Reflections on a Theme

This post came across my Facebook feed this morning:


Naturally there were streams of support, streams of criticisms but one happened to catch my eye. Someone told Jared that he should not “stoop” and that she was “extremely disappointed” in his behavior, because he was calling out a human being publically. Here’s what he said (and yes, although probably unnecessarily, I did blot out her name):


I immediately gravitated towards the following phrases:

1. “Not welcome and “less than””

2. “Not entitled to share my concerns or unhappiness because I’m a “celebrity””

3. “That’s akin to the people who told me that I should be “happy” because I am “successful” and that I shouldn’t have “depression” or “anxiety” because “famous people” are so “lucky”. And I very much don’t appreciate being victim shamed, even though I’m “famous” and should just “deal with it and keep quiet about it”. At the end of the day, I am a human being that breathes oxygen.”

4. “I’m truly sorry that the existence of my hurt disappointed you, and I wish you peace and happiness.”
Okay, so I know I basically just typed out the entire thing, but the 4 quotes I pulled are important. Why? Becuase they are classic depression quotes. I numbered them so I can analyze them more strategically. And at the end, I will wrap up with some thoughts about my analysis.

1. Doubting self-worth, being sensitive to the actions and negativity of others. It’s a pretty common theme in depression to doubt everything about yourself, to feel that other people just “hate you” because of who you are. And it’s easier to pick up on feeling that way when you’re depressed.

2. Believing that you are required to be a certain person, act a certain way because of arbitrary factors in your life. This one hits pretty hard too, especially among individuals fighting their symptoms. It doesn’t matter if those arbitrary factors are “career”, “education”, “gender roles”, “age”, “geography”, “economy”, “culture” or other-you feel as though you cannot be yourself and have a hard time dealing with that.

3. Feeling like you must defend your feelings to others, based on the fact that you are human too. This one hits home. Because whenever I don’t feel acknowledged or validated in my concerns and emotions, I immediately volley between this one and number 4. It’s a quick jump to feel like you have to justify the way you’re feeling because you feel alienated by the people who should understand-on the basis that they’re people too. You extend them that courtesy, and expect them to extend it back.

4. Apologizing for feeling the way you do, because it causes discomfort to someone else-something you never intended. At some point we’ve all done it. Apologized for going on a rant (and feeling like you’ve taken up the entire conversation), apologized for crying after a hard day, bad news, or other event. Apologized for feeling like an inconvenience simply because you existed. You didn’t want to put your baggage on someone else, it just kind of happened and you’re sorry. (Even if there isn’t a reason to be sorry.)

Conclusion: While not all of these things indicate depression and in fact, are very typical to things like defending your actions, interacting with rude, belittling people and a host of other things, as someone who has spent more time in a depression than not, I think I stand by my analysis that the wording chosen is representative of a spike in depression.

Although I am incredibly disheartened that experiences like this happen (and we all know they do happen), I pulled this story because it is such a great discussion piece about mental health and the stigmas still faced. I can just as easily reanalyze those quotes in the following way:

1. Stigma: Those with mental illnesses aren’t welcome members in society.

2. Stigma: Those with careers in public spotlight should not suffer from mental illnesses.

3. Stigma: Those with mental illnesses shouldn’t express the pain they are in. (AKA: The “It’s All In Your Head” Stigma).

4. Stigma: People with mental illnesses are burdens to society.

And suddenly, it’s the same story remade to explain a broader issue. Think with me, if you will, how many things you could replace “mental illness” with. We’ve become a people who are afraid to stand up for ourselves. Afraid of what might happen if we demand basic human rights. Afraid of what might become of us when we call out an injustice. It has become a cultural trend to victim blame. I read over those statements and looked at the way my brain interpreted them. I jumped to depression because it is a condition I know and understand very well. But I also know sexual assault very well. And if I plop a little interpretation into this conversation it looks a little bit like this:

1. Stigma: Victims of sexual assault are not welcome members in society with equal rights.

2. Stigma: Those who choose to dress in anyway close to “revealing” should not expect to be exempt from sexual assault.

3. Stigma: Victims of sexual assault shouldn’t expect justice. (*Casts side-eye to Stanford and U.Colorado judges*)

4. Stigma: Victims of sexual assault are burdens to society.

What Jared did when he wrote this response was open the dialogue to the ways in which we (as a culture) judge others on arbitrary categories. “Celebrity”, “Mental Illness”, “Victim” all have become code words for a language we barely even know we’re speaking. Suddenly, we attribute roles to these words which themselves had no connotations before, and now have changed to “Perfect”, “Defective”, “Liar” respectively. The way we use the key to our culture, the very foundation of how we describe ourselves and the world around us is changing slightly every day. And it is because of this key that the formation of our very thoughts are coming into question.

Thought to consider for the day:

We are all human beings. We breathe the same air, our hearts pump the same way. Look at the way you judge others, the way you look them over and determine your interpretation of them. Do you see a person struggling to get by in life? Do you see their battles, struggles, victories and failures? Or do you see the person you want to see, covered in the veils of biases?

I end my thoughts today with a fitting quote from the movie Ten Inch Hero (which is one of my favorites).

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Learn the Language, the Rest Will Follow

Howdy all! I return as my slightly charged, post-GISHWHES self. I thought I’d ease into this week with a simple reflection before getting into full swing. These are my last two weeks before my senior year!! I’ve got a lot of things coming up, and I’m very excited about all of it!

It wasn’t until college that I really understood the title for today. I’d taken four years of Spanish with a wonderful woman who stressed conversation over written (of which I am eternally grateful), including an entire year with her where all we did was speak Spanish. I took 3 semesters of Swahili (a language that one of the most influential teachers I had in elementary school took as well) and I’ve been nosing around a couple languages on my own.

It was an anthropology class that drilled home for me the “learn the langauge, the rest will follow” lesson. I’m pretty midwestern. I have southern family, and that’s why I say “ya’ll”. I drink sweet tea like it’s going out of style, I mean, I don’t have to list my “credentials” but I’m trying to paint a picture here. I grew up on a farm in Ohio, the fun things to do there included mushroom hunting, digging for arrowheads and spending days being lazy.

I never really understood how people struggled with learning English because I’m a native speaker. And then something weird happened.

I’ve done a little research on this (just enough to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind) and found that my experiences are pretty common.

It started around the time I was finishing up my last year of formal Spanish education. I remember I was waiting at our local fair, talking about foods and I said the words: You know, I’ve been here all week and I still haven’t gotten any…. and I forgot what the food was called. I believe I called it sugar cloud and then someone figured out I was talking about cotton candy. That same concept has happened to me so many more times than I thought possible-made compoundedly worse with each language I study.

Suddenly, I was only able to find the words I needed if they were in another language. It’s kind of like when you’re learning a new language and you don’t know all the vocabulary, so you will in with English (that’s where the idea of Spanglish comes from) except it was happening to me in reverse!

And then it all made sense (after that anthropology class). Or well, I tried to make it make sense. You see, in a culture is like a locked box, you need a key to get in or you will never understand it fully. That key, is language. And if you master the language, you’ll be able to understand the culture. There is a culture all its own or non-native speakers learning English and although not from their perspective, I learned how to open that jar of panic, of “outside-ness” and peer into the life of someone who is still growing as an individual.

Those memories came to me this morning as I people watched from my landing steps. Diversity is a great gift-if you have the compassion enough to see that it is a blessing.

 

We The People

“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

-The Declaration of Independence 4 July 1776

                                                 

These words race like lightning through my mind today. Over the course of this election cycle, we have seen the most disgraceful behavior from the people who are most likely to lead our country for the next four years. No matter which side you support (if any!), you have seen it too. And I suppose that is why these words echo so loudly. This is as political as I will get, but what I have to say needs to be heard, by both Democrats and Republicans alike, as well as the Independent, Green and other parties. 

If we, as Americans, contemplate (seriously or joking) moving to a different country to seek political asylum, or just to remove ourselves from the tyranny of a president (which we elect) then we are not using our rights to their fullest capacity, nor are we engaging in the very foundations of Americanism. If our first response is to pack it in and flee, that we may escape to a land of freedom, then we are the ones who are responsible for the decline and ultimately the destruction of American values, freedoms and the enduring ideal of “land of opportunities”. 

It is our right, our duty, as citizens of this nation to ensure the continuation of values for our posterity. Those values are not left behind in the lands of our forefathers, they are alive in the hearts of the patriotic, the just and the open armed. To let slip the rights of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, unalienable rights which were given to us by no less than an act of desperation, of treason and of great courage. These rights are defended by similar attitudes by the members of our armed forces. And if we allow ourselves to become enslaved by the very government we elect, America will be lost.

                                  

The paragraph that I quoted at the very beginning is from the Declaration of Independence. It was written 239 years, 7 months and 16 days ago. People don’t speak like this anymore. But they should. And pay attention to those words, which become more relevant every day. I will do my best to “translate” into everyday 21st Century language, just so the words do not go without understanding. 

“When a government becomes destructive (to its people), it is the right of the people to make a new government which will provide a better access to safety and happiness. The government should not be extremely altered without good cause, because all might suggest that it is too hard on them without just provocation. But in the event that the actions of the government are documented as being abuses of power, and seeks to reduce its people to a state of being completely powerless, oppressed by the very government which was designed to give them freedom then it is the right of the people, the duty of the people to rebel against such government, forming a new government which protects their liberties instead of uses their liberties against them.”

So although this is a political post, I have done my best to remain as unbiased in my thoughts as possible. But I urge you, fellow Americans, to rethink what it is that makes America so free, so great. What is it that caused your forefathers to immigrate here? What caused them to stay? And if the answer makes no sense today, isn’t true today, then it is our duty to reclaim those liberties, those freedoms for our own and the generations to follow. Make America the nation which opens its arms to others, celebrating the freedoms of not only citizens, but the freedoms and rights afforded to all human beings. Let us be a beacon of hope for those who have none. Let us be a shining example of what it means to be a democracy. Let us take back our government, our country, our home. May freedom ring, may equality prevail and may our country be blessed with common sense, a sense of duty and brotherhood.

               

(These are the words at the base of the Statue of Liberty.)

  
(This is where my blog title comes from. I know it is the U.S. Constitution and not the Declaration of Independence, but this is in NOW WAY less important.)

De los dos…

Today is a special day: a DOUBLE BLOG DAY!

Anyway, this morning I wrote about literacy and that has stuck with me the entire day. Then, as I was listening to a playlist I have, I realized most of my songs were in Spanish. It’s a great honor that I can be part of this musical culture, but I want to talk about it a little more than that.

I am American, as is rather obvious from the lack of “u” in words like “favor” and the way I spell “yogurt” and “theater”. But I am also Russian and Irish and English because of my heritage. I do, however, have one tiny portion of my family from Panama. 

I took 4 years of Spanish in high school, with a woman whom I can only describe as Spanish, made of American parts. She loved teaching and speaking the language and wanted to retire to Spain. It was her passion that really drew me into the language. In college I took a couple more classes and my playlists got longer.

I haven’t gotten to practice it in a while, mostly I brush up by going to Walmart and listening to whatever conversations there are (but don’t tell anyone!). But I think there’s something exceptionally emotional about the words of Spanish music. For blogging purposes, I’m only going to use two songs, but trust me when I say that I have PLENTY more examples. Also, in the interest of fairness, I’m going to try to use songs from the same time period (hopefully year), so that there isn’t a weird pop culture difference (other than language). I know this will be biased regardless, but here goes.

Song: Sexy and I Know It, LMFAO

“When I walk on by, girls be looking like damn he fly

I pimp to the beat,

Walking on the street with in my new lafreak, yeah

This is how I roll, animal print, pants out control,

This is red foo with the big afro

It’s like Bruce Lee rock at the club.”
Song: Llovera, Mia Maestro

“Llovera, gotas mínimas (It will rain, tiny drops)

Lloverá, de mi boca, (It will rain from my mouth)

Saldrá el mar (The sea will pour out.)

No, no, Romeo, no,
No, no, me dejes (ver)  (No, no, don’t let me see)

Tu vida fue gestada ya… (Your life has already been gestated (lived))

Lloverá, caudales de agua, (It will rain, flows of water)

Agua lisa, (Smooth water)

Lloverá, desde mis ojos.” (It will rain, from my eyes.)
These are both from 2011, the year I graduated from high school. Of course, I picked two extremes, and I have loads of songs from that year that I hold dear (in English). But I do think that just the way life themes are expressed (like love and death and life) are put more emotionally and eloquently in Spanish.

With that being said, Dimelo by Enrique Iglesias and Nina Bonita by Chino y Nacho are probably my favorite songs, but we’ll hold that for another day. The whole point was: I REALLY enjoy being able to look into another culture and enjoy it fully, without reservation because I can understand the language. Language is the key.