Drunk Drivers, Hurtful Words, and Humans in General

January 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

My big sister was in an accident with a drunk driver the other night. She had a green light and was passing under a freeway when an old Ford came out of nowhere and flew in front of her. She was able to slam on the brakes in time to hit the back end of their car, but her car was totaled in the process.

She’s okay. She has some back pain right now and is currently having a hell of a time with her insurance company, but she’s okay.

But there are so many people who aren’t that lucky.

The kicker in this story is that the driver that could have potentially killed my sister was uninsured, unlicensed, unregistered, out past curfew, and fifteen years old. Fifteen years old.

Before I go on to my many other points in this blog post, can we all just sit back and ask what the actual living hell is wrong with some people? What is wrong with this kid so that he thinks it is perfectly acceptable to get into a car that does not belong to him and drive even though it is illegal for him to be driving? Not to mention doing all of the above while DRUNK.

What is wrong with this kid’s parents so that they raised him to believe that that kind of behavior is okay? Parenting is everything. Parenting doesn’t begin when a kid is fifteen and making bad decisions. Parenting begins the moment a child is born. Those parents had a responsibility to make sure their child grew up knowing the consequences of his actions and a responsibility to make sure their child knew the dangers of mixing alcohol and driving. They had a responsibility to make sure their kid didn’t find it necessary to drink and act cool. They failed. They failed miserably.

Furthermore, what is wrong with our society so that kids find it necessary to drink at all? There is such a taboo on drinking alcohol in the U.S. In other countries, teens start drinking wine at a young age and are allowed to sip alcohol at their parents’ parties and whatnot. Over here, you must be 21 to drink, no exceptions, period-end-of-story. There is such a restriction on drinking alcohol that it naturally becomes the Super Cool Awesome Thing To Do. It’s disturbing, really.

When stuff like fifteen-year-old kids getting drunk and getting into car wrecks happens, I sometimes forget to keep having hope for the human race. Whenever I hear about stupid people (because yes, kids are not the only ones who make bad decisions) on the news, or see them on the road, or hear about them through friends of friends, I just want to curl up and pull the covers over my head and not ever leave my house again. It makes me sick. It makes me so, so sad.

Another prime example that makes me want to quit humanity? The other night, me, my boyfriend, and a group of our friends went out to dinner in downtown Phoenix. None of us get out very much due to our workloads and lack of finances, so we were all excited to be able to go somewhere semi-nice and spend some time together. We were standing in front of the café, waiting on one last friend to show up, when a homeless man came over and asked if we could spare a dollar or two for him. We all shook our heads no and said, “Sorry,” because a) we are all broke college students and b) none of us had cash on us at the time.

This man’s response?

“Oh, I get it, it’s because I’m black. If I were white I’m sure you’d help a brother out. You know what, man? Fuck you.”

And he turned and walked away.

I was absolutely floored. We all stood there for a moment or two, completely speechless, unable to comprehend what had just happened. Then my I found my tongue and my temper.

“Um, actually, that is NOT true,” I yelled after him, “I just don’t carry cash on me.”

The man turned and responded with a few more explicits and my friends and boyfriend chimed in with their own rage until the man kept on walking. (He ended up pacing outside the café we were all in later, glaring at us while we ate, and even came in to use the bathroom and shoot us death glares… I was actually afraid he’d come over and start attacking us at one point.)

But I mean…seriously?

To pull that card because we’re broke and can’t give people money all the time? Racism goes both ways.

If that man had nodded, thanked us, and went on his way, I would have felt bad for him. Well, I still feel bad for him. I’m sorry for him because he is so angry and in a position in his life where he has to resort to asking college students for money. I’m sorry for him because he has probably hurt plenty of other people who have pushed him away as a result.

But that comment hit me hard. It hit me like a knife.

Humans are so fascinating to me. We love to hurt each other with our words. We’ve categorized our planet into countries and we have allowed some societies to advance to the point of the availability of near futuristic technology, and yet we allow some countries to bury thousands of their citizens every day because of hunger and thirst. We love to kill each other over interpretations of ancient books written by men and over what to call a potential deity. We do stupid things.

We do hurtful things to one another.

Some of us decide that it’s totally okay to treat others differently based on the color of their skin or their sexual orientation. Some of us decide it’s perfectly acceptable to belittle and verbally abuse other humans based on their financial status. And some of us think it’s fine to get into a car while under the influence and drive straight into an innocent woman’s vehicle and almost kill her.

I have said this several times before on this blog, and I will say it again because it’s my blog and I’ll write whatever I damn well please: I am a huge advocate for personal choice. If you (and “you” is spoken in general terms) are endangering yourself, that’s your deal. If you are hurting yourself, I’m sad for you, but I cannot stop you from making your life choices.

But if you are endangering people around you, if you are harming others with your words or weapons or potential weapons or whatever, that is not okay.

That is not okay.

I continue to have hope for the human race because I’m a sustainability major and by God, if I didn’t have hope I would go absolutely freaking insane.

But some days I just want to hang my head and silently apologize to whatever’s up there for the way humans can be sometimes. Oh, how I hope we learn from our mistakes someday…

Of Coffee and Religion

December 6, 2012 § 2 Comments

One day a woman was walking to work when she saw a man drinking coffee. The woman was absolutely scandalized. She went right up to the man and demanded, “Excuse me, but what do you think you’re doing?”

The man blinked and said, “Drinking coffee?”

“Exactly,” the woman said. “That is incredibly offensive to me and I need you to stop right this instant.”

“I – I don’t understand,” the man said.

“You see,” the woman told the man, “drinking coffee is against my religious beliefs. My religion forbids drinking coffee. That’s why I am so offended and horrified.”

The coffee-drinker stared at the woman, confused. “I’m so sorry that you took offense at my drinking coffee, but I still don’t understand what this has to do with me,” he said, frowning.

“You are violating my religious beliefs when you drink that coffee,” the woman said. “This is America, and we have freedom of religion here. You are not allowed to drink that coffee because that is against my religious freedom.”

The man looked bewildered. “Well,” he said, “I’m sorry if my drinking coffee is offensive to you, ma’am, but you are not allowed to impose your religious beliefs on me and call it your rights.”

“No, no, you don’t understand,” the woman replied. “My religious book – the doctrine that expressively forbids coffee drinking – is here, and I am going to quote it to you so you can see just how wrong it is.”

“That’s all well and fine,” the coffee-drinker told her, “but that is your book that guides your religion and your life. But I don’t belong to that religion, and so it does not run my life. Sorry.”

“So!” the woman said, “You drink that coffee because you hate my people and want to start a war on my religion?”

“No,” the man said, “I drink this coffee because this is America, and I have freedom of religion, too.”

And so the man went on his way, leaving the angry woman behind. And he drank his coffee because he lived in America and he had freedom of religion, too.

Society’s Depiction of Feminism vs. Actual Feminism

June 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Years and years ago, I knew someone who declared herself to be an “anti-feminist”. I was so completely and utterly shocked by her statement that I have not forgotten it to this day. Why on earth would anybody say that he or she was an anti-feminist?

Well, it occurred to me, the person I knew must not have understood what being a true feminist is all about. And looking back on that day knowing what I know now, I’ve realized that not a lot of people do.

If there is one thing in the world I cannot and do not stand for under any circumstances, it is when people misuse the term “feminist”. People who don’t understand it. People who laugh and make jokes about it. People who look me up and down with disgust when I say I am one. In other words, I cannot stand it when people have no idea what the feminist movement was really about and what it still is about. And those people who say “feminazi”? They make me want to punch a wall. I have personally managed to cut every single utterer of the word I used to know out of my life, and I do not intend to have anything to do with people who use such a term. As a great bumper sticker put it, “Feminazi – because wanting to be treated like human beings is just like invading Poland.”

Looking around at the world today, and more specifically, the U.S., I see three different types of women when it comes to this feminism business. (Men can certainly fall under these categories, too.) And let me tell you, each and every type pisses me off.

1) The screamers. These women are so unbearably hardcore in their activism that they scream at men who politely open doors for them and take personal offense to any offer made by a man to pay for dinner. These women scoff at stay-at-home moms and write threatening letters Cosmo magazine on the grounds that any woman who wears a feminine dress should be shot. Screamers usually don’t want anything to do with men; this is perfectly fine, but screamers turn around and trash them. They insist that anyone with a penis needs to be locked up and caged whereas they, the girls, know how to run the world.

2) The whimperers. These women don’t want any say. These women flinch at women parading up streets in mini-skirts and shake their heads at women who have multiple degrees but aren’t married. They want to stay at home with their babies and be housewives. Now, that is all fine and dandy, but the mark of a whimperer is that they want every woman to be like that. Whimperers, I have noticed, seem to think that women need to learn their places. They don’t want to vote and they don’t like women who raise their voices to speak. They actually want to see the progress of the feminist movement backfire on the grounds that life was much easier when men paid for everything and they got to stay home all day.

(NOTE: There is a special kind of person that doesn’t want women to have a voice that happen to be men and not women. These people are called assholes.)

3) The shruggers. These women just don’t care. As far as they’re concerned, they have just as much of a right to do anything as men do, and they’re more concerned about pursuing hobbies or taking care of families or earning degrees than they are about fighting for equality. These are the women who tell the feminists in this country to stop being ungrateful for their rights that other women around the world are denied. These are the women who are convinced that everything is okey-dokie and that protests made by feminists are just a waste of time. They are far less annoying than the screamers and the whimperers, but their lack of knowledge of women’s rights issues is still irritating.

Now, I have a reality check for these types of women and for the rest of the world: feminism is not the idea that women are superior or better than men. It is certainly not the idea that men are weaker or less worthy. It is not beating other people over the head with your personal or religious beliefs nor is it hiding in your kitchen and letting men walk all over you.

Being a feminist implies that one believes that women should be equal to men. Nothing more, nothing less. Equal.

True feminism is about choice. It is believing that every person – male or female – has the right to choose what is best for his or her mind, body, and/or soul. Lifestyle preference, personal decisions, beliefs or ideals… it doesn’t matter. Feminism is the belief that everybody has the right to determine what he or she wants out of life.

Being a feminist, girls, does not mean that we should scream at men who open doors for us. News flash: it is a common courtesy. I hold doors for men and women alike all the time; I don’t treat others differently based on their gender. And when men (or women!) hold doors open for me, do you know what I do? I smile and say, “Thank you,” Doing so does not mean that I’m weak or that I’m submitting to authority. It means I’m being a polite freaking person.

In addition, being a feminist means that you do not need to cook all the meals for your family or do all the cleaning purely because you are a woman. It does not mean that you have to tolerate any sort of abuse from anybody. You can wear short skirts. You can wear low-cut shirts. You’re allowed to be girly every now and then, but you don’t always have to look like Donna Reed.

Here is another cold truth that extremists have a hard time accepting: if a woman wants to be a housewife and raise children all her life, for God’s sake, let her. We need more women at home raising strong and mentally-healthy kids. My mom, as an example, quit her job to raise my autistic little brother and I, and I can only imagine how I might have turned out if she had just sat me in front of a TV all day or herded me from daycare to daycare. And women who identify as whimperers need to understand that if a woman wants to be a career woman and run multiple corporations and never settle down, they need to let her. It makes her happy, and she and her businesses are probably making the world a better place. Look at all the influential women helping to run the country today! How on earth would we be where we are at without them?

As a feminist, I accept the fact that I have no control over anybody other than myself, and I accept the fact that I do not have the right to judge anybody – male or female – based on the decisions he or she has made or continue to make. We are all bound to one another and it is our duty to love and accept each other even if we don’t personally agree with decisions that are made. We’re all in this together. It’s that simple.

Right now, I can’t bear to watch the screamers and whimperers go at it, nor can I stand to watch the indifference that is shown by plenty of people. It is my hope that someday, true feminism will come to light again, and that these people will realize that their viewpoints on women’s rights, when conflicted, accomplish nothing besides extending a giant catfight.

And so, I leave you with a few quotes worth thinking about:

“The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.” ~ Roseanne Barr

“You don’t have to be anti-man to be pro-woman.” ~ Jane Galvin Lewis

“I’m tough, I’m ambitious, and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, okay.” ~ Madonna

And my favorite…

“To tell a woman everything she may not do is to tell her what she can do.” ~ Spanish Proverb

Thoughts? Questions? Ideas? Post them below.

On Hatred for Skinny People and People in General

May 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

I have to prelude this by saying that I am around 5’10” and ungodly scrawny. It’s gross. I was born with a tiny bone structure that got stretched out when my genes decided to make me ungodly tall, too. It is almost impossible for me to gain weight and as a result, I have one or two health issues in addition to a couple of problems that are genetic. They’re not by any means serious, but they’re there.

Now, I can already see the angry thought bubbles coming from the heads of those of you who think I have nothing to complain about. But bear with me as I defend myself from strangers I have encountered and from people who think it’s okay to judge a book by its cover.

Every now and then when I’m out and about in public, I am on the receiving end of what I have classified as The Look. There are different variations of The Look. There are double takes, scowls, frowns, shaking of the heads, whispering to friends, and downright glares from people I have never met and never seen before in my life. These types of looks are the only ones I have noticed, for I’m usually in my own little world when I’m wandering around stores or ordering food or whatever, and I’m sure there are more. Now, 99.9% of the time I am treated like a normal human being so when I do get The Look, I am just baffled. I’m reminded of middle school, honestly. It’s hurtful and it’s irritating.

I have never had the misfortune of having a stranger come up to me completely out of the blue and say exactly what they are thinking to me, but oftentimes when I am introduced to people or am talking with friends of friends or distant relatives or whatever, I get comments that embarrass me and make me feel like a terrible person. Sometimes, it’s: “Wow, I wish I were you!” or “It’s not fair you’re so thin.” And the worst: “You should be grateful – the rest of us aren’t as lucky as you!” I know for the most part, they mean well by these comments. But for the record, they make me want to crawl into a hole and die.

The following is what I wish I could print out on a pamphlet and hand to the people who give me The Look or to those people who make those sorts of comments:

OOO

Hello!

Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to look me up and down and judge me even though you know nothing about me! Although I am not obligated to do this, let me explain to you why I look the way I look:

1)    No, I am not anorexic or a desperate Hollywood wannabe! No, I don’t force myself to vomit or work out ten hours a day so all my bones stick out! I am a normal person who loves junk food and anything that comes out of a soda fountain. Not good enough? See below for a continued explanation:

2)    I have an abnormal metabolism, as in, everything I eat is immediately burned within a short amount of time. You say that I’m lucky to have this? Well, it just so happens that I wish I could eat something and have it sustain me for more than twenty minutes. This is because I also have low blood sugar and low blood pressure. See? Now you know that not only do I eat, I eat a lot.

3)    Another exiting fact about me is that my stomach is the most sensitive known to man. Awesome, right? Years of stomach problems practically destroyed my stomach lining so there are lots of foods I cannot eat without pain or discomfort. Anything greasy, oily, high in fat, etc. just makes me sick. In other words, as much as I love junk food, my body physically rejects it. If I tried to eat an entire quarter-pounder cheeseburger with everything on it in under an hour, I would be on the ground throwing my guts up for the rest of the day. (Aren’t you so glad you took this pamphlet?)

Now that you are up to date on my various medical problems, random stranger, why do you care what I look like?

I can see you are a beautiful and incredible person and you don’t look good when you’re scowling at someone else. I saw that smile you just gave to your friend. It’s lovely, and I’d much rather exchange one of those with you.

Let’s try this: You worry about yourself and I’ll worry about myself, how about that? I don’t judge a person based on how they look, and neither should you.

OOO

One of my favorite songs has a line from it that I try to implement in my life daily: Don’t judge a thing ‘till you know what’s inside it. In other words, it’s not our job to judge others based on how they look (nor is it our job to judge them, period, but that’s another post for another day).

So here is my conclusion to this blog post:

For those of you who think scrawny people are lucky, or anorexic, or certain conceited bitches that care way too much about their appearance – stop. Please. You make me sick and you make me sad. Speaking as someone who has gotten one hateful look in public too many, your judgment is so hurtful and it is so unnecessary. I fear that girls are the only ones on the receiving end of this uncalled-for hatred, which makes me wonder what on earth the magical land of Hollywood has done to this world.

You don’t know if a person is thin because she (or he) is anorexic and has serious confidence issues and needs help or if she was just born with a small bone structure or has a bunch of medical problems or simply works out and takes care of her body. This applies to anybody. You don’t know if the beautiful girl buying plus size clothes has a medical condition that dictates her weight or if she was blessed with a larger frame or if she eats because she is bullied at school and desperately needs a friend to talk to. And you know something, unless you are a dear friend of the person in question and genuinely care about that person’s well being, you don’t need to know. I don’t need to know. No one needs to know. It’s none of our business what anybody looks like.

I think society needs to stop focusing so much energy on the way a person looks, period. If a person is healthy and/or happy, that is all that matters. If a person if trying to be healthy by losing weight or gaining it or switching their diet or quitting using substances or whatever, congratulate them. Don’t judge them. It’s pretty simple.

The world is already a hard place to live in without us hating on each other based on how we look. We left those actions behind in middle school, guys. It’s time we figured it out and moved on, because the world is a much rougher place when unneeded judgment rules it.

Of Tattoos, Life Stories, and Judgment

May 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

A few weeks ago I read a disturbing post that really pissed me off. As per my new practice of not ranting right away and instead allowing my temper to cool before snapping to action, I decided to merely write a response to this post rather than start throwing things across the room.

The post in question was an article on a personal website that absolutely slammed people who chose to get tattoos. It’s been a while since I read it but let me tell you, it really touched a nerve. Think phrases along the lines of “destroying your skin” and “insulting everyone around you” and “the human body is a temple – don’t abuse it”. That sort of thing.

So first of all, in response to this particular post (and also in response to people who always ask me curiously), I would like to bore you all for a few paragraphs by talking about my tattoos. Yes, I have two of them. Prepare yourselves as I defend them to the death.

I have lots of favorite movies, but the one that has the most personal, most immense meaning to me and everything I am is the Dreamworks animation called Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. First and foremost, the score is by far the most beautiful music I have ever heard and continues to be my favorite soundtrack of all time (I love you, Hans Zimmer). Secondly, the plot is absolutely incredible for an animated film. The story is of a wild mustang called “Spirit” that is captured by humans and brutally taken away from his homeland. As he desperately battles to get back home, he fights a number of obstacles and through it all, tries to find the strength to live up to his name. Throughout his fight he encounters many people who try to tame him and attempt to break his will to be free, but ultimately he is able to return to his homeland, proving to everyone that some spirits can never be broken.

I saw the movie when I was eleven. Little did I know that the movie I fell in love with was about to become the story of my life.

Now, the complete story of my life up to now is a long, complicated, dark, wonderful, triumphant one, and one I could potentially write an entire book about. But I would not dare to presume that people would actually sit down and read that sort of thing, which is why, for the sake of defending my tattoos, I’ll give you the mega short version of the tale.

I was born and raised in the desert, in Cave Creek, Arizona. This place is as much a part of me as my lungs are, but that is another post for another day. My parents split up when I was ten and my mom was married to my now ex-step dad by the time I was twelve. By twelve and a half, my step-dad had received a job offer in California, and we moved from everything I had ever known to a gross little town called Discovery Bay, an hour or so from San Francisco. (Due to its overall bleakness, we all called the town “Disgusting” Bay.) We moved from Discovery Bay to Danville to San Ramon (other cities in the Bay Area) over the course of just over two years. The summer before I turned fifteen, we moved to Bradenton, Florida. We were there for six months – the worst six months of my life – before we finally, finally, finally came back home to the desert, the one place I wanted to be more than anywhere in the world.

I’ll omit many details here and only say that I would spend the next three years of my life fighting mental and emotional demons due to various events that occurred during my time out of state. In other words, I fought obstacles to be at peace with myself and to truly appreciate the land where I grew up. Today, I am home in my desert, happy, content, and loving my life.

As I started to recover from my depression, I began to seriously think about tattoos and what I would want to get should I choose to get one. By eighteen, I knew exactly what I wanted to be with me always, and would spend the next eight or nine months solidifying my decision.

And so . . . the Chinese symbol on my right shoulder blade is the symbol for “spirit” (I searched for months for the right one that would mean “inner strength” as opposed to God or ghosts or whatever). I received this one in July 2010, a few months before I turned nineteen. The running horse on my left ankle is the exact silhouette on the cover of Spirit’s official poster and soundtrack cover. This one I got a month or so after my twentieth birthday after a year of contemplation.

They are both reminders to me that no matter what, my spirit is strong and I can never be broken, silenced, defeated. No matter what I face in my life, these tattoos remind me that I was born a fighter and that in the end, as long as I keep my strength up, everything will be okay.

With the personal meanings of my tattoos fresh in your mind, reader, let me get back to the subject of tattoos in general and the offensive post to which I am responding.

Those of you who know me (or at least see my facebook posts) know that I am a hardcore activist for personal choice. I believe in freedom of religion,  freedom of speech, freedom to make life decisions based upon the truths that reside in each individual. I am probably the most pro-choice and pro-gay rights person you will ever meet. I may not agree with certain life decisions or personal preferences may not be my particular cup of tea, but damn it, I support them. That is our duty our great Mother Earth set unto us. To love and support one another no matter what.

What a person does with their body is none of your business. (“You” is spoken in general terms, here.) If someone wants to get a tattoo that is of great personal meaning to them, how exactly does that affect you directly? What exactly is your problem when it comes to people deciding to get a design or a quote or a picture inked on their skin? You don’t have to agree with our decisions, but you certainly don’t have the right to condemn them. So how about this: you decide what you want to do for you, and the rest of us will decide what we want to do for us. It’s that simple. We’ll regret those tattoos, you say? We’ll never find jobs, you say? We’ll break our family’s heart, you say? Well, you’re wrong. And even if you’re not, it’s not up to you to tell us how to run our lives.

I love my tattoos because they are my battle scars, and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. They remind me every day of the ordeals I have survived and that if I must go through anything horrific ever again, I can handle it. I don’t regret getting them. In fact, I love them more with each passing day.

I have friends all across the board who are straight, gay, strict Christians, Muslims, atheists, pro-life, pro-choice, whatever. You name it, I know one of them. And you know something? We all get along fine. Those individuals and I get along just fine because we accept one another. And that is exactly what needs to happen here. Whether you like tattoos or not, you must accept the fact that people have them and are proud of them, including me. Do not dare to slam us for our choices, and we will not dare to slam you for yours.

And as for that saying “The human body is a temple…” Well, you know what? I agree. The human body is a temple, and I chose to decorate mine.

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