Studying People Through Creative Endeavors.

Latest

Social Media Activism is not a “Waste”

Last year when the fight for Marriage Equality started an activism trend on Facebook which included the changing of a person’s Facebook profile to the symbol for the Human Rights Campaign, many social media “experts” and political activists claimed it was a “wasteful” and “useless.” The issue was brought up again recently when the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge took off on Facebook. To the people who believe media campaigns are “useless,” I’m sorry, but you could not be more wrong.

First of all, studies for business, marketing, and advertising all show that social media advertisement is a huge market for attention that only keeps growing. I don’t need to provide you with sources for that. Any major company will tell you that they have advertising presence in every major social media page from Facebook to Twitter to Youtube. If you want people to know about something, especially up and coming young professionals, you’re online.

This matters, because business studies will also tell you, that part of the reason that advertising works is repetitive messaging. The more times a person hears, reads, or sees something, the more the message fixes itself into your brain, whether you want it to or not. Even if you HATE the product or the idea that it “sells,” you’re more likely to buy it. Sells go up. Period. Even bad publicity in many cases, still means a raise in profits and attention because people remember it (obviously, there are some exceptions such as the Sea World/”Blackfish” situation, but in general, this statement holds true). They may not remember why they remember it, but they do. The more you think about something, the more likely you are to act on it. And most people also understand that when you buy into an advertisement, you’re really “buying an idea,” a lifestyle, it’s not the productive itself that sold you.

It’s not only hard to ignore the fact that around 3 million people changed their Facebook profile pictures for the Equal Marriage campaign simply because you saw the images and messages over and over again, but the fact that peer pressure kicked in also matters. The biggest way to “sell” any idea always has been (and most likely always will be) word of mouth. If your friends talk about it, if your friends endorse it, if your friends INSIST on it, you’re more likely to buy it. It’s a survival instinct because people are social animals that feel the desire to “fit in” with the group. This means, that even if someone didn’t change their profile picture or even doesn’t have a Facebook, they heard about it. They heard about it on the news, the read about it, someone who does have an online presence told them. That’s very hard for a politician to ignore. It may not have an immediate effect on the political sphere, but rest assured that in future campaigns, they will take it into account. The message that their is serious support and backing for gay marriage and for gay rights in general will sink in. Popular opinion matters to politicians, if only for selfish reasons.

If you want proof in the form of numbers that social activism “sells,” how about the fact that the ALS foundation raised over $5.5 million from the Ice Bucket challenge alone? You can’t say that $5.5 million dollars for research and support to a non-profit foundation is “nothing” or “useless.” Unless you can prove to me that the money doesn’t go directly to the Foundation or that the Foundation isn’t putting the majority of that money toward research and treatment of the disease.

Many people claim that the challenge wasn’t taken seriously by many people, who may not have even known what the disease is, because they jumped on the band wagon due to popular attention. That’s true. Many people did not and still do not know what ALS is after having taken the challenge. However, I will just remind you, that $5.5 million dollars was raised. I personally don’t care if the people who donated to the Foundation didn’t know what they were supporting nor really cared. However, I don’t think that most people who really fished out their wallets had zero idea why they were doing it. I can also tell you that I watched many videos where the participant either told you themselves what the disease was, admitted that they looked it up to find out, and/or even included links reminding people of what it was they were supporting. Several people also told me in person that they looked it up because they wanted to know. I also looked it up to expand my knowledge on the matter. The Ice Bucket Challenge did create real awareness for many people, even if there are some or even many people who didn’t “get it.” It does not take away from all the people who truly did have their eyes opened to it.

One of the things I heard echoed the most from people who either had the disease or had family/friends who had the disease was that they hated that no one knew what it was before this challenge (with the campaign for Marriage Equality, this is far less likely because if you changed your picture, you knew what you were doing and you strongly supported it because gay marriage is controversial). Before the Ice Bucket Challenge, they felt invisible, that no money would be raised because no one even knew or cared that they were in trouble. They said that they hated explaining to people over and over again why it was they were sick or had lost their loved ones. Suddenly, the struggle was hypervisual and many of these people have hope and feel supported, acknowledged again. One of my personal friends reached out on Facebook saying that she was so grateful to all her friends for doing the challenge because her mother had died of the disease and it reminded her of her mother’s bravery. I was surprised because the disease is supposed to be rare, I never knew that I knew anyone who was affected by it. Even if the money hadn’t been there, are the feelings and hope raised by people suffering from the disease more than enough of a reason to support the fad? I think so.

I cannot prove it, but I anticipate that their are more people who are having the same experience as I am across America right now. It also tells me, that there are more victims of rare diseases like ALS who are having similar struggles. Similarly, the campaign for Marriage Equality gave people hope. It bonded us together, made us believe that together, we can work miracles. Hope and support are very powerful tools, they are not to be taken lightly. And for a child who is struggling with disease or a gay child struggling with self-esteem, sometimes it makes the difference in whether or not you survive. Many studies show that people who have (for whatever reason), a more positive outlook on life, live longer. LGBT youth are more likely than most Americans to commit suicide. Positive thinking and self-confidence absolutely matter. They are not a “waste” nor are they “useless.” I am a person who knows what that pain feels like and every day that I logged into Facebook and saw that sea of red on my newsfeed, my heart got a little lighter. I was a gay youth in a small, homophobic town and to make matters worse, I suffer from genetic depression. I hated everything. I can tell you right now, if this “fad” had happened to me when I was still a teenager, it would have meant so much to me. Luckily, I survived.

While I suffer from a sickness that is often fatal without hope, depression is not as likely to kill you as ALS, and I can only imagine all the mixed feelings of pain and daring to be brave when you know it could blow up in your face and hope and confusion that may have gone through the mind of an ALS victim when they saw the Ice Bucket Challenge trending on all their social media sites. If it was even close to what it was like for me, I’d imagine that it was both overwhelming, and meant the world to them. It could mean literally everything to them, hope for the preservation or extension of their life. That hope may keep them alive a little longer, and even if it doesn’t, I certainly hope it brings them a couple of wonderful, “better” days. I know what those days feel like too. It always hurts, but some days are just better than others, and if we can give you even just one more of those days, I think any “fad” however silly it looks, is worth it.

While there are now several videos and articles from ALS victims that touch on this subject, including the Ice Bucket Challenge of Pete Frates who helped make the challenge popular, I think this one from Anthony Carbajal was the most touching:

Just remember that next time that someone tells you that social media activism is a waste, that it is not. If nothing else, it gives people hope. The next time that anyone tells you that something that makes you feel loved and connected and charitable to others is a “waste,” know that it does matter somehow. Sometimes it’s not making a difference in the way that you think it is, but it is making a difference. Never doubt the opportunity to help others. These things matter, they keep us all going and connect us to each other, and that is never a waste.

This is the Face of a “Thug”

Thug
noun
 1. a violent person, especially a criminal.
synonyms: Ruffian, hooligan, vandal, hoodlum, gangster, villain, criminal – Merriam-Webster.com
What makes someone dangerous or a criminal?
 
Someone is not a criminal because they wear clothes that are baggy, have holes, are hip-hop-related, associated with the lower-class, considered “gang apparel”
Someone is not a criminal because they wear a hoodie, sunglasses, or a hat that hides their face. 
Someone is not a criminal because they have tattoos or because of the way their hair is cut.
Someone is not a criminal because they throw up “gang signs” and it does not mean that they are in a gang.
 
Personally, I do not like to label anyone who is a human being as one thing. I don’t like to call anyone “good” or “bad” or “thug” because I believe that when people use those words, they are trying to make someone seem less than human. I also believe that all human life is valuable…even if it’s value is simply being an example of what not to do. However…if I was to call someone a “thug” or “criminal,” The person’s description might sound something like this:
 
1) Someone who is blatantly disrespectful for the feelings of others and takes advantage of those who have endowed them with the privilege and power that they have:
 
A person matching this description could be guilty of something like: urinating in public (showing a disregard for the comfort of others when it would have been easy enough just to find a restroom), spitting on your fans, egging someone’s house and causing a loud commotion in the middle of the night. Publicly calling out and humiliating the people who you’ve been intimate with and privately confided in you. And doing all these things knowing that because you are popular, you will not be punished for it. A person who does these hurtful things to others knowing their popularity and money will protect them. It is also not in the nature of this person to apologize or take responsibility for the unkind things they have done.
 
Admittedly, these are all minor offenses that are not illegal, but make them a generally unlikable person and they could certainly be considered “villainous,” which is part of the Merriam-Webster definition.
 
2) Someone who is both aggressive and cowardly/irresponsible.
 
This person is the type to start physical fights, be they in private or in public, and then hiding behind bigger people (say a bodyguard or a bouncer) to protect themselves instead of facing the consequences of their actions.
 
3) Someone who believes they are entitled to money and a luxurious lifestyle without contributing quality work or service to the society or community in which they live.
 
Art and music serve a purpose, but only if they do something more than casually entertain. Real art speaks to the human condition and the struggles and joys and responsibilities that come with it. It brings important questions to the table and leaves the artist’s peers with a sense of respect. It uplifts communities and helps to make us better people by questioning the way we live and celebrating life. A person who sings but does not leave the general community a better place than when they started nor is thought of as such by their peers, is not a real “artist.” They are not serving their community. A person who falsifies claims about being an artist and accepts millions of dollars because they think they “deserve it,” could loosely be labeled a “thief” and a “liar.”
 
4) Someone who has a blatant, selfish, disregard for human life and acts on those desires knowing that it could or will hurt other people:
 
The actions of this person might include something like drag racing on a public street or say, maybe drunk driving, or maybe doing both at the same time…This type of behavior could easily kill someone and drunk drivers do in fact, kill many people every day. This person would also make it worse by then refusing to take any responsibility for it, apologizing for it, or giving any reassurance that such an act won’t happen again.
 
5) Someone who is disrespectful of and believes they are above the laws that keep people safe and is disrespectful of law enforcement who are trying to do their job to protect possible victims of said broken laws:
 
This might be someone who resists arrest for doing an activity that is dangerous to others, like drag racing or drunk driving and then…oh I don’t know…is completely disrespectful of the law process that investigates these claims – doesn’t answer questions, rolls eyes, is generally uncooperative and wastes everyone’s time and tax money.
 
6) Is not intellectually curious, does not pursue academic nor culturally educational pursuits and does not engage in any other redeeming activities to better one’s self-worth to the community in which they live:
 
This person might have a great deal of money and political influence yet does little to nothing with their privilege to help others (or makes gestures that are ingenuine). Has traveled the world but made no effort to learn anything, bringing unwanted dangerous or unkind behavior into other people’s cultures and then leaving having benefitted from that community while attributing nothing or making things worse for the people that live there.
 
As I have mentioned before, I do not like to label people, especially in negative terms. However…
 
If I was to call someone a “thug,” with the potential to kill someone and the confidence to get away with it, it would be this person:
 
 
The fact that he has not yet killed or seriously injured someone is not enough for me to believe that he is not dangerous. He is aggressive, he engages in violent behavior, he has back-up, he has power, he does drugs, he doesn’t care about other people, and he “Biliebes” he can do whatever the hell he wants…and he’s unkind. This man is the man who is potentially dangerous. What makes someone a thug is not the way that they look, it is the way that they behave, the actions that they choose to take.
 
This gentlepeople, is a “thug” if there ever was one. This is white, male, straight, cis-gendered privilege if I ever saw it. He dresses the same way and appears to possess many of the superficial characteristics that the police and media deems “thug” worthy, except for one thing, he is white. Why are their hard-working, kind people and innocent children at the border literally (yes, literally) dying to come into this country when this selfish boy who was also an immigrant can stay here as a long as he wants with no consequences for the illegal things he has done? Why are people in Ferguson who are accused of petty, non-violent crimes being gunned down in the streets without a second thought as to their worth as human beings while this known criminal of dangerous activity was successfully arrested (and he DID resist arrest) without even minor injuries and walked away from jail unscaled? What he paid to the courts was, for him, considered pocket-change and the reassurance to the rest of us that the rich, white, celebrity male can do whatever he wants.
 
I am not an immigrant. I am not a person of color. But I am furious that the resources that are meant to be used to defend me and the people I love are instead being used to “defend” a border against people who need help and to pursue people (in a military style) who are accused of stealing things from a convenience store, while this boy walks freely among our citizens, accepted as if he has lived here his whole life and was family. I’m not saying that he never deserved that chance. He did deserve it, was given it, and now he should have lost that privilege. 
 
If you are not angry that innocent people are being treated as less than human while this boy who treats everyone else as less than human and thinks he himself is an untouchable god, is not in prison or kicked out of the country, then YOU ARE NOT PAYING ATTENTION.
 

Knowing What’s Right, isn’t Always the Easy Part

People say all the time, “The hard part isn’t knowing what’s right, it’s doing what’s right.” Often times, that is very true. People are often selfish and they know what’s right, but it’s just too hard to do it. For me however, that is not what is hardest. That’s not to say that I don’t do the wrong thing and do selfish things, I do. I’m human, but most of the time for me, the hard part IS knowing what the right thing is. If you are a person who is educated on the injustice that plagues minorities of any kind in this country, the path of righteousness becomes clouded very fast. Trying to solve problems without making them worse or hurting someone else, is surprisingly difficult.

Have you ever watched a music video that tried to empower people with a heavy body by shaming people who are thin? Have you ever listened to a rap song that sought to empower black men by saying terrible things about black women? Have you read articles this week that tried to stop suicidal victims from taking their own lives by making them feel selfish about the people they were leaving behind? Have you heard people who call themselves feminists say that they don’t care about how men feel at all? 

If you’ve ever been on tumblr, chances are you’ve witnessed what I think of as “social justice warrior battles,” and more than just a few times. They happen everywhere, but they’re especially intense on tumblr, where people whose identities are hidden but hearts are passionate, regularly fling criticisms at each other.

Often, I find this to be so overwhelming that I just want to scream “STOP IT! Don’t you know who the real enemy is here?! You should all be working together, not against each other!” While some of that is true, I think we waste FAR too much time fighting each other, it is also necessary. We cannot randomly just assume that because some of us are victims (or all of us), that we know the right course of action to take or can therefore speak on behalf of other victims just because we feel entitled, or we risk creating chaos and making things worse. Everyone, everywhere has to check their privilege before you speak out on social justice issues and even with the mindset to be kind, it’s very difficult not to hurt someone. It’s not that your opinion doesn’t matter, it’s that your opinion isn’t based on the whole picture, limited to your own life experiences. It’s also very difficult to make social progress if no one acts. You’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t. Of course, I believe the right thing to do, is to just do something. No one can get better if we don’t try and if we don’t make mistakes. Apologies will happen regularly and hopefully they will be accepted, but even if they’re not, we should all keep trying.

I just find it very confusing when people say that we all know what the right thing to do is, because sometimes the answer is not so obvious at all. I can certainly tell you what the unkind thing to do would be, but the “right” thing? So controversial. I think that the real answer is that there is no such thing as the “right thing.” Just versions of progressive things. There is no path of righteousness, it’s more like a clouded forest and we’re all just walking along, bumping into trees and hoping we don’t get eaten by wolves. But maybe if we stick together, mark our progress and mistakes with little ribbons, we can remember what not to do and what we should do again, without the wolves catching and eating us. It’s just not necessary to treat anyone with aggression, especially if they’re already trying to accomplish the same goals that you are.

Letter to a Friend who is a Cop

I have a good friend who is a police officer. She’s very pro-military and pro-cop and recently posted a Facebook article on the page of friend of hers. The article was written from the perspective of a cop’s wife and the page it was posted on by my friend is also the page of an officer’s wife. I will post it for others to view and then begin my letter to my friend. I wish I could give it to her, but I don’t know that our relationship could be the same if I did. Maybe however, it could make a difference for others. If nothing else, it may simply release the thoughts in my own mind.

http://www.kristineace.com/2014/08/ferguson-perspective-from-cops-wife.html

To My Friend,

I personally, did not actually did not learn anything new from the letter, because I already know that police officers are human beings and that human beings suffer. However, I did feel for the wife and for her husband. And I also feel for you and the hurtful, if not traumatizing situations that you may have been in. I know what suffering looks and feels like and I would never dismiss your life struggles as if they were not serious or irrelevant. I know you do the best you can to be a good person, you don’t have to prove that to me. I’ve watched you sacrifice money, time, and emotional energy for others when you didn’t have to. I have not forgotten how you looked after me the time I had a serious allergic reaction and how you worried about me for hours, checking in on me and carrying me home when I was sick. I know you give your brother and your parents money, because they were afraid they would lose their home. I’ve watched you bravely stand up for teammates who were physically picked on, putting yourself in harm’s way simply because it was the right thing to do. I know you try very hard to uphold your own moral code.

I already know that police officers are human beings. They are human beings like the rest of us who happen to have a lot of power over life. It’s a tremendous responsibility that I’m sure is difficult for them to carry. As the article indicates, I truly do believe that most officers go in wanting to save, serve, and protect our community. Police officers bleed when they are shot, cry when people die, love their partners and families, struggle, sweat, get sick, die, live, just like the rest of us. They have families that they would do anything for and often take the opportunity to save those whom they don’t even know because it is their job and because they want that to be their job.

But like all people, they sometimes get scared and angry.

Fear and adrenaline can be powerful and useful traits. They are evolutionary responses that help keep us all alive. An officer has the greatest of senses. When combined with their weapons, muscles, and extensive training that they struggled to achieve and be worthy of, they can not only save their own lives, but protect others. However, fear can also blind you, especially if you grow up believing you should be afraid of something your whole life. Your muscles and training make your body alone a lethal weapon, capable of strangling a grown man to death. Your top-of-the-line weapons obey you with immediate response, even if you’re not sure you really want to shoot someone. And I know that you know all this already. But I think that sometimes, you forget that when you remind us that you are human, you are forgetting what that really means. Human beings make mistakes. And when those mistakes are made, I’d rather it not be from a human being who is angry or afraid that is also holding an automatic rifle in S.W.A.T. gear. I know you want to protect people, but your police peers do not need military-style defense and weaponry to do it. Small-time criminals looting stores do not require that kind of equipment to pacify. People looting stores are also not the same as people who are mourning the death of a child, peacefully protesting. You cannot treat them as the same group of people. That doesn’t make any sense.

Just because you are a good cop, also doesn’t mean everyone else is a good cop. Do you really like every cop in the station that you work with? Have you forgotten that because you were a woman, you were unfairly judged and prosecuted by your male counterparts in the office? Because I have not forgotten the months of stress and anxiety that you suffered simply because of who you were. If they are capable of sexism, what makes you think they are not capable of racism? If they are human, they are capable of it. I cannot prove who is and who is not guilty of it in Ferguson personally, (not being a lawyer), but we cannot defend people simply because they are police officers. If you have committed a crime, your job title does not play a role in whether or not you are guilty of it.

The last thing I will address in the article that you posted was the issue of whether or not to trust the media. Being a communications graduate, I may be the first to dissect and scrutinize what every news video and article tells me. I can tell you right now, that I do not personally appreciate the way the media has capitalized on pictures of children holding signs, for example. I am not a simple person. I know that if the news wants to hit viewers psychologically, the first thing they do is try to find a child because in the eyes of the people, there is no one more innocent and no one worst to commit a crime against. I am not arguing that this belief is “wrong” but I do believe they made a conscious and deliberate decision to take a picture of those kids protesting because it would empathetically sway people and make it feel personal. When in fact, the crime was not committed specifically against these children. Yes, I know the media plays on drama and make things appear as they are not. 

However, what concerned me what seeing hundreds of photos from individual people present at the scene, through the use of social media. These people aren’t journalists. It’s true, they can and will also screw information in their own favor, but they are not trained as journalists are to hide things in the same way. It’s also much harder for anyone to lie, when a significant number of witness photograph and give testimony saying the same thing (not necessarily with the Michael Brown case, but with the aftermath of the protesters, journalists, and looters when involving the police).

A unarmed man was shot and killed. We don’t know why having not been there personally, but the fact that he was unarmed is disturbing. It should be seriously investigated. Am unarmed man was choked to death despite having the police having multiple back-ups and the man screamed, “I can’t breathe.” This is just as disturbing to hear. We cannot ignore this and so many other recent cases of racial prejudice. It is a problem. They need to be better investigated and actions taken to re-train officers because clearly, the system is not working the way it should.

I know that police officers suffer scrutiny in the eyes of the public because of their power. I know that police officers are human beings who are often the subjects of trauma. I believe that most officers even intend to be good and selfless servants, but I also believe that human beings are full of prejudice and fear. If you are trained how to find criminals and not on how to distinguish between fear that is reasonable and fear that is prejudice, you will not see it. Your intuition and your training as a soldier will betray your humanity.

The mindset I wish high-ranking officers had approached this problem with would have been “I am feeling that you [people protesting] are upset. How can I best serve you and make you feel safe again?” Instead of asking themselves, “I can see these people are upset. How can I make sure it doesn’t hurt me or anybody else?” Being trained to seek, find, and fight is not really your most valuable asset as an officer. Your most valuable asset is your ability to think, observe, and serve people. Again to my friend, you are a people-person. Serve other people as a person, not as soldier. If you want people to treat officers like the humans they are, do the same for them.

Love from your Friend,
A.J. Lion

Losing Robin Williams

I think most people have at least one movie where they were moved by a character or message that Robin Williams brought to life. For me, it’s just so hard to pick. In Hook, he helped me to believe in your inner, eager spirit. In Good Will Hunting, he reminded me that all the knowledge and smarts in the world is not equivalent to really living, enjoying, and being in the moment – to loving life. I think, however, that nothing personally compares for me to the last scene in Ms. Doubtfire. 

When I was 13, my parents got divorced. My parents had promised to me many times as a child, that no matter what happened, they would not get a divorce. They would work through their problems and keep our family together. This was Earth-shattering for me, even though I saw it coming. Wanting to lift my spirits, I watched Ms. Doubtfire, having completely forgotten about the scene at the end of the movie:

“If there’s love dear, those are the ties that bond. And you’ll have a family in your heart, forever. All my love to you my poppet, you’re going to be alright.”

Predictably, it touched me deeply and I carried the message with me into adulthood. I already had heard those things before, but Robin really made me believe it. He made me feel like he understood, so I trusted him. The message too, that families could come in all shapes and sizes and that all that mattered was that we were loving to each other, also helped me in overcoming my fears about being gay. I could be loved, I could still have a family, that everyone is different, and everyone experiences pain, but it doesn’t mean you can’t live a normal life again. “You’re going to be alright.”

People are of course, debating once again whether or not what Robin Williams did was selfish in taking his own life. As someone who has experienced real depression, I cannot speak for everyone else who has been sick, but I can say, I do not personally believe that makes him selfish. The act itself has selfish consequences, but honestly, the man was in serious pain. To force someone to do anything simply because it’s what you want, is also selfish. Guilt-tripping people into doing what you want is not loving them, it’s manipulating them. I am not suggesting that anyone who is depressed should give up, but I am saying that when someone kills themselves, they rarely do it to hurt other people. Many of them know they have family who loves them, they know it will hurt them, but they’ve decided that the pain is so terrible that they can’t deal with it anymore. Many times, the people who are in that situation are so selfless, that they feel that they can’t ask for help because they feel that they are hurting others by dragging them down with them. Making them sad by showing them or admitting to them that they’re hurting. And it’d be one thing if you just felt bad here or there, but sometimes you feel bad for a very long time. One of the worst rounds of depression that I ever went through lasted more than a year. I did not want to be depressed, I was doing what I could, but I couldn’t just make it go away. It doesn’t work that way, it’s a sickness. Your brain is stuck in a chemical process that not only makes you feel like crap, but distorts and twists your reality to make you believe that you are worthless.

When we lost Robin, when I lost Robin, I was deeply saddened for knowing his pain. Then I felt angry, because he gave up. Then I was sad again when I remembered how powerless and painful it had made me feel. Robin had serious depression, but he was successful, well-liked, had friends and family, was giving and loving and thoughtful, but none of it was enough because depression is not prejudice. Even the richest, funniest, most selfless man in the world can still break his arm, right? Because he is still human and the human body can get sick. It screwed with my head at first though, because when you’re sick, you look to others who are sick to understand, bond with, give you hope. If such a wonderful, brilliant man couldn’t survive the wrath of the disease, how can the rest of us? I think the reality is, we need to remember that depression, for many of us, doesn’t really go away. It’s like an addiction, especially if it’s genetic depression that you have. You can get better, but you’re still an addict. For many of us, it’s a reality we will face our entire lives and I think many of us fear that one day, we just won’t see enough of reason to keep fighting it.

However, in the way that an addict can surround themselves with support and give themselves tools to help them when they feel sick, so can those who are depressed. It doesn’t mean that you’re not going to feel like shit sometimes, that you’re not going to slip into depressive states, but there is hope that you can come out of it again. It’s also not your fault if you do, we’re still not sure why it is people get depressed. But there’s hope that because you did come out of a serious bout of depression once, you can do it again. If you’re careful and take professional help when you can, you can also lessen the severity of those times when you feel terrible, so that they’re bearable. Medical science is also getting better, we’re finally starting to take depression seriously, as an illness. Western medicine is starting to look at Eastern alternatives to mental health and figuring out why it sometimes works better than drugs or can be a helpful addition to necessary medications. Stigmas about depression are being directly challenged, thanks in large part to celebrities who are honest about their condition (as Robin very often was) and doctors who challenge old perspectives. There is hope. Never, ever allow yourself to believe the lies your mind tells you about being alone and not being able to be understood. Yes, to a certain degree, you are so unique and wonderful that no one is “exactly” like you, but depression and mental illness creates these same feelings in far more people than you’d think.

ARE YOU HEARING ME? YOU ARE NOT ALONE. YOU MATTER. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.

And regardless of anything you’ve done or haven’t done in this life, you deserve love and attention for the things that hurt you, because you are a human being. You don’t need another reason.

I will leave you with a last bit of advice from my two favorite authors, both of which suffer/suffered from depression.

“What are we holding onto Sam?”, the tiny hobbit, Frodo asks Sam in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Tolkien answers through Samwise Gamgee-

“That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.”

What is “good” is subjective to each person, but I promise that it does exist for you in some way, some where in the world. There is goodness in the world, and good experiences still waiting for you, should you choose to claim them. You also have goodness inside you that can contribute to this world. If there’s darkness in this world that haunts you, it also haunts others. If you don’t like it, band with those who agree with you and stand together to destroy it with love. Help bring that light into the world that you so desire to see. You’re not the only one who wants that, I promise.

Second, turn to love from others.

“Listen, dementors are among the foulest creatures to walk this earth. They feed on every good feeling, every happy memory until a person is left with nothing but his worst experiences. The dementors affect you more than others because there are true horrors in your past, horrors your classmates can scarcely imagine. You are not weak, Harry. You have nothing to be ashamed of.” Rowling tells us about her fights with depression through the metaphors of dementors. Her answer for us, comes through the loving words of Albus Dumbledore -

“It’s not in the nature of a dementor to be forgiving. But you know, happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.”

Depression is a vicious, aggressive, merciless liar. Vanquish it with the strongest thing you have, love. That light that Harry fights the dementors with is love and happiness. Let people tell you they love you and believe them. Trust them. It’s the kind thing to do, both out of respect for their intelligence, and for your own health. Focus on the words of kindness, the happy memories, the looks of love and admiration in the faces of the those you love. To be clear, this is not about making you feel guilty, this is about focusing on what makes you feel good and loved. After you focus your thoughts, turn and look your depression in the face and stay “Expecto patronum! Eat shit and die, you heartless, lying, bastard of a parasite!”

Response to the Mother Who Does not Teach her Children to Share

Many people have been reading and posting this article on Facebook and I’ve got to say, I’m sick of it:

http://www.sunnyskyz.com/blog/365/This-Mom-Perfectly-Explains-Why-She-Does-Not-Teach-Her-Kids-To-Share#ZmuZ1BsmXabMkMG4.01

“Diligence, patience, and hard work,” yes I agree with these things, however, the stage is not set the same for everyone. Racism, sexism, homo/transphobia, xenophobia all exist too, and they stem from one thing – people who were concerned about keeping the power that they have as their own. The real world is a cruel place, but it doesn’t have to be as cruel as it is. What if we instead taught our children that sharing feels good and is just as rewarding if not more so, than having things? Tell me, do you actually like that these are realities that exist in today’s society? Because they all come from a place of greed, from being taught that this thing is MY thing, and to come up with reasons why you deserve it more than everyone else. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t deserve it more, but why should you have to waste time deciding that when we could all share the thing? And YES, we could. There are enough resources for everyone. We should all be taking care of each other.

Maybe you should also ask both toddlers why it is that the thing is so important to them? It’s a toy, the toy isn’t going anywhere. This could be a good exercise for both children to learn that if they share the toy, it’s not going to disappear, they will get another chance to play with it. We should be teaching our children not to be obsessed with material things. What about teaching them instead, that it feels good to share? To help someone else? Teach them that it’s more rewarding to interact with someone in positive ways, like to give them the car and see them smile, or better yet that it’s more fun to play with the car together than it is to play alone? Sometimes you just can’t share the car, or the kid might want to play alone (in which case, maybe they shouldn’t be around other kids at that time), but if they are going to be around other kids, they need to learn how to be kind to other children while they are around them. Teaching them in general not to share simply because that’s the way the world works sounds like you’re doing the kid a huge disservice to himself and also to everyone else’s kids in the future.

It’s true, when little Bobby grows up, he’s going to have a real car entitled in his name (hopefully), but that doesn’t mean he can’t lend the car to a friend for the weekend right? Or carpool to work with his co-workers right? And on the flip side, what if Bobby grows up and can’t afford his own car? In which case, you’d better be damn hopeful that your peers (other parents) taught Bobby’s (now adult) friends to share their cars as children. That way Bobby can now carpool to work or borrow the car from his friends when he really needs it. It’s easy when it’s your stuff to say that no one should ever have to share, but what if it’s Bobby that doesn’t have what he needs? Just because we “own” things as adults does not mean there are not ways to share them or be generous with them.

It’s not about forcing kids to share the toy, it’s about teaching them, instilling in them, a desire to share. To encourage them to share so that they can experience the far more rewarding joy of giving and loving. Why would you want to rob your child of that fulfilling experience? If nothing else, why would you feel the desire to rob everyone else’s children from that? Life isn’t about figuring out how to keep everything to yourself, it’s about figuring out how to live peacefully and with tolerance for others. You really have no choice, we are social people and we live with, near, and around other people. We can’t reach more responsible social behavior for the general population if everyone teaches their children that when they acquire good fortune, to cling to it with all their might. Having things is nice, but having someone to share it with is much nicer.

If life was a party, would you invite only yourself? Who’s going to help you eat all that guacamole?

One last thing – it’s also cuter when kids share.

Another Point on the the Debate About Equality of the Sexes

This is another one of those blogs helping me work out in my own head how to explain to others my thoughts on the word “feminism,” so if you’re not interested in ramblings or some repeat information from my other blog posts, go ahead and skip this one.

So yes, to recap in other recent posts, please don’t go jumping on me with why I should or shouldn’t want to label myself feminist.

1) I am not the enemy of feminists or the feminist movement in general, in fact I consider us friends.

2) I think the “feminist movement” has done great things for us (all sexes) and is still important in dismantling Patriarchy, so if your concerns are limited to trying to prove to me either of these things, you can stop reading now, because I agree.

3) Yes, I understand that “feminism” has many definitions but that the most popular one is “fighting for or pushing for equal right of the sexes” and this does not mean superior privilege for women. Yes, I understand that.

However, I don’t agree that using that definition alone justifies feminists saying to other people, “see, you’re actually a feminist and you just don’t know it or are in denial.”

To use a metaphor, I’ll talk about religion and religious labels-

I believe that there may be a “God.” I believe in a higher power of sorts, but I limit it to saying I believe that this power, which I choose to call “love,” is powerful in ways that we cannot yet explain or fully understand and has some control over the world in which we inhabit and our lives. However, by my definition, many, many Christians could and do claim that this makes me a “Christian.” No, no it doesn’t. Because I chosen not to describe myself that way. I’m not doing it to piss them off and I’m not doing it to be “unique”, I’m doing it because I don’t agree with their definition, I don’t like the idea of being trapped in a label, and I don’t agree with the amount of restriction it would confine me to if I joined the Christian religion. It’s not that I hate organized religion, or even Christians. I don’t think the entirety of their worship is useless nor do I think it’s necessarily bad for society. I simply don’t agree with enough of it to call myself a “Christian.”

This is the same thing. I think the feminist movement is doing good things. I am more than happy to work with feminists toward dismantling Patriarchy and by many people’s definitions, I am a “feminist.” However, I believe that it is no longer useful or productive to use the word “feminist,” or at least not for me. The reason being, I believe that by calling ourselves “feminists” we are continuing the use of patriarchal labels, therefore reinforcing gender ideas and undermining our own goal(s). Long ago, we wanted to push the idea that being feminine did not make us less worthy of equal rights. This is no longer relevant and most feminists agree, because what is “feminine” varies from woman to woman so much that there is no staple definition of what makes a “woman” anymore. However, society does continue to call us women and the fact remains that those called “women” are still oppressed systematically (if not lawfully). You cannot simply undo thousands of years of oppression in a few decades, though we are doing much better, in my opinion.

My ideas of people who are oppressed has gone beyond that of just women when I started taking Critical Gender Studies and exploring my own sexuality in the LGBT community. Trans men and women really opened my eyes up to the fact that gender is something that hurts everyone. It even left me wishing myself that I didn’t have to pick which gender I wanted to describe myself as. I think that if we’re going to help trans people, and everyone really, we need to stop reinforcing gender labels so much, especially ones like “feminine” and “masculine.” Feminism = feminine. I don’t support what is considered “feminine” nor do I support “masculine” because I feel that it are both made-up, nonsensical and harmful. I know the word has evolved and transformed to mean so much more than that in “modern/post feminism,” but I still feel that hanging onto the word is not helping us but hurting us. It is a fundamental disagreement strictly about what the word means to me, not the major ideals. I simply look at the way to dismantle Patriarchy differently than “feminists” do.

In defense of labels like “egalitarian” and “humanist” which I can better relate to, they are also encompassing a larger definition of people who are oppressed and no, not just men (as women feminists seems to be pretty considered about it helping) but also people who are oppressed because of racial inequality, classism, physical/mental handicap, and many others. I’m sorry, but I am so busy worrying about all these issues that “feminist” just doesn’t cut it for me anymore, because I see the problem as being much bigger than just women’s rights. Women’s rights are really one part of a very big problem. They are absolutely valid, but not the only issue and may not even be the biggest issue. Most feminists tend to agree that these issues also matter, yet they insist on calling themselves feminists and saying that feminism covers those issues when really I think one word like that, which specifically and historical points only at what is “feminine” and oppressed, is not enough. However, they all (all oppressed people, at least in America) have a common oppressor, Patriarchy, and it’s systematic oppression that is deeply rooted in our daily lives, most notably in our speech and labels.

Calling me a “Christian” just because I fit your definition of the label, does not make me a Christian. Calling me a “feminist” does not make me a feminist. The word no longer feels either accurate for me generally speaking nor  when speaking very specifically. It’s not a big enough word. It’s just not enough for me.

If we really want to dismantle Patriarchy, if we really want to help those who chose neither or both genders or a gender they were not assigned at birth, I believe we need to stop making ourselves an other. I am not against teaching our struggles and history and I feel that we still need the word to help us continue to move forward, but I don’t feel that the word “feminist” describes enough of “me” anymore.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 44 other followers

%d bloggers like this: