Grab your carmine capes and big white bonnets, ladies. Or should I say Handmaids? Or maybe it should be Ofreds? It doesn’t matter, in the end. Just know that those of you with a uterus should get ready to lose your basic human rights (Not if this man has anything to say about it though).
This country has gone crazy. I no longer understand the country of my birth. One of the many great civilizations this world has known is falling apart. It is becoming a dangerous and evil place, and we must all work together to stop it from passing the point of no return. This will be easy, though. It will be easy because the culprits are known to us. The root and cause of this evil infecting America is hiding in plain sight. It is a group of people seeking to destroy the liberty that comes with being an American citizen.
Many of you are probably guessing some of the common groups that people throw out as groups that are bringing America down, but to save time and get right to it, allow me tell you.
It is not Muslims. Or Jews. Or Gays or Lesbians. Or Atheists. Or Millennials.
It is not people who speak Spanish. Or French. Or German. Or Arabic. Or Russian.
It is not brown people. Or black people. Or Asian people. Or even Bi-racial people.
The people seeking to destroy this nation are White men. Usually crusty old white men. Men using their elected power to try and legislate what women should do with their bodies. Men trying to use religion as a veiled smokescreen to intimidate and harass doctors into not giving women medical care that they want or need. 300 weak, old and crusty white men trying once again to return this nation to the time when all women were subjugated and ruled over by the men in their lives – both by men they knew and men they did not know.
What 300 white men, you ask? The 300 white men in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi who recently voted in favor of the strictest abortion laws in the nation. When adding all three state Senate votes and House of Representative votes up, the abortion measures passed 335-152. 335 people voted in favor of essentially outlawing abortion. 300 of those 335 yes votes came from white men. White men who have never had a uterus. Who have never (at least in terms of publicly acknowledging) have survived rape situations. Who have never been forced by elected officials into making the choice between a serious personal and private decision and throwing themselves down the stairs or performing an abortion in a back alley with a coat hanger.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortze was write with her tweet. This men are using God and religion and abusing their power to try to maintain ownership of women. If we close our eyes, we will all be living in Gilead before it is all said and done. I refuse to allow that to happen. I don’t currently have my own children, but it will be a cold day in hell before I allow any potential daughters I have be born into a world where they have less rights than the rights of their mother and grandmothers.
“Nothing changes instantaneously: in a gradually heating bathtub you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.”
-Margaret Atwood in The Handmaid’s Tale
That quote sends shivers down my spine. If you think about it, it is scarily accurate. That is what these men are hoping will happen. State by state they hope to eradicate the choices women have. Women will not allow that to happen, however. I will not allow that to happen. And it that means I have to throw on a bonnet and cape to stand with my sisters in this country so be it.
At the bottom of this paragraph you will see pictures of the 300 white men. The 300 white men who believe they know better than medical professionals and the 8,944,087 women who currently reside in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. The audacity and arrogance to believe they should be allowed to make private, personal, and in some cases, deeply painful medical decisions would be laughable if it weren’t so eerily close to the country that Margaret Atwood gives us in her novel.
Today is a sad day for humanity. Notre Dame Cathedral, the very heart of the city of Paris, is on fire. The fire has been raging for the past several hours. It is believed that the entire roof has been lost, including the instantly recognizable spires that adorned the top. Countless treasures that are considered to be priceless have been lost.
Notre Dame was started in 1163 and was not completed until 1345. The Cathedral is in the literal center of Paris and is perhaps one of the finest examples of Gothic Architecture in the world. Some of the most recognizable pieces of Gothic architecture include ribbed vaulting and the flying buttress. Another of the more beautiful pieces of the heart of Paris include the beautiful round, stained glass, rose windows.
Humanity lost a great deal today. Thankfully, there were no lives lost as of the posting of this, which should be classified as a small miracle in its own right. However, what humanity lost was greater than a body county. The world lost priceless treasures that cannot be salvaged. The work of thousands that has stood for 8 centuries is gone forever. Today is a day for grief. For Paris. For France. For Europeans. For people.
What has struck me about this global tradgedy is somewhat ironic. People are tribal creatures. We spend our entire lives putting each other in boxes and dividing one another into “us” and “them.” The divsions, based on race, or nationality, or gender, or sex, or any other trivial issue people like to harp on melted away today. Gone were the divsions, political parties, and divisive issues. They were replaced with universal shock, dispair, and sadness. People stood in the streets next to each other. They cried. They hugged each other. They prayed together. They sang “Ave Marie” together.
We should use this moment to remind us of several things. We should use it as a reminder that everything in this world is fleeting. Even monuments of man’s achievements don’t last forever. There are countless examples throughout history of this being true, but we continue to take the beauty and wonder of these masterpieces for granted. We should use it as a reminder that there will always be more than unites as people than that divides us. Lastly, we should use it as a reminder that we must always celebrate the things in this world that leave us awestruck at their sheer beauty.
That is the only way I can describe what it was like to visit Notre Dame when I was lucky enough to visit a few years ago. Upon entry, I immediately was struck by what I can only descibe as a feeling of awe. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. It was as if my body knew I was standing in a place that was magical. A place that meant something. A place that was holy. A place were God truly was. Looking at the stained glass windows brought me to tears. I was left in awe of a place created by God and by man, and I am changed by it.
Even though today is a day for humanity to grieve. I am hopeful, because I know the history of Paris. And I know the history of France. And I know the history of man. One of the most inspiring things about mankind is the resiliency of his human spirit. We can be beaten down, defeated, and face many setbacks, but we continue to go forward. We have always looked adversity square in the face, given it a big “screw you,” and then proven to adversity that we will prevail. It is true for mankind, but it is especially true for the people of France and for the People of Paris.
There is a reason that the Parisians call the Cathedral “Our Lady of Paris” and the heart of the city. They have learned how to live and how to survive by taking the history of their heart and using it as a map in their own lives. Parisians are fighters, but they are also survivors. They are survivors because their heart is a survivor.
The heart of the city survived the Plague.
It survived the Crusades.
It survived rioting by the Huguenots.
It survived the French Revolution.
It survived Napoleon.
It survived two World Wars.
It has survived fires before this. So it will survive this fire.
The Heart of the City of Paris will beat as long as the people of Paris believe in her. And Parisians will never give up on their lady.
Happy New Year ladies and gentlemen! I hope you enjoyed ringing in the new year with your friends and families where you may be, and I hope you are looking forward to this new year as much as I am. I have always enjoyed celebrating the new year, and the older I get the more I seem to take joy in the fact that I am still living and breathing to see what is going on in the world today. Because let’s face it, some AMAZING things are happening.
We all know how terrible 2017 was so I won’t talk about that, but I was pleasantly surprised at how good the year 2018 was to me. Overall, it was one of the better years in the life of Wynne. I started out 2018 by ringing in 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee with my friends Audrey and Danny. It was the first time I had ever been to Nashville and I thoroughly enjoyed it (especially our NYE dinner. Holy Hell that was good).
Aside from that, the first part of the year was spent annoying my students from last year about how relevant, important, and cool the Olympics are. They were so tired of watching Olympics stuff that I could relate to the curriculum that they would groan when I started talking about it. But hey, let’s face it, the Olympics were big for Team USA. They accomplished lots of firsts and athletes like Adam Rippon, Gus Kenworthy, and Lindsey Vonn successfully used their platforms to further equality and acceptance for all.
February brought fear and sadness to the American classroom once again. And the way things go here in America, I am sure that it won’t be the last time that we are afraid and sad. With the tragic shooting Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, I cried as I watched the events unfold. I am sick and tired of the bullshit excuses coming from the people we elect to lead who time and time again choose the NRA over the future of America’s children. Thankfully, however, it was a little bit different this time. The Parkland kids are different. They are fighting back and it was an amazing thing to see. And because of the Parkland kids, two things happened in 2018.
First, the Parkland kids are the first group of people to give me real hope that we will soon figure out how to fix the gun violence problem we have in America. I have read countless articles about how teenagers are sick and tired of waiting to die curled up on the floor of their classrooms so they have decided to fight back. They organized, and have spoken out, and raised their voices, and are still shaking their fists. But most importantly, they marched- and that is the second thing that happened in my year as a result of the Parkland kids. Learning about the civil rights movement in school was always one of my favorite time periods to learn about. There is honor, courage, and bravery in the people who said “This is not how America should be. And if you won’t fix it, we will!”
In high school, I added something to my bucket list. I decided then and there that I want to participate and be part of a protest or social movement at some point in my lifetime. That sounds superficial and like I am participating just to be able to cross it off my bucket list, but that is not the case. At the end of my life, I just want to be able to tell my grandchildren or my great grandchildren that I was part of something that mattered and that made our world a better place. So I waited. I waited for the right cause. I waited for a cause that directly affects me and my life. In short, I waited for the Parkland kids. The March 4 Our Lives march that took place in Greenville was a huge success. I ended up marching with my good good girlfriend Richard and it was an all-around amazing day.
The summer months brought about time full of traveling to the beach or to educational leadership conferences, or just on the road to visit friends here and there. I enjoyed the much needed time to refresh my batteries and Humphrey enjoyed that I could throw the ball in the middle of the day or that we could sleep in late on some days (he takes after his Daddy in the fact that he is NOT a morning person). As I scrolled through my timeline looking for things I could add, one extraordinary thing happened. As I scrolled through my timeline and came to June I saw many posts referencing Pride and Pride Month (since for those of you unaware June is Pride Month). Thinking about all of these posts I realized something very important.
It cannot be stated enough just how pivotal the progress that LGBTQ people and their allies made in 2018. From phenomenal movies like Call Me By Your Name and Love Simon to historic scenes and the most inclusive cast on shows like Pose, 2018 was a damn good year for positive recognition for shows about LGBTQ people and LGBTQ people who are working in the entertainment industry. Putting all that aside, though, perhaps the most remarkable progress has come in the area of society’s general attitudes about LGBTQ people and their rights. For example, Greenville had a Pride Rally on a Saturday afternoon in downtown Greenville.
Think about that! Greenville had a pride rally (Read more of my thoughts from this past year on pride here and here.) On its most iconic and main thoroughfare. What still brings goosebumps to my skin and tears to my eyes is the number of young people and families that I saw in attendance that day. Parents were bringing their young children. Parents were bringing their LGBTQ-identifying teenaged children. Young people were living out and proud. This was inconceivable to me when I was in high school and it still fills me with hope for our future. As the Schuyler sisters sing in Hamilton:
Look around, Look around! Look at how lucky we are to be alive right now.
The Fall months brought about Clemson Football, back to school and a new season of events and shows at the Peace Center. This will go down as the greatest season of the Peace Center that they have created so far. Not only did I get to see Hamilton, but Dear Evan Hanson is coming later this summer. I am ecstatic. In addition, October has brought about one of the largest life changes I have experienced so far. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, Wynne Boliek is now a HOMEOWNER! It is a terrifying and scary thing, but I finally have a cute little townhouse that is just perfect for both Humphrey and myself.
November was a great month as well. On the 28th I turned the big 3-0. I had been thinking long and hard about how I might possibly feel when it came time to enter into my third decade on this Earth. As a whole, I am happy with most aspects of my life right now, but after an afternoon of walking Humphrey on a walk around the circle that I live on, I have decided to christen this decade as the Decade of Wynne. Seeing as how I am only on this Earth for a finite amount of time I plan on using that time to make sure I enjoy as much of it as I possibly can. How do I plan on doing that, you ask? Well, you will be pleased to know that I plan on doing that by allowing myself to do what I want to do without worrying about what other people’s opinions are.
Don’t really like the sound of that or don’t think that’s such a good idea? Well, I am sorry that you feel that way. To make you feel better, the gif below is for you. Enjoy.
Finally, now that I have let you know just what life was like for me in the year 2018, that brings me to my New Year’s Resolution. I have never really set a New Year’s resolution before this one. I am a rather cynical person by nature (although I prefer to think of it as being realistic than cynical), and since resolutions are so notoriously known as something that is quickly broken I never really saw the point in making something I would quickly break. But turning 30 and trying to break my own cynical nature I decided to set one this year. The resolution I have come up with will be good for all in involved, and here is why.
When thinking and reflecting on what my resolution should be I thought about areas that I could be better at something and one thought came to my mind. I love my friends and family members, but I do not always do a great job of demonstrating or showing that love to them or at least as well as they show it to me. Without this very important group of people in my life, I would not be where I am am today. They have seen me at my highs and lows, and they continue to love and support me. To let them know how much I appreciate this love and support, I have decided to write it to them. Not to toot my own horn (screw it… toot! Toot!), but I consider myself a halfway decent writer, which is why I decided to pull out my old manual Olivetti Typewriter and type it out the old-fashioned way. It will come typed by me, in purple ink… because what is life without a bit of whimsy, after all.
To those of you who receive a letter, please don’t feel the need to write back or anything like that. I just wanted to acknowledge to you, in a personal way just how blessed I am to have you as a big part of my life. That’s all. Also, please do not judge my typos. There is no autocorrect or delete button on a manual typewriter.
To those of you who don’t receive a letter right away, that does not mean you will not get one. it just means that I am writing them on a manual typewriter and it takes a long ass time to type out these letters. So be patient.
To everybody reading this, remember to take some time. Some time to let those you love in your life know you love them. Some time to make your communities happier, better, and safer. Some time to make the world more kind. And of course, some time to look around. Look around – how lucky we are to be alive right now!
Kevin Hart is a good comedian. He is charismatic, and his comedic timing is exceptional. It is easy to see why the Academy would want him to host the 2019 Oscars – especially considering the fact the Academy is desperately trying to lure younger viewers. I was not mad when they picked Kevin Hart as this year’s host. Although he is not my favorite comedian, I recognize his talent. Also, as someone who has not hosted before, he could bring fresh ideas to a show that can be stale and stuffy. That thinking is all in the past, however, and Kevin Hart has nobody to blame for this except himself.
The pictures above are just a small sampling of the several dozen tweets from Hart’s verified Twitter account. Most of the offensive and homophobic tweets come from 2010 and 2011. This means that someone had to spend time scrolling through thousands of tweets and sound bites to try and find one little statement that is offensive or considered not politically correct. I want to start by saying I think this is a dangerous path for us as a society to go down. I do not think it is fair for us to judge a person based on their beliefs from 10 years ago. People change and so do their beliefs. The Kevin Hart of 10 years ago is not the Kevin Hart of today. Just like the Wynne Boliek of 10 years ago is not the Wynne Boliek of today.
‘Actions Speak Louder than Words’
I want to take Kevin Hart at his word. I want to believe him, but I am also a firm believer in “actions speak louder than words.” Kevin, your actions have shown me that you are not sorry. That you think you have done nothing you need to apologize for. Your actions, as well as your recent comments have shown that you feel like you are victim here. That you should be treated as St. Kevin, the martyr. I hate to break it to you Kevin, you are wrong.
Some of you may be sitting there asking well how should he have responded or what should he have done to demonstrate his remorse for his language. I will point to Kyler Murray as an example of how to respond. Kyler Murray immediately released a statement on his own, as well as a joint statement with GLAAD. He statement acknowledged his mistake and he owned it by apologizing. Also, when he was asked about it in interviews he seemed to show genuine remorse for the comments. This is in short, the exact opposite of what Kevin Hart did.
Kevin has said on his social media accounts as well as in interviews that he thinks this is nothing more than trolls trying to start up drama. While I will be the first to admit my coifed hair is enviable, the last time I checked, I did not have a bejeweled belly button. Those of us concerned have legitimate cause to be concerned that a person who is homophobic could host the event know as “The Gay Super Bowl.” That a homophobe could host the Oscars in a year in which Rami Malek, Melissa McCarthy, Merhershala Ali, Richard E. Grant, Emma Stone, and Lucas Hedges could all be nominated for stellar performances of LGBTQ characters.
Self-Appointed Spokesgay Ellen
More alarming than all of the reasons above many of us are now concerned that one of the most visible and most popular LGBTQ people in the world has come to Kevin Hart’s defense. On her show this past Friday, Ellen Degeneres gave Kevin Hart 9 uninterrupted minutes to speak his thoughts on the whole debacle. She then interviewed in with the most gentle questioning I have ever seen. They weren’t even playing softball- we are talking t-ball territory. The icing on the delusional cake, is Ellen defending Hart, backing up his claims that those of us who are concerned about his language are trolls, AND THEN saying she things he should still host. She went so far as to call the Academy and try to intercede to get him to host. The videos of this are posted below.
I have loved Ellen Degeneres and her talk show since they have been on air. We share a love of dancing, laughing, and loving life. I genuinely believe she is one of the best people on the planet because she uses her enormous influence and platform for good. On a side note, she also makes FANTASTIC bedding sold at Bed, Bath, and Beyond as well – I have never had a comforter this soft before. This is why I was shocked and saddened and angered by Ellen’s comments. They feel like a betrayal of the community that wrapped its arms around her and stood by her when all the straight people left her after she came out of the closet. A betrayal of the very community that she is a member of.
Ellen is entitled to her opinion. She is allowed to want Kevin Hart to be forgiven and to be the host of the Oscars. What Ellen is not allowed to do is forgive Hart on behalf of the entire LGBTQ community. You don’t get to give a blanket apology. You don’t get to use your influence to bully those of us in the community who are still hurt, upset, and giving the Academy and Kevin Hart some Makayla Mulroney-worthy side eye. You don’t get to say all is well, because all is not well.
An Insult to Two Communities
Ellen’s comments and actions are a betrayal to other communities besides the gay community. Perhaps the biggest betrayal the comments hurts is communities of color – specifically the black community. While long a traditionally democratic/liberal voting group, the black community has been slow to support same-sex marriage. Before its legalization across the country, only 30% of the black community supported same sex marriage. 40% of the homeless gay youth in this country are African-American. 62% of homeless transgendered youth are black. Black trans people are 7 times more likely to be murdered than their white counter parts. Ellen trying to absolve Kevin Hart of his offensive language is more than just wrong – its flat out dangerous. Don Lemon, eloquently and emotional covers this on a segment of his show.
First: People will continue to say “That’s gay – stop that!” as an insult and there is nothing we can do to stop that. I have been called derogatory slurs hundreds of times before and I know I will here them again in the future. Even though that word no longer has power over me, it still hits you square in the gut when it is hurled at you (and anybody is says otherwise is lying). Kevin Hart should not have to carry the sins of using that word for the entire world. Kevin Hart could have used this and his platform as a teachable moment to make the world better for all of us and he decided not to.
Second: There is a reason the Oscars is known as the gay Super Bowl. For many of us, especially those of us in rural areas and the south, the movies was our escape from a boring, unsafe, and unwelcome life. For many of us, myself included, the movies are one of the first times we saw someone who was like us. It made us feel not alone and a little less sad and afraid. The movies became our refuge and the fashion became our sanctuary. To have all of that belittled by a man and his toxic masculinity is wrong, disrespectful, and unwarranted. And to have that supported by Ellen make it sting even more.
Third: Kevin Hart Speaks for himself. Through his actions and through his statement he speaks volumes by saying he doesn’t give a damn about the feelings of the LGBTQ community. And I truly believe he doesn’t think he has anything to apologize for – which is why he has technically never said the two words “I’m Sorry.” That alone should speak volumes.
Finally: Although we love Ellen, (more than you do as a matter of fact. We stuck by her when you all fled. Something even Ellen seems to have forgotten) Ellen is not our spokesperson. She does NOT speak for all of us in the gay community. There was no Gay Conclave where we elected Ellen Pope of the gays so she could put out edicts and decrees in the name of the Gays. Ellen speaks for Ellen. And I speak for myself and myself alone – and the words I choose to speak are Kevin Hart, his homophobic past, and his unapologetic actions in the present are both unwelcome and not needed as this year’s Oscars Awards Ceremony.
Childish Gambino’s song “This is America” quickly became one of the most popular songs of the year thanks to its viral video and the messages of racism, police brutality, and gun violence that he expertly raps on in the song. I too, enjoy the song. Although it is difficult many times to talk about our problems and faults, the only way to grow and fix them is by first acknowledging that they exist. The things Childish Gambino spins rhymes about are part of America. But that America is not what moved me to write tonight. I was moved to write about the America that Mr. Rogers (yes, that Mr. Rogers) so famously quoted years ago:
It is easy to watch with sadness and let the despair creep into your heart as you watch coverage of the Camp Fire, which has quickly become the most deadly fire in California history. At the time of writing this 81 people have been killed and over 12,000 family homes have been completely destroyed. Many people have been were only able to get out with the clothes they had on their backs. Stories of people abandoning their cars and jumping into a lake reservoir to swim to an island in the middle to escape the flames as they destroyed their cars have become familiar fodder in newspapers. The stories that bring the tears to me involve the animals and the pets that are often left behind. I have to change the channel before I start to cry like Russel Crowe in gladiator – the ugly cry.
Time and time again, though, I am continually drawn back to these stories. The fires in California have reminded me of everything that is good about this place we live. It has reminded me that people are general good at their core. It has reminded me that decency and love and compassion will always win out over meanness and hate and indifference. That may strike you as odd, but just read a few of the following stories as proof that what I say is true.
Josh Fox and Tracey Grant offered to let Mr Brundige stay with them for as long as he needs. Photo Credit: CBS News
Lee Brundiage is a decorated World War Two Veteran, who at 93, lived alone in the house that his wife designed for the two of them after she passed away a few years back. He was taken in by Josh Fox and Tracey Grant who met him while they were serving donated hamburgers at a displacement shelter. Grant invited him to stay with them as long as he needs. For the first two nights he slept in his truck in their driveway with blankets provided to him by the couple until they insisted he move inside to avoide breathing in the toxic ash. The couple have said he can stay as long as he needs.
Dane Cumming, on the left, with 93 year old Margaret Newsum whom he rescued from the the fire in Magalia, CA. Photo Credit: California Waste Management
Dane Cumming was doing his daily waste management route when he noticed Margaret Newsum who was standing in her front yard trying to see if she needed to call someone to come get her to escape the fire. Newsum is 93 years old, and she also broke her back in a fall about 8 months ago. Dane Cumming helped load her up in his garbage truck and drove her to family members 2 hours away. She later learned that her home was destroyed about an hour later when the winds had shifted.
Allyn Pierce is a nurse who manages an ICU at a hospital in Butte County. He drove his Toyota truck through the fire twice on his day off in order to pick up patients and nurses after learning nurses refused to evacuate until all the patients were gone. At the end of the harrowing ordeal, Pierce posted a viral instagram post of his truck where somehow he was miraculously able to keep his since of humor by saying his truck now had a toasted marshmellow custom paint job.
A student athlete from Paradise High School missed the state qualifiers for Track and Field due to the fire, rival runners in the nearby town of Chico offered to host another event to give him a chance to compete. He was cheered on by his former rivals as he successfully qualified for the state championship in the coming weeks. The Paradise High football team was due to play in the playoffs, but they had nowhere to stay or to train for their upcoming game. The San Francisco 49ers opened up their practice facilities for the team team to train and stay for several weeks. They even invited the team, all of whom lost their homes to the fire, to join them for the national anthem before a recent game.
Perhaps one of the most uplifting things (IMHO, of course) has been the big businesses putting their profit margins aside to help those affected by the fires. Hotel Chains in the California area and AirBNB are offering free or discounted rooms if they have them available. Uber and Lyft are offering free rides to evacuation zones and shelters. The VCA Animal Hospital, Humane Society, and LA County Animal Care Foundation are assisting shelter and feed displaced pets — and are accepting donations, as well. Comcast has opened hotspots to allow people to let their loved ones know they are safe. Verizon has provided evacuation centers with communication stations that provide free calling, texting, and data. Lastly, in an act that can only be described as quintessentially American, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company (a company created by everyday entrepreneurs that has grown to the 5th largest brewery in the nation) has created a formula for a brew it is asking breweries all across the country to create and donate 100% of the proceeds to the survivors of the fires.
As a person who tries to see the good in people, I believe the America that Childish Gambino refers to is the smaller piece of the American fabric. That is sometimes America. To me, THIS is America. The actions of everyday people helping their neighbors. Helping Strangers. Helping animals. Helping each other.
This is America. The place were when people cry out for help, there is no such thing as democrats or republicans. Or black and white. Or rich or poor. There are only Americans helping Americans.
This is America. The place where firefighters and EMS and police run into burning buildings or charge into burning forrests to put out the flames. To save their fellow Americans. To save the pets of their fellow Americans.
This is America. The place where in times of crisis nothing else matters more than getting through. Then going on. Then surviving. And as Americans have done for generations, once we have survived, we give thanks, and hopefully give back to those who need the help more than you do. It has happened time and time again in the history of our nation. As we move into Thanksgiving tomorrow, consider giving thanks by donating to one of the relief organizations below, and by reminding youself that no matter what negativity we see on the news or read in the papers, that this is America, and as long as we stick together, everything will be ok.
Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation: The Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation assists emergency response and disaster relief efforts through its Noah’s Legacy fund by providing supplies, training and equipment, including animal safe trailers that provide temporary sheltering for pets whose owners have evacuated.
American Red Cross: The American Red Cross is assisting residents in northern and southern California to help find shelter. To make a donation visit the redcross.org, call 1-800-RED or text the word REDCROSS to 90999.
Humane Society of Ventura County: This nonprofit is accepting donations to help animals displaced by the Woolsey and Hill Fires. It is taking in domestic animals, such as dogs, cats and birds, as well as livestock.
CCF Wildfire Relief Fund: The organization helps provide long-term recovery efforts to those impacted by California wildfires. The relief fund has also created local initiatives to help those affected by the fires. Click here to learn more.
If you have a teacher in your family, then you need to first let me say sorry. The families of teachers spend so much time listening to us gush, fret, brag, cry, yell, and cheer about our students on a daily basis that its a wonder those of us who teach have anyone left around us to listen. The families of teachers don’t get enough credit they deserve for loving someone who is a teacher. Next, let me say you can join the teachers in vouching for the truth behind this statement: In teaching, there are good days, and there are bad days.
There are levels of both good and bad days, but the fact remains most teachers leave work in a good mood or bad mood, and they know it every day. You can roll your eyes and say everybody else does too, but it is not the same. When you are working with a child (or in our cases (125 children) it is different. A stockbroker can lose millions based on the market, but money isn’t the same as dealing with a person. I am not arguing we are better than stockbrokers I am just saying the type of day we have is different – nothing more nothing less.
Those of us who teach don’t do it because we feel we need to be thanked or because we want some sort of Pharisaical pat on the back. Lord knows we don’t do it for the money. We do it because we love doing it. I believe teaching is very similar to going into the ministry. I did not choose to be a teacher. I feel in my bones, down to my very soul, that I was called to do this. There is something magical that I get to be a part of on a daily basis, and I feel so damn special that I get to do it. I will never be able to explain what its like to you so just trust me. It’s really effing great.
You learn very early on that there are good days and bad days and all the variations of each that there are. You learn that you can never assume a day will be a good day first period and still be a good day after the seventh period. You learn that some years you will have more bad days than good days. You learn that even though you think it was a bad day in any other career people would consider it a good day. You learn that sometimes it is impossible to meet the high standards you have set for yourself and that even though you can think it is a bad day it was actually a good day. And finally, you learn that you cry and yell and cuss (not in front of the kids) on both the really bad days and the really good days.
In the close to 9 years I have been involved in education from student teaching to the present, I have spent time in a variety of schools and grade levels. I have student taught, substituted on both the long-term and short-term level and full time taught. I have been in both middle schools and high schools. I have served a variety of students from a variety of homes. To protect the anonymity of everyone I have made the statements as general as possible and withheld any stories that would give away the identity of a student. These things have happened at many of the schools I have taught at:
I have watched my kids lose their hair as they fight cancer.
I have watched my kids take their lunch home in plastic bags because they were going to split it with their younger sibling for dinner that evening.
I have watched as students graciously eat the instant Easy Mac containers I leave in my cabinet because they don’t want other students to know they are on free lunch.
I have watched my kids look at as I tell them to stop talking, nod as if they understand what I am asking, then turn around as I am still looking at them and start talking again.
I have watched as a eulogy is said for one of my kids, and I have hugged and cried with moms and dads who buried their kid.
I have had kids lie, cheat, and steal from me.
I have kids come to school with the same clothes on that they have had on the day before.
I have watched as students were rejected from their top university.
I have had kids try to throw money at a problem and think it will be able to get them through life.
I have had parents of kids try to talk me out of writing their child up.
I have had parents of my kids be sorry excuses for parents.
I have bitten my tongue to keep from lunging across a table as parents have said their children are worthless in front of them.
I have watched as some of my students have gotten pregnant.
I have watched as some of my students have dropped out.
I have watched as some of my students have been arrested.
I have watched as some of my students head down a path that I know will lead them to nothing but heartache and cried at night or worried as I lay in bed because they aren’t listening to our warnings or advice.
I have sat in meetings with doctors, psychologists, social workers, and several other types of people with fancy letters after their name have discussed the numerous types of despicable traumas that my kid has been through and what we should do to help them as I sit there to myself thinking how is this kid still breathing because I would be curled up in the bed in the fetal position.
I have watched as grandmothers, or older siblings have raised my kids.
I have seen the hurt in the eyes of my kids when I yell or scold them.
I have seen the betrayal in the eyes of a child when I tell them I am legally obligated to report what they just told me.
If you made it this far through the list, you are probably asking yourself why any sane person would keep going back to work each day? The answer is simple, and there are two reasons. First, teachers are not sane people. If you had a room full of 14-year-olds who all want to simultaneously discuss Fortnite, the fight at lunch, the party they are going to this weekend, my love life, and why they think geography is boring you wouldn’t be sane either. And the second reason is the most important. Teachers are like Annie. Yes, that redhead girl from the musical (or if you are one of my kids reading this the girl with the afro from the musical).
Teachers have an innate ability to put on a smile and be optimistic about tomorrow being better than today. We do not cry in front of the children, and we do not show our fears on our face because we don’t want to speak them into existence. We tell the kids tomorrow will be better than today even when we sometimes don’t feel it will or don’t know it will. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, teachers are like Annie because the good days far outnumber the bad ones. Every teacher will tell you that one good day is enough to get you through 3 bad ones
Many of my good days I discuss below involve the same students from my list above. On the good days I have:
Had students have their grandmother bake me a pound cake because they said I seemed upset the day before.
Been given thank you notes like this:
Seen students become the first in their class graduate high school.
Seen students become the first in their family to go to college.
Seen students become the first in their family to graduate college.
Had parents of students who passed away tell me at the funeral that their child loved me and my class was his favorite.
Seen the pure joy and accomplishment on students faces when they finally understand an abstract concept like globalization or Reaganomics.
Cheered (and silently cursed the bad officials) as students have won state championships and national championships.
submitted the names of students for awards and scholarships and squealed louder than the student when they won.
watched in amazement as a student who started the year barely speaking English become the best writer in their entire class.
beamed with pride when by the end of the year in Mr. Boliek’s class students will look at a student who just said the n-word, or faggot, or retard, or other derogatory slur and say “Dude…not cool….”
stood up and vouched for students who were standing up for themselves or standing up for another student who was being bullied.
Yelled and clapped at graduation (even though we aren’t supposed to) for a student who got pregnant, had the baby, and still maintained a 3.4 GPA.
been shocked when students I had the year before who I was sure hated me see me in the hallway now and give me a fist bump.
never respected students more than when they came up to and apologized for their behavior the day before.
gained the respect of an entire class in one day by using a SnapChat filter on a student who fell asleep in my class and turning it into the background on my computer.
brought doughnuts to reward extra talkative or unruly classes who saw an administrator come in to observe me become the class of perfect angels without me having to do anything.
occasionally patted myself on the back when students have decided to do something outside the classroom to fight poverty, racism, misogyny, homophobia, or inequality we learned in class that they were not aware of before.
been given thank you notes like this:
Like I said before, the good days of teaching far outnumber the bad. I am one of the luckiest people in the world I get to do what I do. And I wouldn’t change it one bit. However, I sit here writing this to you after I just spent last 4 hours or so on my couch in pajamas cuddling my Boston Terrier as I watched Keeping up with the Kardashians and shoved half a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups into my mouth. You might have guessed it, but today was a bad day. Not a really bad one, but definitely not a good one. Today was a bad day. And that’s ok. Because the sun will come out, you guessed it – tomorrow!
November 11th in the United States of America has been what we know as Veteran’s Day since 1963. Originally called Armistice Day, it was formally changed to Veteran’s Day in 1954. We celebrate Veteran’s day on November 11th because on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month the armistice with Germany went into effect ending World War One. Many Americans go out of their way on this day to to thank veterans for their service to our nation (something we are all guilty – myself included – of not doing nearly enough on a regular basis). Coincidentally, into telling you why its celebrated on November 11th, you might have noticed that today is the 100th year since the end of the war that was originally known as the war to end all wars.
Although I think war is a terrible thing, we must face the facts that it has to be used as a last resort to defend what we believe in, to protect American citizens, and to keep tyranny, terrorism, and extremist violence from spreading to further parts of the world. As a historian, I have come to love Veteran’s day because it has allowed me to learn about just a few of the stories of the brave men and women and what they have done serving and protecting the United States of America. Just Google it. I am not going to tell you my favorites – I want you to do your research and come up with your own. IN addition, I have family members (including both Grandfathers) who have proudly served and countless friends who have and who still do.
Two of my personal heroes throughout history have been Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Aside from sharing a friendship with one another they led two of the greatest nations on earth through WW2 and one of the darkest chapters of human history. They are revered in both countries for this as well as their abilities in the oration department. Both men were excellent public speakers. Obama once said he watched FDR’s war speeches before he gave big speeches while he was on the campaign trail. While thinking about what I wanted to write on this Veteran’s day, excerpts from each of their speeches came to mind.
Churchill gave his “We Shall Fight…” speech before the House of Commons on June 4, 1940. He had just taken over as Prime Minister and France was quickly losing in their fight to maintain control of their country with the Nazis. Following the sea rescue of the majority of British Forces from Dunkirk as part of Operation Dynamo the British morale effort was quickly deteriorating when the public heard of the British retreat. They also left behind a majority of their tanks and artillery weapons. Churchill had to describe a great military disaster, and warn of a possible invasion attempt by the Nazis, without casting doubt on eventual victory. To do that Churchill said the following:
Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen into the grip of the Gestapo and the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
It is considered to be the greatest oratorical moment of Churchill’s career. It was so rousing and moving the many members of the liberal party – who were not fans of Churchill – could be seen openly weeping at its conclusion. Sadly, there is no recording of Churchill giving this speech, but Gary Oldman gives the most magnificent performance of his career in The Darkest Hour if you are interested. The 4 minutes it takes for the speech only will give you chills.
The speech that came to mind for Roosevelt was similar in terms of the situation in which the speaker gave it. On December 8, 1941 FDR spoke before a special join session of congress where he asked them to declare war on the Empire of Japan. Roosevelt ends the speech by asking Congress to declare war, but the final statement before the request is what has always stuck out to me. In perhaps one of the most important speeches of his career Roosevelt was able to call Japan cowardly and assert the eventual victory of the United States by saying:
Always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.
What sticks out to me in both of these speeches is the confidence. Both leaders were certain of eventual victory even though they had just been through humbling defeats for their respective nations. The more I think about it, however, the more I have come to realize why they were able to do this. When it comes to the military, we as citizens of this nation, and Churchill and Roosevelt, as leaders of nations trust our militaries. We trust our military to keep us safe. To defend America’s interests. To do what is right. I do not know this for certain, but I believe those who have served and those who still serve do so with pride and trust. They trust that we will honor and remember their sacrifice of time and service by taking care of them when they get home. They trust we won’t forget their sacrifices by making sure they have the tools and the resources necessary to live a good life long after their military careers are over. Right now, we have broken that trust. We are failing to live up to the deal, even though our veterans have not yet let us down once.
To Prove to you that we are failing to live up to our end of this trust agreement, consider the following facts:
Veterans under the age of 50 are twice as likely to commit suicide has their civilian counterparts.
30% of all veterans have reported having suicidal thought.
Unemployment rates are often double the national average for our veterans.
40% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans can name at least one person they served with who has committed suicide. 24% can name at least 2.
2 out of ever 6 men who are homeless served in our nation’s military for at least one year.
Veterans are 7 times more likely to suffer from substance abuse issues.
The repeated failure of the Veterans Administration to get these Veterans the help they need.
If the above examples are enough to serve as examples of our end of the broken trust I do not know what to tell you. I am not placing blame on any one government, party, or person. We are all guilty of taking this important agreement for granted. Our Veterans have protected and have served. Now it is our term. We must serve and protect them. And there is no better day to start. In an effort to right our wrong and to help us live up to that agreement with our veterans that is important for our nation’s survival I spent a few minutes before I wrote this post and I emailed my elected officials, both at the state and national level. I plan on calling the national officials offices on Monday as well. As a way of thanking our veterans, I humbly suggest you take the time to do this same small thing today. To make it a little bit easier for those of you who live in South Carolina, at the bottom of this post, I have attached links to where you can write our representatives as well as the phone numbers for their offices. To those of you who have not served in our nation’s military, I leave you with the words of FDR’s cousin to think about:
To those of you who have served and for those who continue to serve, I sincerely thank you for what you have done for me and this nation. I thank you for the sacrifices that you made, as well as the sacrifices that your family and friends had to make as well. The debt we as a nation owe you, can never fully be repaid. Please know you and your safety are continually in my thoughts and prayers. I am and continue to be in awe of your courage, dedication, strength, and bravery. You are the best that America has to give. You honor the ideals of what America stands for daily, and so on this Veteran’s Day, even though it is not nearly enough, I give you my undying thanks and prayers for your continued protection.
The United States of America has given me so much. For that reason alone, I love America; not in the obnoxiously loud patriotic American kind of way where I think there is nothing that America can do wrong. She has her faults and is far from perfect. All in all though, I would most likely choose living in America than most other places. And no day is that sentiment ever stronger than on election day. I usually cry at least once over a voting story I see on election day. This was one of those stories:
As I waited in line earlier today to vote and woman came in with the assistance of a nurse or caretaker and got at the end of the line. She was the kind of feisty older woman who looked at the man probably 50 years younger than she was with a look that said “I could take you on in a street fight and win” when the gentleman suggested she could do the handicapped voting where they bring your ballot box out to the car. I immediately liked this women from that interaction alone. As the line slowly creeped forward those of us in line quietly chatted with one another and I eavesdropped in on her conversations. I wish I had gotten this woman’s name, but I do know her birthdate. She told the people around her that she was born on February 10, 1919. This is when I quickly turned back towards the front of the line so I wouldn’t cry and be the weirdo crying in the voting line. I hid the tears with an immediate appreciation of just how amazing the country we live in truly is.
For those who have yet to understand why I appreciated this story so much, allow me to explain. Suffrage is not a right all Americans have shared equally throughout our history. It was earned and fought for by brave men and women throughout this nation because they believed in the words “We the people” and they knew it meant ALL the people. Women were granted the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. The amendment was ratified when Tennessee became the 37th state to ratify the amendment, which it did so on August 18, 1920. And that right there, ladies and gentlemen, is what led to my emotions. That woman was born before women were granted the right to vote. She was born into a country that said she wasn’t smart, strong, or good enough to help be a part in deciding the direction that our nation would go; and in one single lifetime, that has all changed. To me, that is extraordinary.
This post isn’t going to tell you who to vote for. It is not going to try and convince you while one candidate is better than the other candidate (partially because I want you to keep reading and partially because you and I both already know that both candidates are morons.), either. But it is going to tell you how I voted 6 times today. And Maybe when I am done, from here on out, you will vote 6 times on election day also.
I have always voted in every election I was physically able to because that election and that vote is bigger than myself. It represents the people who have given so much so that I was able to do that small act of citizenship. When I handed my identification to the poll worker today and confirmed my address and wrote my name down on the line next to number 298 I didn’t just write my name. I thought back to what I have learned over the years about our nations history and I wrote down the names of 5 other people who all cherished the right to vote that they actually helped changed the history of this place we live.
By writing my name I also write the name Susan B. Anthony. Anthony was arrested for trying to vote in 1872 and convicted with illegal voting. Upon her conviction she refused to pay the fine and still it went unpaid all the way to her death. Anthony also founded the National American Women’s Suffrage Association which was crucial in getting the 19th Amendment passed (Sadly, it wasn’t ratified until 18 years after her death). Today it is more commonly referred to as the Susan B. Anthony amendment in her honor.
By writing my name I also write the name of Alice Paul. Alice Paul was arrested at least 8 times in two different countries protesting and fighting for the right to vote on behalf of women. She was beaten, mistreated, and when she refused to eat while in prison she was forcibly fed raw eggs through a tube that was shoved down her throat to her stomach. The Process was depicted in the HBO movie Iron Jawed Angels where Alice Paul was played by Hillary Swank:
By writing my name I also write the name of Inez Milholland. Milholland was a woman who fought alongside Alice Paul as a suffragette. The day before President Wilson was inaugurated and arrived in Washington, Milholland helped organize the Women Suffrage Procession where she famously rode through the parade on a white horse in a white dress while wearing a white crown. Inez Milholland suffered from pernicious anemia and continued to travel across the country on behalf of NAWSA. This tragically ended in her early death on the road at the age of 30.
By writing my name I also write the name of George Lee. George Lee was a Reverend who was one of the first black people registered to vote in Humphreys County in the state of Mississippi. Rev. Lee used his pulpit and his printing press to urge others to vote. White officials offered Lee protection after he was threatened and intimidated by the Klan on the condition he end his voter registration efforts, but Lee refused and was murdered. Lee was never able to vote before his death despite being registered due to the poll tax.
Last, but certainly not least, by writing my name I also write the name of Annie Lee Cooper. Annie Lee Cooper was a Civil Rights Activists who is well known for marching with Dr. King across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Before this, Cooper tried repeatedly to register in the state of Alabama and was denied even after she passed all the tests that were set up to keep blacks from registering. Cooper stood in line for 8 hours to register and when ordered to leave the registration office by sheriff Jim Clark refused to comply with the order. After Clark’s repeated prodding and intimidating threats Annie Lee Cooper punched Sheriff Clark in the jaw knocking him to the ground. Clark and his officer repeatedly beat Annie Lee Cooper with billy clubs until she was unconscious and then arrested after she was drug through the building into the streets. Oprah Winfrey gave another masterful performance in the movie Selma as Cooper:
Although I truly only wrote one name down (my own) today, the whole reason I vote in every election I am able to is because it is that important. It means that much. To be a part of this process is something to take pride and honor in. My vote today was my chance to voice what I want done in this country and I used my vote to honor what Susan, Alice, Inez, George, and Annie Lee fought so bravely for.
So to those of you who didn’t vote today and to those of you who say it doesn’t matter or say I don’t like either candidate I hope you think long and hard about that. I hope you realize just how wrong you are. People literally died for a right that you are taking for granted. And yes, it is technically true that people died for your right to choose to vote or to choose not to vote. But for those of you who decide the latter option is the choice for you, you can have whatever reason and justification you want for that decision. But I am still calling bullshit.
And so are Susan, Alice, Inez, George, and Annie Lee.
I have always been the kind of person that follows the news because I place value in being informed about what is going on in the world around me. While I prefer focus on the national news (our local news is pitiful), I do watch my local news and read the paper to see the things that directly affect me. While most people have focused all of their attention on that Washington Post journalist who was hacked to pieces and then snuck out of the Turkish Embassy in piece on the order of the Saudi Crown Prince, my attention has been squarely focused on another issue. I have been obsessed with following the story of the migrant caravan that left Honduras last week. They are headed for Tijuana. Their end goal is to head to the United States to request asylum.
The path that is going to be taken by the migrants. This only covers the part in Mexico. There are several hundred miles not shown before this part.
You might be asking why I am so interested in this. The answer is quite simple. We are just starting a new unit in my world geography class. This is our population geography unit and it includes, you guessed it, migration. This unit covers migration, asylum, push-pull immigration factors, population density, and population control. To put it quite simply, a global event that is currently happening can help teach my students about 3 quarters of the major themes in our population geography unit. So when my students roll their eyes and ask “when are we ever going to use this?!” I can confidently and excitedly, and nerdily exclaim “RIGHT NOW!”
These are the current World Geography Standards for Population. This event checks off every single one.
I have been doing my research and now I plan on introducing this story to my students on Tuesday of this coming week. We will map and track their progress as they move through Mexico. We will research why they are leaving, why they are coming to the US, what asylum is, and a myriad of other issues that this humanitarian issue hits on. Hopefully my students will be interested in what is going on. I have a very large hispanic population which I have heard speaking about it class when I have covered some of the population vocabulary, but I do hope my non-hispanic students take an interest as well. We shall see.
Usually when I bring real world current events into class my students ask me what I think about the issue. I try VERY hard to not let my own political views influence the way I teach. The only “issue” so far that I have given my personal views on to my students has been the Bansky Painting that was shredded after it was bought for two million dollars. My students, to put it in the exact words of one class, thought it was “dumb as hell” for anyone to pay that much for art, but funny that it happened after the man bought it and still has to pay for it. I won’t tell you what they said, when I said it was probably worth more shredded than it was before. When they asked me I told them my opinion (as a follower of banksy for years, I loved it and thought it was typical and genius and right in line with his previous work). So far that’s it this year.
I hope my students ask me what I think should be done with this migrant caravan. Because this time I am going to tell my students what I think. I am going to tell them they are free to disagree with me, just like I disagree with the notion that anyone named lil’ yachty or lil’ uzi can put out any music that is worthy to listen to as long as the disagree respectfully. That is how we do things in my classroom. I want to tell them how I feel because I want to tell them the story of how a country song helped me make up my mind. The look on their face is going to be priceless. My students hate country. Especially twangy country. SO without further ado, please enjoy the country song that helped make up my mind. Then I will tell you how I feel.
I was listening to a radio station I don’t normally listen to when this song from 1996 came on the radio. Originally sung by Collin Raye, the song never was a huge hit, but I have always loved it. When I got to my destination after that commute in my car, the first post I saw on my Facebook feed was related to the migrant caravan. Instantly I thought of the song. It didn’t change my mind. I already believed the current administration is adding their handling of this situation to the long list of disaster that history will judge us by. When my students ask me my opinion I am going to tell them the facts first.
There are about 3,500 adults (Mexican Government) and about 2,300 children (UNICEF) traveling in the caravan.
The caravan from start to finish will be done primarily by walking the 2,725 mile journey (Google Maps) from start to finish.
Most plan on applying for asylum in the United States, but Mexico has already received asylum applications from 1,500 people or families (Mexican Government).
The majority of the people in the caravan are ethnically Honduran, Guatemalan, Nicaraguan, and Salvadorian.
The World Bank Estimates all of the following statistics:
For those in need of a geography lesson the flags from top to bottom are Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala
After I help my students gather and process the facts I am going to have them break up in groups and come up with proposals as to what they think our government should do. I am potentially thinking about the possibility of having my students write letters to the editor of The Greenville News on this topic. When I am done covering this issue with my students, I hope one of them asks me what I think. Because then I am going to tell them. And this is what I am going to tell my students:
I am going to tell my students that I don’t have a perfect answer or solution and I am not sure if we should take any of these people. There are many issues that come with this. I think we should run background checks on these people to see if they pose any threat to America and if they do pose a threat they should not be let in. This could also cause a big issue by causing more people to join caravans if they see us let these people in. This is not an easy issue with a quick fix. This is an issue that has been years in the making. While I would normally stop there with my students, that country song has made me realize I am going to push forward.
I am going to tell my students I think it is a national disgrace when our President uses racist, xenophobic, and hateful language when describing the caravan.
I am going to tell my students that our President of the United States is being a bully when he threatens to cut off foreign aid to the countries the migrants are walking through if they do not stop the caravan.
I am going to tell my students that it violates every international treaty the US has signed and is ILLEGAL to not allow people to apply for asylum or to decide to reject a person’s asylum application before they can apply.
I am going to tell my students that the nation that claims to be the greatest and strongest nation on Earth does not turn its back on a humanitarian crisis it could easily solve on its own or sit down with other nations to figure out a solution.
I am going to tell my students that I will never tell people (who pose our country no risk and who are willing to work and be productive members of our society) who put their lives in mortal danger to flea worse mortal danger that they are not welcome here.
I am going to tell my students that it is shameful that a country like Mexico, where 10% of their population lives on $1.90 a day, has opened their homes and kitchens to the caravan as it passes through its cities and has already offered temporary work visas to many of the migrants while our country has turned a blind eye and sent troops to the southern border.
Last, but certainly not least, I am going to tell my students to think about what they learned in Sunday School and have read in their Bibles. I am going to show my students the picture below and I am going to ask, What if Jesus Comes back like that?
More Picture of the Caravan are below. These people are risking their lives with nothing more than the shirts on their backs to escape hell. We can and must do better. The whole world is watching, but more importantly, so is Jesus.
Please Watch the video below before you continue reading. It relates to what I write about.
Today is many things. Wednesday. Hump Day. October 10th. The 283rd day of the year. More important than all of these things, however, today is World Mental Health Day. World Mental Health Day was started by the World Health Organization in 1996 with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health. In our society it is becoming increasingly clear that part of the reason we so desperately need a World Mental Health Day is as a result of the shame and stigma we attach to the mental health discussion. Attaching the shame and stigma is wrong, dangerous, and doing a disservice to millions of people everywhere.
Each year WMHD has a theme and this year’s theme is one of the most important they have ever had. This year’s theme is “Young People, Mental Health, and a Changing World.” As someone who works with adolescents on a daily basis, I can tell you this could be the theme for the next ten years and we still would not have addressed the needs of our adolescent’s mental health. In a world where teenagers are constantly bombarded with social media, cyber bullying, and marketing campaigns designed around their actual fear, it is a wonder that any of our middle and high school students can function at all.
Half of all mental illnesses begin by age 14 and that number is growing rapidly. In terms of the burden of the disease among adolescents, depression is the third leading cause. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds. Harmful use of alcohol and illicit drugs among adolescents is a major issue in many countries and can lead to risky behaviors such as unsafe sex or dangerous driving. Eating disorders are also of concern. All of these numbers double or triple among the most vulnerable youth (LGBTQ+ youth, other minority groups, etc). And most heartbreakingly, 80% of all youth who identify as homeless or transient are currently battling mental illness.
I teach ninth graders (for those not in America that is usually around 14 or 15 years old. I have had students deal with situations that would leave me in the fetal position on the floor. Pregnancies, abusive relationships, sexual identity struggles, divorces, breakups, and gossip stories have all had students in my room at one point or another trying to figure out how to get through. Like 95% of the rest of the teachers in America, I have no training on how to help students through these issues. We do the best we can while simultaneously walking the tightrope that comes with being a legally mandated reporter, trying to follow district guidelines, and trying to keep the trust with the student. Sometimes I have helped the student. Sometimes I have not. But the process as a whole does not help our students. There is only one thing that will help our young people.
We must start talking about mental health.
We must start allowing people with mental health illnesses to talk about their struggles without looking at them with shame, pity, or sorrow.
We must stop telling people that if you can’t handle something on your own you are weak.
We must praise the people who are struggling with mental health who come forward and ask for help – because it is one of the strongest things you can do.
We must hug the people in our friend groups and families who come forward and say I am not ok. We must tell them that it is ok to feel not ok.
We MUST tell people they are not alone.
Coming from a personal place, I know all of the above are a must because I have found them out to be true on a personal level. Not too long ago, I was not in the best “place” when it comes to my own mental health. I was not where I wanted to be or thought I should be in life. I felt like nothing was going my way and that I had no one to talk to about it. I was embarrassed and ashamed and felt like people would think less of me if I talked about it. So I did what most people who don’t seek treatment or diagnosis do in that situation. I addressed the problem myself. This led me to only get worse by putting myself, my body, and my mental health at even more risk. When I finally admitted to myself this was not working, I asked for help.
I found someone to talk to. It helped. It taught me other ways of coping with my anxiety, my feelings of depression, and my own mindfulness. It gave me permission to not feel okay – and at the end of the day, that was all I wanted and needed. So before I close out this blog post, I want to directly address the people reading this who might have felt the same way I did. Maybe you still feel that way. If you do, please keep reading.
First, please know that you are LOVED, you are VALUED, and you are SPECIAL.
Please know there is NOTHING wrong with you. and that you are NOT alone.
Please know that you matter and that this world is better with you in it.
Please know that if you are thinking of ending your life, that is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
Please know that if you need to reach out to someone that I will listen to you (email@example.com) and there are other people out there who will listen to you or help you (see below).
And lastly, please know that if you are feeling not ok, that is perfectly ok. Because the rest of us are here to help.
If you are feeling like you need some help with your mental health, please reach out to any of the organizations below. If you are scared, reach out to anyone you trust.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: This toll free number is 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). You will be connected to your local crisis center and get immediate help. The whole reason Logic wrote the song was because he knew people who personally benefitted from calling this line.
Childhelp: This hotline is a resource specifically for child and adult survivors of abuse. Callers are connected to a mental health professional and even provided treatment referrals.
The Trevor Project: This organization is geared toward LGBTQ individuals, specifically young people. You can call, web chat or text to get some mental health help.
Mental Health America: From depression to eating disorders, this website offers a lot of screenings for users to choose from.
I had the good fortune of turning 18 in a presidential election year, and I was more excited to register to vote than I was to buy cigarettes and lottery tickets. I was that kid. To this day I remember standing in a massive line to vote in the 2008 Presidential Election. I asked my mother if you usually have to wait this long and she quickly replied no. John Sidney McCain III is the reason that many turned out to vote on November 4, 2008. Had John McCain run against just about anybody else, he would have received my vote. I respected him. I trusted him. I believed in him. I bought into his vision of what America was and how she should move forward. Sadly, John McCain had the misfortune of running against Barack Obama; and as Obama has done for millions, his belief in the audacity of hope spoke to me. I bought what he was selling more than what John McCain was selling. But not by much.
I was honored to be a part of history and cast my vote for Barack Obama. Looking back on it all, I would not change my vote if I got the chance to vote again, but I am left incredibly sad for John McCain. He would have made a stellar president. He deserved to be president more than the disrespectful louse who currently occupies the White House. What I remember about election night, however, other than the excitement over the historic outcome, is the candidate speeches. If you were to ask me about both speeches, I will tell you that the speech winner that night was not the man who was known throughout the world as a Kennedy-worthy orator. The winner that night was the Arizona maverick who swallowed his pain and pride and did his best to unite a divided nation.
I do not remember one word of Former President Obama’s speech, but I remember every word of McCain’s speech. John McCain lost a bitter primary to George W. Bush in 2000. He did not give up the fight for what he thought was right. He lost again in 2008 after fighting even harder than he had the first time. At a time when many other people would have lashed out or given up completely, John McCain stood on that stage and said loudly for all to hear “Barack Obama is my president and I will do my best to help him succeed.” John McCain grieved for 30 seconds, then held his head up high and continued to fight for American ideals in his way. I remember turning to my college roommate (and friend since the sixth grade) David with tears in my eyes saying that was a damn good speech. And to this day I still think it was the best speech of his career.
As the days have passed, I have cried more tears for John McCain than I thought I would. I have been slightly surprised by this and I have spent time trying to figure out why I have been so saddened by the Maverick’s passing. I have been saddened by the images of the beautifully stoic Cindy McCain and the distraught tears of Meghan McCain. Watching Meghan McCain, someone I have followed for years as the future of the republican party, brought up feelings of my grandfather’s passing and that brought the tears with it. I was heartbroken by the pictures of the 106 year old Roberta McCain being pushed in her wheelchair to the casket of the late senator – it is absolutely wrong for a parent to have to bury their child. It is not natural, not right, and not fair. I have been saddened by the images and the stories of McCain’s time at the Hanoi Hilton as a P.O.W. as well. After spending several days thinking it was a combination of these things making me sad, I had a realization last night as I lay in bed.
None of those things I had thought are what brought my sadness. What brought my sadness was what McCain’s death truly represented. On August 25, 2018, John Sidney McCain III died and he took a piece of America that she desperately needed. With the death of John McCain we saw the death of decency in American politics; and although I grieve for John McCain, I grieve for the last bastion of decency in our political system. Everything I respect about John McCain has to do not with politics, but the fact that John McCain was a decent human being who loved his country and loved fighting for what he thought was best for his county. Everything I respect about John McCain is gone because there is not another like John McCain in our political system right now.
John McCain got the nickname Maverick because he did not always follow the party line. John McCain voted against repealing Obamacare last year because it was not in the best interest of the nation (and received a phone call of appreciation from former President Obama). John McCain in his long political career only once put getting votes ahead of the right thing and he immediately regretted it. He had this to say about the confederate flag flying over the state capital here in South Carolina:
“I feared that if I answered honestly, I could not win the South Carolina primary. So I chose to compromise my principles. I broke my promise to always tell the truth. And I would like to apologize to South Carolinians and to Americans everywhere who believe racism has no place in our American values.”
John McCain refused to go negative during the 2000 presidential campaign. When operatives of the Bush campaign were saying terrible things about McCain’s wife Cindy who openly admitted to struggling with prescription drug abuse, and his adopted daughter Brigette (who was originally born in Bangladesh), McCain refused to go negative. Even when told these rumors would cost him the nomination from the Republican party John McCain refused to bend the knee. He knew the party was better than that. He knew America was better than that. And when he lost that campaign he was able to sleep at night and hold his head high. And America is better for it. And we are worse off because we didn’t believe in it at the time.
My personal favorite moment from McCain’s distinguished lifetime of public service is the fact that when meeting with a woman in his own state while running for president took an opportunity to defend his political opponent Barack Obama. When that women called Barack Obama an Arab Muslim, John McCain took that time to stop her and tell her that was not true. He called Barack Obama a good man. A decent man. A family man. How many other politicians did that while running for the presidency from the republican party? Ted Cruz certainly did not. Marco Rubio certainly did not. Ben Carson did not. Chris Christie did not. Jeb Bush did not. and we all know good and well that Donald J. Trump sure as hell did not. When John McCain defended his opponent that day, he did more to cement his maverick’s mark on this nation than any other day. That is the day this self-proclaimed liberal democrat elevated John McCain to a pedestal above almost all other politicians. That is the day that I knew John McCain was something special. And that is the day that I know that John McCain was a politician that this nation did not deserve.
On a more cynical note, I am saddened by the death of this maverick giant because I sadly believe the death of John McCain is going to be the beginning of the death of the republican party as we know it. And that is when my sadness turns to anger. I love this nation and I know that my democrats do not have all the answers. That is why I believe so firmly in the two-party system. I believe firmly in compromise. So did John McCain. But the republican party has rejected compromise. They have rejected decency. They have rejected niceties and instead they embraced a cancer on our political system who would and should be a pariah of politics if we lived in an America that was made by McCain.
John McCain served this nation with honor in the Navy and was a P.O.W. during a war that our current leader evaded with a “diagnosis” of bone spurs. John McCain refused to be released early when given the chance because there were P.O.W.s who had been imprisoned longer than he had. IF I had been given the chance of early freedom I would have sung like a canary and god knows our current leader would have (before finding a cheesy way to write a book about the “art of the P.O.W. release deal”). When given the chance to let his supporters demean and insult his Opponent, John McCain went high and defended their integrity. Our current leader not only took time time to demean and insult his opponent he advocated violence in his name on the behalf of his trucker hat wearing supporters who still don’t see that America was and is already great. When given the chance to lie and steal and defraud the American people John McCain would have none of it.
After thinking about all of those things, my anger turns back to sadness. John Sidney McCain should have been president over the monstrosity that we currently have in the oval office. That is why I am sad. That is why I cry. But then the crying stops. Because I think about John McCain and his last statement that was released by his widow Cindy and his daughter Meghan after his death. In that letter McCain wrote
We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. We have helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have acquired great wealth and power in the process. …
Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.
Farewell, fellow Americans. God bless you, and God bless America.
I weep as I read that letter every time. But they are tears of joy. John McCain knew all too well that myself and many Americans are saddened and are full of despair at our present difficulties. But John McCain does not despair in America and he never has. John Sidney McCain III believed in America in life and he still believes in America in death. And because I believed in and still believe in John Sidney McCain III I still believe in America – and I hope you do to.
Farewell John. On behalf of a grateful American, please know we are a better people, a better nation, and a better world because of you. God Bless you and your family. And may God bless the United States of America that you fought for. May we live up to your vision of her. Always.
While watching television today I saw an advertisement that spoke to me. It made the hairs on my arm stand up and by the end of it I was smiling. I was completely shocked when when I saw what company was behind the ad. Typically there are just a few types of commercials that consistently make me emotional: Apple with their yearly Christmas commercial, Publix Commercials, Proctor & Gamble Olympics commercials, and Super Bowl Commercials. These companies make commercials that are happy and sappy and make you you tear up. This commercial, however, made me emotional in weird way. I was happy, and sad, and insecure, and optimistic all at the same time. And of all the companies with the potential to make me emotional, I was not expecting it from the clothing company Bonobos. Watch the commercial and then I will unpack my feelings.
I really like this commercial for several reasons, the first and foremost of which is the innate simplicity of the commercial. The next thing that immediately that jumps out to me is the multi leveled types of diversity that the commercial employs. In addition to having equal amounts of races and ethnicities present throughout the entire commercial (and having them accurately and fairly portrayed no less!) the commercial features a fairly wide variety of ages and body types as well. That may sound odd to consider that a point of celebration in a Men’s Clothing company commercial, but when you look at ad campaigns for similar companies (see picture) they don’t look like me – the average American man. I don’t have a jaw law or a chin chiseled from marble. Or abs. Or biceps. Or calves for that matter. Actually, I take that back. I like my calves. Check ’em out next time you see me. And While I don’t think I’m ugly or undateable or anything like that (I know I am a catch), I do know I do not fit into the mold of a traditionally physically attractive man.
All those things aside though, the messageof the commercial is what I hope resonates with you the most – it sure did resonate with me. Now that I am sitting here thinking about it, watching the commercial was the first time I have ever truly reflected on just how God-awful-terrible the definition of masculine happens to be. In case you need a refresher, here it is below.
Why would anyone in their right mind want to be known as that at all. The only thing that even sounds half-way descent about that is the strength part. I don’t want to be known as aggressive. I feel like that gives off a negative, mean, rapist type of vibe. Everything I have read about Harvey Weinstein suggests that would be an appropriate word for him, but when I think of the positive traits of masculinity that is not the first one that comes to my head. Words like confident or determined come to mind. The way he carries himself and the way he treats his partner (whether she be a woman or a man). That is sexy masculinity – in my opinion at least.
In addition to all of that why are we even concerning ourselves with what has been traditionally defined as being associated with men? Why aren’t we passed the era in the world where blue is for boys and pink is for girls? Where women are nurses and men are engineers? Or worse yet, where the woman is chained to the sink only to be called out to make a sandwich for her husband when he wishes it? Why does everyone suddenly freak out if a little girl wants to play with hot wheels or a boy wants to play with Barbie dolls? Please tell me how that little boy is somehow not masculine enough? Or the little girl not feminine enough? The only thing we are doing by continuing to perpetuate the antiquated and outdated ideals of what is masculinity is harming both boys and girls of the future. You may scoff and tell me I am overreacting, but I don’t think so. Axe recently waded into the conversation with a brilliant commercial. So have NBC News, Karamo Brown from Netflix’s Queer Eye, and Tedx Talks from around the country.
While you might not think about it, continuing to push for this toxic masculinity has done two things. It has told the little boys out there who know they don’t fit society’s traditional type of masculinity that they should hide it, be ashamed of it, or that there is something wrong with them. But they aren’t broken toys from some plastic toy mold. They are uniquely and exactly who they are supposed to be- their true self. It is not just the boys that are being harmed, either. When we talk about feminine, you never see or picture in the back of your mind a woman as a scientist or an outspoken women who tells you her opinions on political issues as sexy. She is pushy, bitchy, or bossy (As if that’s a bad thing). Our current version of masculinity teaches boys they are superior to women instead of teaching them how to process feelings like anger and jealous, and I would go so far as to wager that this is what landed us smack dab in the middle of the #MeToo movement as well.
Is he really that insecure about his height? Are we really that insecure that it bothers us to see the journalist as taller than the baseball player?
On a personal note, I have been a part of this debate for over 10 years now. And I have one word to thank for it: Faggot. In a weird way, the word faggot is interesting to me. The first time I heard that name hurled at me I was a freshman in high school and it hit me like a sucker punch to the gut. I wasn’t 100% sure what it entailed, but I knew it was not something you wanted to be called. I honestly don’t know how many times I’ve been called that word before – certainly not as many times as some have, but more than I ever cared to count. You get used to it and then if you are a history person like me you just tell the people who yelled “faggot!” at you from across the street that the original definition of faggot is a bundle of twigs bound together ultra tight with flammable cloth and that these bundles of twigs were sometimes used to light up the tunnels of the Roman Coliseum, but sometimes they used actual gay people instead of the twig bundles. That sorta takes all the fun out of their “insult,” and If you say it in one massive run-on sentence like that it has the ability to make you sound super academic and smart.
Is pink really that scary?
Is paisley really that threatening?
Is a boat neck shirt really that offensive?
Eventually it doesn’t phase you because you grow into your own skin and start realizing your not the one with the problem, they are. For some reason even though they are the masculine ones who are strong and aggressive, the sight of a man who portrays some qualities that could potentially be associated as feminine threaten them. If you are the top of man who won’t wear a pink or lavender polo you really need to think about your self esteem issues and how they relate to you and your masculinity, because at the end of the day, that has nothing to do with me or any other man that doesn’t fit your definition of masculinity. To prove that, my last two points are going to come from people who would not traditionally be considered harbingers of masculinity.
The picture to the left is of Kameron Michaels, a man who lived a normal life and had a normal job in Nashville before recently finding fame as part of a show you might not know based on his traditionally masculine look. Kameron Michaels was a contestant on the most recent season (11, I think?) of Rupaul’s Drag Race, and before some of you ask, yes that is the show with Rupaul, and yes, that is the show that is basically American Idol for drag queens. Sidebar: If you have not heard of Rupaul and Rupaul’s drag race you must have been locked in that bunker with Kimmie Schmitt so I suggest you start trying to catch up. The pictures below will show you what Kameron Michael looked at most of the time during the season as the show was filming. In addition to being a kick ass lip sync assassin (which you can see here, here, and the best one of all time here), Kameron exudes masculinty and feminity throughout all of his performances because masculinity and femininity aren’t something you either are or you are not – it is a constantly sliding and evolving scale. That is part of what makes sexuality so fun. If you still have issues with it though, I would tread carefully- I am pretty sure Kameron can take care of herself if you feel like name calling.
The last point I am going to make comes from another contestant on a different season of Rupaul’s Drag Race. When Latrice Royale was asked what she wanted to accomplish by coming on the show and what she wanted to tell people she had this to say:
I love this. Nothing says silencing your haters in a way that doesn’t involve violence, a jail cell, or a ton of extra work like keeping your head down, knowing whats in your heart, and succeeding in the one life you get. So to the men out there who have never been able to see themselves in society’s definition of masculinity, know I feel like that sometimes too. More importantly, however, to the younger boys and teenagers who feel weird, or different, or not enough – know that your weirdness is something you will embrace one day, what makes you different is what will give you your strength, and that you are exactly the amount that you are supposed to be. When they come for you over who you are, just smile – and tell them to eat it!