Both of my grandfather’s served in the military during WWII and there was always a sense of citizenship and responsibility communicated within my family. Going into the legal profession only heightened those messages from my family of origin and when I lived in Norfolk, Virginia while attending law school, I had the opportunity to see how our military and their families participate in patriotic celebrations. I’ve never seen that kind of engagement since. While we may not attend a large celebration on this day we celebrate the legal origin of our country because of Covid, we have worked to pass along this perspective to our children.
Recently, with the announcement of the Dobbs case from the Supreme Court, I’ve seen a lot of messages on social media of people suggesting that they won’t be celebrating the 4th of July this year in protest or in reaction to the decision. Others talk about how they are no longer going to participate in our system with the same justification. Clearly, emotions are running hot at the moment and while I simply scrolled by the first few posts I saw, after there were quite a few more, I started paying more attention.
With such intensity of emotion swirling in the world, it’s a good time to think about how that emotion could be applied to action. As most of you who read this blog regularly know, I’m not the type to simply sit back and ponder an issue, I’m always looking for something to do, something to change, something to fix.
So, what do we do with this emotion? This time in history? This challenge?
First of all, I believe that deciding to opt out of engaging in the US system (broken though it may be), not participating in celebrations or marking important milestones, or just deciding not to do something, is not a good option. While the US system of government isn’t perfect, has many areas where it can be “gamed” and there are unscrupulous people with agendas pursuing particular perspectives, the only way the system can be affected is by participation. What that participation looks like is different for different people.
Secondly, a powerful way to effect changes is to share stories. For as many people who are opting out of participating, I’ve seen even more people leaning in by telling their stories, by making the issues personal. I’ve participated a little in some legislative advocacy both prior and after my Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) diagnosis and have been astonished at how little many of the direct participants understand about affect on real people. Sharing our stories makes an issue real, personal, and often heartbreaking.
Third, when an issue seems overwhelming on the federal level, bring it local. While Dobbs removed the federal protection to a right to privacy, the affect on each state will be vastly different. Connecting with local organizations to volunteer or provide support or funding can give you a sense of satisfaction in knowing that you have helped in a tangible way.
Bottom line for me is that no one decision or one group of people or one thing can change how I view this country or how I view my advocacy as a whole. Yes, this decision will affect those of us in the MBC Community along with others with cancer disproportionally from the rest of the country. Yes, I’m concerned about that. Yes, I’ve been thinking about what can be done and how I can help. You can read here the article I wrote for Project Life, a virtual wellness house for those of us with MBC with some specific recommendations. Yes, I will likely be involved with efforts in the future to address concerns for my community, the corner of the world where I can help and perhaps effect some change.
For now, I need to find the sparklers and matches so that we can make some memories with my 7 year old and 9 year old. They will be affected by the Dobbs decision much more than I and that’s something we will have to work to prepare them for as they grow. This parenting thing is complicated.