The Fictional Non-Fictional Fatherhood Triumvirate

In honor of Fathers Day, I was going to make this about some of my favorite fictional character who also happen to be fathers. In order to do this, I decided to write about the best fathers from books, television shows, and films that I enjoy. In order to be as rational and fair as I could I started writing down my favorites and compared them and their qualities head to head. I ended up with about 8 on each list, but in my opinion, there was a clear winner in each category. My favorite fictional father in a book was one the greatest fictional characters of all time, Atticus Finch (from To Kill a Mockingbird. My favorite fictional film father (try saying that 5 times fast) was Mufasa from the Lion King. My choice for best TV dad might surprise some people, but the more I thought about it, the more it became clear: Phil Dunphy from Modern Family was the clear winner for TV dads.

Before the Roman Republic fell and became the Roman Empire, it was ruled by Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus in a triumvirate – three powerful men who made a one year alliance to lead the largest political body in the world at that time. Usually, one man was opulently wealthy, one man was militarily gifted, and the third man was diplomatically gifted, but it did not always have to be this way. When mapping out this post I came up with a list of qualities why these were some of the best dads with every intention of making them the “Dad Triumvirate,” but as I looked at the list of qualities I knew there was no need to create a fictional fatherhood triumvirate. The reason I did not need to create one is that there already was a fatherhood triumvirate in existence. So my fictional fatherhood triumvirate became the nonfiction fictional fatherhood triumvirate, which in case you haven’t already figured it out, I like saying those words together.

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The more I thought about it the more I came up with similarities between those three fictional characters and the fathers in my own life. My father and both of my grandfathers have served at various points in my life as my Mufasa, My Atticus, and My Phil. While each of those three men possesses qualities of all three fake dads, for the sake of brevity, I chose one for each to talk about. I could write 2,000 words on each and still not run out of things to talk about, but my posts are already verbose enough as it is I will let each these examples serve as ample justification for my claim.

I will start with Mufasa. I see so much of my maternal grandfather, called Papa, in Mufasa. The Lion King is the first movie that I can vividly remember seeing in the movie theater. I was 4 or 5 years old and my maternal grandmother (Nana – who is married to Papa) is the one who took me to see it. I was riveted to the screen. Aside from the Papa – Nana connection, as an adult, I can see many similarities between my Papa and Mufasa that I did not pick up on as a child. Throughout the movie, Mufasa guides Simba from above just as my Papa guides me – but this is just one of many reasons they are similar.

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Another one of the things I love about Mufasa is that he is voiced by James Earl Jones. The voice of Mufasa and Darth Vader immediately touches you. There is something calm and soothing about the voice that also projects strength and safety. You can just feel everything is going to be ok when you are near it. My Papa had the same kind of voice. It was deep, but quiet all at the same time. When he spoke, you listened – not because you were afraid or out of some sort of “respect your elders” type of thing – but because you actually wanted to. You felt like you were being told something very important. Papa had a way of doing that when he talked. It is one of the things I miss most about him. I have a four-second voicemail saved on my phone. On June, 29 20014 my Papa called and left the voicemail “It’s Papa. Call me.” on my phone. As stupid as it sounds, when I think of him or when I have a rough day I sometimes play that voicemail. It may not solve my problem or whatever I am thinking about, but it also makes me feel less upset.

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Mufasa had a majestic and regal exterior but was not too important to play with Simba and goof around. My hambone playing Papa was the same way. Serious when he needed to be or thought he should be, but not too important to make his grandchildren smile by doing something silly. Mufasa had the loudest roar in The Lion King and so did my grandfather. You might think it sounds weird saying, my Papa roared, and you’d be right. My grandfather didn’t roar when he wanted to be heard; he whistled to be heard instead. Growing up my siblings and I all were swimmers. When you swim with a cap and your head underwater, most swimmers either don’t hear the yelling of their friends and family (or at least I didn’t hear it). The only noise I heard was the whistle that came from Papa as I would come up for air. I would almost wait on the whistle before I kicked it into overdrive.

Mufasa was a teacher to Simba and Papa was a teacher to me. Although I wished he had taught me how to do that whistle, he taught me how to do something far more useful when he taught me how to drive. When my backseat driving mother (love you mom) was trying to teach me how it almost started World War 3 in the Boliek House. My dad was not much better than my mother. That’s when my Papa stepped in. He was patient, provided just the right guidance at just the right time, and didn’t critique harshly or yell when you made a mistake. Had it not been for Papa I would probably be ubering to work every day. I cherish those moments just the two of us in his big golden brown Oldsmobile.

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The final similarity with Papa and Mufasa is one of the strongest. Simba thought Mufasa was brave and strong and not scared of anything. For the longest time, I thought the same about Papa. Papa was always strong. He worked out regularly and although he was old he was in much better shape than all his friends for the most part. I never thought about Papa not being strong until he got shingles and was put in the hospital when I was around 17 or 18. That was the first time I realized Papa was not always going to be invincible. that was the first he looked old to me. I was lucky to get 10 more years after that. In and out of the hospital over the last 6 months of his life, we did lots of visiting. It will never have been enough, but it was important and we talked about things I still hold onto. Mufasa and Simba go on a walk together and Mufasa admitted to Simba he was afraid of losing Simba. We did not go on a walk, but I did visit Papa in the hospital and there was a time it was just the two of us, and while I will keep the conversation between my Papa and me, the love and bonding that was shared is something I will cherish as long as I live.

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Moving on to my favorite book father and one of the greatest books of all time. Atticus Finch is probably one of my favorite fictional characters ever, and most of the qualities that Atticus Finch had I can also pinpoint in my Pop – my paternal grandfather. The demeanor with which Atticus Finch carried himself reminds me so much of my Pop in many different ways. Quieter than garrulous, but when he spoke you listened. The way he carried himself and treated his children with both love and respect. His strength has a man was not showy, but you knew it was there because you could point at Atticus/Pop and say “He is the kind of man I would like to be.”

One of my favorite things about Atticus is he is always honest with his children. He may not tell them the full truth and he may put rose-colored glasses on the truth, but the truth is always what he gives them out of a respect he feels they deserve. I cannot pinpoint a single instance in my life where I feel like my grandfather has lied to me or not respected me enough to tell me the truth. When I asked why something was the way it was or any other philosophical question that a grandson asks their grandfather I always felt valued by getting that honest answer. It is one of the reasons Scout loves her father and its one of the reasons I love my Pop.

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One of the things I value most about Pop is when we disagree he doesn’t just tell you that you are wrong. While we do not agree politically on most issues, I have never had my grandfather look at me and say with a matter-of-fact type of feeling “You’re Wrong! Instead he always calmly tries to make me see his point of view or the other side. Sometimes that might be a discussion or conversation. Other times it is by him forwarding an email to me or saving me a magazine or newspaper article to look at. Sometimes it works and sometimes we agree to disagree. But every time it is done in a respectful way and I never have had him discredit or demean my views. Atticus does this every time he talks to Scout. One scene on the front porch with Scout is similar to the way Pop tries to make me see the other side. In that scene Atticus says

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

I see so much of Pop in that quote and I do try to listen to it before I make up my mind. Sometimes I am successful at listening. Sometimes I am not. Atticus wouldn’t judge me for it. Neither does Pop.

One of my core beliefs in the life is that every human being is worthy of equality, dignity, and respect simply because they are a person. It is part of the reason Atticus take the case in TKAM and it is one of the reasons I love and respect my grandfather more than I respect other people. Throughout my life, I have seen my grandfather be respectful, kind, and equal to all sorts of people and one thing stands out. My grandfather treats the CEO of the company the same way he would treat the custodian or janitor. My grandfather has respected people who have less money than him in the same way he respects those who have more money than he has. He even gives the kindness and respect to people who do not reciprocate those ideals in return.

At a Clemson football tailgate one time we arrived to find people sitting in our reserved tailgate spot. My grandfather approached them and calmly and politely let them know that this was our reserved spot and was immediately talked to in a tone that was both disrespectful and crass. The person immediately got defensive in their body language and at one point was so disrespectful to my grandfather that I blacked out in anger so fast I was standing in between my grandfather and this individual letting them know my two cents before I realized what was happening. Luckily my dad followed my grandfather’s example that day better than I did and talked me off the ledge because I was about to read this person to filth. And I would have done it Bianca Del Rio style.

My grandfather’s reaction still astounds me. In response to a woman who was rude, dismissive, and just downright ugly, my grandfather was firm but polite. He still called her ma’am instead of the names I wanted to call her. Our family still talks about this event at a couple of tailgates every year. My grandfather’s reaction still impresses me, and Atticus Finch would be very proud as well.

 

My Reaction

My Grandfather’s reaction

Last, but certainly not least we come to Phil Dunphy/my father. When I originally watched Modern Family Phil was one of the characters I liked the least. The “cool dad who is also slightly nerdy but everybody likes” trope has been done so many times, but the more I watch Modern Family the more I began to have a change or heart. Now I think Phil is one of the essential characters needed to keep the show running. My dad is not completely like Phil, but there are some great similarities that are worth exploring.

First, just like Phil defers to and lovingly dotes on Claire, my dad has always been loving and supportive of my mom. My parents have always shown each other the type of love that most people could go 4 lifetimes without every finding. My dad has always supported my mom and he both shows and tells her this (thankfully, in ways LESS corny than Phil). Phil is the nice dad that loves spending time with his kids, and my dad is the same way. Throughout the years, my dad has played PlayStation and Wii games, read books, discussed politics, sang along to Missy Elliott’s “Is it Worth it?” and a myriad of other things because it allowed him to spend time with his kids. While all three of us loved the Harry Potter series my dad joked about the books with “Quibbitch” (he knew the real word) he never really got into them. However, when the movies came out, My dad slowly watched his way through all eight films. He would study the Wikipedia pages and ask questions. He did all of this, not because he loved the series in the way my brothers and I loved the series, but because it allowed him to spend some time with us.

Phil is a realtor and he is good at his job. He also thinks his job is important. My dad is an accountant who is good at his job (I think) and I am sure he thinks what he does is important. The similarity here though is the way the rest of the family deals with Phil. They humor him when they all know the truth (his job is boring). We humor him and we all know the truth as well (except for me. I still am not 100% sure what he does.

My dad is Phil made over when it comes to how he deals with his family and friends. Phil puts his family (and sometimes his friends) before himself. My dad is kind, caring, and respectful, but watch out if you finally “poke the bear” one too many times. When provoked too much, Phil will explode and my dad is the same. My brothers and I can all describe the look his face goes into to this day; if I am being completely honest I am still scared of this face.

Last and most importantly, I feel like the writers of Modern Family based the most important aspect of Phil off of my father. Phil is always loving and supportive of his children. Throughout the entire series, Phil has loved and supported his children through whatever situation the room of Hollywood writers decided to throw to the Dunphy family. My father has done this for me and my brothers throughout the 29 years I have been lucky enough to be his son. I freely admit there have been times in my life when I screwed up, did something wrong, or wasn’t the person that my parents raised me to be. However, in every single one of those instances, I never felt like I lost my father’s love or support. There have been times where I probably should have and there have been times when I wish he would have (by giving me some space), but it never happened. I was stuck with the love and support just as the Dunphy kids are. And quiet as its kept, that is quite alright with me.

To my Papa – I miss and love you! I think about you every day and I will see you on the other side at some point.

To Pop and My Dad – thank you both for continuing to show me how to be a good person and a great man. I couldn’t be even halfway there on that journey without your example leading the way. I love you both!

-WB

 

 

Two Years Later, Pulse Still Pains our Pride

This is the Second Post in a series of posts that will run throughout the month of June. June has been Pride Month for many years. To honor that history, I will be talking about different aspects of why I am proud during Pride Month.
To read the first post on pride in Chosen Families, click here.

As long as I live I will never forget waking up on June 12, 2016. School was out so Humphrey and I were sleeping in, but when I woke up I had tons of text messages and news alerts on my phone. In the early hours of the morning, a cowardly gunman* walked into Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida and opened fire with semi-automatic weapons and went on a killing spree. Before taking his own life after a hostage standoff that lasted for several hours, the gunman killed 49 people. A club that I have been to twice before, now held the bodies of 49 people. 49 people whose only crime was dancing with their fellow members of the LGBTQ community. 49 people who were the brother of someone. Or the daughter of someone. Or the mother of someone. 49 people would not go home that morning.

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Two years later, the pain has not diminished. The sorrow and the hurt have been moved to the back burner, but they are still present. To be completely transparent, I have not fully processed my own feelings about it. It hurt too much to work through them at the time; but in an effort to honor the 49 beautiful people who were robbed of their dance that night, I dedicate this post to their memory. I will continue to feel proud this month, because they can no longer feel proud for themselves. Tonight’s post, I take pride in the bars and clubs of my community. Tonights post is pride in OUR places.

The Complex.

The Armory.

The Abbey.

The Castle.

Haven.

Sanctuary.

The Factory.

Olympus.

The Fortress.

Pulse.

If you look at all those names of Gay Bars past and present, what do they all have in common? What do all of those names say or symbolize to you? Every single name on that list projects one of two things: Strength and Safety. The reason for this is simple. Even in 2018, The United States of America is not always a welcoming place to members of the LGBTQ community. We are harassed. We are discriminated against. We yelled at. Spit on. Beaten. Raped. Killed. All of these things are done on a regular basis and have been done for years. Sometimes society cares (mostly when it is a white LGBTQ person). Sometimes society does not care. In an effort to make life the best we can for ourselves, the LGBTQ community did what it has always done. We rallied around ourselves. We provided each other with bars, dance halls, and night clubs. Places were we could simply BE.

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If you are a heterosexual cisgendered person, you will never know what I mean by that. Especially if you are also white. I don’t say either of those things to be exclusionary or inflammatory; if I could somehow connect my consciousness to yours so you could feel what it feels like I would. But this is not Avatar and James Cameron did not write the story of our lives. I wish you could feel the feeling I am talking about. Maybe then my community would not have struggled so long. But take comfort in NOT having to feel it. It is better that way. There is less sadness. Less Shame. Less Loss. Less Worry. When I thought about feelings to try and describe that feeling, those are the 4 words I would combine to describe it.

Sadness. Sadness in your gut when you see heterosexual couples sit on the same side of the booth at a diner or lay on a blanket at the park.

Shame. Shame in yourself for caring what other people think of your shorts and your tank top as you walk towards the club in November (Yes some of us do wear tank tops and short shorts in November. Deal. With. It.).

Loss. Loss of equality and protection when the word faggot is yelled at you from across the street or a passing car. Or God Forbid the loss of a friend who was simply killed for living while gay (For the record, my friend was Sean Kennedy and he was the first gay person my age I ever met who was confident in his own skin and nice to me. And he changed my life because of it).

Worry. Worry that creeps into every other thought that runs through your head because you are in public with your significant other and are terrified someone will see you and tell your family, your place of employment, or your friends.

In order to suppress those feelings – because for some people they never go away – we did the only thing we could and gave our bars and clubs names that project strength and safety. They became our churches when we didn’t have a Sanctuary to go to. They became our castles and retreats when the world would not protect us. They became the very beating hearts of the gay community. That is part of the reason Pulse was aptly named and part of the reason it devastated my community. The attack on Pulse was an attack on the heart of the gay community. For some queer people, gay bars are the only place they have ever truly felt safe. If we don’t have those spaces any more, what else do we have?

28167431_10160006809000048_3723469264959415588_nAsk any of your close family and friends who are part of the queer community about their first trip to the gay bar. I promise you that in addition to the name, they will remember their age, their outfit, their drink choice, and who they went with. I was barely 18 years old and my first bar was The Castle in Greenville, South Carolina. It was the most exhilarating feeling in the world- there was terror and excitement all at the same time. I must have had a terrified look on my face because a drag queen named Robin Redgrave came over to me, hugged me, and pushed me towards the bar so she could buy me a drink. I was half-way through the first sip when she saw the X on my hand and slapped the drink out of my hand (which she then finished herself). I had never felt so welcomed and at peace surrounded by so many gay people in my life; and all of it happened in a run down, leaky when the rain came building. The Castle wasn’t much, but it was mine. And that was all I needed.

Pulse affected me and still affects me more than I realized. I couldn’t watch the news without watching Anderson Cooper breakdown on live television as he read the names of my dead brothers and sisters. I couldn’t listen to the radio without hearing the first responders say their dreams will be haunted by the ringing of cellphones of the deceased as family members tried to check on their children. I couldn’t read the news online without seeing the story of a mother (Brenda McCool) who jumped in front of the gunman and used her body to shield her son from the bullets. To this day, I still cannot watch the video of Christopher Leinonen’s mother tearfully talking to the media as she waited for the news of her son.

To those around the world who rallied around us, you will never know how much that meant to us. In one of our darkest hours, you gave us the strength with your hugs, your love, your vigils, your memorials, and other messages of support. Because of you, we were able to grieve for our loss, but still remember that rainbow that comes tomorrow. To the celebrities who wrote songs in their memory, we thank you.

And to those of us who still wish harm to us, know that we found strength in our sorrow. And our love for each other will not be broken and if you doubt that, he a warning from every queer person’s fairy gaymother:

I did not go out for months following the Pulse shooting. A lot of us did not. We did not know if we should and we did not know if we could. Would it be disrespectful to those who were killed? Would we be safe? Would we be able to escape if something bad happened? We did not know how to answer those questions so many of us subconsciously chose not to go out. Further removed from our shut in status, this saddens me. Because it means for one brief moment we let that piece of shit who riddled our safe space win. Because not going out would have been a slap to the face of those who could no longer out. Because for one brief moment, we let the hate shine darker than the love. Time eased the pain, but we continue to worry about our safe spaces. Worry about our friends’ safety. Worry about our own safety.

To this day I do not go out as much as I used to. Partly because I am getting old and partly because gay clubs typically aren’t welcomed in city downtowns so they end up in building on the outskirts of town that only have one entrance/exit. But I make it a habit of going to safe place in our community at least once every couple of months. This month will be no different. This Saturday I will go and honor our PULSE with my people. Out in whatever outfit I want with my people. I will dance with my people. I will drink with my people. I will laugh with my people. I will feel safe with my people.

And with my people, I will remember why I go. I go to The Fortress because Edward, Stanley, Luis, and Juan cannot.

I go to Sanctuary because Eric, Peter, Kimberly, and Luis cannot.

I go to The Armory because Eddie, Darryl, Deonka, Alejandro, and Anthony cannot.

I go to Olympus because Jean, Franky, Amanda, Martin, and Daniel cannot.

I go to Haven because Mercedez, Xavier, Enrique, Ramon, and Simon cannot.

I go to the Factory because Oscar, Miguel, Javier, Jonathan, and Joel cannot.

I go to the Abbey because Jason, Cory, Juan, Luis, and Shane cannot.

I go to the Complex because Jerald, Leroy, Tevin, Jean, and Rodolfo cannot.

And I go to Pulse because Brenda, and Christopher, and Angel, and Frank, and Paul, and Antonio, and Joseph, and Akyra, and Geraldo cannot.

This post is for them. And when I do a shot and dance to Whitney, or Cyndi, or Beyonce, or Mariah, or Ariana, or Celine, or Adele – that will be for them to.

-WB

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Wynnesday Wisdom & Whimsy: 3 Jokes, 2 World Leaders, and a Buzzsaw

Today is Hump Day! Also known as Wednesday. I felt like it had been a few days since I have posted and there has been a lot to discuss so I am starting a recurring segment called Wynnesday Wisdom & Whimsy (See what I did there?). W³ will be posts where I talk about whatever moves me or whatever is currently going on in the world – that’s the whimsy part. The wisdom part is me telling you how you should feel. Because I am usually right on things (today’t things especially). So, without further ado, here we go!

3 Controversial Jokes

People love to laugh and it used to be that people watching a stand-up comedian perform or a sitcom knew that a joke was just that – a joke. But in the age of being ultra-politically correct, our society has gotten so overly offended by stuff that was designed to make our days less tense its ridiculous.

The first is Roseanne Barr’s joke. On Twitter Roseanne tweeted the Picture below. And boy was the reaction a doozy of a news cycle. The “vj” in the tweet refers to Valerie Jarrett. Jarrett was a senior advisor to President Obama and is a highly accomplished woman in the law field and now in the private sector once again.

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I am unsure of a lot of the information on this joke or how to feel. On the one hand I think its sad and disgusting and as Bill O’Reilly said it just proves to Black America that racism is still an issue. With that said, I believe Roseanne Barr when she says she is not a racist. Scoff all you want, but I have watched her stand-up as well as her show long enough to know she most likely isn’t racist. On an episode in season 7 of her show DJ (her son) did not want to participate in the school play because he had to kiss a black girl. In the episode (you can find in full below) you can find the important since eight and a half minutes in. Roseanne says in a way that only she could, Black people are just like us and anybody who thinks differently is a banjo-picking bigot who gives respectable white trash a bad name.”

Roseanne’s reaction is not the episode a bigot would produce – especially when the episode was an addition to the season and aired shortly after the Rodney King/LA Riots fiasco. Is Roseanne an idiotic jerk for some of the conspiracy theories she retweets? Was she an asshat for tweeting at Valerie Jarrett?  Of course. But nothing in that tweet was as vile as some of the stuff the president has tweeted. I do not think Roseanne should have been cancelled either, but seeing as how that’s what happened, it is what it is.

The second joke is Samantha Bee. To make a long story short (too late!), Samantha Bee called Ivanka Trump a “feckless cunt.” The backlash in America over Australia’s favorite swear word was fierce. Bee apologized, TBS condemned her, and sponsors pulled out. But here is thing about this whole ordeal. When the administration in the White House feigns indignation over over Michelle’s Wolfe’s supposedly sexist jokes at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner and Bee’s joke’s over Ivanka, the hypocrisy comes though loud and clear. Guess what Trump Administration and Trump Supporters? You don’t get to cry foul over jokes you deem sexist when the misogynist-in-chief brags about grabbing women in the pussy. That is more than locker room talk. That is sexual assault. And Lastly, You don’t get to criticize jokes and say Samantha Bee should be fired when you have a woman working in your administration who makes a “bad joke” about John McCain. We all know there is a liberal slant to the media, but if you want people to be fair, you also have to be fair.

The last thing I am going to say about the Samantha Bee situation in regards to why she wasn’t fired and Roseanne Barr was is pretty simple. Roseanne Barr compared a black person to a monkey This is wrong, disgusting, and a way back in the day of saying black people were less than white people because they were not human. Samantha Bee used a bad word in a truthful situation. Thousands of us who did not vote for Trump had optimism and hope when we found out Ivanka and Jared Kushner would be working in the White House because it would be a way for the more moderate Ivanka and Jared to help guide policy on women, the queer community, and the environment. People know Trump listen to Ivanka because she is his favorite. He values her advice so we hoped she could guide policy. Since this not happening Samantha Bee’s comment ring true. She is most definitely feckless. The word cunt is what is bothering people, and although it is not a word I personally use or like all that much, the joke in and of itself is pointing out a truth. Ivanka isn’t helping and she could. Change the word cunt to bitch, bimbo, or butthole and the statement still isn’t wrong.

The last joke comes from a valedictorian in Kentucky Coal Country. Ben Bowling trolled a bunch of coal miners by reading a quote and then saying President Trump was the person who said it. After people started to clap, Bowling told people he was kidding and it was actually President Obama who said it. The applause quickly dies. A few boos can be heard as well. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the level of petty and shade I aspire to.

 

2 World Leaders

CNN reported today that President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau got into a heated discussion over new tarriffs the US put on Canadian steel and Aluminum. President Trump apparently originally assured Trudeau that Canada would be exempt from these tases, but has since changed his mind. I could care less one way or the other to be honest, but I now want to speak directly to President Trump to explain something.

President Trump,

If you get into an argument with Prime Minister Trudeau because you change your mind more than a boy-crazy 13 year old teenager, you will lose the war of public opinion hands down. For someone who seemingly cares what people think of him a whole lot, you have not thought this through.

And last, but certainly not the least (its actually the most damning), Mr. Trump, I give you this piece of evidence:

Mr. President, it is time to face the facts. There is not a jury alive, not a millennial voter, not a thirsty middle aged women, or any gay alive that would pick you over Trudeau in any kind of discussion. So Tread lightly.

The Word Buzzsaw

For those of you who do not live in South Carolina, here is a little bit of context. It is currently primary season and we are getting ready to vote for governor. The incumbent (Boss Hog Henry McMaster) is being challenged by Catherine Templeton. I am not a fan of Henry McMaster by any stretch of the imagination, but I equally loathe Catherine Templeton at this point; however, at this point, I loathe the word buzzsaw more than both of them. At some point somebody labeled Templeton a buzzsaw, she likes the label, and McMaster thinks its an insult to her. I don’t know how in God’s Green earth being labeled a buzzsaw can be a good thing or a bad thing, but every five seconds I am reminded that Catherine “Buzzsaw” Templeton is a buzzsaw. So there is that. At this point, I would be fine if McMaster and Buzzsaw Templeton stood on the edge of a cliff and ole Buzzsaw used her skills and sawed them both right off because both their commercials are terrible.

There is your wisdom and whimsy for the week. I will close in the style of “Auntie Maxine.”

Have a Good Night One and all!

-WB

The Chosen Family that Pride Built

This is the First Post in a series of posts that will run throughout the month of June. June has been Pride Month for many years. To honor that history, I will be talking about different aspects of why I am proud during Pride Month.

I have been unbelievably blessed in my life when it comes to the people who make up my family. I really do believe I won the family lottery that the universe put on before I was born. My immediate family includes my two parents and two younger brothers, but when I say “my family” I mean the extended family. The aunts, uncles, cousins, and extended familial relationships as well. For the most part, they all live within a day’s drive from where I live, we all get along really well, and we love each other. But this post is not about that family. My biological or blood family. They know I love them beyond words already anyways. This post is about the pride that I find in my chosen family.

You might be slightly confused by the phrase chosen family (partially because you more than likely do not have one) so allow me to explain. Some people in the LGBTQ community have a biological family and a chosen family. Sadly, there are many people in my community that only have a chosen family. There is not one academically agreed upon definition but in the most basic sense, a chosen family is a group of individuals who deliberately choose one another to play significant roles in each other’s lives. It is a group of people whom you are emotionally attached to that you love and consider ‘family’ even though you are not biologically or legally related to one another.

I am sure many of you have friends that you consider “they might as well be family.” Down here in the south we call them “Back Door Friends.” But Chosen families in the queer community are more than just your best friends or the friends you are closest to. They validate our very existence as a community. As individuals who want to be seen and heard and told they matter. In ancient Greece, there were many types of love; Eros would be love between people who are in a committed relationship and Agape would be an unconditional love from God. The reason chosen families are so important is that they combine two types of this love in philia, a friendship or fondness type of love, with storge, a familial love. Chosen families became a sense of strength within the LGBTQ community and they remain a pillar of pride in this community to this day.

Chosen families arose from the necessity of being part of the LGBTQ community. In our community’s past, many were told by their families, or churches, or schools, that they were no longer welcome. We became outcasts in our own blood families. Many LGBTQ kids were kicked out of their homes. It is why the queer community has a disproportionately large share of homelessness – especially within queer youth. Personally, I will never understand how a parent can cast out their child or a sibling can turn its back on a sibling; To me, that is an unforgivable sin that you will never be able to justify (but that is a story for a different blog). When these outcasts of society had nobody to turn to for love, guidance, and the sheer acknowledgment that they existed, they turned to themselves. They replaced biological mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers with their chosen alternatives. They cared for each other while they were sick. They loved each other when they hurt. They buried each other when they started to die from AIDS. They did everything that their blood family was supposed to do. That is how chosen families were born in a community forced to take care of one another when nobody else would.

The majority of the time the people in the chosen families we created were fellow members of the queer community (although they do not have to be – allies are always welcome). The shared loss of their blood families served as a common thread uniting people. Feelings of sadness and loss give way to strength and love. One of the things I love about the queer community is the resiliency of my brothers and sisters who are also part of it. A self-created family becomes a support system that allows people to continually go out into a world that continually puts them down. In some cases it allows people to do more than just go – it allows them to thrive and prove everyone who doubted them wrong.

Chosen families can be known, but more often than not they are unknown or known simply by the people who make up that family. Some of these chosen families have become famous or well-known throughout the world. In the Voguing and Ball Culture that developed in New York City, these families are known as houses and they were often named after famous fashion brands (House of St. Laurent, House of LeBeija, etc.). They would often have a “mother” and/or “father” who functioned as the parent of their “children.” These chosen families are especially close-knit and exclusive. They consider it an honor and a privilege to be asked to be part of their family. Other chosen families are more inclusive and not quite as bougie.

While pulling up next to a car the other day I had my windows down and sunroof up while B93.7 was playing while a Dua Lipa song was playing on the radio. A few seconds I hear “YES QUEEN!” come from the car next to me. I blushed and looked over embarrassed someone called me out on my dancing, but that feeling immediately disappeared. One shared look between me and the black man driving it I had never met told me he was part of the queer community and that was an exclamation of agreement and not ridicule. He turned up his volume as he pulled away. I smiled as I heard Dua Lipa fade off into the sunset. In a way, he is part of the extended larger chosen family that falls under the LGBTQ umbrella. If you have never seen us communicate with just a facial expression, it is hard to describe. With just a look we almost tell people, “I see you.” We see the authentic you. The fabulous you who loves jamming to bad ass diva songs.

I started building my chosen family in high school and it has never stopped growing. I don’t share blood with these people, but I don’t have to – we share something more powerful than that. Most people don’t understand, but it is easier to tell someone you consider an acquaintance than it is to tell your family. Most of it stems from the fear of rejection. It hurts less to be cast aside by someone you have known for a semester than it does by someone whose blood courses through your veins. The clip below is one of the most famous scenes from an episode of Rupaul’s Drag Race. Every episode ends with the 2 drag queens who did the worst having to lip synch and the bottom queen is eliminated. I left the lip synch in because it is one of the greatest in the herstory of the show, but the important part is what happens at the end. Watch and listen to what Rupaul says to Roxxy Andrews story.

I have been incredibly blessed in this life. I have never experienced the pain that Roxxy Andrews suffered. My family loves me unconditionally. Through the good and the bad. Growing up I always knew that they would never stop loving me, but for those of you who have never had to work through how to accept yourself in a society where you are not looked at as an equal, telling your family is the hardest part. My chosen family helped me work through feelings my blood family could not because my chosen family had already experienced what I was feeling. The very first time I went to the dinky LGBT club in my city I was a hot mess. It was exhilarating and terrifying all at once. I was so nervous I bumped into someone and made them spill their drink. A drag queen named Robin came to my rescue and diffused this situation. The instant addition to my chosen family always greeted me with a shot and a hug once I got there. She is passed on now, but I know we will meet again in the next life. It will be easy to find her there anyways – “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” will be blaring from her cloud up in the great beyond.

We love to share our joys and triumphs with our families. I am lucky enough I get to do it twice. I have found many times when we hurt in this life we want to be with our family. I have found a subtle difference in the way the two families deal with hurt. Blood family wants to do something. They want to take the pain away somehow. They want to fix what is broken. This is both admirable and helpful sometimes; My real family has always been there for me when times are good or bad. But sometimes you need the love that your chosen family gives you when you are hurt. Sometimes chosen families try to do something, but more often than not I have found my chosen family won’t do anything but be there. Just simply showing up, acknowledging your hurt, and giving you permission to hurt however you want is the most cathartic and loving thing they do.

My blood family has given me more than I could ever ask or dream for. In a different way, my chosen family has as well. My chosen family has picked me up when I was utterly broken: working through break up with my first real love, losing my grandfather a couple of years ago, and episodes of self-doubt would have been impossible to deal with without them. They have also cheered, and yelled with me at some awesome high points: Witnessing my first pride parade, my first trip to San Francisco, and teaching me to vogue the house down will be experiences and memories that I will cherish for the rest of this life time and all of the next. They have changed my life simply because I have known them. I love them. And I chose them. But more importantly, they chose me. And for that, I am luckier than I ever possibly thought I could be.

Here’s to all the chosen families all across the world. This one is for you. Happy Pride!

-WB

 

 

Teaching in Terror: The Lives Lost to Gun Violence in Schools Since I Started Teaching

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The picture above was one of the happiest days of my life. In the picture along with me are 16 other people, many of whom I consider my friends to this day, were just about to receive our diplomas from Clemson University with a degree in secondary education. We were all so excited. Not all are teaching currently, but at that point we were thrilled with what the future held. We graduated in 2011 and it was not a great time to graduate with a teaching degree. That didn’t matter. We were just excited. This was one of the most emotionally draining articles I have written.

I grew up in a family full of educators that placed huge value on education. Educational success was seen as key that could open most doorways. Upon taking teacher cadets in high school, it quickly became the only career I considered as something I would do long term. I became a teacher to change lives. There is something indescribable about being able to show a 14 year old that they can accomplish something they previously thought was not possible. I have experienced more joy from some of the successes of my students than I have about my own successes. Likewise, I have cried more tears about some of the things my students face than I do about my own life’s hardships.

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I went into the educational field to spend my days that should be spent teaching about cultural diffusion, market economies, and the difference between a megalopolis and a megacity. I did not go into education to spend my days worrying weather or not my students would go home to their parents and if I would go home to my boston terrier. I did not go into education to attend the funerals of my students or my colleagues. But at the rate we are going I have a greater chance of attending the funerals of my students  (or my students attending my funeral) than of living long enough to see Greenville become a Megacity – even with its explosive growth.

America is a great nation. The perks of living her far outweigh the downsides. If you are one of those people who thinks we do not have flaws or that says “America is the greatest nation on earth.” or “America is better than any other nation to have ever existed.” you may want to stop reading now because this will just piss you off. America is not the greatest nation on earth. The greatest nation on Earth does not offer up thoughts and prayers after a classroom full of 6 and 7 years is riddled with bullets during show and tell. The greatest nation on earth does not vilify students who after walking over the bodies of their dead classmates decide that they should advocate for sensible gun control. If you do not agree with those past two statements then you are delusion as as the politicians that have been bought by the gun lobby.

I started my educational career as the replacement for a teacher in March. I have added up the days I have spent teaching since my first day as a teacher that March all the way up until today (Wednesday May 23, 2018). As of today I have been a teacher for 619 days. The pictures below are the are the victims of gun violence in the classroom since I have started my career in education. There are 120 pictures. One day out of every week since I have become a teacher, a student, teacher, or parents was gunned down on school grounds. What day should students play hooky? What day should teachers take a sick day to ensure this never happens again?

As I tried to find the pictures of the fatalities I had to take breaks. This post took days to finish because I couldn’t take that much sadness at once. So many of these kids would have been the best leaders of tomorrow. So many of these courageous teachers were found shielding the bodies of their students. So many parents have had their lives shattered. For at least a dozen of  these fatalities, a parent was dead within the next several years – some from suicide, others from drugs they became addicted to as they tried to survive their pain. I will continue to update this list as these tragedies continue to happen. I pray to God this list doesn’t get to long, but I know it will. The day we decided you needed a bullet proof vest for show and tell is the day we lost our nation’s soul. God have mercy on us all.

Happy Birthday, Harvey Milk- The Hero Who Gave Us Hope

Today would have been the 98th birthday of Harvey Milk. For the average American, that might not mean anything to you. You may not even know who Harvey Milk was. But to the LGBTQ+ community, Harvey Milk is a hero, an icon, and a martyr for the cause of LGBTQ rights. Harvey Milk was the first openly gay elected official in the United States. He was elected to the San Francisco Board of City Supervisors in 1977. 11 Months after his election, Milk was assassinated by a fellow member of the Board of Supervisors. The Mayor of San Francisco was also assassinated. In the few years before his election and his short time in public office, Milk became the Hero of Hope to the gay community.

harvey-milk_happybirthdayI am a history teacher. I am the person who was more excited to register to vote than I was to go buy a pack of cigarettes. I follow politics and current events so much that I can see my family tune out as soon as I open my mouth about politics 97% of the time. You would think I would have learned about Harvey Milk at a young age, but this could not be farther from the truth. I did not learn about Harvey Milk until 2008 as a freshman in college. It wasn’t a history book I have to think for teaching me about Harvey Milk either. History books in this nation leave out the stories and struggles of minority groups far too often. The people I have to thank for acquainting me with Harvey Milk are Dustin Lance Black, Gus Van Sant, and Sean Penn. Yes, you heard me correctly. I said the Academy Award winning actor Sean Penn.

In 2008 Sean Penn won an Oscar for playing Harvey Milk in the film titled Milk. The film was written by Dustin Lance Black (who you might have seen in the news for being the boyfriend and now husband of British diver Tom Daley) and directed by Gus Van Sant. Black and Van Sant are openly gay and both were nominated for their work on Milk. Black won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. His acceptance speech is less than 3 minutes in length and it changed my life.

At the 2009 Academy Awards, Milk was one of the few films that I As I watched the Gay Super Bowl Oscars that year, Black’s speech left me in disbelief. Yes this is a ceremony filled with people who are stereotypically liberal leaning in their political beliefs. But seldom are people so blatantly plain in their speeches. Here was a rather handsome man telling me that very soon LGBTQ+ people who have equal federal rights across this nation. And wouldn’t you know it – he was right!

 

Not having seen the movie, I googled the film and was astounded I had never heard of Harvey Milk, his story, or the film before the Oscars that night. A second google let me know I could pay $2 and watch the film at The Astro Theater in Downtown Clemson, SC. The Astro was Clemson’s version of a dollar theater. It typically showed films that had already been out for a month or so. It did not look like much on the inside, but I loved it for the historic charm it had. I skipped a science lab to go the next night. To this day, I don’t regret that decision.

 

 

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There were 4 other people in the theater that night. All 4 of those people were part of “the family.” We did not sit together and we did not know each other, but I had seen some of them in passing on campus before. I could effuse compliments about Milk until I am purple in the face so I will not go on and on about how much I love it. I will simply say that film changed my life and I will be forever grateful for the real Harvey Milk’s message of Hope and advocacy that are shown in the film. As the lights came on I tried to wipe the tears off my face. I started to get embarrassed until I saw the other 4 people were doing the exact same thing. Although I never became more than Facebook friends with any of the other 4 people, each time we saw each other in passing on campus, we would always nod and smile at each other. We shared a form of ourselves that evening that we had not shared with many people up until that point. The older I get the more I think certain things in this universe are connected. Call it God, or Karma, or my personal favorite juju. There was a shared connection between us and Harvey Milk that night. And it was life changing.

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The publicity poster from the film. The entire cast is phenomenal. 

This was the first film I had ever seen that depicted multiple main characters who were LGBTQ in a positive light. It is the first film I had seen that showed the power of my community when we stood up and advocated for ourselves – when we fought back against the people and politicians who sought to silence us and belittle us. The film goes through much of Milk’s adult life. It shows a closeted Milk living in New York City and keeping his sexuality a secret and follows parts of his life up until his assassination. Milk later moves to San Francisco in the 1970s. San Francisco became a haven for gay men in the 60s and 70s and Milk opened Castro Camera on Castro Street in the city. He lost his first election for the Board of Supervisors, but he quickly became a uniting force in “The Castro” – the area of the city made famous by the Castro Theater and the district with the largest concentration of gay people.

Once San Francisco moved away from at-large districts to area based districts Milk easily won in the heavy LGBT Castro District. Harvey Milk was a bridge builder. He united minority communities of all types and advocated for those groups regularly as part of the Board. He was instrumental in helping the city pass a gay rights ordinance at a time when many other cities were passing ordinances and ballot indicatives which were extremely anti-LGBTQ in nature. Milk was passionate in his belief that only by people in the LGBTQ community coming out and acknowleding their sexuality to their friends and family would opinions on LGBTQ people change for the better. Milk said :

Gay people, we will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets. … We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I’m going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out.

Sadly Harvey Milk would not live to see his beliefs become reality. He was taken by the bullets of an assassin in his office in city hall. In the video below, you will see US Senator Dianne Feinstein announce the deaths of both Moscone and Milk. If it looks like Feinstein is confused she has good reason to be. She just identified the bodies of both Milk and Moscone to police. As she tried to feel a pulse on Harvey Milk’s neck, she stuck her fingers into the hole left by the bullet that hit Milk in the neck.

White was a disgruntled former member of the board who had resigned, but wanted his seat back. both Moscone and Milk opposed putting White back on the board. White snuck into city hall, shot the mayor in his office before walking to Milk’s office and shooting him 4 times. White was arrested later that day. In response to the shooting, thousands of people from across San Francisco rushed and descended upon the Castro that evening. They marched silently with candles in a spontaneous memorial vigil in honor of Milk. To this day, it remains one of the most beautifully eloquent responses to an act of violence that this world has ever seen.

White was convicted months later of voluntary manslaughter for both killings and was sentenced to just 7 years in prison of which he only served 5. After the lenient sentencing was announced, the outrage in the LGBTQ community led to several nights of rioting throughout San Francisco in what have since become known as The White Night Riots. Harvey Milk’s friend and another icon in the gay community, Cleve Jones, led the way from the Castro towards city hall shouting “Out of the bars and into the streets!” By the time they reached city hall a thousand people were ready to riot. This is the impact that Harvey Milk had on the gay community. For a community that so often felt lost, alone, and vilified by the rest of the world, Harvey Milk was and still is a beacon of hope. The harbinger of hope was and still is a martyr for the movement. That movement is ongoing and we won’t stop until we accomplish what Milk set out to accomplish.

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Milk was featured on a US Postal Stamp in 2014. You can still order it on the Post Office Website.

I have always felt a connection to Harvey Milk – but in more ways than just the obvious one. Harvey milk taught at one point and while in California he was one of the driving forces behind the defeat of Proposition 6, which was an initiative on the California ballot that would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools. I have always believed that the LGBTQ community if far too concerned with their “own” letter in the acronym. As long as the L or the G part got their rights then who cares about the T or the Q? Harvey Milk knew that the only way for us to succeed was to help each other – and that included other oppressed minority groups as well. Lastly, and perhaps the most tragically of the connections, I was born on the tenth anniversary of Milk’s assassination. I find it somehow comforting in a weird way that a day that brings pain and anguish for many, brought happiness and joy to my family (or at least I think it brought them happiness and joy).

Hope will never be silent. As long as people have hope, they will always be capable of rising above the circumstances that life throws at them. Where there is hope, there is the undeniable chance that the human spirit will win out over despair. Over fear. Over anger. Over hate. The story of Harvey Milk was a pivotal turning point in my life. It changed a fundamental part of the person that I am today. The story of Harvey Milk saved Dustin Lance Black’s life, and it will continue to save the lives of countless people – but only if it is told. At the conclusion of his Oscar acceptance speech Black ends by thanking God for giving us Harvey Milk. I thank God for giving us people like Black, and Van Sant, and Penn who were brave enough to fight to have the story of Harvey Milk told. And yes after thanking God for them, I too thank God for Harvey Milk. Happy Birthday, Harvey Milk. Thank you for your sacrifice. And Thank you for the gift of hope.

-WB

imageTo learn more about Harvey Milk, go to The Harvey Milk Foundation website. The Milk foundation was founded by Milk’s nephew, Stuart Milk, and his former campaign manager, Anne Kronenberg, and it seeks to continue to strive for Milk’s dream of a better tomorrow – a tomorrow in which there is equality for all and a world without hate.

Modernizing the Monarchy: The Lasting Mark of Meghan Markle

101639799_hi046910891-2760294655-1526784510277.jpgGrowing up in school, history was my favorite subject. The history teachers I had were awesome storytellers and history is full of all sorts of stories. Sometimes the stories are heartbreaking and sometimes they are triumphant. However, the stories are always lessons that those of us living in the present can learn from. We can learn how to be better and make the world better for those who come after us. The lessons from today’s royal wedding will rightfully go down as historic and they should. It is absolutely groundbreaking what a divorced American bi-racial feminist commoner who is the direct descendant of an emancipated slave has done by saying the words “I do!”, and here is why.

As a lover of history, the British Monarchy has always fascinated me. If I were a true historian I would have chosen it as my specialty. Before I decided to become a public school teacher, I seriously considered becoming an academic historian. The schools I looked at the most were schools with strong European History programs (specifically strong in Anglo-Franco policy relations). While my focus would most likely have been on Elizabethan England (let’s face it… who doesn’t love a queen who wears over a pound of makeup on her royal face?), I have always found the monarchy fascinating. It is an institution full of pageantry and tradition since the year 1066 when William the Conqueror came to England in the Norman Invasion.

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Its downright criminal. Even her freckles looks beautiful. 

The fact that the British Monarchy has survived as long as it has (with a few minor interruptions here and there) is an impressive fête all on its own. Throughout history monarchies in kingdoms and empires both large and small have risen only to fall victim to revolution and democratization. From ineffective rulers, peasant revolts, and queens who eat excessive amounts of cake, monarchies can be destroyed in the blink of an eye. Especially when most monarchies are predicated on the fact that a minuscule amount of the population controls massive amounts of wealth and power simply for being born of “royal blood.” And although I am an American Patriot through and through, I have a healthy respect for the institution that has led the country that has become America’s closest ally.

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A member of the royal family has a black mother-in-law. Let that just sink in.

The monarchy is an institution built on centuries of tradition and practices that 90% of the rest of the world would consider wrong and outdated. From views on colonialism and imperialism, to the underlying race relations problems that plague the royal family (cough cough… Prince Philip and Princess Michael I am talking about you… cough cough), and a host of other issues that have faced the host nation of the commonwealth realms, the monarchy has come dangerously close at times to losing the support of the majority of the British public. The closest it came was in the immediate days following the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales – Harry’s mother and the parent he most closely resembles in temperament and personality. Thankfully, at these times in history, the British Monarchy has begrudgingly accepted changes and adaptations to those traditions in order to survive.101643963_hi046911763

Many of these changes in adaptations have happened far too slowly and far past the time they should have happened. For example, the only reason Elizabeth became Queen was because her father did not have any male heirs. If he had, they would have been King even if Elizabeth had been older. The laws of succession were not changed until right before the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s first child, Prince George, was born just 6 years ago. The first Earl of Snowden was the first commoner to marry a king’s daughter in 400 years when he married Princess Margaret and divorce was not permitted until they divorced in 1978. The first British commoner women to marry into the senior membership of the royal family was Catherine Middleton just under 10 years ago. But this moment is bigger than any of those moments.

101636854_hi046905176Meghan Markle is eerily similar to Princess Diana in many ways, but there is not an adequate comparison to describe what The New Duchess of Sussex did to modernize the monarchy. Meghan Markle is a self-describe feminist. She is divorced. She is bi-racial. And “worse” yet: she is American. The only other American to marry into the royal family has been Wallis Simpson, who married Edward VIII, Elizabeth’s uncle who abdicated in order to marry her (Queen Elizabeth’s father was the second son). Wallis Simpson died in the 1980s, but she is still one of the most controversial and hated members in the history of the British Royal Family. To most people, myself included, this is extraordinary and it represent a new type of royal family – a type that is part of the lasting legacy of the Princess of Wales.

Princess Diana knew the royal family needed to get rid of the stuffy and stiff outdated images they had. She changed the country with her humanitarian efforts around the world. For touching AIDS patient in the early 1990s to walking through fields of landmines, Diana showed the human side of the royal family. At her death, the Prime Minister called her the People’s Princess; it shouldn’t be surprising that her children – the biggest and most impressive part of her legacy – have followed in her footsteps. Since both the Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex have become adults and started advocating on behalf of causes they care about they have signaled a changing of the guard in what it means to be a part of the royal family. I would go so far as to say that it is because of William and Harry that the monarchy has brought the number of anti-monarchists in Britain to under 10% of the population for the first time in decades.

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I promise I did not cry. I just got a piece of dust in my eyes.

Watching the wedding I am proud of the assertively American touches that Meghan Markle put on her wedding with the man who is 5th in line to the British Throne. When her father was to ill to walk her down the aisle she radiantly walked the first part of the way herself before having Prince Charles walk her the rest of the way. Her first dress was made by the first British women to head the Parisian house Givenchy. Her second dress was much more revealing and also designed by an independent female designer. In edition to her feminist touches she also put her stamp on other pieces of the ceremony as well – and the look on some of the faces of the British Royal family show just how much the changes Meghan Markle added were needed.

Three of my personal favorite touches to the ceremony have NEVER been seen in a royal wedding in the history of Britain. I would go so far as to say they have never been seen in St. Paul’s chapel before. The leader of the Episcopal Church in America, Michael Curry, gave the sermon for the ceremony and it was a doozy! Curry is the first African-American Episcopal church leader which is historic enough, but his evangelical delivery was both inspirational and added some much needed jazz to a crowd of stuffy aristocrats. A gospel choir sang a beautiful version of the song “Stand By Me,” which is according to Kensington Palace, a song that holds special meaning to the couple. Lastly, a prodigiously talented 19 year old Black British cellist played pieces so beautiful it made Doria Ragland, Meghan’s mother, tear up. #BlackExcellence and #BlackRoyalWedding were trending on Twitter. Black American Royalty (Oprah and Serena Williams) mingled with Black British Royalty (Idris Elba…. yes GOD). I am going to go out on a limb and say that is the most people of color that have been in St. George’s Chapel at any point in its history (Britain is 87% white).

While there was much happiness on this special day for both of them, I am left feeling largely sad for both of them for very different reasons. I come from a large family where for the most part, we all get along. Harry had to go throughout this day without his mother. Losing her at 12 set Harry adrift for about a decade before he finally got in touch with the person he is today. I do not think he has ever truly forgiven the press and the public for the way they treated his mother and I know he strives to live up to her legacy every day. However, I was not just sad for Harry – I was also sad for Meghan. She is giving up quite a lot for this marriage, and I truly hope and pray for her that it turns out to be a fairy tale worthy of Walt Disney magic.

Meghan Markle had a career in the public eye before this marriage, but it has to have been hard having to go through something that is supposed to be such a joyous family occasion with only her mother. I know not having her father there was undoubtedly difficult, but it gave us a moment to see a rare tender side of Prince Charles we do not normally get to see. In addition it gives us a moment to see the strong woman that raised a strong woman. I am still in awe of the amount of grace, dignity, and refined poise that Doria Ragland carried herself with throughout these past few days. After looking on as she tearfully beamed with loving pride at her daughter, it is not hard to see how Meghan became such a strong woman – she had a great one as a mom, whose footsteps she could follow in.

 

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In closing, I cannot help but think the weather today is Princess Diana’s doing. Had it been a typical rainy British springtime afternoon, many people would have said that it was Diana crying tears of joy at how happy she was for Harry and Meghan, but this would not have been true. Diana lived her life with with a humanizing grace and radiant beauty that was contrary to everything royal at that point. That is why today was never going to be anything but sunny. A typical day would have been overcast and dreary. So Diana gave us the exact opposite. I don’t claim to know what Diana, Princess of Wales hoped and dreamed of for her children while she was still living, but I do know this: Princess Diana would be so enormously proud of the man that her son has become.

I see so much of Diana in Harry. Perhaps this is why I always have had an affinity for Harry. In my opinion, Harry was always the cute royal who could do no wrong. Naked partying in Vegas only made him more appealing. We could all see ourselves partying in Vegas so what was the big deal? When he quickly apologized for the Nazi Halloween costume, we quickly accepted the apology and put it in the past. We justified this terrible decision as a cry for help. A boy who lost his mother at 12 is going to make some bad decisions along the way, we said. Harry is the royal with personality and sex appeal (Did anybody else see him bite his lip during the wedding after telling his beloved she looked beautiful? It was swoon-worthy). If Diana was the people’s princess, then Harry is the people’s prince. And the people’s Prince could not have chosen a better bride.

I have two hopes for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. I hope royal matrimony is nothing but happiness for two people who are as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside. After the broken childhoods experienced by both, they deserve years of bliss. Lastly, I hope the public has learned their lesson. I hope and pray that we give them the space to try and raise a family with as much normalcy as you can, when a member of the royal family. We failed miserably with Charles and Diana. We must not fail again.

-WB

Dear Fellow White People: An Open Letter

By now most people have heard about Lolade Siyonbola and what happened to her earlier this week, although you may know her more as the Yale grad student who committed the crime of “sleeping while Black.” If you are confused here are the basic details of the story as reported by CNN. Siyonbola was working on a paper as part of her Master in African Studies. She was working on the paper in the common room of the Yale Hall of Graduate Studies, where her dorm room was located. As she was working, Siyonbola fell asleep and awoke to Sarah Braasch, a philosophy grad student, who came into the room calling the police on Siyonbola saying she cannot sleep or be in that common room.

The police arrived and detained Siyonbola for over 17 minutes as they questioned why she was in the building. They still requested to see her student ID card ever after she unlocked the door to her dorm room to prove she lived in the building. Part of the hang up that required the police question Siyonbola for so long was the preferred name on her ID card did not match her official name in the School’s records. Eventually Siyonbola was allowed to go and the officers told Sarah Braasch that she should not have called the police because Siyonbola had every right to use that room. The Facebook live video that Siyonbola recorded on her phone is below.

This should incense you for several reasons; the most astounding of the reasons why being the fact that this is the 4th time in a matter of two months that a white person has called the police on a person or a group of  people of color (non-white) for simply doing something as innocent as waiting on a friend in Starbucks. Or taking a tour of a college campus. Or loading their luggage into their car after staying at an AirBnb on a trip to visit a friend. Or even having a family barbecue in a public park.

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Was calling the police really that necessary? The only answer  is no and if you don’t think so you have a problem.

Every single one of these people must have grown up in Mayberry living right next door to Opie Taylor, because that is the only thing that I can think of as to why these people might have called the police. They must have grown up in a city devoid of people of color and it must have alarmed them so much that they did not know what else to do other than call the police. All sarcasm aside, you and I both know that is not why these people called the police. These people called the police because of the extra melanin that the so-called “criminals” possessed. For the people who called the police as well as the people who are defending the actions of those who called the police, I have news for you: if you don’t try to live in a world where people of all races and ethnicities are seen as equals in the eyes of their fellow man, you won’t enjoy living at all after we get to 2040, and here is why.

As a teacher of Human Geography, one of the units I cover is Demographic Geography. Demographic geography is the study of the ways in which spatial variations in the distribution, composition, migration, and growth of populations are related to the nature of places. To take it out of the index card definition I would have my students write it is basically the study of how groups of people are shaped by the land and their other surroundings. This is the section of geography that deals with things like birth rate, death rate, rate of natural increase, and other geographic numbers. These numbers have turned population geography into a science. By studying these numbers throughout human existence and their current numbers we have transformed population geography into a science that is surprisingly accurate when it comes to predictions that are made by population geographers. The prediction that most geographers have made involving race is that by the year 2040, white people will no longer be the majority in America.

The Horror! The Danger! Call Uncle Bubba! It is time to start prepping the bunker now!

All jokes aside, the statistic is true – Based on population projections that have been surprisingly accurate up to this point, the racial make up in America is changing. America is becoming less white christian and more of everything else. And despite what you may think, this is a good thing. For far too long in this nation we have not had much needed conversations on race. Avoiding the topic of race is comfortable now, but in the last several years it has hurt too many people when the issues came boiling to the surface. If we had these conversations years ago when we needed to then maybe Mike Brown would still be here and I wouldn’t have students wondering if their parents or older siblings are going to be deported. We still have people carrying around the Confederate flag, for God’s sake!

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Charlottesville. Virginia. July 8. 2017. What is going on, America?

Think about that! There are still people in this nation who support the Confederacy and its ideals. They do not see the confederacy as the morally crippled from the start failure that it always was. They see it under the guise of “The Lost Cause.” This is as laughable as it is stupid. The Civil War was a cultural group of rich white Americans that decided its choice to abuse and trade humans endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights was more important than upholding and defending the United States Constitution many of them swore to protect. Any attempt to explain it as otherwise directly undermines the future stability of this nation.

Clearly by avoiding the conversation things are not working. Continued avoidance and silence is going to lead to more problems for our nation down the road, and that is what brings us back to 2040. As a result of several demographic statistics, the white majority will be gone, and it would be generations before they could ever regain a majority, if they even could. First, when you break down the average age of each racial group in the United States, whites are significantly older than minority groups. This means there are less child-rearing women who are white actively having children. In addition the average number of children born to white women is significantly lower than the average number born to black and Latina women.

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The millennial generation is already the most diverse generation in the history of this nation. 46% of millennials are non-white. Perhaps that is also why it gets the distinction of being the most accepting generation when it comes to relationships outside our own racial group. Next year, in 2019, millennial will officially be the largest generation in America. This is a good thing – and as a millennial myself I am excited and proud to be the generation that leads the way in fixing our race relations problems. If your generation won’t lead the way it is high time millennial step up to the plate and show you how it is done.

The only possible reason that I can think of that would explain the behavior of all these white people calling the police on people of color for no reason is their fear. White people must be afraid of retribution. White people must be so scared that as a result of their horrible treatment of many groups of people over color at the hand of white people that they are terrified of being on the receiving end of the very same treatment that they perpetuated on groups of colors for decades. That is the only thing I can think of that would explain these actions. And you know what? The continued fear of people of color is making things worse. It is doing nothing but alienating white people from everybody else as seemingly out of touch bigots who are clinging to power because we feel we are superior.

image-26Thankfully, the views are slowly changing.  The majority of Americans (although still far to low of a majority) see immigrants in this country as something that makes America stronger and not as a burden. This bodes well for our future since the two fastest growing populations in the United States are immigrants from Latin America and from Asia. However, the second part of this chart is the sad part. If you look at the breakdown of the strength/burden question by race, white Americans are the only demographic group to be below the 50% mark. Once again, it makes White people in this nation seem narrow-minded and racist. The majority of white people are neither narrow-minded nor racist, but until they start speaking up and standing up for their non-white brothers and sisters this problem is only going to get worse.

The closer we get to the year 2040, the more visible the demographic shift will be. As people start to realize the impending change, they will rant and rave and rail on about America and how she is losing her ideals and the other traits that make up America. Instead of fighting a losing battle on race (which if your advocating for a White Nationalist America you deserve to lose anyways) 25 years down the road lets solve the problem now by openly having a dialogue with our brothers and sisters of different ethnicities to make sure the America we live our children is the best version of America there is. Will it be painful? Yes. Will it be uncomfortable, and hard, and sometimes frustratingly slow? Yes, but it is what we need. It is what America Needs. The first step to solving a problem is admitting there is one. We have a problem with race in America. Now let’s start fixing it – and let’s do it together.

-WB

The Fool-Proof Way to Improve Your Life and Our Country

Most of the readers of this blog are living in the United States. The majority of the people who read this are going to be American citizens. While I freely admit that America is not perfect – she has her flaws just like anybody else; however, up to this point in my life, there really is no other country that I care to live except here. Americans get a bad wrap with how we feel about our country. We are considered arrogant and self-righteous by many and disliked by others because we seem to mess in the affairs of other sovereign countries. The picture that comes to mind is often something like this: american-flag-overlode

For the record, The American above are obnoxious, sure, but I still love their spirt. There is something charmingly American in their obnoxious dedication and devotion to our home. If there is one thing that unites all Americans more than anything else, it is their desire for America to succeed. Americans know that when the United States succeeds, they will reap the benefits of her success. So listen up, because here is the number 1, fool-proof way for Americans to help improve our country:

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Voting for major offices and elections typically takes on a Tuesday in November. The primaries to decide who is able to run in those general elections are held sometime before that.  In South Carolina, our primaries are usually early in June. This year they fall on June 18, 2018. In order to be eligible to vote in those elections, you must have registered to vote by May 11, 2018. For those reading this when it was originally posted. That is this Friday.

Local elections have a bigger impact on your daily life than national elections do. In order to make this post short, sweet, and to the point, I created this infographic that explains the top reasons you should vote in local elections! Enjoy!

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The Top 10 Easy Ways You Can Appreciate Teachers

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week here in the United States. As a teacher, I probably do have a little bit of bias when it comes to what I am getting ready to say, but I know I am right when I say that teachers are the most overworked and underpaid and underappreciated profession around. Education is the only career field I can think of that has to deal everyone – even those without education degrees – throwing their two cents in about how we can fix our flawed educational system. Let me remind you: opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one, but we do not always need to see yours. In addition to dealing with people’s “magic fixes” for our educational system we also get to deal with statements like “you only work nine months out of the year anyway. How could you possibly expect a higher salary?” I could do 10 whole blog posts where I discuss how much rage that brings me. And yes, I have actually had someone say that to me.

With all that said, I do not want this to be negative. I want this to be a celebratory post because teachers are so important to our society (not to toot my own horn, but – toot toot!). So without further ado and in no particular order, I present to you the top 10 ways you can thank and appreciate your teacher this week:

  1. Write your teacher, your child’s teacher, or your former teachers a letter explaining how much you enjoyed them or you enjoyed their class.

While yes it would be nice for a higher salary and all that jazz, at the end of the day, every single teacher I know wants to feel like they made an impact in a student’s life. We definitely don’t get told enough when we do so take the time this week and let us know.

2. Support us in the Classroom.

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I am sure everyone has seen the cartoon above at least once before so you know it is definitely true. Every single year of my teaching career I have parents try to talk me out of assigning the grade their child earned and instead give them a grade they did not deserve. Support us when it comes to the grades your child earned because I will not compromise my integrity and forge a grade and we could really use your support to get your children to see they need to do better. Once you make them see that, we can all three sit down together and figure out how we can help them do better. We could also use your support in regards to behavior and discipline. For the record. Little Timmy is telling you lies. He WAS talking. I DID warn him. Now back us up with the punishment that comes with it.

3. Support Us Outside the Classroom

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Just because we aren’t always in the classroom doesn’t mean you can’t still support us. When you hear people make negative comments about school teachers call them out on it. When we go on strike (I know it is frustrating to you, but we are trying to live and support families – strikes are sometimes necessary), join us on the strikes. Most importantly, however, is VOTE. Vote for politicians who are pro-public education.

4.  Communicate with us more than just when your child is not doing well/in trouble.

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Most high school teachers like myself have over 100 students that we are responsible for imparting knowledge to. It is not always feasible or timely for me to call home when an issue arises, and it is just downright difficult for me to return every single email or call at the end of the quarter over grades. Sometimes I don’t know something that I should no in regards to your child. It would be nice to know that upfront and after the fact, It also shows us they have a parent at home who cares and we love seeing that. If we communicate with each other early and often it will do nothing, but double your child’s chances of success.

5.  Volunteer to donate supplies or to take some Task off Our Hands.

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For supply money, Greenville County School District gives me $250 dollars for materials each year. That’s it. I have spent at least double that amount and thankfully I have nice parents who are willing to help me out with supplies as well. Most of us work multiple jobs and we still barely make ends meet. We will never turn down supplies. If we can’t use it, we know someone who will. For tasks, we have a lot on our plate. Offering to run copies or coordinate emails to the class, or chaperoning a field trips seem like small tasks, but they are huge weights off our shoulders.

6.   We’ll Take More Coffee/Coffee Gift Cards, But for the Love of God No Mugs!

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Most teachers I know run on caffeine. We could us IV drips. Until that happens, a nice Starbucks gift card goes a long way. Seriously though, no mugs! We have a million. Every variation of World’s Best Teacher you can find, and I have a weird last name so you won’t find one that says, Mr. Boliek. So just save the time and give us a nice Hallmark card with a Starbucks card thrown in and we will feel super appreciated!

7.  We are going to make mistakes. We are humans too – forgive us.

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With over 100 students to look after and with many other responsibilities, sometimes we are stretched to thin and something doesn’t go the way you or I wanted it to. Give us the opportunity to own up to it and apologize. Then forgive us and help us move on. Trust us – when we screw up, it bothers us more than it bothers you.

8. Be Involved and Engaged With Your Kid Regurlarly

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Nothing plays a bigger role in your child’s success (other than their own effort of course) than your involvement in their educational career. I could be the best teacher in the world and if you don’t show engagement and interest in your children’s educational accomplishments then eventually they will stop caring and trying. All it takes is a few questions here and a few “good jobs!” there. Help them with their homework even. It will show that you think education is important and you get to spend quality time with them. It’s a win-win. Or a win-win-win because the teachers usually get better behaved students and better quality work when parents are involved.

9. Get Informed – Know About Current Edu. Events & Policy Issues.

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This one you really should do anyways, but if you aren’t up to date already get up to speed quick. The sanity of your children’s teachers depends on it. And with someone like Betsy Devos running the Department of Education, we need knowledgable parents to help us get back on the right track.

10.  BUY. THE. FREAKING. PENCILS.

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When you see the school supply list at the beginning of the year, and it says pencils and notebook paper, please go buy the notebook paper and pencils. If you take the attitude of “I am not going to buy it because they will end up giving it to them anyways.” then you, my friend, are a terrible person. 99% of the time, teachers end up having to buy materials for their students whose parents refused to buy them the supplies. Most teachers salaries are well below what they should be. Don’t make them pay for items that you can afford for your children. To drive the final point home, let a Target Mom explain why you should buy the pencils.

To all the teachers out their, take a moment and enjoy this week. You earned it. You deserve a lot more than you are going to get. You are awesome!

And to Mrs. Robinson, Mrs. Callaghan, Mrs. Goetz, Mrs. Cothran, Mrs. Norris, Mrs. Van Dyke, Mrs. Henderson, Mrs. Edwards, Mrs. Davis, Mrs. Wharton, Mrs. Butler, Mrs. Carden, Mrs. Henderson, Mrs. Anderson, Mrs. Freeman, Mrs. McKamy, Dr. Wolfe, Mrs. Brown, Mr. Lee, Dr. Ground, Mr. Smith, Coach Cook, Mrs. Barber, Mrs. Bartlett, Mr. Linn, Señora Larrain, Dr. Lochridge, and Mr. Duncan – Each of your played a role in making me the person I am today. In case I never told you then, which I probably didn’t, thank you for what you did. Some of you will never know how much you truly impacted my life and I don’t mean just when it comes to academics. Some of you got me through some very hard personal matters as well. And for that you will not only hold the title of kick ass teacher, you now hold the title of kick ass friend!

 

 

 

The Slander of a Sex Worker: How Stormy Became Salomé

By now the world is well versed in the sexcapades of our current President. Whether or not he cheated on Melania Trump with Stormy Daniels is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. We know he has cheated before – multiple times. Court records prove he cheated on Ivana Trump with Marla Maples while still married to Ivana and their have been a host of women who say they have been in relationships with Trump or have had affairs with Trump while he was legally married to all three wives. One would think that  would be enough to turn the general public that makes up Trump supporters – as well as the GOP – away from Trump, but this not just any President or just any other republican politician. Especially since they claim to be the party of family values.

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Salomé’s Dance. Painting by Gustave Moreau.

Any other republican politician this happened to would be on the receiving end of statements from officials distancing themselves from him, declining his endorsement, and denouncing the behavior. We would also see evangelicals and leaders from the religious right like Franklin Graham outraged at what is being read on our news programs each evening. Especially when our President openly admitted to grabbing people by the pussy.We would hear shouts of “Think of the Children!” But since this is the presidency of Donald Trump we do not get any of that. We instead hear the right offer Trump a mulligan for his past sins, and we hear nothing except the right’s pharisaical and two-faced attempts to turn Stormy Daniels into a modern day Salomé.

Allow me to explain. The story of Salomé is a long and twisted one. Emerging first as an unnamed figure in multiple Gospels of the Bible as a dancer for the Birthday celebrations of King Herod, Salomé and her legacy if she was indeed even a real person has been through many incantations and depictions. The metamorphosis from nameless dancer for King Herod to notorious seductress did not happen over night. Throughout time and throughout art, her image shifted as countless master painters (Titian, Caravaggio, and Gustave Moreau), playwrights (Oscar Wilde), and Hollywood variations (most notably Rita Hayworth in the classic film and Jessica Chastain in the Al Pacino update) on the person that Salomé was moved towards a more seductive and deadly portrayal of woman. God forbid a woman actually own her sexuality and the power that comes with it. That would be absolutely SCANDALOUS!

Salomé is perhaps most known and most infamous for the so-called dance of the seven veils. As a birthday present for the king she was brought forth and she danced with seven veils. The dance was supposedly so inspiring and so enchanting that Herod agreed to grant her anything she wanted. As a friend of King Herod’s wife, she followed the prodding of the Queen to ask for the execution of Saint John the Baptist- his head was given to her on a silver platter. While the title dance of the seven veils was the entire creation of Oscar Wilde, the story has scandalized the world since and turned Salome into a trope that has been used to define women in positions of sexual power into women of no moral standards. Below is the Jessica Chastain version of Salomé’s Seven Veils Dance in the 2013 film Wilde Salomé. The Second video is the Rita Hayworth 1953 version of Salomé – considered so scandalous at the time it took a year to get it released.

While I freely admit (and I am sure Stormy Daniels would agree with me) that Stormy Daniels is not the Virgin Mary, she does not deserve to be turned into a modern day Salomé who is after something or someone. Throughout this entire Trump – Stormy Daniels ordeal these few things have consistently stuck out in her favor:

  1. Stormy Daniels has not changed a major piece of her story  even once.
  2. Daniels is fully cooperating with federal investigators.
  3. Trump has changed his story or had to have the Presidential Press Secretary clarify aspects of his statements or other factual areas of the case.
  4. Daniels has offered to return the $130,000 payment.
  5. Daniels gains nothing from this ordeal other than her good name and reputation – and yes she still has a reputation.
  6. Trump is getting nervous.

Daniels gets no money for going on the morning news shows or for being interviewed by Anderson Cooper – news organizations do not pay for stories. As of right now, it seems to me that all Stormy Daniels is getting out of this is insults and death threats being thrown her way. All of these people hurling the insults at Stormy Daniels seem to focus on one thing: her career choice. As Daniels as now sued Trump for Defamation of Character, people have been quick to pile on just how little character that they think she has. Upon looking at the WYFF4 News Facebook page, the evidence is plainly stated. Below are a few screenshots of what people think in regards to the April 28, 2018 News Channel 4 Facebook post about Daniels’ suit against the President¹:

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The original artwork of Oscar Wilde’s play version of Salomé

The thing that sticks out to me first as I scroll through the comments is how most of the comments questioning whether or not Stormy Daniels has character overwhelmingly come from women- and this is what saddens me the most. The majority believe it inconceivable that someone like Stormy Daniels is capable of telling the truth. They seem to imply the support the president’s assertion that this is all for her to somehow make money off of. Never mind the fact the this president has consistently said some of the most vile, misogynistic, and disgusting things about women. Never mind the fact that this President has been proven to have lied or had this administration lie on his behalf MULTIPLE times. Never mind all that. Stormy Daniels screws people. Stormy Daniels makes money screwing people. Stormy Daniels is a slut and that means Stormy Daniels cannot possibly be defamed.

Humans (along with pigs, bonobo monkeys, dolphins,) are one of the only species of living animal that we know for certain has sex for pleasure. To put it simply, we have sex because we like the feeling that comes with it. Most people enjoy being naked becasue they feel there is something liberating that comes from it. Stormy Daniels found a way to make money off of doing something that feels good while being naked with somebody else. Sometimes multiple somebodies. Props to her. I tip my hat in her direction. Does that mean that Stormy Daniels is a terrible person? Does that mean she is immoral or not capable of contributing to our society? Absolutely Not.

Stormy Daniels is a grown ass woman. Allow me to say it one more time for the people in the back. She is a GROWN. ASS. WOMAN. As long as it is legal under the law, Stormy Daniels can screw whoever she wants, whenever she wants, however she wants. Consensual sex between two (or more – if your into that) able-minded consenting adults has no baring on whether or not a person has character. We have got to get away from a society where sex is something that is taboo, immoral, and wrong. It has dangerous consequences. It teaches women that they shouldn’t enjoy sex and the power that can come with owning the sexuality in all its glory and it directly contributes to depression, shame,  and HIV/AIDS in the LGBTQ communities. Some All people like sex. Some women enjoy sex more than some men do. Some people like watching other people have sex in pornographic videos. That doesn’t make the people in the video or the watchers of the video bad people. There is nothing wrong with any of those things. The sex positive movement is growing, but we all need to embrace it more quickly – especially if we get upset over people starring in adult films.

The adult film industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. It employs thousands of people across the country (mostly California, Nevada, New York, Florida, and surprisingly enough Atlanta, Georgia), both in front of and behind the camera. It brings in billions of dollars in online revenue and the adult entertainment industry conventions that happen across the country bring millions of dollars to the cities that they are held in. Porn is a multi-billion dollar business worth more than the NFL, NBA, and MLB combined, and the reason it is worth more than those three organizations is because people watch it. They buy it. They enjoy it. Do you call the cashier at Dunkin’ Donuts a jackass for selling you a donut and making you fat? I didn’t think so. So stop calling the porn star a slut for doing what you paid her to do and then feeling guilty or ashamed because you watched it.

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Rita Hayworth in 1953 for a Salomé still. The film was produced by Hayworth’s company specifically so she could star in the film. 

One of the people in the Facebook comments of the news page asked if there was any lower she could go. Since she apparently believes the lowest she can go is adult film star allow me to answer that question: Yes, Linda Jameison, there is lower she can go. There is nothing wrong with consenting adults having consensual sex. There is however something wrong with murderers, rapists, drug dealers, bigots, homophobes, racists, neo-nazis, and a host of other groups that spread hate and intolerance. As a teacher, I loathe cheaters of any kind because it is unfair to those who work hard and follow the rules. I also believe someone who lies is worse and lower than someone who makes no apologies about enjoying getting paid to have sex. Donald Trump has cheated on all three wives and it has been proven he has lied multiple times before and throughout his presidency. So suck on that lollipop of knowledge for a while, Linda. If you need some pointers, I suggest you watch some of Stormy Daniels work. I am sure she would be happy to give you some tips. But it will cost you. And there is nothing wrong with that.

-WB

Author’s Note:

¹Just so you can see the article for yourself and make sure I did not randomly pick the posts of people from other articles, if you scroll through WYFF4 article the title was “Trump Sued by Daniels for Defamation” on April 30, 2018. Also I debated about blurring out the names of individuals making the posts, but I decided it was unnecessary since they were posting them on a public page of a news organization’s social media website.

 

Rescued by a Rescue: How a Dog I Rescued Ended Up Rescuing Me

Three years ago this past June I got a phone call that changed my life. A friend I worked with was going to go and rescue a puppy from a large group of dogs that had been seized from a Puppy Mill operation in Spartanburg. Already having 3 dogs I asked if she had the time for another puppy. The emotion in her voice when she said how bad these dogs looked hit me immediately. She said she just couldn’t say no and asked if I wanted to go with her and hold the puppy on the way home so she could focus on driving. Did I? Want to go? Hold a Puppy? With her? Did I?

Does a bear shit in the woods? Does the Pope wear red shoes and a funny hat? Does Rose Kennedy own a black dress? Does Dolly Parton sleep on her back?

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Immediately said yes and we jumped in the car and headed to Spartanburg. As we pulled up to the rescue organization’s building I was unprepared for what I saw. So many dogs had been seized from this puppy mill a large temporary tent had to be set up in order to house the rescue operation. After my friend Liza filled out her paperwork the bubbly and smiling worker took us over towards the entrance to the tent. She paused before walking through the flapped entrance of the tent and turned around. The bubbles and smiles were gone. She said some of the dogs we were going to see had been through a lot so just don’t let it get to you when you see them. Then she turned around and led us in.

I was not prepared for walking through that door. The overwhelming stench hit me immediately. It smelled a little like wet towels. Or like leftover food that had spoiled. But also a little like something else. I was not sure what it was at the time, but looking back on it now, I know what it was: fear. If there ever was a time I could smell emotions like most animals can it was that day. I smelled fear, and I never want to smell it again. Once we got to the point where we got accustomed to the smell I began to look around. The things I saw still haunt me to this day.

These dogs had not just been neglected and underfed. Many had been physically abused. They said some of the dogs had more than likely been forced to fight each other. Many looked as if they were on death’s door. These dogs had been grossly mistreated. That day I was filled with overwhelming sadness. When I think about it now it fills me with a blind rage that is hard to keep contained. If the people bastards responsible for treating animals this way ever read this, I just want you to know one things. You are pieces of shit You are not worthy of the air the I breathe and you certainly aren’t worthy to breathe the same air as those dogs breathe.

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Looking around I was heartbroken. Some dogs had to be shaved because their fur was matted and unclean. Other had bandages on their paws. I saw one dog who had to have an eye removed and the socket sown shut. As I saw these things I began to lose my breath. The tears started coming and I couldn’t stop and I began to gasp for breath. I was having a panic attack. As I choked back a sob I told Liza I would wait on her outside. I run out and  I still couldn’t breathe. A man came over and stood with me holding a puppy. He kept telling me to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth. As I began to calm down I asked if that ever happens to other people. He told me I was the third person today who had to leave.

“This was one of the worst events in our history. In the 12 years I have been working here, I have yet to be a part of a puppy mill seizure this bad,” he said.

Once I calmed down he went back to caring for the animals instead of me and I found a little place to sit and wait on Liza and her new puppy. As I began to scroll through Facebook on my phone I zoned out of my surroundings and entered my own lille world. I was immediately jerked back to reality when I felt a weird sensation on my leg. I jumped up and I looked expecting to see something gross like a snake. Instead I saw the big brown eyes of a puppy on the tiniest body of a Boston Terrier. As he began to scamper away from me in fear I looked around. Seeing no shelter workers or volunteers I picked him up and went to find a worker.

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As I approached the tent a worker saw me and yelled that he had been found. Somehow he had gotten away from the handlers when they were cleaning the pen that this little guy and the other puppies from his litter had been in. I was cradling him in my arms and as I went to hand him over to the worker his tiny little claws attached themselves to my t-shirt. As I went to detangle his claws from my shirt I looked at his eyes. These eyes spoke directly to my soul without even trying. They touched me in a way I still cannot fathom. I looked up at the woman and said I need some paperwork please. She wanted to put him back with the other puppies as I filled out my paperwork. I told her I was fine. I would hold him with my left hand and write with my right hand. When it was clear I wasn’t going to budge she brought me some paperwork. The rest is history.

In the car on the way home I held two puppies. Liza’s puppy and my own. We had to go by Petsmart on the way home. I had not planned on this. I had thought about getting my own dog before, but I had not made the decision to yet. I had no dog bed, or food, or toys or anything like that. Thankfully the workers at Petsmart helped me out and I felt like I had enough to get me at least through the next few days until I figured out what I would still need to get. As I pulled into the driveway and got him out of my car I let him explore everything- the front yard, the backyard, the deck, and inside the house. As the novelty of watching him explore his new surroundings wore off I waited on my roommate/landlord to come home from work. I rented my room in the house that Cameron owned and the sinking realization came in that I had forgotten to technically ask him if I could get a dog – this could end up with us both homeless.

Thankfully, I know my friends well and Cameron immediately smiled when he walked through the door. With that bullet dodged we went about the next few days of getting to know each other. I had yet to come up with a good name. I wanted it to be something good and not a normal dog name (Spot, Rover, Tank, etc.). Looking at the sweet little face he reminded me of a grumpy old man. So I went with one of the most bad ass grumpy old men of all time who starred in one of my all time favorite movies: Humphrey Bogart. I settled on Humphrey instead of calling him “Bogie” because I did not want people to assume I enjoy or like golf or find it interesting, because I don’t- I would rather watch paint dry.

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After about a week of being with each other Humphrey and I were going through the motions but I didn’t really feel anything. I did not feel like I was connected to him or that he found me particularly interesting at all.I was wondering if it was because of his puppy mill past or if I was being a terrible dog parent, but I was disappointed. Then my friend Tyler and I decided a trip to Six Flags was in order. I did not yet know what to do with a puppy who can’t hold his bladder, but thankfully Tyler’s mom volunteered to keep him with her two dogs for the day. As we pulled away from her house, Humphrey looked like I had abandoned him. The heartbroken look in his eyes was so devastating that I almost told Tyler I couldn’t go. The entire trip I talked and wondered about how Humphrey was doing. Im sure it drove Tyler crazy, but as a good friend he got his mom to send picture updates.

When we got home, I am not sure who was more excited. Me or Humphrey. We finally had our bonding moment. After a long day full of hours feeling like that Boy from Homeward Homeward Bound waiting on Shadow to come limping over that hill, we were a family. And nothing was going to change that. This was what dreams were made of. Three years of memories to look back on I can confidently say this: I rescued Humphrey from a puppy mill and it was the greatest decision I have ever made. I rescued him, but the impact he had on me is just as big. We rescued each other.

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Around the time I got Humph, I was in a rut. I wasn’t where I thought I should be in life and I was bored and frustrated with just about everything. He changed all of that. He made dealing with minutiae of daily life not as unbearable as it used to be. He was happy to see me and he didn’t want anything in return other than for me to throw the tennis ball until my arm falls off. As someone who is terrible at throwing or catching objects, he doesn’t ridicule me when the ball doesn’t go quite where I intended it to. He gladly chases after it and hops like a gazelle on the way back. He give me so much more than he takes (minus the time he ate my TOMS – I am still bitter about that) as well. When I am sad or upset about something he is always right there. HE will nestle up next to me and rest his paw on my hand.

After three years together, we know each other so well we and we have some of the same issues. Neither of us are morning people. It takes forever to get us up and moving. We can both clear a room with our digestive issues. We are fiercely protective of the things and people we love, and although we may not be the sharpest tack in the box (my dad says his elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top), we more than make up for that in personality. As far as I can tell, the only thing we really disagree on is Humphrey’s disdain of pickles.

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I wish I loved Humphrey even half as much as he loves me. That dog thinks I am more special than any human has ever thought I was and he is more special than any of the family pets we had growing up because he is mine and mine alone. In his book Marley and Me John Grogan wrote the following.

A dog has no use for fancy cars, big homes, or designer clothes. A water log stick will do just fine. A dog doesn’t care if your rich or poor, clever or dull, smart or dumb. Give him your heart and he’ll give you his. How many people can you say that about? How many people can make you feel rare and pure and special? How many people can make you feel extraordinary?

Don’t pay hundred or thousands of dollars when there are plenty of wonderful fur babies at your local humane society or rescue shelter who will make wonderful editions to your family. You will not regret it. I sure haven’t I gave Humphrey my heart because he gave me his. I do not need a person to make me feel special- he does that all on his own. Happy third birthday Humphrey! I love you buddy!

-WB

 

18813266_10210005962014252_531766187365900374_nTo donate to the Greenville County Human Society in Honor of Humphrey’s birthday and to help other rescue fur babies, click here.

To follow Humphrey on Instagram, follow @humphreybobark or click here.