again. Because by every account it is clear that more people have shown up today for this display of camaraderie than they did yesterday to watch the malevolent leader be sworn in. Because no matter how terrible I feel, no matter how scared I am, I know there are people out there who will support me as I will with them.

 

To be honest, all I’ve wanted to do all day is go home and hug my loving dog, who unfortunately is only in my heart and memories anymore. And it is days like today that I remember how much that really truly sucks. But seeing the support that these marches have shown – that make it suck just a little bit less.

 

I’ll end with three of my favorite signs today:

Our security lies in our fight for the rights of all.

 

We know most of you didn’t want this!

 

And my ultimate favorite:

When he comes for the women, I am a woman.

When he comes for the Muslims, I am a Muslim.

When he comes for the Mexicans, Soy Mexicano.

When he comes for the refugees, I am a refugee.

When he comes for the environment, I am the trees and the mountains.

 

January 20th, 2017

On this dark day in American history, I struggle like many of my fellow citizens.

It hurts – truly hurts – to know that my country has chosen a man so morally deplorable; a man caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women, as if it is his right to have any woman he wants simply because he is rich; a man who has bragged that he settled a lawsuit for fraud for less than what the plaintiffs should have gotten; a man so against my values I can’t even hear him speak without cringing.

It devastates me that this man has now gained the title of ‘leader of the free world’ when he has infringed on so many people’s rights throughout his life.

It terrifies me that I could lose not only my access to healthcare – potentially losing either my livelihood from medical bills or my life from a treatable illness which I cannot afford to treat – but also my right to do with my body as I wish.

It saddens me to think that so many Americans may (and most likely will) lose so many of our rights in this short period of time, rights that will take much longer than four years to gain back.

It shocks me that nearly 63 million Americans actively chose to vote for a man they knew would limit the rights of their fellow citizens.

It crushes me that our system has been set up so that a man who did not gain the majority of the vote could still become the leader of our nation – despite having over two million less votes than his opposition.

It astonishes me that such a vital election had the lowest voter turnout in 20years, with about 45% of the American people ignoring their right to vote – a right that thousands have fought and died for.

It horrifies me that this new leader almost immediately erased civil rights, climate change, and LGBT rights from the ‘issues’ that the whitehouse.gov website addresses, disregarding the lives lost in the quest for our country to address these vital topics.

It pains me that all the progress we have made will be destroyed, sending our country back to dark days when only white men were truly given the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

And it angers me that there has been so little push back, that there are so many people have apathetically decreed ‘well it is only four years’ or ‘he’ll be impeached so its fine,’ with some people even going so far as to say that an assassination of Trump would be better than a Hillary presidency.

 
I’m scared. I’m honestly freaking terrified. I don’t know what to think, I don’t know what to feel. I don’t feel safe in the country I once loved and supported with all my heart. Now? Every new update I see about my nation sends a stabbing pain through my heart, causing fiery balls of salty water to well in my eyes which threaten to go speeding down my face for hours on end. How could a country once so great give in to such fear and hatred? How can my rights be removed because others in my nations think theirs are more important? How do I continue to call myself American when I feel anything but that?
I am lost. I am in pain. I am bewildered, feeling as if I have been forsaken by my homeland. And I remember – I’m a white woman from a middle class family – if I feel this terrible, how do those at higher risk for discrimination feel? Do they want to curl in a ball and weep as badly as I do? What will happen to them, if this country of ours has already started stripping my rights away and it’s barely been twelve hours? How can I help them, if I cannot even protect my own rights?
But most of all, I’m truly heartbroken. I said it on election day, and I will say it again – this is not my America. This is not the country I know and loved. This is a country I no longer recognize. Trump will never be my president. I will fight with the Resistance. I will never give in to the fear and hatred that this man wants my nation to rebuild itself upon. And I will always support those in need, regardless of their sexuality, race, ethnicity, immigration status, or religious beliefs.
But today – today I’m going curl into a ball and weep for the future of the nation I once loved. For today is a dark day, and it is truly hard to see the end of this devastatingly scary tunnel.