Democracy strengthens when it almost fails

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Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

On May 4th, 1970, The National Guard fired a spray of bullets into a mostly white college protest at Kent State University in Ohio. They killed four students, wounding nine. Two of the students killed were not even attending the protest.

The protesting was sparked by the US military invasion of Cambodia, considered an escalation of an unpopular war. By the time the National Guard sprayed bullets on the green campus lawn, the movement to end the war was over.

Nationwide, student protests were losing their fight to end the war. Many individual campus leaders were expelled, arrested, and charged for their involvement. The movement, at a crossroads without a passionate unifying national voice, was seeded with division and disorganization. …

How one Instagram page sums up discrimination based on disability

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Photo by Jose Antonio Gallego Vázquez on Unsplash

I was scrolling through my Instagram last evening. I was super tired, but unable to let my phone go for the night. During my half-hearted scrolling using only my one thumb, hoping to catch some useless celebrity gossip or last minute news. In an ad for Tik Tok, or a suggestion to follow. I can’t honestly remember now. I discovered Down Right Worthy, or @downrightworthy.

Cute name, I thought.

I curiously scrolled through adorable pictures of a young woman with Down Syndrome making a splash on the platform for her contagious smile, dance moves, and obsession with brushing her siblings hair. …

How to break down and become vulnerable after childhood trauma

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Photo by Rochelle Leader on Unsplash

I punched my partner in the face with my open hand and poked him in the eye. He winced in pain, but started to laugh. “You poked me in the eye,” stating the obvious. I wasn’t a violent person, and I kept a pretty tight lid on my anger. Every once in a while I let a little steam escape.

The whole thing was on purpose, a calculated exercise to help our circumstances. It was supposed to help me engage with vulnerable emotions more readily. …

Chapter 1: The Rash

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The Rash

October 12th 1972

My mom’s face was buried deep in the Topeka Gazette. “It’s three confirmed cases. All of them died.” My dad laughed, and took a sip of his coffee, “From a rash,” looking at me, “Esme gets a rash every time the wind blows west.”

I folded my arms and looked out the kitchen window. “Fuck you,” I said inside my brain. I dare say that shit out loud, he’ll take me and his belt to our barn.

He kicked my foot under the table and lit a cigarette, “Hey, there. …

How poverty helps you make better financial choices

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Photo by Tom Parsons on Unsplash

I moved a lot growing up. My parents always rented, choosing to live in an area with a better school system. Just slightly out of reach economically, but very white and very conservative.

Sometimes we lived in Motels, or apartments without heat, or older homes with brown water coming out of the tap, and at least one bathroom with the toilet missing.

My father was a middle school English teacher, my mother was middle management for a chain of hotels. They both went to college and worked really hard. My mom often worked sixty hours a week. …

An open love letter of hope and forgiveness

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Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

As I write this article, my dreams are flooded with me traveling back in time to the 1990’s. More than a flashback, my mind floats around in the same dank dorm rooms I called home while in college in the 90’s.

Sometimes the whole dream is me cleaning the room, like a metaphorical cleanse of my consciousness.

The room is filthy and cluttered with items that fit the time period, or things my mind is racing to clean up. Old lovers, old clothes, and things that are just old.

Sometimes I am trying to buy pot, or my children are sleeping in my dorm bed as I pump the tires of my bicycle and watch music videos on MTV. It’s a link to my present. To what awaits me when I awake from this mass recollection of my past. …

A fast-paced thrill ride through trauma and addiction

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Photo Courtesy of HBO Max

Warning: this post contains spoilers

The Flight Attendant (based on the 2018 book “The Flight Attendant” by Chris Bohjalian) is currently streaming on HBO MAX.

In my sixteen years of sobriety, it’s rare a television show can truly capture the similar experiences of addiction, trauma, and mental health. Even more remarkable when that show is also a super entertaining international thriller. HBO Max’s The Flight Attendant manages to do both at the same time.

The Flight Attendant is a wild whodunit. Espionage, Russian agents, a federal investigation, and the twists and turns of an unsolved murder. The show is fast-paced. …

Can we save America from Donald Trump?

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Photo by Cooper Baumgartner on Unsplash

We are just one day into an attempted coup. By now the photos of the insurrection at the Capitol building indict many of the participants with ties to right wing conspiracy groups, and domestic terrorism.

There was a lot to emotionally process yesterday. The insurrection alone was predictable, but shocking. Armed men and women entering OUR house of democracy.

The government was clearly under attack. The entire legislative branch was in session, including the vice president of the United States and his family.

The insurrection was a direct result of incited violence by Ruby Guiliani, and the current President of The United States at a rally just minutes before the coup began. …

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Photo by Joel Timothy on Unsplash

I have been lost in thinking lately. Keeping my headphones tuned to music, my mind takes a full rap sheet of my personal hits and misses for 2020. Music helps me dissociate, removing myself from the noise of the everyday life in my chaotic family.

Escaping from the unending questions from my 14 year old, the teenage angst from my 15 year old, my partner’s obsession with Tik Tok.

In many ways 2020 was a miss. It was a miss for most Americans. It exasperated whatever marginalization or challenges each person was already experiencing. …

After a whole bunch of people died from the rash, the war started.

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

My legs hung awkwardly off the table in the exam room. My naked legs sticking to the crinkled sanitary paper that broke the silence in the room when I moved. I looked down at my white sandals. They were dirty, and my toes were caked with mud.

I didn’t even get time to wash them off when my mother lifted me from the cold earth, her body tense, her screams drowning out the world. She carried me, running to her truck. …


Joy Ellen Sauter

Full Time Writer and Activist. I tell stories. She/Her Contact:

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