A Paradigm Shifting Pointer Finger

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything and I’m sorry for that. But something has been boiling up in me and I’d like to write about it.

Today, on Facebook (a muse for me, believe me, I’ve noticed), I came across a CNN post detailing the horrific story of a baby in NYC falling down an elevator shaft with their mother and being killed. In the comment section, under a few condolence comments, you know what I saw? Posts about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

I don’t know why I was surprised, but I was. I was angry too, I was sad. And after the waves of anger, shame, and sadness washed over me, there was something left, an epiphany of sorts. This election has brought out something in us. Now, I remember the election of 2012 on Facebook, so believe me when I say that I know it hasn’t ever been great, but I believe something about America has changed over the course of the 2016 elections. And I’m not alone in this, many have echoed these thoughts. Friends, this was not my epiphany.

We’ve been spending a lot of time trying to get to the bottom of what has made this political season what it is. Some blame the media. Others point to the candidates and their rhetoric. I think both of those views have some truth in it, but I’d like to propose a new theory:

I am causing this election to bring out the vileness in humanity.

Please don’t be confused, I’m not naive. I know only a handful of people follow this blog, and only a few more find the words I spit out on here. I am causing this election to bring out the vileness in humanity, but more importantly, so is everyone else. What I mean is, all the people who spark Twitter wars and rip out each other’s throats in the comment threads on Facebook have made this election the display of humanity’s capacity to be horrible.

Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will likely be the next president of the United States of America. We, somewhere along the way, messed that up and left ourselves with only these two options. Or, maybe we succeeded brilliantly and picked the best presidential candidate our party has ever seen. I’m not here to tell you what to believe politically, not right now. But here’s the point: Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump may be our next president, but there’s millions of people living in America that will be here long after they take office.

And we have some decisions to make. Arguably, these decisions are more important than anything we’ll have decided via a ballot in a few weeks.

We have to make the decision on whether or not we will love in spite of our differences, whether we will value an individual’s life over their beliefs, and whether we can stand shoulder to shoulder and mourn the death of a six week old baby, without immediately seizing the opportunity to bring ourselves political gain. We have to decide if we will continue to stand on one side of the room and divide our nation into an “us” vs. a “them” and if so, how far we’re willing to take it.

Are we willing to riot in the streets?

Are we willing to grab our neighbors by the throat, hold our knives to their skin, and rake our hands back and forth until their skin breaks apart and our hands are covered in their blood?

I hope not. I pray we won’t. But more and more I’m not sure.

Sure, I’m worried about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Yes, there are some amendments I’m passionate about getting passed or trying to prevent from getting passed. But I’m more worried about what’s going to  left after all of the ballots are cast and counted.

I don’t want to be a part of the very thing I’m trying to fight. I don’t want to be a person, so trapped in his own life, I’m unwilling to even listen to someone outside of myself. So, I’m going to try really hard to not blog about politics anymore, and if I do, to do it in a way that’s productive and helpful. I’m not going to start Twitter wars or let people on Facebook rub me the wrong way.

I am America and I know I can be doing better. Will you join me?

Dear Black Americans

2016-08-20 (1).png

Dear Black Americans,

As a suburban, lower middle class white person, I feel it’s my duty – nay, my manifest destiny – to point this out. Let me start by saying I am not a racist (I know how you people are about stereotyping white people). Instead, I’m a free thinker with no experience as a person of color, so it makes sense that I’m addressing this topic and am clearly not being offensive.

Here’s what I don’t understand about “the black lives matter” movement (Note: this is my new argument. You may have heard my “All Lives Matter” argument but you decimated me in the Facebook comments, so this is my new approach): can’t you just pull yourself out of the crime of your community? Can’t you just try a little harder to pull your own self out of systematic racism? I mean, you can get a ton of people together to march, and you spread a message that essentially says “Hi, I’m a human being. Please treat me as such. Stop killing, or trying to kill, me.” so I’m confused as to why this same process cannot be applied to pulling yourself out of the system I’ve created and perpetuated to trap you.

I mean come on. How long are you going to try and make this our problem? Look, I know racism used to be a thing in this country, but a little law called The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made racism illegal (I know my history – trust me. That’s why I can’t be fooled into thinking there’s anything wrong or un-American about the confederate flag). In case you can’t do math, that was FIFTY-TWO years ago. MOVE ON! I don’t know a single person that’s currently fifty-two years or older, so I think it’s safe to say racism has completely died. It’s not our problem anymore. Change must start from the root of the problem, which is obviously the group of people that have been owned, shot down, and relegated to the poorest of communities. And you’ve clearly chosen this for yourself.

So do me a favor and just try. I try all the time and I’m usually successful. Trump came from a million dollars and actually tried and look where he is now! As our Lord and Savior, the same Mr. Trump, said recently, “What the hell do you have to lose?” Just a thought… 🙂

 

 

The Selfish Reason #BlackLivesMatter

13620968_10154301354269710_4402831101128141063_n
image from blacklivesmatter

If history has proven anything to us, it’s that white people rarely care about things until it directly affects them.

There’s a lot that’s been written over the many years of senseless killings and police brutality targetings of black Americans, especially as it refers to the movement #blacklivesmatter. Rather than contributing to the reason black lives do, in fact, matter, I want to take a different approach.

If you can’t understand the fuss over a racist system so ingrained into the fabric of our country that the very makeup of who we are as a nation was literally built upon the backs of BLACK slaves, then don’t look at the past. In fact, don’t even look at the present. I want you to look in the future.

My great-grandfather passed away in December. He was a man of whom I had the utmost respect for. He fought in World War Two, provided an amazing life for his wife and two daughters (despite not being educated past the eighth grade), and illegally entered into the New Deal workforce (he was too young), in order to provide for his mother. However, there’s one thing I wish I could confront him about.

He entered into assisted living during the last few years of his life and, on more than one occasion, he verbally assaulted black nurses. What I want to ask him is: how, after living through lynchings, after seeing a black man assassinated for being black and for advocating for black lives, after being a direct witness to the struggles of a black America, could you still maintain that someone is worth less than you based on their skin tone?

Some day, and probably soon, the Black Lives Matter movement will be remembered historically as the new civil rights movement. It will be mentioned in the same vein as Dr. King, and when your child, or your grandchild, or your great-grandchild asks you how you could have sat back and watched as policemen and the legal system they represent, incarcerated and murdered innocent black men and women, I highly doubt stuttering out a response how #AllLivesMatter will be a sufficient enough answer.

If you can’t wrap your head around a world in which being black is a crime in and of itself, be selfish enough to stand on the right side of history. Your children and your children’s children are waiting for a better world. All that stands in the way is you.

To learn more about the black lives movement click hereFor articles on why all lives matter is not a sufficient reply click here, here, or here

 

Not Choosing Fear (and other 3AM Lessons)

Let me tell you where I’m not right now. I’m not on a plane. I’m not heading to Dallas. I’m not going to make the connecting flight to Belize. At least, I’m not going today.

My family and I had the perfect get away planned. Six days (five full ones) in Belize. We were going to sit on a beach, seek respite from busy lives and big problems. My sister and brother-in-law spent the night last night and we all got up at 3:00AM, overflowing with excitement. Then, we found out our flight was delayed and we’d never make it to Belize on time.  We’re sad and angry, and my mom broke down this morning. She’s been working pretty much everyday since December, and needed this, all of it. We’re staying in Dallas for an extra day and shortening our beach time, but there’s worse things.

In fact, if you thought this post was just going to be complaining about a vacation, you were wrong.See, if I could sum up the last few months in a word, it’d be “heavy.”

While I am missing my flight tonight,  78 people in Istanbul missed theirs. 41 of them will miss graduations, weddings, birthdays, Sunday mornings, and good books. 41 of them will never see a sunrise again; they’ll never kiss their child’s boo-boos; they’ll never wake up angry and have a whole day to fix it. 41 people are dead. 37 people barely escaped it. Hundreds will never be the same.

The global economy is in a tailspin after a UK vote was cast. The same vote that got an MP murdered.

A family friend of ours just learned the cancer came back. It’s in her brain, and her spine, and her breasts, and her liver.

An orange Hitler has a 1 in 4 shot of becoming an American president (and the others aren’t much better); a child was killed by an alligator; 49 people were slaughtered for being who they were; a mom viciously killed her two daughters.

Nowhere and nothing seems safe anymore. I am afraid and I am angry and I am sad and I just want to get away and go back to a time when the worst thing that could happen to a person was a broken crayon. I want ignorance. I want peace.

I have no idea what God’s planning and I have even less of clue what the hell it is any of us are doing. We spend hours screaming at each on Facebook for voting differently than we do, and then ask what kind of hatred it must take it to kill someone at a dance club. We  think that a missed or delayed vacation is the worst thing that can happen to us. We build categories for people so that we can feel better about ourselves, and then wonder why terror groups like ISIS can exist.

But here’s what I do know: when Abraham held Isaac for the first time, he didn’t plan on God asking him to make the ultimate sacrifice. When Mary gave birth to a king, she didn’t plan on having to escape the wrath of another one, and she definitely didn’t expect to have to see him tortured and killed, while people cheered. I’m also sure Job never planned on losing every single thing he ever loved.

The other day, my sister, my mom, and I were talking about our fear. Maybe, we said, it’s the end of the world. Maybe the second coming is getting closer. No sooner had the thought left my mother’s lips, than my sister said “but… I want to be a mommy. I want to raise my family.” It reminded me of a song from Noah Gundersen.

And Jesus, Jesus, it’s such a pretty place we live in
And I know we fucked it up, but please be kind
Don’t let us go out like the dinosaurs
Or blown to bits in a third world war
There are a hundred different things I’d still like to do

Here’s the thing though: after we’re blown up or after a meteor hits us, or after a gunman shoots me dead in my school, I know where I’m going.

If I have to stay a night in Dallas, to spend 4 days in paradise, so be it. If I have to live through Herod, to make it to Calvary, so be it. If I have to die tomorrow, I may as well live today.

I don’t have much time left. I am choosing, right now, for as long as I can, to not spend it in fear. I choose light. I choose faith, come what may.

A Transgender Individual Walks Into A Bar

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A transgender individual walks into a bar and, because of “liberal socialists,” robs the innocence of a young girl and her protective mother.

If your Facebook is like my Facebook, maybe you’ve seen this photo pop up on your Newsfeed.

 

And this is a legitimate concern. I don’t want our kids falling victim to creepy perverted men either.  As a Charlotte woman, Pam Burton, said “I’m not scared of transgenders. That’s not what I think the problem is. Sexual predators are not good people; they don’t do the right thing” (Domonoske, 2016). And I have to agree! See, the bathroom bill isn’t about transgender people it’s about the possibility of our children getting hurt. So let’s, for arguments sake, pretend as though this bathroom bill has nothing to do with transphobes shaking in their boots, the same way racists shook when they painted “Whites Only” on bathroom doors. Let’s just pretend that our concern for our children is the driving force in such measures.

If this was really about fear for our children’s safety, then why do only 2 of every 100 rapists serve time (RAINN)?

If this was really about fear for our children’s safety, then why are 1 in 5 women victims of rape by men? Why do we, as a society, allow this to happen through spreading rape myths, objectifing women at every turn, and telling our men that aggression and violence against women is normal (Hildebrand et al., 2015, p. 1059-60)?

If this was really about fear for our children’s safety, then we wouldn’t have a national epidemic in our college system that forces our daughters, on their own for the first time, to be raped and raped and raped again (Gray, 2014, p. 20-7)

See, here’s the thing. If we, as a nation – if we, as North Carolinians, truly care about keeping our children safe from potential dangers, we had better start by safeguarding them against actual ones.

So, no, Pam Burton. No, John Buchanan. No, Ben’s Facebook Friend and the 79,000 people like you: you’re not afraid of our nation’s kids being victimized. You’re not scared of the big man dressed as a woman robbing your child’s innocence. Why? Because it’s already been robbed. It continues to be.  And instead of doing anything about the real problem, you’re busy marginalizing an entire group of human beings who, by the way, just want to pee. Here’s the truth: You are transphobic. You are ignorant. You are the problem. And you don’t even have the decency to admit to it.

References

Domonoske, C. (2016). North Carolina Passes Law Blocking Measures To Protect LGBT People. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/03/24/471700323/north-carolina-passes-law-blocking-measures-to-protect-lgbt-people

Gray, E. (2014). The college town of Missoula, Mont., saw at least 80 reported rapes over three years, earning it the name America’s Rape Capital. But the nickname has it wrong. Missoula isn’t special; it is fairly average. The truth is, for young women, America’s campuses are dangerous places (Cover story). Time, 183(20), 20-27.

Hildebrand, Meagen M., and Cynthia J. Najdowski. “The Potential Impact Of Rape Culture On Juror Decision Making: Implications For Wrongful Acquittals In Sexual Assault Trials.” Albany Law Review 78.3 (2015): 1059-1086. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

RAINN. (2012). Reporting Rates. Retrieved from https://rainn.org/get-information/statistics/reporting-rates

Voting Outside The Lines

Greetings, friends!

Picture this: you’re on the board of a large company, one of the largest in the world, and you’re tasked with hiring a new CEO. The board has decided on two candidates that couldn’t be more different. After interviewing them, you hate both. Which do you choose? If you’re like most Americans, you’re going with the candidate you hate least. But is this really who you want to run your company? Who you want to represent your name?

 

Well, you are, in a way, a member of a very large board of a company – The United States of America, and it’s time we all start doing our job.

The truth is, there are way more than two candidates for president, even if you’re a time traveler from after the primaries have been decided. That’s right folks, I’m talking about the third parties the DNC and GOP are begging you to forget.

But, Ben, I really don’t want to waste my vote. 

Me either! Which is why I’m not voting for a candidate I don’t even like.

Okay but can a third party candidate even raise enough money to run a successful presidential campaign? 

Bernie Sanders’ raised 6.8 million dollars in a day. Anything is possible.

Yeah, but what can third parties really offer us?

Besides fresh perspectives, more options, and less ways for the major parties to control you? Uh they’ll probably give your racist uncle more to complain about on his Facebook?

Who’s even running? 

For the green party – Jill Stein, Darryl Cherney

For the libertarians – Marc Feldman, Gary Johnson, John McAfee, Austin Peterson

Other Candidates

But I really like (Insert Politician Here)
Fantastic! You should totally vote for him or her. But the fact that there’s a whole world of candidates out there that you’ll never hear from should anger you (especially if you like Sanders because he’s “revolutionary,” or Trump because he’s “not a politician”). And if you’d like to live in a true democracy, where candidates have the platform to say what they want, regardless of major party affiliation, then say so.