I used a high-school debate on abortion to talk about political intolerance. Guess how people reacted?
Photo by Paul Faith/Getty Images​.

The other week, I wrote an article about debating “pro-life” in high school. I was then—and continue to be—passionately pro-choice. But my political stance isn’t the point—the piece was about the effect of the class’s conduct.

I expressed an unpopular point of view and was yelled at, mocked, and—for a time—ostracized.

The experience of being ganged up on by 25 of my peers so rattled and disoriented me, I soon found myself arguing my “side” with genuine feeling. It was a strange experience—especially because I wasn’t pro-life—to find myself tendentiously defending a cause I deplored—due to being attacked by others.


As soon as the article was posted, the comments section exploded.

Pro-choicers defended their right to be angry and treat others with the disrespect they “deserve.”

Pro-lifers defended their right to be angry and treat others with the disrespect they “deserve.”

At times, the comments veered into personal attacks: this writer is "pathetic," "whiny," "delusional," "an idiot."

And still, despite an eruption of online acrimony that perfectly mirrored my experience in high school, people insisted my memory was either faulty, or I was outright making it up. Fortunately, the irony wasn’t lost on everybody. A few commenters defended my piece better than I did:

“This post isn’t about the topic of abortion nor debates,” reads one. “It’s a discussion about how we treat each other as humans and our lack of control of our emotions leading to incivility.”

“Human beings are all individuals,” reads another. “But that individuality is bounded within a shared human experience. Unfortunately, that means that all of us are susceptible to these horrid little psychological tics. And we're living in a hyper-charged time. I hate to say it, but they're only human, reacting to information as opposed to processing it.”

I chose to write about this memory because I thought it illustrated, in microcosm, the tenor of debate in this country. I wish we lived in a world in which abortion rights weren’t up to debate—in which a woman’s bodily autonomy is a given. But we don’t.

And now we have an accused abuser on the Supreme Court. He is deeply conservative, and—judging by his anti-Democrat, conspiracy-driven rhetoric—possibly vindictive. Roe v. Wade is more vulnerable than ever—that’s just the reality. And yelling and sneering at pro-lifers is not only not helping—it’s working against us.

We need to figure out how to calm down and strategize.

Photo by Wojtek Radwanski//Getty Images.

I am by no means saying we shouldn’t feel outraged—we should. The injustices in our country are beyond the pale. But this isn’t about how we feel—it’s about how communicate.

Over the past 20 years, we have all learned to speak fluent internet. This morning, The New York Times reported: “Social media is emboldening people to cross the line and push the envelope on what they are willing to say to provoke and to incite.... The problem is clearly expanding.”

Angry outbursts and name-calling is so normalized, it's become our national parlance—something even our leaders engage in to appeal to (or alienate) the masses, advance politically, and deepen the divide.

Should we continue to drain our energy spewing vitriol online? Or should we rant instead to our friends, our family members, and therapists—people who love us, hear us, and are invested in our well-being—so we can metabolize our rage and move on to enacting real change?

Venting spleen on the internet may seem innocuous and “therapeutic,” but it is not. It is dangerous. Trolling is not akin road rage, where we yell things in the privacy of our cars we’d never say to someone’s face. The internet appears to offer the same privacy and anonymity as our cars—but it’s an illusion. Those other drivers—they can hear us. We are stoking real emotions with real—at time, deadly—consequences.

In addition to the illusion of privacy, the internet creates an illusion of control—we all think we're the ones driving. But, in reality, we are all in this car together—a brakeless clown car stuffed with millions of rage-demented clowns with Trump at the wheel. And while we all call each other idiots and pelt each other with “angry face” emojis, he's heading straight for a cliff.

Something has to change. The most moving—and effective—moments in history involved peaceful non-reaction to outrageous insult. If we are serious about our rights, then action—not reaction—may be the way forward.

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan
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Growing up in Indonesia, Farwiza Farhan always loved the ocean. It's why she decided to study marine biology. But the more she learned, the more she realized that it wasn't enough to work in the ocean. She needed to protect it.

"I see the ocean ecosystem collapsing due to overfishing and climate change," she says. "I felt powerless and didn't know what to do [so] I decided to pursue my master's in environmental management."

This choice led her to work in environmental protection, and it was fate that brought her back home to the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia — one of the last places on earth where species such as tigers, orangutans, elephants and Sumatran rhinoceros still live in the wild today. It's also home to over 300 species of birds, eight of which are endemic to the region.

"When I first flew over the Leuser Ecosystem, I saw an intact landscape, a contiguous block of lush, diverse vegetation stretched through hills and valleys. The Leuser is truly a majestic landscape — one of a kind."

She fell in love. "I had my first orangutan encounter in the Leuser Ecosystem," she remembers. "As the baby orangutan swung from the branches, seemingly playing and having fun, the mother was observing us. I was moved by the experience."

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

"Over the years," she continues, "the encounters with wildlife, with people, and with the ecosystem itself compounded. My curiosity and interest towards nature have turned into a deep desire to protect this biodiversity."

So, she began working for a government agency tasked to protect it. After the agency dismantled for political reasons in the country, Farhan decided to create the HAkA Foundation.

"The goals [of HAkA] are to protect, conserve and restore the Leuser Ecosystem while at the same time catalyzing and enabling just economic prosperity for the region," she says.

"Wild areas and wild places are rare these days," she continues. "We think gold and diamonds are rare and therefore valuable assets, but wild places and forests, like the Leuser Ecosystems, are the kind of natural assets that essentially provide us with life-sustaining services."

"The rivers that flow through the forest of the Leuser Ecosystem are not too dissimilar to the blood that flows through our veins. It might sound extreme, but tell me — can anyone live without water?"

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

So far, HAkA has done a lot of work to protect the region. The organization played a key role in strengthening laws that bring the palm oil companies that burn forests to justice. In fact, their involvement led to an unprecedented, first-of-its-kind court decision that fined one company close to $26 million.

In addition, HAkA helped thwart destructive infrastructure plans that would have damaged critical habitat for the Sumatran elephants and rhinos. They're working to prevent mining destruction by helping communities develop alternative livelihoods that don't damage the forests. They've also trained hundreds of police and government rangers to monitor deforestation, helping to establish the first women ranger teams in the region.

"We have supported multiple villages to create local regulation on river and land protection, effectively empowering communities to regain ownership over their environment."

She is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year. The donation she receives as a nominee is being awarded to the Ecosystem Impact Foundation. The small local foundation is working to protect some of the last remaining habitats of the critically endangered leatherback turtle that lives on the west coast of Sumatra.

"The funds will help the organization keep their ranger employed so they can continue protecting the islands, endangered birds and sea turtle habitats," she says.

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen. Do you know an inspiring woman like Farwiza? Nominate her today!

Tired of avocados turning brown? Try this simple trick.

Ah, the delicious, creamy avocado. We love it, despite its fleeting ripeness and frustrating tendency to turn brown when you try to store it. From salads to guacamole to much-memed millennial avocado toast, the weird berry (that's right—it's a berry) with the signature green flesh is one of the more versatile fruits, but also one of the more fickle. Once an avocado is ready, you better cut it open within hours because it's not going to last.

Once it's cut, an avocado starts to oxidize, turning that green flesh a sickly brown color. It's not harmful to eat, but it's not particularly appetizing. The key to keeping the browning from happening is to keep the flesh from being exposed to oxygen.

Some people rub an unused avocado half with oil to keep oxidation at bay. Others swear by squeezing some lemon juice over it. Some say placing plastic wrap tightly over it with the pit still in it will keep it green.

But a YouTube video from Avocados from Mexico demonstrates a quick, easy, eco-friendly way to store half an avocado that doesn't require anything but a container and some water.

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Courtesy of Ms. Lopez
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Marcella Lopez didn't always want to be a teacher — but once she became one, she found her passion. That's why she's stayed in the profession for 23 years, spending the past 16 at her current school in Los Angeles, where she mostly teaches children of color.

"I wanted purpose, to give back, to live a life of public service, to light the spark in others to think critically and to be kind human beings," she says. "More importantly, I wanted my students to see themselves when they saw me, to believe they could do it too."

Ms. Lopez didn't encounter a teacher of color until college. "That moment was life-changing for me," she recalls. "It was the first time I felt comfortable in my own skin as a student. Always remembering how I felt in that college class many years ago has kept me grounded year after year."

It's also guided her teaching. Ms. Lopez says she always selects authors and characters that represent her students and celebrate other ethnicities so students can relate to what they read while also learning about other cultures.

"I want them to see themselves in the books they read, respect those that may not look like them and realize they may have lots in common with [other cultures] they read about," she says.

She also wants her students to have a different experience in school than she did.

When Ms. Lopez was in first grade, she "was speaking in Spanish to a new student, showing her where the restroom was when a staff member overheard our conversation and directed me to not speak in Spanish," she recalls. "In 'this school,' we only speak English," she remembers them saying. "From that day forward, I was made to feel less-than and embarrassed to speak the language of my family, my ancestors; the language I learned to speak first."

Part of her job, she says, is to find new ways to promote acceptance and inclusion in her classroom.

"The worldwide movement around social justice following the death of George Floyd amplified my duty as a teacher to learn how to discuss racial equity in a way that made sense to my little learners," she says. "It ignited me to help them see themselves in a positive light, to make our classroom family feel more inclusive, and make our classroom a safe place to have authentic conversations."

One way she did that was by raising money through DonorsChoose to purchase books and other materials for her classroom that feature diverse perspectives.

Courtesy of Ms. Lopez

The Allstate Foundation recently partnered with DonorsChoose to create a Racial Justice and Representation category to encourage teachers like Ms. Lopez to create projects that address racial equity in the classroom. To launch the category, The Allstate Foundation matched all donations to these projects for a total of $1.5 million. Together, they hope to drive awareness and funding to projects that bring diversity, inclusion, and identity-affirming learning materials into classrooms across the country. You can see current projects seeking funding here.

When Ms. Lopez wanted to incorporate inclusive coloring books into her lesson plans, The Allstate Foundation fully funded her project so she was able to purchase them.

"I'm a lifelong learner, striving to be my best version of myself and always working to inspire my little learners to do the same," she says. Each week, Ms. Lopez and the students would focus on a page in the book and discuss its message. And she plans to do the same again this school year.

"DonorsChoose has been a gamechanger for my students. Without the support of all the donors that come together on this platform, we wouldn't have a sliver of what I've been able to provide for my students, especially during the pandemic," she says.

"My passion is to continue striving to be excellent, and to continue to find ways to use literature as an anchor, depicting images that reflect my students," she says.

To help teachers like Ms. Lopez drive this important mission forward, donate on DonorsChoose.

Courtesy of Ms. Lopez

This story was originally published on The Mighty and originally appeared here on 07.21.17


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