Small Victories in 2014

written by Lauren Ouellette-Bruchez

2014 is coming to a close and for me it won’t be a moment too soon.  One problem with being an activist is that having work to do means something is wrong and this year has had few dull moments.

Times are so tumultuous that I have found myself battling very real, horrifying bouts of depression.  Financially it’s hard to imagine that any poor or middle class person will ever be out of debt.  Discrimination against women continues especially in regard to our reproductive rights.  I find myself worrying that any day now women who live their lives as they want will eventually be required by law to wear t-shirts branded with a giant letter “A”, myself included.  I have lost more than just sleep as I’ve followed many instances of police brutality across the country, especially those involving men of color.  My LGBTQ friends still battle for equality and I fear I will never see an end to that during my lifetime.

I spoke with my father about this.  He’s one of the wisest and kindest people I know.  At the time he visited me, I was having a hard time convincing myself to get out of bed.  I could not sleep.  Food was making me ill and while I meditate regularly I could not quiet my mind.  My father told me that I needed to look at what was going well and put out more positivity.

I would not have paid that much mind if that advice had come from someone else.  I think many people put stock in blind optimism to keep from feeling frightened or depressed, but that is also self-deception and sooner or later reality sets in.  But I know Dad better and knew he wasn’t telling me to fool myself.  He was telling me to recharge and remind myself of why I was doing what I do.  He was suggesting a that I hit the reset button.

So that’s what I’m doing here today.  I’m hitting the reset button for myself and as many of you as I can.  I want to prove to you that your efforts are not going unnoticed and that we are making strides; perhaps not as quickly as we had hoped, but the results are there.  I want to show you that continuing to try is worth it and how many other people are trying alongside you.

1) Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize

Malala Yousafzai is an incredible young woman who is lighting the way for girls’ equality.  In 2012 she was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban on the bus which was bringing her home from school. Malala has fought her way through recovery and continues to promote the importance of education for girls everywhere.  She is the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel peace prize.  She is an inspiration to those of us trying to persevere.

2) Marriage Equality is making great strides.

Years ago when we were protesting Proposition 8, I was reduced to tears worrying that marriage equality would never be passed.  I attended numerous protests, signed petitions and educated as many people as I could in hopes that my friends would be given the same rights as I have to marry the person I love.  But this year has given me hope.

The Supreme Court has addressed marriage bans in numerous states.  It’s also been wonderful scrolling through my Facebook feed to see photos of my friends and their weddings from all over the country.  There is still a lot to do but if you look at the map above you can see how far we have come.

3) The Peoples Climate March was the largest march for climate change in history.

On September 21st, I was honored to take part in the Peoples Climate March in New York City.  Marching through Manhattan with fellows Pagans, my partners and over 400,000 people was surreal experience.  It seemed that everyone was there.  People of all races, religions and walks of life gathered for the day to draw attention to a very real problem.  And we were heard.  It’s hard to ignore nearly a half a million people.  And it’s hard to just brush off what a phenomenal achievement it was to get so many people gathered peacefully for a single cause.

4) The Maetreum of Cybele wins their case after almost 10 years.

After years of fighting what seemed like a never ending battle with the Town of Catskill for recognition of their tax exempt status, the New York Court of Appeals found for the Maetreum, a Pagan church located in upstate New York.  This case sets the stage not just to assist other Pagan organizations in New York attempting to create brick-and-mortar locations, but for reference for Pagans in other parts of the country in how to better advocate for the recognition of their rights as well.

5) The Senate votes against the Keystone XL Pipeline

Admittedly this is a temporary win.  New representatives will be taking their offices at the beginning of the next calendar year and that this item will come to a vote again but, considering all of the information presented about the pipeline and what it would do (or not do as the case may be) for Americans, this gives us time to educate others and give them the tools they need to contact those representatives.  Knowing who voted against the pipeline may also be useful in gaining the assistance of some very knowledgeable and well connected allies some of whom may not be holding office this term.  Part of visualizing a better future is recognizing opportunity.

6) Chicago votes to accept a higher minimum wage.

Inflation in our country is nothing short of madness.  The expectation that anyone working for the national minimum wage could possibly afford to live  reasonably on that alone is just as absurd.  I’m glad to see that some cities are responding to this issue.  For each city that implements a higher minimum wage, we have access to new information to help us in addressing this on a national level and allow for a better quality of life for minimum wage workers. I believe that if someone is working full time, they deserve to be able to afford a decent place to live.

7) Ft. Lauderdale homeless feeding ordinance is temporarily suspended.

90-year-old Arnold Abbott has been arrested numerous times for feeding the homeless residents of Ft. Lauderdale but a judge has called for a 30 day suspension of enforcement on the local ordinance which prohibits feeding the homeless in certain locations.  Being homeless has been criminalized in many cities across America setting an ugly and counterproductive precedent to addressing homelessness.  Many thanks to Mr. Abbott and others like him who continue to do what’s right even with the threat of arrest.

I think that it’s difficult to see that we aren’t alone in our causes especially if you happen to be separated from others who share your views. Good things happen all the time. These are the things that prove that our voices are being heard.  Often times progress is a series of baby steps.  But every day we are given proof that we can affect our world and improve it. While we do the hard work remind yourself of why you try.  The spark within that encourages you to speak out against what is unjust is fueled by knowing that better days are possible.

You have to imagine the world at its best and believe that it can be achieved.  That vision is a map and even if we have to take a different route to reach our destinations, there’s always another road.  Even if you can’t see it right away, even if the route takes you through the woods, it’s there.

Many blessings to all of you for the upcoming Yule and may the new year be full of opportunities to change to world for the better.

N.Y. Top Court Rules In Favor of the Maetreum of Cybele