Tag Archives: 30daysofsocialjustice

30 Days of Social Justice 30: Radical Inclusion #30daysofsocialjustice #amwriting

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Radical inclusivity is and must be radical.Bishop Yvette Flunder

As I come to the end of this project, I realize that most of my posts were speaking primarily to the pagan community. Besides the fact that I’m writing a book about radical inclusion geared toward the pagan community, paganism, in the “big umbrella” sense, is coming into its own as a class of religious practice. We may still be a community on the margins, but we are now looking around and realizing that we have many layers and margins within the community as a whole. There’s a great deal of intersectionality with People of Color, LGBTQIA, class, politics, traditions, and many other aspects of difference. As pagans, we know about intent, and if we create a space with the intent of being inclusive in the broadest way possible, we make our spaces a safer place for people to be themselves. This is a new skill we are learning, and like all change, we’re having the inevitable growing pains.

Radical inclusion requires the intention to be inclusive of all people regardless of race, color, ancestry, age, gender, sexual or affectional orientation, body size, or any other difference. Radical inclusivity also demands that we not only reach out to the margins of our traditions, but to the whole of the greater human community with a clear message of welcome. This necessitates clarity because just saying “all are welcome” doesn’t necessarily equate to inclusion in the minds of most people. This is true for people already included in the community and those seeing it from the outside. The general assumption in a given community could be that “all are welcome as long as they are like us.” Or “all are welcome except homeless people because they smell bad.” Or “all women are welcome except transgender women.” This is the most difficult aspect of radical inclusion to learn and practice because it demands that we recognize the diversity of humanity within our own ranks as well as within our hearts and minds. Our common marginality doesn’t necessarily mean that we are all “together” on every issue, which we have seen over and over again. There is a false assumption, particularly with the newest converts to Paganism, that the entire community is some sort of monolith where everyone thinks alike. It can be devastating to realize that a group that you thought was doing good may actually be promoting the very same discrimination that you were trying to get away from.

The clarity of the welcome also needs to be continuously examined and re-evaluated. Even if the community is based on a specific philosophy, cause, or religion, it still needs to be aware of the margins within it. What many leaders seem to forget, particularly progressive pagan leaders, is that even in the most communicative and open of groups, not everyone is going to feel comfortable publicly talking about their vulnerabilities, needs, or asking for change — even people who have been members of the community for decades.

I’ve come to believe, in all my studies, ministry, and discussions with others, that while social justice is the work of making sure that ourselves, others, and those in power are not being shitty to people, radical inclusion is the ‘housework’ required to make sure we accept each other as human beings. There are many people, particularly in the greater pagan community, that assume that inclusion means that we all have to like each other, or that we have to please everyone in our practices and rituals, or keep our mouths shut and not challenge elders, leaders, and other members. This is far from the truth. Radical inclusion is a theology, a philosophy, and a way of life that recognizes the fundamental humanity of The Other. It recognizes that humans have joys, sorrows, excitement, pride, and all of the other ups and downs of existence. It recognizes that we’re not always going to agree or even like each other. It is the hope of redemption when everyone else has said “no” and the light of hope in the dark.

Radical inclusion does not automatically mean that everyone has to believe the same, like each other, or not have boundaries and rules. It does mean that we have to acknowledge ourselves and others as human beings in all their humanity, the good and the bad. That in itself is a radical act because most of the time we can’t acknowledge The Other as human.

May we all find the grace to see each other in our human-ness and welcome each other home.


Acknowledgements:

I’d like to thank ohimemiko on tumblr who came up with with the Month of Written Devotion for the inspiration. I’d also like to thank the Circle of Cerridwen for the feedback and support. And most of all, I’d like to thank my wife Sarah for all the love, support, and reality checks during this project. I love you. :)

And, finally, I’d like to thank all of you for going on this journey with me. It wasn’t a very easy journey, but I hope you all have learned a lot. I know I have.

30 Days of Social Justice 29: Sexual/Affectional Orientation/Asexuality #30daysofsocialjustice #amwriting

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Sexual Orientation is who you prefer to have sex with (if at all).

Romantic/Affectional Orientation is who you like to be in intimate relationships with.

These are very basic definitions and there are many types of sexual and romantic orientations. I suggest learning about them.

(If you’re wondering: pansexual pan-romantic. I’m also polyamorous…well, nominally. Usually both the wife and I are way too freaking busy to add another person or two in the mix.)

Many others have written about these topics extensively and much better than I would, so I would suggest looking them up.

In this post, I want to talk to you about asexuality. Here’s a good overview to get you started. Go ahead and read that first.

Why is this important to me? It important because my wife is asexual. It hasn’t been really long that she’s claimed that orientation, but when she really started talking about it, I could see the sense of peace behind the nervousness of coming out (again). She finally knew and acknowledged that there was a name for what she felt.

But, some people might ask, what about you? You just said you were pansexual! Yes I am. And I love my wife deeply, and we are very affectionate and close with each other. For me, sex is not the goal of a relationship. It is the relationship and intimacy with the person I love that is very important to me.

Sex, love, and intimacy are not necessarily equivalent (although it might be for some people). The fact that we are taught that it absolutely has to be, I think, is part of the reason why a lot of romantic relationships fail. We get taught that if we don’t have a sex life in our romantic relationships, especially when we’re married, that somehow the relationship or your partner is broken. But, there are people who live their lives without sex (for religious, personal, or other reasons) who have very intimate and affectional relationships with others. When I spent a week with a group of Episcopal nuns, their relationships were no less intimate and affectionate than any other married or committed couples who regularly have sex.

In short: My relationship is not broken. My wife is not broken. She is who she is, and I would never force anyone I’m close to to do what they are not willing or able to do. Especially on such intimate a level. There are many ways to be close and loving with someone, and, frankly, sex, in my opinion, is low on the “needed intimacy” scale for me. (Besides, I think it’s a really good idea to get to know ALL the ways to please your partner that don’t involve genitalia.) There’s communication, hugging, handholding, kissing, my wife rubbing my head when it’s shaved, scratching each other’s back, cuddling, geeking out to James Bond movies, sitting quietly together, and many other ways of feeling comforted and loved. These more mundane, day to day things have much more significance for me than sex will ever have.

To be honest, you don’t have to understand someone’s sexuality to accept their truth, and frankly, other people’s sex lives, if you’re not actively messing around with or having a romantic relationship with them, are just none of your damn business (with the given exceptions for a domestic violence/abusive situation).

You can listen to Sarah and I discuss asexuality and our relationship more in TWIH Episode 9.

30 Days of Social Justice 28: Sexism #30daysofsocialjustice #amwriting

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I think some people think that sexism and misogyny are the same, and there is definitely plenty of overlap. In fact, some would claim that what I talk about in my misogyny post is sexism, but misogyny is the active hatred of women or the feminine. Sexism is the stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination that comes with it.

No matter how much some pagans would like to claim otherwise, the pagan community has it’s fair share of sexist traditions and practitioners. In some of these traditions, the deities are gender segregated and so is magickal energy. Men are supposed to worship and identify with the God and women with the Goddess, and never the twain shall meet. My own tradition used to have extremely sexist, and specifically cis-sexist, rules for who should initiate who. A High Priest had to initiate women and the High Priestess had to initiate the men. There’s also the belief that energy work had to be done in male/female pairs (as in, the gender you were assigned at birth) and any other way of doing it was wrong.

My current tradition has made an intentional redaction of these sexist practices (and we try to clean up the sexist language as well), but there are still traditions, even today in the pagan community, that still practice cis-sexist gender-segregated magick. (And really, don’t get me started on the old 3rd Degree/Great Rite stuff…ugh)

Sexism, and specifically cis-sexism, like patriarchy and misogyny, minimize and erase the totality of human experience, perpetuating the very systems that cause us all harm.

30 Days of Social Justice 27: Microaggressions/Trigger Warnings #30daysofsocialjustice #amwriting

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There’s been a great deal of flak given to micro-aggressions and trigger warnings lately. Mostly with the idea that it is somehow coddling people and making things too “nicey nice” for people. Most recently there was an article in The Atlantic about it. (The Mary Sue did a great follow up to the Atlantic’s article.) The adultism of the Atlantic’s piece aside, the article, as the Mary Sue says, missed the point entirely.

Most Fan Fiction, actually, uses trigger warnings in the best way possible (especially for slash fic). At the beginning of each story, the author will list all of the things that the story could possibly contain that might squick, freak out, or not be of interest to some people. It is a form of ‘informed consent’: I am telling you what will come up in my story, and you can decide if the story is your cup of tea or not. In a classroom setting, trigger warnings can allow the conversation between professor and student about how to work with a student’s triggers while reading a selected text, especially when it deals with violent imagery (i.e.: rape, abuse, etc). Can trigger warnings be excessive or used in ways that limit people? Of course they can. Does it make trigger warnings a less valuable tool for people to manage their mental health? I don’t think so.

The same is true for micro-aggressions. People tend to miss these all together. As I mentioned in the body shaming post, we run into them every day all the time. They’re small and insidious, and most of the time people don’t realize that they are perpetuating them. But it adds up over time, and I believe, creates a low grade chronic PTSD. I know for myself that there are days where the body shaming micro-aggressions become too much and I have to just walk away from any media for a period of time. Racist micro-aggressions are so ubiquitous in American culture that are considered the “normal” for American life.

Managing exposure to micro-aggressions and utilizing trigger warnings aren’t coddling or running away. Recognizing micro-aggressions and trigger warnings are a way for marginalized, abused, and oppressed people to keep their sanity in a world that is constantly telling them they, and their experiences, are not worth taking into account.

30 Days of Social Justice 26: Racism #30daysofsocialjustice #amwriting #blacklivesmatter

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I could have written about racism here, but I think it’s important to hear the lived experiences of those who are directly effected by racism. I have had the honor and privilege to interview many People of Color (and others) about racism, religion, and intersectionality. They have blessed my podcast, and me, by sharing their stories:

TWIH Episode 2: Religion, Race, and…Batman? with Jae Howlett

TWIH Episode 7: The Multi-Faith Family with Rev. Beth Parab

TWIH Episode 16: The Power of Prayer: A Life Testimony with Tanesh Watson Nutall

TWIH Episode 17: Feminism, Dress Codes, and the Church with Shavon Walker

TWIH Episode 24: Why #BlackLivesMatter with Guy S. Johnson

TWIH Episode 25: The Spirit of Justice (#blacklivesmatter) with Rev. Malcolm Byrd

TWIH Episode 30: Paganism, Race, and Responsibility with Emily Carlin (@Pantheacon #pcon #pantheacon)

TWIH Episode 35: Why #BlackLivesMatter in the Pagan Community with Crystal Blanton (#pantheacon)

TWIH Episode 36: Breaking Our Lenses with Xochiqetzal Duti Odinsdottir (#blacklivesmatter #pantheacon)

TWIH Episode 49: Queering the Conversation and Planting Seeds with Monica Joy Cross #blacklivesmatter #transvisibility

TWIH Episode 51: Syncretism, Jesus, and the African Traditions with MaShiAat Oloya Adedapoidle Tyehimba-Ford (Queen Mother) #tfam

TWIH Episode 52: The Teacher, the Student, and the Seeker with Schmian Evans #tfam #blacklivesmatter

TWIH Episode 53: Learning from History: South Africa, Ferguson, and Dialog with Rev. Wilma Jakobsen #blacklivesmatter

TWIH Episode 56: Embracing the Seeker with Davie Floyd #tfam

Taking the time to listen to the lived experiences of those who experience racism, sexism, and any other marginalization is always extremely important. It is absolutely time well spent.

30 Days of Social Justice 24: Hate Crime #30daysofsocialjustice #amwriting

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The FBI defines hate crime as the following:

A hate crime is a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, Congress has defined a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.” Hate itself is not a crime—and the FBI is mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties.

You’d think hate crimes would be pretty obvious. Take the Charlestown, SC, Emmanuel AME Church shooting. Given witness accounts, it seems pretty clear that this was a race-motivated hate crime. And yet, we have all of these people who are trying to dismiss the racist, hate motivated aspects of the shooting. If had been a person of color, a muslim, or someone other than Dylan Roof, it would have been called what it was: a hate crime. But because it’s a white person, it was because he was “mentally disturbed” (and let’s not forget the ablism aspects of that particular assessment). If the victims had been white Jews in a synagogue, it would have also been immediately labeled a hate crime. If it had happened at a mosque? The media would have had the attitude of “well, that’s what you get for being a Muslim.” What if it had been a group of transgender people? If you look at the definition, transgender people are excluded because there is no provision for gender and gender identity. Transgender people are murdered in a way that most sane people would consider a hate crime, but these hate crimes rarely get investigated because transgender hate crimes are invisible, even under law.

We have a very myopic view of hate crime in this country. As a country, we are failing to protect our own people and people are dying. But, until our government sees people as real human beings rather than monolithic “enemies,” profit centers, and numbers, and educates the public accordingly, hate crimes will continue.

30 Days of Social Justice 23: Misogyny #30daysofsocialjustice #amwriting

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Oh, misogyny.

Misogyny is so ubiquitous, so common, that you can Google information about it pretty easily. You can also find prime examples of misogyny in just a few clicks on Facebook. I also live in Silicon Valley which is pretty much ground zero for the DudeBro culture and most likely home to a good proportion of MRAs. Oh, and let’s not forget #gamergate (link goes to the Wikipedia article which seems to have improved recently, but enter at your own risk. Click here to see an example of the MRA misogynistic denial around #gamergate.).

Then there are the people who you’d think would be feminist, and yet are quite misogynistic. Even in the queer and social justice communities, you’ll find both male- and female- identified persons who espouse social justice, and then are quite happy to be shitty to cisgender and transgender women, drag queens, lesbians, etc. (One of the worst offenders, I think, in this regard is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).) And this misogyny isn’t just limited to men, there are plenty of women (cis or trans) that are misogynistic as well.

Religion has always been pretty bad about misogynistic practices. There’s the obvious places of religious misogyny: the Catholic priesthood, the ‘clergy’ of some traditions of Islam and Buddhism, many Christian denominations, some Jewish denominations, the Mormons, and many many more. There are even pagans who are misogynistic, even if they won’t admit to it (including my ex-coven leader).

And yes, people have the right to practice their religions as they see fit, but, in the same way that it’s responsible to ask questions around different practices when it comes to accessibility and ableism, traditions need to ask themselves why they continue to practice these misogynistic traditions and rituals. Do you continue to use misogynistic ritual and imagery just because “it’s always been done” or does it come from a misogynistic personal worldview you’re not willing to question?

30 Days of Social Justice 22: Calling Out #30daysofsocialjustice #amwriting

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Calling out is something I really struggle with. I’ll admit up front that it might be my own privilege and my own need to reserve what spoons I have for work that, at least in my mind, would do more good than calling somebody out.

I think, at the basic level, calling out isn’t a bad thing. It can make someone really think about what they are doing and saying. A couple months ago, I had to call my Dad out about a transphobic meme he retweeted on Facebook. It was really hard for both of us but I’m extremely proud of him because he came to understand, on his own, why what he posted was harmful and apologized for it. He came to understand the personal cost that oppression has on those he cares about.

For him, and a lot of others, what they do isn’t necessarily out of malice, but more out of ignorance. What’s difficult, I think, is that the people being called out may think that they aren’t doing something racist, homophobic, transphobic, etc., they are just parroting what society has indoctrinated them to believe what is right (or funny, or whatever). This isn’t to say that there aren’t people who are spreading memes and saying things out of malice. There are many who make an art out of being shitty to people.

But I think it should make a difference in how someone is called out.

There are a lot of progressives out there who subscribe to the “Sit down and shut up!” school of calling out, regardless of the nature of the offense and offender. One of the worst I’ve seen is where the person doing the calling out tells the offender, who is ignorant of the issues and not consciously trying to be an asshole, that what they said was bad, and then are told to just “Read a fucking book!” There is no explanation of what thing they said was bad, nor was there any suggestions on what to do about it. This also puts the person being called out on the defensive: you have just told them they were in a class of people they don’t want to be associated with. In fact, in their mind they may not be racist, homophobic, sexist, or whatever. This way of calling out, at least to me, defeats the purpose. I think it just creates people who go away angry or demoralized, and they still don’t have any idea why what they did was ignorant in the first place.

I’m sure at this point, there are some folks who say “Why should I be nice and consider the feelings of people who don’t care?” or “Why should I pander to white people’s tears (or white women’s tears, or het people’s tears, etc)?” I actually don’t think calling out necessarily needs to be nice. In fact, I think it has to be very real. People need to see the anger, hurt, frustration, and fear because I think there are those who do care. However, I think that just basically saying “Sit down and shut up!” only does half the job. With my Dad, I didn’t just tell him that what he did was wrong, I also explained to him why. And that explanation came with a price: I was extremely upset and I yelled at him. He was also upset and loud about it, too. Even though he figured a lot of it out on his own, it took me explaining it to him initially for him to really take some time to think about it. But it also took my very obvious anger and hurt to really drive it home.

I get that people get frustrated with the huge amount of ignorance that people have in this country. Believe me, I get really frustrated with it, too. There are also a lot of people who are being jerks out of malice where saying “Sit down and shut up” is probably the best way to deal with it. But if someone is truly just ignorant about what their behavior is doing, without active malice, then calling them out requires more than just shutting them down. I believe that if I’m going to call someone out on their ignorance, then I’d better be prepared to follow through with some education. That way, instead of someone on the defensive thinking I’m just a jerk, I could have an ally who will, in turn, educate others.

30 Days of Social Justice 20: Body Shame/Policing #30daysofsocialjustice #amwriting

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This is going to be a very personal post, since this topic is one that effects me quite a bit. It may be triggering for some especially if you have, or are recovering from, eating disorders. Any comments to this post that are fat shaming, victim blaming, concern trolling, or negative diet talk will be deleted immediately.

When this post goes live, I will have given a workshop at my church about the language that we use to oppress ourselves, and others, about body size. Right now, I’m writing this a few days before the workshop and I’m anxious about the reaction people will have to what I will present. This is a hard thing I’m about to do because not only am I trying to convince people that weight and health are not always the same thing, but I’m also trying to convince people that the oppressive language they use to talk to each other and to themselves about their bodies is just as bad as any other oppression. That the hate and vitriol about our bodies, particularly fat bodies, qualifies as a legitimate social justice issue. And not because there’s an “obesity epidemic” (due to whatever the bad food thing of the day is), but because people are being shitty to themselves and others because of their body size.

The worst part about this is that being shitty to people because of their body size has the full support and force of society, the medical establishment, the diet industry, and even our government. There have been bills introduced into state governments to ban sodas in both schools and in towns. There are companies that give discounts to employees for completing “Biggest Loser” style workplace competitions, but if you are unable to participate, for whatever reason, you get to pay more (and let’s not get started on the ableism part of these programs). Even churches have gotten in on the act in the name of “health.”

But, here’s the kicker: when I, as a fat person, get all these messages from all of these places, they are NOT encouragement. These messages are emotionally abusive. It becomes shame, doubt, fear of rejection, a belief that I’m ugly and worthless. When I hear it in church (and I really want my clergy friends to read this and understand this) I hear that I am not worthy in the eyes of God. That I am somehow morally inferior because of an assumed lack of willpower and laziness. When I see posts from prominent Pagans decrying how there are too many fat people, I feel like my community will devalue anything I say because I’m fat. When all art that I see of the deities I work with are socially acceptable body types, I feel like my body is not acceptable to the gods. When fat people are the butt of jokes, or when people post memes just to make fun of the fat lady eating from a jar of mayo on the bus, or even when friends talk about how they’ve been “so bad” for eating a cookie, I feel, in my heart, that my body shape is not acceptable to anyone. And I worry that if they are saying that to themselves, what must they think of me?

No matter how much good I’ve done, no matter how much people tell me I’m wonderful, or nice, or beautiful, I have been trained to hate myself. I have been trained to see myself as inferior, morally bereft, and unfit to be seen in public. I have been trained to see my body as something that is broken and bad and not worth loving or don’t deserve to have love in my life. I have been trained that it is better to mutilate my body through surgery, starvation, or drugs in order to be acceptable to the rest of society. I have been trained not expect appropriate healthcare because of my size, or to be allowed to travel comfortably (without greater expense than thinner travelers), or to even be able to eat a meal at a restaurant in peace. We are trained in all of this from a very young age, and there are kids now who are dieting and getting eating disorders at younger and younger ages because they believe that fat is the worst thing you can be.

Much of this shame, doubt, and fear are so much a part of me now, is so ingrained into my psyche, that it doesn’t take much to start the self-abuse: physically and in my head. There are times, even now, where I will not eat in front of people because I’d rather starve than be seen as the “fat girl eating,” even when I know that, for legitimate health reasons, it’s dangerous for me to do so. I will always have to justify being healthy because of my fatness, and I will always have to fight with doctors to be able to not just be diagnosed as fat, even for a sinus infection.

Like all other oppressions, I have to continuously justify my right to exist in my body. No amount of wishing I ever did, or rigorous exercise that I did, or starvation that I put myself through has made me any thinner or more acceptable in the eyes of society. I have also been trained to believe that dying is preferable to existing as a fat person. And, believe me, there was one time I tried that, too. (Thankfully, I stopped myself and got help the next day.)

I urge everyone, but particularly those of you who consider yourselves clergy and those who work in social justice movements, to really think about what you are saying when you talk about health, food, and the body. Even if you’re just posting in social media, because you never know who is listening.

Just because it’s acceptable in our society to body shame and body police people doesn’t mean that it’s not oppression and doing serious damage.

30 Days of Social Justice 19: Ageism/Adultism #30daysofsocialjustice #amwriting

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Ageism shows it’s ugly head in many ways. The one way we see a lot is the ageism against older people and the elderly, especially in jobs, media, etc. It’s been getting a bit better (especially in movies like Mad Max: Fury Road and several new TV series featuring older women), but we still live in a culture that prefers the young, built, societally sanctioned beautiful people. Some politicians are perfectly happy saying that we should cut or privatize Medicare and Social Security because, well, I’m not sure why they think that gutting the poor and elderly is a good thing. In many ways, I think the elderly are forgotten and vilified because they remind us of our own mortality. Most people don’t want to think about death ever. (Me, I’m pretty ok with death, actually.)

But I also want to talk about the other side of the coin: adultism. Every couple of months or so there seems to be a rash of articles that are basically a rant about how the younger generation are “lazy, stupid, entitled, and glued to their cell phones.” Maybe it’s because I’m one of the Gen X-ers, who, I think, were really one of the first generations to have the full on anti-Gen-X (along with anti-Gen Y) media blitz on the internet.

These articles anger me. Each time I read one, it makes me want to smack the author upside the head, because I don’t see an “entitled” generation. The current generation has a very weird world to live in at the moment. It’s a transition period where we’re moving into humanity’s future. Sure, there’s the usual barriers to mobility such as sexuality, race, and gender, but it’s also a generation that goes into the workforce with a great wall in front of them in the form of massive college debt. Nevermind trying to find a paying job once they graduate. They’re competing with us Gen X-ers and Gen Ys for these same jobs. We’re all living longer and working longer, way past retirement age. And really, right now, we’re all working hard for a whole lot less.

But I also see a lot of interesting social changes with the newer generations. Things that were taboo, or a Big Deal to older generations are seen as the new normal with Millennials: Gay? So what? Trans/Gender Variant? Well, still kinda weird, but whatevs…have you see OITNB? Religious? Nah…not interested..well, maybe a little. Racism? #blacklivesmatter #justice4trayvon

I’m very hopeful because this generation sees the futility of the older generation’s freak outs about things that, in perspective, we should’ve have dealt with by now. While I think it definitely is important for the younger generations to know their history and why people have freaked out over things, I think those of us in the older generations need to take a tip from the Millennials and let some things go into the past where they belong.

Ageism hurts in both directions, and I think we could do better than pointing fingers at each other.

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