Combat Apathy: The Blog

Find out what's latest and how you can get more involved in Shannon's efforts. The Combat Apathy blog features Shannon's writing accounts of her ongoing outreach, adventures, and activism.

Fresh Steps – Endangered Activism

A year and a half ago my daughter, Devon and I were sitting in our local coffee shop in Breckenridge. I was considering the violence and corruption in Afghanistan and considering my work there after a brain injury sidelined me and made me re-assess my situation.  It had been nearly a decade of work in the country and on top of the brain recovery, I was burnt out and frustrated.  Devon was begging me to stop traveling there in the wake of increased violence and her increased awareness.  She was very aware of my work, she was part of my memoir and even part of a short film that had been made about me, MoveShake. She had attended talks and lectures. She was aware of what I did, and why, and what the work of an activist was.

I was becoming more and more interested in what had initially excited me about my first projects in Afghanistan, youth voice and creative expression. I wanted to immerse myself in something creative again, having been pulled into a longterm project that had sapped my energy and my spirit. Recent conversations with Devon had expressed her desire to have her voice heard in the realm of endangered species and conservation, but she didn’t think adults listened to kids much when it came to activism.

When we are young, we are all activists.  We believe that we can change the world, that we have no limits, and we see the world through hopeful eyes.  We care, we want to help where we see someone or something in need, and believe we, even as an individual child, can make a difference. We believe in superheroes defeating the villains in every comic book episode.  Somewhere along the way we lose that sense of hope and catalyzing energy to charge forth and make things right.  As adults, we become apathetic, or cynical, or simply too busy with our ‘real work’ to be involved with being an activist.

The irony is at the same time we become old enough to have our voices heard in the public space, and have the education and the knowledge to organize effectively, we lose our desire to activate.  When we are too young to be heard, we have nothing but energy and hope and boundless imagination to think outside the box for solutions.  Somewhere there is a middle ground.

Devon fell in love with a snow leopard when she was four years old.  Seeing her passion, I adopted a snow leopard in her name for her birthday from the Snow Leopard Trust.  In return she got a stuffed snow leopard that she named Himalaya, Himmy for short.  That snow leopard has never left her side.  She ran a bake sale at her elementary school to raise money to support another snow leopard at the Snow Leopard Trust, and has done numerous other community fundraisers in support of endangered wildlife, but as she got older her understanding of the issue and realities of conservation expanded and deepened.

Like expanding circles, Devon went from wanting to save snow leopards, to recognizing that it was about educating humans.  Then it was about conservation and land use.  Climate change.

As we sat at the coffeeshop I had a plan, “What if I stopped working in Afghanistan for a while and we created a project together?”  Over some excited conversations and some sketches on napkins, Endangered Activism was born in the back of Cuppa Joe and has evolved since in many coffeeshops around the world.

The idea is to revive youth activism for Devon’s generation and the generation to come after her through a journey into wildlife conservation.  How do we save endangered species, and our planet, from extinction if we don’t empower our children with tools now? Interviews with scientists, conservations, filmmakers, photographers, researchers, activists on the front line of wildlife conservation to learn best practices to save endangered species, protect wildlife, and how to protect our wild spaces.  At the same time how to empower youth voice and develop new ways to communicate and storytell through film, writing, social media, and art.

We flew out to Ventura, California to meet up with friends at Patagonia HQ.  Their environmental team had recently released an activist handbook on best practices in environmental conservation from front line activists, and a dear friend and the head of global marketing, Whitney Connor Clapper, had been to Afghanistan with me and was willing to make some introductions for Devon to meet a few legends in exploration and conservation that work at Patagonia like, Rick Ridgeway.  He shared a ton of wisdom with Devon and offered to make some introductions when we got to that point with organizations that were doing great work in the field.  Inspiring Devon and opening her worldview to who and what is out there.

As luck would have it, Devon’s father and his partner were willing to discuss taking Devon out of 7th grade to homeschool her and travel abroad for 14 months at the same time we were diving into our first projects.  This opened up the possibilities and the stars aligned.  Literally in a matter of months, we aligned an itinerary that had both our households paralleling each other around the world and exchanging Devon every other month.  Allowing for an incredible amount of time to work in the field with wildlife partners.

We packed up our small apartment and put everything we owned into a storage unit and committed ourselves to living on the road for 14 months with two bags each starting the day school ended.  We’ll return August 2018 in time for Devon to get settled in for school to start for 8th grade, but 7th grade will be spent in over 15 countries, plus change.  Endangered Activism will develop with a film crew joining us a specific intervals to document specific projects, while we learn about wildlife conservation, research, and develop our own media, film, and communications skills in between.

The best way that you can follow the journey is on instagram @endangered_activism  and on my own site at @sgalpin74  we post often here and will be sharing the growing journey as it develops both in film, story, and art.

You can also follow on Facebook @EndangeredActivism

The website is at although it’s very rudimentary right now and still being constructed.  Devon’s blog directly links to the site though so its a great way to follow along.


Finding Tr♀be

postcard-1I am beyond thrilled to announce the newest program under Mountain2Mountain, Tr♀be. Tr♀be is launching as a series of yoga/surf camps targeting middle school aged girls of different cultures and backgrounds.  The camps are about connecting young women together and empowering and inspiring young girls to find their voice and discuss social justice issues that affect them and their communities as a means of finding unique and sustainable solutions.

Tr♀be will be located in several countries with two phases of programming.  The initial camps launching in 2017 will be based out of Maui, Hawaii with the established local yoga and SUP/surf community, led by Sarah Callaham and focusing on local Hawaiian girls alongside local legends like native Hawaiian and pro surfer, Mariko Strickland Lum.  Additional camps in unique communities that tie back to our decade of work in Central Asia with girls will focus on Iran, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nicaragua, and Palestine and each camps will connect the girls with local women breaking barriers in their sport, adventure, and activism.  Mountain2Mountain sponsored Iran’s first surfer and snowboarder, Mona Seraji in the upcoming European FreeRide World Tour and she will be assisting with the camp in Iran next year.  In each case we would be establishing the initial camps with local girls as a means of connecting them into a community network of like-minded girls interested in social justice issues.

The second phase would involve camps that integrate the girls from various countries with each other for an exchange of culture and conversation that will plug them into global issues affecting women and girls.  These diverse girls will engage in a mutual social justice project together of their choosing and will meet with mentors to discuss application and logistics.



Why surf and yoga?  The idea is to engage within a new environment in a unique way through sports to bond and build confidence. Yoga and meditation to integrate mindfulness, self-reflection, and focus on creative energy.  Each camp will include guest filmmakers, photographers, activists, and adventurers from diverse backgrounds to inspire and spark new ways of thinking.

This new program aims to tap into the power of young women at a key time in their development and show them they are not alone, they have a tribe of other girls and adult mentors.  Discussions around gender violence, diversity, racism, and sexism will introduce the girls to ways to recognize and identify these issues when faced with them as individuals, while knowing they have a tribe of other girls to lean into if needed.

This is part of my pivot out of Afghanistan.  I am not turning my back on the Afghan girls and programs I have started, but I am not expanding them further due to the security and corruption issues that I have written about extensively both on this blog and on Mountain2Mountain’s.  I will continue to support the Afghan girls that are riding bikes and hope to return there and to find ways to support the girls.

This holiday season your donations to Mountain2Mountain will help build the foundation of Tr♀be and you can watch the first generation of surfer yogis flourish as young activists and strong voices in their communities.  Believe in the power of voice and in the power of girls.

Two Terms of Hope and Change Comes to an End

Exactly eight years ago today, November 9th, I arrived in Kabul, Afghanistan.  It was the first day of my first trip to a country where I have worked as an activist and ‘humanitarian’ ever since.  Exactly eight years today.  I flew to Afghanistan the day of the elections in 2008, and  I watched anxiously as some of the early results came in during my layover in Dubai.  I arrived in Kabul, bleary eyed and jet lagged, to hear the words, “Hello, Shannon. Welcome to Kabul.  Barack Obama is your new President.”

I nearly hugged the slight, bespectacled, Afghan man who spoke those words.  Najibullah was holding a sign that read “Shanon Galpin” in the meeting area of the old Kabul terminal.  A hug, of course, would have been the worst possible thing I could have done in a crowd of Afghan men for Najibullah’s reputation, and my own.  I restrained myself, instead looked over at my friend and photographer, Tony Di Zinno, and grinned.  I couldn’t hug him in public either.  He grinned back and said something about ‘auspicious signs’.   This was everything.  I had arrived in Afghanistan to start my work at the same time that Americans historically voted for our first black President.  A man whose campaign was based on ‘Hope and Change’.  A man, who over the next eight years would exemplify the best of humanity in the highest political office. But for now, in this moment, I simply agreed with Tony’s assessment of an auspicious omen in which to begin my journey down a path that was also firmly rooted in the belief that hope leads to change,  if backed up with a boatload of grit and determination.

Now let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  I am NOT comparing myself to President Obama.  I am simply reflecting that the time period that bookends his two terms of office is now also bookending my own work in Afghanistan.  Because after eight years, multiple humanitarian projects and collaboration, soul-crushing fundraising and outreach, a groundbreaking street art installation, two books, a shit ton of corruption, two recent brain injuries, and a historic series of mountain bike rides, I am ready to ‘leave office’.  I cannot envision a third term, even though I am free to take one and desperately wish Obama could too.

I have been struggling with this for the past year.  I was admitted to the ICU in 2015 with a blood clot in my brain.  I worked through recovery, supported my ongoing work with the Afghan National Women’s Cycling Team from my home in Colorado until I was allowed to go back there in May.  Yet while I was there, everything I had been working towards for the past three and a half years with the team was crumbling.  Corruption, dysfunction, and increased security risks were overwhelming and disheartening.  Amidst several suicide bombings in the capital, increased control by the Taliban, and the emergence of ISIS in two provinces, I saw a country reeling with an exodus of NGO’s, media, aid workers, and Afghan citizens and a dysfunction stemming from the power sharing agreement that has led to effectively two heads of state; Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah.  This has rippled down the food chain in bizarre but not unexpected ways.  I met colleagues that talked about meeting with two governors in a province, two Ministers for the same office.  There were two official Afghan Olympic Committees operating (not legal by IOC standards).  There were also two Afghan Cycling Federations (also not legal by UCI standards).  There was corruption so blatant and vile that I spoke openly about it with the New York Times for a piece about the women’s sports federations and corruption.  This increased the risk against me personally, calling people out for illegal and corrupt behavior rarely wins you friends.  All this while I was emerging from eight months of brain recovery.  I came home and wanted nothing more than a lobotomy.

Six days later, my mother passed away.  Two months later and I was back in the ICU with a second brain injury.

I am now nine weeks out of the ICU and freshly back from unplanned trips to Denver and NYC to organize two Pussy Grabs Back Protests in the wake of Trump’s continued brush aside of rape culture in our public discourse.  I wrote blogs about rape culture and locker room talk, and engaged on a soulless social media experiment on trolling. I’m tired. I don’t have a third term in me.  I have reflected on what I have accomplished in eight years ‘of office’.  I see what Obama has accomplished in his. He wins. No question.

But eight years is an unusual timeframe to reflect upon my work in Afghanistan and what’s ahead. Because after eight hard, dangerous, corruption filled years in Afghanistan, I still believe hope and change are possible.  I’ve seen it.  I’ve seen it over shared meals with female members of Parliament discussing their role in the future of their country.  I’ve seen it on the streets when women marched against street harassment and gender violence, despite the rocks that were thrown at them.  I’ve seen it with the emergence of Afghanistan’s street art scene, giving voice to the youth that believe their have a voice.  I’ve witnessed it when the first girls to ever ride bikes in Afghanistan conquered the last taboo and inspired other girls to grab their freedom.

Here in the US, I’ve witnessed it with President Obama supporting gay marriage and repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ putting LGBT rights front and center with our nation’s idea of equality. His stimulus plan prevented a second great depression and turned our economy around. He signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Passed universal health care reform. He ended the war in Iraq and drew down in Afghanistan. He expanded wilderness protection, and supported the Paris Agreements on climate change.  I could go on, but you can google his long list of progressive accomplishments.  He did this despite an intransigent and obstructionist GOP and amidst constant attacks on his legitimacy as President, most of it coming from our now President Elect Trump.

More than that what he accomplished… he inspired our country.  He showed that this country is indeed open for all who dare to dream, that America was no longer a country solely controlled by white men.  He showed that while racism still exists, a black man with a Muslim sounding name could become President.  That he could weather the continuous onslaught of racial slurs and birther conspiracies with dignity.  He and Michelle have brought grace, humor, joy, and some killer dance moves into the office.

He did all this with hope and change.  Not because hoping for something gets shit down, but because if you dare to believe that hope is stronger than fear, that equality and justice is possible, and then you fight for it with your actions, change will occur.  The fight is worth fighting and that fight doesn’t happen without hope.  Hope that we can address the wrongs of those that came before us. Hope that the future can be remade in the image of our diversity.  Hope that equality and social justice will prevail and build a foundation for future generations over a history of racism and sexism.   I believe in hope, and I believe in Obama.

Today I woke to the news that the nightmare we all watched unfold last night was indeed our new reality; Donald Trump is our new President Elect.  Eight years of progressive policy and a scandal free Presidency by our first black President ends with our country electing a racist, sexist, bigot with no governing or military experience?  How the fuck did this happen?

I listened to Hillary Clinton’s concession speech, and then Obama’s speech 30 minutes later on NPR as I drove to the airport this morning. Both were dignified, respectful, and called on us all to take the high ground and peacefully begin the transition of power to the democratically elected President Elect.  Yet there is a subtle call to action underneath the peacemaking; justice and equality must not be pushed aside, no matter who is the leader of our country.  We must unite in keen opposition, activism, and protest to ensure that the fight for  e quality and justice does not get sidelined.  That women’s rights, LGBT rights, civil rights, indigenous rights, and environmental rights do not get trampled or ignored.  This is still a fight worth fighting, we cannot abandon hope.

For the past eight years, I’ve fought for women’s rights and girls’ empowerment in a war zone.  I’ve fought to build awareness of gender violence at home and abroad.  The more I work in Afghanistan, the more I see the work we need to do back home.  We are more similar than we care to admit.  Our country was founded on the words of equality and justice.  Many of us would argue that words do not make it so.  Women, particularly women of color, black men, native americans, hispanics, and specifically targeted in this election cycle as our latest ‘demon’, Muslims, are all too aware that equality and justice are not evenly dispensed, despite what the words on our Bill of Rights may state as our founding ideals.  My work was in a country repeatedly ranked the worst country in the world to be a woman.  What does it say about our country when I realize that I need to work here more than ‘over there’.

White men, and far too many white women, voted for white supremacy, sexual assault, ignorance, and racism yesterday.  I heard family members talk about a return to the ‘way things were’ when they were growing up.  Yes, for many white middle class American men and women, the 1950’s were probably idyllic.  You were born in a period of prosperity and white privilege.  Congratulations white men in America, you won the human lottery.  White men wrote the rules that this country was founded on, they oppressed and subjugated other men to build this country while maintaining a status quo that kept women and people of color as second class citizens, and they have proven that they won’t give that power up easily.  Not to a black man, no matter how good a leader he proves himself to be.  Not to a woman, no matter how qualified she is.  Instead…we elect a man whose best known for beauty pageants, dodgy real estate deals, bankruptcies, and a reality tv show.  But he’s white, and he’ll protect you from the bogeyman that he, himself, along with the media circus, created.

Two terms. Eight years.  I’m exhausted.  I’m sure everyone is.  The progress made in Afghanistan is at risk of a corrupt government and increased violence.  The progress made here in the United States is at risk under a Trump presidency and Republican led Senate.  He has campaigned on the platform of rolling back much of Obama’s key legislation. He is a serial liar. He has threatened to jail his opponent.  The future of the Supreme Court is on the line.  The future of my daughter is on the line.  My 11-year-old went to bed truly fearful of a Trump win.  She has watched the debates.  She understands at age eleven that debate is about respect and discourse; interrupting is rude and bullying is wrong.  She has heard him in his own words talk about grabbing women by the pussy, and she understands that the principals of consent are key to women’s rights and to her safety.   She went to bed after she wrote a list of all the uncounted states left and their electoral votes, believing there was still a chance of a Clinton win.  I dreaded waking her up this morning for school. As I climbed into bed with her to give her a cuddle, she immediately asked me sleepily, “who won?”  To which I replied, “Trump did, but it’s going to be okay.”  Because I want to believe it will be.  Over breakfast we talked about democratic process and the words we use going forward.  We can be disappointed, sad, and even angry, but we must follow Obama’s lead and take the high road.  We talked about bullying, sexism, and racism.  But how do you explain to a sixth grader that a bully, a man that demeans women, that calls Mexicans rapists (she goes to a bi-lingual school with 50% hispanics) can be elected to lead our country?  You can’t.  You just have to hug it out and continue to talk through it, openly and honestly.

Many of us have said publicly that no matter who wins we have exposed the sexism and racism fault lines that exist in this country.  We knew they were there, but they are deeper than many of us realized.  So no matter who won, we knew that today, November 9th, we had to continue to work for social justice.  Women’s rights, civil rights, LGBT rights, and indigenous rights.  The work is right here in our backyard.

So today, as I sit on the airplane, insulated from my twitter feed and the media’s breakdown of this election result, I allow myself to be sad. I allow myself to feel depressed.  I need the quiet and the dark.  I need to be cut off from my phone.  I need to mourn the fact that the country I thought I had a voice in, the country that sets itself up as the standard bearer for equality, is much further behind than I thought.  Eight years of an Obama presidency made me believe that we were on the right path, occasionally stumbling, but generally headed forward in the right direction as a nation.  It was something we could continue to build on.

Now I feel different.  Racial inequity, sexism, misogyny, gender violence, rampant homophobia, and religious intolerance are our country’s reality.  Unless we all get back to work, building coalitions, and fighting the good fight together, arm in arm.  So let’s hug it out.  Let’s take a moment, or two, or maybe even three, to hibernate and grieve the state of our nation.  Then let’s dig deep, and unite together to continue the fight.  Because sexism and racism are not measured by election cycles.  We have work to do.  We have to protect Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood, and women’s right to choose.  We have to fight DAPL.  We have to make sure the Paris Agreement on climate change isn’t ignored.  We have to continue the civil rights movement that didn’t end with Martin Luther King Jr. or with Barack Obama, and so we must support Black Lives Matter.  We must protest.  We must organize.  We must believe in hope and work for change.  Our voices need to be louder than ever before, because our voices need to drown out the dying gasp of white male privilege.

So yeah, fuck these guys.  Let’s get back to work.  See you on the front line.  Midterms are in two years.  Let’s make some noise.



Standing With Standing Rock And Checking My White Privilege

I have watched with dismay as the mainstream media begins to pay more attention to the DAPL protests in my homestate, dismayed not that they are covering the protest, THAT is long overdue, but that it’s only happening at the same time that violence is playing a larger and larger role in these peaceful protests.  Coincidence?  Probably not.

Let me clear.

I am not an expert on this subject.  I do not claim to be.  I am however an activist for human rights.  I am a girl that grew up in North Dakota near Standing Rock and alongside Native American culture; summer visits to Ft. Mandan, pow wows at the reservation, and Native American kids sitting alongside me English or math classes.  My father and I took part in a YMCA promoted program when I was a little girl, Indian Princesses, where we met up with other white fathers and daughters to learn about native culture. We had Native American names.  My father was Thunder Moon, he burned the name and symbols into a leader patch that he wore around his neck as a necklace.  I forget my name but I can see my own leather name necklace in my mind.  We sat around in a circle on the floor, we put money for group activities like summer camping trips into a wampum purse each meeting, and we collected beads and fake bear claws to string onto our leather necklaces when we accomplished something – a little like Girl Scout patches. I am an American citizen that celebrated Columbus Day in elementary school as a public holiday in the 80’s. Even though there were no ‘Indians’ (as they were still called at that time by all the white people I knew) in my elementary school classrooms, I believed that the pilgrims and the Indians broke bread together peacefully because that’s the story I was told as a white descendant of European immigrants. Even though the reservation was just outside of town. I loved the Disney version of Peter Pan and even had the soundtrack on record, where Native Americans are called the ‘red man’ and walk around saying “How”. Amazingly it wasn’t until I left North Dakota that I understood colonialism as a global force in North America and Africa in particular.  It was only then that I understood that Columbus was not an intrepid explorer that should be celebrated, but a murderer and a villain to all native people that claimed a land that was already occupied. Longer still until I understood what cultural appropriation was, and I am appalled to see white girls dressed up as an indian princess. I am grateful that my go-to costume was Wonder Woman.

How is that possible?  How could I live so close to Native Americans and not share the same history of the birth of the country in which we both reside as citizens today? Two words. White privilege. History, through the history books we grow up reading and therefore trusting because it’s the history taught us in our public schools, is written by the winning side.  When it comes to the history of the land that we call North America, white people are the winners.

This is a people that historically we respect in terms of culture and in our visual storytelling.  Today, we need to recognize indigenous people everywhere as our first environmentalists. People that cared for the earth, protected it, and knew how to survive off the land sustainably and respectfully.  Sadly, we didn’t learn from them when we arrived.  Instead as new settlers in this land, we claimed it as ours, and then we overran them, killed them, penned them up in reservations, and placated them with treaties we never intended to keep. Meanwhile we dig up the earth for coal, drill for oil, and took over fertile prairie land and destroyed it for cattle grazing and factory farming.

When they speak up, a few hundred years later, is it any wonder we still aren’t listening?

Need a catch up?  Here’s one of the best summaries I’ve read about why and how things got to this point.  You read about land rights, oil, environmental concerns, tribal treaties, fracking, Army Corps of Engineers, permitting, corporate rights, and it gets confusing real quick.  More than one family member or friend has stated that Native Americans do not have a right to be protesting this because ‘the decision and permitting was already made’.  One of the key points from historical context that cuts through all the confusion?

Virtually every aspect of this 21st century jurisdictional train wreck has its point of origin in the U.S. Congress’ unconstitutional ‘taking’ of Indian treaty lands on the Missouri River with the passage of the Flood Control Act of 1944.  It only took half a century for Congress to finally admit, in 1992, that it had unlawfully neglected its trust responsibilities to the tribes with the approval of the Pick-Sloan Plan.  

I began sharing and posting stories this past spring, amazed to see the protest becoming a gathering of unity from multiple tribes, amazed further that their actions were not fully supported.  Soon it became the largest gathering of Native American tribes in over a hundred years, and the power of this unity was palpable.  I was moved as many of my friends on social media were and began to believe that perhaps the sheer numbers of this peaceful protest could focus attention on an issue all citizens of this country have a responsibility to fight.  The destruction of the earth for fossil fuels, focus on money instead of the environment and safety of our water sources.  We still didn’t listen.  Oil is money.  Money is power. No one is going to willingly step away from fossil fuels when there is money to be made.  Every time a train, boat, pipeline, or drilling rig spills oil, destroying land, polluting water, and killing wildlife, we shake our heads and yet collectively we accept it as a tragic by-product of living in the age of trains, planes, and automobiles.

Throughout this summer, I saw a few non-native friends from North Dakota speaking out, raising awareness, sharing posts and videos and several were going west to help out where they could.

I considered whether or not to go back to North Dakota to stand in solidarity with the protesters this summer, but unfortunately that  plan was derailed as I was hospitalized for a second brain clot.  As I begin to feel better, I now realize that even though I am now able to travel and have just recently organized two protests in Denver and NYC to combat rape culture, joining the protest as it stands now was not an option in regards to brain safety.  If I am not allowed to mountain bike or ski or do anything that could cause me to hit my head, getting fired at with rubber bullets isn’t an option.

So what to do? Because the simple fact is, these protestors are doing the work we should all be doing.  Yet I see white friends and family in North Dakota blaming the protestors for the violence and completely ignoring the bigger issue of environmental stewardship, land and water protection, and Native American rights.  Military level force and military grade hardware has faced off against the peaceful protests, dogs are released on protestors.  This is not a relational response of force.  Violence ramps up in response, as a means of standing ground, because if they go home, all is lost and this unity may never happen again.  What are we expecting they do? Go home and give up?  If we ignore the deeper story that Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, filmmaker Deia Schlosberg, and many others covering the story seek, we aren’t listening.  If we allow the suppression of free speech, at its worst when its coming from police and officials in North Dakota, we aren’t listening.   When the Bundy’s get off scot free for their armed takeover of federal land we can’t help but see that justice is not color blind.  Justice for indigenous people anywhere in the world is rare.  We still aren’t listening.

So what can we do.  If I, or you, or the collective WE cannot join the protest in North Dakota physically with these water protectors and protestors what CAN WE DO?  What can we do to stand in solidarity of Standing Rock and what can we do to create real action and support?

Here are several immediate options:

  1. Start Listening

Listen to Democracy Now reports which is some of the best in-depth daily coverage you can find.  Podcast it.

Google and watch TED talks by Native Americans.  There are several.

Watch this powerful history lesson TED talk by photographer Aaron Huey from 5 years of work at Pine Ridge Reservation.

  1. Sign the petition to Stop DAPL


  1. Donate

There are items listed on the Sacred Stone Camp Supply List:

Winter is coming and the protest is not shutting down.  This is where we need to help immediately!

You can also Contribute to the Sacred Stone Camp GoFundMe account:

  1. Use your Voice!

Call the White House at (202) 456-1111 or (202) 456-1414 to tell President Obama to rescind the Army Corp of Engineers’ Permit for the  Dakota Access Pipeline.

Call the Army Corps of Engineers and demand the reverse the permit: (202) 761-5903

Call ND Governor Jack Dalrymple at (701) 328-2200

Contact the banks that are directly funding DAPL!  They can choose what they support and who they give money to.  Yes Magazine just posted all 17 banks and their contact info!

Post, share, and comment on social media posts.  Help further the conversation.  Hashtags aren’t enough, but if you are active on social media – tag #IStandWithStandingRock

  1. Join Solidarity Protests Near You

You can find one here or create your own:

There is much more to come in the months ahead.  But this is a simple way to start.

To all the native protestors: For all those times I didn’t realize my white privilege when I was growing up in North Dakota – I am sorry.  For all the times that I didn’t listen enough – I am sorry.  For all the work I have done elsewhere and not alongside you – I am sorry.  I hear you.



Pussy Grabs Back Protests – NYC and Denver



It’s time we said ‘Enough’.  Rape culture, gender violence, and sexual assault and harassment are taking over the headlines, but instead of inciting action, its being dismissed as a political move.  Victims are coming forward only to be shamed or shut down as per usual.  On Twitter #WhyWomenDontReport has been a powerful hashtag illustrating the very heart of rape culture and why we as victims often don’t come forward.

My recent post about rape culture, got so much trolling that I turned the trolling into a social experiment and turned the trolling commentary into proof of the rape culture they were denying.  Mostly I just tried to find a silver lining out of so much hate and misogyny.  Throughout the responses I see from women on social media sharing stories and speaking out, many openly adding their voice to the conversation for the first time, I see old wounds being ripped open and a bizarre collective PTSD emerging. It feels less about the old wounds than about the new hate.

Enter the Pussy Grabs Back Protests.  It’s time to raise our voices and collectively push back against the misogyny, racism, and hate talk that insists that there is no rape culture, that we are too sensitive, that we need to shut the hell up, that we are lying.  It’s time to reclaim Pussy as a derogatory word meaning coward, or as a way to dehumanize us down to a body part. It’s time to fight back with our voices and our spirits.

I’ve created two protests, both scheduled before the election.  It’s not about politics, although politics is what has brought this conversation to the streets in protest, it’s about voicing our stories and showing that rape culture exists and we will not accept it any longer.  It’s about seeing survivors in the thousands opening the door and welcoming the nation in to see what we, as women, have been putting up with for far too long.  Activists like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan the feminist movement of the 1970’s should have kicked this in the balls a long time ago but apparently we have not come as far as we thought since the suffragette movement ensured us the right to vote almost a century ago.  The open racism and misogyny that is fueling this election cycle, but is seemingly brushed aside is staggering in its roots of ignorance and hate.  Calls from Trump supporters to roll back women’s rights to vote, to roll back civil rights?  The only option is fight the ignorance with protest and to combat the apathy of those unaffected with our voice.

My own small, yet diverse community of men and women in New York City are coming together to protest on Saturday, October 29th at 10am. We want you to join us.  The location details will be announced on social media  through Twitter at @sgalpin Instagram at @sgalpin74 and my public Facebook page next week.  The fabulous women at WorldMuse and CTZNWELL are supporting these protests with outreach and support and for that we are grateful to them.

We need your help mobilizing the NYC community to join us; college students, artists and musicians, the yoga community, women’s groups, anti-violence and anti-human trafficking groups, activists, writers, journalists, business leaders, and media to join the protest and be aware of it.  Please reach out to your community, share this post, invite your friends, and get involved.  If you can help with signs, media, social media outreach, or anything else please email me through my website at

The second protest is in Denver, Colorado on Wednesday, October 26th the state which I call home.  We were approved for a permit today so that we can protest on the steps of the state capitol building.  Please join us at 8am on the west steps of the capitol.  Same thing as NYC, rallying your community, showing up to the protest, encouraging others to join you is our biggest need.

Get creative, make signs or wear tshirts in protest that focus on the issue not the political candidates.  Pussy Grabs Back, Combat Apathy, Enough, Feminist as Fuck, Rape Culture Exists, VAG (very articulate girls), Vote Your Vagina are a few of my personal favorites.  Let’s make this protest the first step in a broader discussion and specific actions to combat rape culture and gender violence beyond Nov. 8th.  Our work is just beginning, no matter who wins this election, the work we have ahead of us to combat gender violence and rape culture is just beginning.





Social Experiment Proves Rape Culture Point

I decided to run an informal social experiment last Friday.  I wrote a post about locker room talk and excusing rape culture on my blog as a way to discuss the difference between sex talk and assault talk and how we as a society are contributing to the prevalence of rape culture when we don’t understand the difference.  I have been very public about my rape both in public speaking, my activism, and in my memoir, Mountain to Mountain, in which I describe in graphic detail the night I was violently raped and nearly killed walking home from work in Minneapolis at age 18.

What I haven’t talked about is all the micro-agressions that I have lived with as a woman, essentially starting in high school.  My accounting teacher got my number and started calling me after graduation, telling me how great my ass looked in my leggings, and how he wished I was sitting in front of him so he could “play with my titties”.  I was 18, he was in his 40’s.  When I was in my 20’s, I cannot count the number of times that strangers tried to slide their hands up my skirt or down my pants in crowded public spaces, or the countless times someone grabbed my ass as I leaned over the bar to shout my drink order to a bartender.

I’m a strong woman, I have worked in male dominated arenas my entire adult life; initially starting out in the outdoor industry as a guide, then a decade as a sports conditioning specialist with predominately male athletes like rugby and soccer players, and the ultimate of male dominated societies, nearly a decade of working in Afghanistan.  I know the difference between sex talk and assault talk.  Do you?

My point is and always has been consent is the backbone of the discussion and that if you excuse talk about harassment and assault, you are condoning it.  You, my friend, are intentionally or unintentionally part of our rape culture.

Here’s the problem.  Maybe you simply don’t understand what rape culture is? Let’s look at this pyramid for more clarity.


The obvious understanding of rape culture is the top of the pyramid: explicit violence in the form of rape, incest, murder, and battery. I’d like to think this is generally understood  and that we consider rape and assault what it is – a crime.  But the most recent of several high profile rape cases is Stanford swimmer golden boy, Brock Turner, who was caught sexually assaulting an unconscious fellow college student in the street. He was caught in the act so there is no ambiguity of the he said/she said argument often used in rape cases. Yet even though Turner admitted guilt facing up to 14 years in prison, the judge reduced his sentence so that Turner only served 3 months in prison because Judge Perskey believed a tougher penalty would have a “severe impact” on Turner.  For assaulting an unconscious girl.  This is sadly, not unusual.  Ninety percent of the time rapists get away with rape.  Too often the victims in the United States are treated no better than the victims of rape I meet in Afghanistan, and for the same reason, the men’s lives must not be destroyed by one ‘mistake’, or as Brock Turner’s dad stated in court, “20 minutes of action”.  That’s 20 minutes of taking an active part in a violent felony crime.  You don’t get to walk that back.  Because the victim?  Her life is forever changed by your actions.  All of us who have survived are irrevocably changed but few of us are as eloquent and powerful as Turner’s victim whose open letter to him went viral.

It’s the bottom of this pyramid that bothers me most.  This is where things get confusing it seems.  Although for most women, this is our daily reality.  The fact is rape culture STARTS with victimization; “boys will be boys”, rape jokes, non-consensual photography, homophobia and transphobia, victim blaming.  See that last one?  Victim blaming.  THIS IS WHY WOMEN DON’T REPORT.  Every time we do, the media tears the victims apart; Why did these women wait so long to come out?  They must be lying. If he really did it they would have come forward.   The public automatically assumes that if a woman accuses a man of rape there is an implicit nod of deception, because rape isn’t a ‘real’ crime.  It’s too ambiguous.  Want proof? The three most popular excuses for rape are:

She’s lying.  Even police officers too often take it for granted that the woman is lying about being raped.  Yet the irony is that 80% of women never come forward about their assault.  False rape claims are proven to be between 2 and 10% the same as false claims about all other serious crimes.

She was wearing something provocative.  Right, because women wearing baggy jeans and sweatshirts don’t get raped?

She was drinking too much. Being drunk isn’t a open invitation to have sex. Neither is being unconscious.  Remember that pesky little word, consent?  Hard to give consent if you’re unconscious.

Which leads us to Bill Cosby and the victim blame game. Bill Cosby raped over 30 women, consent was never an issue because he systematically drugged them first.  It took decades before the women came forward, and when they did, as expected the first ones were vilified in the media. Liars. Golddiggers. Opportunists.  Once that number climbed into double digits, everyone paused; Maybe they’re telling the truth?  Now that that number is over 30 it is generally accepted that Bill Cosby is a serial rapist.  It shouldn’t take 30 women to prove that. It shouldn’t take two.

Let’s get back to the bottom two rungs of the pyramid.  Because the theme of my prior blog was that words matter.  Donald Trump told Howard Stern when he was a guest on his radio show that it was okay for him to call his daughter Ivanka Trump a “piece of ass.”  Is that a crime? No. It’s on the bottom two rungs of the pyramid, it’s ‘just words’.  I cannot imagine my father calling me a hot piece of ass, much less condoning another man to do so on a popular radio program.

The tape of Trump talking about his right to kiss women without consent and that being a celebrity means he can just ‘grab them by the pussy’ outraged many, but not enough to condemn him for contributing to rape culture.  Because that is what his words are.  When I heard that tape, I felt every man that grabbed my ass, my pussy, my breasts in a public setting without consent, the men who think it’s okay to dry hump up against me in a crowded bar, and the man who raped me  at knifepoint get a free pass.  Because their actions started with the normalization of the bottom two rungs of the pyramid.  That is rape culture.  That is why words matter.

I know many kind, respectful, fabulous men who would never engage in that language, or that behavior.  They are my family members, they are my friends, they are my colleagues.  My male friends and colleagues are diverse in geographic location, nationality, color, faith, sexuality, and income.   They are the ones that need to recognize if they don’t already, that the everyday assaults that the women they love, work with, and are friends with go through is systemic and all too normal.

As members of my own family and extended social media community excuse Trump’s words and behavior as unimportant to this election, I find that the main argument isn’t that it’s right, it’s just that “Hilary and Bill are worse”.  Thereby ignoring the issue I’m talking about, the importance of recognizing rape culture when we hear it and when we see it.  At a time where my social media feed is filling up with twitter hashtags like #WhyWomenDontReport and women coming out about their own sexual assaults through blog posts and social media in an effort to illustrate how many women go through this.  1 in 3.  Somehow that doesn’t sink in that this means out of your own friends and family, that the 1 in 3 rate applies.  Look around your office or coffeeshop right now, count how many women there are and divide by 3.

I was curious how people who had no connection to me would respond to my blog post, so I reposted it to my public page and then I paid Facebook to sponsor the post.  Anyone can do this if they choose to.  I was simply curious how that works and would that expose the conversation to people outside of my circle that care about the issue like I do?  I clicked on the blue bottom “BOOST POST” underneath my post, and paid $25 for three days of promotion. Boom!  I sponsored my post as a Facebook ad and waited to see where the post went.

Here’s what I posted.


The responses that came in were incredible.  People commented directly on the Facebook post, some sent me their thoughts in direct messages, and others hit on my actual blog comment section.   I expected to reach people that like me, wanted to discuss the distinction between locker room talk and rape culture.  Instead I got hate, insults, threats, and off topic political rants.  I believe that people forget that when they are commenting, or trolling in this case, that they are commenting in the public sphere to real people.  Perhaps they think that  their mudslinging isn’t visible.  So let’s look at what a few of them had to say and let’s not let them hide behind their words.  Here are a few of the folks that commented not the worst of the bunch, but certainly the most vocal with multiple posts and responses. The full assortment is in the comments underneath my Facebook post.  Feel free to find them on Facebook, their name and profile photo are attached to every comment they made, and feel free to message them your thoughts as they so freely gave me theirs.



Then of course, it got political because I was talking about Trump, so therefore we must make this political and point fingers rather than simply acknowledging that what Trump has said, or done, is rape culture.  I believe my original post if you read it was thoughtful, respectful, and so were my comments to the few posts I engaged back with.  Yet out of the gates, it’s immediate insults, hateful commentary, the worst of which I have not included.  Needless to say it involves several iterations of filling my stupid mouth with numerous dicks to shut me up.

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“Women are not angels”  Thank you Patricia Rothenbucher for that insight.  I am getting my ‘women in line’ so that we can start ‘behaving in a ladylike manner.”  Case in point, an upcoming series of protests we’re organizing with the theme of Pussy Grabs Back.  New York City on October 29th for those of you that want to join.  I hope that’s ladylike enough for you.

You’re right, I’m am very sheltered, having lived and worked nearly half of my life abroad, working nearly 10 years of it in a war zone.  I have spoken at the Italian Parliament, in three TED talks, at the Harvard Club, on panels at universities and summits, and numerous other places about my work and gender violence.  I have worked with US and European survivors and with Afghan women who are in jail for the crime of ‘adultery’ as an excuse for rape.  But that shouldn’t matter.  Even if I was sheltered, that doesn’t make my call for better awareness and accountability of rape culture any less true.  You don’t get to write off a woman or man who lives in their hometown and has perhaps never traveled outside of their home state as irrelevant to this discussion.

You see, making this into a political argument or pointing fingers at the other candidates, rap music, and Islam (all of which my ‘thoughtful’ commentators did, you can see the post and all the commentary on my public Facebook page, minus a few of the violent threatening comments that I deleted) and calling the women that are accusing Trump of assault and harassment liars because they didn’t come forward before, simply proves my point.  Rape culture is so prevalent we are desensitized to it. When you ignore it, brush it off, or excuse it, you are complicit.  You are condoning behavior when you excuse the words about the behavior.

So everyone, repeat after me:


Pussy Grabs Back

Ladies, its time to wear your words.


Donald Trump and his supporters think that words don’t matter.  That words are just words and can be easily forgotten.  That bragging sex talk is the same as sexual assault talk.  That women can just be ‘grabbed by their pussies’.

It’s time to fight back.  I am choosing to write about it, tweet, and engage my family members that support Trump.  But words do matter and so do actions. Trumps are appalling,  but when we talk action Pence is a quiet offender which is even worse, than Trump.  Because me and my pussy need Planned Parenthood, and birth control, and the Constitution ensures my right to choose what to do with my own body. Pence has been on a one-man crusade to defund Planned Parenthood, roll back access to abortions, and has even said he would consider jail for women that have had abortions.  The 2nd amendment is untouchable for the gun owners petrified Clinton is coming for their guns, but the 14th isn’t?  So says Pence every time he lobbies, votes, and legislates against women.

My pussy also deserves equal pay for equal work by men.  Pence has voted AGAINST equal pay measures THREE times.

Now we see Trump supporters calling for a recall of the 19th amendment that gives women equality and the right to vote?  This is beyond incredible.  What country am I living in?  What country is my daughter going to inherit?  I guess its 1920 and I have to march in the streets to fight for my equality?

So Pussy is fighting back.  I just ordered this t-shirt from the incredible team at Female Collective and plan to wear it every goddamn day till Nov. 9th.

So ladies, words matter.  No one is grabbing my pussy without my consent.  I’m fighting back every day in little ways.  I ordered the tshirt, so can you. Wear it every goddamn day. And on November 8th, I’m voting with my pussy. Vote with yours.



Sexual Assault Isn’t Locker Room Talk

Enough already.

My heart hurts.  My soul hurts.

Several weeks have gone by now, and I’ve been listening to the media and even close family members excuse away Trump’s behavior on a number of issues that blow my mind. But now we have a new phrase; the ‘locker room’ excuse, in response to his words on a leaked tape. Grabbing pussy and forcing himself on women? Classy, just the sort of talk I know I want to hear from the future leader of my country.

This is just one more excuse in a long line of a very public and systemic attack against women that goes back decades.  Whether it’s judging women’s appearance either by insisting that we aren’t beautiful enough for his high standards, or we have gotten too fat, or by simply lying about non existent sex tapes to humiliate a woman he’s previously insulted via an uncontrollable 3am twitter rant.  Trump has a nasty habit of publicly calling women “pigs, slobs, and dogs”.  He insulted and bullied journalist Megyn Kelly after the debate she moderated for having the audacity to ask him to defend his own words.  His lowest low, he used menstruation as an insult to a woman that was doing her job.

This isn’t new.  He has spent his life, much of it public and on record, objectifying and debasing women, including one my favorite lines, “Women, you have to treat ‘em like shit.” Yeah, we love that.

Here’s the thing though, this isn’t ‘locker room’ talk.  This isn’t dirty talk between guys and this isn’t talking about sex. This isn’t the way normal guys talk about women, or dating, or sex. Just look at the number of professional athletes who hang out in locker rooms fairly regularly who have bashed the media calling this locker room talk.  Men are appalled by Trump’s words.  Appalled that their daughters would be talked to like that.  This kind of talk that Trump is shrugging off, and the media and many of you are letting him shrug off, is talk about sexual assault.  Forcing yourself upon women unasked.  This is lack of consent.



When you explain this away as a non-issue in the media and public discourse, you need to remember that our sons and daughters are watching.  At a time where college and high school sexual assault is off the chart, nearing an epidemic on our campus.  In a country where one in three women are sexually assaulted.  This isn’t something we can be making excuses for ever.  Those of us who have been raped, sexually assaulted, or sexually harassed are fighting tooth and nail to discuss consent in real ways with young men BEFORE they assault women.  1 in 3 women – that means you know at least one woman who has endured the crime of sexual assault.  Who has not given consent.  Who has lain there wondering, “why me?” as your life is ripped apart by a man who felt it was his right to take what he wanted.  If you’re in my family you know at least two.  Probably more.

You cannot excuse this away.  His entire campaign, his entire life, he has shown his true colors.  You just don’t seem to care.  Why? As Maya Angelou said so succinctly, “When someone shows you who they really are, believe them.

Why don’t we believe him when he says what he says over and over and over again, in public, on tape, on tv, in debates, on twitter?  Is it the same reason that when over thirty women accused Bill Cosby of rape that you didn’t believe them. Because Bill Cosby was on our tv and we thought we knew him like a real family member? The only difference is, Bill Cosby hid his predatory history.  Trump’s is front and center and bragging on tape.

And he still has your vote?

Abusive language, predatory talk, do not automatically make a man a rapist.  Just a misogynist that has no right to hold public office of any kind.

This is a man whose own wife accused him of rape under oath.  There are multiple cases filed against him for sexual assault harassment.  MULTIPLE. Google it, its all there, recently reported on and fact checked.  I’m not going to waste my time delving into it all, you can easily find out all you need to.  It pains me to tell you to dig into other victim’s lives in order to prove to you that Trump is a predator, a misogynist, and wholly unqualified to be a leader.  I shouldn’t have to.  His own words should be enough prove.

No woman should be talked about the way Trump talks about women.  It’s vile, grotesque, and cannot be allowed to go unchecked.  It’s misogyny. It’s rape culture.
Thank you for the men that speak out against him and other men like him.  Thank you for the women that are coming forward to give a face and a story to show Americans what the ramifications of rape culture actually are.  Thank you for shows like The Daily Show that don’t allow ‘locker room talk’ to be an excuse for predatory behavior.

An Open Letter to My Father and Other Republican Family Members

So, here we are.  As we all know from experience, family and politics never mix.  Many a family dinner or special occasion has been ruined over political discussions that pit uncles against nieces, fathers against daughters, and brothers against sisters.  While I’ve never actually thrown my Thanksgiving dinner across the table and screamed, “What the hell is wrong with you people?” It’s only because I love turkey and cherry pie too much to waste it on an family argument.  And because I love them.

I grew up with my favorite aunt and uncle trying to indoctrinate me into the so called intelligence and viewpoints of Rush Limbaugh.  When I was 30 and pregnant with my daughter, another aunt quipped, “Well, when you’re young we’re all liberal, but when you mature you’ll become a Republican.”

Silence is Complicity.

My father is also a Republican.  Albeit it one that I view curiously from the perspective in the book What’s the Matter with Kansas?  He’s Republican based on the idea of what being a Republican is, not where the Republican party is now.  He gets his news from mainstream network news and is unbending in his political bias.  When politics is brought up between us, it’s a firestorm in under 5 minutes.  So we have learned to avoid the topic as much as possible when we see each other and try to stick to ‘safe’ subjects.  He knows I’m a women’s rights activist, he supports me and my sister’s dreams and believes we deserve the same as any son he could have had.

Another family member commented on a recent Facebook post I had made that she had voted Democrat in every election previously but this would be her first voting Republican.  Wait a minute, you voted for Obama? Twice? But now you’re vote for Trump?  Where are you getting your information from that you would change your vote to a misogynistic, racist, lying, blowhard whose never served in public office?  A man who proudly flaunts not paying the taxes he owes, a man who debases and insults women repeatedly, double downs on his flagrant lies, and who has done next to zero for real charity and service towards others.  A man who is frighteningly ignorant of the Constitution and the Declaration Independence and the moral compass that this country is founded on.

You don’t like HRC? I get it.  You don’t have to like her. That’s not the issue. Is she flawed? Yes. So am I, and so are you.  Has she made mistakes? Yes.  So have I and so have you.  Is she qualified?  More than any other candidate in recent history I can name. You still don’t have to like her, but you should respect her.

Over the years I’ve watched as we slide further apart on the politic spectrum; my father, aunts and uncles, and some cousins into the red and me firmly, proudly liberal in shades of blue.  We don’t talk about it too much, or at least we don’t engage each other in fierce debate, because we are family and feelings get hurt, and rifts arise.  Yet if we can’t debate our family, the people that love us best and unconditionally, about what is best for our country, what does that say about the bonds between us?  Discourse, debate, and differences of opinion shouldn’t be limited to a debate stage or protests.  Debating is about hashing out the truth, taking a stand, and engaging in intelligent discourse about what our core values are and what we want for our family, our community, our country, and the world at large?  Why are we too scared to debate the ones we love?

My core values?  Simply: I believe in equality for EVERYONE, not just people that look like me.  I believe in justice for EVERYONE no matter their nationality.  Skin color, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, culture, language, or economic standing are not acceptable reasons to discriminate.  Whatever rights you have as a white man in this country, which is still where the power of this country rests, are the rights that every man, woman, and child deserve – no qualifications.  Everything else comes underneath and we can debate the ‘how, when, and where’ but we cannot debate the ‘what’.

Silence is complicity.

The fact of the matter is, if you vote for Trump you do not have the same values I do.  And by values, I don’t mean menu list of specifics of gay marriage, single payer health care, taxes, abortions, etc.  I simply mean the core values that I strive to instill in my daughter; respect, justice, compassion, and equality.

I see a lot of talk about making American great again.  What isn’t great about this country is that I, as a woman, still have to fight for my rights in society.  Equal pay, family planning, birth control are all issues men control in order to ‘protect’ us, while at the same gender violence is at an all time high, and women are shamed, blamed, and ignored when we are victimized.  And I’m a lucky one because I’m white.  If I were a black woman or hispanic, or an immigrant?  My rights drastically diminish even further.  America has racism, sexism, poverty, violence, and economic gap that is now so wide between the 1% and the rest of us that the middle ground is disappearing.  We need a leader that champions equality for all, not one who fat shames women, believes in stop and frisk, and peddles fear for votes.  He is the lowest of the low, a liar and a fraud, and we must keep the high ground.

So here’s my voice.  If you vote for Trump, you are promoting a future country based on racism, sexism, ignorance, bullying, and profit uber alles.  A man who promotes anger and finger pointing instead of solutions and collaboration.  I don’t need to embed links to all the articles that back this up as fact.  You don’t need them, and you wouldn’t believe them if I did.  Just listen to him, he proudly spews all of that on a daily basis without a filter.  Today it’s former Miss Universe putting on too much weight and Twitter rants about a sex tape. Yesterday

I don’t care about your politics. You have a right as an American to align conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, Green or Libertarian, and to mix and match based on what candidates you feel represent your values.  But if your values in any way restrict the rights of others based on their skin color, religion, gender, or sexuality – than you don’t want to ‘make American great’ again.  You want to make America YOU.  White. Christian. Male. You are not America. America is all of us.  Believing that diversity makes us stronger, that equality is a human right for all, and that justice is blind.

This election is now beyond politics. This election is about humanity, intelligence, tolerance, and diplomacy. The Presidency of the United States needs to be held by a person that holds up the best of our country as an example for the world to see, that swallows ego and pride in the face of justice and diplomacy.  If you are voting for Trump, you are voting for misogny, racism, ignorance and intolerance. Many of you are simply voting against a candidate which is very different than voting for the future of our country. There has never been a time that I would say, if you vote for a Republican then we can’t be friends, or that our family relationships are at risk… because its never been a choice between a extremely qualified, intelligent, dedicated, yet flawed candidate that has made mistakes, and an ignorant, sexist, bullying blowhard that couldn’t give two shits about poverty, racism, equality, justice, and diplomacy before.

We can not be silent about this. Politics IS personal, but THIS is about a much more than politics and we cannot sit by and watch this like a reality tv show.  We must debate, talk, and be open about this if we are to get the leader we deserve. This is not entertainment, this is our future.  


Refugee Cyclist

I first met Amir, briefly in Afghanistan in October 2012.  He was in a sea of faces of young Afghan men in cycling gear that I was meeting up with at a petrol station on the north side of Kabul to go for a training ride on the Afghan highways.

Several months later we met briefly again once I started working to support the Afghan National Women’s team, but it wasn’t until I brought the girls to Bamiyan for a training camp that we rode together.


We struggled with the same battles with the dysfunction, mismanagement, and corruption of the cycling federation and Coach Seddiqe, but neither could find a good solution.  Still we tried.

Subsequent trips to Bamiyan he helped me recover stolen bikes and teach the girls some basic mechanic skills to keep the Liv mountain bikes in good condition against the harsh Afghan elements and lack of professional mechanics.

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Last October, I got a message from Amir.  He was in Turkey, he had walked across Iran and Turkey and was getting ready to board a boat with dozens more refugees in two days to get to Lesbos.  He had been robbed, lost his phone, and was exhausted and scared.  I flew to Lesbos, met him, and thanks to a quick Go Fund Me campaign and several friends that stepped up, was able to get him a little money and a new phone.  I got him a hotel and made him stay put for several days, resting, eating, and making sure that his next steps were done with clarity, not out of exhaustion and fear.  He wanted to go to Sweden, that was always his goal.  One month later, he was safely there – with a whole lot of unknowns still ahead.  The life of a refugee is fraught with uncertainty, even once you reach a safe place to sleep.  Yet he always had a smile, even when boarding the ferry to Athens, exhausted from an already long journey.


We message each other often, he races with a local cycling team and is learning Swedish. He sends photos from training ride and races. He is happy although he misses family and his country.  He is learning to adapt to nordic winters.


Today he sent me a link from Sweden of his interview on Swedish tv.  You can watch it in full, he speaks English for the interview.  Thanks to the sport of cycling, Amir has found a home in Stockholm and a community of support with the local cycling team.  He is racing, he has even taken the podium at a recent stage race.  Amir is an Afghan story, he is a refugee story, and he is a cycling story.  Bravo, Amir, and Bravo Stockholm Cycling Club.


August 26th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments
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