Inconceivable.

INCONCEIVABLE:

adjective
  1. not capable of being imagined or grasped mentally; unbelievable.

RaACISM

noun
  1. the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

INEQUALITY:

noun
  1. difference in size, degree, circumstances, etc.; lack of equality.

STEREOTYPE:

noun
  1. a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.

FEMINISM:

noun
  1. the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

ASSUME:

verb
  1. suppose to be the case, without proof.

DIVERSITY:

noun
  1. the state of being diverse; variety.

Today’s topic, as you can see, is a social justice one. It’s been something that’s floated around in my mind, waiting for a moment when I could write everything down properly. I included some definitions today, simply because too many people don’t actually know the real definition of words these days. Pity.

I, as we have discussed, am part of the millennial generation, the group of people born between 1980 and 2000, and I speak with those of us who do not wish to see the world fall to ruin.

loraxEQ.jpg

Each and every day I am surrounded by gobs of people, and I know almost nothing about any of them. But sometimes I come in contact with people that I do know something about, or I catch a snippet of a conversation and what I hear is something like the following:

“I just think that there are a lot of [insert “race” here] people who are a waste of space…”

“I don’t think women should be so concerned about…”

“I’m not racist, but…”

“I know it’s anti-feminist, but…”

benjen

I have heard enough. I have heard ever so much more than enough.

I am the daughter of farmers, a third generation American (on the one side), and although my skin is pale, I have a voice and I’m ready to use it. In fact, let me list out as many minorities that I belong to as I can.

Woman. Pagan. Pro-Choice. Third-gen American. Liberal. Anthropologist. Mentally ill. Multi-lingual. Bisexual. First generation college student. Poor (I think that counts).

You know what? We’ll stop there. It’s enough. And no, I’m not a woman of color. I know that. I will never know what it is like to feel discrimination on the basis of the amount of melanin in my body. I am aware of that.

But NONE of those things make me lesser-or better- than anyone else. Let me repeat that for the people in the back.

original

I belong to the generation that takes offence to everything. And maybe it’s for good reason. It’s not okay to make racist or sexist jokes. It’s not okay to group people together under assumptions and broad generalizations. (Case in point, the millennial qualifiers I have highlighted.)

We are all people. We are all human beings searching for the meaning of life, the reason for living, respect and empathy. And I am so tired of hearing people, listening to people I know make comments and “jokes” that they shouldn’t. And I’ve started calling them out.

It isn’t an internet issue per se, and I’ve been working in person to make the conversations around me better too. Even so, a large portion of communication these days is online. And that is where it is almost worse in some ways. It’s easy to assume that because something isn’t in person, that it doesn’t matter. But it does. It really does.

No one is born racist. No one is born sexist. No one is born with the thought that they are better (or lesser) than someone else. We are all just born. We all just die.

diversity-1

I love diversity. I love it so much, in fact, that that’s what drew me to anthropology. And I love that we’re not all exactly cookie-cutter versions of the same person. That’s dull. It is only through our differences that we can thrive. But it isn’t the differences that make us better as individuals, or as small collectives. Our differences are like the glue that holds our species together, building us up. Something to be proud of, not ashamed of.

You may notice that I haven’t specifically mentioned all of the terms that I laid out for us in the beginning. I’m just putting them in because it’s a “food for thought” thing. I know they’re important, it’s just important that people start using them the right way for the right reasons.

(As always, these pictures came from Google, I’m not trying to steal them, I thought they were great. I did add words to the Lorax and the picture of the hand. That part was me!)

 

A Letter

Dear Senator Sanders,

         You do not know me, but I am a young Democratic voter from a very small town in Ohio. You’ve probably never heard of it, but it was named after a Polish officer who fought in our revolution. In that tiny little spot, there are no stop lights, and plenty of dirt roads. It is a place where children can play freely, cut off from the rest of the word, or so it can seem. I grew up there, and it will always be home to me, full of the love and support that I am thankful to have had.

         I’ve been privileged to have had some wonderful friends, all of whom helped me grow into the outspoken, passionate woman I am today. And part of that stems from having a deep love of people who are different from myself. I deeply enjoy looking into other cultures, ensuring that I have the best, most thorough information available, so that I can make that small town proud of the ways in which I impact my world. As an anthropology student, research into cultures and attitudes are kind of a requirement. So I took the time to do a little research on you, Mr. Sanders, and here is what I found out.

         You are a man of many skills: carpentry, film and legislation among them. You are devoted to your family, and all that you see morally astute. But do you know what I did not see, or at least, not on your website? I did not see a medical degree. And so it troubles me deeply that you went out of your way to say the following at the debate in Flint, Michigan:

“We are, if elected president, going to invest a lot of money into mental health. And when you watch these Republican debates, you know why we need to address the mental health.”

         You see, the media may have found that sound bite worthy of a chuckle, Secretary Clinton did as well, but for someone who works so hard at promoting equality amongst peoples, you have let down a very large, very important community. You may have made an offhanded comment about the opposing party, but you neglected to consider that the members of the mentally ill community may not have appreciated you including the Republican candidates into that group simply because some of the outrageous things which have come out of their mouths.

         I have been a proud advocate of mental health awareness, of mental illness equality and of breaking down stigmas associated with mental illnesses. But more than that, I am a member of that community that you so brazenly mocked. Some of the phrases you used last night were “lunatic”, “crazy person” and of course, the quote which I have mentioned above. You see, while it may be easy to openly criticize actions such as those of Mr. Trump mocking a physically disabled person, it is not as socially acceptable to openly discuss ways in which mental illnesses need to be treated with the same respect. 

         So here I am, Senator Sanders, a young woman from Ohio, asking you to consider the fact that while the words you speak may be coming from a well-intended place, you are furthering the stigmas and stereotypes which have plagued a branch of health and wellness for far too long. Instead of using the actions of the opposing party to get a few laughs, why don’t you focus on ways in which you will help the mental health community facilitate our own well-being in the face of misunderstanding and under-education. Perhaps then, you would be able to see why making jokes about mental health isn’t funny-it’s just plain rude.

         Thank you for your time.

Best,

Michelle Brewer-Bunnell

A Concerned Citizen

Hindsight

When I was in high school, there happened an event that has stuck with me ever since.

I was the field commander of the high school marching band. It was the best thing that could have happened to me, honestly. I took my job very seriously, regarding each of the band members and color guard as members of my own family, who I would defend to the death (I was very theatrical back then). Anyway, part of my duties was to ensure safe transport of persons and equipment post game. Our instruments were hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. So I would holler out “Band coming through!” And other things, like “Watch out!” And “Excuse us!”

 

(This is basically my podium/ladder-basically huge)

 The event happened one home game my first year commanding (I was commander for 2 years-the first in school history, I believe). I was VERY passionate about my job, but also very polite and I was trying to get all the band and guard members into the school without damaging anything or anyone. Carrying my “ladder” (it was a platform I conducted from which was more than twice my size and a workout all its own), I was announcing our departure when a group of our school’s football players came up from behind me and yelled “No one gives a shit about you band faggots.” And I do not think there has been a single moment in the history of who I am that I contemplated murder more seriously. I think I could have wafted my ladder at him (and yes, I know exactly who he was) and it would havebeen a blood bath. Thankfully my director saw and heard what had happened and talked me down. If I recall, I had to stay after the game because he was telling me about how some football player wasn’t worth my future. I fumed about it for days.  And when the football player came down to the band room to apologize to the director (but not the rest of us), I saw red once more. If it had been a band member, we would have been crucified! How dare he just get off with some shitty apology! Make him pay, dammit!

  

But this story doesn’t end there. Fast forward to the last day of the year 2015 (so today-6 years later), that same football player and one of his cohorts is playing Call of Duty with my husband. They know who he is, but none of them know who I am, other than his wife. So my husband (who was in the band as well) asked if they remembered that incident, as well as a couple others. And they did. I held no hopes that they might have changed, fully expecting them to make more slurs and laugh about it. My opinion was so low, even after over half a decade of separation that I expected them to be the same low-life people they had been before. And after six years of holding that grudge, I got my apology. 

  

So, there was enough time in 2015 to see to it that I learned one more lesson. I spent a good chunk of time today thinking about the implications of the entire event. How is it that I try so hard to hide the mistakes I made in high school from the me I am now, so that people judge me (and you know they will) based on the person they see before them and not the one from before-but would not extend the same courtesy to someone I barely knew? Why did I expect him and his friends to not change what-so-ever, but to have seen nothing short of a revolution in myself? What did that say about me?

And as I look at the clock, watching time pass by, I have a smile on my face. I cannot condone his actions, but my own are no different. I had originally started this post as a declaration of how we are all pressured into being unique but also conforming. And what I learned was that those are the struggles which have defined my past. I’m going into 2016 with a keen awareness that maybe I need to do more to be a kinder person, to keep less stereotypes, to open my heart to forgiveness and the pursuit of happiness. Because one of the only things that is more liberating than”I love” is “I forgive”.

  

Time may change me, but I can’t change time.

My Favorite Holiday

Today is the day that I wait for all year long. The day that I count down to, hold in high regards and count as my very favorite holiday. It is of course, Halloween.

  
Not.

Today, although it is known by that name here in the States, it is known by a far older, more sacred name. Today is Samhain (pronounced Sow-en). So today, I would like to explain what this holiday actually means.

Mainstream media has shown that Halloween is a holiday about candy, costumes and blood and gore. In fact, some of the first images we are taught to associate with this holiday are candy corn, green bumpy skinned witches and little red devils with red plastic pitchforks. We see the Wicked Witch of the West, evil and cackling. We see the TV shows like Salem and American Horror Story which perpetuate the stereotypes. We see the Sanderson sisters, the Bennett line, people who could be just scary enough or sexy enough to fit the ticket. There is pumpkin carving, apple cider and a whole gambit of goblins, ghosts and ghouls. 

What I know this holiday to be is a new year celebration. It is an ending of the harvest season and the beginning of the earth’s slumber. Soon enough, the skies will turn grey and little diamonds will fall from the sky, placing all things green in a state of rest. But more than that, it is a time of rememberance. Those who have been lost to this earth, those who have left lasting impressions on their posterity. It is a time to honor your ancestors and reimmerse yourself in becoming the best person you can be. Samhain is a time of reverence and recollection, as well as a time to prepare for the upcoming year. It is a time that the veil is open.

  
But what do I mean by that? What veil? As I mentioned earlier, it is a time for thankfulness and ancestor rememberance. But the thing is, it is also a time to connect with that ancestral line. Personally, I offer my ancestors a memorial. I pull out some potatoes, some apples and some wine and leave a little offering, honoring their spirits (I’m Russo-Irish, and wine is a nice compromise for the English blood within). The thing is, I know that I am a product of their choices. Their choices to immigrate to America, their choices to work hard and produce the best life they could for their children, and thusly me. I am incredibly proud that my grandfather was a first generation American. I honor those decisions and am thankful for their bravery. It is this day that is believed to be the closest the spiritual realm can come to the physical one, a day when ancestors can communicate with us. I find this incredibly comforting.

Samhain is a celtic holiday and there is an astounding history there within. And although I could go on and on about the history and the meaning, I want to bring in an explanation about the whole concept. I think it provides a great history and a readable explanation.

http://www.paganspath.com/magik/samhain-history.htm

Anyway, the important message I want to share is that there are plenty of people out in the great wide world who do not see this holiday as a joke, a big Trick-or-Treat bonanza that involves werewolves and vampires and children-eating-green-skinned-witches. We see this as a holy day, a day to honor those who came before us and a day to enable a precious connection between who we are and who we have become. So the next time you think about taking your kids out in a costume, just remember that although Hollywood may have given you the idea that “sexy” costumes and stereotypical symbolism is acceptable, perhaps there is another way of thinking.

Have a wonderful Halloween, All Hallow’s Eve, Samhain (Beltane if you are in the Southern Hemisphere) and the wide plethora of holidays coming up: All Saint’s Day, All Soul’s Day and Dia de Los Muertos (plus any I may have forgotten).

I’ll Follow You Into The Dark

Public perception and stigma. (Yep. I’m taking a break from the mental health blogging to bring you an insight on something else I’m big on.)

I’m writing today to bring attention to the saddest bits of information which have become public.

Why is it that children who have two parents are treated differently than those with one? Or with non-biological parents?

Why is it that children who have parents of different “races” are treated differently than those with similar?

Why is it that children with two gendered parents are treated differently than those with two parents of the same gender?

Why is it that children who do not look like others are treated differently than those who look like everyone else?

Why is it that children who practice one religion are treated differently than those who practice a different one?

Why is it that children who dress one way are treated differently than those who dress differently?

Why is it that children are taught to conform to gender roles instead of embracing whatever roles they wish?

Why is it that children with non-hetero preferences are treated differently than those who are heterosexual?

Why is it that children with mental illnesses are treated differently than those with physical illnesses?

Why is it that children are pressured to conform to standards set much too high for their own good?

Why is it that we, as adults, do not foster beliefs that individuality and imperfection are the qualities which matter not only in life, but as a way to keep ourselves alive. Being different is not a curse, nor is it a negative thing. Being different is what makes us special, what gives us a chance to be who we were meant to be.

And the thing is, it isn’t just children that we treat differently. It’s ourselves too. We shame others, we shame ourselves. We need to realize that the only one who hurts when we give into these stigmas isn’t “one” it’s “every” one.

So instead of watching people commit suicide because they are bullied, instead of judging those we deem differently than ourselves, instead of forcing everyone to be replicas of us-celebrate the diversity and the uniqueness of all those around you. Celebrate the you that you wanted to be, not the you that you felt pressured into.