Nine Days

“Obama ought to be shot.”

This statement rang out clear at the table while celebrating Christmas this year. No joking, no wavering- just pure conviction. This is one of the things that frightens me most about our incumbent president: ever since he started gaining actual traction during the primaries, the level of hatred has seemed to rise.

I was raised in a traditional right-wing, religious household. What concerns me more and more is hearing the people who I’ve known my entire life say things like a president should be shot because his idea of government and social and economical issues doesn’t coincide with their own. What worries me is seeing these same people happily vote for a man surrounded by controversy because he vows to make our country “great” again.

It’s been said again and again, but what exactly was “great” about our country before? Slavery? Taking the land away from the indigenous people who once lived all across the continent? The fact that women and minorities weren’t able to vote? Segregation? Please, enlighten me. I’d really like to hear your version of our “great” country.

This person who said Obama should be shot was the same person who inspired a short post on my instagram about feminism:

I had an incredibly difficult talk with one of the most important people in my life yesterday. That person is one I’ve always looked up to, always valued, and always appreciated. I had to explain the difference between feminism, misogyny, and misandry when they told me they weren’t a feminist. They then went on to explain that women were more fit to raise children than men were and that women just couldn’t do some of the things that men could. I can’t express just how much my heart broke in that instance. Hearing those words come from someone who I thought was one of my biggest supporters and who thought I could do anything changed my understanding of them.

And so I’m stuck in a place that I’m not quite sure how to gracefully come out of. I’m in this situation where I don’t feel valued as a woman. Where I’m concerned to express my true thoughts and views. I don’t believe the people who make hateful or derogatory statements about the current president, women, or minorities truly see them as human beings. They certainly don’t see them as equals. How can anything be communicated if the other party doesn’t acknowledge there’s even an issue?

This situation bothers me more and more. I get sick to my stomach when I think about the fact that someone in my family, someone who claims Christianity and family values, can be filled with such hateful thoughts. As inauguration day looms nearer, the sick feeling increases. The leadership that will be the symbol of America for the next four years has created a safe place for hate, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and so much more. People are becoming numb to this rhetoric and I worry that soon, statements joking about raping and murdering people who don’t fill the “good ol’ boy” requirements will become the norm in our country.

With all of this comes one of my goals for the year: I refuse to sit by without holding people accountable for their words and the actions that follow. Hatred and ignorance are not things I want to be surrounded by. I want to live a life filled with love, acceptance, and respect for humanity, and I’m having to come to terms with the fact that some people may have to be removed from my life in order to experience those things in their entirety.

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Berlin Wall- Berlin, Germany; April 2014

 

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#blacklivesmatter

The past week has had me completely torn up inside. My heart feels broken, defeated, shocked…  I’ve been seeing two sides of an argument throughout social media: #blacklivesmatter and #alllivesmatter. I believe all lives matter, I really do. I believe in loving everyone. I believe in giving everyone a chance. I believe in supporting your fellow man, no matter his race, background, religion, or political views. I believe in loving people. But the black lives in our country are being attacked, and it breaks my heart.

I have been reading a lot of articles and watching several videos this week. A lot of angry, inflammatory articles and video clips by people who are so quick to judge, so quick to bring up criminal backgrounds. These guys were shot before they were id’d. These men were shot before anything from their history was known. These men were shot because of their color. There’s a prejudice that I think has been so deeply ingrained in our country, and it’s not going to change overnight. I know it’s not going to change overnight, but something needs to change. Our country needs to transform. There needs to be some sort of effort to say that this is not okay. Senseless killings are not okay. It hurts me so much, and I don’t know what all I can do except for erase the stereotypes in my own life

Change always comes from singular people. It always comes from people being brave enough and disgusted enough by their surrounds to do something about it, to stand up and say what is going on is not okay and that they need to change what they are doing. That change starts a movement, and that movement needs to happen. But it has to start with singular people.

I read a comment on one of the articles. I try not to read comments because they just make my blood boil with the ignorance, but I read one comment in response to one person being so upset that the article said #blacklivesmatter instead of #alllivesmatter, and this person pointed out that the two are not exclusive. What if a person was at a cancer rally wanting to fight to end cancer, and a group showed up and shouted that all diseases matter. Yes, all diseases matter. Healing people matter. But in that scenario, people are there to want to change cancer. The #blacklivesmatter movement is to say that the black citizens of our country are being attacked. There is so much racism that is so prevalent, and we need to point that out. It’s not saying that every other life doesn’t matter, it’s saying that we realize there is an issue in the system, and that system needs to change.

In regards to the Dallas shooting (because my heart is aching for those police officers as well), I want to say again that the entire system needs to change. Our country needs to change their view of the police force because the majority of them are doing their job and doing it well. Jon Stewart said, “You can truly grieve for every officer who’s been lost in the line of duty in this country, and still be troubled by cases of police overreach. Those two ideas are not mutually exclusive. You can have great regard for law enforcement and still want them to be held to high standards.” This is what is so important to me. We need to stop answering to violence with more violence. We need to acknowledge that the actions of a few do not speak for the entire group. I hear one side saying “down with the police, they’re all corrupt” and I hear another side saying “the #blacklivesmatter movement is only inspiring violence”. I believe every single person who causes death and violence should be held at the same level of accountability. This should stop being a war between groups.

There was a video I was tagged in on Instagram that showed a woman speaking in a large college lecture hall. She asked the hundreds of students in the audience if they would be willing to change the color of their skin, if they would be willing to live in the world as a black man or woman. She asked for whoever would be willing to do that to stand up, yet nobody stood. My question to any readers who have made it this far: would you change the color of your skin? Would you be an African American citizen in our country right now? Do you think that your life would change?

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Beware Fear

I remember the attacks on 9/11. I don’t remember the morning very vividly, but I remember the backlash. I remember the attacks on Muslims because the attacks were connected to Islamic extremists. Particularly, I remember a middle-eastern man getting brutally beaten and his shop utterly destroyed simply because of his heritage.

Fear has a way of bringing out the worst in people. It catches and spreads like wildfire, unable to be contained by rational thought. After the attacks in Paris just a few days ago, the fear that America is next has caused a tidal wave of hatred toward groups of people that aren’t all to blame. Instead of focusing on the actual issue, anger and refusal to help the refugees trying to escape the same kind of pain that Paris was exposed to is running rampant. Denying help to the people who arguably need it most is a painful reminder that fear causes ripples of paralyzing pain. Pain that in turn only hurts others.

I think in times like these, generalizations mistakenly help people to cope with emotions they’ve yet to process. So many are quick to blame all of Islam for the tragedy in Paris. What we need to remember is that every religion has groups of extremists who claim to be working for their god. Just as ISIS claims Islam, the KKK claims Christianity and the JDL claims Judaism. Even Buddhism has their violent radical groups, including the Buddhist Power Force. Small groups can inspire hatred even when the larger entity does not agree or condone their actions. The actions and beliefs of the few can effect the world’s view of the larger group.

I don’t have the answers on how to solve the problems at hand. I don’t have proposals to help generate peace throughout the world. This is why I’d never be a good public official. What I do know is this: blaming the actions of a few on the masses because they share the same religion helps the problem become worse. Sharing ideas of killing off Muslims does not help. Stopping the aid for one of the largest groups of people who desperately need to be saved from the genocide surrounding them at every turn does not help. By refusing love and human decency for others, we allow fear to rule. Fear only breeds contempt and hatred. Shouldn’t those be the things we want eradicated from our lives most?

The Eiffel Tower, Paris, France - July 2014
The Eiffel Tower, Paris, France – July 2014

Let Love Abound

I’ve somewhat written on this topic before, but in lieu of the various reactions I’ve been seeing all across social media after the recent marriage reform laws, I just feel like it’s important to voice my opinions yet again. After all, isn’t that what blogs are for?

Last week, the United States Supreme Court won a huge battle. They have finally legalized marriage no matter what your sexual orientation is, and I think it’s beautiful. Beautiful because it’s one more positive step in the direction away from discrimination and toward acceptance.

Before I go any further, I want to express that I do believe in God and freedom of religion. What I don’t believe in is the contradicting views many so-called Christians are expressing after this change in national law. When it comes to so many issues, people cry out “what about the separation of church and state? The government shouldn’t have any say over my religious freedoms!” However, when it comes to the government making a decision that might contradict their specific religious beliefs, they claim that they in no way can support these laws because they don’t abide by their religious teachings. What continues to baffle me is the 180° turn from their first argument. If you want the true separation of church and state, shouldn’t you then be willing to accept that the government may make decisions that don’t line up with your beliefs?

Aside from that hypocrisy and going straight back to the teachings of Jesus, the bible says time and time again that Christians are to love people as Christ loves the church. That is an unconditional love. That’s not a love that disappears if you love the same gender. That’s not a love that disappears if you get a divorce. That’s certainly not a love that disappears if you mess up. Christians, in case you’ve forgotten, Jesus was friends with sinners. He sought them out. He had dinner with a dishonest tax collector. He spent time with prostitutes. He chose to spend time with the unclean over the religious leaders. This was a man who loved people…period. There were no qualifications to meet or level of “righteousness” required.

Quite frankly, the amount of people who have been hating on this issue sicken me. A person doesn’t have to live a certain lifestyle to attain love. That’s preposterous. So again, I am making a plea to the Christian community: show love, express love, be love. Without that, we are not living any sort of life that represents faith.

Berliner Dom, Berlin, Germany - May 2014
Berliner Dom, Berlin, Germany – May 2014

listening to: Radiohead

Call to Arms

“All of us seem to have something to rebel against. For most of us, it’s the East Texas bubble that we grew up protected by for so long. It’s the conservative viewpoint that refuses to acknowledge the other side might have some answers as well. It’s our parents and striving to be nothing like them. We might have our failures, but they won’t be the same ones as theirs. We’ll accept our failures and attempt to learn from them. We’ll be open and honest and willing to share our sad experiences with each other instead of hiding them from the world in shame.

We’re learning that everybody makes mistakes for nobody is perfect. So we don’t strive for perfection. Better to celebrate our imperfections and enjoy how we can all be different but still enjoy the mad dance we’re all caught up in. We spin and twirl and we don’t know where we’ll end up, but it’s a beautiful experience while we’re all together.” -an excerpt from my Day 8 of Write Yourself Alive, an unedited stream of consciousness prompt

My mind works in an interesting way. I get really focused on one idea, but instead of just thinking about that specific topic, my thoughts wander all over the place and somehow tie everything else that pops into my head back to the original idea. This idea recently has been the emerging culture in Tyler, and how my generation, the collection of young creatives that are starting to band together, can help change and grow that culture.

There is so much talent I’m surrounded by every day. On top of the talent though, there’s a thirst for change. There’s a desire for creating inspiration. The issue is that we are still going unnoticed by many in the area we live in. We’ve got musicians, writers, inventors, entrepreneurs, creators of every kind, and it’s only a matter of time before we start making a real difference in our town. We live in an old town mostly run by old money and old ideals. I’m not saying we need a 180° turn from that, because we do need to take the time to learn from those generations, but our time is here. Opportunity is waiting for us to just reach out and grab it.

There’s a coincidence I find quite funny. My blog name, Knocked Out No Longer, came about from my divorce. Both my previous blog and my jewelry business had “K.O.” in the title because those were my initials at the time, and I always liked that they also stood for “knocked out”. When my marriage ended, it was if I was coming alive again- like there wasn’t the constant badgering and hurt causing me to live completely checked out from what was going on around me. Now, as I start writing more and more about the life I’m growing in this place I swore I would never return to, and as I see all of these people around me, I feel like this blog (or at least the title) is somewhat of a battle cry- a call to arms that our generation won’t be knocked out or knocked down any longer. It’s a way of standing up and making the older generations in the town notice us and appreciate what we have to offer and bring to the table.

So, I suppose this is mostly a call to those friends who support these ideals and want to see change happen. Yes, we make mistakes. Yes, we’re young. Yes, most of the people around Tyler don’t take us seriously yet. But we’re the generation that will create the change needed in this town. We can have a different outlook than our parents, our grandparents. We can take ideas and run with them. If we make mistakes, learn from them and continue. We’re resilient. We can do this.

MMK, Frankfurt, Germany - April 2014
MMK, Frankfurt, Germany – April 2014

listening to: Father John Misty, Portugal the Man