Dear Reader,

This morning I awoke to an article in The Nation by Madelaine Schwartz covering El Salvador’s abortion ban, which has become more perilous as the Zika virus provides a real threat to pregnant women. I am left, once again, with the thought that men simply do not care about the lives of women since they are willing to let them die. I speak plainly here, but it is the only explanation that makes sense. Schwartz goes on to report that, “El Salvador’s rates of maternal mortality are higher than average in Latin America. Suicide is the leading cause of death among teenage girls.” If they cared about their women, wouldn’t there be a sense of urgency to lower these numbers?

This is not a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Although I am quick to call out El Salvador’s dangerous policies, I am also aware that my own country has its own issues when it comes to women’s healthcare. In a study released by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, they found that maternal mortality rates, especially among Black women, have risen up to 50% in the United States. This is a rare occurrence for rich countries who have access to a plethora of resources. As a country that touts a self-endowed label of being “The Greatest”, it sure does a terrible job of ensuring the safety of women. So how great of a country can we be? Sure we have not completely banned abortion like El Salvador has, but it is a possibility I am not going to rule out. With Texas passing a rule that mandates fetus funerals, Ohio Governor John Kasich signing the 20-week abortion ban (which 5 other states already have), and the ultimate “pro-lifer” Mike Pence set to take office in January of next year, women cannot afford to let their guards down on this matter. We need to be urgent and clear when it comes to fighting for research and better programs in women’s health.

Of course, many women are already fighting back. In Texas, the Center For Reproductive Rights announced they will be challenging the fetus burial mandate in a court of law. In El Salvador, feminists and activists like Sara Garcia from a pro-choice organization or Teodora del Carmen Vásquez who uses her personal experience as evidence of injustice, are both pushing for a more just healthcare environment for women. In Ohio and other states like it, grassroots organizers are putting the pressure on their government to provide better healthcare for women. This fight began years ago, and while we have made incremental success some places, we still have a long way to go.

While the war on women’s reproductive rights continues to wage, there is another incredibly shameful war happening overseas that has taken a turn for the worst. In East Aleppo, Assad’s militant forces have closed in on the rebel-occupied territory. Despite the agreed upon ceasefire which was to give civilians time to evacuate, government forces have continued bombings and killings. Yesterday many residents of Aleppo were filming and posting their final goodbyes, saying that it may be their last day alive.

I feel completely powerless at this point. My heart is heavy. I am disgusted with the Russians celebration of this “victory”. What will my President do to stop this? I am not sure he or my government wants to do anything. Although to my understanding, the United States doesn’t have an obviously direct involvement with Syria, it can be said that our manipulations in other parts had a great effect on the current situation. To that, I say: It is not the job of the United States to choose how other people want their country governed. It is not up to us. We cannot decide that because we want something, we can manipulate governments. This trend in the United States foreign policies must end. I do not see that happening under the Trump Administration, especially with the recent appointment of  Exxon oil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. This appointment makes it blatantly clear that oil will continue to dominate our foreign policies. This is something I hope more people will speak on and work to change.

Though it is unclear how the events in Syria will continue to unfold, it is evident that the fight at Standing Rock is not over. Water protectors are preparing for a standoff against the new Trump regime, who is surely in full support of the pipeline. In a sound bite recently leaked, the Energy Transfer Partners (the company involved in the Dakota Access Pipeline) discussed how once January 20 rolls around, they will be back in business. Stating: “We fully expect as soon as he is inaugurated his team is going to move to get the final approvals done and DAPL will cross the lake.” This is a reminder to all of you who have fought with the protectors so far to not pack up just yet. We must be vigilant in our actions in order to protect our water.

I understand these are not the easiest topics to process, but these are the things we must tend to. My hope is to keep you informed, engaged, and creating conversations around these topics. But some other more light-hearted topics buzzing around in my head (because I can think about lots of things at once) are:

  • Kanye West’s meeting with Trump and why I’m really just over Kanye
  • Why are interviews so scary? (Feel free to comment with advice)
  • Rogue One comes out in two days!
  • My pandora stations are better than anyone’s ever

Thanks for reading!


Marysol Flores, Chief Gardener