I was privileged to be present at the WV Free Gala last week to help support the essential work that they do for reproductive and health rights, equality and justice for women. WV Free has been around since 1993 and they are steadfast that decisions around a woman’s health should be made…..ready for this…..by the woman. What a radical thought! Carey and I were happy that we were able to attend and to see WV Free honor Delegate Dave Pethtel with the Helaine Rotgin Champion for Choice award. The inspiring story of how Delegate Pethtel became a supporter and champion at the WV Legislature was one of the highlights of the evening. As Delegate Pethtel relayed the story of the relationship that WV Free staff and volunteers built with him, I was reminded that for all of the technology we have at our disposal, nothing beats that one on one, human to human, outreach. We can all learn from that example of never giving up, always being willing to debate, discuss, disagree, but seek common ground that can lead to common sense solutions to the issues we face.
For me the highlight of the evening (besides the great food) was hearing Letitia Jackson, Program Manager with Groundswell Fund, as she put forth some very meaningful words from both her personal experience and her work in bringing people together. I immediately reached for my pen to write down this particular gem. “We don’t live single issue lives”. What truth! I looked around the room and saw so many people who also attend similar events during the year around issues dealing with the environment, labor rights, rights of the elderly, youth, people of color, and LGBT. I think it’s important to remember that those who defend the status quo try to separate us into boxes and to categorize us in ways that separate us. To be sure, there are disagreements and debate between various groups. But if we can seek to find those issues where we agree, continue to discuss and respect different perspectives of those who disagree, then we can create a better WV.
That is not to say that unity is always possible. I also understand that there are leaders whose position on issues is 180 degrees opposite of where we are. I haven’t found any commonalities between my world view and Donald Trump’s. We don’t live in a society where there is complete equity. But too often we make assumptions, we stereotype, or we simply want to assume that we have perfect clarity. But I do think that if we get out of those boxes, seek to understand, and reject the labels that are put upon us, we will, more often than not, succeed. It is, after all, the way we live our lives. Many environmentalists also care about labor issues and vice versa. Those who are working on better access to health care, often also care about LBGT rights and the reverse is true. We live complex lives that are interconnected with others. It’s time we worked together. There are real attacks coming at us, from those who are in “power”. But, we can build grassroots power to push back against that, if we work together when we agree, disagree respectfully, stand firm against those who want to keep us stuck in the past and remember that we don’t live single issue lives.
Back to WV Free for just a moment, I want to bring to your attention that they will be having a lobby day at the State Capital on Monday February 1st. I’ll be there holding a sign to support their work and I hope to see you there too. See the Facebook event https://www.facebook.com/events/1507608859569803/ for more information.