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!

What defines courage?

What defines courage?

I will be sharing 2 blog posts this week.  One will be serious.  Since I have already opened the controversial can of worms with my last TWO posts, apparently, I thought I might as well go for a 3rd.  My 2nd post this week will be purely comic relief.  So stay tuned!

Since the appearance of the new public figure Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair a few weeks ago, I have seen responses varying from supportive to outright hatred.  The transgender lifestyle is for sure a controversial topic to some extent, I think mostly because a lot of people don’t understand it.  And not very many celebrities or public figures have ever come out as a transgender individual.  So it is still a fairly new thing, at least in the public eye.

The main topic of outrage I have seen about this is due to the fact that Caitlyn has been awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at this  year’s ESPY’s.  A majority people have expressed the fact that what Caitlyn has done is not courageous or heroic and is not deserving of that title.  I’m actually surprised how many people were shocked by this given the fact that the award went to Michael Sam last year.  But that’s neither here nor there I guess.

Given the list of some of the previous winners, which includes, Robin Roberts, Muhammed Ali, Nelson Mandela, and Pat Tillman, just to name a few, I will agree that giving the award to Caitlyn Jenner is somewhat questionable.  My personal opinion on it is that it is a ratings and publicity stunt on the part of ESPN.  But is that Caitlyn’s fault?  No, it’s not.  And does that mean that what Caitlyn has done is not courageous?  Absolutely not.  Some of the more hateful memes I have seen regarding this show soldiers saying they want to “thank” Jenner for her “courage.”  And another one that is going around is that Caitlyn won this award over Noah Galloway, an Army veteran and amputee.  Just to clear things up, that is FALSE.  There are not nominees for this award.  ESPN chooses one person to recieve it, end of story.  I happen to think Noah would be an amzazing recepient for this award.  But he did not “lose” it to Caitlyn Jenner.  And putting that out there is just plain hurtful.  Gotta love social media. 🙂

But all these memes and all these people insulting the award that was given to Jenner made me start to wonder:  what defines courage?  Who’s to decide who is a hero, who is courageous and brave, and who is not?  Seeing the memes with the soldiers made me wonder, is heroism and courage limited only to those who fight in the military?  Do NOT get me wrong.  I am one of the biggest military supporters you will ever meet.  I love America and the amazing men and women who fight for our freedom.  Without them, I wouldn’t be able to express these opinions right now.  I have a father and brother who both served in Afghanistan and my father also served in the Gulf war.  Their courage and bravery are the ultimate gift in my opinon.

However, does that mean that other people who do courageous acts are not worthy of that definition?  Courage and bravery mean so many things to so many different people.  I would not say that Jenner’s decision to fully transition to a woman and share that journey with the world should be in the same category as a person who is serving our country.  But it is still courageous nonetheless.

Let’s define courage.  COURAGE: noun.  “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.”  Nowhere in that definition does it say that definition is limted to a certain group of individuals.  Courage is defined in so many ways.  Courage is being a parent.  Courage is going for that dream career at the expense of everything else.  Courage is committing to spending your life with someone.  Courage is knowing when to walk away from someone who isn’t good for you.  Courage is training for a marathon when you haven’t run a day in your life.  I don’t believe that anyone has the right to automatically say that someone’s behavior isn’t courageous solely based on the fact that they don’t agree with their lifestyle.

There are a lot of people out there who saying being transgender or homosexual is a lifestyle choice.  My opinion on that is that it absolutely is not.  As a hot-blooded, man-loving woman, I know that I could never just up and decide to be sexually attracted to women. (excluding the few drunken kisses with my friends in my 20’s, but who doesn’t do that right?)  And I could definitely never just decide that I no longer like my lady parts and instead want to have a penis.  So I have to believe that it is the way we are made.  Meaning transgender and homosexual people are that way from birth, and they have no choice in the matter.  I won’t debate that because everyone has the right to their own opinion.  I know what the Bible says about homosexuality, but the Bible also says a lot of things about loving each other and to not judge, lest you be judged.  So you can’t pick and choose which parts to follow if you’re gonna use that argument.

So to everyone who is being all high and mighty on this issue, I’d like you to stop for a minute and consider something, without judgment, just for a moment.  Imagine what your life would be like if you were living a lie.  If everything you said and did HAD to be a facade.  If you went through every single day feeling different, or not right in your own skin.  How must that feel?  Now imagine one day you find the COURAGE to be who you truly are inside, to do what makes you happy, to be who God intended you to be.  But, by doing that, you risk losing your job, your family, your friends, possibly everything you have worked for or achieved in your lifetime.  To me, that is one of the ultimate acts of courage and bravery.

Caitlyn Jenner coming out this way to the world and sharing her journey with everyone to see could cut both ways.  On one hand, part of me thinks that she is becoming one of the Kardashian pulicity whores.  But, on the other hand, her decision to go through this journey out in the open also has the opportunity to help people.  And if her journey helps even one person out there who is struggling with the same issues, then it’s worth it.  So to those who would say that Bruce Jenner was not courageous for changing his life, or that Caitlyn is not courageous for living it, I would say this:  Think of all the life choices that you have ever made where you stood to lose something.  Did you stand by your decision anyway, no matter what opposition stood in your way?  That, my friends, is courage.

In closing, I will give you this, in hopes that we can all try to see each other through God’s eyes, through loving eyes, and not eyes of hatred or judgment.  1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

Dear Duggars:

Dear Duggars:

I have never had the intention of getting political/controversial on this blog.  My posts are normally intended for fun and relatability, and I don’t ever want to try to ruffle feathers.  But since I am sitting here fuming over what I just witnessed, I feel I must get this out or else something in my home is about to get broken.  Also I am about 3 glasses of wine in and so mad I can’t even see straight.

I will preface this by saying I have never thought the Duggars were bad people.  I think they are very closed-minded and don’t agree with a lot of parts of their lifestyle, but I have never begrudged them for living their lives. But then this scandal about Josh Duggar erupted.  And I was immediately infuriated by the hypocrisy of it all.  How dare they go out of their way to label gay and transgender people as pedophiles, when they had a pedophile living under their roof?  How dare they go on television and claim to be an upstanding family with no flaws while they have this awful secret?  I’ll tell you how:  It’s because they are “The Duggars.”  They are put on a pedestal as the epitome of Christian values.  When this came out, I was shocked at how many came to their defense.  If this was the Kardashians instead of the Duggars, I promise you no one would be defending them.  I am a Christian person, but what I am not is a hypocrite who portrays a life of perfection while sweeping all my horrible choices under the rug.

Immediately I hear people saying “everyone has sinned” and “no one should judge” and quoting all the Bible verses to support that.  Where were these people when the Duggars were out there ACTIVELY JUDGING people?  Claiming that an entire group of people were sexual predators solely based on their sexual orientation.  If they had this secret, instead of advocating against the gay community, they could have been out there advocating for victims of sexual violence.  That would have been a way to spin this horrible situation into something positive.  But instead they hid this and persecuted others, instead of using it to do something good.

Alas, I was ready to let it go and move on, if they actually owned up to it.  Maybe Josh and his victims really did get the counseling they needed.  Maybe Josh really is no longer a threat to little girls.  At least I was hoping for that.  I do sympathize for what this family went through.  And they had a chance to come clean and have some good come out of this, and that’s what I was praying would happen. But then…I watched the Megyn Kelly interview.

So now, to help calm my anger, I am going to address the main takeaways from this interview, and why I think Jim Bob and Michelle as parents and people, should be completely ashamed of themselves.

“He was just curious about girls and just touched them over their clothes.”

Maybe if you would have conversations with your children about their bodies, and sexuality, and what’s inappropriate and not, he may not have “been curious.”  Or, you could just let him have a girlfriend like a normal 14 year old boy.

“This was not rape or anything, it was touching someone over their clothes, a couple of incidents of touching them under their clothes, but it was just like a few seconds.”

Molesting is molesting.  Sexual abuse is serious whether it is rape or a guy grabbing your boobs at a bar.  Stop trivializing it.

“As parents you’re not mandatory reporters.  The law allows for parents to do what they think is best for their child.”

NO, Jim Bob, CHILDREN.  You have children, not “child.” You were the parents of the victims too, not just the offender.  Why is what’s best for Josh coming before what’s best for your daughters as his victims?

“They didn’t really understand.  It was more of his heart, his intent, he knew.  He knew it was wrong, but they weren’t even aware.  They probably didn’t even understand that it was improper touch.”

I am calling straight bullshit on this one.  I was molested starting at age 5 by a boy a little younger than Josh.  Even at age 5, knowing nothing about sexuality, I knew it was wrong.  I knew no one should be touching me that way.  STOP TRIVIALIZING IT!  And again, back to my point above, maybe if you had these conversations with your children, they would be fully aware.

“Our girls, even though this was a very bad situation, as we’ve talked to other families who’ve had bad things happen, a lot of their stories were even worse.”

This was by far one of the most infuriating parts of the interview for me.  Again, as I stated above, sexual abuse is a serious thing, no matter what the degree, and excusing Josh’s behavior because others have gone through worse is just unforgiveable in my book.  She even asks Jim Bob here, “As a father of your little girls, not Josh, weren’t you upset about this having happened to them?”  Instead of answering that question, he replies with  “We are just thankful that Josh came to us and told us what happened.”  The fact that neither of these parents ever acknowledge even once in this interview, even when probed, what their daughters went through, is simply disgusting.  The entire thing was about Josh and what was best for him.

“We don’t let, we don’t let them play hide and seek together, you’re not alone together, and (MY FAVORITE) little ones don’t sit on big boys laps.  There’s boundaries we’ve learned.”

A:  Siblings should not have to have those kind of boundaries.  B:  Way to put the responsiblity and blame on the girls by telling them what they shouldn’t do around their boy siblings.

“I don’t know why this came out, there must have been some kind of agenda, or bribe, or something.’

I don’t know about everyone else, but I sure have an agenda against pedophiles.

“We want to be advocates for protecting juveniles’ records.”

Or, you could choose to advocate for these victims and other victims of sexual abuse.  Just a thought.

“A pedophile is an adult that preys on children, Joshua was just 14 and turning 15 when he did what he did, and the legal definition is 16 and up to be considered a pedophile.”

This was about the moment where I almost threw the remote at the tv.  Now you’re just debating semantics.  14 is still old enough to know right from wrong, and no matter the age, it is still a crime and should be treated as such.

“I feel like this is more about an agenda, and there’s people that are purposing to try to bring things out and twisting them to hurt and slander.”

No.  Just…no.  Could the person who came out with this have wanted to hurt you?  Sure.  But it’s not twisting, it’s the truth.  And it’s not slander, it’s THE TRUTH.  And one thing I’ve learned about the truth is that it always comes out, it just does.  If you never wanted anyone to find about this, you shouldn’t have put yourselves in the public eye.  You were not targeted because of your Christian beliefs.  No one is perfect.  You’re being targeted because you’re hypocrites.

“Hopefully justice will be served on those who released juvenile records.”

How about justice for your sexually abused daughters you ass?!?! (sorry, this is where I just lost it)

I do understand the need to protect your family and children, and I can understand why they didn’t want this to come out.  But, this whole interview was about Josh’s struggle, they said nothing about what the victims went through.  The only suffering of the victims they addressed was that now they are “being victimized by people with an agenda.”  That disgusts me.  Josh, Michelle, and Jim Bob are not the victims here.  Those poor girls are.  Who speaks for them?

In closing, I will say, I am sorry if I offended anyone with this, but as a victim of sexual abuse I cannot sit idly by and watch this whole thing be excused like he just stole a piece of candy from the drug store.  And the last thing I would say to the Duggars…people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.