Tag Archives: politics

United We Stand

Sad things are happening. Facebook and Twitter are exploding with people offering prayers, demonstrations of support and solidarity, questions of why, accusations of who, and hatred for whomever is responsible. Some people are also criticizing those who seem upset by these events, because “things like this happen everyday in some countries! You don’t care about those people! You’re so selfish! You’re only paying attention to these people because they’re Americans and it’s on the front page!”
That’s not true. 
At all.
I cried. I cried for a really long time when I heard about the shooting in CT a few months ago. Tears still well in my eyes when I think about it. I cried when I heard about the explosions in Boston. And I just cried when I heard about the explosion of the fertilizer plant in Texas which may have killed up to 70 people. Maybe it’s because I am a hormonally volatile teenager, but maybe it’s just because people are dieing, and that’s always really sad.

When I was in 8th grade, a family friend had passed away and my mom told me to get my brothers and go to his funeral at lunch time. So I did, but it turned out to be the wrong funeral. We sat there in our uniforms in the back of the church, at a strangers funeral, and I cried my eyes out. It was so sad – there was hardly anyone there. I thought about that for a while, and I felt so embarrassed for crying at the funeral of a complete stranger, but I remember that day when things like this happen. And all of a sudden everything seems much more personal to me. I think about that man whose life I cried about, simply because the people who were there loved him and lost him.

All of those people had lives and futures that are now gone, and they have been taken from the people who love them. So I cry about that. And I think shedding some tears is the least I can do. I know it’s completely irrational and not true, but I feel like the more emotional burden I try to bear, the lighter it may be for some of the people who were actually affected by these events. I don’t know if they would consider it offensive or supportive that I cry, but I feel sad, so I cry about it. And then I say a prayer and carry on.

People are dieing. That’s always a reason to cry, offer prayers, and show support. But people are dieing all the time. Innocent, good people are dieing every second. The reason that everyone is showing support for these losses is not that we are “selfish” and “ignorant” and only care about the deaths that make headlines, but because these are the ones that hit home. These are the ones that could have been us.
When we hear about these tragedies occurring in far away places, it’s hard to imagine ourselves there. It’s hard to imagine living in a war zone and being a victim of a roadside bomb. It’s quite easy to imagine waiting at the finish line for the runners to finish their marathon in a city that, if you live in the US, is probably not much unlike your own.
Minneapolis is definitely on the smaller side of major US cities, so I’d like to believe that moving here was a pretty low-risk decision on my part. But my little brother goes to school in one of the same cities that was attacked on 9/11. My aunt and uncle both work in Manhattan. My other uncle lives in Boston. It is all too easy for me to imagine these things happening to me, or much worse, to one of them. That’s why we publicly offer support and prayers and love and well wishes. That’s why demonstrations of solidarity are important to us in times like these – because it could have been us.
I’m not one to argue on Facebook. If you want to share your own invalid opinions and reveal exactly how much of an idiot you are to all of social media, go for it, I won’t stop you. I also won’t make myself look like a tool and try to correct you on Facebook. But if you’re one of those individuals who is trying to appear to be more globally-aware and superior by demeaning the efforts of your friends to offer support and solidarity, then you’re wrong and you should stop.
The last thing this world needs is pretentious college students furiously typing away at their Macbooks about how their peers just need to be more “aware” while behind the comforting veil of l’internet.
Oh, wait…

No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says: He is always convinced that it says what he means.

(I started this on March 12. Thus the looking forward to California…)

Quite a lot has happened in this past week. But I don’t care about any of it, because in my head I’m already in Los Angeles. Getting all sweaty building things, chilling on the beach, drinking really cold things, and wearing flip flops and a tank top.

There’s a new pope. He is from Argentina, which I think is pretty cool. My dad tweeted, “The Conclave of Elimination based on Target Market demographics,” and that is totally true. My point of view in terms of religion is always changing, but that’s okay. I like to just stick to the words of the one, the only, Dick Van Dyke: “To live a life of love and compassion and to care about your fellow human beings and do no harm. I think that’s a religion right there.” And honestly, I think that’s all that really matters.

I’m taking a class this semester, and I decided to take it for three reasons. One, the course number is 3456W, and I like that. Two, it fulfills two LE requirements, and it’s an upper-level writing intensive course, of which I need three. Three, my final project is called The Porning of America, so the research is kind of fun. I decided to take it S/N because it isn’t for my major and generally, the fewer courses that affect my GPA, the better. However, I think I might try to change it to the A/F system, because I currently have an A because I dominate that class because I am super into it because it’s hella interesting.

That class is something that I just cannot wait to attend every Tuesday and Thursday. Every time I am doing my homework (which consists of reading an article, essay, or book assigned by the professor), my mind just has to prepare itself to be blown. It’s that cool. I end up reading these historical accounts or cultural narratives that completely, 100% support everything I ever thought to be true, from a completely fresh angle. I guess the reason I like it so much is because for the greater part of my life, I had people telling me that these things I thought to be true were wrong. Not only were they wrong, but I would eventually have to pay for thinking the way I do. They made me doubt myself, a lot. Obviously, these things that I am reading are carefully selected by my professor, so although we are not reading about his opinion, I doubt he would select things that contradict his own beliefs. But it’s still really cool to me that when I was in 6thgrade, people told me I was wrong, but taught me about Greek philosophers who actually think that I am right. My teachers just filtered out those philosophies that contradicted the version of reality that they wanted me to believe. And I don’t really like that.

Don’t get me wrong – I am eternally grateful for having attended Catholic elementary school. I’m just happy that I don’t any longer. I remember when I was in second grade, we were learning about subtraction. I asked my teacher what would happened if you had to subtract 5 from 4. She said that you couldn’t do it. I counted it out, and I thought it could just be 1 on the other side of zero, because I have always conceptualized numbers on a line, but in my head the line runs from right to left. I asked her if there was anything on the other side, and she told me there wasn’t. Then I entered 5thgrade, and all of a sudden you actually could subtract 5 from 4, and I was so pissed. Seven-year-old me could have totally handled the simple explanation of it resulting in -1, mostly because I already guessed that was what would happen. She lied to me because she didn’t think I could understand it, and that pissed me off.

In religion class when I was younger, we learned all about the stories of the Bible. We made our way from Genesis to Exodus through the majority of the Old Testament, and tackled the New Testament in 7thand 8thgrade. I’m really happy that I learned about all of that, if for no other reason than to understand where all of its cultural influence is coming from. People ask, “Well have you actually ever READ the Bible?!” Yes, yes I have. I get it.

However, when I was in 6thgrade, I asked my teacher how the world became populated without bestiality or incest if the only people created were Adam and Eve, and Eve only had two sons, one of whom killed the other. She then told me that the Bible isn’t supposed to always be taken literally. WHOA. HOLD ON. WHAT? THERE WAS NO ADAM AND EVE? WTF?

This was big news to me, as I had thought that the Bible was basically the final word on all things ever. That’s what they told me – it’s The Truth. To hear that even one part of it was something of a fable was a little too much for me to handle. My teacher told me to think of Adam and Eve as more of representations of humanity or spirits that were created. “Then how does God remove a rib from a spirit? Then is it okay for spirits to commit incest? If this isn’t true, then how to I know that the rest of the Bible is true? IS ANY OF IT TRUE?” I could not wrap my head around the fact that this may not be the truth. I was so confused. (I am still confused as to what she wanted me to take from that…)

Then we had an assembly from a Native American who told us all of these stories from his tribe that he told us provided them explanations for different elements of nature. In Social Studies (what my school for some reason decided to call our History class), we were told to write stories of our own to explain parts of nature. Inevitably, I decided to take a queue from the Bible and I wrote a story about how people came to be. It was something about the sun having nothing to watch as it crossed the sky everyday, so it created people and animals for its own entertainment.

In this culture class I am taking, we have read some (and read about some) pretty old texts from East Asian, Indian, Arab, and European cultures. I don’t really know how to articulate what I think about all of this, but I will try. Basically, even though many of these texts are super different from one another, one thing that they all have in common is that they offer explanations for things that had not yet been explained by science when they were written, and they create certain cultural laws for things that they are afraid of. They vilify the behavior of the “other,” and create laws to help maintain the balance of power (which was usually quite unbalanced). We have looked at the Old Testament (in the context that it is The Torah) in the same way that we looked at all of the other texts, and it’s become really hard for me to see it as anything other than just another one of those books. Another book, about another religion, about another culture, offering other explanations and trying to civilize and contain another group of people.

Do I believe in God? Yes, I do. The way I see it is that everything had to come from somewhere, and I doubt science will ever be able to produce a valid explanation for the existence of existence, so with that logic, there is a higher power that I call God (and that, for some reason, looks like the child of Corovado and The Statue of Liberty in my head) that created existence. But the God that I know is not the God that the vast majority of Catholics seem to know. Their God inspired a bunch of guys from a really long time ago to write a book that I can’t take seriously. But at this point in my life, that’s about all I believe in. I just find it really hard to understand a religion based on a book that was written so, so long ago by a culture so different from our own.

I think the one point that makes this hard for me to swallow is that as a Catholic, I am supposed to determine the way I live my life according to a book written by man. I have authority issues. This is no secret to anyone. “But a man didn’t write the Bible, God did!” No, no he didn’t. In the words of Russell Brand, “The Holy Spirit did not have a pen in its hand, did it?” No, no it didn’t. I do believe that the Holy Spirit could have had a significant influence in the writing of Scripture, but even with that little nugget of Catholic abidance, everything was still put through the impure filter of man. And that is one murky ass filter.

If you think about it, the fact that these stories were written makes complete sense (well…it makes sense to me). Of course there were stories written to explain the creation of man. Evolution wasn’t a thing. And when you don’t know something, chalk it up to the product of something of which you can’t verify the existence, problem solved. You now have an explanation that, although cannot be proven, also cannot be disproven.

There is also something that I never quite understood about Catholicism which is really just a question that was dodged like a flaming bullet every time I asked a teacher. What happens to the souls of unborn children, or children who die before being baptized? Whether in the case of abortion or miscarriages, I remember wondering what would happen to them when I was pretty young. We learned that everyone is born with original sin, original sin is only cleansed through Baptism, and that nothing impure can enter Heaven (it was in Revelation somewhere). So…then what? They can’t be damned to hell because they had never committed a conscious sin, but it doesn’t seem quite fair for them to remain in Limbo for eternity. In 11th grade, my teacher said that he personally believes that God would use extraordinary grace to absolve them of original sin and welcome them into Heaven, which seems reasonable, but that it not stated anywhere in the Bible. So based on that reasoning, anything I deem reasonable should be quite alright, which it is obviously not. These things perplex me.

I would just like to clarify, though, that I don’t think the validity of the Bible really matters when considering what we should take away from it. I think that when the Bible was created, The Golden Rule was created for a reason. Those guys were like, “Okay, we get that this is a lot of information for all of you illiterate folks, so if you take nothing else from this book, just remember this.” Coincidentally, I think The Golden Rule is stated in Leviticus, which is the same book that contains a lot of the stuff that people most often misunderstand. That could be wrong though, don’t quote me on that. My point is, even if it was a book that is 100% man-made, and 100% lacking any influence from a higher power, it’s still good to read something centered around teaching people how to be good to other people. Jesus was a real person, a historical figure, and even if you don’t believe in God and don’t believe that Jesus was his son, he still died to make a statement. He literally sacrificed his life to dig the point into people’s heads that he loved them and we should all love one another. Even if all of it is bullshit and the entire thing is lacking any kind of sacred influence, it’s still a message that people should take home with them.

The problem is that all too often, that is the only point that people do NOT take away from the Bible, or Catholicism in general. They focus on the footnotes, the mistranslations, and the parts that they find easy to abide by. No stealing or killing? Pssh. Cake. Treating others how you want to be treated? Not so easy.

I could go on about this for forever, but I have class and this post has been sitting idle for far too long so I am just publishing it.

“No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says: He is always convinced that it says what he means.” George Bernard Shaw

We are all equal. If you don’t believe that, then you make yourself lesser.

There are four posts in progress. Lots has been going on. But I would just like to take a minute to acknowledge the fact that right now, in this moment, we are making history. We are living in a time when we can see the past in the future…we know that whatever happens in terms of the Supreme Court’s ruling, it will be historic. And I think that’s so cool.
When Obama was running, we were in a similar situation. We could see the past in the future, we could taste the history books that our kids will be reading in however many years (or like…websites? holograms? Google glasses?). However that election of 2008 turned out, we knew that it was going to make history.
I suppose the only thing that still confuses me is that some people believe they’re fighting a battle for the good, when they are really just on the wrong side of history. They’re on the side that is pretty much comparable to the “separate but equal” folks…the ones that most of my generation looks down upon.

The Why

There have been an unusual number of shootings in the news, the most tragic taking place at Sandy Hook Elementary School. If you haven’t heard about this, I suggest you reevaluate your priorities.
Everyone has their opinion about this, so I figured I would share mine if for no other reason than to just have a document of what I thought about this when I was 18. And then laugh at my ridiculously over-optimistic naïveté.
So, I don’t think it’s about guns. It’s not about guns. It’s not about guns.
It’s about you and me, and how much we all love seeing other people sink. When other people sink, we all of a sudden float a little closer to the light. Or we think we do, anyway. And we all encourage one another’s perception that we’re floating a little higher.
Guns do not kill people. People kill people. I’m not one of those guys running around trying to protect my precious guns, and I could not give a single shit about my right to bear arms. Maybe I should, but I don’t. I think I have a little too much faith in our government, and I really don’t think they would repeat the same mistakes made over and over again throughout history in terms of civilian access to certain weapons. I just want it to be clear that while I don’t think that guns are the problem, I also don’t actually care about my right to own them. That said, guns are definitely not the problem. That brings us to the infinitely frustrating question of, “What do we do?” I’m not telling everybody that I have all the answers, but I have the answer to this one. Are you ready?

You sure?
The only way to prevent such tragedies as these from occurring is for all of us to stop being heartless douchebags to one another. That’s it. Stop raising our kids to be little manipulative brats, and stop thinking that we’re innocent. The blood of those 28 victims of Newtown is on all of our hands. That’s right…all 28 of them. Including Adam Lanza himself. A gun is not what killed those children. Adam Lanza is what killed those children. That gun is not the reason that 6 adults in the school, Lanza’s mother, and Lanza himself are dead. Adam Lanza is the reason they are dead.
We all have to stop acting so innocent. We, as people, suck. We suck. We love it when other people fail, because it gives us a chance. We hate to admit it to ourselves, but deep down, when we hear about that guy that spends his days in his basement playing video games and building computers and lacking any substantial form of human interaction, we love it. That means that there is one less person out there against whom we have to compete. To us, he is just another loser. “It’s his decision. He’s the one who chose that life for himself.”
Ok. Now why did he choose that life for himself?
When I was in 10th grade, I took AP European History with the one and only Mr. Kirsch. That guy was awesome. After class one day, Kirsch pulled me aside and told me to stop asking “why.” He told me that it was really actually a good thing that I was always asking “why,” because it showed that I actually cared about understanding rather than simply memorizing information. It showed that I understood the importance of the “why,” and it’s applicability to the future. But that in terms of my exams, I had to stop with the “why” and focus on the “who, what, where, and when.” The “why” was irrelevant as far as the AP was concerned, although it was critically relevant to our understanding of human nature, and how to prevent the recurrence of any mistake that has made history.
That made sense to me, but I still kept asking why. The why always matters, and I knew that. In terms of AP scores it doesn’t matter, but the AP itself is a terrible system that doesn’t matter either. In reality, the “why” is actually all that matters.
The why is all that matters.
If you can put the brakes on the why, then you can stop the ball before it starts rolling because there won’t even be a ball. Guns have nothing to do with it. Guns are the how. Lanza could have walked into that school with a machete and done just as much damage. With the amount of emotion and rage required to murder 20 children, he could have probably done just as much damage with a paring knife. The why comes before the how. The why is the ball, the how is the direction it will keep rolling.
In the days following the shooting, all forms of social media were exploding with people asking questions like “What kind of psycho could do that?” and referring to Lanza as a “sick bastard” who they distance themselves from so much. In our minds, we are absolutely nothing like Adam Lanza. We would never, ever kill anyone. Especially a child. Especially 20 of them.
Lots of people aren’t going to like this, but that’s too bad: Adam Lanza was just like us. Adam Lanza was us. He had red blood pumping through his veins. He was a human. He was a person, and people don’t actually just wake up and decide to kill 28 people. There is a why. There is always a why, and it’s all that matters.
The why is all that matters.
Now…defining said why is obviously quite a challenge when we know close to nothing about Lanza himself. Everything I can find, at least, is pretty much speculation that he could have had Asperger’s syndrome, and that he really didn’t know anyone. He was that guy who spends his time playing video games and reading books in his room, and his recent human interaction consisted of online communities and the woman who cut his hair. Obviously there is always more to the story than anyone can really ever know, especially someone whose only access to Lanza’s life is whatever articles I can find online, but the fact that there’s nothing out there kind of speaks for itself.
The why behind that kind of an existence is probably not too far from the why behind his drive to kill 28 people. There can only be so many whys in someone’s life. At least that’s how I see it.
I don’t know how the rest of the world thinks about these things, but for me, why can almost always be answered by who. I am driven by people. Not just the individuals in my life, but by people in general. I feel anger, sadness, happiness, love, frustration, a sense of responsibility, hope, and despair, all because of people. Adam Lanza may have had a who. A who may have been his why. Unfortunately, though, I think that maybe in his case, the why was the lack of a who. There was no who for him…and that was his why.
Of course, one can blame everything on him having some form of mental illness. Many do, because we will never know for sure, and that gives us an out. “He was crazy. It isn’t anyone’s fault.” Sure. Ok. But if that was the case, someone should have been close enough to him, and cared enough about him to notice, and to help him. To love him enough to realize that something was wrong, and to find some way to help him. Someone should have been a who to him.
I think the reason that so few people want to accept this is not because it’s invalid, but because it means that we would be accepting blame. We would be taking some responsibility, and we cannot accept that there is any blood on our hands. Adam Lanza could have been any number of unstable human beings who we do not acknowledge as being in need of our love and acceptance. If we want to get selfish about this, then think about it this way: We’ll be protecting ourselves by expressing love for everyone. I’m not saying to plaster on a fake smile and tell everyone to have a nice day, but I’m saying to pay more attention. To actively love people. To teach our children to actively love everyone. To accept everyone. To be that person that someone can come to, and to stop pushing other people down to make ourselves feel better.
I am done with high school. I am done with middle school. That part of my life is over, and I have my final collection of the stories which constitute “my childhood” and “my high school experience.” They’re quite different from most people’s, but I still have the horror stories. I know exactly what it feels like to be that person that they are pushing down, to be the extremely self-conscious twelve-year-old girl, sitting in the middle of the classroom at lunch time, alone. Everyone else who I had at one time considered my friends, sitting together at the edges of the room, and to be sitting alone at my desk in the very center of the classroom. To feel their eyes on me, to hear a burst of laughter and turn my head, only to see them all looking at me as they laugh. I know what that feels like. To be alone. To not want to finish my applesauce because a tear fell into it. I wanted to be home schooled, I wanted my parents to take me out of school so I wouldn’t have to deal with it. My teachers didn’t do anything about it. Those girls were laughing, and the teacher who was our lunch monitor came up to me while I was sitting in the center of the classroom, eating my lunch with Harry Potter, and asked me if I was ok. Did I look ok? Really? Would she describe what she saw happening as “ok?” Tears welled in my eyes, I choked up and pressure built in the back of my throat, and I told her I was fine and I just kept reading.
We can’t let those things happen. I had a who to blame for getting choked up during lunch time in my classroom, but I was one of the lucky few that had another who at home to get me through it. To call my school and get things worked out. To tell me that it wasn’t my fault, it was them. They were wrong and stupid, and I was right, and I would be ok in the end.
What if I didn’t have a who at home? What if my parents just told me to suck it up, or if they told me nothing at all. What if I had parents who wouldn’t invest as much time as mine in learning the details of my life, and playing an active role in my development?
I would have crumbled. I may have ended up in my parents’ basement, seeking a sense of community among my gaming friends, because I would be too terrified of real human relationships. I may not have been able to deal with the reality of the cruelty of people anymore because I was so hurt, humiliated, and afraid of going through it again. And I’m really a normal person. I look like everyone else, I’m pretty smart, I am pretty good with your day-to-day social interactions, but what if I wasn’t? What if those girls had a legitimate reason to push me under the water and watch me drown? What if they had actual ammunition to use against me, and they knew to hit where it hurt the most? What if I was also missing the love at home that got me through?
I would have drowned. I could have felt enough rejection, and like enough of an outcast at such a vulnerable time in a young girl’s life that I would have just thrown in the towel and given up on any form of a successful relationship. I could have lost hope in my fellow human beings…the concept of feeling loved and accepted could have seemed just foreign enough that I started to doubt its existence. I would stop making an effort to connect. I would have turned out much differently, and I’m not saying I would have killed 28 people, and I’m certainly not saying that Adam Lanza is completely excused from doing what he did, but I am saying that I don’t think it can ever be 100% his responsibility.
So, what do we do? We look at our kids. We look at ourselves. We don’t worry about tightening up gun control, because it’s a waste of time and effort. Guns are the how. There can always be another how. When there is a will, there is a way. It’s not the how that we need to be worrying about, it’s the why. We stop the why. We stop pushing other people down. We stop letting our kids “just be kids” and we start being the adults, the example of how to live a life of loving others. We start teaching our kids that for their own good, they must be good.
Please be good to everyone. Teach everyone how to love by loving. Please.