Studying People Through Creative Endeavors.

Latest

I am uncomfortable about what happened to Bernie Sanders, and that is the whole point.

When I heard about the black lives matter protesters who interrupted Sander’s attempt to speak at the Seattle rally, I felt shocked and then quickly conflicted. I felt shocked because I knew from personal research that Sanders has been a supporter of the black lives matter movement for quite some time and was a member of the civil rights movement as a young man. I thought, “They must be confused, or haven’t done their homework, this guy is on their side.” And I’m sure many people thought the same thing. But it wasn’t a mistake, they did it on purpose, one of the women even said that she didn’t actually aim to target one politician over another because she doesn’t believe in our electoral process at all, that historically it hasn’t worked for black people and that she only aimed to use his speech as a platform to further the cause.

Unfortunately, she is right in may ways. The system, economic or otherwise, as never favored blacks. It was built to use blacks to build our economy up (remember slavery?) and when that eventually failed, it was used to keep blacks down while doing everything possible to continue to profit off of them. Right now, there sit in prison, millions of black prisoners, disproportionate to the number of whites, who work practically for free and have no voting privileges. Many are there for petty crimes like marijuana possession or because of disproportionately long criminal sentences in comparison to white who have committed the same crimes. You don’t have to take my word for it, google it. The stats are there.

Getting back to Sanders, I felt confused, but that is also because I am biased in many ways. While I haven’t had hope in a long time for any kind of candidate or had faith in the electoral process in a long time, I really liked Bernie Sanders (I still do), and I want to be able to say that at least I tried to use the system we had and voting for the better of the two evils. But I am in a privileged position to say that – the majority of people who have won elections are whites who represent, (you guessed it), the needs of whites, people like me. So occasionally, things were actually better for people like me, I could stand to dare to hope. Black people can’t say the same with only one black president who for the most part, stayed away from any issues concerning race.

I am also biased because of growing up in a white culture and as a communications major. As a communications major, I have been taught to value effective communication, and that means hearing what everyone has to say. As someone who grow up in white culture, I have had the privilege of being able to voice my opinion and be heard, even if people didn’t agree. I was also taught that if you like someone and respect them, the way to show that respect is by listening to them without interruption. That giving everyone the chance to speak is good form, even if that person wouldn’t give you the same courtesy. This is all biased however, because of my privilege. Blacks have been protesting peacefully about police brutality, the unfair economy, the lack of educational support – you name it, they have been ignored. Because whites don’t want to hear it, and because the media isn’t interested in peaceful protests, they only care about drama, and that’s why we didn’t hear anything until the black community grew to the point of desperation and police militarization prompted tension so high that riots and serious backlash happened.

As a white, I cannot imagine how terrifying and frustrating all that would feel, but still, I understood that it WAS nevertheless, and defended their actions – reminding people that not all the activists were violent and that many of them were violent because they were defending themselves or because we had wrongly ignored their very rightful cries for help for too long. That I and we had no place in condemning their actions, violent or not, when we haven’t had to live that experience. I read hours and hours of articles and watched several documentaries about it. I read the autopsy reports. I posted the facts I could find on social media. I got into serious arguments both on Facebook and that were face-to-face confrontations and that was extremely difficult for me as a person who hates confrontation and is very sensitive. And again, this all made me biased because it was much easier for me to feel bad for myself who really had suffered far less than that of someone who has lived their whole life as a black person. And I knew that, but it is a natural human instinct to want to preserve oneself, unfortunately. I am human and I am flawed. I also knew that when I did these things, I did them to feel morally right, to make myself feel good, and while I still believe I am on the right side of things, it is still a selfish act. I resigned myself a long time ago to the fact that everyone, even me, does things for selfish reasons. Even when I try to help someone, I am helping them because I want to feel good and not think poorly of myself, but at least I am helping someone in the process and not hurting. I just have to be careful to remember this fact, and not allow it to influence my decisions. If I chose to do something kind, I cannot just do it when it suits my purposes, I have to do it even if it’s uncomfortable and settle for the fact that maybe I’m doing it more so I can live with myself and not so that I’ll actually feel good. I should not be doing this for a pat on the back or just for when it’s convenient for me personally. I have to recognize that it is their right and that they are doing this for a good reason.

One of the good points that the articles I’ve read by black lives matter activists make, is that we’re happy as white progressives to have the black vote, but not nearly as quick to jump to the aid of blacks or do what is really right for them. People booed and were generally saying some pretty rude things to the activists who interrupted Sanders because they were inconvenienced and felt they and Sanders were unjustly silenced… something blacks deal with everyday.

Almost everything I was raised with begs me not to accept this behavior and makes me uncomfortable… but I think that is the point. I should feel interrupted and I should feel uncomfortable because it is challenging prejudice that I still have. I am not free of racism and it’s hard to admit because this is very humbling and embarrassing for me. But it is very necessary. Black lives are in danger, and if I am really an ally, I must accept this tactic as part of the movement and continue to support it while continuing to challenge my own perceptions of what is morally “right.”

What was most upsetting to me was that I felt that Sanders has always been an outspoken supporter of the movement, and he is, but the truth is that everyone can improve. If there was really nothing better that he could have done, then the more explicit platform in support of the movement would not have surfaced just a few hours later on his website. I was forced to admit that the tactic worked, he responded with more than what he had already done.

While I still do not at all agree that calling him or the crowd “white supremacists” was accurate or necessary, it is true that he, like everyone else, does have prejudices he is unaware of and his support could always be better shown. He can always become a better ally and so can I, so can we (whites).

It also occurred to me that while he may have been targeted because he has far less security than opponents like Hillary or anyone in the GOP, he is also the one with the most potential. Hillary, nice as she is, is always late to the civil rights game. Not just with black rights, but it has been a pattern for her to be late in supporting gay rights (supported her husband’s signing of DOMA), and even many feminist issues. Sanders has been a supporter however, for decades and since he is running for President, we must assume or at least hope for his own sake that he has thick skin (as my friend wisely pointed out to me). If anyone would respond to this activism appropriately, it would be him. And it appears that he did (so far at least). I hope he continues to bump up that support for the movement and allows some of the activists to speak, further empowering themselves, as he graciously allowed the two women who interrupted him to do. He didn’t fight them on it, but stood back and then moved on when it was clear they didn’t plan to give the microphone back. I think that given his surprise, that was probably the best thing he could have done. And I hope in the future he actually invites more of them to speak out.

I also hope that even though this is still hard for me to accept as an appropriate reaction from a marginalized people, I get better at accepting that it is not for me to say what is appropriate for their cause as I am a white person with privilege. I am not black, but I do know as a gay person and as a woman what it feels like to be judged by people who are not affected on the outside of the issue – who say my judgments or behavior are unwarranted when they don’t know what it feels like or haven’t seen that other activist tactics were already tried and failed. I hope that experience will keep me open-minded when other people who are oppressed in ways I am not, challenge me in the future. This was a successful attempt on their part, it made me uncomfortable, and it challenged me to think more about it.

It made me uncomfortable, and that is the whole point: It often takes shock to make you realize what you are over-looking in your judgments. While it is a natural reaction to dislike it, it doesn’t mean it’s not good for me and more importantly for the black lives matter movement.

For now, I will say I support the movement and begrudgingly, I support the actions of the two women who made excellent points. My uncomfortableness is not a good excuse and is evidence that I need to promise to keep trying to be a better ally.

#BlackLivesMatter

Math as a Language

It suddenly occurred to me, that math is actually just another language. Math is an effort to simplify, condense and explain to ourselves what something is, to make it tangible and more easily manipulatable, and to more easily communicate to others an idea, with symbols and names like “seven.”

It would follow then, that like our english language, there’s lots of nouns, ideas, or things we have no name for, or that our language is incapable of explaining to us or doesn’t have the words/phrases for. There’s many examples of words existing in other languages that do not really have a correct word or translation in english (same can be said across/between any two languages).

I was taught in linguistics, that because languages have different grammatical structures and patterns, that it actually changes the way your brain thinks about information or solves problems. In fact, people who are bilingual (or speak multiple languages) have an advantage in problem-solving because they are able to think about said problem from multiple viewpoints. Their brains process the information differently, and if they have many structures/processes at their disposal, it would make sense that if it was hard to understand though one particular process, that they would have another at their disposal to try it out on. If that process make the problem more tangible, than that person would have an edge over someone who does not have that ability.

Does this mean that there exists somewhere in a universe, another society of intellectuals who may have created another language for math that can explain things in a way that ours cannot? Or that there’s more than one way of personifying math? Making it tangible and manipulable in our minds?

I know that there are sometimes math examples within our own system that have more than one correct or plausible answer. I also understand that when applied to physics, people are coming up with new theorems that no one thought of because no one could see it in the same light previously…What if there are civilizations that are totally ahead of us in mathematics because they have created a language, a system that makes things so much clearer than our own?

I always thought that even if mathematical numbers did not look like 1,2,3,4 or weren’t called “one, two, three, and four” that it would nevertheless, easily translate and still would hold the values of 1,2,3, and 4. In that way, math seemed “universal” to me…but…what if it’s not? What if there’s another way?

My head hurts.

“When I was a kid…”

Every time I hear an adult complaining that we’re coddling children too much, or too worried about bullying, or focusing too much on race because back in their day people weren’t so sensitive and we worried less about hurting people’s feelings, all I hear is that same argument from the older person who’s afraid of new technology.

That mother, father, whose children have grown and grew up with new technology and new ideas. “I don’t want a smartphone, I don’t need it!” “Why are young people so interested in their social media? Why don’t they pick up a book or have a conversation?” “I hate Facebook!”

Yes, well, that’s probably because you don’t understand how it works and that embarrasses you.

We often talk about how children who grow up with the technology understand it better. It’s just like how it’s easier to teach a child a new language than it is to teach an adult. But I argue that it is much the same as teaching an adult new ways to talk about people who are marginalized, oppressed, stigmatized. It’s an entirely new way of thinking, a language and skill set our parents were not thought to develop because they were told that it wouldn’t matter so long as they just took care of themselves and ignored everyone else.

Our parents were taught to pretend they noticed no difference in each other and to maintain the idea that “everyone is the same.” And yes, while we do all share human qualities and that is important to remember, it is not as important as acknowledging that stereotyping and prejudice exists in society because if you deny that, the problem will only get worse. Just like technology, there may be ways to “do it wrong,” one can get sucked into Facebook and forget to have a real conversation, but Facebook in itself, or technology, is not evil. And it’s not just about “fun” either. It allows people living far away to connect in new and fun ways they might never have imagined. It’s about knowing what’s healthy, and moderating it.

In that same way, we can talk about race, sexual orientation, disabilities and difference without saying or doing prejudice things. You don’t have to be afraid that participating in that discussion makes you a racist.

But older generations don’t WANT to do it, because they’re set in their ways. They don’t want to learn a completely new way of thinking, and yes, it is a totally new way of thinking and socializing. It has its own set of rules and languages. That’s why there are whole majors in college on gender/feminist studies and race.

The second thing I noticed in parallel is that they assume that these problems never existed before. But just as there existed a demand for easy, fun, and creative communication before Facebook existed, so did prejudice. Those problems, those demands, they were always there. Our generation merely found a better way, more effective way of doing it. Just like technology, the modern struggle for social justice is progress. Progress is never a bad thing (and it is also inevitable), what is bad is how some people chose to use it or how they respond to it.

Thoughts on the Concept of Mother’s Day and the Part that Social Media Plays in it

I read a lot of mixed feelings over Mother’s Day on Facebook and other social media this year. I just want to start out by saying that for those of you who posted things about feelings hurt because your parents are no longer with you or because your parents treated you abusively, that I am sympathetic to your struggle and I want to thank you for feeling brave enough to share that because it’s an important topic that we should acknowledge. For those of you who have lost your parents, I am so sorry. I don’t think it matters how old you are or how long it’s been since it happened, it will always affect you. For those of you who have been abused by your parents, there is no reason you should have been exposed to such a horrible experience and I have to admit there have been some rather insensitive things posted about Mother’s Day that did not consider how you felt. To be clear, this article from me, is not about being against Mother’s Day or Father’s Day in general, it’s about how people chose to express that love.

There’s a lot of posts about Mother’s or Father’s Day that look something like this:

That might seem sweet at first, and it may even seem like it’s how all mothers should behave, but I’m afraid that it is based on false ideas that are actually rather insensitive in reality.

I hate to break it to everyone, but no one, mother or father, is bound by some kind of law of nature to love their child no matter what. Some parents are abusive physically. Some are emotionally manipulative. Some try to make their offspring everything they were not and try to live vicariously through them. Some parents have babies and then abandon them to die. I have heard countless stories from queer friends or authors whose parents kicked them out of the house simply for their sexual or gender orientation. None of those things are loving actions and they all prove that just because someone is a “mother” or “father,” does not mean that person will treat their offspring lovingly. A person earns the title of “Mother” or “Father” the minute your baby is born, but that most certainly does not make them a good one, and it certainly doesn’t make them a “saint” or a “god.”

Also, should we really be saying something so ludicrous for the sake of the parent? How can any parent, good and loving as their intentions may be, possibly live up to labels like “god” or “saint?” Now I know we all say that’s it’s merely flattery and an exaggeration to make your mom feel good, but I think that given enough times, it really does start to put societal pressure on those parents to be perfect. Is that fair either? Maybe it would be better to instead, put real thought and specific stories/examples of what that mother/father did for you as an individual, rather than use a cliche hyperbole like “saint.”

That being said, it follows then that for a person’s own mental and physical health, they are not obligated by anything to show their parents unconditional love. If someone is hurting you, you get away from that person and you do everything you can to heal and find a place where people support you in a healthy manner.

Posts like this are utterly ridiculous. I will repeat, you are not obligated to do this and it does not make you a bad offspring if you don’t express the same sentiment or click “share” or “like.” This post puts as all in an awkward place and is pretty insensitive to people whose parents were abusive or unsupportive. It also puts those of us who are just private people in general in an awkward place too, does it?

Some people don’t like showing any kind of affecting in public and especially not on social media and even believe showing affection in this manner is shallow. I personally, think that it is fine and even can be moving, beautiful, and a kind of expressive release that might even uplift others, but not at the cost of making other people feel obligated to express that in a way that they are not comfortable with.

Again, I don’t dislike the concept of Mother’s Day in general, nor do I dislike that one would express love for their mothers/fathers, it’s just about how one chooses to express that love.

There’s another part of me that wishes it was merely “Guardian’s Day” or something like that, because I feel that not only does Mother’s/Father’s day often encourage sexist ideas (mom gets a day at the spa/flowers, a new vacuum cleaner while dad gets a tie and a new lawnmower), but there are so many people left out – grandparents, foster parents, step-parents might feel weird. What if an aunt or uncle or older siblings raised an individual? It’s just that the real people do deserve to be acknowledged are not necessarily “mom” or “dad” (in fact some may not deserve it at all). The people who deserve praise are anyone who loved a child, supported them, helped them to learn and treated them the way a loving, caring guardian should treat them. 

I like the idea of rewarding the parental figures who are still with us (while honoring and remembering those who guardened kindly and have now passed), and who were/still are positive influences in the lives of their children – but I hope that it in doing so, it encourages those positive behaviors, it inspires more parents to do the same, rather than encourages offsprings to make gross and insensitive generalizations because I know not every individual has been so fortunate in their parental experiences.

Things I Used to Believe as a Little Kid

1) I could watch people on t.v. but somewhere, somehow, other people were watching me through their own crappy television. I also wondered if they also had someone watching them on a t.v. and if it was just some endless circle of people watching each other on t.v.

2) Jesus and Barney were on the same level. Apparently I once told my mother who was staying home sick from work, “I’m sorry you’re sick mommy. Jesus could make you feel better…or Barney.” Both magical, both imaginary, made sense at the time.

2) If I believed hard enough, I could fly like Peter Pan, or even walk on water…maybe that was also Jesus inspired but I don’t know, my 5-year-old mind was a pretty nonsensical place so hard to say that there was any “reason” involved whatsoever.

Walkin’ on water like bitch, I’m fabulous!

3) If I closed my eyes or hid under the covers, the monsters in the closet couldn’t see me. If I had my dog with me, the monsters wouldn’t attack me. If my sister and I shared the same room, the were less likely to attack me. Strength in numbers theory, I guess?

4) If I didn’t play with one of my toys, its feelings would be hurt. I was constantly afraid of them feeling left out or letting myself outgrow them because I could never throw away a friend, right?! This was only exacerbated by the viewing of the Toy Story series. Thanks a lot Pixar.

5) I believed my vacuum cleaner was a scary monster that would attack me. My vacuum cleaner looked like a hammerhead shark-robot-thing. I don’t know that I truly, truly believed that it was dangerous, but I do know that it was loud and scary and my mom used to wait til I was playing outside to clean with it sometimes.

6) I believed the “chicken” we ate at our dinner table wasn’t the same as the feathery, clucking thing I saw in books or on t.v. I don’t know why I never realized the connection, but when I was told that they were in fact, the same “chicken,” and I was eating dead animals, I felt sick to my stomach. I still feel a little bad about it sometimes…but not enough not to eat it.

I think I recall being equally freaked out to hear about where eggs came from.

7) I believed that no one was smarter than my mom and dad and that they knew pretty much everything. It turns out that they are smarter than the average bear, but there are lots of people who are smarter like Dumbledore…and he’s totally a real person right?

About Letting People Influence You

“You shouldn’t care about what people think of you.” “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” 

How many times have we all heard this? That we just shouldn’t care? That we shouldn’t complain about it because the real problem is us and our opinions of ourselves?

The problem with this statement is, humans are built to care about what others think. It’s certainly true that it varies from person to person just how much it affects them, and some people may have social disorders, or have developed mental disorders to cope with trauma, etc. Nevertheless, human beings, as a majority, have evolved to care about each other’s opinions. It was (and still is) a vital part of our survival. Being a person who was considered “weird” or was disliked, ran the risk of making you an outcast, and that made you more vulnerable in general. Humans are social animals, in part, because we developed an awareness that we had strength in numbers.

The fact of the matter is that people are born with a natural inclination to please others, at least in part, for your own survival. I am not suggesting that the rational action to take is to make people like you, or to bend to whatever people say you should be or do. You can still recognize that while the words or disapproval frightens you, hurt your feelings, may hurt your chances in future social endeavors, that it may still be worth it to be true to yourself. Most of us are intelligent enough to realize that while strength in numbers is a good thing, we are no longer cavemen and there are certainly positives to attending goals your own way and even positives in experiencing a certain degree of solitude.

Humans have also evolved the rationale to see when criticism is useful, be it presented in an unkind or kind manner, because there is value in both. I would argue that constructive criticism is often more productive for both the one giving and the one receiving criticism, because it is usually more easily received and accepted and it takes fewer steps for a person to take corrective action when they do not also have to first heal from emotional damage. Actions to correct the mistake, if it was indeed a mistake, are more likely to be taken. However, even information presented cruelly, is not necessarily “wrong” in that the information and may be correct and knowledge taken away from it.

What I try to do, is first accept however it is I’m feeling and say “I’m feeling really hurt about concerned about those words, but that is ok. I accept my feelings.” If you don’t, you’re only adding guilt onto your already anxious mind and irrational expectations of yourself as a moral being. How can one maintain a healthy mindset if one does not set reasonable goals? If you expect something inhuman of yourself, you are setting yourself up for failure.  Next, I try to look at the information rationally. The content (regardless of how it was delivered) may contain helpful knowledge, or it might have been totally worthless crap. Knowing that information rarely makes me feel better, but at least then I know whether or not it is worth it to avoid making the same decision in the future or whether or not it’s worth it to continue dwelling on the issue.

Which brings me to my amended quote:

“You should not allow the irrational opinions of others affect your future actions.”

I would also take care not to dwell on especially hurtful and unhelpful comments. Take note that there is a difference between how the words they said made you feel versus the decision to dwell in thought on them. If you have thought about it and assessed that the information is hurtful and irrational, there is no need to continue the brainstorming further, but that might not mean the pain has gone away. And that is OK. You will feel how you feel. The hurtful words/actions that were said to you might continually pop up. It’s ok, you’re human, you’re a being of social creation. Acknowledge that it hurts you, that it’s still there. Give yourself room to feel however you’re feeling. And then do whatever the fuck you were going to do anyway. Keep being yourself. 

This is obviously more easily said than done, especially if you experience any kind of depression or social injustice. All I can say is to keep putting one foot in front of the other and to try your best to surround yourself with others who believe in you. Just keep going, keep trying. The only constant is change, so if follows that eventually, things will get better. Don’t give up.

Hands

Have you ever noticed how different and expressive two human being’s hands are? We know that no two human’s fingerprints are the same (unless you have an identical twin, but even then your hands will be different from your different activities). Hands tell character, they tell stories.

My hands crack and pop a lot. I have several oddly shaped knuckles that I’ve broken playing rugby and an additional one that I’ve dislocated playing softball. I wouldn’t be surprised if I have arthritis when I’m “too young” to have it. On my third pad on both hands, the ones under my middle fingers, I have calluses from pull-ups (assisted pull-ups, don’t get too excited about it) and free weights. My left hand has calluses on my pointer, middle, and ring fingers from playing guitar.

My mother’s hands are tan from biking. Just the fingertips because she wears finger-gloves. Her fingertips are always sore because she bites them when she’s nervous and she’s nervous a lot. She has long, red nails that are often broken or have additional, accidental paint on them because she’s an artist at the local theater. No one really knows why she bothers to get her nails done because they’re always ruined in a day.

My grandmother’s hands are incredibly soft because she exfoliates and uses expensive lotions to keep them nice. Her skin is lose and her vines are blue and stick out. She wears a class ring and her engagement and wedding ring. The diamond is on the larger side. When I was young and stupid I asked her if I could have it when I died. It’s a regular family joke now. When she speaks to you sincerely, sometimes she will reach out and gently lay her hand on your arm.

My girlfriend’s hands are tiny and lace up with mine perfectly. She has short nails. I think so she won’t pick at them when she’s nervous. Her skin is usually soft, but she complains that sometimes it gets dry. I never notice, but she does and she buys sweet-smelling lotions to keep them moisturized. What I usually notice is her fingers are cold. I’m always trying to warm them up. Her hands and wrists are also strong. She has built up her strength from years of yoga and she’s pretty good at it. Her tiny hands will sometimes support the entirety of the rest of her body during difficult poses in her exercise.

Hands are the tree rings for human beings. They mark what you are. My mother’s hands tell you she’s an active artist, nervous but observant. My grandmother’s hands show her age, her gentleness, her love and loyalty to the ideals of institution, structure, family. My girlfriend’s hands are little, but they are strong. Stress, harsh realities, nothing stops her hands. They just keep working, keep doing their job. I think the marks on our hands tell how we survive. How we live. Make a living. Who the strugglers, the warriors are. Faces are sometimes expressive, but they are often deceptive, they lie. Hands don’t. It is harder to lie with your hands because their past actions, their memories, are marked on the outside for anyone to reflect on while the reflections of the mind are hidden away for only the user to see. I don’t know what my hands say about me. My olive skin and calluses say that I was an active teenager. My guitar calluses that I have an obsession with expressive gesture, an artist perhaps. I wonder what someone else would think of my hands if they saw them? I think we should study and appreciate the beauty in the human hand more in art and between human beings. I think shows how special and individual we all are, expresses how diverse humanity is.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 53 other followers

%d bloggers like this: