On “Black Lives Matter”

On “Black Lives Matter”

BLACK LIVES MATTER.

If hearing that phrase triggers an immediate angry or negative response in you, this post is for you. If hearing that phrase makes you immediately reply with “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter,” this post is for you.

I think for the most part, the negative response people have to “Black Lives Matter” is based on ingrained prejudice, and misunderstanding of what it means. When the movement first started a few years ago, my response was also “All Lives Matter.” It wasn’t because I don’t care about Black people. It wasn’t because I consider any race more or less superior. It was TRULY because I believe all lives matter. I try my very best to treat everyone equally and fight against any personal prejudices I have had hammered into me all the time. I believe that every single human life holds the same value, and that’s how I treat people. So in my mind, “All Lives Matter” is what we should be saying. It shows solidarity. It shows that I stand with everyone, including those being mistreated or marginalized. That is what made sense in my mind.

My way of thinking was in no way about hatred or racism. But it was misguided. And it was because I just didn’t truly understand. It took research, and talking to Black people, and reading about it to help me understand what the movement is truly about. And while I will never fully understand what people of color go through every day, I do feel I have a better grasp on it and am continuing to try to understand and help others understand what it’s all about. So in that spirit, let’s break down what “Black Lives Matter” is really all about.

The Black Lives Matter movement began to develop after the tragic death of Trayvon Martin, and not long after, Mike Brown. The movement was started as a call to action in response to police violence and anti-black racism. From the Black Lives Matter website:

“Four years ago, what is now known as Black Lives Matter Global Network began to organize. It started out as a chapter-based, member-led organization whose mission was to build local power and to intervene when violence was inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. In the years since, we’ve committed to struggling together and to imagining and creating a world free of anti-Blackness, where every Black person has the social, economic, and political power to thrive.”

Does anything about that mission statement indicate that Black people feel they are MORE important than others? That they want MORE rights and liberties than anyone else? That they hate white people and want to destroy them? No…it most certainly does not. And yet, as white people, we still have this inherent negative response to hearing someone say the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” Why? This is a question we should all be asking ourselves, and really sitting with the answer.

I think to really understand further, we also need to break down the popular phrases used by detractors to this movement.

ALL LIVES MATTER

No shit. I’m sorry…but come on. Does the word “duh” mean anything to you? Of course we all know that all lives matter. No one has said otherwise. I think the real problem here is that the phrase “Black Lives Matter” seems to have an invisible “ONLY” attached to the front of it. Even though no one has ever said ONLY Black lives matter, as white people, that is what we hear. It is on us to understand better and try to really hear what is being said. We have to step outside of our own prejudice and listen with our hearts.

I like to compare Black Lives Matter to a triage situation. If there’s a multi-vehicle car accident, when emergency workers arrive on the scene, who are they going to help first? The ones who are the most badly injured, right? Yes, because even though everyone has an injury, the ones who are hurt the worst take first priority. Just like when you go to the emergency room. If you go to the ER for a broken finger, you’re gonna be sitting there for awhile as people with way worse injuries are assessed first. It doesn’t mean that you and your injury don’t matter. It means that you are not in danger of death at the moment, and others are. So basically what it means is that while we all matter, and all lives are important, Black lives are the ones in a trauma situation right now. They are the ones in the most danger right now. So we need to rally around them and make their lives AS important as everyone else’s. Not more important…equally important.

What is most interesting is that while so many want to call Black Lives Matter racist, the truth is as a country we have always rallied around other groups when they were traumatized. When the Boston Marathon bombing happened, what did we do? We flooded our social media with statements and photos of solidarity. Boston Strong. Does that mean all other cities don’t matter? Same with the Las Vegas shootings, 9-11, Hurricane Katrina, even the Paris bombing, and that wasn’t even in America. We all shared these messages of hope and standing with those who were hurting, and trying to lift them up. Sending supplies and donating money and doing what we could to try to help.

It’s not an either/or thing. When there is a crisis, we rally around that particular group or cause. It doesn’t diminish the value of any other group or cause. It just brings awareness to the help that is needed in that particular situation.

Still not making sense? Try these analogies:

  1. If your neighbor’s house was on fire, would you ask the firefighters to spray your house too, because “all houses matter?”
  2. If you were at a fundraising walk for breast cancer, would you shout “all diseases matter?”
  3. If you were at a birthday party, would you insist they celebrate you because “all birthdays matter?”

Also, if you are going to say “All Lives Matter,” then you have to stick by it. You don’t get to pick when all lives matter. They either do, or they don’t. If you say “All Lives Matter,” then don’t demonize Muslims. If you say “All Lives Matter,” then don’t treat all immigrants like illegals and criminals. If you say “All Lives Matter,” then don’t say gay people should burn in hell. If you’re going to say “All Lives Matter,” don’t celebrate children being held in cages, or say they had it coming because they were brought here by parents trying to escape death. If you say All Lives Matter, then what are you doing to help anyone in crisis? Victims of sex trafficking? Children in foster care? Indigenous women being raped and murdered? The children being held in cages? The homeless veterans? You don’t get to choose who matters and who doesn’t. You cannot say All Lives Matter unless you truly mean it.

Next. BLUE LIVES MATTER

Blue lives are not a thing. Now, before your head explodes, let me say this: I have deep appreciation for police officers. I am grateful they exist. I know that most of them are part of the reason I can sleep safely in my bed at night. I also believe that the corrupt ones give them all a bad name, and need to be held accountable for their actions.

But here’s the thing: Being a police officer is a job. It is not a life. Being a police officer is a choice. They know they have chosen a dangerous profession, and they take that risk willingly because they believe in something. At the end of the day though, that uniform comes off. Saying “Blue Lives Matter” in response to “Black Lives Matter” is absurd. You can’t equate the color of someone’s uniform to the color of someone’s skin and champion it for a cause against the Black Lives Matter movement. Police officers get to take off their uniform when they get home. Black people can never take off their skin color. It’s not the same.

It’s also important to recognize this: police officers are upset right now. They’re angry that they are all being judged by the few “bad apples.” That is what Black people face every single day. And even though the shoe is on the other foot now, they still just don’t get it. They’re so mad in fact, that many of them are basically blackmailing the people they’re supposed to be protecting by walking off the job, because they’re upset that fellow officers are being punished for “doing their job.” It is NOT their job to kill the people they are supposed to serve and protect. In fact, their very training teaches them that deadly force is a last resort. It’s time police officers are held to that standard.

Another thing to think about…if you are the person that replies to “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter,” and that doesn’t bother you, your real problem here is the word “Black.”

Here’s the reason why it’s so important to say and acknowledge Black Lives Matter: Because they need to matter just as much as everyone else. You want to say all lives matter? All lives can’t matter if Black lives don’t. It’s important to note that while our country was ideally founded on “all men are created equal,” that didn’t include Black people. When they said “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” that didn’t include Black people. At that point in our country’s history, Black people were considered property, not people. And while many things have changed since then, so much racism and hatred and fear towards Black people still remains. The reason we have to say “Black Lives Matter” is because so many people still don’t understand the meaning of the word “All.”

And finally: Black On Black Crime

Again, not a thing. Do Black people kill other Black people? Yes. Do we see that on the news more often than other killings? Yes. Are Black people portrayed in the media as gangsters who just going around killing each other? Yes. But Black on Black crime IS NOT A THING. What that means is, Black people do not kill other Black people BECAUSE they are Black. White people also primarily kill other white people, yet you never hear anything about “white on white crime.” Why? Because the phrase “Black on Black crime” was invented to further demonize Black people and to place blame on them for the things that happen to them. In an op-ed for The Root, Michael Harriot explains it like this:

“According to the FBI’s uniform crime-reporting data for 2016, 90.1 percent of black victims of homicide were killed by other blacks, while 83.5 percent of whites were killed by other whites. While no life is inconsequential, the statistical evidence shows that—just as for blacks when it comes to black-on-black crime—whites are mostly victimized by other whites, with the vast majority of white murders committed by whites. This is because most victims of crime personally know their assailants. And while this is a truth across racial boundaries, no one ever talks about “white-on-white crime.”

Here’s a link to the full article. It’s a great read. https://www.theroot.com/why-we-never-talk-about-black-on-black-crime-an-answer-1819092337?utm_medium=sharefromsite&utm_source=_facebook&fbclid=IwAR0Q67qHkF-XpTVg0iCUnlQBvJToFYFXPIosikgxsZWmnn2Up8pv3ylLdlc

Even though we have made progress as a country, we still aren’t and never have prioritized Black lives as much as we have white lives. White people have a leg up without even trying or knowing it. I heard one person compare it to being left-handed. If you’re trying to use a pair of scissors, it’s going to be harder for you. Even though you may have everything that the right-handed person next to you has, you are automatically at a disadvantage because the scissors were not designed for you. They were designed for right-handed people. You’re already behind through not fault of your own.

It’s in everything. From what we’re taught in school, to what we see in entertainment, to what we see on the news, what we see in our government, and even how we are raised in our communities.

It’s no accident that: You learned about Helen Keller instead of W.E.B, DuBoisYou learned about the Watts and L.A. Riots, but not Tulsa or Wilmington. You learned that George Washington’s dentures were made from wood, rather than the teeth from slaves. You learned about black ghettos, but not about Black Wall Street. You learned about the New Deal, but not “red lining.”You learned about Tommie Smith’s fist in the air at the 1968 Olympics, but not that he was sent home the next day and stripped of his medals. You learned about “black crime,” but white criminals were never lumped together and discussed in terms of their race. You learned about “states rights” as the cause of the Civil War, but not that slavery was mentioned 80 times in the articles of secession. Privilege is having history rewritten so that you don’t have to acknowledge uncomfortable facts. Racism is perpetuated by people who refuse to learn or acknowledge this reality. You have a choice.”

– Jim Golden

It all comes down to this: As long as we continue to treat Black people as less than, we will continue to have the discourse we are experiencing right now. We must learn to value ALL life a much as our own. We must remember that God created us in His image. We are all human. We all bleed the same color. We must acknowledge and believe that we are all equally valuable no matter what color we are, where we come from, what belief system we have, no matter what. We don’t all have to agree. But we have to value all human life the same. Or we’re doomed. Black people have had enough. They are ready to burn this whole place to the ground just to get equal rights. And I don’t blame them.

So when you hear “Black Lives Matter,” remember this: It’s not about superiority; it’s about equality. No one is asking for more. They’re asking for what the rest of us already have.

And that’s on Black Lives Matter.

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is no Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

-Galatians 3:26-28

On the Confederate flag…

On the Confederate flag…

Once upon a time, in a not so distant past, our country was divided in half when the Confederate States seceded from the Union in 1860 and started the Civil War. The Confederacy consisted of 11 states led by Jefferson Davis from 1861-1865.

On March 21, 1861, Confederate VP Alexander Stephens described the ideology of the Confederacy to be “based upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man: that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural condition.” He also stated that anti-slavery “fanatics” were attempting to “make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.” He goes even further to quote Bible verses to support his belief that black citizens are inferior to white citizens, and that “it is not for us to inquire into the wisdom of His ordinances, or to question them.” This was part of a speech known as the Cornerstone Address. Follow this link to read it in its entirety. It’s worth the read to get a full grasp on the insanity that was the Confederacy.

https://www.battlefields.org/learn/primary-sources/cornerstone-speech

It’s an unequivocal truth that the Confederacy was founded on and motivated by white supremacy. Their only reason for existence was because they wanted to keep their slaves. They believed black people were inferior. THEY WERE RACISTS. There is no way around that fact. No way to sugar-coat it or explain it away. People died just so these states could fight to keep their slaves. It’s estimated that around 620,000 men died in the line of duty. In today’s numbers, that would be around 6 million people. And that is just soldier casualties. That doesn’t include civilians.

As time has passed, the Confederacy and it’s reason for existence has been romanticized by some, and the history is sometimes conveniently rewritten. People make claims that the states weren’t motivated by slave ownership, but rather by opposition to “liberalism” and the need for states to maintain financial independence. Churching it up doesn’t change the facts though. “Maintaining financial independence” meant the south relied on slave labor on plantations, which is where their money was made. If there is no one to pick the cotton or take care of the livestock or harvest the food, there would be no income. In fact, Mississippi’s Declaration of Secession stated that “none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun” that makes cotton flourish. While there were other financial reasons that the south seceded, the overwhelmingly main reason was so they may continue to own slaves.

During it’s 5 year existence, the Confederacy used a variety of different flags. In fact, they had 3 different official national flags: The “stars and bars,” the “stainless banner,” and the “blood-stained” banner. The one that became most associated with them was the “battle flag.” This flag was actually a rejected design, and was never an official national flag of the Confederacy. The Sons of the Confederacy adopted it as a symbol of “southern heritage,” thus trying to change the original narrative of what the Confederacy was founded on. After the war, the battle flag was tied to the memory of the war. As time went on, it was rarely displayed. That started to change in the 1930’s, when Congress nearly passed an anti-lynching bill. In 1948, a segregationist group called the Dixiecrats used the flag in their political campaign, and thus spurred the flag’s popularity. It then began being used as a response to the civil rights movements in the 1950’s and 1960’s. and has continued to be a symbol of racism, used by white supremacists and the KKK throughout history, and is still used for that purpose today.

So all of this begs the question…why would anyone own/fly/wear/celebrate the Confederate flag, or want statues and monuments of it’s leaders? Knowing that they all believed they were the superior race, that they owned slaves and would continue to do so had they won, why would anyone support that to this day?

The majority of the rhetoric surrounding this is that the flag is a sign of “southern heritage” and “southern pride.” This makes absolutely no sense to me. And here’s why:

  • The soldiers who bore the American flag were killed by those who bore the Confederate flag. The irony that the Confederate flag represents patriotism or any American values is extraordinary.
  • Why would a flag that represents being a traitor to your country be a sign of patriotism or pride?
  • The Confederacy lasted for 5 years. 5 years. Barely the length of a college education. And they lost the war. Why would you celebrate that? Ironically, the same people displaying Confederate flags are often the same people complaining about participation trophies. The Confederacy lost. There is no participation trophy or any reason to brag. Take the loss and move on..
  • Waving the Confederate flag as a sign of “southern pride” is the equivalent of waving a Swastika and calling it “European pride.”
  • You don’t see any Americans flying a British flag or building statues of Benedict Arnold. Why? Because the British lost and Arnold was a traitor.
  • There are people all over the country, outside of the south, that tout the Confederate flag image. It’s not your heritage. It’s an excuse to be racist.

The same goes for monuments of Confederate soldiers. Yes, it is important to remember our past and learn from it. However, these men are not people to be celebrated or memorialized. These statues belong in museums, where they can be properly contextualized. Where they can be explained for what they were, and what they mean today. These statues were not designed to celebrate the Confederacy. They were erected in the Jim Crow era and were designed to promote white supremacy and scare African Americans. There is a distinct difference between remembering and memorializing, and we must learn and understand that difference.

It’s important to remember that every Confederate soldier and representative took up arms against the United States. They were traitors. And just like we don’t celebrate Benedict Arnold, we must not celebrate or memorialize these men.

I know what you’re thinking: It’s a slippery slope. If we take these things away, what’s next? Washington? Jefferson? Franklin? I mean, they all owned slaves, right? Who’s to say they won’t be the next ones to be demonized? That’s a false narrative. It’s something racist people say and the media uses to make you think we are erasing history. No one is trying to erase history. They are trying to stop the idolization of racist traitors. The difference between these Confederate symbols and our founding fathers is that our founding fathers are remembered and respected for more. Freeing a nation. Writing a Constitution. Doing what, at the time, was what was needed and shaped our country. The fact that they owned slaves was despicable, and shameful, but they are also remembered for the good achievements they had. What did Robert E. Lee or any other major Confederate player do for the greater good? Nothing. That’s the difference.

Bottom line: The Confederate flag is not a symbol of your patriotism. It is not a symbol of your heritage. And it should not be a symbol of your pride. It is, however, a symbol of white supremacy. Of systemic racism. Of tyranny. Of traitors. Of losers. Of death. It has no place in this country, or in the hearts and minds of any true American citizen.

Lay down your sign of a traitorous group that lasted for only 5 years. Pick up the symbol that is meant to and should represent us all, and advocate for equal justice for every American citizen under that flag.

And that’s on the Confederate flag…

Sources:

https://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/confederate-states-of-america

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confederate_States_of_America

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/aug/06/pride-and-prejudice-the-americans-who-fly-the-confederate-flag

On White Privilege…

On White Privilege…

Hi friends. I’m going to be doing a short series of posts to address some of the things going on in our crazy world today. I am by no means an expert on anything. I am, however, an empath. I feel things. I feel other people’s things. And I am the kind of person who still believes in the good. In romance, in miracles, in right and wrong, in equality and justice for all. I will keep holding on to those ideals and fight for them to my very last breath. I am NOT a bleeding-heart, liberal snowflake. I’m not fragile, I’m not overly sensitive. I am a believer in human rights. I believe that the strongest thing you can do as a human is to show empathy and kindness to others. There is nothing more courageous than love and compassion. That makes me one of the strongest people you will ever know. And I believe that even though our nation is so polarized and divided right now, that we all have good in us and we should try to rediscover it. Now, more than ever, we just need to remember to be kind humans. And I pray that someday, we all strive for freedom and equality and justice and fairness for every single American. That is the principle on which our country was founded, after all.

I’m going to say some things that will make you uncomfortable. That is the point. A lot of these things made me uncomfortable until I decided to face them, to educate myself, and to put myself in the place of others.

On bias…

Let’s start with something simple: Bias. We all have biases. No one is exempt, no one is free from it. It’s an inherent thing that we all have. And I don’t just mean racial bias. There are many kinds of bias. Most of us get ours from how we were raised, who we grew up with, where we went to school, what neighborhoods we lived in, what we saw on television, any number of things. We all HAVE biases, and we all EXPERIENCE bias. Now, before you get defensive and start yelling that you have no bias towards anyone, ask yourself these questions. Give yourself a check mark for each of these questions that you answer with a “yes.”

  1. Have you ever crossed the street or walked another direction to avoid passing someone that made you feel uncomfortable simply by looking at them?
  2. Have you ever looked at any of your neighbors, and based on appearance alone, felt they “don’t belong here?”
  3. Have you every seen a person with a lot of tattoos and thought they were “trashy?”
  4. Have you ever looked at a woman in a revealing outfit and immediately thought she was a slut?
  5. Have you ever seem a mom with a kid throwing a tantrum and thought “I would never let my child behave that way?”
  6. Have you ever heard someone speaking a foreign language and became angry at them for not speaking English? Did you automatically assume because they’re speaking their native language that they don’t know how to speak English?
  7. Have you ever seen someone pay for groceries with an EBT card and think they’re lazy people who just don’t want to work?
  8. Have you ever seen a beat down car parked in your neighborhood and thought “that car can’t belong to someone who lives here?”

What if I told you…

…the “suspicious” man is walking alone down the street because he’s walking to work and he left the one family car with his wife in case there’s an emergency with the kids?

…the family of a different ethnicity that moved in down the street is actually a cardiologist and his family who moved here to work at a county hospital and serve the uninsured and needy?

…the woman with all the tattoos has a PHD in children’s psychology and runs an elite private school for gifted children?

…the woman in the short dress is an orphaned, 18 year old waitress working her way through college, who has 4 outfits total in her wardrobe and is just doing her best to make ends meet?

…the woman with the screaming child is a mother of 4, who took her one autistic child on an outing to expose him to social situations, and it was just too much for him and he melted down?

…the family speaking Spanish to each other were actually all born in America, and English is their first language, but they like to speak to each other in Spanish to honor their heritage and expose their children to their native language?

…the woman with food stamps is fostering 5 children with nowhere else to go, and therefore receives money from the state to help feed and clothe the extra people she has graciously taken into her home?

…the old and worn down car belongs to a family with a 6 figure income, and are saving every hard-earned penny to get out of debt so they can pay cash for a new car after they are completely debt-free?

If you knew these things about these people, would it change your viewpoint? Probably. But how could you possibly know that from a glance? You can’t. Each and every one of us has some kind of implicit bias in our minds, and the only way to get rid of it is to acknowledge it and try to understand better. To try to remember everyone has a story, everyone is going through something. We don’t know everyone’s story, and we shouldn’t make assumptions to fit our own biased narratives. That’s the first step, to acknowledge the things you are biased about, and do what you can to have a better understanding of why it might be incorrect.

On White Privilege…

“White Privilege” is a very triggering term to many of us white folks. It has the ability to send people into a blind rage and cause fights among friends. And I will be the first one to raise my hand and admit that it offended me when it first started trending. I honestly wish it had a different name, because I think people hear the word “privilege” and immediately associate it with just being handed things. It triggers an immediate negative response in most white people. Hearing the term the first time made me feel immediately defensive. Here’s why:

I did not grow up as what most people would call “privileged.” Until I started high school, I was mostly raised by a single mother. She could barely make ends meet. I never had fancy clothes, or the newest tech. I didn’t have extravagant birthday parties or go on exciting vacations. Most of my clothes and toys were second hand. I shared a room with my little brother most of my life, until my mother re-married. We. Were. Poor.

I have had many, many struggles throughout my life. My early childhood had a lot of trauma and stress. I have been sexually assaulted. I have been treated less than because I’m a woman. I have been a single mother. I have had to choose between buying life-saving medication or paying rent. I have known loss and struggle and heartache, and I continue to thrive in spite of all that. In my mind, no amount of “privilege” had anything to do with it, and I took offense to anyone saying so. I never once believed that the word “privilege” belonged to someone with my story.

However, once I began to listen and really try to understand what people of color were saying when they used the term, it really began to sink in.

READ THIS STATEMENT AND ABSORB IT:

White privilege DOES NOT mean you have never struggled.

Let me say it again: White privilege does not mean you have never struggled. It has nothing to do with choices that you have made. It doesn’t mean that you haven’t suffered adversity in your life. It doesn’t mean you didn’t work damn hard to get where you are. What it means is that of none of those struggles happened to you because of the color of your skin. It’s a built-in advantage you have, simply because of your whiteness. It’s an uncomfortable fact that we MUST face: White skin affords us a lot more luxuries than we even realize. It allows us to have things that shouldn’t even be considered luxuries, they are just basic human rights, yet people of color typically do not enjoy those same privileges. It doesn’t mean anyone hates you because you are white. It doesn’t mean you should hate yourself, or feel guilty because you are white. No one has a choice in what race they were born as. No one is asking you to feel guilty SIMPLY because you are white.

What it does mean is that you are awarded a certain amount of benefits and safeties that many people of color are not. It means that statistically speaking:

  • You will not be considered suspicious simply because of the color of your skin.
  • If you commit a crime, you will likely get a lesser sentence than a person of color who committed the same crime.
  • You will have a better relationship with law enforcement than people of color.
  • You will be considered more educated or capable than a person of color with your same education and abilities.

And although this privilege does often contribute to racial bias, it is not necessarily synonymous with racism. Being white and the benefits that come with it do not automatically make you a racist. Your refusal to acknowledge that you will almost always receive better treatment because you are white, and your refusal to care or fight against that does.

Privilege exists when one group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to, rather than because of anything they’ve done or failed to do. Access to privilege doesn’t determine one’s outcomes, but it is definitely an asset that makes it more likely that whatever talent, ability, and aspirations a person with privilege has will result in something positive for them.” ~Peggy McIntosh

Still don’t believe me? Still think it’s something people made up to make white people feel bad? Still think skin color doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things? If you do, I implore you to really ask yourself the following questions, and sit for awhile with any discomfort you feel with the answers.

  • Have you ever gone to the makeup or hair care aisle of a store and not been able to immediately see products tailored for your hair or skin type? Without having to find a specially labeled “ethnic section?”
  • Have you ever seen a band-aid labeled “flesh-colored” that wasn’t some shade of your skin color?
  • Have you ever had someone doubt or question your intellectual ability, education level, credit score or ability to buy something, or salary because you have white skin?
  • Have you ever been followed, interrogated, or randomly searched by police officers because you are white, with no reason at all behind it?
  • When you have watched Disney movies or sitcoms throughout your life, have the majority of the characters been people of color, or have they mostly looked like you?
  • In school, was the history of white Americans the majority of curriculum?
  • Do you ever wake up and fear that your child or spouse won’t return home that evening because of their white skin?
  • Have you ever worried that you would not be hired, or passed over for a promotion because you’re white? Have you ever been awarded a position simply because of an affirmative action policy?
  • Have you ever made a mistake or achieved an accomplishment and have the reason for that failure or success attributed to being white?
  • Do you have to think about and be prepared to advocate for the color of your skin every single day of your life?

While you’re asking yourself these questions, check out this list from Peggy McIntosh on white privilege:

If you are a white person in America, you benefit from white privilege. This is not an opinion, no matter how hard some people try to make it one. It is a fact. You reap certain benefits, and sometimes those benefits come at the expense of others. It is something that has been present throughout the history of this country. And it’s something we need to understand, acknowledge, be uncomfortable with, say out loud, and fight against. Being white doesn’t make you inherently evil or racist. But if you don’t recognize it and stand against systemic racism, if you continue to reap those benefits knowing others don’t, and you don’t care, then you a part of the problem. And if you think standing up for justice and equal rights for all Americans is “radical” or “fragile” or “snowflake” behavior, then you need to adjust your perception of what normal is verses what it should be.

And that’s on white privilege.

Quarantine Adventures – Day 1

Quarantine Adventures – Day 1

I think by now we are all pretty well-versed in the Coronavirus conversation.  So I might as well just get right to it!

As I’ve thought in-depth about the pandemic we are faced with, I came to the conclusion that this will be an historical event in our lifetime, and will probably be studied in many more lifetimes to come.  So I thought, as someone who is going to self-quarantine as much as possible, why not chronicle this journey?  We are facing a very interesting social experiment.  All of us, especially the extroverts, are having to readjust our everyday lives and learn to be satisfied within the 4 walls of our homes, and the people inside them.  We watch movies like The Shining, and talk and joke about cabin fever as if it’s this obscure thing, that in modern day society we’ll never have to worry about.  And some ways, that is true, in regards to modern technology.  The concept of being shut in with no contact with the outside world is a scenario that at this point, is long gone.  Still, it’s a huge shift going from everyday activities like work, school, shopping, etc, to never leaving your home.  It’s going to be very interesting to see how we all learn to thrive (fingers crossed!) in these times.

A little background on my situation:  I own a house, where I live with my husband, pets, and every other weekend, my teenage daughter.  I work in healthcare, and also have Type 1 Diabetes.  When all this first started, I wasn’t that concerned.  But as it has escalated so rapidly, I have made the decision to self-quarantine as much as possible.  My immune system puts me too at risk, and if I get this, even if I don’t die, it will take me down for a very long time.  And I’ll be of no use to anyone.  Better to hunker down and wait it out and keep myself and others healthy.  My personal belief is that this is what we should all be doing.

Fortunately, with modern technology and an understanding boss, I am able to do the majority of my work from home.  Especially as our patient load right now is very light.  So here I am, ready to ride this out at home, and journal it along the way.

So here goes:  Self-quarantine:  Day 1

Although I have been staying home as much as possible for about the past 6 days, today was my first full day of not leaving the house, with the exception of walking the dog. (Which I highly recommend, even just for the 10-15 minutes of fresh air.)

I slept in a little, since I didn’t have to actually leave the house.  Got up around 7:45 and responded to some work texts.  While in my pajamas.  Score!

I did about 4-5 hours of work, sporadically.  My husband is also working from home, and we only have one office.  So I am set up at the dining room table.  I sit there to access our patient records, and can do most everything else from my laptop.  So that’s a bonus.  Down side, my husband’s booming voice echoes throughout the house, and all he does is talk on the phone, so if I want peace and quiet, gotta wear the headphones.  All in all not too bad.

I had a mimosa or two in the middle of the day.  Working from home does have its perks!  (Don’t worry, I was off the clock!)  I watched Halloween, my favorite movie of all time that never gets old.  And besides work stress, just tried to take it easy.

This evening I watched episode 2 of The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez on Netflix.  This show is NOT for the faint of heart.  It’s an important issue and case to know about, but man it is so hard to watch!  No bingeing this one.  One episode a day for sure!

Tonight my husband and I will probably commence with our usual routine.  Binge watching The Office and chilling on the couch.  I am making a mental list of things I want to get done during this time period, so we shall see if I can get through them.  Here are the main ones:

  • Read that stack of books I’ve collected
  • Work on the book I’m writing
  • Send letters and cards to friends and family to brighten their days
  • Deep clean the house
  • Regular naps
  • Perfect my cake decorating skills
  • Have fun with the hubs!!

Now I’m off to order delivery from Taste of Asia (trying to support local business!) and watch The Office.  Hope everyone is having a great day, all things considered.  Until tomorrow…

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How Not To Go Crazy While Under Quarantine

How Not To Go Crazy While Under Quarantine

So the Coronavirus has hit your area, and you’re now stuck at home under quarantine.  Introverts, your time has finally come!  The homebodies are ready to continue being just that.

But what about us extroverts, the people that like to be out in society and around others?  How are we to deal with being stuck at home, possibly alone, for up to 14 days, if not longer?  How do we not go completely insane?

Well, I’m  here to tell my fellow extroverts, this can indeed be our time as well!  We just have to shift our mindsets a little.  This can be the break you never knew you always wanted! So in preparation for impending doom, I have created a list of things that I totally intend on doing, should I have to be quarantined.

1. First and foremost:  NAPS! 

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This is your time to take back all the naps you refused as a kid.  The older I get, the more I have come to embrace taking naps as just part of my self-care routine.  In the past, I always felt guilty about taking naps, because there’s always something that needs to be done.  But guess what?  You’re forcibly stuck at home, so there’s no reason at all to feel bad about the extra sleep!

Now, if you’re one of those people who can’t just lay down and take a nap, not to worry!  I have suggestions!

  1. In my experience, the easiest and most fun way to get into nap mode is a little “afternoon delight” with your significant other.  Or hell, even with just yourself!  I don’t know about you guys, but nothing makes me feel better after a big O than a big nap!
  2. If that isn’t an option, or not something you’re in the mood for, here’s the second best option:  BOOZE!  I recommend 1 to 1 and 1/2 glasses of wine.  It’s just enough to make you sleepy, but not enough that you’ll feel like trash when you wake up. It’s a perfect nap inducer!

2.  READ!

reading

You know all those books you have sitting around, just waiting to be picked up and devoured?  Now’s the time to do it!  This is most definitely one of my main quarantine goals, if it happens.  So many books, so little time to read…until now!

Don’t own many books?  No problem!  Check out Audible or Kindle Unlimited.  Also check your local library website.  Many public libraries now have the option to check out books online through an app.  And for free, I might add!

3.  BRUSH UP ON YOUR CULINARY SKILLS.

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Whether you’re like Gordon Ramsey in the kitchen, or more like our friend Hillary here, there’s always new things to learn when it comes to cooking and baking.  And with all this free time, there are tons of new things to try.  Find recipes and tutorials at Food Network Kitchen

Challenge yourself, experiment, go wild!  It’s all in good fun with, and no pressure.  Home with your family?  Have a Top Chef style challenge.  Give everyone the same ingredients and they each have to come up with their own dish.  Home alone?  Learn how to bake that cake or pie you’ve always wanted to.  Or learn how to make homemade bread.  With the internet and all the foodies out there, the possibilities are endless!

4. BINGE WATCH THE SHOW!! (OR MOVIES)

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How many of us have shows or movies that we hear everyone talk about, and want to watch, but just don’t have the time to commit to it?  Well….here is your time!  And with all the different streaming services available, there’s bound to be something for everyone.  Binge those shows!  Catch up on those Oscar nominated movies you always swore you’d watch.  And do it guilt-free!!

If there’s nothing that immediately comes to mind for you, here are a few personal suggestions from me:

  • The Office (Netflix)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
  • Jack Ryan (Amazon Video)
  • Ozark (Netflix)
  • Stranger Things (Netflix)
  • You (Netflix)
  • Any True Crime documentary on Hulu, Amazon, or Netlfix
  • Hunters (Amazon Video)
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Video)
  • The Stranger (Netflix)
  • Anything on Disney Plus!

5.  INVOKE THE KONMARI METHOD

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Marie Kondo the s**t out of your house!  We all have way too much stuff.  We hold on to things, even when we no longer have use for them.  Use this time to reflect on your belongings, get rid of some stuff, and get organized!  Move some furniture around.  Redecorate. Or if you’re not ready to part with things, do a deep cleaning of your home.  You’ll be surprised how much better you’ll feel in your home after.  If you need tips, check out Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix, or her Konmari website.

And if those aren’t enough to keep you busy, here are more ways to fill your time:

  • At home spa day
  • Exercise!!
  • Day drink
  • Clean out apps on your phone and computer
  • Learn a new skill
  • Surf Zillow and find your dream home
  • Make a bucket list
  • Meditate
  • Write!  A book, a journal entry, a blog post, anything you want!
  • Get organized with lists
  • Sex, sex, and more sex
  • Revamp your budget
  • Call someone you haven’t talked to in awhile
  • Write letters or cards to friends and family
  • Listen to some podcasts (My faves: My Favorite Murder, Crime Junkie, This Podcast Will Kill You, Office Ladies, and Marriage & Martinis.)
  • Try that DIY project you’ve always wanted to do
  • Leave online reviews for the businesses you love
  • Color –  adult coloring books are my jam!
  • Create some new music playlists
  • Play board games or video games
  • Learn more about something in history that intrigues you
  • Do a puzzle
  • Check out the website All That Is Interesting. You’re welcome

Most importantly, do what makes you happy. This will be temporary.  And remember, you will get through it.  You might as well enjoy yourself as much as possible while you do!

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UN-Fertilized

UN-Fertilized

Growing up, I always knew more than anything that I wanted to be a wife and a mother.  I think that overwhelming desire can be traced back to my early childhood, which was not exactly what you would call “stable.” It was filled with a lot of heartache and stress. Fortunately, things turned around during my early teen years, and everything really settled into a routine.

I don’t harbor any blame or resentment about any of that, but I know that it was the driving force behind me wanting to have that “perfect family” and do things differently.  My parents were very young, and the deck was definitely stacked against them.  I love my mom and dad and I know that they did the best they could with what they had.  I think I turned out exceptionally well, all things considered. It’s taken me a long time to get to this point, but I know my early upbringing created the resolve in me to have a different kind of life for my future family. To give my kids the childhood experiences that I didn’t have, or at least felt I didn’t,  I longed for that perfect, cookie cutter life.  I wanted the fairy tale.

I quickly learned things don’t usually work out that way.  My daughter was conceived when I was 25 on a drunken night of unprotected sex.  We tried to make it work for her sake, but it ultimately ended when she was a year old.  I was a single mom at 26 who still hadn’t finished her college degree and whose career choices were slim.  How’s that for a fairy tale?

Then one day, my fairy tale finally arrived.  He wasn’t neatly packaged in a nice simple box with a beautiful bow like I’d planned.  He was rough around the edges, a bit jaded, and extremely stubborn.  But he was the second chance I had prayed for. It took time, and trust, and courage, and tears, (and a little gentle nudging on my part) but the fairy tale finally came to fruition.  I married the love of my life.  We were buying a house and planning to expand our family.  Everything was finally working out the way I’d always dreamed it would.

I stopped taking my birth control pills 4 months before the wedding, because I’d always heard how it stays in your system for awhile after you stop it.  I didn’t know if it was true or not, but it didn’t matter.  Why not get a head start?  I was 35, I wasn’t getting any younger.  I was ready to get this party started before the ink on the marriage license had even dried.

And then…nothing.  I dotted all my “I’s” and crossed all my “T’s.”  I did everything I was supposed to do.  Tracked ovulation, basal body temperature, tried to reduce alcohol intake,  kept my blood sugar numbers nice and tight, (type 1 diabetes, whole other discussion.)  But no baby ever came.  Every gyno visit was normal, both my husband and I did some tests, and everything came back clear.  First a year went by, then two, then it was four, and now it’s almost seven.  And still no sign of those blue lines that every wannabe mom prays to see.  There was just…nothing.

Why couldn’t I get pregnant?  I didn’t understand.  What was wrong with me?  I was doing everything right.  The doctors said I was fine.  So we just kept trying.  After some serious discussion, we decided against medical intervention.  First, because it’s extremely costly, and second, because it’s stressful on a body and a marriage.  And I think my husband really just wanted everything to happen naturally.  I think he believed it would.  I don’t think he ever doubted that I would get pregnant.  That, unfortunately, didn’t turn out to be the case.  But why?  What was happening to me?  The unfairness of it all left me enraged.

Then one day, I heard a phrase I’d never heard before: Secondary Infertility.

You may be asking  yourself “What does that even mean?”  So, before I move on, let’s try to define what I’m talking about, at least in the literal sense.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Secondary Infertility as “When a woman is unable to bear a child, either due to the inability to become pregnant, or the inability to carry a pregnancy to a live birth following either a previous pregnancy or previous ability to carry a child to live birth.”  So what does that mean, really?  It means you got pregnant or have had one or more babies, and now it won’t happen again.  But no one talks about this, even though it’s actually pretty common.  1 in 6 women experience secondary infertility.

Although my first pregnancy was unplanned, I ended up with an amazing daughter that I love more than life itself.  But since it happened so easily, I couldn’t wrap my head around why I couldn’t get pregnant again.  The first time I actually planned it, and really wanted it, and was so excited for it, and it wouldn’t happen.

There’s not a lot known about secondary infertility.  There are many things that could contribute to it.  Age, weight, stress on the body from a previous pregnancy, hormones, or the one that seems to plague me…the unexplained.  The ever elusive reason that just…is.  Unexplained infertility.  It’s the most frustrating and heartbreaking diagnosis, because there is no fix.  It’s just the way things are.

What is a person supposed to do with that knowledge?  How do you reconcile the previous ability to get pregnant with the current status of not being able to? Most people don’t even know it’s a “thing,” and also quickly discount it with the “At least you have one” mentality.  Yes, you’re right, I do have one.  And I’m eternally grateful.  I know there are many families that never get that gift.  That is one of the things that makes this so much more devastating.  You’re made to feel like you can’t feel the pain of infertility, because if you had a baby, you aren’t “infertile.”  And you can’t grieve the loss of the children you wanted, because at least you were able to have one.  Any grief you exhibit is immediately squashed by the plights of those who had it worse than you.

But the truth is, no one else gets to define your pain for you.  It’s not like a pie, and the person who’s suffered the most gets the biggest slice.  Another person’s pain doesn’t make yours any less real.  It’s all relative.

It’s taken me awhile to understand that, and be able to feel my grief over it, and let go of all the guilt that comes with it. I know now that it’s not going to happen.  The ship has sailed.  But it becomes difficult to deal with sometimes.  And it just sneaks up on you. It’s the pain and guilt that seep in every time someone I know announces their pregnancy.  Or gives birth.  Sometimes it feels like I’m leading a double life.  There’s the me that is truly, genuinely over the moon excited and happy for my friends.  Who can’t wait to see the babies, and if I’m lucky enough, be a part of their lives.  I share in that joy with all of my heart.  Then there’s the me that is heartbroken.  The me that is sad and bitter, and yes, I’ll say it out loud, jealous.  The me that longs for what they are experiencing, and longs even more for the future that comes with it.  I hate that person, because it all adds up to guilt.  But I’m starting to realize that I can still feel pure joy for someone, and still have my own feelings of sadness about what I’ve lost.  It doesn’t make me less of a friend or a bad person.

Still, it can be tough.  In addition to the joy your expectant parent friends are experiencing, there’s also the endless, unsolicited commentary that comes with having an only child.  The “She’s still an only child?” or “Why haven’t you given her a sibling?” and “You need to have more kids to fill up that big house you live in.”  and of course, “You don’t want her to grow up as an only child, do you?” I’m honestly still learning to handle those questions with grace, instead of anger.

Probably the hardest part for me, though, is to have to stand in front of the man I married and not be able to give him the children he wants. The guilt I feel over that is immeasurable. It feels like the ultimate failure when your body won’t do what it was created to do. And for the longest time, we didn’t discuss it. It was, at least for me, just this awkward, unaddressed elephant that follows us into every room.  Instead of talking it through and leaning on each other, we were dealing with on our own. In our own ways, but still alone.  But who does that serve? If we want to make our peace with it, we have to face it, no matter how difficult it may be.   We have to face that cloud that comes over us every time a friend gets pregnant, or we spend time with babies, or when someone asks us when we’re having more. The realization that it will just be us, for the rest of our lives.

If you have a friend struggling with infertility (TRUST ME, YOU DO) the best thing you can do for them is be caring and supportive of their grief, but also, in my opinion, keep living your best life with the family you have.  Be thankful.  Cherish those blessings.  As much as I may hurt when I see others around me having babies, I also feel so much excitement for them and the journey they are on.  I would never begrudge them that.  Seeing happy families gives me joy. And as cliche as it sounds, I truly do believe everything happens for a reason, and that God has another plan for my life than I had for myself.

If you yourself are struggling with infertility, I beg you to always keep close to your heart these two vital truths:

1. It is NOT your fault. You are NOT a failure.

2. You are still a good person if you feel envy and sadness while at the same time feeling joy for someone who is expecting. IT IS NORMAL AND OKAY.

I’m learning how to accept this fact of my life and make the best of it. I don’t want to scar my future with pain over things I cannot control. Besides…turns out there are some perks with being the parent of only one child.  But that’s a topic for another day.  🙂

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Silver Linings-True Crimes That Inspired Change, Part 1

Silver Linings-True Crimes That Inspired Change, Part 1

I am a die-hard fan of true crime.  I can’t get enough of it. And nowadays with the endless number of shows and podcasts about true crime, (shoutout to My Favorite Murder!) our society is currently saturated with it.  But it is something that I have been intrigued by for as long as I can remember.  I was an OG murderino!

There are many different things about these stories that interest me.  The psychology of it all is a big one.  What makes a person kill?  What is it inside a person that turns them into a monster?  That is one thing I’ve always wished there was more research and findings about.  The other thing I always want to know more about is what can be done to prevent these crimes from happening again?  From every tragedy, I hope for some kind of silver lining.  At the end of the day, these are real people and real families whose lives were changed forever because someone decided to take a life.  That should never be forgotten in the midst of all the drama and intrigue of the stories.

So I decided to chronicle some of my favorite crimes that prompted actual change in laws and law enforcement.  While these stories are tragic, the families of these victims are also heroes.  They stood up for their loved ones and lobbied for change so that other families won’t experience the same loss and heartache.

First on my list:  The murder of Jacob Wetterling.

On October 22nd, 1989, in St .Joseph Minnesota, 11 year old Jacob Wetterling, his brother Trevor, and their friend Aaron rode their bikes to the local Tom Thumb to rent a video.

As they were riding home, a masked man, later identified as Danny Heinrich, came out of a driveway and approached the boys with a loaded revolver. Heinrich was driving in his car when he saw the boys headed towards the store.  He then turned his car around and parked to wait for the boys to return.

He ordered them to throw their bikes in a ditch and lie face down on the ground.  He then asked each boy how old they were.  Trevor was told to run towards the woods and not to look back, otherwise he would be shot.  He then ordered Jacob and Aaron to stand and face him.  Aaron was told to run away, and given the same threats as Trevor.

Heinrich forced Jacob into his car and handcuffed him.   He drove to a remote location approximately 30 miles away, where he sexually assaulted Jacob before shooting him twice, killing him.  He then buried Jacob’s body, but returned a year later and moved the body after seeing Jacob’s red jacket was showing through the dirt.

27 years later…

Although Heinrich was questioned in December of 1989, there was no real evidence to link him to the crime.  The investigation would go on to be considered seriously botched. Jacob’s disappearance remained unsolved until the fall of 2016 when Heinrich confessed to killing Jacob, after becoming a person of interest when he was arrested in 2015 on child pornography charges.  He also confessed to the kidnapping and sexual assault of 12 year old Jared Scheierl, 9 months before he murdered Jacob.  Authorities had believed the two cases were connected because of many similarities in the crimes.  Police were able to physically connect him to that case in 2015 with DNA found on Scheierl’s sweatshirt he was wearing at the time of the attack, but they were not able to prosecute him because the statue of limitations had passed.

Heinrich’s confession was part of a plea deal in which he plead guilty to one of the 25 child pornography charges brought against him.  In exchange for this plea, he agreed to lead investigators to Jacob’s body and testify to the details of Jacob’s death.  In addition, prosecutors agreed, with the agreement of the Wetterlings, not to charge him with Jacob’s murder.  Heinrich was sentenced to the maximum of 20 years in prison on the child pornography charge.

The fallout of tragedy:

The failure on the part of authorities to solve the case changed the lives of parents and children all across the nation.  Parents stopped letting their children go out alone.  “Stranger Danger” became almost a hysteria.  Kids saw PSA’s and after school specials about not talking to strangers or accepting rides from people in white vans.  Kids faces started showing up on milk cartons and parents began fingerprinting their kids in case they disappeared.  As a child that grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, I remember “stranger danger” being an almost palpable fear.  This was also back in a time when even children weren’t considered “missing persons” until they were gone at least 24 hours. Most of the time they were just considered to be “playing” or were thought to be runaways.  We now know that the first 48 hours after a child goes missing are the most crucial in finding them.  The laws that follow helped bring that fact to light and change how law enforcement handled cases of missing children.

Light out of darkness:

In 1994, The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act (The Wetterling Act) was enacted.  The law requires all states to keep a registry for law enforcement that keeps track of all offenders who have committed sexual or sexually violent acts against children, and to form more rigorous registration requirements for sex offenders.  It also required states to verify the address of sex offenders every year for 10 years, and those classified as violent sexual offenders must be verified quarterly for the rest of their lives.  Under the law, states had the discretion to release or not release the information to the public.

That changed in 1996 when the Wetterling Act was amended with Megan’s Law, named for Megan Kanka, a 7 year old who was raped and murdered by her neighbor.  Jesse Timmendequas, who had two previous convictions for sexually assaulting young girls, lured Megan into his home by offering to show her a puppy.  He then raped her and strangled her to death with a belt.  Although he was registered as a sex offender, the Kankas had no knowledge of this and therefore did not see him as a danger to their family. The Kankas lobbied for change, stating that had community notification of registered sex offenders existed, Megan would still be alive.

Megan’s law was passed on the federal and state level. At the federal level, the law requires persons convicted of sex crimes against children to notify local law enforcement of any address change or employment after release from custody.  The notification may be for a fixed time, or permanently. At the state level, the law requires authorities to make sex offender registry information available to the public and imposed community notification.  The details of what is provided and how community notification is handled vary from state to state.

The law was last amended with the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006.  Adam Walsh was a 6 year old boy who was kidnapped from a Sears in Hollywood, Florida in 1981.   Adam’s severed head was found 2 weeks later almost 130 miles away from where he was taken. The rest of his remains were never found. His murderer was believed to be a local drifter named Ottis Toole, who confessed but then later recanted his confession to Adam’s murder.

Adam’s law, along with the Wetterling Act and Megan’s Law, organizes sex offenders into 3 tiers based on the crimes committed, with Tier 3 being the most serious.  The law mandates that Tier 3 offenders update their whereabouts every 3 months with lifetime registration requirements.  Tier 2 offenders must update their whereabouts every 6 months, with 25 year registration requirements.  Tier 1 offenders must update their whereabouts every year, with a 15 year registration requirement.  Failure to register and update information is a felony under the law.

Adam’s parents also lobbied for the Missing Children’s Act of 1982, which created a national database for missing children, and also helped found the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, established by Congress in 1984.  Adam’s father John also went on to launch and host the show America’s Most Wanted.

The deaths of these children are terrifying and heartbreaking.  Growing up, I can remember being so scared that someone would just snatch me and I would disappear forever.  Thanks to the work of these amazing families, laws were changed and safeguards were put in place to help prevent these tragedies from happening again, as much as the possibly could. Some might say some of these laws have gone too far, and to some extent I agree.  For instance, I’m not sure that someone who urinates in public should be registered as a sexual offender.  That being said,  if these laws prevent even one child from being assaulted and/or murdered, I consider that a win.

Stay tuned for Part 2….

 

What Have We Become?

What Have We Become?

Let me tell you a little story.  Once upon a time, my daughter was ill and required a stay in the hospital for treatment.  She had gone through surgeries and hospital stays before,  so it wasn’t exactly a new thing.  But this particular treatment, while necessary, was something she was adamantly against.  When I had to leave, and she had to do some treatment without me being there to hold her hand, she broke down.  She cried, she yelled, she pleaded for me not to leave her there and begged me to take her home.  The agony I felt in that moment broke a piece of my heart that will never fully heal. And although everything went well, I have never quite forgotten that feeling and have never fully been able to get the sounds of her cries out of my memory. And I know that I will always carry the pain of her desperation and fear during that time with me, even though I knew she was being very well cared for and that I was doing the best thing for her.

If you have children, then you have most-likely experienced times when you have been sad to leave them.  Like the first day of daycare, or kindergarten.  They cry and beg you not to go, and it rips at your heart.  No parent can stand to hear their child cry for them, especially when they are unable to give them the comfort they need at that moment.

Try for a moment to imagine yourself as a parent in that situation.  Imagine what it must feel like.  Now, try to imagine that your child is being ripped from your arms as they are crying and screaming, and you DON’T know where they are going, or how and if they will be properly cared for.  You’re being separated from them and you have no idea when you will see them again.  You can’t tell the person taking your child away that your little one needs their stuffed pink elephant to fall asleep, or that they have to take allergy medicine at night so they can breathe well, or that if they don’t have a night light they become too terrified to sleep.  Knowing the agony I’ve felt in situations where I had to leave my child and the only comfort I had was know thing she was in good and capable hands, I cannot even begin to imagine how it must feel to be separated from your child and have no idea where they are going or what will become of them.  It breaks my heart.  This current situation has been weighing heavily on my heart and soul.  And it should be on yours too.

Which brings me to a very serious and loaded question: What have we become? Is America, a country built on the backs of immigrants, the land of the free and home of the brave, the land of opportunity and success, now really a land where children are being caged-up in empty warehouses?  Is our moral compass now pointing so far south that we not only defend, but celebrate this kind of governing?

I am going to say one thing before I delve more into this: First off, I am in full support of legal immigration.  What I am not in support of is the current process of families being torn apart during their time of crisis. That being said, forget the politics for a moment.  Forget who is to blame, or why.  If you are a person who is okay with CHILDREN being ripped apart from their families and detained in cages, you are what is wrong with our country. This is, as Dr. Colleen Kraft stated this week, government-sanctioned child abuse, and it should not be happening on American soil. This is a violation of human rights. America has fought against these types of human rights atrocities in other countries.  Now we are becoming exactly what we fought against.  It is reminiscent of Nazi concentration camps and Japanese internment camps.  And I know now you might be thinking , “this isn’t THAT,” but, those things didn’t just happen.  How do you think they started?  The similarities should be chilling every American to their core.

Even more chilling is the fact that the President is using these children as bargaining chips in his game to get his wall funded, and to get exactly what stipulations he wants on immigration reform.  Per a recent tweet from President Trump:  “The Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda.  Any immigration bill MUST HAVE full funding for the wall, end Catch & Release, Visa Lottery and Chain, and go to Merit Based Immigration.  Go for it!  WIN!”  Let that sink in for a moment:  The President of the United States is blackmailing his own government to get what he wants.  If that’s not terrifying, I don’t know what is.  In addition, notes from a 2017 town hall were recently released describing the President and Homeland Security officials listing separating migrant families as a method to discourage people from seeking asylum.  Hostage-taking, particularly of families and children, is a tried-and-true instrument of terror, which I’m certain the President and his advisors are well-aware of.

The other thing that is extremely disturbing, to me at least, is the posts I keep seeing of people saying “Well, when American parents go to jail they are separated from their kids” or “Think about how the military personnel who are separated from their families must feel.”  Let me tell you something:  Unless the children of those people are being held in cages/tents/warehouses, whatever, around people with strict instructions not to touch them or comfort them, then it is NOT the same thing.  While those two scenarios are sad in their own right, it is not comparable to what is happening with these children and their families.  When American parents go to jail, their children are most often placed with family members, and if there are none, then they go into the foster care system and many times placed with foster families.  Children in military families usually have a parent at home with them or family taking care of them while their parent is deployed.  In both instances, though still sad and valid, you know the children are being well cared for.  It’s not the same thing, and that comparison is disgusting.

For the record, there is NO law that requires separating families if they illegally cross the border. Seeking asylum is every person’s right under international law. The current practice is in place due to the President’s zero-tolerance policy, which could be recinded at any time. The administration won’t give direct answers on why they are doing this, except to blame it on “loopholes.”  The particular loophole they are referencing is the Flores settlement.  It’s a 1997 agreement struck by President Clinton that says the government is required to release immigrant children from detention without unnecessary delay – generally within 20 days- to parents, relatives, or licensed programs.  The Trump administration argues that this means children must be separated from their parents, since they cannot be held in custody alongside their parents who are facing criminal charges.

This further begs the question, why are they being held on charges?  Seeking asylum is NOT illegal.  Crossing into the U.S. anywhere other than a port of entry is a civil, not criminal, offense. Yes, some people may be taking advantage of that.  But when it comes to children and overall human rights, I think the benefit of the doubt is warranted until we know for sure.  In fact, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services policy explicitly states “To obtain asylum through the affirmative asylum process, you must be physically present in the United States.  You may apply for asylum status REGARDLESS OF HOW YOU ARRIVED IN THE UNITED STATES OR  YOUR CURRENT IMMIGRATION STATUS.”  https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/refugees-asylum/asylum/obtaining-asylum-united-states

There is no justification for this.  There is no way to square this with the way of Jesus.  And at this moment, it doesn’t matter who is to blame.  The fact is, there is no one person to blame.  Immigration reform in the U.S. has been an ongoing and sensitive issue.  What matters is who is in charge now and what they can do to stop this, NOW.  Because this is not who we are.  This is not who we should be.  This is not American. If we lose the ability to be human, to show compassion and decency, we’ve lost everything.   Jesus asked those who had bread and fish to bring them to him so that it could be multiplied and all could share.   If those people had chosen to say “This is mine, I worked for it and I don’t have to share,” imagine how that story would have ended.  Bread, fishes, freedom, opportunity, those are all things granted to us by God and are not just ours to hoard for ourselves.

The inscription on the Statue of Liberty reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”  What is does NOT say is “Give me your English-speaking only, Christian, heterosexual masses.”  At the end of the day, we are all still human. And refuge, humanity, and asylum is what our country was built on.  We can’t close our borders to those of the world who need us.  We need to help them find legal ways to pursue the opportunities we a have all been afforded when our founding fathers, of immigrant descent, fought Britian and made this country their own.

The good news is, we, as American citizens, are not helpless.  Use your voice, and when the time comes, use your vote.  You can call the White House directly at 202-456-1111.  Look up your local representatives.  call them, write letters. Donate to legitimate causes that are there to help these children.  If you have the means and the heart to do so, offer to foster.   And most importantly, pray.  Pray for the families that are suffering.  Pray for the President and his administration to have a heart for positive change.   And if you are a person who believes what is happening to these children is acceptable, I pray that you look inside yourself and find compassion and humanity.

Finally, I will just leave you with this…

Breaking the Cycle

Breaking the Cycle

Well, here we are.  In the wake of yet another school shooting.  The drama has commenced.  The outrage, the finger pointing,  the “it’s the guns” people, and “it’s not the guns” people, arguing until they’re blue in the face, with neither side budging.  It’s the thoughts and prayers, it’s the “now’s not the time to talk about gun control” permanent political staple.  And in a few days, or a few weeks, everyone will stop talking about it, chalk it up to another day in America, and go back to their daily lives…until it happens again.  And then the cycle starts all over.

I for one am ready to break this cycle. I can no longer sit silently by and pretend this isn’t a real issue.  I can no longer live with the terror I feel every time I drop my daughter off at school.  Or when I go to a concert, or a sporting event, or a movie theater, or even church.  These are places I should feel no fear.  These are places we should all feel safe. Our children have the right to feel safe at school.

Clearly there are many sides that all disagree as to what is the root of the problem. It seems most only point a finger at one particular issue.  Here is the answer:  It’s not ONE problem.  It’s a multi-faceted problem, it’s many things that culminate and drive a person to kill.  The truth is, it isn’t just guns, or mental illness, or bad parenting, or entitled kids. It’s all of these things, and more.  And instead of each person on the defense of one of these issues pointing fingers at the other, we need to come together, examine these issues individually, and do everything we can to change it.

Before I delve into this, I will just come right out and say what most of you are already thinking:  I am anti-gun.  If you know me, you know that I have a certain naïveté, a certain dreamer-style way of looking at life. I believe in the fairy tales.  In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I still believe in the good. That being said,  I believe in the civilized society we live in today, there should be no guns.  If there were no guns, there would be no need for guns.  That’s my stance.

Now I know what you’re thinking:  This chick is bat-shit crazy.  A little, but that’s neither here nor there. However, I do realize that my idealism is not the real way of the world we live in, and that I have to adjust my views and expectations.   Those views exist in a perfect world, and I am aware we do not live in a perfect world.  Saying that, I am pro-Second Amendment.  I am okay with citizens owning (certain) guns, but I expect safeguards to be in place.  I also expect our laws to grow and change, just as our society has grown and changed.  So idealism aside, I want to address this is issue head-on.

First, let’s define the term “mass killing.”  A mass killing is defined as the killing of 3 or more people (excluding the killer) in a single location, at the same time.  So now, let’s look into the numbers of mass shootings that have occurred in the US.

  • Since Sandy Hook in 2012, which left 20 first graders and 5 educators dead,  there have been roughly 1,600 mass shootings in the US, killing at least 1,800 people and wounding over 6,400.  This number is broad and includes mass shootings of all types, including gang disputes, robberies gone wrong, and domestic disputes. Of these, 239 have been school shootings.  This is just in the past 6 years.
  • According to the US Secret Service and US Department of Education, in 81% of these school shootings, someone had information that the attacker was thinking about or planning the shooting.   68% of these school shooters obtained their weapons from relatives or from their home.  73% of these shooters have no prior criminal record. 17% of these shooters were under the age of 15.
  • Data from the Gun Violence Archive says there is one mass shooting in the US every 9 out of 10 days.
  • America has 4.4 percent of the world’s population, but has almost half (48%) of civilian-owned guns worldwide.  The US also holds 31% of the world’s mass shooters.
  • From January 1st 2018 to February 14th 2018, there have been 30 mass shootings.

These are horrifying numbers.   And what is even more horrifying, is that our government has refused to do ANYTHING to put a stop to this violence.  It seems to be an untouchable subject.  Our leaders play the 2nd Amendment card, extend their thoughts and prayers, and move on.  Our children are dying.  This should be a top priority of our government.  But it isn’t.  That means we, as citizens of this country, have to step up and make it their problem.  This isn’t just one administrations fault, but only the people in power now can do something.  President Obama made strides, including a rule that required the Social Security Administration to report disability-benefit recipients with mental health conditions to the FBI’s background check system, which is used to screen firearm buyers.  President Trump rescinded this rule in 2017.

There are many instances, however, where people died and the government intervened to help prevent it from happening again.  I’ll start with cars.  As auto fatalities continued to rise, research was done and laws were enacted to help prevent deaths.  Seat belt and helmet laws were created, and auto makers were required to improve safety standards and install airbags in vehicles.   When the number of meth labs increased and the number of deaths from this drug kept climbing, the government stepped in and required that Sudafed be purchased from behind the pharmacy counter, that you have to show an ID to purchase it, and you cannot purchase more than 9 grams per month.   After the terrorist attack on September 11th, 2001, TSA protocols were strengthened and pre-flight security was heightened, including limiting the quantity of liquids that may be taken on an airplane, many everyday items being blacklisted, and security measures that include removing your shoes when going through TSA pre-check. These are just a few of many instances where our government intervened to help prevent senseless deaths in our country.  Do these measures guarantee that no more people will die from these things? Of course not.  But any death that can be prevented because of them is worth it.

Now IS the time to have this discussion.  With one mass shooting every 9 out of 10 days, there won’t be a time when there isn’t a mass shooting to talk about gun control or other issues that contribute to these shootings.

So what problems contribute to these school shootings, and what can be done about them?  It’s time we tackle these issues head-on.

Let’s start with the big one: Guns.  Many people don’t like to address this one.  It’s a very touchy subject.  Some people are 100% convinced guns are the problem.  Others are 100% convinced it’s not a gun issue at all.  So who is right?   I’m gonna go ahead and say it.  If you think guns have absolutely nothing to do with why these things keep happening, you’re lying to yourself. To quote the movie The American President, “For reasons passing understanding, people do not relate guns to gun-related crime.”  It’s absurd. Many pro-gun supporters just say “Any lunatic with a cause will find a way to kill people.”  That, unfortunately, is a true statement.  However, shouldn’t we make it as difficult as possible for them to do it, and to keep the deaths to a minimum where we can?  I guarantee a knife or even a handgun can kill a lot less people in a short amount of time than an AR-15.

Everyone wants to call the 2nd Amendment as their defense to keep as many and whatever guns they want. I am a staunch supporter of our Constitution and what it stands for.  But it is meant to be malleable.  If it wasn’t, you could still own slaves, segregation would still exist, and women and minorities couldn’t vote.  It is meant to grow and change as our society does, that is why it is able to be amended.  Our forefathers had the good sense to know that things would, and should change, and they put safeguards in place for that.

So let’s examine the 2nd Amendment for a moment.  It states “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  First of all, the 2nd Amendment was written in lawless times. Americans knew they had to defend themselves against Native Americans, and against any enemies that may show up.  The militia was not yet truly created. Americans were also aware that the fresh, new government could become corrupt and they would need to defend themselves against it if necessary.  But looking at it more closely, you could say that the intent of the 2nd Amendment is up for interpretation. Was it meant for the States to have the right to keep and bear arms, in the hands of a trained militia? Or was it meant to be an individual right?  Given that the Bill of Rights refers to individual liberties, it could be interpreted as an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, which is the interpretation our country has gone with.  And in 2008, in District of Columbia v Heller, the US Supreme Court ruled in a narrow  5-4 vote that the right to bear arms is an individual right.

However, the 2nd Amendment was written when most guns shot 1-2 rounds per minute. The average AR-15 shoots 45 rounds per minute.  I can’t imagine our forefathers knew how technology would advance and just how dangerous guns would become.  And again, it was also written in the face of a new government, when laws were just being created and they were figuring out how to enforce them.  As society and technology have grown and changed, so should our laws when it pertains to gun ownership.

The media likes to portray gun-control advocates as these monsters who want to rip the Constitution to shreds and come get all of the guns.  For the most part, that’s just not true. No one is trying to eradicate the 2nd Amendment. I think most people in that group, including myself, agree that certain guns should be owned by responsible citizens, but that more strict safeguards need to be in place so that the guns are in the right hands.

So while keeping the 2nd Amendment intact, what can we do to crack down on gun violence?  The sheer volume of guns in this country is a good place to start.  There are enough guns in America for every household to have more than one.   So in my opinion, the first step is to ban certain types of guns. It’s time.  Don’t like that idea?  Sorry.  My child’s right to feel safe in school supercedes your right to own assault weapons just for fun.  Keep the handguns, shotguns, and hunting rifles.  But assault weapons have no place in a civilized society.  Any military person trained on these weapons will tell you, they have only one purpose:  to kill.  That’s what they are designed to do.  Civilians have no reason to own these weapons, other than for entertainment purposes.  Making these types of weapons unavailable to purchase would be a huge first step.

The next step is more stringent screening processes and stipulations that must be met in order for a person to purchase a gun.  Let’s think about this.  When you want to buy a car, there are many things have to do.  First off, you have to have a license. To get that license, you have to take a class to learn how to operate the vehicle.  You have to pass a written and physical test, as well as disclose health information.  To own a car, you must register it with your state, and renew that registration every year.   You must also insure it.  All of these things exist for tracking and safety purposes.  Why can’t we do similar things to own guns?  First step:  A waiting period to buy a gun.  If you’re a responsible gun owner, this should not be an issue.  No one needs to buy a gun and have it immediately.  You may want that, but you don’t need it.  So yes, this means no more gun sales at gun shows.  But so what?

In addition, gun sales should be restricted from convicted felons and those that have been hospitalized for mental illness.  Every single gun sale should screen for this before a purchase. A citizen should not be allowed to purchase more than one gun every 90 days. Again, if you’re a responsible gun owner, this shouldn’t bother you.  All it is doing is helping keep people, including you, safer.  It doesn’t affect law-abiding citizens.

I’m even gonna go a step further here.  I believe there should be a limit on how many guns a person can own.  I don’t know what that number would be honestly.  I further  believe that guns should have tracking devices implanted in them.  If our phones can track our locations, there’s no reason that can’t be applied to guns as well.  If tracking devices could be implanted in every gun, it would be easier to track illegal gun sales. It could also trigger an alert to a government agency anytime a gun is on school property.  You can pull it up to see if that gun is legally licensed.  Now, I know many people are gonna scream that that’s too much government intervention.  And it might be a bit of a stretch.  But those same people have no problems with their cell phones tracking their locations and giving that info to God only knows who.

Would all of these measures completely stop gun violence?  Absolutely not.  But it is my belief that it would extremely hinder an individual’s ability to commit a mass murder.  And again, if even one life is saved because of it, it’s worth it to me.

Now on to the next contributing factor in gun violence:  Mental Illness.  This is a tough one for me, because I do know that mental health is not taken as seriously in our country as it should be.  However, considering that men commit 98% of the mass shootings in our country, and considering mental illness is a worldwide issue but only America has such a high mass shooting rate, I wonder how much this contributes.  I feel this issue is something that should be studied.  Why do mostly men commit these crimes?  Why does mental illness not cause people in other developed countries to commit mass murders? And why have we not investigated this further?

Our kids today are facing higher levels of mental illness than ever before.  Here are just a few statistics to think about:

  • 20% of youth ages 13-18 live with a mental health condition.
  • 11% of youth have a mood disorder
  • 50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14
  • Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in youth ages 10-24

Those are scary numbers.  Children today live in a much different world than most adults now experienced.  Things like social media, constant stimulation, being overextended, pressure to excel, and bullying often contribute to anxiety and other mental illness in teens.  And many times it’s difficult to see.

And let’s face it, mental health care in our country is not exactly a top priority.  Many top rated mental health professionals do not take insurance, causing affected people to have to pay out-of-pocket.  45% of untreated Americans with mental illness cited cost as the main factor in not getting treatment.  And if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, and nothing takes its place, these numbers will increase due to the increase of uninsured Americans. This has to stop.  We need to be asking the questions about how to do a better job in getting the mentally ill the treatment that they need, not after a tragedy, but before.  Something to think about: 40,000,000 Americans suffer from some type of mental illness.  SOME can access treatment.  ALL can access guns.

Still, mental health advocates say that mental health is part of the picture in mass shootings, but focusing on that alone is not enough.  Mental health issues should not be a re-direct from gun control.  Both things need to be examined and changed.

And lastly, the other main contributing factor:  Parenting.  The way we parent our children has changed so much, even over just the last decade.  We all live in a technologically run society.  We all spend so much time on our phones and social media, instead of spending time connecting.  As a society, we are raising our children to be spoiled and entitled and unaccountable for their actions.  Now obviously, I’m not saying every parent is a bad parent or every parent is doing all of these things.  But some of the things I’m going to mention apply in some part to most parents, myself included.

Social media is running the lives of our kids.  They are basing their self-worth on how many Facebook likes and comments they get, how many Instagram likes they get, how many people view their Snapchat stories and watch their YouTube videos.  This is dangerous on so many levels.  We have to start limiting our kids’ access to social media and explain to them the impact it has on their mental health.

Many of today’s parents are trying to be their child’s best friend first, and their parent second.  I have been guilty of this.  But our kids have enough friends.  They need parents.  They need boundaries, and discipline, and accountability.  Kids do not need constant stimulation. It’s okay to let them be bored sometimes. They do not need to get everything they want, when they want it. My belief is that most children today are not equipped to handle school and the adult world because they are lacking any delay in gratification. We are letting our kids tell us what to do, instead of the other way around. They do not need to be coddled and sheltered and not have real life experiences. We need to let them fall.  We need to let them make mistakes.  We need to let them experience disappointment and consequences.  In a world of participation trophies, our kids are not prepared to handle the disappointment and heartache that life will throw their way.  The harsh truth is, we are not giving our children the tools they need to survive in the adult world.

Now, more than ever, we as parents need to step up and be truly present in our kids lives.  We need to step away from the phones, the iPads, the TV’s, and start connecting with our families. I’ll be the first to admit, it’s difficult.  After a long day at work, trying to cook and clean and help with homework, many times it’s easier just to plop them down in front of a TV or iPad than to interact.   But we need to be present.  We need to pay attention.  Many of the kids that commit these mass shootings show signs of trouble way before they actually do something.  But these signs often times go unnoticed or aren’t taken seriously because we are all so consumed with our own lives that we don’t stop and pay attention.  Many times our kids are crying for help, and we’re too busy to even look up and notice.

So, all that being said, what can we actually do about all of this?  What steps can we take to prevent more children from dying?  I don’t want people to just read this, and then go about their daily business.  I want people to take something, anything from this, and DO SOMETHING.  It’s up to us now.  We must be the change we want to see. Whether you do one or all of these things, do something to help protect our children.

  • Be present in the lives of your kids.  Ask them questions.  Know everything that is going on in their lives.  If they won’t talk to you, look through their phones.  My daughter knows her phone is not private and we have the right to look at it whenever we choose. Have a no-electronics policy at dinner, and eat dinner together as a family.  Play board games.  Limit screen time and social media activity.  Do physical activities together as a family. Physical activity has been proven as an anxiety and stress reducer.  Always be your child’s biggest supporter and shoulder to lean on, but also make them take accountability for their actions.
  • Get your children involved in extra-curricular activities.  Have them doing things that don’t require electronics to acomplish.  Art classes, dance classes, music, and sports are just some things you can do that will help your child’s brain stay active and get them involved with peers.
  • If your child exhibits signs of mental illness, don’t shrug it off.  Don’t wait.  Talk to your pediatrician.  Your child may not even know they need help.  It’s up to you to know them better than anyone, and know when they are in distress.  Warning signs include:
  1. Feeling sad or withdrawn for more than 2 weeks
  2. Feeling fatigued and unmotivated
  3. Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason
  4. Risk-taking behaviors that can cause self harm or harm to others
  5. Not eating, throwing up, or significant weight loss or gain
  6. Severe mood swings
  7. Drastic changes in behavior or sleep habits
  8. Difficulty in concentrating or staying still in school
  • Visit https://www.sandyhookpromise.org/.  Sandy Hook Promise trains students and adults to recognize the signs of gun violence and provide programs and practices that protect children.  Visit their site to find out how to get training, how you can advocate, and to donate.
  • Also visit https://everytownresearch.org/about/.  This site is designed to raise awareness and educate people about gun violence statistics and causes, and ways we can help stop it.
  • Call, write, Tweet, Facebook, anything to your local representatives.  Let them know you have had enough and want things to change.  Do it as often as you can.  Don’t let up.
  • VOTE!  Your vote matters,  If those in power are not doing their part, it’s our jobs to get them out of office and vote someone in who will.
  • Pray.  Pray to whatever God you believe in.  Yes, “thoughts and prayers” from our lawmakers are not a solution.  But we as a society must keep praying, must keep believing in the good, and must instill that belief in our children.

It’s up to us to stop these senseless deaths.  We must all come together and realize that it’s not just the guns fault, that it’s not just the parents fault, that there are many contributing factors that must all be addressed and rectified to keep our children safe. Our children are calling on us all to do something to protect them.  It’s time we answer that call.

Total Eclipse of the Heart

Total Eclipse of the Heart

In case you have been living under a rock, there is a total solar eclipse happening tomorrow.  The moon hasn’t thrown this much shade at America in nearly a century.  (See what I did there?)  My inner nerd is ecstatic!  It’s expected to be the most observed eclipse ever.  Not surprising, as our culture is saturated with social media. But this event certainly warrants an overload of photos.  I wish I could play hooky from work and go to one of the thousands of watch parties, but alas, I cannot. But you can bet I will be taking a break to go step briefly into the darkness!

As I started reflecting on this historical magic, and how it seems to be bringing so many people together, I started to think about the eclipse we are currently experiencing in our country.  In my opinion, much of our country is having…wait for it…a total eclipse of the heart.  I realize that now you may be belting out the Bonnie Tyler hit in your head.  Or out loud.  Hey if you’re feeling it, go with it.

But seriously, I feel like that perfectly sums up the state of our country right now.  So many have closed their hearts, and their minds. Hearts that were once compassionate and understanding, are now eclipsed by anger, fear, intolerance, and self-righteousness. Living in the age of social media certainly does not help. It’s much easier to post something on Facebook or Twitter, judging someone you’ve never met, than it is to say it to someone’s face.  It so effortless for so many to spew hatred across multiple medias behind the safety of their computer screens.

The events in Charlottesville a week ago have certainly put many people in a heightened state of emotion. With good reason. I will just go ahead and put this out there, that no AMERICAN should ever be wearing, carrying, or doing anything with a Nazi flag or symbol, unless they are destroying it.  A world-wide war was literally fought over this ideology.  I feel physical pain in my heart about what transpired there, and the way it was handled by our commander-in-chief.  My disdain for him is well known by those who know me, but that is not where I’m going with this.

The truth is, while yes, the President should have a stronger response than what he did to white supremacy being demonstrated on American soil, I don’t look to him to give me solace about hatred in the world.  And neither should anyone else.  Being angry at politicians for how they handle things like this won’t quell the hate in people’s hearts.  I have to keep repeating that to myself, because it’s the truth. As much as I do not support Donald Trump or anything he stands for, he is not the cause of that hatred.  It was around long before him, and sadly will probably be around long after him.  I actually feel his being elected is the result of this type of hatred.  And it’s up to us as Americans and as people with kind hearts and minds to prevent it from happening again.

There is so much hate and anger in our country right now.  And it’s not just extremists, which actually don’t make up that much of our population.  They just get the most media attention.  I often see it just as much in our everyday lives.  It’s that person on the highway who won’t let you over, and instead honks and cusses at you,  because they think you’re stupid for waiting until the last minute.  What they don’t know is that you just found out found out your mom has cancer, and you were so lost in despair that you didn’t realize that you were so close to your exit.  It’s the parents on the sidelines of soccer games screaming at their kid to take control of the play, and what they don’t know is that the child has no desire to even be an athlete, but just wants to make his parents proud.  It’s the groups of moms drinking Starbucks in their yoga pants that exclude the new mom in town instead of making her feel welcome.  It’s tons of little things that people all over the world do every day, and maybe not intentionally, that show their hearts are closed instead of open. Eclipsed, instead of lit up.

So what is the solution?  What is the takeaway? To me, the answer is as simple as this: Every person you meet is going through something.  No matter how perfect their life looks on Facebook, I’d be willing to bet they are going through some sort of struggle.  This is a saying as old as time, but it still rings true.  And instead of only looking out for ourselves, we should be looking out for our fellow man.  This used to be a nation where people truly cared about each other. Where kindness was freely given, with no expectations in return. Where when someone new moved into the neighborhood, they were greeted with casseroles and muffins.  A country where you didn’t have to lock your front door, where you could trust the people around you.  A place where you could ask a stranger for a hand with your groceries, and they would do it with a smile on their face.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I choose to live with an un-eclipsed heart. I will strive to kill evil with love.  To destroy hatred with kindness.  I will continue to believe that America can be a kind place again.  Donald Trump is not the person to “Make America Great Again.”  It’s up to American citizens to do that.   How do we do that you ask?  By just being kind.  It’s that simple.  Fill your heart with kindness and compassion, instead of hatred and fear.

I for one, will continue to live this way and strive to remain unjaded. I may be only one person, but I will still act in hope and love. I’m going to Facebook less and live more.  I’m going to turn off the news and remember that we are all better than the media tells us we are. I’m going to stop letting social media posts divide me from the people I love. I’m going to continue to open doors for people, and strike up conversations with strangers while I’m standing in line.  I’m going to smile at people as they walk by.  I’m going to contribute where I can, and stand up for what is right.  I’m going to work hard to make the world a better place for my daughter.  And if we could all just try to do that, I believe our world can be a much better place.

The sun may be briefly eclipsed tomorrow…but my heart will never be!