Fight for Net Neutrality

If you’re interested in keeping the net neutrality laws that make the internet accessible to everyone, please visit https://www.battleforthenet.com/ and fight for that to happen. The cable companies are fighting hard to end net neutrality so they can impose bandwidth limits, throttle access, and potentially even block content. Information control is one of the worst things a government can impose on its people, and if the net neutrality laws are rescinded, there’s no telling what our social climate will end up looking like.

If you don’t want to be told what to think, then you need to fight for net neutrality. Visit the site, call congress, spread the word, and participate in the internet-wide protest tomorrow.

 

 

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Stream of Consciousness Essay (Untitled)

The following is a stream-of-consciousness essay I wrote, and I decided to share it with everyone.

Note: I first wrote this 3 years ago, and it is incredibly relevant today. Note that it is long, but it is worth reading.


Why do we spend so much time insisting on avoiding sad feelings? Why do we spend so much time running away from the hurt we feel? In our culture, being sad is like a social death warrant. No one wants to be around a sad person. So, even when what we really need is to just be sad, we instead are faced with comments like, “It’s not worth crying over,” or “Think happy thoughts.”

But sadness serves a purpose. Every emotion has a reason to exist. If we feel sad, it’s because we are hurting. And ignoring the pain doesn’t make it go away. In fact, ignoring the pain can make it worse. Generally, none of us would go up to someone who had just broken their arm or leg and tell them not to cry or to find something pleasant to think about. Just the suggestion that anyone could be that crass is slightly horrifying.

Yet emotional pain is treated as somehow lesser than physical pain. Perhaps the reason lies in the fact that emotional pain is invisible – physical pain is, for the most part, visible. But just because someone can’t see your pain doesn’t mean the pain isn’t real. It doesn’t mean you don’t have a right to feel that pain.

In fact, I’d say that you have an obligation to yourself to feel the pain of sadness. Because we cannot heal without feeling – we cannot heal by turning ourselves into apathetic monsters. It is when we do this that sadness turns into depression. Depression is sadness and anger magnified a thousandfold because the emotions are being denied. It becomes a vicious cycle of “I shouldn’t feel like this – I should be happy. Why am I not happy?” And our focus becomes how happy we are failing to be, rather than how we cope with our sadness.

All of the suggested coping methods entail trying to force yourself to be happy – that does nothing but exacerbate the problem. To cope with sadness, you have to allow yourself to feel sad. You have to be okay with being sad. Okay with crying. You have to learn to tell yourself that sadness is just another part of life – a normal part of life. And it doesn’t matter what makes you sad – emotions are personal. Out of everything in our lives, the one individual component that no one else can steal from us is how we process the world through our emotions.

Instead of cherishing our own world views, however, we drown ourselves in anxieties like “If that situation makes him/her happy, it should make me happy, too,” or “If that situation makes him/her sad, it should make me sad, too,” or “If he/she likes that particular type of person/show/movie/thing/etc, then I should, too.” But why? Why should we try so hard to be like everyone else? Why do we need to mimic the emotions of the people around us? If I see a scene in a movie that moves me to tears while everyone laughs around me, why should I pretend to laugh with them when my emotions aren’t synchronized with theirs?

Why are we forbidden from being who we are, from wearing our hearts on our sleeves, and being honest about what hurts us? Why do we have to consider everything we do from the perspective of how everyone else will view us? Why do we have to worry so much about making an impact on people? On the world? Why are we not allowed to worry about the impact that others have on us? About how the world is seen through our eyes? Why is it so much about everyone else and so little about self?

Ironic, perhaps, to say it this way – but our society isn’t a selfish society – we aren’t self-focused, we aren’t self-absorbed. We are other-focused – we are other-absorbed. We care so much about what we look like, what we wear, who we’re seen with – not because we’re afraid of our own reputations, but because we’re afraid that other people will look down on us for the choices we make. We are afraid of being judged.

So, we pre-judge ourselves because we are already inclined to view the world through the eyes of “others.” We don’t see ourselves. We don’t see our own strengths or weaknesses – we let other people tell us what we are good at, what we fail at, and what we are sort of okay at. We let everyone else invent our personality. We let everyone else shape the way we view the world. We let everyone else tell us what to think.

None of us consider this – none of us think about this. We are too busy wondering whether the boy (or girl) we met at a party (club/bookstore, wherever) will like the way we look better in this or that outfit, whether he or she will find our jokes funny, whether he or she will be impressed.

But we don’t ask ourselves questions anymore. Now, we let other people feed us answers. “How do you think the world got here?” transforms from a speculative question to more disdainful comments like, “Go read the Bible,” or “Go ask a preacher,” or “I don’t know, go look it up on Google.”

I really do wonder how many people follow faiths they don’t understand simply because their parents told them it was “the right way,” or a preacher in their church told them that “Jesus was the light,” or “Allah is all,” or “Jehovah is the name of God,” etc. and so on – how many people actually question their faith but are afraid to voice their fears?

And are these people afraid to ask their questions because of the fear that others will view them as a person who is “rocking the boat?” Are they afraid to ask out of fear that they will be ostracized, judged, condemned? Or maybe they are afraid to ask because they are afraid that if they ask, then their faith will fall apart. That the world won’t make sense because what they have always been taught to believe doesn’t make any sense.

We live in an other-centric, fear-driven world. And because of that, people are afraid to ask questions. Afraid to be themselves. Afraid to even ask themselves questions about who they are. Instead of asking ourselves questions like, “Am I funny?” or “Am I smart?” or “Am I pretty?” or “Am I interesting?” we ask everyone else. Everyone else holds the answers, somehow.

But how is that possible? How can a person who is not living inside my mind, who is not wearing my flesh, who does not have my soul – how can that person tell me who I am? Am I not the best equipped for that? Why should I, or anyone else, feel obligated to seek the answers to questions about who they are outside themselves? Why do we continue to insist that everyone but ourselves know best?

These are the questions that haunt me. This is the sadness that plagues me. Because nearly every person I have met has been lost inside themselves. Beautiful people with amazing souls, with amazing potential – and yet, trapped. And yet, trapped in such a way they are themselves unaware of being trapped. And seeing people like this – so trapped in their pain that they have gotten lost in it and are unable to find the way back to their true light – this kills something inside me every time I meet someone new.

And yet, I love meeting people. I love hearing their stories. I love learning what they have gone through, what they have experienced. But the pain they have gone through always rends my heart alongside theirs – I bear their scars with them, and I grieve for everything they’ve lost and the price of everything they’ve gained.

Because it is sadness, not happiness, that allows a person to find themselves – to embrace themselves, to learn who they are, and to be okay with themselves. Happiness is temporary. Sadness is temporary. It is the balance between the two that we are seeking – that is the hole inside the heart of every human being.

Some people think that the hole they feel inside them is the yearning for another person to live their life beside, a companion to walk down the path with them. Others believe that the hole inside can be filled by their faith. But if that were true, then a relationship wouldn’t simply lessen the feeling of emptiness – it would eradicate it entirely. Same with faith. And yet, despite having experienced an abundance of both, I have never once felt that the hole inside my heart has been completely filled.

But perhaps that is because it is not a hole at all, but simply my heart. Our heart. The heart of all life. Because no matter how we feel our hearts break, we can always recover – there is no such thing as a break our heart can’t mend. Why is that? Why are our hearts so resilient? Even when we feel weak and sad and horrible, the truth is that our hearts are still there inside us, still crying out all the pain we feel even if we can’t cry it ourselves. Because our hearts know what we don’t – our hearts know what we need. And that need, I’m sure, is different for every single person out there.

If all of us had the same heart, then how could we bear to watch the pain of another person? How could we bear to cause the pain of someone else? We hurt others. We say mean things on purpose. We are cruel with cause – but is that cause really us? Are we really looking to hurt the people around us? Do we really want others to go away crying because we said words fed to us by another about situations we don’t understand?

If you’ve ever bullied anyone, online or in person – I don’t care where – have you ever asked yourself what the person you bullied is feeling when you do it? Like, if you’re a guy and you’ve stuffed someone else in a locker, have you ever taken the time to wonder what the person in that locker must be feeling? How terrified they must be? How humiliated? And does it make you laugh? Does it scare you? Does it make you wonder what it would be like to be the one in that locker?

And if you’re a girl, and you’ve ever called someone fat, ugly, or said that a girl’s boobs were too big for her body – that is a type of bullying. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be that girl? If you are skinny, have you ever wondered what it feels like to be fat? What it feels like to know that you will be mocked, even if the weight is caused by something beyond your control?

If you are pretty and have called someone ugly, have you ever wondered how that person feels? Have you ever wondered how you would feel if someone called you ugly? How your stomach would sink with dread and horror because you did everything you could to make yourself pleasing to others, and yet someone still took the time to make the effort to tell you how ugly you look?

And if you’re a girl and have looked at girls with large breasts and made comments like “Her boobs are too big,” or “I bet she has a breast implant,” have you ever considered what it’s like to have large breasts? Have you ever wondered why girls born with large boobs are so shy about them? Do you know that girls with larger breasts worry about finding bras that will fit perfectly so that it doesn’t hurt them to walk? Have you ever wondered, if a girl does have a breast implant, what made her choose the surgery? Ever asked whether she did it to make her boyfriend/husband happy, instead of automatically assuming she must be a slut?

These are comments we all throw around without thinking. We don’t consider our words because we don’t think about how our words would sound said to us out of someone else’s mouth. If we all thought about how we would feel if someone else talked to us the way we talked to other people, I think we would all be a lot kinder a lot faster. Because the truth is, we are all often far more cruel than we are kind.

Update: New Article Posted

I was recently approved and selected as the editor of the Bella Online website for the Folklore and Mythology section. My first article has been posted: Prometheus and Coyote: The Theft of Fire. I will be adding at least one article per week, more if time permits. If there are any specific folklore related questions you’d like to have answered or just articles you’d like to see, please feel free to let me know, and I will add them to my list for article ideas.

 

My Reflection on Charlottesville

As someone who is simultaneously fascinated and horrified by war – as a history major, if it were offered, my concentration would be in war studies – what happened in Charlottesville is devastating and terrifying.
 
One man, James Alex Fields Jr., decided to escalate an already tense situation by giving into his impulse for violence. A woman, Heather Heyer, paid the greatest price for his actions, and several others were injured. Beyond that, thousands upon thousands of people have been traumatized. 
A video was released by VICE that shows quite a bit of what happened during the protest, as well as what was said:

The only person to blame for the death of Heather Heyer is the man who has been charged with her murder. That was sheer impulsive violence, and it wasn’t premeditated. That’s what it means to be charged with second degree murder – that’s what the killer was charged with.

Yes, there are people on the Alt Right celebrating and claiming gratitude – if you listen carefully to the comments that Cantwell makes in the video, he expresses a desire for an ethno-homeland. An ethnic nation. A white nation. A nation based on ethnicity. A desire for land.

In all the ethnic conflicts that have occurred across the globe, there’s a common inciting factor – a desire for land. For territory. Cantwell expresses this desire, and out of everything in this video, that sentiment is the one that terrifies me the most.

Because he sees other ethnic groups, other races, as posing a great threat to what he views as his own ethnic group. He is basically saying the US is being overrun by non-white people, and now white people have nowhere to stand – no home to call their own.

This is terrifying because people will listen to this. People will buy this. He’s selling a false promise of a freedom from fear, but there are desperate people – there are smart people – who will take the lines he is spewing and take them seriously. They will view him as a leader, someone to take their cues from, and this is so incredibly dangerous I don’t even know how to explain how dangerous it is.

Because Cantwell has taken the USA – a diverse melting pot (that’s what we’re supposed to be, with mixed races, mixed ethnic groups, mixed religions, mixed classes – strength in difference) and he’s divided it into two camps. He has taken the us. vs. them mentality that already existed (alt-left vs alt-right) and twisted it into an ethnic conflict  – white nationalists vs. every other race and ethnic group in existence. He has taken a political split and turned it into a racial and ethnic split.

This is how all wars start. 

Someone claims that a specific group of people has taken away their homeland and are actively working to keep that homeland from them. It doesn’t matter if there is truth to the statement or not – if enough people believe something, it becomes the truth they live. The truth they fight for. They truth they are willing to die for. The truth they are willing to kill for.

When people can no longer see the humanity in a person, they take up arms. They fight. They kill. They die. This event may be the beginning of one of the worst ethnic conflicts the world has ever seen – it has the potential to be far, far worse than the civil war ever was. When the civil war ended and Robert E. Lee surrendered his forces, President Lincoln issued a pardon. Because people are more than the causes they claim to represent, more than their political viewpoints, more than their ethnicity and more than their race. People are human. 

It is when humanity is forgotten, wars begin. It is when the other becomes the source of all the problems that war becomes normal. Our country has been sitting on the verge of an ethnic war for decades. This incident may have been the one that pushed our countrymen to their breaking point – fights will break out. Violence will become even more normalized than it is now. And it will become almost impossible to acknowledge someone’s humanity without being accused of being either a Communist or a Nazi. That’s the stage we’ve reached.

I won’t engage in this kind of violence against my fellow humans. I won’t stand for the incitement of violence against other people because their views are radically opposed to my own. I won’t condone murder. I won’t condone violence for the sake of pursuing a political or ethnic agenda.

I worship a pantheon of war gods, and I absolutely refuse to endorse this war. The only violence I’ll ever condone is those actions undertaken in self-defense or defense of family/friends from an imminent threat. If someone is attacking me physically, I will fight back. But I will never give someone the advantage of forcing me to punch first.

Even if I hate everything a person stands for, hate the ideology they support and the rhetoric they spew, I will not condone violence against them. If they commit a crime, then let them be judged by the law. Vigilante justice isn’t justice. It’s just another crime. Another act of cruelty.

In the coming days – and they are coming, anyone with even an ounce of sense can see that – I will do my best to provide a refuge. A safe harbor for all who need it. Regardless of your viewpoints, I will do what I can to be compassionate and kind. Hatred solves nothing – it does nothing but create more fear. And fear perpetuates violence in a way nothing else can. I don’t care who you are – if you have committed no crime, if you have done no harm – I will provide a space for you.

Because in all this insanity, I refuse to bow down to it. I refuse to be drawn into a war I didn’t ask for, a war I don’t support, a war that can and will destroy the country and people I love. So, if all you can spew is hatred for things you don’t understand or agree with, try on an empathetic pair of shoes and work on seeing it from the other person’s eyes.

In the end, we’re all human. That’s all we ever really have. I won’t let anyone steal my humanity from me. Now, everyone has to make a choice. You either have to choose a side and let yourself be riddled with hatred… or you can choose to step back and refuse to endorse violent conflict that will lead to war. Unless we step back and take a breath, gather our humanity and turn it into our shield… the place we are headed is all-out war. There is no getting around that.

Book Review: Three Parts Dead

While I’m taking classes over the summer and studying for the GRE, I’m also working on getting caught up with some reading that is way overdue. I have a summer reading list that is currently about 30 titles long, and I’m sure I’ll be adding titles to that list as the year goes on. My staple genre will always be fantasy, and the last book I read is no exception to that.

Three Parts Dead, by Max Gladstone, the first of the Craft Sequence, begins with the death of a god and the Craftswomen who have been called to investigate the cause. The magic wielded by Crafters is nothing other than the necromantic arts. They can resurrect the dead – up to a point. There is something about dying that prevents complete resurrection. The personality cannot be held intact. And Tara Abernathy, the main character, has been enlisted to aid a more experienced Crafter in her investigation into the death of a god, Kos the Everburning.

In Three Parts Dead, Gladstone has managed to combine fantasy and legislation in a way that makes investigation seem three parts danger, one part paperwork – and even the paperwork can be deadly. There are gargoyles, vampires, necromancers, gods, and humans that all have separate agendas, and Gladstone does an amazing job weaving these plot elements together. I rarely find books that are able to surprise me, but the foreshadowing he uses is so subtle that the resolution of the plot isn’t made completely clear until the end of the book. That’s not an easy thing to do, and I’m particularly impressed with his skill in weaving such complexity into a book that became a page-turner. I consumed it in three hours, and I’ve put the rest of the series on hold at my county library.

Gladstone took some impressive risks with this book, especially when it comes to combining law and fantasy. I’m not sure that it has ever been done before, and this book is far too underrepresented for how apt a writer Gladstone is. On top of combining two risky genres, the main character in the story is a black woman. Within the fantasy genre, minorities are still incredibly underrepresented, and Gladstone’s contribution in that area was (and continues to be) sorely needed.

No matter the reason you pick up this book, I have a hard time imagining anyone who would be displeased with it. For me, the first book of this series, the Craft Sequence, was such an amazing read that it has gained a spot in my top ten fantasy series of all time – and considering how well-read I am within the fantasy genre, that’s no mean feat.

Poem: I Shake

I shake when I meet someone new,

but I know they cannot see the tremor

because I have learned to hide it so

well sometimes I even fool myself

into thinking that I’m not constantly

worrying about what it is that this

new person is thinking about me.

 

I learned to hide the fear, the anxiety

I had that the people that I liked

would fail to like me in return, that

the people who I met would find me

wanting in a way I wouldn’t understand,

a way I wouldn’t be able to fix because

the trouble would have to be with me.

 

I learned to view the people who didn’t

like me the way I liked them, the ones

who found no worth in me – I learned

to see them as the ones to turn to, the

ones to ask about the problems with me

so that I could fix myself as if I were a

broken tool in need of serious repair.

 

I don’t remember when I started to see

myself as a broken object, a tool that

had no function except that function

the people around me gave me, as if

I was nothing more than the item they

could use to assuage their own fears.

 

I don’t remember when I shook that,

when I started to view myself as human,

as a person, worthy of care and respect

in return for being human, being here,

but somewhere along the way I stopped

viewing myself as a tool for others to use

to vent their own anger, their own tears.

 

I shake when I meet someone new because

I am asking myself what I should expect –

will this new person treat me like a tool

or will they treat me like a human, and

what is it I need to do to make sure they

don’t mistake me for the former –

 

And I shake because I know I act against

the grain, I know I make people shy away

because I don’t fit into their definitions of

normal, and I worry that I’m going to have

to defend myself against an onslaught of

disapproval, of distaste, of disdain.

 

I hear others talk about how they act against

society because they don’t care what others

think about them, and inside, I am squirming

because I do care; I care so much it hurts, and

I don’t go against the grain because it’s expected –

it’s part of who I am, woven into the very fabric

of the person I have become, and I won’t reject

any of the experiences that have come to define me.

 

I can face rejection, I can face hatred, and I can

face it when the new people I meet decide that

I am not worth their time, not worth their respect

because they learn something about me they

don’t like. But facing it doesn’t mean it doesn’t

hurt, doesn’t cut to the bone, doesn’t make me

want to scream and cry and rage until I’m hoarse.

 

I shake when I meet someone new because

I know the odds are stacked against me – I know

that there are so many parts of me that society

rejects out of hand, but I don’t hate the people

who hate me for what they do not understand.

It hurts me, cuts me deeply, but I feel sorrow far

more often than I feel anger or betrayal.

 

Because I love to meet new people, to learn their stories,

to hear their tales and try to understand their lives

from the perspectives in which those lives were lived.

There are so many people, so many lives, so many paths

that are so similar and yet so different, and there is such a

myriad of human experience it steals my breath away.

 

Yet, I shake when I meet new people, and it may be

that I will always shake – out of fear of being judged

yet again, out of excitement at the prospect of meeting

a new friend – and I will always care too much.

That’s part of who I am, who I have become, and

I can accept who I am, even as my voice trembles

and my body shivers as I greet someone new –

I will always speak my truth, even if I shake.

Poem: Waiting

Waiting

I remember nights spent

staring at walls, waiting

for the fighting to stop,

waiting for a moment to

breathe before the world

around me fell apart.

 

I remember the solidness

of my sister as she lay beside

me, holding her breath at the

same time I was holding mine,

waiting for the chaos to pass.

 

I remember the yelling, the

words that never quite fit

together in rational patterns

and the solid thump of fists

meeting flesh while waiting,

frozen in tension, frozen in fear.

 

I remember never knowing

what the next moment held

contained within it, always

looking ahead with an eye to

the next moment I would be

holding my breath, waiting.

 

I remember so much waiting

that it is as if my entire life

became a collection of moments,

of snapshots of frozen terror,

to be relived over and over, as

each coalesced into waiting.

 

Waiting for the next terror,

for the next abuse, for the

next harsh word, the next

physical blow – the violence

turned into what I expected,

became what I waited for.

 

Now, I wait with breath held

for the next moment of frozen

terror to lift its head from where

it lays dormant – sometimes, I wish

it would rise, give chase – at least

then, I could finally stop waiting.