Archive for the ‘Human Rights’ Category

Photo by unsplash.com/@ninjason

I have been learning a very valuable lesson the last few days. It’s a lesson that I hope I’ll be able to use to help women inmates, and it’s this – most people don’t believe me when I tell them this is happening since the passage of SB132 in California.

  • They don’t believe that any male inmate can self-ID as a woman and be transferred to a woman’s facility.
  • They don’t believe me when I tell them that they are being housed with women in the same cells.
  • They don’t believe me when I say there doesn’t have to be any prior treatment for transitioning – no hormones, no therapy, no sex reassignment surgery, no living as a woman prior to incarceration.
  • They don’t believe me when I tell them about the CDC handing out condoms to the men when they arrive,yet they change their intake paperwork to “female.”
  • They don’t believe me when I tell them that sex is illegal while in custody but the condoms have now been made available.
  • They don’t believe me when I tell them this is not an “anti-trans movement”, but an “anti-predator of women” movement.
  • They don’t believe me when I tell them that the female inmates are disciplined if they file a complaint of sexual harassment and/or assault. They get punished for asking to help and protection against a predator.
  • They think and say I’m a bigot.
  • They think and say I am racist.
  • They think and say I hate trans people.
  • They form mobs on Twitter and harass me.
  • They are doing this to all of us. Not just me.

So, I learned that people only know what they want to know and if you come along and disagree and try to explain and educate, you’ll be ignored at best, or attacked. Either way, the wrong thing to do is go silent.The recent mob on Twitter actually made me chuckle because it’s composed of old Google Plus trolls that still have not moved onto productive lives. I almost feel sorry for them, but not quite. Being a worn-out troll really isn’t a good look for anyone. Sort of along the lines of a 50+-year-old still dressing as a 20+-year-old. It just makes you look older and haggard.

This is the verbiage from SB132:

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

SECTION 1.

 This act shall be known, and may be cited, as “The Transgender Respect, Agency, and Dignity Act.”

SEC. 2.

 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:(a) The term “transgender” is broad and inclusive of all gender identities different from the gender a person was assigned at birth including, but not limited to, transsexual, two-spirit, and māhū. “Nonbinary” is an inclusive term used to describe individuals who may experience a gender identity that is neither exclusively male nor female or is in between or beyond both of those genders, including, but not limited to, gender fluid, agender or without gender, third gender, genderqueer, gender variant, and gender nonconforming. The term “intersex” is a broad and inclusive term referring to people whose anatomy, hormones, or chromosomes fall outside the strict male and female binary.

So I decided to publish the list – directly from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) – for you to see with your own eyes.CDCR has provided a copy of the Listing of Incarcerated Individuals (CCWF & CIW) 07.14.2021 OR Report.pdf and SB 132 TRACKING LOG (07.12.2021).pdf.  These reports provide the number of incarcerated individuals transferred to a female identified institution, based on their gender identity and completed approval process for transfer. 

In response to your request for “their charges as well as if they are convicted sex offenders.” Below is a listing of the various commitment offenses for the 21 identified incarcerated individuals housed in a female institution, based on their gender identity, as of July 14, 2021.  Four of the 21 incarcerated individuals are convicted sex offenders:

•           Murder 1st 
•           Murder 2nd
•           Attempted Murder 1st 
•           Bringing a firearm/explosive/weapon to a prison
•           Robbery 2nd Degree
•           Robbery 2nd with use of a firearm
•           Burglary 1st 
•           Carjacking
•           Arson of Property
•           Arson of Inhabited Structure
•           Arson causing Great Bodily Injury
•           Kidnap/Ransom/Extortion
•           Driving Under the Influence – over legal blood alcohol content
•           Continuous Sex Abuse of Child Under 14 Years
•           Manufacture Controlled Substance
•           Possess Drugs w/Intent to Manufacture
•           Adult Engage Oral Copulation/Penetration of a Child 10 years old or Younger
•           Assault by Life Inmate/Victim Killed (In-Prison Offense)
•           Rape with Force/Violence/Fear of Bodily Injury
•           Lewd and Lascivious Victim 14/15 Years Old and Age Difference of 10+ Years
•           False Imprisonment
•           Lewd and Lascivious Child Under 14 Years
•           Lewd and Lascivious Child Under 14 W/Force/Violence
•           Mayhem
•           Assault with a Deadly Weapon
•           Cruelty to a child
•           Possession/Manufacture of Deadly Weapon by Prisoner

CDCR has included the memorandum and corresponding attachments for “Senate Bill 132 Implementation” dated December 18, 2020, as it relates to the “criteria use to determine eligibility for such transfer.”

And there you have it.

We’re not lying.

We’re not transphobic.

We believe women are human and are entitled to the same human rights as everybody else.

We believe in same-sex space and you cannot change your sex.

We believe we are all being played and women are being harmed and killed because we’re collateral damage in the fight of genocide being done on our sex.

If you would like to help and have your voice heard, please sign the attached petition, share it and any other posts you can, and support our work. https://www.womensliberationfront.org/california-sb-132-a-disaster-for-incarcerated-women Thank you.

When women communicate, silence is often demanded and enforced afterward.

I had been off the Medium platform for over a year or so. I had been a member and paid my monthly $5.00 to have full access to all the writers and to hopefully make a few bucks. The $5.00 was like petty cash to me as it just came out of my Paypal account. Hardly noticeable and of no consequence to me.

On a good month, I broke even, but that was rare. It was and is never about the money. It’s always been about communication to others, the giving and receiving of communication. The money was always a way for a reader to help if they could and wanted to. Not everyone could and not everyone wanted to. It has always been fine with me either way.

I wrote for one of the feminist publications because I wanted to help and give a voice to the voiceless – female inmates.

I am well aware of the inclination and practice of most of society to lock people up and keep them out of our minds. “Out of sight, out of mind.” I get it. There are those that are a continuous danger to society and should remain in jail to keep the rest of us safe.

But that’s another topic for another time.

I wrote it and it was published. I kept my name on it as I needed to step up to the plate and take whatever hits would come my way.

There were some hits, but like all things on social media, it had its 15 minutes of fame and the mob moved onto the next shiny object.

Shortly after that, the publication was removed from Medium and the account canceled, along with the revenue stream.

This pissed me off big time. I canceled my account and began working more on my Patreon site and my blog.

I learned to never plant my flag in someone else’s garden. Plant it in your own and protect it.

Time goes by. The pandemic continues around the world and working from home has become normal for me. I even picked up more work and my life carried on.

I kept getting notifications from people reading and liking my Medium posts. Odd, since my last post was that I had left and wouldn’t be back.

After getting my 50th email about the traffic on my deserted Medium site, I thought maybe it had changed and improved. After all, everything had changed over the past 18 months; maybe Medium had stopped censoring women, so I signed up again and posted my latest blog.

I got the following email from Ev Williams:

I read it and decided to see what would happen if I responded and clearly stated my point of view, so I sent this email:

A couple of hours later, I got this email:</figure><figure>

I canceled my account and got the standard email of sorry to see me go.

I suspect if I had not responded to the “Welcome” email in the first place, I probaly wouldn’t have been nailed, but I’ll never know.

Here’s the post that got me silenced on Medium:

https://www.patreon.com/posts/56633513

You just can’t make this shit up.



I got called a TERF today,” I said as my friend sat down across from me in the booth. We were having dinner mid-week because we were both sick and tired of being at home.

“A turf? What kind? Bermuda? I’m more like crabgrass, I think,” she said.

“What? No, not turf, TERF,” I said. It made sense to me.,”T.E.R.F. You never heard of it?”

The blank look on her face answered my question.

“it’s an acronym for ‘Trans-exclusionary radical feminist’. It’s supposed to be a slur, I think. At least that’s how it was meant.” I sipped my iced tea and chuckled. I knew it was meant as an insult and at first, it stung for a moment, and then it made me smile.

As a writer, I had hit a nerve. A nice way to get paid; a reader responding is the whole point.

“The whole J.K Rowling thing is when I first heard about it. You know, she had the nerve to say that sex is biological. Can you even imagine?” I said.

“Oh, yeah. I heard a bit about that. Is it because of your work with women in prison?”

I nodded. “Yep. I knew it would eventually happen and I’m taking it as a badge of honor.”

“That’s good. Everyone is too afraid to say anything,” she said.

Our food arrived and we dug in and got caught up on the latest adventures, or lack of them in our lives.

I knew she was right. I knew I was sticking my neck out, but I didn’t care. It’s not as if I am anyone important or even well-known outside of my immediate life. I had a few followers online but rarely does anyone engage with me. Rarely did I engage with anyone else and I’m fine with that.

Until now. Now, I want to be heard and I want women to be safe. I don’t like that we women are aggressively being erased and told we aren’t real. When you tell someone, they aren’t real, you are saying they don’t exist.

No one has that right.

The hardest part is the amount of insanity that is being called logic and science and therefore truth. The “truth” is that anyone can change their biological sex just by saying so and we all must accept their reality and their truth.

The funny thing is, I’m fine with someone thinking that and feeling like that. I have no problem an individuals making changes that are closer to their own truth.

Somewhere along the line, the stance to keep women safe is equated as saying you hate trans people.

Like the time I said I hate liver. That doesn’t then mean I hate people who eat liver or any meat. It simply means that if liver is anywhere around me, I want to throw up.

A word is not the thing. Words represent the thing you are talking about.

2-sided logic. Reactive and not logical. Don’t like liver? That means you hate meat-eaters.

Do you want to stop males from housing with women inmates? You are anti-trans according to the “woke” mentality. 

The truth is, being an anti-predator does not mean anti-trans, and how that came to be thought as true is beyond me but here we are.

It’s lazy, sloppy, and does not see they are not equal or similar. Absolute values of right and wrong, yet there are thousands of shades of gray on right and wrong.

Neither one is an absolute yet 2-sided logic says that is all there is.

What’s unfortunate for me is I like to talk with people and discuss all kinds of topics, but I know that it is almost impossible for most on this topic.

I received a DM from someone that they were shocked at what I was posting. This is where I got called a TERF and she happily announced she had unfollowed me. I was going to respond and thought better of it, so I blocked her.

She immediately posted this and of course, the pile on started. I ignored it and went on with my day.

But it made me a bit sad because I would have loved to talk about it and explain that anti-predator has nothing to do with anti-trans and let’s all work together to make this a better place for all of us.

Staying silent gives them power. 

So, for those that object to 51% of the population (women) being raped by male prisoners  and degraded by them, this is why I and many of us are fighting for same-sex spaces, to allow women (and men) to have our own space, free from the opposite sex from interfering – the following are just a few of the men that are currently being housed in women prisons in the United States:



Jakob “Dakota” Neves – Massachusetts. Jakob is convicted of sexually exploiting two children under the age of 4, 1 count of distribution of child pornography, 1 count of possession of child pornography.



Jordan “Sora” Kuykendalic – Illinois. Stabbed his 17-year-old girlfriend to death.



Jose Smith – Iowa. Convicted of multiple (15 minimum) of child sex crimes, ages 1-13 years old. 



Miguel “Michelle” Martinez – Wyoming. Convicted of two counts of sexual abuse of a 10-year-old.



Water M. Moore “AKA Nikki Petrovickol – Maine. Murdered 41-year-old Connie Gagliardi.



Louis “Lisa” Massei – New York. Convicted of gang-raping a 16-year-old, attempted murder, sodomy, unlawful imprisonment.



Mark Campbell AKA Nicole Rose – Wisconsin. The repeated rape of his 10-year-old daughter.



David Josef Lovejoy AKA Kendra Michelle Lovejoy – Minnesota. Four decades of attempted burglary, sexual assault, sex offender registry violations, battery, disorderly conduct. Five counts of child pornography.



Luis Morales AKA Synthia Blast – New York. Raped and murdered a 13-year-old girl. The child was decapitated, dumped under a bridge, and set on fire.

If fighting for the safety and welfare of women makes me a TERF…well….thanks! The fight is just getting started.

I also publish at my Patreon site. If you are inclined to help support my work, you can subscribe there. It’s not necessary and I intend to keep doing the work regardless of payment, so it’s cool. I appreciate your support and following along. https://www.patreon.com/SusanLewis

Photo by Denis Oliveira on Unsplash

Imagine having made a horrible mistake or two or even three. You know what you did was wrong. Like everyone else, you had your reasons. Maybe they were good reasons. Maybe they were stupid reasons, but you did what you did and you got caught.

You weren’t violent or if you were, it was to defend yourself or your child or a friend.

You were stupid or strung out on drugs or thought you could get away with it.

But you didn’t.

You got caught and now you’re in jail. You commit yourself to being better, to doing better, to take this one chance to change your life.

You don’t know where your kids are because they were taken away from you. Put in foster care because you didn’t have anyone in your family who could take them in.

Worse yet, they are with a family member you know will harm them, neglect them, use them as punching bag and there’s nothing you can do about it.

You messed up and your rights were taken away from you.

It’s your fault. You know this.

Maybe you’ve been homeless, living in your car with your kids.

You weren’t happy but at least you got away from him. You hope he doesn’t find you so you move your car every night and pray the weather doesn’t turn cold.

Maybe you did what you did because he made you do bad things.

I’ve heard just about every excuse for someone behaving badly and I’ve never bought any of them. We always have reasons, excuses, justifications for what we do.

No human being has ever been wrong. Just ask one. Ask yourself.

So there you sit, in a cell with other women. You find an endless amount of help available to you:

  • AA
  • Anger Management
  • Vocational Programs
  • Academic Programs
  • Substance Abuse Programs
  • Career Education
  • Pre-release Guidance
  • Community Bettermet Projects

You’ll run into and meet plenty of volunteers like me, who offer to help and demand you do the best you can do. You’ll meet us because we believe people can change if they want to. We believe we can get you back to who you are.

The facility is responsible for your safety and welfare, so you use the time to improve yourself, get clean and sober, dig deep into yourself and vow you’ll be a better person every day.

Then one day, the staff tell you “You know how to scrap, you know how to fight, so defend yourself.”

Why are they suddenly telling you this as they turn their backs and look the other way?

Photo by Skyler King on Unsplash

Because male inmates are now in your facility, in your cell, and in your showers. Suddenly convicted sex offenders have decided to self-ID as a woman and there’s nothing you can do about it.

You have to take it. You have to ignore his leering while you use the toilet. You have to look away when he has an erection while he watches you sleep.

You now sleep in shifts to prevent getting raped or assaulted. There’s no help from anyone anymore.

If you complain, you’ll be disciplined and he won’t. He’ll get away with it because YOU’RE the one with the problem.

You’re transphobic.

You’re a prude.

You thought you had a voice? You need to take it, put up with it, sit down and shut up.

Just like you always have. Not only has your safe space been taken away from you, so has your voice.

The staff tell you they are afraid of a lawsuit, so they look away.

Your government has told you that you don’t matter and never did.

And we wonder why recidivism is so high?

They are someone’s daughter, sister, mother, aunt. granddaughter. They matter and we need to speak for them since they have been silenced and tossed aside so predators can prey on them.

These women matter even if the government says they don’t.

Violation of anyone’s human rights is a violation of yours and mine.

So what can you do?

Plenty. We’re not going to stop fighting and protecting women until our hard-earned rights are restored to all of us.

Failure is not an option.

Please visit this site, watch the video and sign the petition and share, share, and share some more. https://www.womensliberationfront.org/california-sb-132-a-disaster-for-incarcerated-women

Richard Masbruch was convicted in 1991 of rape, sodomy, false imprisonment, torture, and burglary. He was sentenced to 2 life sentences.

Jason Hann beat his 2-year old son Jason to death, along with his 10-month old daughter Montana. Their bodies were found in storage containers. His third infant child showed signs of abuse but survived. He was sentenced to death.

David Chester Warfield stabbed, shot, and murdered 2 women and their adopted son. He is awaiting trial.

Rodney James was convicted of kidnapping and murder. He was sentenced to 17 year without the possibility of parole.

Jeffrey Norsworthy was conviced of second degree murder and was sentened to 17 years to life.

What do all these inmates have in common besides being violent predators?

They are all being housed in women prisons in California. Yes, biological men are being housed with female inmates in California. California correctional facilities now join those in Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York City and Massachusetts in allowing gender identity when housing inmates.

What does that mean?

All it takes is a biological male saying they self-ID as woman. From that moment on, nothing further is asked, their records are changed from “male” to “female” and they are placed in women facilities, housed with women, shower and sleep with women and no questions are asked.

That’s all it takes, thanks to SB 132. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200SB132

I honestly have much more to say about this and will continue to write more, but I wanted to first get the work started to educate people about this travesity and ask you to read, sign, and share the petition below to have this reversed.

What struck me at first glance was this has come about because of the violence against trans people in jail. No one should ever be harmed, but why hasn’t anyone spoken up for women? Why is it that as soon as men become the target, we now need State and Federal law to step in? Why wasn’t this important before?

Because as soon as men were being affected, then it became a problem, but violence against women inmates has been going on since the beginning of incarcerating women.

Where is the protection for them?

The solution is not to take away the safety and security of women by housing males in women-only spaces.

The soulution is not to take away space where women can recover and heal.

The solution is to ensure that ALL inmates are protected while in custody. That is where the reform needs to take place and not by taking away the rights of many to secure the rights of a few.

Women are continuing to be erased, but there is something you can do.

You can speak up and let your voice be heard.

If you know of someone who wants their story told, feel free to send them my way. I’ll speak for them if they can’t or don’t know how. Comment here and I’ll reach out to you.

Support those of us who are speaking up. Share the petition below and tell others what is happening not only here in the US, but Canada and England as well.

Don’t let your rights as a woman be taken away.

Don’t allow yourself to be erased.

Demand same-sex spaces be yours and mine and demand that the transferring of men into women spaces immediately halt.

Please write to your Federal Representative. You can find out who this at https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/CA

I disagree that sex and gender are the samething.

I disagree that I am being forced to give up my rights and those of women just to “play nice and be quiet.”

I disagree that violence towards anyone is to be “handled” by redirecting it towards another group.

Enough is enough.

https://www.womensliberationfront.org/california-sb-132-a-disaster-for-incarcerated-women

Speak up!

Photo by Elyssa Fahndrich on Unsplash

Photo by Graham Ruttan on Unsplash

computer-1295358_1280Image by <a href=”https://pixabay.com/

Yes, it is possible to be both, unless you are someone that thinks that there are only pure absolutes in this universe. If so, then no need for you to continue reading. Just skip on over to the next post in your feed.

But there are a few things that are absolutes for me:

  • Micheal Vick an evil piece of shit and should be incarcerated forever.
  • Liver is disgusting and equally as evil as Vick.
  • My unconditional love for my family, a few friends, and my pets.
  • I loathe injustice and cruelty.

There may be a few more, but not many. I know life is really thousands and thousands shades of gray. I know just as there is no absolute right, there isn’t an absolute wrong.

I know I tried really hard to wrap my head around the Georgia abortion bill HB 481 and I can’t. I read it and re-read it and studied the various analysis of it and walked away with a feeling of dread and worry. Not for me, but for you. I am too old to get pregnant, so this is not something that will affect me directly, but I’m still a woman who cares about other women.

I can usually understand, to some degree, other points of view. I may not agree, but I can get it. I will not profess to fully understand the entirety of this bill, but I understand enough to see that you cannot legislate anyone’s moral compass, ethics, and integrity.

I can’t think with this bill because it is too extreme to be anything other than a blatant attempt to govern and control women and our reproductive rights. It takes away our Human Right to family and marriage because it criminalizes a woman’s right to choose what is best for her and her family. It takes away our freedom of choice to make the decisions we deem correct. That is a form of slavery or at best, dictatorship.

I don’t think it would bother me quite as much if it also included the other half of the equation. Last time I checked, it still takes sperm to fertilize an egg, so why isn’t this bill also including the penalties for the man? Why isn’t the sperm donor also being interrogated and possibly charged with murder if the woman is also charged?

Why is it only women who are being targeted in this bill? If the people that put this together are so damned concerned about the child, why isn’t the man also being held responsible?

I say I am pro-choice and pro-life (I actually hate those terms, but it’s all we’ve got right now) and what I mean by that is this: I PERSONALLY think abortion is wrong. I BELIEVE life begins at conception. I FEEL there are better alternatives for most abortions.

I also BELIEVE that a woman has the right to choose what happens to her body. I FEEL that it is her choice and if she chooses to have an abortion, as much as it is not right for ME, I want it to be safe and legal. I don’t believe in abortion in general, so that means I should not have one.

I have never been pregnant and therefore never had an abortion. I had a few scares when I was younger and though I say that I don’t think abortion is right, trust me it was something I thought about as a teenager when my period was late. I can’t say what I would have done had I been pregnant and not just late, but the idea that I had a choice was important.

I can’t tell you what you should do, anymore than I’d listen to you tell me what I should do. I would never tell a woman what to do, but I sure as hell would make sure she was safe and hopefully making the best decision possible for HER situation.

I cannot even begin to imagine what a woman goes through after a miscarriage. I have seen friends and family grieve for the lost child, the lost hope and the agony of guilt and shame. I have not walked in those shoes but I have seen them.

The idea that any one of them could possibly then be subjected to an interrogation by a prosecutor and possibly charged with second-degree murder is incomprehensible to me. Only a monster would do that and therein lies the problem.

This bill is not about abortion, per se. This bill is not concerned with the welfare and health of children, but is an attempt to further control women via punishment or the threat of punishment for their choices.

I will be honest with you. I would prefer that no woman ever had an abortion, with very few exceptions.

I wish that every woman never had to be put in the position of having to make that choice.

I wish all children were not only welcomed with open arms and given love, security, and health into a family that will care for them, but they all grow up to be happy, healthy, and wonderful citizens who contribute to society and improve it.

I want that for everyone. I think we all do, but I am not naive. The reality is quite different and it is not my place to tell you what you should do or judge you for your decisions.

You and I each have the right to make decisions about our own bodies. I don’t need the government or court to tell me what I think, what my moral compass is, or how to live or behave.

  • I want you to be safe. I want you to be allowed to make the best possible choices for you, your family, and your loved ones.
  • I don’t want you harmed or feel you can’t get out of a bad situation.
  • I don’t want you judged, punished, and forced to live a life you don’t want.
  • I want more funding and help for adoption options.
  • I want more education on our choices.
  • I want the foster child program to no longer be necessary because all children have loving homes and no one has put them in danger.

I want all life to be respected and protected, including yours.

homelesswoman

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

The first time I saw her, I wanted to call the cops. I didn’t like her sitting on the bottom of the stairs that lead to the front door of my apartment. I was living in a 2 story house that had been converted into 2 or 3 apartments. 2 if you didn’t count the room directly to the left of the front door that the landlord was using for storage. He was always saying he was going to rent it out but never did.

I had come downstairs and was making sure the front door locked behind me when I saw her sitting there. She was stooped over and there were 2 large bags stuffed with God only knows what. She had a filthy hoodie pulled over her head. She had on a long skirt that covered her dirty sneakers.

I stood behind her, uncertain of what to do. Should I ignore her and walk to my car? Should I say something? Should l tell her to leave? She wasn’t hurting anyone but she made me uncomfortable sitting on the step. She was in the front yard on private property and didn’t belong here.

Her posture was atrocious. I could see that she wasn’t just leaning over; her back had a gigantic hump that forced her head down to her chest. It was as if her neck and shoulder were fused into one piece. She was bent from the waist down as if her back was frozen that way. She was deformed and it looked painful.

I stepped to her right and walked past. Halfway to my car, I turned around and looked back at her.

She was staring at the ground and I realized that was probably as far up as she could move her head. Her face was covered with dirt and her hands were black with filth. Her nails were crusted over with dirt.

I walked a few paces towards her.

“Are you OK? Do you need anything?”

Her eyes looked up at me. They were a brilliant blue, clear and sharp. She smiled. Most of her teeth were gone but the few that remained were rotten.

“I’ll get out of your way,” she said and began to gather her bags.

“No! That’s OK. You can sit there,” I said. “I just wanted to make sure you’re OK,” I said. I felt like a shit for wanting to call the cops on her. I also hoped the landlord didn’t show up. He’d berate her, throw her off his property and call the cops, just to be sure.

He really was an asshole.

She smiled slightly, shrugged her shoulders and said “I’m fine.”

I nodded and walked over to my car, started it up and put it in reverse. As I pulled away, I looked back at her. She was sitting quietly, staring at the ground.

As I drove away, I felt as if I had just left a toddler alone in my apartment and telling myself that they would be alright.

I didn’t see her again until 3 weeks later. This time she was sitting on the bench in front of my house at the bus stop. Stooped over with her 2 bags and wearing the same clothes. She still sat at that horrible angle. There was no way she wasn’t in pain, yet she sat, as she had done before on the porch, quietly, patiently, and not moving. Just looking at her feet.

I thought about going over and talking to her after I changed my clothes but when I looked out my window a few minutes later, she was gone. I doubted she had taken the bus and had probably been resting for a few minutes.

I would see her every so often over the next few months, walking down the street with her bags and stooped back. Her head was lower than her shoulders and I wondered if she could even see where she was going. She had to stare at the ground while she walked. She always had on the same clothes and she shuffled. It seemed she couldn’t pick up her feet very far up off the ground. Or maybe she could but since she couldn’t see in front of her, she had to walk slowly and carefully lest she walk into something or someone.

I began to worry about her when the weather turned cold. This wasn’t usually a concern of mine since the weather in Silicon Valley was mild compared to most of the United States, but we had our cold snaps and it wasn’t uncommon for the winter temperature get into the 30’s. The Bay Area, smack in the middle of the most liberal state in the Union, was known to have the largest and least cared for population of homeless people. Silicon Valley was booming with new millionaires almost daily due to the abundance of high tech companies we claimed to love and adore, but you were only as good as your last million, the last app you created or the last program you coded.

Why was I worrying about this woman who seemed to wander the few blocks around my apartment? She wasn’t dangerous by any means, so why should I wonder where she was or more importantly, who she was?

I began to imagine what happened to her. She had to have been someone’s child, but was she also someone’s mother or sister or wife? Where was her family? Had she been born deformed or did something happen to her? Was she hurt at some point and was unable to receive medical care and now was cursed to pull her dirty and hurt body around the streets until she dropped dead?

“Who is she?” was a question I would ask myself on my couch while binge watching Netflix. I’d get up and look outside my second story apartment window to see if she was walking by. I never knew if I was disappointed that I didn’t see her or afraid that I would see her shuffling down the street again.

One day while standing in line at Walgreen’s to buy my weekly supply of nicotine gum, of which I was still using 2 years after quitting smoking, I saw her walk in. She came through the automatic doors, her chin forced down to her chest and walked past me. A few people jumped back as she went by. My eyes followed her as she turned down an aisle and disappeared. I didn’t mean to stare but I couldn’t help it.

She was here. She walked into a store just like a normal person. I wanted to go find her but felt that was getting into the territory of stalking. Plus it would just be creepy to follow this poor woman around the store as if she were a freak or treat her as if I thought she would steal.

I paid for my purchase and walked to my car. I unlocked it and threw my gum onto the passenger seat, got in and closed the door. I didn’t start my car. Instead I sat there and stared at the entrance to the store and waited. I didn’t know exactly what I was waiting for except to watch her as she came out. That’s all I knew. I just wanted to watch her and maybe talk to her.

I was also afraid of her. I wasn’t afraid of her because of how she looked or that I thought she would hurt me or curse at me. I was afraid of her because I didn’t want to end up like her. If I didn’t get my shit together soon, I could be her in a decade or two or even sooner. Seeing homeless people scared me or made me nervous because even though I didn’t know their story, I knew they had one. We all do.

I didn’t know what I was going to say but I knew I had to talk to her. She had me worried during the cold weather. I wondered if she had a place to stay and food to eat.

I wondered if she was someone who was completely alone in the world, someone whom everyone tried not to see, someone who we all wanted to disappear and not ever have to think about, someone that we were all terrified of becoming since so many of us lived from one paycheck to the next.

I saw her come out and turn right. Without thinking, I got out of my car and walked towards her. She stopped by a trash can, rummaged through one of her bags, and threw something away.

I cleared my throat and quietly walked up to her. I didn’t want to scare her.

“Hi,’ I said. That was all I could think of.

She raised her head as best as she could and looked at me.

“Hello,” she said.

I stood there, staring at her and realized I was about to be incredibly rude, but I didn’t know what to say, so I said what had been on my mind for months.

“Are you OK?” I asked. “Do you need help with anything?”

She smiled. Her eyes were still blue and her few remaining teeth were still rotten.

“The porch steps,” she said.

I blinked. I didn’t know what she was talking about for a moment and then I realized she remembered me from months ago.

I chuckled “Yes, the porch steps. That’s me.”

She was lucid and calm. Her smile was genuine. I couldn’t quite tell her age. Her skin was like leather, brown from the sun, and wrinkled. She could have been anywhere from the age of 45 to 85. I didn’t know what I expected, but this wasn’t it. I thought someone in her condition, who wandered the streets all day, would be crazy and scary.

“No, I’m fine,” she said and stared to walk away.

“Wait!” I said and followed her. “Are you sure you don’t need anything? I’m sorry, but you look like you could use some help.”

She stopped and turned around. I worried that I had insulted or offended her even though that wasn’t my intent. I found myself, for the first time in a very long time, reaching out to someone.

I hadn’t realized it until that moment, and even then I wouldn’t be able to articulate it for some time, but it had been months since I had really talked to someone. I had the usual conversations at work, which were social and necessary, but I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen any of my friends or done anything other than go to work, worry about money, cry myself to sleep from the loneliness and get up the next morning and do it again.

She looked at me for a moment. “I don’t need any help. Do you?”

I didn’t know how to respond to her. I started to stutter because her words penetrated what social veneer I had left. This was not the conversation I had envisioned. I was prepared to give her money or take her across the street to McDonald’s and buy her a meal. I wasn’t prepared for an actual conversation beyond that.

I wasn’t counting on having her be anything other than grateful for my charity and me feeling like I had done some wonderful and selfless and contributed to mankind, something that would get her out of my head when it was cold.

I was talking to her to help MY conscience. That fact struck me in the face and I felt ashamed.

No, a conversation wasn’t what I wanted but I didn’t know what it was that I did want.

“I’m OK. Could be better but can’t complain….” I said and felt my words fall flat.

She snorted and for some reason, that made me chuckle.

“Look, I’m sorry if I’m bothering you and I don’t mean to offend, but honestly, you look like you’re having a rough time and I was worried about you. I know that sounds strange, and it IS strange, but I keep seeing you around the neighborhood and…well…I just wanted to know if you had a place to sleep…and I’m making a fool of myself, aren’t I?”

“Would you like to treat me to a cup of coffee?” she asked and motioned to the coffee shop a few doors down.

So we went and had coffee. She told me her name was Bernie and she lived in the neighborhood. I didn’t ask where. We chatted about the weather and I never once asked her any questions. I figured she would tell me whatever she wanted.

I glared at the people who stared at her and made them turn away out of shame for staring. I had a look that could turn a person to stone if I was pissed off enough.

She told me about the recent book she had read and recommended it to me. Reading was her hobby and passion. The bags she carried had some clothes but mostly she carried books. She would find the little free libraries throughout the neighborhood and take a book and then put it back when she was done and take another one.

When it was time to leave, I stood up and helped her with her chair and bags. I wasn’t sure if I felt better or worse. I had a million questions for her but even with the way she looked, she had a air of dignity about her.

“Well, good-bye Bernie. I’m sure I’ll see you around, yes?”

“Most likely. Thank you for the coffee, Susan. I enjoyed your company,” she said. She reached into one of her bags, rummaged around and pulled out a book. She handed it to me.

“I think you’ll like this one,” she said and walked away.

“Thank you!” I said and looked down at the book. It was used, which is just the way I like them, but it was in excellent condition. It was “The Black Ice” and it made me smile. I had mentioned during our conversation how much I liked the series by Michael Connelly.

I watched her shuffle down the sidewalk until she was out of sight. I got in my car and drove home. I wasn’t sure what I thought or felt, but there was a part of me that changed. I had reached out to a stranger and nothing bad happened. I talked to a person that may or may not have been homeless and realized it wasn’t money or food she wanted; it was the company of another person who sat with them and listened. She wasn’t that different from me. We were both lonely and for a moment, we weren’t.

After that, I’d look for her on my porch every morning when I’d leave for work and I always felt disappointed when she wasn’t there. I still have some used books in my car to give her, if I should ever see her again.

images

I had the pleasure of talking with a young man yesterday. He’s a friend of a friend and came into the office. Let’s call him Gary, OK?

Gary has been in the United States for 9 years. Prior to immigrating here, he was an attorney in his home land. He has no intention of being an attorney here but is still passionate about human rights.

He told me a story of working for someone here in the US. The man underpaid his employees and was a criminal. Gary, very intelligent and fluent in English, caught-on very quickly what illegal things this man was doing and that he was taking advantage of his employees, many of whom didn’t understand English and did not know their rights.

Gary tried, several times, to get the man to change his ways, but he refused. Gary watched as the employees worked hard yet didn’t know they weren’t even being paid minimum wage.

Gary played a little dumb (smart!) and told the man he would sue. The man laughed at him and blew him off.

Gary then started a class action suit against him. He gathered up all the employees, made sure they understood, took care of them and sued.

And they won. $2,000,000.00 of which Gary took very little from.

For you see, like me, he doesn’t give a crap about money. He just wants people to do well.

I asked him “As someone who has come from another country, what do you think about the US?”

With no hesitation, he said “You know why this is the greatest country in the world? Because we can all come here, be protected, and live our lives. You know there are so many people who want to kill all of you? You know that most of us don’t and that we love you, your government and your Constitution and will die to protect it? Each and every one of us are proud to be an American.”

I choked up, got up and hugged him. I thanked him for being here, for caring about people. He hugged me back.

He talked about our history and I was beyond impressed.

“You guys are rebels and you flipped off those that sought to control you, tell you what to think, what to believe, and how to live. You told them to go to hell, broke all the rules and opened your hearts to the foundation and basis of your country – freedom of religion and that’s why we’re here.”

Remember that our system works. It may not be perfect, but it works.

You just need to be more intelligent on how to use it.

When you rant, rave, share degrading meme’s and pictures of the President of the United States, YOU HURT YOUR CAUSE! You are doing so much more damage and personally, I’m sick of your shit.

I don’t give a flying fuck what you think because you are being an out-of-control idiot and will never get your message across. Those of us who you might have had a conversation with and might have gotten some help, you are immediately muted and written off as stupid.

Here’s some advice from someone who has had 40 years of success in getting people to act:

  • Speak intelligently and talk to each person as if they are important, because they are.
  • SIMPLY state ONE objection and be very specific in that ONE objection.
  • Answer people’s questions AND LISTEN TO WHAT THEY SAY.
  • Give them ONE THING to do and help them do that.
  • Rinse and repeat.

Carry on and get your emotions under control. You’re hurting your cause when you react.

/done