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Here’s a juicy, educational tid-bit…sort of.

Voter Registration.  If you’re a student at a college or university, odds are you’ve come across folks poking these forms at you as you pass the major points of pedestrian traffic.  Outside of that, though….how does one register to vote?  I like to consider myself fairly knowledgeable about such things, but I’ve racked my brain and the only way outside of the above described scenario that comes to mind is my very first voter registration process – at the DMV.

By now I am sure a lot of folks have realized that *they* do not want us to vote, to exercise that civic duty/right that I too battle between loving and hating.  But I thought, surely, that the campaign to register folks was a little more robust than just hoping they wandered into the DMV (and even then I have no clue what the protocol really is) or onto a college campus during a strategic point in a major election.  But it’s not really.  There are, however, more ways to register than I knew.

Check it out:

“In addition to the printable voter registration application accessible on this website, voter registration applications are available at county boards of elections’ offices, public libraries, high schools and college admissions offices.

Further, the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) requires certain agencies in this state to offer voter registration services. Voter registration services are offered at the following agencies:

  • North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV): A person may complete a voter registration transaction at any driver’s license examination office when conducting official DMV business with that office (applying for or renewing a driver’s license, I.D. card, etc.).
  • Public Assistance Agencies
    • Departments of Social Services (DSS)
    • Departments of Public Health (WIC)
  • Disability Services Agencies
    • Vocational Rehabilitation offices
    • Departments of Services for the Blind
    • Departments of Services for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing
    • Departments of Mental Health Services
  • Employment Security Commission (ESC)”

 

Now it might not be an aggressive campaign or anything, but it’s something to be aware of and to spread knowledge of to any and all folks.

Important also is that you register at least 25 days before the election in which you wish to vote. 

Now I’m not one to pretend that this process is perfect or that it’s the means to the ideal end that I envision, but it is a potential stepping-stone.  As is stands, far too many folks vote against their interests, are lied to by major media outlets, are deluded into believing that a 2 party system is a superior voting system, and believe that the presidential election is the make or break of this nation’s future.  The things we could do with proper representation, however, are beautiful.  We could elect representatives who put THE PEOPLE first in their legislative processes.  We could have representation that conveys our interests in, ya know, FOOD AND SURVIVAL, and education for all and human-centered solutions to the alleged problem of immigration across imaginary, stolen borders.  That could be a thing.  We could have universal healthcare.  We could change our laws and agencies and protocols to eliminate their “need” to incarcerate, dehumanize and otherwise attack and brutalize communities of color.

We can do this because, while the process is flawed, we are still in control.  We can use our votes for what they are worth and continue the fight on the 364 other days in the year.  We can use our votes to communicate the needs of the folks in our communities who are being denied the right to vote themselves.  I’m talking about felons, children, undocumented folks – anyone whose voice is intentionally drowned out by our current laws and ideology – consider the folks in the countries the U.S. constantly invades!! Who speaks for them in the U.S. government? Is that what we want? the wanton murder of folks in the name of imperialist strategy and positioning? NO!

But who will we vote for? Who is there to accurately represent these perspectives I’ve just listed?  Can we trust anyone of these majority white, male, wealthy, career politicians to do right by our communities once they have our initial nod?  Probably not.  I mean, maybe we can, but why take that risk if we don’t have to?  Radical folks – rise up!! Run for local office!! Yes, there are limitations to who can make it through the arbitrary list of initial requirements, but it can be done.  Locally elected officials have a real chance to impact the day-to-day lives of the folks in our communities.  Change to the systems we loathe can come from the inside AND the outside!  We can strip away the pretense and the hierarchy one official at at time.  IT WILL BEND TO THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE!!

But yes, so that’s what I learned today and I hope you found it interesting.  Let’s continue this conversation, though, because resources are important and I haven’t covered everything by any means in this short rant.  It’s just something to start/keep thinking about.  I was inspired by the existence of countries with low levels of SES inequality and excellent health outcomes who still use similar processes electorally speaking as the U.S. does.  They also manage not to invade multiple countries per decade. Really sparkling resumes and shit.

 

Oh – PS. Total afterthought but needs to be discussed also — *they* don’t want us to vote and so *they* have implemented a Voter ID law to make it more difficult for the populations to which they wish to deny rights.  This isn’t going into effect until 2016 – so let’s…I dunno..raise so hell, or…appeals,….or….beat them at their own game and make new legislation that requires the gov to provide these IDs free of charge and at the voter’s convenience, or…I dunno. Something.

Thoughts? Feelings?

For the last ten weeks or so I have been living mainly in Reykjavik, Iceland.  Iceland’s political system and egalitarian being were at the core of the travel proposal I made last fall when applying for the particular scholarship that would provide the opportunity.  I knew that it couldn’t be as perfect in reality as it was on paper, but that didn’t stop me from building up my own personal North Atlantic utopia.IMG_1842Iceland has ranked #1 in the global gender gap index for the last three or four years. They’re #1 in literacy. They are #1 in the global peace index and have been #1 in 3 out of the last 5 years with an interesting break in 2009 following the economic collapse.  The population is under 350,000 people which for my anarchist friends probably makes plenty of sense.  They have universal healthcare, tuition-free education at the University level and no standing army.  They politically engaged and informed about current events and host voter turnout rates usually in the 85%+ range.  This year’s election had a turnout rate of 81% and everyone is freaking out about it being so low….you see what I mean? For some context – the US presidential election saw a turnout rate of nearly 54%.

100_1427Oh and MAY I MENTION they have a limited prison system.  And by that I mean they have one prison.  And it’s not like the US prisons. It’s a rehabilitative prison and the folks there have access to real medical care and therapy.  I’ve heard people complain that they are “too comfortable” but I imagine if you have a wide ranging social infrastructure that provides for basic needs and seeks to actively eliminate poverty you won’t see people committing crimes just to get three squares a day, amirite? Yes. I am right -because Iceland also has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.  And besides, when the prison is full (it holds around 60-70 people), and it rarely is full, people just wait until someone gets out to serve their sentence.  Oh and there’s no death penalty. Oh and the maximum sentence is 16 years.

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YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN? DO YOU!?!!?!?

Siggh…..in addition to all of this they are quite LGBTQ friendly, though the whitest place I have ever seen in my life.  They passed a marriage equality bill unanimously in 2010 almost as an afterthought….they were all chilling being white and having an excellent tolerance to the cold when someone said “oh – hey – everyone’s talking about gay marriage. We should probably do that, show we’re on board.  I mean, there’s not a lot of economic advantage to marriage in a socialist country, but all the same, let’s spread it on.”  And then everyone was all like “aye.”  And that’s it.  Until this summer their Prime Minister was a legally married radical lesbian.  Boom.

IMG_1155It doesn’t even end there, though. Iceland is a geological anomaly.  It’s situated directly on top of the mid-atlantic ridge (that’s how it formed at all, way out here in the ocean) and exists halfway on the N. American tectonic plate and halfway on the Eurasian plate.  As a result – VOLCANOES EVERYWHERE! But mostly under glaciers (lots of flooding).   And because it only recently (compared to other masses) emerged from the ocean, everything is still wild.  Recent (1700s) giant eruptions still have large percentages of the land looking like the lunar landing.  Lava fields as far as the eye can see!!!  They’ve only recently started putting on heavy moss and lichen coats, so the soil in these areas is thin to nonexistent.  Apparently there were some trees in Reykjavik around the time of settlement (870 +/- 2) but SOMEBODY harvested them all (I’m looking at you, original Norwegian Vikings).

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There are some reforestation…or…forestation efforts, rather, but the only viable spots are around the edge of the island as the interior is nothing but highlands and hidden volcanoes waiting to bring forth new basalt.

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And I mentioned the glaciers? And there are a lot of sheep. It’s great. Except the daylight is all kooky through the year.  Like midnight sun in summer and 4 hours of daylight in the depths of winter. But whatever – they eat a lot of fish and that helps. Also they have astounding rates of alcoholism. For coping with that SAD shit, it seems.

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Did I mention the President and Prime Minister are in the phone book and that everyone is called by their first name?

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But ALAS, my friends.  Things haven’t turned out to be quite as lovely as I had hoped.  Everything I say is true but there’s still probably some racism. I can’t be sure because I’m white as hell, too, but this old woman uses the n-word to describe people with dark hair and eyes, like me.  Someone tried to explain how it isn’t the same because it’s like…some…derivative of a word that means black and dark….uhhhhhh……but….I haven’t been able to find an expert on the matter, so…there’s that. Also, as a general rule, where there are white people there is white privilege and racism.

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There’s no history of oppressing people of color specifically in Iceland as far as I know, but they sure as hell cash in on that European whiteness and whatnot (i.e. not being invaded and ruled by US and UK from 1944- 2004, but instead just hosting bases and receiving the benefit of lots of US spending on infrastructure (Keflavik airport).  Call it a hunch, but I feel like if they were an island nation of brown-skinned people with no military they’d be a U.S. territory alongside Puerto Rico.

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The other thing is that for the most “feminist friendly” place on earth, they sure do have a lot of rape.  Iceland has the highest rate of rape of all the Scandinavian countries.  It’s lower than the rate in the US but the rates of official reporting and prosecution are as bad as anywhere else in the world.  In addition there is a similar breakdown in “types of rape” that function to make the rape of someone who is unconscious termed “abuse.”  The penalty for rape (has to be “violent enough”) is the maximum sentence – 16 years – while the penalty for “abuse” is 6 years.

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While this is a stouter punishment than the US typically doles out (though we know harsher punishments don’t prevent crime…), prosecution rates render this effectively meaningless.  I mean, the US used to consider rape a crime punishable by death – if you were the “right kind of father’s property” and not just some white lower class woman….and don’t even bother if you’re a woman of color of any class. It’s symbolic of a false ideal.

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I’ve heard ONE GUY make light of it to the tune of “well we were settled by Vikings, what do you expect?”  and while it’s true that 62% of the women in the original class of settlers were mostly stolen women from the Hebrides and forced into marriage, I mean is that the kind of thing you want to compare yourself to?

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So I bring this up as an interesting contrast point – with the exception of the story I am going to tell you in a minute, I have not been catcalled, grabbed, ogled, groped, hit on inappropriately, “accidentally” brushed up against, or even leered at from a distance…probably.  It was one of the strangest sensations of my life, sadly, to be completely free of that constant worry.  I didn’t have to watch my drink or hang onto my bag for dear life or anything.  It’s so straightforward.  And the people are super-sexually active.  No sex-shaming and slut-shaming.  People just fuck all the time. Safely.  They have real sex-ed.

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So why the high rate of rape? I don’t know.  But I read something that suggests that an unusually large percentage of these rapes involved children under the age of 16 and that rates of rape with male survivors are higher than those of peer nations.  So I’m not really sure what’s going on.  Money isn’t put into researching the crimes and probably half or more of folks who seek help with rape crisis center don’t trust the system enough to press charges and don’t want to go through the ordeal with which we are all so familiar.  I don’t know what the typical reaction to a rape survivor is in this society, but I suppose we could imagine that it’s not exactly welcoming.

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Icelandic Feminist Activist  Hildur – famous for being constantly banned from facebook for publicly posting death threats made against her has a Tumblr called: Men who hate women.  On it she posts misogynistic comments made specifically by Icelandic men.  It was pretty devastating to my whole “Iceland is perfect” theory, but I’d rather know the truth, I guess.  It’s why I started investigating rape in Iceland, so I’m very happy I found it.

http://karlarsemhatakonur.tumblr.com/

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Please enjoy the rest of these photos!! I am so ashamed of how bad of a photographer I am….but I highly recommend seeing it for yourself if you can someday.  You’ll see what I mean. This waterfall is called Skogafoss

IMG_2168This one is called Gullfoss – it means Gold Falls

IMG_2550This is the glacier lagoon – a glacial tongue that leads out to sea.  It’s called Jokulsarlon

IMG_2816Famous lava fields with some excellent layers of snow – in mid-September

IMG_2855Selfoss Waterfall

IMG_2922Basalt sea cliffs near the town Vik — called Reynisfjara

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A bit of glacier melting — It’s called Solheimajokull.

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