Category Archives: Activism

Herbal Activism

Editors Note… I have been asked to explain the term “apologist” as I use it below.

An apologist is anyone who makes excuses for displays of white nationalism (or any other ism) based on the idea the perpetrators are just misguided or uneducated, and consequently can be reasoned out of it,  is in effect condoning their behavior.
Furthermore, if  you believe Nazi hate speech should be protected by the First Amendment, you are an apologist in my book, and definitely part of the problem. I believe the Germans have it right in declaring Volksverhetzung a crime.

Some of you know that I’ve been off my game, lately.  Chronic illness sucks and while I am working hard to get on top of it,  I am feeling a little disempowered- especially tonight.

On the other hand I do know  that if I am not physically and mentally capable of handling the front lines, I shouldn’t be there.  I want to be an asset not a liability.

Today, I ventured out onto the Internet for the first time in awhile and saw things that really just pissed me off.  For example  I read, “seeing pictures of those men [Nazis and KKK]  just breaks my heart. They are obviously so lost and full of anger, being fed lies and hatred by our current goddamn administration”

As if those groups didn’t exist for years before the current administration?  The hell, with that. I have no time for apologists.

The Nazi, the KKK and all of the other fascist hate groups have always been, this administration just emboldened them. Ask any person of color, anywhere.

It seems that understanding that requires a bit more knowledge than many white liberals seems to possess

Having the patience to educate them on this matter without getting kicked off social media, is not in my skill set.

I do swear to all that is green, if I see one more white person invoke that classist, racist, sexist, homophobe Gandhi while arguing against engagement this week, I am going to come unglued.

Arguing with liberal pacifists and apologists is such a time suck, and I am not good at it.

I decided to spend the time that I would have spent cussing that person out,  writing this list  to remind myself of what I can do from my home based on my skills.

I know there are other lists out there but  I kind of geared this toward people who are into botanical medicine or gardening and really just can’t be at a demonstration for whatever reason.

For me part of this involves doing a better job of connecting with people in my area engaged in activism.  It also involves people in those groups acknowledging that behind the scenes help can be useful.

I’ve reached out to various activist groups in the area to offer my services as a medic, but Iowa being what it is, they don’t even understand what that means. So, maybe I have to work harder at that.

If you don’t have demonstrations in your area:

– Get your Ham Radio license and learn to set up a communication center.  Kind of a long term thing but generally fun and useful.

– If you garden, preserve garden excess with portability and ease of preparation in mind. (For example, I can teach you how to make tomato soup powder. I am going to start adding things like that here on the blog.)

– Host people traveling to and from demonstrations in other areas.

– Learn psychological first aid so you know how help people who have experienced psychological trauma and refer them to the appropriate resources. (I have some training in this and know another person in town who teaches certification classes. I can organize this class if there is interest?)

-If you have training/experience as a street medic, offer a training class.

– If you live somewhere there may eventually be demonstrations, start stocking your apothecary with acute care in mind.

-If not, connect with street medics at demonstrations to find out what they need, then have a trauma kit assembly event.

– Organize food drives and put together food/survival packs to send with people traveling to demonstrations.

-Find out who is organizing local activist groups and ask them what you can do for them?

– Make sure local activists are attending to their self-care. Host a self-care for activists’ event. I know it sounds silly but it is important for resiliency and preventing burnout.

 If you have demonstrations in your area.

– Quietly, host out-of-town guests.

– Quietly, offer your home up as a place where people can eat, sleep and recuperate safely.

 -Quietly, offer to do childcare for people who are more able to demonstrate.

– Organize groups of people who can support those who are arrested by posting bail, and making sure they have support (rides, clothes, etc) through the legal process.  Don’t ghost people who put it all on the line.

The final thing I want to mention is that if you invite people into your home, learn how to vet people and have a safety plan in place, no matter how quiet you are.

Self Care and Activism: What I Learned The Hard Way

selfcareSome of my close friends know that that I am not neurotypical. Even when things are flowing smoothly, daily life taxes me.  I also have genetic chronic health issues. I know how to handle both issues, but it is super frustrating to have to work twice as hard to accomplish anything- including sticking to a regimen.

It has its upside though, I believe that my own struggles make me especially good at helping my clients adopt strategies.   If I can do it, anyone can.  Unfortunately that doesn’t mean I don’t stumble.  Everyone stumbles…

One of my problems is that I am by nature one of those people who needs to do something about the problems I see in the world.  I tend to jump into activism and helping others, often at the expense of my own wellness.  I know that a lot of my friends are the same.

As we move into days when more of us are going to take up the role of activist,  I want to share a story with you.  There are a lot of articles that talk about this on a “how to” level times, but I want to talk about “why?” So here it is — a very personal story that hopefully serves to establish why self-care is a necessity.

My husband and I threw ourselves into the Occupy movement. I had some basic teach-ins on avoiding hypothermia and warding off illness in tight quarters, but none of the Occupiers really embraced  the importance of self-care  to the sustainability of the movement.

A lot of us learned that lesson the hard way.  We lived through tragedy and dealt with disappointments by burning out or turning to shitty coping mechanisms and bad decision making. Recovering from that takes awhile.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t always let up to give you time to heal.  The last few of years has been tough on my family.  It seems like just when we got through one crisis, another one popped up. I  was so busy taking care of everyone else, taking care of me slipped through the cracks.

The smallest thing can be your undoing.  For me,  it was  a round of antibiotics that threw me off  my game. Symptoms started cropping up. I fell behind on work because sitting in a chair for too long hurts. Everything I write  sounds like crap because my brain is foggy due to lack of sleep and constant pain. Dealing with getting the Internet company to come out and fix my broken e-mail seems like it is just too much to handle.

All of this is just a very long way of saying, it is easier to stay healthy than it is to get well.

When you work as a clinician, it can be a weird emotional dynamic to admit that in this moment; your illness has the best of you. It is embarrassing.  It seems like a shortcoming, or possibly even a marketing liability which is ridiculous.   I found myself worrying that someone would let me go from an assignment if they found out I was struggling.  So, I chose to keep quiet about it until now.

But pretending to be okay when you aren’t, isn’t setting a very good example.

I will get back on track. I’ve managed my physical condition for most of my adult life with little input from physicians or other herbal clinicians.   Before this fall, the last time I had to work briefly with physicians was after a trip to the ER in 2012.   I am focusing on me now and I’ve got this.  But like any protocol, I won’t be better overnight.

And this time I vow to do that without feeling guilty about putting myself first.   It isn’t a luxury, it is a necessity. It can be the difference between being able to participate in creating the change that needs to happen, or not.  I found the quote above and I plan on living it.

I am thinking lot about how I can better guide my clients towards healthy outcomes, too.  We need new approaches that are inexpensive and accessible–especially as it seems least possible that the country will be taking giant steps backward in regards to healthcare access.

Don’t worry I don’t want to talk about politics…yet.

I want to use my story as an example.  I want to urge my clinician friends to really engage in radical self-care, right now.

Our  communities are going to need us to be at our best.  Remember that your first responsibility in the hard days that may follow is to care for yourself.

It is also important to encourage others to care for themselves.  Reach out to those  clients you think might be in danger of burning out. Insist that your apprentices and students make time for themselves. At Goddard we were required to show that we were engaging in self-care in order to get our degree.

Be wary of groups who don’t encourage their members to take breaks and make themselves and their family a priority.  Know that there are activist groups out there whose leadership will burn through  their volunteers’  energy and resources and leave them quite literally for dead.

I guess what I am saying is look out for one another, please.  I love you all.

Building Local Connections

(Editors Note: I wrote this when a friend posted a call for submissions for an agricultural zine, but after reading Ann Armbrecht’s most excellent post on a vision for building local medicine systems, I thought I would share this here on the blog even though I don’t think my audience is quite the same audience I wrote this for…)

Trillium Plant from Echollective CSASpring is upon us and thoughts of sowing the seeds of sustenance span the nation. The cultivation and propagation of medicinal plants is viewed by some as a measure of historical preservation and not afforded the urgency which is often directed to the development of local food systems. This frequently confuses me as our current dependence on corporate healthcare is as much an aspect of neocolonialism is our dependence on corporate food distribution.

The fact that you don’t know how to care for illnesses and injuries with plant-based remedies is a direct result of a corporate driven witch-hunt that began in the Middle Ages and continues today. From the perspective of an activist, the practice of growing medicinal plants and teaching people how to use them properly is an act of resistance to the corporate control of wellness. Only in recreating subsistence will we create communities which fully support our ability to engage in this work. Of course food systems are a huge part of that, but the importance of creating healthy communities cannot be overlooked as a means of supporting social change.

Self-care is a vital and often overlooked component of preventing burnout, as well. Many people involved in social change neglect their own wellness. I have often found that this is because they have an aversion to the unequal power relationships inherent in modern healthcare. Additionally, the alternative healthcare industry often brings to mind the problem “green washing” of consumerism and is distasteful to those whose philosophies lean towards being opposed to conspicuous consumption.

It needn’t be this way. As a practicing herbal clinician, I  know that many of my colleagues working in underserved communities and approaching the practice of herbalism as their own unique form of activism. Even amongst those community herbalists who don’t view themselves as activists, there is a growing recognition that our work with clients is only palliative until societal change addresses issues of social and environmental justice.

One group which supports this work across the country is United Plant Savers. Their mission is to protect native medicinal plants of the United States and Canada and their native habitat while ensuring an abundant renewable supply of medicinal plants for generations to come.” While far from being a radical group, United Plant Savers mission includes the establishment of a network of botanical sanctuaries across the country. Requirements for membership include growing a variety of at-risk medicinal herbs and freely opening up your sanctuary to the public for educational purposes. Gaia’s Peace Garden, here in Iowa City was the first sanctuary to be established in southeast Iowa. This is particularly exciting because it is not as common for an urban garden to be granted sanctuary status. UPS has internships available in the cultivation of medicinal plants and offers grants for community replanting projects and should be utilized as a resource by farmers wanting to get into this field.

In writing this, I hope to bridge the gap between the herbalism and the farming communities because I see a growing need to create discourse between these two groups. Community herbalists often educate their individual clients with the express purpose of putting health back into the hands of the people and people back into nature. This practice creates a need for healthy food systems, locally sourced herbs and even starts for our own teaching gardens. Farmers looking for new and unique markets would do well to seek out your local healers and see how you can work together.

I see great promise in building connections between the these two groups.