I Am A Woman, A Refugee, An American, & Afraid

I marched because I am a woman and a refugee and an American. I marched in support of amazing women I know, strong women that came before me and for our daughters and sons that will inherit the world we are eventually going to leave behind. I also marched because not marching did not seem like an option to me.

But, to be honest, I mostly marched out of fear.

When I was a teenager, the country that I knew and swore my loyalty to, Yugoslavia, fell apart. It was not a slow and painful death, but a quick infection, that cost all the republics, and mostly Bosnia, hundreds of thousands of lives. It started with an idea, that became a rhetoric, that finally turned into action which took its final form as genocide, mostly done to Muslim population. The idea was to make “Serbia Great Again” and many men, women, children and elderly paid the price.

I remember those early days before snipers and heavy artillery surrounded Bosnian cities and villages started to burn. Men with floppy hair on TV yelling into microphones, chanting masses with waving flags, the demagogs and the ideologists and the protests and everyone declaring themselves, publicly or privately, as supporters or as opposition, as this or that nationality. All of these elements were a marking of a serious crisis to me.

The lump in my throat kept growing as we moved through American primaries in 2016, got close to election, elected a president and finally, when the current administration took office in January of this year, the lump in my throat was me suffocating. The rhetoric of the campaign, particularly the parts where certain groups of people were isolated and presented as “bad” (disabled, immigrants from Latin America, women, Muslims – we have all seen the clips and read the quotes), were quite terrifying to me. Was this a deja vu? I understood there is much more detail than this, laws and legislations, senators and representatives, and our own complicated and unique American history. But I could not deny the parallels.

So I marched.

I marched so that my family but, more importantly, my neighbors, don’t have to go through what Bosnian population went through in the nineties.

I marched so it is clear to people around me who I am and what I stand for.

I marched for all the women of the world and struggles that unite us.

I marched to stand with my sisters and brothers against words and actions that will undo the work of ones that came before us. This goes for education, for environment, and for rights of women, minorities and LGBTQ community, and numerous other issues that I feel like are at peril.

Mostly, I marched so I would be less afraid.

I am a Christian and Absolutely Believe Jesus Would Have Been Marching with Us

First, women’s rights. I came of age before Roe v. Wade and I never want to go back. Also for rights of other vulnerable populations, minority, immigrants, Muslim, poor, LBGTQ, disabled..Old and young..Any one seen as OTHER..We have a moral obligation to treat all OTHERS with respect and love. I am a Christian and absolutely believe Jesus would have been marching with us..These are the very folks he cared for, I grieve for what many “so-called Christians” do in Jesus’ name. It is truly evil. I am so angry at our “so called leaders.” I will not go quietly.  I am a nurse practitioner and have fought the mainstream white male medical establishment for the right to practice my trade decades..I am now broadening the fight..

I proudly marched for the revolutionary leaders who came before me, who paved the way for us to keep up the fight

I marched in solidarity with people, particularly women (Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, Muslim women, and queer and trans women), to ensure that they are free and able to care for and nurture their families, however they are formed, in safe and healthy environments, free from structural impediments. I marched in honor of my children, and to positively model my democratic right to speak freely and advocate for others. I marched for the many amazing young people with whom I work every day — for those who have not found their voice or do not have the means/privilege to attend, but who have been marginalized, oppressed, unheard…my students are an inspiration to me, and I’m grateful to learn with them as we challenge ourselves to better understand (or just be more aware of) complicated issues. I proudly marched for the revolutionary leaders who came before me, who paved the way for us to keep up the fight…

Never again will I sit idly by

On January 20, 2017 I boarded a bus with 50 like-minded humans and rode all day and all night so I could take part in the Women’s March on Washington.  Many people asked why I would spend 24 hours on a bus just to spend 10 hours marching followed immediately by 24 more hours on that bus.  Here are some of my reasons:

I marched because black lives matter, Mexicans are not criminals, Muslims are not terrorists, love is love, climate change is real, and poverty shouldn’t be a crime.

I marched because woman is NOT the weaker sex incapable of making her own decisions.

I marched because Trump bragged about sexual assault and rather than condemn him, we, as a nation, cheered him on.

I marched because Trump mocked a disabled reporter and rather than condemn him we, as a nation, cheered him on.

I marched because Trump’s actions and policies have alienated the rest of the world and rather than condemn him, we, as a nation, cheered him on.

I marched because I’ve never been very politically active and I’m afraid my complacency is in part to blame for the incredible mess our country is now in.

I marched to let the powers that be know this: NEVER AGAIN will I sit idly by as our nation’s values are flushed down the toilet.

Reproductive Rights, Affordable Care, Public Schools, Equal Rights, and to Show My Kids What it Means to be an American

I marched:

For the right to take charge of my fertility.

In early 2004, I was pregnant. The pregnancy was unplanned, but welcome, although with an approaching overseas move, the timing was terrible. However, my husband and I were still thrilled. About two weeks later, I started to bleed so I visited my doctor.

An ultrasound proved that my uterus was empty, but I was still pregnant. My doctor took a wait and see approach and two days later I went back for another ultrasound and blood test. Still, my uterus was empty and my doctor determined I needed a D&C. It was scheduled for two days later.

While on the way home from the doctor, in a snowstorm that was shutting down Omaha, I got a phone call. She wanted me to turn around that instant and come back to her office because she feared an ectopic pregnancy. My HCG levels were high enough for an 8 week pregnancy and I was in danger of a burst fallopian tube if something weren’t done that day. By the time my husband and I got back to her office, most of the staff had left because of the storm, however my doctor and her nurse stayed for me. I was given a shot of methotrexate, which was a chemotherapy drug, to end the pregnancy. I cried as the drug entered my hip, not because it hurt (it did), but because it was the end of a very loved pregnancy.

Ectopic pregnancies do not result in a live birth. If left untreated, they continue to grow inside the fallopian tube, until the tube finally ruptures, causing internal bleeding. This is dangerous for the woman and can lead to death if undetected. The burst fallopian tube will never work again, leading to a loss of fertility even if the woman’s life is saved.

A few weeks later, my husband and I boarded a plane to the UK. While trying to receive care at the military hospital a few days after I arrived, the first thing the doctor said to me was, “Why didn’t you want to be pregnant anymore?  How come you had an abortion?”  I was horrified that someone would think I wanted this. This was to save my life, if there had been a way to save the pregnancy, I would have done it. To ensure my health, I had to receive a pregnancy blood test every week.  Every week, the lab techs excitedly chattered about how they hoped my test was positive, while I burst into tears in their chair and told them my baby was dead.

It took me years to call this what the military doctor called it – an abortion. I ended a non-viable pregnancy to save my life and my fertility. I’m thankful every day that my Omaha doctor had the wisdom and the knowledge to take care of me. Without her care, my two children wouldn’t be born and my husband would have been a 25 year old widower. For this reason, I strongly believe in the choice and I will always be pro-choice. That is one reason I marched.

To save the ACA and continue the pre-existing condition protection.

The Affordable Care Act is a lifesaver for Americans with chronic conditions. My 8 year old has ADHD. At 8, she is now saddled with a “pre-existing condition” and without the ACA protections, she could be turned down for health insurance for the rest of her life.  Again, she is 8. ADHD is not a life-threatening condition, but after 6 years of comments from teachers about her inability to focus and learn, we put her on medication to help her focus. It was an agonizing decision as parents, but we determined we needed to try something to help our little girl. She was falling further and further behind in school and was struggling with math and reading.

She started Adderall XR on Halloween. We didn’t say anything to her teacher and waited to see if she noticed anything.  After a week, we spoke on the phone with the teacher and her first question was “what is different?” Claire was able to complete a math assessment without help and was finishing all her work during the day. We no longer spend 90 minutes at home working on assignments that she didn’t finish in class. We just received her 2nd quarter report card and she is now at grade level on all subjects and received positive marks in Staying on Task and Completes Work on Time – something that has never happened before.

Although she may find better ways to cope with her ADHD as she gets older, she will always carry this diagnosis. She deserves access to healthcare and this is why I marched.

To save the ACA and save the lifetime cap protection.

I have a friend with a chronic condition. It’s expensive and she needs quarterly prescription injections, blood work and X-rays and daily medications. Her medications cost $3000 a month and she will be on them for the rest of her life. Her medical care costs nearly $50,000 a year, barring any health changes. At this rate, she will quickly reach the old $2M threshold, leaving her ineligible for insurance as she nears the end of her life. I marched for her because her health prohibited her from marching herself.

Because Black Lives Matter

Because our kids deserve a Secretary of Education who cares about public schools

Because we’re better than a ban on Muslims

Because I want to show my kids what it means to be an American

My concerns for the rights of my fellow Americans

I marched because I wanted to hold a candle to the many issues clouding our American government.  I marched because I came of age in the presidency of Barack Obama, who taught me about hope, optimism, grace, and democracy.  I marched because of Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose unapologetic intelligence, toughness, and perseverance has inspired me since I was a high schooler in a small town where no one cared about politics.  I marched because I’m grateful for the rights I do have as an American citizen–and how I’ve never felt as patriotic as I felt on my first Election Day morning, casting my first vote for president for a woman (and knowing how much that moment would mean to my mother, my grandmother, and my 105-year-old great-grandmother).  I marched because all of the people above have inspired me to attend law school in the future and I wanted to view this nation’s democracy at work.  I marched because I’m worried for the future of our world.  I marched for myself and my rights as a woman, but my concerns about my own rights are heavily outweighed by my concerns for the rights of my fellow Americans.  I marched for every woman I know, women and people of color (because BLACK LIVES MATTER!!!!), for trans women whose existence is ignored far too often by feminists and others alike, for immigrants whose existence alone is a positive contribution to the framework of this nation, for Muslims who shouldn’t have to live in fear, for everyone I know who is LGBTQ+ (because LOVE IS LOVE IS LOVE), for the water protectors and to say NO to DAPL, for our planet because science is real, for the rights of people with disabilities, for an end to systemic gun violence, mass incarcerations and police brutality, to save our nation’s healthcare, for a free press, for the refugees who just need a hand, and for everyone who makes up this already great nation, even those who believe a Women’s March and protesting are unnecessary.  I marched because I may be young now, but someday I’ll have grandchildren.  I marched because someday they will ask me how I could have let such backwards, hateful rhetoric happen.  I marched because I want to be able to say to them with my whole heart and without misgivings, “I didn’t.”

This is not the America that I know and love

As a woman, as an immigrant, as a Muslim, as a minority, as a citizen, as a mother, I marched because this is not the America that I know and love – the country that embraced me as a seven-year-old, moving to a new home, speaking a new language and living in a new world. It was a beacon of hope where no one was unwanted and unwelcomed. A place that valued the importance of educating all children and providing opportunities for them to advance, no matter where they came from. The America that I know accepted those of different colors, cultures and creed. It protected freedom of choice and expression, and cared about the health and wellbeing of its citizens.

I marched because my beautiful country’s moral compass is being slowly destroyed by the egos of a few who don’t represent Americans as a whole. They don’t care about our health, our education system, our rights, our future and our fragile earth. They are too busy worrying about their own wealth and political standing, choosing their own self-serving agendas over what’s good for the American public. So I marched to stand up for what I believe is right and to support the country that had supported me. To make it a place my children can grow up to make a difference. And I will continue to march and listen and speak and fight until the power is back in the rightful hands of the people.