Thursday, May 5, 2011

Holding Our Own Accountable: Thank You NY State Sen. Diane Savino

This morning, I woke up freezing in my apartment. New York (and seemingly the rest of the northern United States) missed the memo that it is May. I want to fly up into the heliosphere and punch the Sun in the face.

After taking the Mimz for her morning constitutional and walking passed the sink full of dirty dishes that will, at some point, claim the better part of an hour or so this morning, I logged into my Facebook account.

The top entry on my news feed was a post by NY State Sen. Diane Savino. It was a post in response to a statement released by a member of the Oneida Nation regarding the use of the code word Geronimo by the U.S. government as a moniker for the operation against Osama Bin Laden (Dumb Obama. Dumb Sec. Gates. Dumb Leon Panetta. Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb). I learned very quickly that the gentleman that wrote the letter, despite the letter's spot on criticism of the use of the name and history of Gerinmo and the impact on First Nation's people, isn't the best character running around Indian country.

Unfortunately, Sen. Savino chose a poor moment to make a statement about this gentleman's shenanigans (and fiscal malfeasance).

Let me NOT be the person to throw stones whilst I live inside a big old glass house surrounded by glass covered in glass in glass pajamas eating glass for breakfast. I, myself, have more than once, in anger or annoyance, popped off at the mouth (and/or fingertips) and posted something to Facebook that I hadn't thought through. Thankfully, I am a part of a broader community that has no qualms about letting me know, almost always firmly yet lovingly, that what I have written or said does not serve justice nor is it reflective of the person they know me to be. Sometimes the things I've written flippantly have stung folks in ways that I never intended nor would ever do intentionally. Though, like most people, I do not, in the moment, love the feeling of being held accountable (usually my cheeks catch fire, my back starts to get up, shame starts to creep in and then anger at the person that summoned the shame---actually me...but better to blame the accountability vessel.) After those emotions run their course, usually just a minute or so, I try make amends around whatever it is that I did or said. I also acknowledge the love and committment to my personal growth that is evidenced by someone taking the moment to hold me accountable to my words and actions with love and respect.

Don't get me and again....I let the other person have it or politely honor their feelings without removing the offending item or statement; there are times when I stand by whatever thing it is that may have caused offense (just because someone feels offended doesn't mean that what you've said or written isn't truth).

We all make mistakes. I make them all the damn time.

This morning was one of those moments where Sen. Savino's statement of annoyance was absolutely well founded...but tying it into the place where it appeared was not cool. If Sen. Savino were a Republican or one of those queer hating faux Democrats that seemed to be sprinkled throughout the state, I would have cut and pasted the Facebook conversation verbatim and then tore the good senator a new poop hole.

I actually highly and deeply respect Sen. Savino. She has been an amazing advocate for justice in Albany and for the queer community, and so, instead, I shared with her my feelings. The senator responded respectfully, made the choice to remove the posting and the thread, and sent me private message letting me know she had done so. Thank you, Sen. Savino for your integrity and for making the choice to get your message/point across in a different way. If the rest of your colleagues around the state and in the U.S. Congress were as responsive and open to dialogue as are you, perhaps we would not be facing so many of the partisan bullshit problems that have us stuck on ugly in New York and the U.S. as a whole.

When we take a moment to honestly share our feelings and offer to hold our own accountable, we demonstrate what community and growth is really about. If we are only ever willing to step up and stand up to the "bad guys," or those that are often times far far from us in our beliefs and views, then we aren't making sure our own house is clean. Let those others live in a dirty house (as long as they keep their yard clean and their trash out of streets, I don't care how filthy their living room long as they don't have body parts in the freezer or tongueless ex-lovers in leather gear in a box under the stairs). I value when others hold me accountable (and let's be clear...passive aggressive "teaching" moments are not accountability...accountability is when you bring your questions and concerns DIRECTLY and RESPECTFULLY). My esteem for Sen. Savino has gone up exponentially after this morning's brief exchange. Thank you, senator.

PS On the topic of the use of Geronimo's name as code for Osama Bin Laden is a great, clear, and succint statement from the Ononadaga Nation Council of Chiefs

PPS And here is a great article by Steven Newcomb of the Indigenous Law Institute on the same subject.

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