One of the ways to make sense of an unfathomable truth, one which does not makes sense with the world as we understand it, is to blame that unfathomable truth on something or someone else.
Well, hey there!
I know I’m supposed to be talking about the Just World Hypothesis and Trump’s border wall, per the title and my previous article on this topic. But, first I have to lay some additional groundwork.
You see, last week I looked at the Just World Fallacy in general terms. I outlined how the belief that the world is a fundamentally Just and Fair place can (key word there) lead to victim-blaming mentalities and behavior. In order to accurately capture how this leads to the rhetorical power of the idea of a border wall (all Trump really needs is the idea and to appear to be fighting for it after all), I need to first spend some time talking about the economy, which will be something of a theme for these articles.
That’s the thing about Ideals, they are almost always out of reach. We will, in all likelihood, always be working them. We’ve got a good way to go yet.
The world isn’t fair. It isn’t nice. It isn’t particularly Just.
I want to believe that it is, or that it could be, because a Just world makes so much more sense. A Just World gives us (humans) some control. We can enter into a transactional sphere where our actions have real and understandable consequences, good and bad, and those consequences make sense. Hard work = good job / successful life, etc. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.
For me, being my best self means being and owning that I am queer. With or without place. You don’t have to like it.
Hey there! Happy Pride!
I knew I would come back to this. I knew it. Last year I wrote a post about pride month expressing my discomfort in queer spaces and identities, despite identifying as a pansexual genderfluid human. If you haven’t read that post yet it’s worth taking a look before diving into this one. Continue reading “Pride Month: An Update”
Moments of fear and uncertainty, yes, even panic, can be moments of positive momentum and transformation. The trick is taking the reins and not letting the fear stop you.
I mentioned yesterday that the future, post college-graduation, is both exciting and frightening. In a lot of ways I suspect that that feeling is not unique to graduation, any graduation, but to any moment where who and what you are is in flux, like it is when you leave a job, work toward a major goal, or even stick to a New Year’s Resolution. So let’s talk about it.Continue reading “Leaning Into The Future (and Failure)”
I want to talk for a little while about the Notre Dame fire that burned for nine hours yesterday (4-15-2019). I was absolutely devastated at the news that the Notre Dame de Paris was burning. I’m neither Catholic nor any other denomination of Christian so the potential loss of relics and other holy items didn’t strike me particularly hard. But they, like the rose windows, the statues and gargoyles, and yes, the iconic spire that fell early in the blaze, are cultural items of extreme importance even to those of us who don’t practice the religion. Perhaps that’s because these things are centralized in Western cultures, but I doubt it. I’m sure an awful lot of Muslims would have been devastated to hear that the Crown of Thorns had been lost. I can’t find the clip (Google! You have betrayed my trust) but I can’t help but think of Hasan Minhaj talking about his deep love for both Jesus and Mohammed, and remaining Muslim because he could love and respect both prophets under Islam, but not Christianity. Thankfully the major artifacts, and most of the art, was saved. We don’t have to live in a world where that history, culture, and faith, has been lost. Even as a non-Christian, I am thankful for that. It may not have hurt as much for me to think of those artifacts being lost, but it certainly hurt. So I must, first and foremost, thank the French government and the many first responders who handled the situation skillfully and made the salvaging of so much precious history and creation possible. Thank you. Your efforts won’t ever be forgotten. Merci.
Early in the fire I feared the worst. Not knowing how hot the flames would be, or how much flammable material the cathedral contained, I imagined nightmare scenarios where the blaze reached sufficient heat to begin cracking the stone, collapsing not only the roof, but the iconic towers, and the rest of the building with them. I wept realizing that the best known of the rose windows was gone, worried that critical relics and texts and artifacts that cannot be replaced or rebuilt would be lost. I felt a deep empathy for Catholics and Christians across the globe, and an especial pain for the people of France, who were in limbo as they waited for word about the extent of the damage, to find out how much rebuilding would be needed, how long the fire’s scar would mark one of France’s most well-known landmarks. I knew that that empathy, and the sympathetic pain that came with it, could not compare to the pain of the people most closely and deeply affected by the fire. Later in the day, upon learning that the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem also burned while Notre Dame was alight, I feared that we would, someday soon, learn that these fires had been deliberately set in an act of global terrorism. Thankfully the preliminary investigations aren’t finding indications of arson (More Here).
But as it became clear that the fire was less destructive than I feared, as videos and images of large streams of water being poured on the worst of the blaze contained the heat and spread of the flames, I have to admit that my mind turned to other concerns. Fires happen. We’ve lost and re-built cathedrals and mosques before. Sometimes the contents can’t be replaced, but we got lucky. Some glassworker, or more likely a team of glassworkers, are about to be hired for the job of a lifetime, carefully and passionately restoring the grandeur and majesty of Notre Dame’s stained glass windows. Artisans will be brought in to assist the restoration and cleaning of any damaged statues, Christians and non-believers like myself have already banded together in mutual mourning and determination. People across the globe remember their past trips to Notre Dame, or plan for new ones when the Cathedral is restored and re-opens. I can’t imagine what the French people are going through, but I hope that their mutual determination to rebuild reminds them, and the rest of the world, of their cultural and national greatness. That French pride is hard-fought and well earned and always has been. My strongest reaction, however, was a need to create something beautiful. Notre Dame de Paris is and has long been a cultural symbol of incredibly beauty. It is, in small part, a monument to skilled and thoughtful craftsmanship and artistry. A symbol of productive passions made manifest, and the capability of thousands of humans working together. Other artists clearly had the same feeling, resulting in viral works of art like this one by Cristina Correa Freile,
One of the stories of cathedrals, and of landmarks and world wonders that have survived to present day is our persistent determination to rebuild them. The rose windows I so mourned when I first heard the news were themselves reproductions. The cathedral was in the middle of renovations and restorations which is why so much of the critical art from the lost spire was out of the building when the fire broke out. Many in my immediate social circle, and elsewhere I’m sure, immediately began comparing this fire to the loss of the Great Library of Alexandria. I was one of them. Yet, this isn’t the Great Library. We’re in a position to repair and recover in a way humanity simply wasn’t when the knowledge of the Great Library was lost. As a kid I day dreamed about Cleopatra in Alexandria, largely thanks to a Royal Diaries book, Cleopatra VII: Daughter of the Nile by Kristiana Gregory (Found here.) knowing, even as I imagined dry papyrus scrolls read by the light of a candle or torch, that not only could I never go to the Great Library, but that the papyrus I imagined might have been unique, and permanently lost. Notre Dame, by comparison, has been photographed literally thousands, possibly millions of times. It’s blueprints are available. It’s visual and acoustic qualities are well known. Short of acquiring 14th timber and stone for the reconstruction we can rebuild almost exactly as it was. But the intensity of the pain we are all feeling, the deep mourning many of us found ourselves in yesterday, and that we are still working through today, should be seen as a sign of how important and valuable works of culture and of beauty are to human society and consciousness. I say nothing of faith since I don’t share it, although it should not be ignored that Notre Dame is a great locus of the fervor and passion of the faithful. That millions of humans who have never even been to Notre Dame de Paris felt such a strong connection to that place should tell us how powerful such places are, how much they elevate us.
More than anything I hope that this reminds us that we can all create something beautiful, and motivates more of us to do it. Create art. To quote bad department store home decor, “Live, Laugh, Love”. Grieve. Cry. Mourn. Feel sorrow and joy deeply and honestly. And even if pen never touches paper, if you never open a tube of paint, or melt an ounce of glass, know that living and feeling is art all its own.
Yesterday I mourned. Today, I will be trying to turn toward hope. And I hope you’ll join me.
The push for impeachment has been politically impossible and socially inadvisable for a long time.
Well, politically this last week has been… interesting. I’m sure it surprises no one that I have been looking forward to the release of the Mueller investigation and that I am firmly supportive of a public release. IF the investigation deal with any highly classified materials of course those portions should be redacted prior to release, and I do actually understand the Republican push to be able to look at and judge contents before any public release of materials. When it comes to the office of the President and the general function of the government, particularly where it touches military, foreign, and covert operations, there are some things that simply cannot be made public safely. We’ve reckoned with this as a country multiple times now. I support Snowden, but Wikileaks is dangerous. Continue reading “Why Obstruction Is Irrelevant”
I really wish I could be posting something else right now, and there will be a new post coming out soon about why I’ve been gone so long, but this felt way more important to post first.
Trigger warnings : Islamaphobia, mass shooting.
It’s happened again. Again. I don’t care that it was another country or that it wasn’t targeting people like me, I just sick of this news story. I’m sick of feeling jaded and running out of words to say and I wish I could still be as emotionally wrecked as I was the first time I heard about a mass shooting.
But I’m not. I’m not as sad as I should be. I’m not as passionate as I should be. When I first heard what I happened I just shut off my phone and turned away. When I heard that the shooters filmed the whole thing and people were actually sharing the footage my disgust wasn’t as deep as it should be.
Mostly what I’m feeling is anger.
I’m angry that there are more than 40 people whose families and friends are mourning because a senseless few value their own hatred above the lives of their fellow human beings.
I’m angry because my country has failed to identify terrorist attacks unless the perpetrators look like the people who died yesterday. (congrats to NZ’s Prime Minister for being brave enough to say that this was terrorism.)
I’m pissed I had to write that congratulations because naming a mass shooting a terrorist attack shouldn’t be difficult, shouldn’t be different, shouldn’t seem revolutionary. Yet, from a United States perspective, it really does.
Aside from the anger there is this intense sense of disappointment.
I’m disappointed that this all consuming kind of hatred and prejudice exists in so many different places in our world and in the cultures of the world. I want to believe that pockets of hatred and violence are truly anomalous and not a part of human nature, but, while the percentages of people who feel this way and act this way are infinitesimally small, they persist. It really feels like there is something fundamental about humans that leads to that tiny percentage being violent and cruel.
Despite that, there are beautiful and wonderful things that happen every day. I truly think 99.999999999% of all humans are full of incredible potential, power, and love. Which is part of why this is such a terrible loss. I don’t care if you are against the tenants of Islam, you should be sad this happened.
To all the people mourning across the planet today – You are loved and appreciated and valuable.
And to my Muslim brothers and sisters, you are valid and valuable and important. We can work to make the world a better place for you and everyone else. There is hope, and there are so many people with you. It doesn’t make this better, but I hope you know that there is always a path forward and that we can be more than we are.
I haven’t scared you away yet? Hmmm. Must be doing something wrong.
Last week I talked about the myth of the tortured creative and why I personally think we need to completely re-work that social narrative. If you’re curious and haven’t see that post, check it out!
Today I want to talk about a similar, but unrelated topic, specifically the way we deal with survivors of sexual assault in our books, our movies, our TV shows. For obvious reasons this post gets a trigger warning.
*** TRIGGER WARNING*** Discussion of sexual assault, real and fictional. If you or someone you know has been hurt by sexual assault the national sexual assault help line is 1-800-656-4673, or go to www.rainn.org and open their live chat 24-7, whenever you need it.
Why the idea of the tortured artist really needs to go, insight from being told I couldn’t get better and still make cool shit.
Oh, Hello Again!
I suppose I should warn you, this is going to be a toughie.
I think one of the most harmful ideas I was ever given actually came from my high school psychologist. At the time I admired him greatly, and I will never discount the fact that he gave me he tools I needed to help a lot of friends, and was my connection within that school to official mental health services. I knew a lot of people who needed help, and thanks to him I knew that I couldn’t adequately provide that assistance myself. And yet, he had some ideas and perceptions of the world that I cannot help but find profoundly harmful looking back. Of these, the one that I still struggle with most today is the idea that creativity is born of pain and suffering and that to get better was also potentially to lose my writing, my art, my passion.
It’s 2019. The American Government is still in partial shutdown, Trump is still President, Nancy Pelosi is, once again, the Speaker of the House. I’m back in school, one semester away from graduating with my undergrad degree. As I write this I am listening to Robert Reich’s Inequality For All, on Netflix. Wonderful film, by the way.
Oh. And it’s snowing. Winter wonderland. The roads are shit.
Like most years I have been struck, this last month, with a sense of wonder and estrangement from the fact that we have completed another year. A year is both an incredibly long period of time, and a strangely short one. In 2018 the expected lifespan of the U.S. adult was approximately 80 years. So a year is roughly 1/80th of my (and possibly your) expected life, barring unexpected luck and health or unexpected misfortune and ill-health. So, really think about this and sit with it for a moment: Between the turning of the year from 2018 to 2019, you have used 1/80th of your life. The numbers are arbitrary, but our experience of the concept of time is very very real.
First of all, congratulations. You made it. Don’t care if it was a good year, a bad year, the best year, you made it. And that’s something to be proud of. Glory in the little things.
At the same time, a year is deceptive. This last year, in the United States at least, has been a tumultuous one. I imagine that it has been similar elsewhere in the world. The U.K. is grappling with Brexit negotiations and seems closer than ever to staring down the face of a no-deal exit. President Trump has arranged a second meeting with North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un, meanwhile his lawyers, family, and self constantly contradict themselves on policy issues, the Mueller Investigation, and even basic issues of honesty and empathy. China and the U.S. are both dealing with the results of the Trump tariffs, which have drastically changed the landscape in the seemingly unconnected landscapes of steel and soy in both countries. Japan and South Korea are both relying on a famously inconsistent President to provide the diplomatic and military might to keep North Korea in check.
But the passage of a year is complicated in other ways, unrelated to the newsworthy events of the year. Recently I have been seeing more and more memes concerning reaching adulthood as a person who, for reasons of mental illness, never really planned for it because you never really thought you’d get there. I can empathize with that idea. As someone with PTSD, which I have had since I was a child, a year, much less the larger concept of adulthood and life-planning, is huge. It doesn’t feel real to have made it so far. That’s a huge part of my disconnect from the new year.
I also get the sense that as a collective, not just individuals to struggle with mental health, we’re a little surprised to have made it this far. Between economic crises and climate change and the general instability of the political sphere, well, I won’t go so far as to say that we’re surprised to have made it another day, but it might be accurate to say that we’re for the shoe to drop. I know a lot of people who keep large amounts of food in the house, not because they need it, but because they worry about the snow storm, the missed paycheck, the unexpected bill, that means they can’t get groceries. My mom keeps more than a month’s worth of food in my childhood home. Some of that is a love of variety which is deeply ingrained into my family, some of it is to satisfy an anxiety about being able to provide enough food to live on. We’re middle class. It shouldn’t be this way, but that, my friends, is a discussion for another day.
On the drive to campus today I was listening to The Martian by Andy Weir and narrated by R.C. Bray. At one point while I was listening the main character described his labelling system for the last food rations he had and how he had designated when he would get to enjoy them. One was labelled, “I survived something that should have killed me”, the thinking being that some shit was going to happen. He doesn’t know what, or when. But presuming he survives it whenever it does, he gets to eat that ration as a reward for surviving some crazy shit. That’s us. I was listening to this with my partner and one of my roommates, and out of a highly humorous and wry book, that was the only section that got all three of us to laugh at the same time. Why? Because we could empathize with Watney, the main character, on a deep level in that moment. All three of us, going through life, are somewhat waiting for the next pile of unexpected bullshit. We don’t know if we’re going to make it, but for damn sure we’re going to celebrate if we do.
So that’s what I’m hoping to connect with this new year. It’s not a resolution-partly because I know myself and commitment is an… issue, partly because I celebrate new year on Halloween (we’ll talk about that later), and partly because damn it but resolutions feel lame as hell. But I want to concentrate less of the scary BS parts of being a human being, and more on the victories of having survived. The BS will always be there, and boy is there a lot of it in the world right now, but every little victory overcoming it is worth some kind of celebration.