People who Need People

3/26/15






I wonder if there was ever a time in our society when people knew that being proved wrong was really just an opportunity to embrace truth.

Do you know what I'm saying? There must have been people somewhere in our sometimes illustrious world history who had the humility to graciously change their position or concede a point. Right? I mean, with all our closed-minded talk of "tolerance" these days, there has to be a few people kicking around who actually know what it is to be open-minded. To listen and consider information rather than desperately fend off the unfamiliar and unpopular. To actually care more about people than ideas. To rank honest participation in the discussion much higher than winning the argument or deciding the rules.

Are you out there?

Anyone?

Well, yes, I know you are because I've met a few of you. But only a few.

The rest of the world only grants their stingy approval to those they can agree with. To those who think the same, even though that is just an illusion. No one thinks the same. It is a physical impossibility.

So here's the thing. I've felt rather surrounded lately by people who throw their membership in the moral majority around like it's a sledgehammer, destructive, vindictive, and holier than thou. They claim that because they are strong in number that they should use the law to bring the entire community to their ideal standard - for everyone's sakes. And the funny thing is - for the most part, I live on the very same moral plane as these people. I follow the same codes of honor. I cherish the same values.

I'm not kidding. I'm a total goodie goodie. I have never dropped the F-bomb in my life. I've never tasted alcohol. I would rather wear a pirate costume to the beach than a bikini.

I'm one of those.

Until I'm faced with a person who is completely unlike myself. Who uses different words, wears different clothes, and follows a different moral code...and I don't freak out.

But I do feel suddenly and obviously displaced from my own tribe because I don't freak out. Because I don't feel the irrepressible need to make other people more like myself.

Anyone else feel this way? Do you also try to talk about liberty and get blank stares from around the table? Do you also defend the more unpleasant bits of human behavior and get the "you dirty traitor" glare?

I have my beliefs and I feel pretty darn confident that I'm right. But there have been times when I have had to revisit my own convictions and alter my moral course. That is a part of being human. And it's crazy hard. It's also crazy necessary.

I happen to believe there is a benevolent God who has laid out a plan for happiness that I choose to follow. I believe He wants me to moderate my speech, dress, etc. But the indisputable fact is that it is impossible to prove or disprove the existence of God, and my truth can only be my truth.

So...

That slovenly young male who hangs out in a parking lot and has a vocabulary of maybe ten words - at least half of them curse words - he doesn't frighten me. I understand that he grew up with different standards of dialogue than I did. That he speaks the way his family speaks. The way his friends and co-workers speak. I can forgive him that.

I grew up saying "eh" like a Canadian. Who am I to judge?

And that girl who has no clue how to apply makeup and wears tights in place of real pants? She doesn't offend me. She's just trying to feel accepted and wanted, even if it is in all the wrong places. And I would love to help her feel valuable instead of objectified and judged, wouldn't you? I don't fall for that whole slut-shaming myth but I do believe in seeing the person beyond the disguise and most of the time, a slutty outfit is nothing more than a disguise - one that often leads to heartbreaking life experiences.

That raging feminist I love to talk about, with the lame anti-male sign that makes me stare in wonder at the fact that she thinks she's actually fighting for equality - I can honestly appreciate that she thinks she's doing the right thing, even if I disagree to the core of my being. She's out there, taking a stand which is more than what most people can say. So let people have their socialist/censorist protests, whatever they may be. A picket sign and catchy phrase won't change my mind about anything. Ever. I might think that certain people are mentally challenged (sorry), but I promise I won't find them the least bit inconvenient to my position or my life and I don't believe that they're "evil". And neither should you.

And last but not least, that pungent person pushing the shopping cart full of filth and begging for quarters - the one you pretend not to see or smell - I could imagine that I know exactly how he got to this ignoble place, but I'd be full of crap. I couldn't possibly know. How could any of us possibly know? The only thing I do know, is how my God treated people like him...

...how He treated people like all of them.

I'm not a great person. In fact I'm deeply and hopelessly flawed.

But I have learned one thing at long last. People matter more than policy.

PEOPLE MATTER MORE THAN POLICY.

Yes, I just shouted that at you.

Being a part of some moral majority (or angry minority) does not grant us the right to be so bloody scornful. Or to fearmonger.

I was told recently that my failure to feel threatened by a group of trash talking males must indicate that I've never been in any real danger. That is correct - in fact, it's my point. I've lived across the road from drug and arms dealers, had a mentally ill neighbor threaten my life, been evacuated more than once from a NYC subway for bomb and anthrax threats, even had a deranged ex-family member try to break into the house when no adults were home. And no, I don't think I've ever been in any real danger. Because we, in our pretty little western bubble, aren't often in real danger. But we tend to imagine that we are, perhaps to feel like we aren't so removed from the rest of the world. That we aren't so ignorant or so privileged.

Tell that to someone living in Nigeria.

I would suggest that you're not really afraid that loitering youths are going to cause you harm, but that you are actually afraid of being forced to confront differences you aren't very good at handling. If a homeless person asks you for spare change, they have not hurt you. If an unruly teen spews a long string of curse words within your range of hearing, he has not hurt you. If a scantily clad woman walks by you in the grocery store, she has not hurt you. If protesters carry their signs and chant their slogans past your place of business, they have not hurt you. There is no danger. There is no threat.

Except for the danger and the threat posed to these individuals by the moral majority and their ideas of coerced decency.

You can argue that there is a "potential" for vandalism or underaged drinking or harrassment or whatever if that makes you feel better. But if people commit a crime, we punish them according to the laws that would punish us for the same act. The law already protects all of us from harm.

The real issue at hand is whether or not it's a good idea to legislate morality. By that I mean creating laws that don't have anything to do with criminal activity, but are meant to punish people for behaving immorally, according to a very narrow selection of philosophies. It's giving government and police the power to usurp human rights in favour of making the more "respectable" part of the community feel more comfortable.

Comfortable. Oh yes I did.

Comfort is not a human right and never can be. Freedom of speech, movement, worship, and association - now those are human rights.

We talk much of democracy and it is the cornerstone of freedom, but it was always meant to be the best way to protect the rights of the individual. The mob can never be allowed to form a tyranny. That's not what democratic people do.

And once we give the government the power to control even a small portion of our lives - they almost never give that power up. They keep it far beyond its intended usefulness. And then that power is used against those who fought for it in the first place. The moral majority wants to ban unacceptable language but is horrified when that same ban is used to prevent a family from praying over their food on a picnic in a public park. They're happy to outlaw a protest one day but howl in rage when that same law prevents a club fundraiser or church barbecue.

Our own moral code reigns supreme on our own property, as it should. But the public arena is a place designed by nature for differences. Government is formed to protect those differences, not to sort, rank and quell them!

It's not the moral code that even matters - it's giving authority to government to dictate what the moral code is. You will agree with the town council or federal government one day, and disagree with them the next. They should not have the power to tell you what is right and what is wrong, unless an actual crime has been committed. An actual crime. With an actual victim. Instead of an indignant "model citizen".

So what do we do with people who are rude, inconsiderate, loud, obnoxious, and vulgar? It's a legitimate question and we can look to our own moral code for the answer.

We love and respect them anyway - and more importantly, we give them reason to love and respect us! That goes a lot further with people than unfair and discriminatory laws. These are people who feel our judgement every time we look in their direction. But what if that wasn't the case? What if they weren't made to feel like it's us versus them?

Think of every encounter with someone who appears to you to be a little rough around the edges as an opportunity for the moral majority to become more patient, kind, and just. Golly, but we need that.

We need them. We all need people who are vastly and irreconcilably different from ourselves.

And if we are free, then so are they.





*As always, I welcome you to retort on your OWN blog. If you can't respect my position, you must at least respect my liberty. Thank you.

Fifty Shades of Bull

3/5/15




Perhaps you were wondering if I'd end up posting  a rant about this whole "rape culture/consensual abuse" circus. It seems just the kind of thing I'd jump on, doesn't it? I do have an opinion, naturally, but to me it's really all one foundational, underlying issue. And I've been hesitant to broach it, mainly because we're all supposed to be strong, modern women, and I shouldn't HAVE to.

You should just know.

You should know that love doesn't hurt or humiliate or rank titilation above tenderness and kindness.

You should know that you're going to feel like a loser after a one night stand because sex is as much emotional and intellectual as it is physical.

You should know, by golly, that if you set out to use another person without regard for their feelings or circumstances, you, they, or both of you are bound to get hurt.

But you DO know all this. You know it. You feel it. That's the problem. No matter how much we try to convince ourselves that sex can be a meaningless romp or a playground for the self absorbed, we know that it can't be.

Otherwise, we would't feel so damned ashamed when we do something monumentally stupid.

Here's the thing about shame. Like pain, it's a useful tool. Pain tells your body that there is something not quite right. Shame tells you're soul that there is something not quite right. This is why they call it the "walk of shame". You know, instinctively, that you have done something to your detriment. Not because of anything as insipid as reputation. But because you have settled for less than you deserve. Your soul is crying out for better.

Women who wake up the morning after feeling wretched are not shamed by society or by some guy. They have shamed themselves and that awful feeling is not a punishment, but a warning. It's your soul trying to take the blinders off your eyes.

The very foundation of humanity is knowing who you are and being true to yourself. Otherwise, we are just sheep, being herded along by the ones with the big sticks. But as women we are being told that our intuition doesn't matter. That if we put ourselves in a situation that feels risky, we aren't responsible for the results. That if we feel badly for something we've done, it has to be someone else's fault. That if we make a mistake, we must be a victim instead of a thinking, feeling, self-determining human being.

But that doesn't help us. It doesn't change us. It only makes us feel powerless.

The rape culture craze that has lately imprisoned higher education is based on the supposition that a woman is a helpless damsel in distress, so delicate and fragile that if a man unexpectedly kisses her, she's going to fall to pieces. Sexual assault, a real and serious issue, which should be the focus of actual law enforcement, against actual criminals, has been diluted and mocked to the point where the woman who was drugged or beaten is grouped with the woman who regrets a drunken makeout session. The man who goes a little too far with a girl he's already slept with several times is grouped with the psycho who gets off on hearing his victims beg and scream.

As much as we repeat the mantra, "no means no", we aren't actually expecting a woman to say no anymore. We aren't expecting her to be master of her own fate or even exercise reasonable judgement. We are assuming that she is weak and powerless! All she has to do is regret her choices. All she has to do is feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. And we make her an instant victim and hero of the cause. And we crucify the poor shmoe who thought he was getting lucky.

In other words, we manipulate and disrespect them both.

But I didn't mean to get so drunk, she says. But I was thinking no, she claims. I thought it was okay, but then realized later that I didn't like it. He shouldn't have taken advantage. Whah....?

Let me get this straight...you go out and get so drunk that you can't say no, and you're supposed to rely on a guy who's likewise wasted to determine that you're too drunk to have sex with? You're making a man responsible for deciding whether or not you're fit to have sex? And you don't find that sexist? Are you kidding me?

You got yourself to the place where you couldn't say no or didn't want to say no when you should. You put yourself in the company of people who are looking for the slightest bit of encouragement to use you. You did. You. You and only you have the power to jump into a bad situation with both feet...or to avoid one.

And when did women decide that they shouldn't have to...I don't know...communicate to their potential partners? When did we decide that because our girlfriend or older sister regaled us with exciting stories of college hook ups it's somehow the guy's fault that we got what we wanted? If you get drunk at a frat party, you damn well know that you're surrounded by guys looking for casual sex. You know it. And yet you came. And you started drinking. How very smart of you.

Now, lest you begin to think I advocate taking advantage of a drunk girl at a party, smack yourself upside the head for me. Thanks. NO WOMAN in the WORLD thinks that it's okay for a guy to take advantage of a drunk girl at a party. But you have to admit, that some of the responsibility must fall on the person who chooses to BE a drunk girl at a party. The fact is, the radical feminist social engineers of our day have gone to a lot of effort to convince us all that women want casual sex just as much as men and that it's harmless as long as it's "consensual". We are telling guys, practically screaming at them, that we like casual sex. So put yourself in the guy's position. You go to a party intent on hooking up and meet a cute girl who's had about as much to drink as you have and who responds very favourably to your advances. Score. You have a great night - at least what you can remember of it - and part ways sometime before dawn...you think. A week later you're being investigated on sexual assualt charges, your career path is about to tank, and everyone thinks you're a rapist. Great. And the girl? She didn't make a stupid mistake, oh no. She was a victim of your brutality. Of your criminal act. Except that it wasn't criminal. They didn't even call the police.

Can I make a suggestion? Can I suggest that a woman who isn't sure if she's been assaulted isn't really uncomfortable or embarrassed because she's been conditioned to accept abuse at the hands of men, but that she's ashamed in the real and powerful sense of the word. Ashamed because she knows in her heart that she was reckless and irresponsible. That she agreed to be used. That something was not quite right. And that she was a part of that wrongness. It's sad. It's heart breaking. But it is what it is.

She was told that she ought to want to hook up with some cute guy at a party. And she believed it...until it happened. And then she felt like crap. She was told that exposing herself in some public way is liberating. It's her body, right? But then the smartphone-captured evidence rears its ugly head. And she feels like crap.

The feminists think we shouldn't have to feel like crap. They are convincing us that anger and recrimination are much easier to handle than remorse. They expect us to come to college and happily swallow all their lies about sex - and then blame others for the hurtful and humiliating consequences.

If we want to blame someone, blame them! They told us a big fat, dangerous lie! And we were stupid enough to believe it.

They lied to us because they have this mistaken idea that men are living the high life, allowed to exploit others free from shame, guilt, and compassion and that we should be allowed a slice of that moral relativity too. But there is a fatal flaw to their way of thinking. They make the dazedly incorrect assumption that such loose behavior doesn't hurt men.

Of course it does!

We've just, as a society, come to expect too little of our men and let them carry the burden of shallow relationships and poor decisions for generations - a burden that we could help to lift, but instead, aspire to share. We could help them to chivalry, integrity and sincerity, but choose instead to cast off these values from ourselves. In the past we made excuses for them because they were beyond reproach. Now we make excuses for them because we despise them. Because men are "like that".

I know of a few...million...men who might disagree. Or who at least should disagree. Vehemently.

And even if all men were pigs...why then would we want to be pigs too? Why are some women so consumed with being as shallow, indifferent, selfish, and cruel as the worst of men? Like it's some sort of right?

These social engineers are trying to convince us that we want a fictional liberation. That we can't only be legally free to be promiscuous, we must want to be. And we must be rewarded for it by having all the natural negative consequences removed. Just tell me this. Do you actually want it rough? Do you want it casual? Do you want to be abandoned sometime in the early hours of the morning? Do you want to be expected to text racy pictures? Do you want to be appreciated only until a firmer body or more bendable will comes along? Do you want to limit human interaction to a fix you seek out when you're depressed or bored...like scarfing down a pint of ice cream but with much worse repercussions?

If the answer is yes, then I would venture to say that most of you don't actually like these things, you just think that men like you more for pretending to like these things. Honey, that is the opposite of true feminism. And it's destructive to both sexes.

Seriously, if your husband/boyfriend came home from work and said to you, "Honey, you aren't going out with the girls tonight because I want sex and I'm thinking I might try choking you this time," how would you react?

Laugh. Projectile vomit. Kick him to the curb. All in that order.

This is what you want, they tell us. This will make you free.

But our hearts and our souls and our common sense are all telling us otherwise.

Young women who don't know how to deal with the hurt are being encouraged to lash out. And young men who only believed what the feminists were telling them are paying with their futures.

And that brings us to the most bizarre part of this whole human-hating witch hunt, which must be confusing our poor young men to the point of delirium. You can't even kiss a girl without her express permission on a college campus, and yet droves of starry eyed women went to see Fifty Shades of Gray. I'm pretty confused by it all myself.

Now, I'm a libertarian and a capitalist. I welcome publishers everywhere to print as much smut as they care to. I also welcome you, as thinking, feeling, human beings, to read and watch as much smut as you care to. Just as I welcome you to drink diet soda and eat at McDonalds. It's your body. It's your mind.

Choose your poison.

But please stop being stereotypical sexually repressed soccer moms for crying out loud!

And don't think that by persuading hosts of young men that some women like to be choked, whipped, scolded, or commanded, that you're not muddying the dating pool for yourself, your friends or your daughters. Don't be foolish enough to think that it's all fantasy and therefore harmless.

Because it is art imitating life. 

I am making this point very earnestly to you. Because some women are hurt and humiliated by their partners. Some women are raped and beaten and isolated. For real.

And apparently hundreds of thousands of other women enjoy watching. Because they aren't going in droves to the theatre for the social commentary, the believable performances...or the writing (oh gosh, the writing!). They aren't going because they want to see a woman escape, triumphant. They go to sit in the dark and giggle and sigh and fantasize about rich and handsome sociopaths.

How is it pleasurable to re-enact crimes perpetrated against others? To fake the fear, rage, despair and suffering that haunts the victims of such real-life acts for the rest of their lives? To me that seems monstrously inhuman. A blatant mockery. Their dignity in exchange for your arousal.

We are spurning and scorning the real human interaction of love and intimacy and glorifying the false, the staged, the affected. We are teaching our youth to fake love and avoid the real thing. We have an amazing built-in moral compass and we're being taught to hate and distrust it.

The real issue at the heart of so-called rape culture, at the bottom of Fifty Shades, and at the crux of male/female relationships, is that women and men are being taught to accept garbage as food. We are being given rancid meat and told that it's supposed to make us retch a little. Um...NO! Sex isn't supposed to make us feel great for a moment and then awful for days afterward, like crack. It's supposed to add to our lives and enrich our love. Anyone who tells you differently either wants to get into your head or into your pants.

Neither one actually cares about you.

You are going to have to be the one who cares about you. You are going to have to be the protector, the decider, the master of your fate.

You will have to be the one who chooses which company she keeps, what kinds of parties she attends, what kind of men she dates, how she communicates her wishes, and how she demands to be treated.

Otherwise, you're just sheep, being herded along by the ones with the big sticks.






*As always, feel free to retort on your own blog. If you can't respect my position, you must at least respect my liberty. Thank you.

Monsters

2/17/15



I know...it's February. And these are Halloween pictures. But aren't these two just so cute in a horrifying and creepy way? In my family, we have enjoyed several years of Halloween princesses, fuzzy animals, peter pans, Harry Potters and other beloved characters from childhood literature and film.

And then came October 31st, 2014, when my niece and nephew became of an age to spurn the cute and fuzzy, and demand instead, bloody bullet holes.

Yes, I suppose eventually, cute must be traded in for scary and horrifying. It's just so hard to admit that they're growing up. And it's hard to realize how many new fears and worries are looming just ahead for these little people. Real fears that actually do include bloody bullet holes. I, like their parents, would love to keep fear out of their lives. To shield them from all those awful possibilities and responsibilities and inevitabilities.

In life, there are two types of fear: the fear of things that might happen and the fear of falling short. 

And the second is by far the worst. 

You aren't really afraid that there's a monster in your closet. You're afraid that if there is, you won't be able to face it. You might fail. You might get hurt. You might make the wrong decision. You may have to think and work and sacrifice and do things that are difficult. Those are the fears that come as you grow - harder to face than any imagined childhood boogyman. 

But there will always be monsters of one kind or another. So it's pointless to be afraid of them. The only real courage is the courage to believe that you'll handle it. Whatever it is.

The problem is, we live in a world obsessed with monsters. Seriously, by watching the news you'd think we were completely overrun. But the real threat is the fact that we are so darned afraid of not being able to deal with them, that we don't deal with them. We try to deflect the danger with warning labels and countersuits, diversionary bells and whistles, heaps of political rhetoric, carefully crafted speeches and sophisticated remote control bombers so that we don't have to get too close to the carnage we cause. But most of all, we toss around excuses meant to relieve us of the responsibility. To cover our butts in case the monsters win. So we never have to be wrong.  

What it all comes down to, is being afraid of ourselves. Have you not read "the Monster at the End of This Book"? Read it. It's enlightening.

We face plenty of monsters every day, those figurative and those shockingly literal. But empowerment doesn't come from knowing that you are the best - it comes from knowing that you'll do your best. Invincible people can never be brave, only vulnerable people can. You want to know how to defeat monsters? You know and love yourself and you know and love your life.

Monsters. Schmonsters. Let 'em come.

Let them look me in the eyes and know me, and then they'll be afraid.

Release the Kraken

1/22/15





Well, we marched right through that door marked 2015 folks, and while you can close a door, you can't un-open it. Whatever was hiding inside Pandora's box has already been released, as inevitable and unstoppable as the kraken. We dared the universe to make or break us when we hit the restart button on the calendar and now it's on.

I always feel a little unsettled at the beginning of a new year. Excited, but unsettled. Because it's the unknown. It's the future. And we're in the thick of it.

What will 2015 bring? Well for me it's about finding impossible things. Like a medical specialist who knows ANYTHING about my condition. And an editor who likes novels about guardian angels (there must be one out there). If I can just find these particular needles in this haystack of a world, then 2015 could just be the best year ever. At this point, I'd settle for coming in somewhere in the top five.

So I'm considering myself on the cusp of greatness, as I do every year, because it's bound to be true at some point in my life. I suppose we're off to a good start as I just published my first column. Yes, that's right. Someone was crazy enough to give me a column. It's for an independent magazine in my own humble neck of the woods, but I get to write whatever I want. And you all know how much I enjoy writing whatever I want.

So here is my first blurb about life and whatnot. My nieces and nephews were quite impressed that my picture is in a real magazine with real pages that they got at the grocery store!

Onward and upward y'all!



A Little More You, A Little More Me
*Featured in Quirk Magazine, Jan/Feb 2015*

Breaking a promise to yourself is a shockingly forgiveable offense. Others might be wounded if you betray their trust, but when you break a promise to yourself, you can basically just shrug your shoulders and eat cake. This is the time of year when people overindulge in goals and resolutions almost as much as they indulge in leftover Christmas baking, straight from the freezer. Because making a goal on January 1st and then forgetting it by January 15th will never result in any significant consequences. Not even remorse. I suppose it's just human nature but I'm still sincerely ashamed of us! Because if there's anyone you can truly rely on, it ought to be yourself.

I once made a New Year's resolution to become a fabulous soccer player. Anyone that knows me will find this completely laughable. It was the sport I longed to play when I was a kid but my mom made me take piano lessons instead. So as a fully grown woman, I bought a soccer ball and persuaded (coerced) a friend to kick it around with me. But there was a slight hiccup...or two or three. I have no athletic ability, little time to spare, no appropriate ball-kicking space, and while I have this idealistic vision of being sporty, I'd really rather be reading a good book. As you may have gathered from my clever foreshadowing, the project was an utter failure.

Because I had made a promise to myself knowing full well that I lacked the ability to fulfill it.

This goal setting tradition of ours is called a "New Year's Resolution", not "This Year's Fantasy". So after looking back on several foolish trials of former years, I've realized that the trick to a successful 2015 kick-off is to promise myself that I'll be truer to myself. That I'll develop the skills I have, improve upon the things I do half-heartedly, and become just a little bit more of the person I already have the potential to be. A little more truly me.

And not somebody else.

There are no soccer balls in my future. But there are books and languages and recipes and music. Making promises that you can and will keep is a way of being your own champion. It's taking your real life, at the very core, and making it better and happier. It's a way of proclaiming to the universe that 2015 is going to be the best year ever.

Because who's to say that it won't?


Here's the link to Quirk Magazine!

Say Anything

1/8/15



I wasn't going to write a blog post about this topic - because gee I get myself in enough trouble as it is. But sometimes you just have to say SOMETHING before you explode and it ends up all over the place anyway, only then it's a lot messier. So I guess I'm a believer in cathartic blogging. Get it all out, Ginger.

How shall I begin?

French magazines and lewd satirical cartoons.

Don't worry! I'm not going to post them here. Because they're kinda SICK.

But that's not really the issue.

The issue is, and always is : people.

Life is a balancing act. Be it physical, emotional, or philosophical, we are weighing our beliefs, our principals and our responsibilities. And who's to say how any of us ought to pack the scales? People are in different places on their journey and they do things for reasons that we either totally get, or not. The point I'm getting to is that some people, myself included, would never print anything that intentionally mocks or parodies any religion. Most likely because we attach ourselves to some religious belief or other and we understand what it's like to have your deepest ideals publicly attacked. It's not very cool. But to some, people of faith are simple folk who need a panacea to cling to, and therefore deserve to be mocked at least a little. Some of these non-believers even think that by denigrating religious figures and symbols, they are encouraging discussion and cutting through the blind faith of massive herds of sheep, doing science and reason a huge favor.

And to an extent they are right.

Religion should be discussed, it should be questioned, and it should even be challenged. And yes, most reasonable people understand that there is a time, a place, and a method to challenge religion fairly and that you can and should maintain a decent level of respect for people's beliefs, whether it's one of the major world faiths or a stubborn devotion to Santa Claus.

I'm a Mormon for crying out loud. And I have Jewish heritage. I think I know a bit about mockery, disdain and flat out discrimination. But to tell you the truth, HBO's Sister Wives has not changed my life. The Book of Mormon Musical hasn't hurt me. I wasn't even perturbed by all the jokes and insults flung around during Mitt Romney's campaign. You could get all up in my face and say the most disgusting and horrible things about Mormons and Jews and even Canadians and I would most likely just smile at you pityingly for being such a sad, sorry excuse for a human being.

Well actually, I would probably give you an auto-responsive shove for being too far into my personal space. Respect the bubble, people.

But otherwise, say what you will. I don't care. And neither does my God. He isn't too concerned with the contents of late night television monologues or "adult cartoons". He's much too busy...I don't know...running the universe and stuff. If he doesn't mind a few tasteless jokes at his expense, then why should I? It does not change the type of Mormon I am. If it did, I would not be much of a Mormon.

But we're offended, the people cry. Oh no! What shall we do? Someone made a joke and it's out there for people to see! We must make them stop. We must make everyone be nice. We must make everyone see religion the way we see it. We must make everyone behave just the way we think they ought to. Because...freedom of speech only applies to people who say heck instead of hell? Or maybe freedom of speech only applies to those who behead non-believers with swords.

Whatever you might personally feel about the cartoons published by that french magazine or any other, you have every right to show your disapproval not only by not buying said magazine, but by expressing your outrage in the internet stratosphere. Use the most poisonous words in your vocabulary. Weep and wail and gnash your teeth if you like. But that does not change the fact that an irreverent cartoonist can speak and draw and print as freely as you and I. If there is only freedom of speech for some, then there is really freedom of speech for no one.

And even the most arrogantly irreverent satirist has people who love him and people who depend on him. A life lost to violence should always be mourned and never justified or weighed against some other person's hurt feelings. Because if there is no right to life for all, then there is no right to life for any.

And oh my bloody hell, imagine the pain of the families who lost someone as the world practically apologizes to the shooters. To the shooters!

Sure, we may be tempted to qualify our condemnation of violent retribution by expressing sympathy for the offended. But that's only if we're so delusional that we imagine offense to be involuntary. Offense is never given, it is always chosen.

I have felt displeased with many things I've seen and heard over my lifetime. I even (back in the days when my passion was greater than my wisdom) wrote a scathing letter to a local university paper for printing an image that was atrociously disparaging of the Catholic faith. I did not however question their right to print it. I really just called them out as being intellectualist idiots who'd exchanged thinking, feeling humanity for cold, bitter relativism. It was kind of fun.

But now we come to the crux; the thing that I hope you take away with you when you choose to be offended and click angrily away from this blog. Does someone really get so offended by a cartoon that they feel they must kill twelve people? Of course not. Perhaps they sock someone in the jaw in the heat of the moment, or say things they later regret. But no sane person takes a semi and shoots an unarmed cop in the head.

To say that these men were goaded into a mass killing is a despicable LIE.

Let's calm down and think this through, seeking always for the reasonable truth. Men who belong to an ever growing, and ever more boldly violent group of religious oppressors, stormed a business that was guilty of breaking one of that group's most sacred rules, punishable by death. Those monsters were not there to avenge a prophet, they were there to mete out the corresponding sentence. They were there to show the world that they will - and can - make us bow to their laws whether we recognize them or not. They are not victims. They are terrorists.

If you have ever been in the position to have your faith mocked and insulted - which happens almost daily to a Mormon/Christian/Jew - then you know, by the fact that you cannot identify with their desire to kill anyone who makes jokes about them - that these people do not deserve our pity. They deserve our prayers, but not our pity.

So what should we consider now that another violent attempt to silence free speech has come and gone? That the real war on terror never was being waged in some distant desert. The outcome can only be decided by our willingness to give way to sharia law under some misguided attempt to be politically correct, or our determination to live free. And to let all others live free.

Even if they have bloody awful taste in humor.

These terror attacks will not stop. I'm pretty sure they're just getting the ball rolling (and there are plenty of other groups and even governments willing to get on board this die-freedom-die campaign). This enemy has sworn to kill us all unless we submit to their faith. And while you have no real impact on what happens in the searing heat and sand at the frontlines of Obama's "not war", you are fighting this battle in a very real way, here at home, as you choose each day how to live.

Liberty is their enemy but it is our salvation.

Walking the Walk

11/13/14




I once turned down a date so I could go walking up Broadway, NYC, by myself.

I'm not even joking.
It's a story that I related later on to my mom, who could have strangled me, like any frustrated mother with a single daughter over 30.

But you see, that solitary walk was something I always did at the end of a visit and it was precious to me. I was in New York on routine business, I met this guy through work, it was my last day in the city, and he wanted to go somewhere. I took one pensive look up the magical lamp-lined street, crowded with all those wonderfully mysterious and indifferent city folk, and I totally bailed. And not very gracefully.

I am a horrible person.

Okay, not a horrible person - just a horrible dater. There are a few things that feed my soul, so much that I never turn down a chance at them. Walking in New York is one of the big ones. You'll just have to forgive me that predilection, because there is no cure, and if you go to New York with me I will probably ditch you too at some point, just like that poor, bewildered young man. I could be married and have three kids by now y'all, but we'll never know, because I just HAD to have my customary walk.

Anyway, my point is coming. And it's probably way controversial. Not by design, but by nature apparently - because I have a tendency to think that most videos that go viral are super lame and most neo-feminist drivel is...well, drivel. And it's so easy to be controversial without really meaning to, isn't it?

So here we go. The puzzle of the day. Do men catcall abundantly on the streets of New York City? That is the question raised by millions of youtube connoisseurs lately and it got me scrolling through the memories because I'm not just a casual pedestrian. I've savoured many a Manhattan avenue and therefore must have ample evidence that I can testify to. So let me think...yes they do catcall.

But I've never noticed it much.

Don't freak out, I'm being completely honest with you.
I'm not a fan of bandwagons, witch hunts, or sweeping generalizations. I have to consider more than just the popular memes and video clips of the day and I can't take sides based on gender - because I believe in humanity as a whole. Perhaps you feel the same way. So let's consider.

Maybe I come at this from a different perspective right from the start. I have been bullied and mocked my entire life, by male and female alike - for my glasses, my clothes, my hair, my faith, my shyness, my insecurity, my economic status. Decades later, I am practically immune. A few thoughtless words cannot ruin something I enjoy as much as taking a walk in my favourite city. This is a life skill. People are unkind and thoughtless and that takes many forms. You know you're going to face it every day.

When you walk down a busy street in a busy city, you get people talking at you from every direction. Panhandlers, evangelists, political activists. I don't regard any of them. It's a disrespectful way to engage someone. Period. And believe me, I often heard that subtle smack of the lips as a man walked by, supposedly communicating some mysterious man-code that I have never bothered to interpret. In fact, I laugh at myself to recall how long it took me to realize what it was that I was hearing. Seriously? Was that a kissy noise that dude just made at me? And when I did realize the astonishing truth, was I offended beyond reason? Not at all. Why would I be offended or flattered or in any way affected? It has nothing to do with me.

You see, when you're offended, you give a person's words and actions power and meaning - often more than was ever intended. You make it your problem, when it began as someone else's.

Therein lies the difference between those who imagine themselves insulted at every turn and those who don't. Walking down an urban street is a freedom I value too much to give away. Unless someone does something physically to me, prevents me from doing something, or in some other way invades my space or imposes on my will, I simply don't care if they want to mumble or pucker up as I breeze by. I just don't. Nothing encourages disrespect more than giving power and importance to those who disrespect.

Try to deny me my equal human rights, and I will surely raise hell. But whistle at me and the only harm done is to prove to all bystanders that you are an idiot. And that's actually a conclusion that I can get behind. So go ahead. By all means. Display your desperation to appear more suave or bad**s than you are. It's a free country.

In the meantime, I'm going to keep walking. And let me tell you, my New York wanderings are some of the happiest moments of  my life. I cringe to imagine how different the composition of my soul would be had I chosen to be horrified and petrified by any stupidly innocuous displays of juvenile overcompensation. Think of the moments that are ruined by taking offense! And for what? It doesn't fix things. It doesn't change minds. It doesn't even make you feel better. Calling a man a "pig" has never made him less of a pig.

And it's never made you more of a saint.

But obviously there are rude men out there in the world and with a population as large and as varied as New York's there's bound to be a slightly higher than average rate. But consider this: for the dozen or so ungentlemanly males that I passed by on any given day, there were a few hundred that were perfectly respectful. The actions of a socially stunted few are hardly proof of a global misogynistic conspiracy.

So let me tell you about what I experienced traversing the streets of New York. Because I have stories. Every woman does. And so does every man.

First there was the guy in the suit who looked up from his newspaper on the subway, leaned in ever so slightly, and said "I don't mean to bother you, but you have the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen." And then he went back to reading his paper.

There was that billionaire that offered me, totally out of the blue, the use of his apartment in Chicago. Kind of an awkward conversation, but I lived to tell the tale.

There was the soldier on the way to the ferry who said he'd like to marry me.

Or the JFK security guy who was positive I was some famous actress trying to travel incognito.

And then there was the darling old man with the salt and pepper hair in Harlem who said...and I quote..."Ooh girrrrrl, pink is your color. You should wear pink every day!"

Of course I'm relating the humorous and the harmless. Because that's what I remember. The rest has been discarded as superfluous data that doesn't hurt me or help me. The thing I took away from each of these instances was not how they made me feel - because they didn't make me feel anything in particular. My point is this: not one of these men, of differing races and economic classes, was attempting to make me feel small or oppressed or devalued. If they had intended it, they would have failed miserably.

The streets of New York take your breath away. They reveal every side of every story. They challenge every view. And when you dare to mingle with the world on such a scale as a Manhattan sidewalk, you have to be strong enough and brave enough to love humanity. Even if it whistles at you. Especially when it whistles at you.

Because YOU judge as you stroll past people. You assume. You condemn. You admire. You even objectify. Perhaps not out loud, but you do it. Even if you're the most condescending, self righteous feminist to have ever put on a wounded air.

It's never okay, but it's definitely human. Such flaws can be outgrown and overcome - and usually are. Your own respected father was once a cocky young man hanging out of the passenger side window. For those who never do outgrow it...well, that's sad. But it has nothing to do with you.

The only way to walk down a street in New York or any public street at all, is to do so with perspective, with forgiveness for every imperfection, and patience for the personal journey of the individual. Unlike many of the roads in Manhattan, tolerance is a street that goes both ways. How can we honestly protect and preserve human rights and human dignity if we can't handle the less than ideal usage of the vital rights of speech and thought?

And how can we be so unjust and so insensitive as to compare some attention-begging catcall to legitimate harassment? To measure bruised sensibilities against bruised bodies? Or compare a sleezy line to workplace threats and leverage? They don't come from the same place. Bald male insecurity is not the same as predatory aggression.

Hey, if some jerk gets handsy or abusive, pepper spray him to hell and back.

But if you can't tolerate your fellow humans who may travel more slowly along the road to gender enlightenment, then you're going to be offended every damn day of your life.

And honey, what a waste that would be.

Let me tell you about the time I faced down one of these so called "pigs".

I was walking across a park and got catcalled by a very young man hanging out with some buddies. He was obviously expecting the typical reaction: either I would hurry away, hurt and self conscious, or I would get all ruffled and indignant, or I would smile and blush, which does happen - each scenario a victory for his fledgeling ego. Instead, I turned and walked purposely toward him, neither angry nor humiliated. I got within a few feet of him and said, "Hey buddy, that's really not cool". He was startled and embarrassed. The only reason I even attempted to speak to him - and probably the only reason he was too chagrined to retaliate - was because he was just a kid. But I realized that catcalling has nothing to do with the woman. Not really. It's about a person trying to make himself feel less powerless. And that deserves our pity.

The battle of the sexes that rages in our social media culture today has nothing to do with equality and everything to do with wounded pride, vindication, and misunderstanding. It points fingers, makes accusations, and judges without mercy. We could easily make a few youtube videos that prove the flaws and injustices of select groups of womankind. But what good would that do anyone?

The question isn't whether or not men catcall in New York.

The real question is, how do we move forward with compassion, fairness, and a lasting belief in humanity? How do we improve communication between the sexes rather than divide them further?

We are cogs in the grand wheel of a society increasingly chopped up into pixels and sound bytes. Texts, tweets, speed dating, internet porn, prostitution and "hooking up". We try to squeeze human interaction into 140 characters or less. We keep it "casual" without thought, feeling or consequence. No need to fight for real relationships when you're faced with a barrage of quick and easy clickables. This is our culture. And communication will only continue to degrade. Could the way we interact with one another on a public street be at all impacted? You don't need maturity, courage, respect, patience, or any other virtue to live a drive-by kind of life. And that's what "street harassment" is : a drive-by bid for validation.

Could this be a symptom of a deeper problem that has nothing to do with some imagined patriarchy or hierarchy?

Well, these are my thoughts on the subject. Agree or disagree at your leisure. But go beyond your initial gut reaction, will you? No bandwagons for the thinking woman.

Unleash the Pumpkins

10/10/14





There are yellow leaves blowing by my window and there are pumpkins on my kitchen counter. These are harbingers of change as the temperature dips and rises, dips and rises, and we check off another milestone in time that is measured in school years, even long after we've left school. Or maybe that's just me. New clothes, new schedules, bouquets of sharpened pencils and all that. I get a whiff of frost on the morning air and feel like starting over. How funny it is to associate this season with renewal when it's the time of year that everything goes into hibernation, wilting, fading and crunching underfoot.

But that brings me to my current soul searching question: what is this obsession with pumpkins? No, really. Fruit and vegetables come and go every season and we manage to contain our enthusiasm. But autumn hits and the pumpkins are unleashed. I was thinking about this the other day when I unpacked these two little beauties from my grocery bag. I do intend to chop them up and cook them at some point (because what is autumn without the scent of baked pumpkin and nutmeg?). In the meantime, I walk all the way across my house to the kitchen several times each day just to admire them. They aren't spectacular. They're lumpy and blotchy and undeniably orange. If Halloween is your thing, then you'll want one or two for carving, but for a single gal like me, who appreciates the holiday only as far as it gets her more face time with the nieces and nephews, a pumpkin is a superfluous kitchen-counter-hogger.

And that got me thinking about other things in my life that mean something, and yet I can't tell what. The little details and extras and oddities we look forward to for no other reason than to have them in the periphery of life. Maybe it's because the things we love are really just part of a continuous cycle of building and gathering. Autumn isn't just the yard-raking predecessor to the dreaded winter. It's a series of sights, scents, tastes, and experiences that ties our first year of life to every year that comes after. I appreciate a good pumpkin for the simple fact that there has always been a pumpkin. There's nothing special about it. It really is just a vegetable (or a fruit, if you need to be technical). But there is something insanely wondrous about my life. That pumpkin is one of the pieces of my personal autumn.

It's not about the pumpkin. It's about me.

And as the snow begins to fly and the heavy artillery of wool and fleece come out of storage, I will build my personal winter. And then my personal Christmas. And my personal joy.

We're all just trying to build our personal joy, y'all.

The lesson that I take from this particular conversation with myself is that we attach meaning to so many big and small things, when what we're really doing is attaching meaning to life. We fill the corners with symbols and reminders because in a world that continues in a downward spiral of justifying and glorifying the dead and the shallow, we all know, viscerally, that nothing is more meaningful than life. Nothing can be great or beautiful or important unless we first acknowledge that life is all of those things. No talk of poverty, disease, convenience, dignity, security, or the phantasmic carbon footprint can alter the value of human life, although it can fool us into thinking it does.

Life is amazing.

And this woman likes to celebrate her life with pumpkin cheesecake.