When I was in the second grade, my teacher, Mrs. Bradshaw, started off the school year by bringing in a class pet. We had two goldfish in a glass tank that sat on a countertop in the back of the classroom. The purpose of having these fish was to teach the students in the class about the life cycle. We would watch them grow and simultaneously learn responsibility by collectively feeding the goldfish and cleaning out their tank. I believe we even named them, though I can’t recall what their names were.
One day, Mrs. Bradshaw notified the class of a minor issue with our fish friends…unbeknownst to her, one was male and the other female; when she got into the room that morning, she noticed they had a flurry of baby goldfish that hatched overnight. The problem was that the fish parents were eating their babies. Mrs. Bradshaw must have seen a great learning opportunity and thus, a classroom election took place.
Mrs. Bradshaw told us all that we needed to figure out a way to protect our baby fish friends. She told us she didn’t think that the mommy and daddy were purposely eating their babies, but that sometimes nature has a funny way of going about things. She made sure that we were aware we had enough power to change the fate of the helpless goldies. She created a call to action: how can we protect the babies? What can we do to ensure their environment doesn’t change so drastically that it puts them in shock (where they would die) while also protecting them from the larger fish? She gave us an entire day to rack our young brains for a solution and the following day we would be allowed to present our ideas. Then the class would vote for who they felt would be best to carry out their plan.
I definitely knew I wanted to be the person who came up with the winning solution. I always tried to ensure I was the smartest one in the class, if not by intelligence than by whit. Many students went to the front of the class to present their ideas, but all of them were too risky or weren’t really a solution at all. It was my turn to present my idea: create a small enclosure within the same tank. That enclosure would have a wall with holes in it which would allow for both the main tank and the babies tank to share the same water. Both tanks would be accessible for feeding as they would be open at the top, but closed off to each other so the babies could not swim out and the big fish could not swim in. The babies wouldn’t be eaten and their environment would be relatively unchanged. Mrs. Bradshaw and the entire class loved my idea and asked me to find a way to create the smaller tank. Once I completed my tank modification, I took on the responsibility of caring for them daily. I would feed them, clean the tanks, and keep an eye out for the future babies that hatched. Once they hatched, I transferred them to the smaller tank enclosure where they were safe. The babies were no longer at jeopardy for becoming the next meal and remained inside the smaller tank until they were big enough to transfer to the larger tank. My tank modification was a success and a total of three hatchling groups were saved. I felt proud not only of being elected for my idea but of my responsibility to care for the baby fish.
Just before summer vacation, an awards ceremony was held for all of the students who were on Honor Roll or had perfect attendance the entire school year. I was sitting amongst all the other second graders when over the PA system I heard my name called. I was confused at first because normally you’re notified ahead of time when you’re going to receive an award so your parents or family members can be there to celebrate with you. I had no idea they were going to call my name. When I walked up to the podium, Mrs. Bradshaw gave a small speech. I was receiving the award for “Baby Fish Keeper”. Mrs. Bradshaw basically said that if it wasn’t for my great idea, nurturing behavior, and dedication, all of the baby fish in our classroom tank would have died. She was so proud of my hard work in caring for them that she made up this silly award just to recognize me. I was elated!
This afternoon, as I was taking a shower, I was thinking about the current events happening in the United States. As of today, Donald Trump, our current President, along with the Trump administration has decided to rescind DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) which is an American Immigration policy founded by the Obama administration in 2012. Basically, DACA allows certain illegal immigrants who entered the country as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit. Those protected by DACA are often described as intelligent, hopeful, hard working immigrants who have come to America with the same ideals as all hard working Americans: to be a contribution to their communities and country and take part in opportunities for education and career. In the five years since DACA was enacted, the nearly 800,000 young people (or Dreamers) who received protections have started families, pursued life changing careers and studied in schools and universities all across this great country. Most Dreamers have never known any other home other than the United States. Congress is being given 6 months to act and come up with another solution before any of these protected individuals lose their ability to work, study and live without fear in the U.S.
While I understand that Trump’s concern on this issue is the millions of natural-born Americans that are currently unemployed, I honestly don’t think he’s given more than 5 minutes thought about the young people who will be affected by deportation if Congress doesn’t come up with another solution for them. These young people, many of whom were probably brought to this country before their 5th birthday, would be forced out of the only home they’ve ever known and potentially away from their families and their livelihood, sent away to another country of which they are totally unfamiliar, and left without any possibility of regaining that sense of home ever again. Granted, that’s worst case scenario…but if anyone told me this was potentially a future I’d be facing myself soon, I would be absolutely devastated.
As a nation, I feel it is our responsibility to treat all hard working, contributing immigrants the same we would anyone who is a natural-born citizen. We were all immigrants once. We were all Dreamers once. Our opportunities weren’t given to our ancestors, nor were they taken away. Here in America, those opportunities were fought for. Amongst any of these hopeful immigrants could be the individual who ends world hunger, finds a cure for breast cancer or Alzheimers, or invents the next revolutionary piece of technology that changes the way we live forever. But if they’re never given the chance to succeed, how would we know? The reality is they come from a place that doesn’t nurture growth or success. These Dreamers are often from war-torn, third-world countries of poverty, drugs, crime and disease. The chances of them surviving without being subjected to (or victims of) heinous crimes and unfortunate circumstances is very slim. Anyone interested in coming to our amazing country with the hopes and aspirations for bigger and better lives, and who are willing to work hard to obtain their goals, is welcome as far as I’m concerned. It’s a shame the leaders of our country don’t currently feel this way themselves.
And this isn’t the only issue the leaders of our country are currently on the opposing side of. The basic human rights of so many citizens are at stake. It should never be a government concern whom you marry, what gender you identify with, or what you choose to do with your own body so long as it’s safe. Soldiers are dying and their families aren’t being contacted by the “Commander in Chief”. Healthy people are getting sick and their right to proper medical care is at stake. Hate groups are marching the streets with damn tiki torches and are being told by the President that it’s fine! Yet the ability to marry someone I love, if their gender is the same as mine, is NOT? It makes no damn sense, not to mention it’s fucking embarrassing. Like, a tiki torch?…really?
My right to choose when I start a family is blasphemous because it might promote risky sexual behavior, right? I was a virgin until I was almost 20 years old. Don’t get it twisted; I had many guys make advances at me in High School. I was never interested in them because I knew they were only interested in one thing from me. And I wanted more than just sex; I wanted someone who cared about me for who I was, was interested in me for more than just my body, and a little damn respect. Heaven forbid. Only after having spent quite a bit of time in a committed relationship with my now Husband did I feel comfortable enough to decide to have sex. That was a personal choice. I was already on birth control by then. Why? Because my doctor recommended it to me. I suffered from severe pelvic cramping with every menstrual cycle and had a very heavy bleed each month. I was going through a Super Plus tampon (guys, that’s like a toilet paper roll in your vag) every two hours or less. I was miserable, I could hardly function for those sometimes 9 days every month, yet I was required to maintain my regularly active lifestyle regardless of the immense bleeding and pain. When I started birth control, I knew it was going to be useful in the future when I did decide to finally become sexually active, but in NO WAY did it open the door to making me feel more promiscuous just because I was taking it. I finally felt better! My periods were predictable, I would hardly experience pain at all, and I was using a Regular size tampon only 3 days of the week and the rest of the time they were Lights. The difference was night and day both in my symptoms and in how I felt. Again, it didn’t make me a little whore. And anyone who thinks a birth control pill will make a woman open her legs should probably put down their Viagra…you hypocritical molestor! Ugh, anyways…where was I?
Let’s get one fucking fact straight: just because you tell people they can’t doesn’t mean they won’t. Don’t put anyone in jeopardy of getting hurt because you want to control something that has nothing to do with you. Sadly, the amount of women who will seek an abortion because they were raped and their attacker didn’t use a condom, thus resulting in an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy as a product of a violent and traumatic experience will increase. And when you make something as personal as abortion illegal, those women will seek sanctuary elsewhere. That can put them in a potentially dangerous situation. Not only is it ridiculous to have to seek medical care outside of one of the most medically advanced countries, it’s also not safe. (P.S. in medical terms, I had an abortion once, too. A “spontaneous abortion”. That was the medical term written on my ER discharge paperwork when I suffered my miscarriage.) Yes, this is a sensitive subject. Yes, this is upsetting for MILLIONS of people. And yes, these personal matters are still being discussed at round tables of elderly men with little to no understanding of what non-hypocritical morality is.
I want to stand beside the interests of all people. Young and old, man or woman, gay and straight, left and right, right or wrong. I believe everyone deserves their voices and opinions to be heard. However, although I choose to hear you out, I will not stand beside hate and discrimination. I do not support the way our country is being operated at this point in time. And I recognize, though terrifying as it may be, that this will be short lived. Our current administration will not prevent the amazing people of this great nation from living a life of freedom and happiness. Our ancestors have fought too hard for too long to ensure that we, the future of this nation, have better opportunities to live a life of freedom. And the fight isn’t over. I will continue to contribute to that fight for my son and the future he will live or the children he may choose to bring into this world one day. I have vowed to raise my child with an open mind and open heart. He will know right from wrong. He will be respectful. He will acknowledge those who are different than him and accept them for what makes them unique. And he will know to support those whose voices are being silenced. By being born an American citizen, I recognize that he is already more blessed than many of the children in the world today. But it will be all for nothing if he grows up with hatred and bias in him. I will accept nothing less than for him to show acceptance and stand strong against people who incite fear. Teaching him those things is my responsibility as his parent.
The outcome of the second grade election was a positive one. As a group, we managed to elect someone with a great idea, who showed empathy for the weak fish, and who had passion for the cause. They supported me so I could protect the baby goldfish from distress and ultimate peril when they could not protect themselves. By doing so, we were successful together and the baby goldfish were safe and lived long and happy. And by creatively keeping them in the same tank, they weren’t subjected to the shock associated with a drastic environment change. They were home.
My plea to you is this: when you encounter someone who is weaker or less fortunate than you, protect them. Do what you can to stand for their rights. Help them find their voice so they may learn to be brave enough to use it. We have great responsibilities in this life; to nurture our communities, be tolerant, stand for what’s right, protect the weak, and seek change for the greater good. By doing this together, we will all be successful. Just like with the baby goldfish, sometimes we have to get creative to find ways to ensure everyone has a safe haven in a world of bigger fish.