A Letter to the Liberal Left

Dear Liberal Left,

As some of you know, I was raised in a very conservative religious household/community. As an adult I have explored my own path quite a bit but still retain a number of my conservative values- albeit often for different reasons. As someone with my background I could easily have embodied the stereotypical full-blown “snowflake” liberal. It would have been so easy to do a full 180 & run down that path, just reject everything I was taught growing up & become the exact opposite of what I was “supposed” to be. Yes, frankly that would have been, in my opinion, an easier route to take than the one I have chosen. After all, it’s easier to just reject everything & embrace the opposite than it is to really put everything under a microscope & decide which parts are worth keeping & which are worth discarding. THAT, my friends, requires a LOT of work.

Anyway, I don’t like labels & I fundamentally resist being put in any kind of “box.” But if there is one group with which I’m willing to throw my hat it’s Libertarians. Libertarianism is not a perfect concept of course- nothing is- but in my mind it’s the most logical philosophy that is rooted in the reality of life as we know it. Because of my philosophies about life, I often find myself at odds with folks from both ends of the political spectrum. I’m always too liberal for some & too conservative for others. But I’ve discussed that many times before, & I’m learning- slowly- to be more at peace with it.

What I want to discuss today is how disgusted I have become with the Liberal Left these days. The Left accuses the Religious Right of being closed-minded, refusing to see evidence, standing on their principals in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, & any number of other things that are largely entirely justified. But what I am starting to see is exactly the same things in the Left! Liberalism or wokeness, or whatever the word is these days, has become the religion of the Left. You can’t question it. You can’t bring up evidence that contradicts its tenets. You can’t disagree with anything without being called sexist, racist, or bigoted- basically a heretic. Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so.

For example, I have a lot of reservations about transgender women competing in women’s sports. It’s pretty self-evident to me that this is incredibly unfair to biological women- i.e. those with XX chromosomes. After all, it doesn’t matter how many hormones you take or how many surgeries you have, you cannot change your chromosomes. I am in NO way saying I am opposed to transgender people in general. But I AM concerned about the potential loss of women’s rights & opportunities, rights & opportunities that we have fought hard for over the years, mind you. I don’t think it’s crazy or bigoted of me to care about that. But the Liberal Left would have me ask no questions, would have me ignore the fact that you rarely see transgender men clamoring to compete in men’s sports or use men’s restrooms. No, let’s not discuss that. That’s off the table. If you ask a question, you’re bigoted & you don’t care. End of story…

As another example, the Liberal Left loves to say they support science. And in many ways they do. But what they forget is that while science itself is unbiased, the institutions that fund it are NOT. After all, where does most of our scientific research come from? The CDC, the NIH, & universities (both private & public)- which are largely funded by government grants. So is there motivation to make sure that science supports whatever the government is already saying? You better believe there is. Just as there is motivation to make sure that science supports the pharmaceutical & food production companies whose lobbyists have infiltrated our government at every level. Despite all of this, the Liberal Left would have me ask no questions. They would have me accept that everything the NIH & the CDC says are completely without bias. Because surely all these people always have my best interests at heart… (Insert massive eye roll.)

Please take note that I am NOT an anti-vaxxer. I have given hundreds, probably thousands, of Covid vaccines during this pandemic & have routinely begged & pleaded with friends & family to get vaccinated. But I am also very uncomfortable with vaccine mandates, especially ones coming from the federal government. It is in fact possible to strongly support something while also not supporting it being forced on everyone. Crazy, I know….

These are just a few examples. I could go on & on, but I think you should get the drift by now. It’s like the Liberal Left has forgotten that a lot of us left the Religious Right because we were tired of being told to turn off our brains, to stop asking questions, to just fall in line & do what we were told. There is a REASON we weren’t comfortable with that kind of mindset. And yet the Left seems so shocked when folks like me dare not to fall into complete lockstep with them on every single issue. I’m sorry, Liberals, but I left that kind of mindset behind a long time ago. I vowed to never turn off my brain. I vowed to never stop asking questions. And I’m not going to break that vow that just because you don’t like it or want to brand me as a bigot to bully me into your ways.

What it boils down to is I have learned that the only thing settled in life is that nothing is truly settled. Is that a hard way to live? You better believe it is. But it’s the only way that works for me. It’s the only thing that makes sense to me. And if you really cared about the issues you say you care about, you’d stop excommunicating everyone who dares to question you or disagree with you. In short, you would stop acting exactly like the Religious Right- whom you think you’re so much better than- when in reality, you are just a different breed of the exact same beast.


Someone Who is Tired of Your BS

Life Lessons From the Antonio Brown Saga

I don’t think I have ever written about sports on this blog before & I never planned to do so. In fact I had an entirely different blog post in mind for today. But then I sent a voice note to a friend a few minutes ago about the Antonio Brown saga & how it’s forced me to confront some of my internal prejudices while also addressing some highly complex issues at stake in our society. The reason I messaged this particular friend about this subject is because she is not American & does not follow the NFL, so I feel like she is more likely to have an objective opinion on the matter than any of my other friends or acquaintances. Anyhow, it got me to thinking that this whole saga is actually very worthy of a blog post, particularly in light of the fact that the media often focuses on only the most salacious details rather than the underlying issues at hand.

First off, if you aren’t familiar with Antonio Brown, do a quick Google search &/or read his Wikipedia page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_Brown) to get some background on him. The reason that his name is back in the headlines again is because on Sunday he got in a verbal altercation with his team’s coach on the sidelines & then proceeded to rip off his jersey, helmet, & shoulder pads; run across the field shirtless; & exit the stadium mid game. Hilarious? Not going to lie- yes, I laughed when I saw the video. And yes, I have laughed at the memes (& still am). But upon closer inspection, clearly this is NOT normal behavior & really is no laughing matter.

As if that situation wasn’t bizarre enough, it’s now come out that he snuck a 23 year old Only Fans model-whose initial claim to fame was licking toilet seats in an effort to catch Covid (INSERT MASSIVE EYE ROLL)- whom he’d never actually met before- into his hotel room the night before the game. This of course was against NFL Covid protocols. As if THAT isn’t bizarre enough, she claims he encouraged her to film them having sex so she could share it to her Only Fans account (apparently she agreed). Keep in mind this is not a COLLEGE player- this is a 33 year old man with 6 children by 3 different women (at least if Wikipedia has it right). She also claims he was constantly rambling & generally speaking incoherently as if he were either drunk, on drugs, or generally not in his “right mind.” As if all of THAT isn’t bizarre enough, he also posted his bank account information online later this week. Uhhhhh….

I’m not going to recount his entire background but it is important to note that prior to this weekend’s unusual events Brown has been accused of rape & sexual assault on multiple occasions by multiple different women. He has also been caught driving over 100 mph as well as throwing furniture from his 14th story apartment building, endangering a toddler in the process. The police have also been called to his house in Florida multiple times for various domestic disputes. AND he has been arrested for assaulting a truck driver. To say that Brown has a long & ignominious history is putting it quite mildly.

Now here’s what I really want to examine- my reactions to this situation & what we as a society can learn from all of this.

First- my own reactions to this: I can guarantee if I’d read this story 5 or more years ago, I would have immediately said “What a disgusting man. He’s a disgraceful thug. Get him off the field & out of the news forever” & never have pondered the situation any deeper. I was particularly reminded of this when I was perusing the screenshots of his text messages with the Only Fans model which included plenty with less than perfect grammar. (Being a grammar nerd myself, I won’t lie- bad grammar is something about which I have to consciously remind myself not to be overly judgmental.) If I’m being truly honest, that is still my initial gut reaction to this whole saga.

HOWEVER, now that I’m older & have had a lot more time to examine my own internal prejudices I have to say that I do still have some (perhaps limited) compassion for Antonio Brown. It’s clear to me that he is not in a healthy mental state- & probably hasn’t been for a long time. Is it possible he is just a really gross, obnoxious, & dangerous man? Sure. Or is his erratic behavior the result of some kind of untreated mental illness? Quite possibly. Is it related to drugs or alcohol? Maybe- but that seems a bit less likely what with all the testing NFL players are subject to on a regular basis. Is it also possible that his behavior is a result of brain damage from chronic or repeated concussions related to his football career? Absolutely. And that right there is something that needs to be addressed & takes me squarely into my second point.

What can we as a society learn from all of this?

Well, first off we should learn that when NFL players (or other celebrities) are given multiple chances- like Brown was- & continue to display erratic or violent behavior- whether on the field or off- we need to pull the plug on their careers a lot sooner. Just because someone is a talented entertainer (whether an athlete or a musician or something else) that does not excuse them from treating others well & generally being a decent, lawful person. After all, what kind of message are we sending to our kids (& adults) when we tolerate bad behavior just because someone is talented, famous, or wealthy?

Reviewing Brown’s history, if there is any evidence to back up the claims of rape & sexual assault, not to mention the other various incidents, he should never have remained on any NFL team. Let’s be real- would most of us average Joes (or Janes?) be allowed to keep our jobs- especially if we have a job like a doctor, nurse, or teacher where we are considered role models for children- if we were accused of things like that? HIGHLY unlikely! And I can guarantee, regardless of our jobs, most of us average folks would no longer be employed if we ripped off our shirts & ran around shirtless before leaving our jobs mid shift. Nope, we’d be fired in a heartbeat. As it turns out, Brown WAS fired over this incident & deservedly so, if you ask me. If this were the only bizarre & obnoxious incident of his, perhaps he would deserve another chance. But, as we’ve discussed, it’s not the only one, not by a long shot.

Having said all of that, as mentioned above, I think we would be greatly remiss if we didn’t take a moment to consider the possibility that a lot of Brown’s behavior could be related to either untreated mental illness or brain damage from concussions. If either is the case, that doesn’t mean we have to tolerate his bad behavior of course. But it DOES mean that we need to stop dismissing him as “just another thug” & think about the greater consequences of these issues when they are not recognized or treated. There has long been a stigma in our society against mental health, but I think you could argue that stigma may be greatest for black men. Who better than NFL players (or Kanye West) to shine a light on this issue for an underserved portion of our society? After all, what kind of message does it send to your average black man if black male celebrities who are struggling with mental illness or addiction are just dismissed as thugs? If a black male celebrity isn’t worthy of help for these issues, how do you think that makes the average black man feel?

My point is- if we are truly bothered by Brown’s behavior, we can’t just call him a thug & say “case closed.” We have to dig deeper. We have to address the underlying issues at play here or we’ll never stop seeing this kind of behavior. It’s just like racism- if we don’t call it out when it happens, it will never end.

Best Albums of 2021

Happy new year, everyone! What that means for this blog is that it’s time for my annual best albums of the year post. Keep in mind while reading that this list is strictly MY opinions, nothing else, so there is no need to be offended that most of these albums are from the same genre. Furthermore, I am by no means a professional music reviewer. I do not have access to every album that is released, & certainly not advanced access to them. I discover new music mostly through the satellite radio in my husband’s vehicle, YouTube, & word of mouth from friends. I’m really old school & don’t even have a Spotify account. Yes, I am crazy & still buy & use actual CDs! One of these days when my car dies, I don’t know what I’m going to do if its replacement doesn’t have a CD player. I literally might pay to have one added to a new car- totally not kidding, y’all!

Anyway, this year, in an effort to diversify my list a bit, I decided to include suggestions from friends on their choices for best albums of the year. You’ll find those at the end of this post, along with a list of my choices for most anticipated albums of 2022.

Also, you’ll notice these are all listed as number 1- that’s because I’m not the most tech savvy blogger & couldn’t figure out how to insert the pictures without the blog automatically restarting my list at number one. Insert massive eye roll.

Best Albums of 2021

  1. I won’t keep you in suspense. My choice for number one album of the year is Created From Filth & Dust by Lilith Czar. Some of you may know Lilith as Juliet Simms, her legal name, who previously performed under that name, as well as with the band Automatic Loveletter. She was also on the show The Voice years ago. Last but not least she is married to Andy Biersack from Black Veil Brides & they could easily win an award for hottest couple. But more importantly they are both highly intelligent talented people who seem to have a truly mature relationship. Anyway, enough intro- onto the music! This album is truly genius from top to bottom. There isn’t a bad or throwaway song on it. Lilith has always had a gorgeous voice but lyrically & musically she is at her most powerful here- & let me tell you, she kicks some serious ass! My absolute favorite is the anthemic Anarchy (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1i9jQw5fjk) which even my 5 year-old daughter loves & requests on a regular basis. Other favorites are the poignant Lola (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9qrW3Zkch0) & Diamonds to Dust (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSoj-W7YriA). It’s downright criminal that songs like these aren’t played on every radio station in the country. A lot of the inspiration behind this album was the sexism that Lilith has faced over the years, being told by record labels “Oh, you need to dress like this & sound like this. Be sexy- but not TOO sexy. Do this- but don’t do that!” etc. Nowhere is this inspiration more evident than on the powerful song King (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vly7rbfHqg). Not only is it lyrically powerful but the bass line is banging. Working with Sumerian Records has clearly given Lilith a freedom she’s never had before & I am so here for it! There is so much more I could say about this album but I’ve got many more to write about, so let me just end it by saying this- LISTEN TO IT! Regardless of what genres you usually like, you will NOT be disappointed.
  1. See What’s on the Inside by Asking Alexandria– These 5 British guys are like fine wine- they just get better with time. Every album they release tops the last one, & this one is no exception to that rule. From my very first listen of lead single Alone Again (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1G9DU4Rc9c), I was hooked. Lead guitarist Ben Bruce explained that this was the first album the band has made in years where they did it the old-school way: they all got together in one room & just jammed & wrote music. And boy, can you tell! The guitar riffs here are phenomenal & prove that Ben is definitely one of the best guitarists of the modern era. Lyrically & musically this album is a true masterpiece. Perhaps my favorite from this album is Faded Out (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6j9wWx5dKcs) which includes a supremely catchy guitar lick & lyrics that are so fitting for the depression that Covid has brought on or worsened in so many of us. Other stand-out tracks include Never Gonna Learn (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YrmwaDOEPw) & The Grey (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfOamKyv1Lg).
  1. The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood by Ice Nine Kills– I’ve never been interested in horror movies & probably never will be, but that doesn’t lessen my devotion to this largely horror-inspired band. I’d heard of INK for several years now but had never really listened to them. However, when I saw that they did a track with Jacoby Shaddix from Papa Roach I was intrigued enough to give it a listen. It’s safe to say I’ve been addicted to the band ever since! I even read the novel American Psycho which was the inspiration behind the track featuring Jacoby called Hip to Be Scared (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozOb5FcnDf4) which is definitely one of my favorites off of this album. Not only does Spencer Charnas have a gorgeous voice (& face), he is obsessed with puns & finds ways, with his bandmates, to craft truly incredible lyrics that can speak to anyone, even those of us who haven’t seen the horror movies that inspired the songs. Be sure to check out Rainy Day (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZMlDGdzysk), The Shower Scene (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGUdEZT7sGs), & Ex-Mortis (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRNs79tzxUE). My daughter loves the latter one & frequently requests “Way Below,” as she calls it.
  1. Heart & Soul by Eric Church– This is actually a triple album because Eric Church decided to spend 28 straight days writing music in a cabin in the mountains of NC during the height of Covid lockdowns. At the end of those 4 weeks, he had way too much music for just one album so he split it into 3 albums. The man is a genius, y’all! Eric Church has a good voice of course but that isn’t what makes him special- what makes him special is his lyrical genius & the way he captures emotions in the stories his songs tell. Like so much of his work, these albums get better with every listen. There are so many good tracks here, but I’ll try to simplify it to only my top favorites. Be sure to check out the brash Stick That in Your Country Song where Church addresses everything from inner city violence & gangs to unemployment- not your typical country music fare, which is of course the entire point of the song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAX5XvdKRFk). Russian Roulette (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiSCFjQUwuY), Do Side, & Break it Kind of Guy (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPFVMkklguU) are also highlights. It’s worth mentioning that part of what makes this triple album so good is Church’s long-time back-up singer Joanna Cotten. Church has never been afraid to let her shine but that’s never been truer than on this venture- & that’s a good, good thing.
  1. Ruthless by Gary Allan– Generally speaking I’m not much interested in musicians who don’t write their own songs. But I make an exception for Gary Allan because his voice is just so imperfectly perfect. It has that exquisitely gruff sound that makes it perfect for singing heartbreakingly sad songs- which for some reason I really love. This album got a lot of mixed or even negative reviews but I don’t care what the experts say- I love it. Yes, there are a few lines here & there that are corny & probably could have been better written, but taken as a whole, it’s still a great piece of work. Allan has a knack for choosing songs that make us face some of our less than comfortable emotions, that make us examine the less than perfect parts of ourselves, & that’s a lot of what I like about him. Temptation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AI3LTkMqEAs) is just such a track. So is Slide (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpuRg7x6YlU). I read a review that said this was a song about a man begging to be allowed to cheat- but that isn’t how I take it at all. I take it as a song that acknowledges that none of us is perfect & if we want to have any kind of long-term relationship (romantic of otherwise), we have to accept that we’re going to fail each other or generally be less than our best selves at times. The Hard Way (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Di4EUrcyRcQ) is another great track that gets better with every listen. Lastly I want to mention Waste of a Whiskey Drink (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6fSXGLIP9w) which is actually the first song I heard from this album- & one that I immediately loved. Some have called this a misogynistic song but that isn’t how I see it at all. I see it as a song that calls out the problems with casual hook-ups & generally inauthentic relationships. Gary Allan is a heterosexual male so it only makes sense that he’d sing a song from that perspective, right? Besides, that are TONS of songs out there deriding men & all of their many faults, so let’s let the guys have their turn to air their grievances, ok? Besides, if you need a reminder that women aren’t always innocent victims, check out my previous blog post on toxic femininity. Enough said.
  1. Dearly Beloved by Daughtry– As I suspect is true for many other folks, I loved Chris Daughtry in high school & early college but hadn’t really listened to him for the past decade. However, as soon as I heard Heavy Is the Crown on Octane (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PPjXHC_NkU) I was hooked. Like many of the other albums here, this is one that I’ve appreciated more every time I’ve listened to it. One of my favorites is Asylum (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRKSb2jjg8Y) which is an incisive look at modern society, particularly in light of Covid- at least that’s how I take it. Another favorite is The Victim (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdMKMv747Qk), a super empowering song that I think we could all use these days. Also be sure to check out Changes Are Coming (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJxsvofC-p0).
  1. The Phantom Tomorrow by Black Veil Brides– Andy Biersack, being the genius that he is, has created yet another brilliant concept album. Be sure to read up on the back story to the album to fully appreciate it. My favorite tracks are Crimson Skies (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWqULtMh9lg), Scarlett Cross (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2A9Bbjlg84), & Fields of Bone (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JR37XyIXqPg). I should also mention that this is the first album with Lonny Eagleton on bass & he has definitely proved to be a more than worthy replacement for former bassist Ashley Purdy.
  1. 3rd Degree: The Raising by Gemini Syndrome– If ever there has been a band who deserves so much more attention than they get, it’s Gemini Syndrome. Lyrically these guys write some of the most profound songs every created. My favorite from this album is IDK (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wzA14GcM_k) which is a play on the texting abbreviation for I don’t know as well as the words “I decay.” Brilliant, right? Lyrically I swear the band read my mind when they wrote this song. It will probably go down as one of my all-time favorite songs ever. Other stand-out tracks include Die With Me (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_naop2VCKCM) & Abandoned (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KE4fGPelTHU).
  1. In the Court of the Dragon by Trivium– Like AA, Trivium is a band that seems to only get better with time. And like AA these guys are still only in their 30s- & yet this is Trivium’s 10th album!! As if songs like Feast of Fire (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mue8XLsKYtQ), The Phalanx (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMoOqlhC-l4), & the title song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybekW8fZHH0) weren’t killer enough, the band also created fantastic music videos to go with them. The latter could actually be called a short film. Brilliant!
  1. Death By Rock & Roll by The Pretty Reckless– This was a very difficult album for Taylor Momsen & company to make due to the death of their long-time producer & friend Kato Khandwala. However, they still managed to turn out a great album. The title song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BX6KILafIS0) is a banger with excellent guitar licks while Twenty-Five (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=As03tlODkdw) is a hauntingly beautiful piece with an equally haunting music video that showcases just how much Momsen has grown up over the past few years. Another great track is And So It Went (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9W-nlfhh8Uo) which features Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine.

Honorable Mentions

  • Servant of the Mind by Volbeat– Danish rockabilly
  • Below by Beartooth– American hardcore punk
  • You’re Welcome by A Day to Remember– American pop-punk-metalcore hybrid
  • Bullet for My Valentine by Bullet for My Valentine– Welsh heavy metal
  • You Will Be the Death of Me by Light the Torch– Metalcore super group featuring Howard Jones
  • The Ides of March by Myles Kennedy– second solo album from Alter Bridge’s vocalist

Friends’ Picks

  • Kostolom by Slaughter to Prevail– A bit heavy for my usual taste but this Russian deathcore band is definitely worth a listen if you like that kind of thing. P.S. The lyrics are in English (the guitarist is actually British).
  • Radical by Every Time I Die– Metalcore project out of Buffalo, NY
  • The Million Masks of God by Manchester Orchestra– Indie rock band from Atlanta
  • Manic by Wage War– Another metalcore band, this one from Florida
  • Happier Than Ever by Billie Eilish– I can’t say I’ve really gotten into Billie Eilish but I definitely respect her both as an artist & as a person
  • Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night by The Bleachers– An Indie pop band from NYC
  • Scaled and Icy by Twenty One Pilots- Another pop band that I can’t say I’ve gotten into but that I do actually respect

Most Anticipated Albums of 2022

  • Halestorm– If Back From the Dead (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srT0pgC_yto) is any indication, not to mention their 4 previous albums, this forthcoming album is going to ROCK.
  • Three Days Grace– I am obsessed with lead single So Called Life (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ViIny2YZH0). It’s literally been stuck in my head intermittently since the first time I heard it. It’s a banger & I hope the album will be full of similar songs. If there was still any doubt that Matt Walst can carry the band just as well or better than Adam Gontier did in their early days, this song erases it.
  • Papa Roach– Between Kill the Noise (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_90GB5T73XI) & Dying to Believe (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0s_xIEDnAw), Jacoby & company have already released 2 amazing songs that are both lyrically & musically on point for the world these days. I can’t wait to hear what else they have in store for us.
  • Fever Dream by Palaye Royale– I’m convinced that anything these 3 brothers touch turns to gold. They’re just that good. Check out Paranoid (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7J2uP7RRnfQ), Punching Bag (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WzprXZGoLs), & No Love in LA (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qePhiiz7dtc) for a taste of what’s to come. I cannot wait.
  • A Trigger Within– Irishman Jimmy Trigger (ex-fiance of Ashley from New Year’s Day) is the genius behind this up & coming LA band. His EP from a few years ago was brilliant & I can’t wait to see what this handyman (literally- that’s his full-time day job) has in store for us this year in his rock star line of work.
  • Slipknot– While I’ll probably always prefer Stone Sour over Slipknot, there is no denying the genius of Corey Taylor’s heavier project.
  • It hasn’t yet been confirmed but Swedish geniuses Avatar have released 4 new songs since their 2020 album, so I’m inclined to think they’ve got a new album in the works- I certainly hope so. All of these songs have been innovative & brilliant. Be sure to check out the haunting Going Hunting (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sQvH1LjFCw) with its lilting piano motif & the latest release Cruel & Unusual (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OH_CUc3pr84).
  • Motionless in White blessed us with a new single this year so I’m sincerely hoping that means that another album is on its way. Check out Time Bomb which includes a lot more singing from guitarist Ricky Olson (https://youtu.be/49Ln8Suk0p4) as he shares the vocals with lead singer Chris.

A Treatise on Toxic Femininity

I think most folks are aware of the term toxic masculinity. If I’m being honest, it’s a term I’ve never been fond of because I think men are incredibly valuable to our society & should not be continuously denigrated. Having said that, I’d be short sighted if I didn’t acknowledge that there are certain parts of traditional masculinity that can in fact be quite toxic. I have recently been involved with several exchanges with men that struck me as toxic- exchanges where men were condescending, demeaning, & downright rude to me. I’ve also witnessed several such exchanges recently by men towards other people, both men & women, & those exchanges angered me as much or more than the ones actually directed at me. In one case I actually spoke to the victim about how inappropriate those exchanges were & how he should not have to tolerate such abuse because it’s “just part of the system” or “inherent in the process.”

So I was going to write about how, as much as I might not like to admit it, toxic masculinity is in fact still a problem. But then I realized I really have nothing novel to say about the subject. It’s been written about so many times as to be a bit exhausted at this point. However, I would like to point out that SOME (not all) of the men who have been toxic to me at various times in my life are the exact men who claim to be feminists & decry toxic masculinity- but God forbid you dare to disagree with them. Then they will be very keen to tell you just how narcissistic, myopic, idiotic, redneck, uncultured, etc that you are. They may even block you on social media because you are apparently such a threat to their fragile masculinity because you have the gall to question them. INSERT MASSIVE EYE ROLL. Furthermore, most of the men who are truly guilty of toxic masculinity are the exact ones who would never listen to a damn thing I have to say. So I’d just be preaching to the choir, so to speak.

Anyway, all this got me to thinking that I’ve never heard the term toxic femininity used, but I googled it, & it does in fact exist. However, my definition of it isn’t exactly the same as what the “standard” definition is. Anyway, before I googled it I came up with a list of traits I’ve often observed in women (including myself on occasion) that are quite toxic- to ourselves & to others. Seeing as people usually accept criticism best from their own “kind,” I thought it would be more productive to write about this issue, especially since it’s one that is rarely addressed. And when it IS addressed it’s usually couched entirely around the concept that it’s all men’s fault & often focuses on other behaviors that I think are already fairly well addressed- or at least acknowledged- by feminism & society in general nowadays.

Of note, I sent this list to several male friends & several responded saying “My ex was just like this!” It’s clear to me that men (& women) experience plenty of hardships & even abuse at the hands of women & while it may not be as life-threatening, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth addressing. So without further ado, here we go:

  • Refusing to make decisions: Oh man, how many times have you heard the jokes or seen the memes about women who just won’t pick a place to eat for date night? Or generally won’t make a decision about something- but whatever the man ends up picking, it’s always wrong. I’m not going to lie, I used to doubt the veracity of such stories because I have always been quite a decisive person myself so I just couldn’t wrap my head around other women being like this. But after talking to several of my male friends, I have determined that yes, there are plenty of women like this. Furthermore, I suppose all those jokes & memes wouldn’t exist if such women weren’t so common. Anyway, the point is this kind of behavior is toxic because it breeds resentment which is never a good thing for any relationship- whether it’s a friendship or a romantic relationship. Not to mention you could argue that it doesn’t bode well for women if we can’t make decisions about something as simple as what to eat for dinner. If nothing else, if we refuse to make a decision we cannot in fairness turn around & blame the person who did.
  • Refusing to acknowledge self destructive behaviors or to accept responsibility for poor life decisions: Now this is where a lot of folks are probably going to want to get off the train. Please know that I am in no way attempting to victim blame. HOWEVER, I do think that it is very important that women become aware of the roles we can sometimes play in the abuse we suffer. In other words, if we never recognize WHY we end up in bad situations, for example why we are attracted to men who hurt us, then we will forever be helpless victims, no better than prey in the wild. To be clear, the exact same thing could be said for men who end up in relationships with toxic women. If they don’t recognize why they’re attracted to these women, they’ll always end up in the same situation. Ladies, we need to do better. We cannot just spend our lives saying “All men suck.” No, they don’t. We need to learn from our mistakes & do better, just like men are expected to do.  
  • Not stating what we want or need but expecting men to read our minds: How many times have you seen or heard the stories about how “When a woman says she’s fine, she’s anything but fine”? Too many to count, right? Again, this is something that has never made sense to me. If I’m not fine, you better believe my husband is going to know it. And so are my close friends. Why would I bottle things up from the people who mean the most to me? If you aren’t comfortable telling someone when you’re upset, why are you even with them in the first place? And if they’re constantly ignoring you or making your life more difficult such that you don’t want to bother them with your problems- again I must ask, why are you with them? I know there are a lot of very valid reasons why women end up in bad relationships, but at the end of the day if we ever want to break the cycle, we have to take responsibility for our decisions & start demanding better. And if that means being single, so be it. It’s exactly like obesity & addiction. There are a lot of very valid reasons why people are obese or abuse drugs or alcohol, many of them rooted in complex emotional trauma. But the sad truth is that obesity & addiction are still hurting people & until those suffering from it recognize & address the reasons behind their condition, they’ll be helpless to fight it. Ladies, we need to claim our own power over our lives & start doing better!
  • Not being upfront with people about problems or misunderstandings (i.e. passive aggression): Here’s another behavior that I think exists for a lot of very valid reasons, both historically & evolutionarily. But it’s still a problem. After all, the behaviors we’ve adapted to survive are not always beneficial long term. Considering all the gains women have made in the modern world, I think it’s high time we started being more assertive & upfront about things, especially with each other. I think this is honestly more of an issue between women nowadays than it is between men & women. I know for myself I am far less comfortable criticizing another woman than I am criticizing a man. I am always far more worried about hurting a woman’s feelings or having her take everything I say as a personal attack rather than as a caring criticism. I’ll admit there have been too many times in my life when I’ve stayed silent for fear of offending another woman. In my career I have observed time & time again that many of my female coworkers will complain about things to each other all day long but will never actually go to management with their concerns. And that management is invariably also female (seeing as I’m in a field that is overwhelmingly female). Ladies, we need to do better than this!
  • Cliques: I don’t feel like I need to say much about this because it’s self explanatory & everyone knows why it’s a problem. All I have to say is, if you’re an adult women & you’re still exhibiting this kind of behavior, please grow the hell up.
  • Making daughters feel like they’re more work: If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard people say “Girls are more work” or “Girls are more expensive,” I’d be a rich woman. What I think is so ironic about this is that it is invariably women saying this. I couldn’t absolutely swear on it of course, but I honestly do not remember ever hearing a man say this. It’s always been other women. I couldn’t tell you WHO said this to my mom when I was a kid/teen, but on multiple occasions I remember hearing this & I remember my mom responding with a fervent disagreement & explaining how it doesn’t HAVE to be that way. I was always grateful to her for how she handled those conversations, but now that I’m an adult & a mom myself, I have to say I am also proud of her because she could have easily just gone with the flow & agreed. (So if you’re reading this, thanks, Mama. You rock!) I’ll never forget shopping at a maternity store when I was pregnant & having the saleswoman ask me what gender the baby was going to be. When I said I was having a girl she gave me this speech about how sorry she was because her daughters were so much more work than her sons. I honestly was astounded & appalled but I also must admit that I didn’t really say anything to oppose her. Probably because I knew her response would be “Oh, just wait, you’ll see.” But I have never forgotten that conversation & part of me would dearly love to see her again (not that I remember what she looked like) & tell her just how wrong she was. At the end of the day, even if you could scientifically argue that girls are more work or are more expensive, telling them that is frankly abusive. Why would you ever want to make your child feel like a burden for something they can’t even control? It’s not like we choose to be born female! I will say it again: ladies, we need to do better.
  • Using men for their money: This should go without saying but apparently it doesn’t. Just in the past 12 hours I’ve had two male friends tell me about how they ended up paying off significant debts for ex-wives or ex-girlfriends who just abandoned them & left them to deal with the mess. So it stands to reason there are probably a lot more cases out there just like this. Ladies, if we don’t want to be abandoned with a baby or with a man’s debt, we cannot turn around & do this to men. Do better!
  • Blaming men or internalized misogyny for every problem: Here’s the one that will really piss off the modern feminists. You see, I’ve read a lot about internalized misogyny & I agree to a certain extent that it is a problem. But I also think our society is doing & has done a lot to address it. Furthermore, if we ever want to be more than hapless victims in this life, we cannot keep blaming men for all of our problems, especially not if we are frequently guilty of the toxic behaviors listed above. Life just doesn’t work that way. We need to do better, end of story.

If you’ve stuck with me this far, I thank you for reading all of this, especially if you’re a fellow woman & have perhaps found yourself feeling convicted a time or two. I know I did when writing this. But I also refuse to accept that we can’t do better, just as a I refuse to accept that men can’t do better than being toxically masculine. At the end of the day, maybe all of this has less to do with our gender & more to do with the fact that we are all HUMAN BEINGS. And- let’s be real- humans can be pretty damn toxic sometimes. But we can also do amazing things- it just requires that we acknowledge our toxic tendencies & find ways to do better.

And yes, I know some of you have a million examples of how men have wronged you, but let’s try to be objective & admit that we women aren’t perfect either. That in NO way means I’m saying you deserved the abuse or wrongs you may have suffered. Absolutely not. But we cannot continually use the bad behavior of some men as an excuse for our own bad behavior. That is not the key to happiness or success in life. Also, we cannot control everything that happens to us in life. But all the behaviors I’ve discussed here are things we CAN control. They might not be easy but they’re necessary for growth. Remember, while there are plenty of valid reasons for bad behavior, bad behavior is still bad behavior because it’s destructive to ourselves & those around us.

P.S. If I’ve offended you, please remember that you’re under no obligation to listen to me or to agree with me. I do not claim to speak for God or anyone other than myself. I write these posts mainly to toss ideas around in my own head & to encourage others to do the same. That’s all.

A Thank You to Tremendous Teachers

I recently came across a social media post about National Thank a Teacher Day. I googled this & found that the actual day was back in June but any day is a good day to thank a teacher seeing as it is an underpaid, overworked profession that is often not given the proper appreciation it deserves. In any case, it set me to thinking about all the many teachers who have made profound impacts on my life over the years. Obviously I learned a lot from many different teachers down the line but when I sat down to purposely think of specific conversations that have stayed in my mind over the years, I was somewhat surprised at what came to mind. All of the conversations that came to mind were not about any standard school subject- rather they were about life in general. But those are the conversations that have stuck with me the most. Seeing as teachers have undoubtedly experienced some of the greatest- if not the greatest- challenges of their careers over the past few years, now seems like a good time to reflect on those teachers who left an indelible mark on my own life.

I’m going to attempt to go in order so I’ll start with one of my third grade teachers who handled our school’s Advanced Learning Program. One day she asked us about our future career plans. I spouted out with what I thought at the time was a grand idea- I wanted to be a professional figure skater. I’ll never forget the disappointment I felt when her response was something along the lines of “How are you going to make that happen? You’re already past the age at which most of these people start skating. There are no skating rinks around here. Maybe you need to think about something more practical.” Inside I was seething, largely because I knew she was right, because my fantasy was dissolving right there in front of me in face of the pure hard facts of life. However, even as a kid, it didn’t take me long to realize that, while initially painful, this teacher actually did me a tremendous favor because her words spurned me to think about other careers that might be just as fascinating but actually doable. She also taught me that sometimes the truth hurts but we need to face it anyway. And for that I will always be grateful.

In sixth grade I had a history teacher who initially terrified me because she was known to be very strict & generally the sort who did not tolerate any nonsense. I was a complete “goody two shoes” so why I was worried I’ll never know. Anyway, in the course of that history class, perhaps when we were learning about the Holocaust, I remember her telling us that things were always harder for women. Now I was incredibly naïve at the time & I remember sitting there thinking “I’m not so sure about that.” Deep down I knew even then that she was probably right, but of course being young & optimistic I didn’t want to believe it. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve cast my mind back to that class countless times & thought how right she was. Now I am not one of these women who spends every day whining about how terrible my life is & how much easier things would be if I were male. What an incredible waste of time that would be! But I’ve lived long enough now to know that this is still very much a “man’s world” in some ways & there are definitely certain times & situations in which I’d be very happy to change my chromosomes, at least for a little while. When I’ve read articles about how women have borne the brunt of a lot of Covid-related challenges, I’m always reminded of that conversation & think to myself “She was right all along.” On a rather different note, this teacher also taught me that just because someone has a bit of a “severe” demeanor does not mean that they aren’t at heart a very kind & caring individual.

Throughout all of middle school I was lucky enough to have the same English teacher every year who was one of the most amazing teachers I’ve ever known. There was something so incredibly human about her & how she approached her students. She saw us as more than pupils to be tested, that’s for sure, but even more than that she saw us as the budding adults that we were, whether WE realized it or not. I do not for the life of me remember the circumstances that prompted this conversation but I will never forget the day that she told me that there was a place in the world for “sensitive souls” like mine. She told me that because I was so sensitive I would experience both the highs/joys of life as well as the lows/sorrows of life in ways that others might never understand. Furthermore she told me that while this may feel like a burden at times it is also a blessing & can be a tremendous way to help others in need. As a somewhat shy teenager who was incredibly self-conscious & often felt lonely at school, these were words that wrapped me in comfort during my hardest moments. I’ve never forgotten them & over the years I’ve often had cause to reflect on how right she was.

In ninth grade (& twelfth grade) I had a science teacher whose motto was “Life’s not fair. I’m not nice. Get used to it.” Or maybe the last line was “Get over it.” Either way, the point remains the same. He might sound mean based solely on this quote but in reality he was a very decent person- he just expected his students to actually work & not just skate along & get good grades simply for existing. I for one loved his class & thought he was hilarious. In any case, that quote has stuck with me over the years & I am always reminded of it when I find myself getting torn up over the unfairness of life. I don’t think he was trying to tell us that we shouldn’t strive to make life more fair, but rather that we shouldn’t expend our energy moping about unfair situations instead of actually DOING something about them or finding a way to handle them even if we can’t change them. I will also confess that I have pulled this quote on my own child a time or two. Ha!

In tenth grade (& twelfth grade) I had a history teacher who was excellent for many reasons but the conversations I remember the most had nothing to do with history & everything to do with the future. And these conversations were not directed at me at all. It might have been career day during spirit week but in any case I’ll never forget the day this teacher asked a male classmate what his career plans were. The student stated that he wanted to be an NFL player. The teacher responded by calmly asking “What are you doing now to make that happen? Do you play on our school’s football team?” As it turned out the student was doing virtually nothing to make his dream come true- if I remember rightly he wasn’t even on the school football team. What I’ve always admired about this teacher is he did not use this situation to make fun of this student for having an unrealistic dream that he wasn’t actually working toward- rather he used this as a way to show us that our choices have consequences & that we have to actually do the work to chase our dreams. We can’t just wait around expecting miracles to happen. I also remember another discussion this teacher had with a female student who mentioned that her parents were very adamant with her that once she graduated she was on her own. She would have to support herself financially & that was all there was to it. Again, this teacher responded by calmly asking the student “What are you doing NOW to ensure that you will be ok after graduation? What plans do you have?” I’ll never forget that conversation for several reasons, one of which was that it made me realize that not everyone had parents who were as supportive as mine. I suppose I had known that on some level for a long time but that conversation made it all the more clear.

In ninth & eleventh grades I had another history teacher who left indelible marks on my mind. I wish I could think of very specific conversations we had but I just can’t. I think there were simply too many of them, especially in his eleventh grade American history course. This teacher was a bit of a former hippie (legitimately) who- at least in my view- was far more liberal & far less religious than the average person, or even the average teacher, in our small town. Throughout his class he challenged me in many ways about so many things I had been taught growing up, about so many pre-conceived notions I had about life. It was incredibly eye-opening & served in large part to make me the person I am today. One could say the wheels of my mind started turning in new motion largely thanks to his classes- even if I couldn’t or didn’t fully commit to some of those new ideas for a few more years.

The exact same thing could be said for my twelfth grade English teacher. Additionally, I literally read books differently now because of her. During her class I started highlighting or underlining important quotes in books so that I could use them to write papers, but all these years later I still find myself doing the same thing just so I can savor my favorite passages again some day.

There are so many more teachers I could mention but I’m trying to write more of an essay & less of a novel here, so I think I’ll end this by simply saying thank you to all the many wonderful teachers I’ve had over the years. I might have grown up in a “backwards” small town, in some people’s view, but there was certainly no dearth of excellent teachers there. And for that I will always be grateful.

By the way, I’d love to hear from my readers about teachers who strongly impacted your lives. Any of my hometown folks have stories to share about some of these same teachers? I bet y’all do. I’d love to hear them.

An Addled Mother’s Thoughts on PPD

Have you ever wished to have a different brain than your own? I definitely have. And I still do sometimes, especially as a mom. Everywhere I look I see friends, coworkers, former classmates, former coworkers, family members, & general acquaintances having their second, third, or even fourth kids. And here I am with a daughter who’s soon to be five still feeling like “Nope, I’m not ready to do that again.” When I say “that” I mean everything involved with having another baby but specifically the newborn & baby stage. As some of you may know, that was a very difficult & trying time for me. It’s really only been in the past year or so that I’ve come to fully appreciate just how bad my post partum depression really was. No, I wasn’t suicidal or psychotic, but I was far further down the rabbit hole of despair than I realized at the time. And the frustrating thing is I did so many of the “right” things that you’re supposed to do to help with PPD: I took medication (a slightly different version of what I took for anxiety prior to giving birth or even being pregnant), I went to therapy, I occasionally went to a new mom’s support group, I worked part time, I vented to friends & family. And yet I still struggled, far more than I ever let on.

The truth is part of me is angry because I feel like PPD stole things from me. I feel like I lost precious moments that I can’t get back. I also feel so guilty for complaining because I know many women have had far worse situations- but I also feel like I’ll never get past this fear if I don’t air it…. So, on that note, here we go…

Because of my pre-existing anxiety I was high risk for PPD anyway. Then throw in a jaundiced baby who had to be readmitted to the hospital after just one night at home- a miserable night that left me in tears too many times to count- & I think it was just too much for me. I know social media is always a highlight reel & most people don’t share the hard stuff, but every time I see people so excited about going home with their new babies & enjoying those early days at home, I must confess I feel a pang of jealousy. Again I know so many women who’ve endured far worse, but I just didn’t get a peaceful newborn period. Physically I recovered phenomenally well- I can’t complain there- but mentally was a whole other story.

Our first night at home I spent in anguish because I knew my baby was sick & nothing I was doing was helping. I felt helpless, terrified, & lonely. It’s not like my husband could breastfeed, you know! When we went to the pediatrician the next day, the doctor graciously helped me with breastfeeding & even taught me how to use my pump. But because it was a Saturday they couldn’t do labs there, so we had to then cart her 20 minutes across town to a hospital to get her labs checked. No sooner than we got home from that did we get a call from the doctor telling us she needed to be admitted for bili-light therapy. That required packing up & driving another 20 or 30 minutes all the way across the city to yet another hospital. So those first few weeks I spent pumping & recording the baby’s intake & output like a mad woman, meanwhile also struggling to breastfeed- which was FAR harder than I’d imagined, even though I’d taken classes & read up on it- & generally feeling like I was losing my mind. Over the weeks that turned into months, things slowly got better. We found a rhythm with breastfeeding. We finally got some decent sleep. We bonded more & more & things slowly began to feel more manageable. I slowly began feeling like less of a zombie & more of a proper human being again. But I’ve never forgotten those long nights & those incredibly dark moments of despair. And I truly think that the only real “answer” for my PPD was time- which makes the idea of potentially facing it again quite intimidating.

I’ve realized over the years that my experience is actually quite common. Yet what is less common is women being truly honest about it. There are so many legitimate reasons why we aren’t, but in the big picture staying quiet about our pain only hurts ourselves & each other. I’m writing all this to try to come to terms with my own experience in the hopes that maybe someday I’ll be brave enough to try again. I’m very encouraged by some friends who have told me that they actually fared far better with their second babies. But right now I’m still scared. I know this time I’ll have the advantage of experience, the advantage of knowing that what I thought was going to kill me didn’t- so if I can survive it once, feeling like that & having NO experience, I can definitely survive it again. Even so, with the state of the world today, it’s hard to be a parent of even one kid, much less more than one. Not that it’s ever been easy, but Covid has without doubt made parenthood FAR more complicated.

I’m also writing this in hopes that if another mom is reading this & struggling with PPD she will know she’s not alone. I’m here to say that if you don’t like the newborn or baby stage too much- because of PPD or other reasons- it’s ok. It does NOT make you a bad mom. If you have moments- maybe more than you’d care to admit- when you regret your choice to be a mom or fear you’ve made a mistake, it’s ok. You will survive, things will get better, & you are not alone. If you want to roll your eyes every time someone says “Oh, I’m so sad my baby is growing up” or “She’s getting too big, I’m not ready,” it’s ok. You can roll your eyes right along with me & silently (or not so silently) cheer every time your baby becomes more independent & learns something new. It’s ok! Some moms love the newborn, baby, & toddler stages. Some don’t. Either way is ok. We all have our own experiences & they are all valid.

Also it occurred to me last night that the fact that my kids will be at minimum 6 years apart in age- IF I ever have a second one, that is- really shouldn’t surprise me. It’s far more common to have kids 1.5-4 years apart but since when have I done things the “normal” way? I got married young (at 22) which was not unusual for my upbringing but IS unusual in the greater scheme of things these days. Furthermore I married my high school sweetheart which, while “traditional,” isn’t exactly the normal thing to do anymore. I left my hometown & never moved back which certainly isn’t unheard of but also isn’t the norm for most people from that area. I could go on & on but in many ways in life I have not done what “most” people have done, though I’ll be the first to admit I know folks who have strayed far further from the “normal” path than I have. But the point is it probably shouldn’t surprise me that I’m choosing to approach motherhood a bit differently than many others. I must also take the time to note that because we got married young I have the advantage of not HAVING to rush into motherhood because my biological clock isn’t ticking but so loudly (yet). I realize not everyone has that advantage & I am grateful that I do.

So will I ever have another kid? I have no idea at this point. Part of me feels like I just can’t go through all of that again. But part of me also feels like I’d really like another shot at it, that I’d really like to give my daughter a sibling & all the experiences that come with that, that I’d really like another baby to love & teach. But the truth is I’m just not sure I’m up to the challenge. This has been weighing heavily on my mind this year & frankly if it weren’t for Covid, I’d probably have been ready by now. But Covid makes parenting SO much harder & there is absolutely nothing I can do about that. Part of me wants to wait until the dust settles a bit more, but I also fear that may never happen & I’ll be left regretting my indecision someday.

So yes, right now I wish I had a different brain. I wish I didn’t feel the need to plan things so much. I wish I could just go off birth control casually & “see what happens,” like so many women seem to do. I wish I didn’t CARE so much about doing everything right & could just throw caution to the wind & say “Oh well, I’ll figure it out when it happens.” But my mind doesn’t work that way, it just doesn’t. And that’s all there is to it.

Dress Code Dilemmas

This is a blog post I’ve been wanting to write for a while but it seems like another more pressing issue always takes precedence whenever I find time to write. However, I saw the below picture posted on social media recently & it inspired such conflicting feelings in me that I felt like I finally needed to make a go of it & delve into this complicated matter.

Before diving into the implications of the above picture, I’d like to first share some experiences that I gleaned from my own friends on social media this week. I’ll start with my own experiences & then paraphrase those of my friends.

I personally never got in trouble for a dress code violation. That’s principally because I would never have made it out of the house wearing anything that could have been a violation. My mom was a teacher so she knew the rules & wasn’t about to let me break them (which was wise of her). Secondly, because of how I was raised I wouldn’t have felt comfortable wearing anything that might have broken the dress code anyway. So for me it was effectively a non-issue. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t think about it when I saw other people getting in trouble for dress code violations (some more egregious than others). And it certainly doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about it many times over the years since middle/high school, perhaps even more so now that I have my own daughter’s future to think about.

What I will share from my own experience that I think is pertinent to this matter is a certain situation that happened every spring or early summer at my church. Every year as the weather warmed up, the pastor’s &/or youth pastor’s wife would take us teenage girls aside & tell us how important it was to dress modestly because we didn’t want to tempt the boys. We didn’t want to be a “stumbling block” to them. They may have meant well & I can’t say I’m angry at them for doing what they were probably instructed to do by their own husbands- whom they were conditioned to obey- but I must confess that I always found these conversations bizarre & uncomfortable. Furthermore, as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized exactly what kind of damaging messages these kinds of conversations sent. The underlying message was “Boys can’t control themselves. If they harass you or hurt you, it’s your fault. You tempted them. Just be modest & nothing bad will happen to you.” Even as a teenager I picked up on these messages a bit & found them disturbing. I read several books about Afghanistan in high school & found myself thinking “These women are literally covering every inch of their skin at all times in public. You can’t even really see their EYES. And yet they still get harassed & raped.” So I knew, even then, that these messages didn’t totally add up with what I was seeing in the real world.

Now here is a list of some of the experiences my friends reported. These come from women who are now late 20s to 40s & who grew up in various parts of the country, so these are not just covering folks my own age or from my hometown. By the way, I’m using the term girl in these bullet points because while these people are now women, they were still girls when these events happened & I think that bears considering.

  • Several girls reported getting in trouble any time they deigned to wear shorts, particularly if they were on the taller side. But even some who were shorter had trouble with this. Several pointed out how hypocritical this seemed since cheerleaders were allowed to wear their cheer uniforms to school on game days & these showed far more skin than shorts. And any other outfit that wasn’t a cheer uniform but was equally showy wouldn’t have been allowed. (No one mentioned this but it just occurred to me that the shorts girls’ volleyball teams usually wear probably wouldn’t fit the dress code either. And yet they are given these shorts as if a prerequisite for playing volleyball as a female is having your ass hanging out. Hmmmm….)
  • One mom reported that she took two children in her family to school recently, one child being a boy & one being a girl. They had on the same length of shorts but only the girl was made to change clothes. So yes, this crap is still happening even 15-20 years after most of us graduated! (Insert massive eye roll.)
  • One girl got in trouble because her shirt had shrunk a bit in the dryer & her abdomen showed just a tiny bit when she raised her hand in class.
  • One girl reported a dress code violation for wearing a sleeveless shirt. Despite the fact that the straps met the required “3 finger” rule, she still got in trouble & was made to change.
  • Many reported that Confederate flag clothing was allowed & was quite popular. Others reported that Confederate flag clothing was technically against the dress code but was generally tolerated anyway (interestingly, most of this clothing was worn by boys, not girls).
  • Several reported that dress codes seemed to unfairly target black (or Hispanic) students with prohibitions against doo-rags, bandanas, beads, chains, etc.
  • One student got in trouble for wearing jeans with holes in them despite the fact that she was wearing leggings underneath so no actual skin was showing.
  • Several girls pointed out that curvier, more busty girls or girls with more proverbial “junk in the trunk” were far more likely to get in trouble for dress code violations even when wearing the same thing as other girls with “skinnier” figures. However, one girl reported getting in trouble for wearing leggings with a long shirt when she was less than 100 lbs & flat chested, yet another far curvier girl wore the exact same outfit & DIDN’T get in trouble.
  • On the same token, many reported that dress codes were not enforced equally. Students who were “popular” or who were related to a teacher or other “important” person in town were less likely to get in trouble for the wearing the same things that other kids with lesser status were punished for wearing.
  • Lastly, at the time of the violations, many girls reported feeling angry, frustrated, & unfairly targeted, particularly if it was an outfit they’d worn before without problems or if other students were wearing the same thing & not getting in trouble. Some reported still second guessing their choices of attire even today because of some of these situations. Many reported feeling like the message that was sent by these dress codes, & perhaps more importantly how they were enforced, was that girls were responsible for how boys treated them & that their education wasn’t as important as not distracting the boys.

Now, let’s examine the implications of that photo from the beginning of the post. I agree with almost everything in it. But when you get to the last line is where I run into trouble. Obviously I agree that we should be teaching boys not to view girls as sexual OBJECTS, & we absolutely should be teaching them that just because a girl is dressed a certain way does NOT mean that they are entitled to touch or harass her in any way. HOWEVER, the fact remains that we ARE sexual creatures- & that includes teenagers. While nowadays most of us agree that most teenagers are too immature to really handle the consequences of sex, the fact remains that for most of human history they weren’t regarded that way. It is biologically programmed into us- part of our DNA you could say- that we are inherently sexual creatures, just like any other mammal. And for most of human history that has started during the teenage years- & frankly still does for most, even if it’s under very different circumstances.

What I’m getting at is that in an ideal world women could wear however little (or much) they wanted in any situation & it would never change how they were perceived. But for better or worse we DON’T live in such a world & I’m not sure how realistic it is to say that women should be able to wear really provocative clothing in every situation in life. I’m not sure that the person who created that meme was saying that either. But I have certainly seen such arguments elsewhere. To be clear, I am in no way saying women are responsible for men’s bad behavior- no one gets raped because “she was asking for it, being dressed that way.” Absolutely not. Furthermore, I can definitely speak to situations in my own life when I received unwanted attention/harassment from men when I was NOT wearing anything particularly provocative at all. At the end of the day, much of this behavior isn’t about the women- it’s about the men & their own control/aggression issues.

Having said all that, I think it would be remiss not to mention that the way humans have evolved women are undoubtedly more often viewed as the objects of sexual desire. In many animal species, men are the more “interesting” gender visually- think about birds or lions for example. It is the males who have the brilliant colors or the mane. But in humans, men are much more visually stimulated by women’s bodies. That is not to say that women don’t enjoy looking at men- clearly we do- but there are far more magazines, porn, movies, strip clubs, etc with men as the intended audience than women. What I’m trying to get at is that women’s bodies ARE sexual, whether we like it or not. And as much as we might not like it, we are all selling ourselves in this world, both men & women. What I mean by that is that for better or worse the clothes we wear do send signals to those around us &- fair or not- this is particularly true for us women.

I’m always hesitant to make generalizations based on my own experiences because I realize they don’t necessarily represent the experiences of everyone else, but I’d be blind if I didn’t admit that the women I’ve known who’ve consistently dressed provocatively attracted a very different type of man than those who dressed a bit less provocatively. Do I think that’s “fair” or ideal? No, but it’s what I’ve observed & I think it would be unwise not to consider what this means. Again, I am not advocating for actual LAWS regarding what women can or can’t wear or that any woman should be shamed or looked down upon for her choice of attire. Nor should women be made to feel like harassment or rape are natural consequences of their own clothing. Absolutely not. Do I in fact wear things now as an adult that I wouldn’t have been allowed to wear to school or in my parents’ house? Yes, I do (though not to work of course). [For example, I wear shorter shorts than I’d have worn at home, & I wear tank tops or old cut up T shirts that sometimes show my bra straps. And while I don’t wear intentionally low cut shirts my figure is such that a lot of things become a bit low cut that weren’t necessarily intended to be. And had I had the same figure in high school maybe I’d have gotten in trouble then too. Anyway, I don’t feel uncomfortable or like I’m being overtly sexy in any of these outfits. I mean, none of my neighbors or men at Wal-Mart have yet prepositioned me.] Do I think that teenage boys or adult men are incapable of controlling themselves? No, we ARE animals but we are also MORE than animals. However, does that mean I will be encouraging my daughter to wear booty shorts & extremely low cut shirts on the daily? Absolutely not. But I will NOT be phrasing it as “You shouldn’t tempt the boys by dressing like that.” I will be saying something more like this instead: “Do you want the boys to notice you for your personality or just your body? They’re probably going to notice your body regardless of what you wear, but you can increase the odds of catching the attention of more decent boys (or girls) who actually care about you as a person if you avoid certain clothes.” My hope is that kind of phrasing won’t send any kind of damaging messages but will still be preparing her for the real world.

Now does any of this mean we should be punishing 6 year old girls for wearing short shorts? Absolutely not. They are CHILDREN. But when it comes to teenagers, biologically speaking they really AREN’T children anymore. So is there a place for dress codes in schools? I’m inclined to say yes, largely because it’s an environment meant for LEARNING & is basically the teenager’s equivalent of a job. And as adults most of us don’t wear provocative clothing to work because it’s just not the place for that, right? The question of course is where do we draw the lines? And how we do it in such a manner than we aren’t sending damaging messages to girls that their education isn’t as important as not distracting boys? How do we teach boys (& girls) that girls are more than their various “assets”? How do we raise boys to respect girls regardless of their choice of clothing? And whatever rules we agree on, how do we make sure that they are enforced equitably? (Also, can we make sure that we aren’t issuing uniforms for girls sports that would violate the dress code? Because that’s sending incredibly mixed messages.)

I don’t have the answers. I’m just trying to start a discussion here because this is a subject that is really difficult for me. I feel so conflicted because I can see good points on both “sides” of the issue (as with most things). I definitely got angry reading about many of my friends’ experiences as teenagers & getting in trouble for things that to me seem completely ridiculous. It’s not like any of them showed up to school in a bikini or a tube top & a miniskirt a la Britney Spears! It’s certainly disturbing to think that Confederate flags were often ignored- despite the fact that they were worn at least partly to intimidate black students- but girls’ legs were frequently deemed too sexy for school. Please. Let’s get our priorities straight here.

So what do you think? Does any of this make sense? Am I being sexist against my own gender? I’m really trying not to be but I’m also trying to be realistic & not fight biology here. Thoughts?

My Greatest Dilemma

My husband & I (& our 2 corgis) just spent the better part of the past week vacationing in Eastern West Virginia (massive thanks to my parents for keeping Rachel so we could do that!). I was about to say rural WV but then I remembered that the state is by definition rural. The largest city in WV, which is the capital city of Charleston, has about 50,000 residents. The whole state has about the same population as the greater metropolitan area where we currently reside. As people who grew up in a similarly rural area in a nearby state, for us vacationing in such a place did not produce the kind of culture shock that a lot of other folks from our current home might feel. Being the kind of person that I am (& my husband being very similar, I might add), naturally I can’t take a vacation from my own brain, so as much as I enjoyed our time in the relative wilderness- that in some ways felt like a bit of a time warp- I couldn’t turn my mind off from thinking about all the implications of living in such a rural place as Eastern WV- or really any part of the state- or any other similarly rural areas in VA, NC, & frankly the whole country.

If I could define my life by one dilemma- or one paradox- it would be the conflict between my rural roots & my more urban/suburban adulthood. I’ve written about this before but the truth of the matter is that I don’t feel truly at home in either place. At the risk of being overly self-indulgent, here are a few reasons why. I also suspect more people can relate to this than perhaps I am naturally inclined to assume- hence why writing this feels worthwhile for more than my own sanity. (To be clear, I realize these lists draw on stereotypes but in this case they’re stereotypes that exist for a reason.)

In rural areas, like my hometown, I feel out of place because:

  • I’m a big believer in science which of course translates to supporting Covid vaccinations.
  • I support gay marriage.
  • I strongly dislike abortion but do not think it should actually be illegal, certainly not in the first trimester. (I think we should be focusing on all the many things we can do to prevent so many women from getting to a place where an abortion is a viable option- but that’s a whole other blog post right there.)
  • I do NOT believe in abstinence only education or the “true love waits” movement. I have seen what it does & the results, frankly, aren’t good.
  • I believe in the existence of white privilege. And I support the removal of Confederate monuments. (Notice I said removal, not destruction.) I find the Confederate flag offensive & outdated. LET IT GO, PEOPLE!
  • My husband & I haven’t routinely worn our wedding rings for our entire decade of marriage. We also have never had a shared bank account. We do no think this reflects poorly on our marriage or that it implies distrust.
  • I enunciate my words a bit more than a lot of people do & probably come across as “overly educated” or “getting above my station” to some folks, simply because of my elocution/vocabulary.
  • I have gone fishing a grand total of once in my entire life & found it incredibly boring. I have never once been hunting, “mudding,” or cow tipping.
  • I have very mixed feelings about country music & particularly despise the kind that glorifies small town life as some kind of heavenly perfection, meanwhile completely ignoring all of its pitfalls.
  • I never use religion or the Bible to force my beliefs on anyone. I don’t believe in a god who gave me a brain & then said “Don’t bother using it.”
  • If I drove the same roads every day that I’ve been driving my whole life, if my child went to the same schools I did, I would never escape a sense of failure. I know that for many people these things bring comfort & even happiness- but for me they just don’t. But that doesn’t mean I hated my childhood or regret my past. And it doesn’t mean I look down on those who feel differently- if anything, if I’m being truly honest, I’m a little envious of them.
  • All of my favorite foods- with the exception of pizza- are not standard “American” fare. When I go out to eat, I almost always choose restaurants where the food is cooked by people with darker skin than mine. Because, let’s face it, it’s way more interesting!

Now here’s a list of reasons why I feel out of place in my current urban/suburban home:

  • I staunchly support the 2nd Amendment.
  • Though I sound far less Southern/country than many folks from my hometown do, or even than I used to sound, I still have a bit of an accent, especially on certain words, & probably sound like a “redneck” or a “hick” to certain people.
  • I know that life doesn’t cease to exist if there isn’t a Starbucks or a Panera within a 10 mile radius of oneself at any given moment. In fact, I lived the first almost 2 decades of my life having neither one within 20 minutes of my residence. I survived.
  • I hate bars & nightclubs. I also hate fine dining. If I have to dress up to go somewhere- especially if there is a more casual alternative- I probably don’t want to go because it will likely just feel pretentious & stupid to me.
  • The idea of living downtown in a place with restaurants, clubs, or offices in the same building as my residence sounds miserable. I can see why some folks like it but- damn it- I NEED MY SPACE! I need my own yard!! And I don’t want to share walls with anyone else. I had enough of that in college.
  • While I don’t support the “true love waits” movement, I also don’t support hook up culture. I think it leads to far too much heartbreak for both men & women (not to mention STIs). Furthermore I think monogamy & the nuclear family (though I have a much broader definition of what a nuclear family can be than some have) are the single most important backbone for any civilization.
  • I’m not a Democrat (or a Republican, for that matter, but people in urban areas such as this are overwhelming Democrats soooo…). I do not decorate my house or yard with virtue signaling signs. I might agree with a fair amount of the philosophies behind some of those signs but I don’t think signs change lives- actions do.
  • I believe in lower taxes & smaller government. I believe in individual freedoms & liberty & self-responsibility. I believe that government is quite often the WORST instrument for helping people in need, but that does NOT mean I don’t believe in helping others- contrary to what some might think. In short, I do not think socialism or communism is the answer to our society’s ills.
  • And last, but certainly not least, as much as “rednecks” drive me crazy sometimes, as much as they test my patience & sometimes make me want to disown them, I can never truly look down on them. Because at heart I am one, whether I like it or not. Because even though I often disagree with the conclusions they come to on certain issues, I can understand their line of reasoning. To be clear, that doesn’t mean I always AGREE with it- sometimes I adamantly disagree- but I can see where it comes from, if nothing else because I grew up in an area where I was immersed with that kind of reasoning. And I know that the issues they face are far more complex than the average “city person” realizes. (I also think this gives me a lot more license to call them out on certain problematic behaviors, such as racism.)

So, you see, no matter where I am, I always feel like a bit of an outsider. I always feel like maybe I’m the crazy one who just can’t fall in line with everyone else. Thankfully I have a handful of wonderful friends & family, from both rural & urban areas, who accept me for who I am, with all my many foibles & eccentricities. I also realize that a lot more people- both in rural & in urban areas- probably feel like this than are truly honest about it. Most people value security- i.e. fitting in- too much to break their façade. And who can really blame them? Life is hard enough without making yourself stand out from the crowd.

So where am I going with all of this? Excellent question- I’m not sure. I guess I’m just trying to say that after all these years, I still find myself wishing for something I can’t have. I want my child to grow up in a place that is geographically gorgeous & inspiring- preferably with glorious mountains- but I also want her to grow up somewhere with plenty of economic & educational opportunities. I want her to grow up in a multicultural area where she has classmates, friends, & neighbors from all races & walks of life. In short, I want some of the culture of urban areas & some of the culture of rural areas. But it seems impossible to find somewhere with both! Furthermore, I want her to have opportunities I didn’t but I also don’t want her to be a snob. I always want her to be aware of how privileged she is to live where she does but never to look down on those who have less. For example, if she ever asks a student from a rural area why they don’t have their own private flute instructor, as someone once asked me, or if she ever looks at someone like they have 3 heads because they haven’t heard of Ikea, as someone once did to me, I will have failed as a parent. I want her to know that just because we as her parents chose to live somewhere very different than where we grew up, it doesn’t mean that we rejected that culture altogether or that we are better than those who chose to stay. It just means we wanted something different- but different doesn’t necessarily mean better or worse- it just means different.

Does anyone else feel me on this or am I just shouting into the ether again?

White Fragility, Elijah McLain, & Robert E Lee

Do you remember Elijah McClain? If you don’t, here’s a quick summary. Elijah McClain was a young black man who was walking home from a convenience store in Colorado one evening in 2019 when he was put in a chokehold by police officers & then given an insane amount of strong sedatives (specifically ketamine) by paramedics without proper cause or proper monitoring afterward. Shortly afterward he died. And McClain had committed NO CRIME, nor even truly been suspected of one- unless of course walking while being black is a crime. Let’s be real- the way he was treated certainly indicates that it was.

I’ve always been surprised & disappointed that this disturbing case has not received the same amount of media sensation as many other cases, especially considering it seems like such an open & shut case. There can be little argument that the officers & paramedics were justified in their actions- it’s so painfully obvious that they weren’t. Thankfully, some two years later, a small measure of justice has been served as the officers & paramedics involved have all been found guilty of manslaughter & criminally negligent homicide. (To read more, click here: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/01/us/elijah-mcclain-officers-charged-colorado.html). Of course true justice can never be reached in tragedies like this because the innocent life that was lost cannot be brought back. But at least there has been some measure of accountability put in place here. I suppose that’s the best we can hope for- that & of course sending the message that such tragedies cannot be allowed to continue. Yet once again I am surprised & disappointed at how little attention this has received in the media, including social media. I realize we have other big news stories right now with Afghanistan, Covid, & hurricanes ravaging our country & the world, but even so, I’ve seen very few headlines, even deeply buried ones, about this. And I find that odd. And disappointing.

On a slightly different but somewhat related subject, a massive statue of Robert E Lee was removed from Richmond, VA this week, the capital city of my home state (as in the state where I grew up, not where I live now). As someone who loves history I’ll confess that this is always a challenging subject for me. But over time I’ve come to believe that such Confederate statues belong in museums, not in our city streets or parks. And yet I am disappointed at how many friends & family members I have seen posting & commenting about how heartbreaking it is to see this statue carted away. Y’all, no one is saying we should erase history here! We’re just saying that we shouldn’t have public monuments to people who fought for such inhumane practices as slavery. And whether we like it or not, that is exactly what Robert E Lee did.

Fellow white people, it has been over 150 years since the Civil War. It is high time we admitted that many of our ancestors were in the wrong. It’s not like our parents or grandparents or anyone we actually knew fought in that war. Those people are all long since dead & gone & were never known to us! Besides which, I have friends who have parents & grandparents who are (or have been) alcoholics, narcissists, drug users, & abusers. And as incredibly difficulty as it is, they have found ways to say “I might love this person but their behavior is wrong.” Or “I know I ‘should’ love this person but their behavior towards me has been nothing but hurtful so I am choosing to walk away.” If they can do that, we have no excuse for not being able to admit that our ancestors from well over 100 years ago whom we never even knew weren’t perfect. Grow up, folks!

Furthermore, if you are heartbroken over the removal of a statue of a dead man you never knew, but you have never once expressed outrage or sorrow over police brutality in cases like Elijah McClain’s- or other flagrant racism in our society- may I suggest that you need to get your priorities in order? I realize that as a white person it can be easy to ignore racism sometimes, to just say “Well, that doesn’t affect me since I’m not black. I don’t hate black people. Whatever.” Newsflash- been there, done that, had the courage to admit how wrong I was! Over the years I have come to realize how important this subject still is for all of us. One of my absolute dearest friends is married to a black man (she is white). Some of my next door neighbors are black. So are several other families on my street & in my neighborhood. Both of my managers at work are black. My new dentist (who is also my husband’s & daughter’s dentist) is black. So are several of the doctors & surgeons I work with. And of course I work & have worked with countless black nurses, nursing assistants, & medical assistants over the years. Many of my patients are black. In fact some days, most of my patients are black, & some days most of my coworkers are too. To not care about racism would be incredibly callous & cruel of me. And frankly, even if you are a white person who doesn’t interact with many black people, you STILL should care about racism, at least if you care about PEOPLE at all. After all, as Martin Luther King, Jr said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

So if you’re upset about these monuments being removed, please take a moment to consider how you might feel if you were a black person seeing monuments to people who fought to keep your ancestors enslaved. Please also consider how you would feel if you were black & had to see your white friends posting about how heartbreaking it is to see these monuments removed & yet to never see those same people speaking out against racism. If you’re offended by this, congratulations- now you know why the term white fragility was coined in the first place!

Why the Afghanistan Mission Failed

As I’m sure most of you know by now, the American military involvement in Afghanistan is finally coming to an end after 20 years- two whole decades! And it hasn’t exactly ended the way anyone would have hoped. But the truth of the matter is that it doesn’t come as any real surprise to me (& I think to many others) that things have ended as they have- that it feels very much like we’re back to square one, so to speak, with the Taliban right back in control, just like they were when all this started.

Before I dig deeper into this subject, let me first preface this by saying I am in no way a foreign policy or military expert. Furthermore I am in no way claiming I have all- or even a tiny fraction- of the knowledge necessary to say what is or isn’t the right thing to do in these incredibly complicated situations. But what I do think I have a good understanding of is human nature. More than anything though, I’m just tossing around ideas & trying to make sense of an incredibly complex & horrifying situation. If you find anything I say here offensive- particularly if you served in Afghanistan yourself or if a loved one did, or worse yet if you lost a loved one in Afghanistan- please know that I am very sorry for any offense I may cause. I understand that having not been there myself & having not lost a loved one there, my mindset on this issue may be quite different than yours (though I have spoken to veterans who agree with me on this).

First off- why do I care so much about this? Well, most importantly I care about people. So to know that the Taliban are back in control in Afghanistan & what that means for human rights- especially women’s rights- is horrifying. Furthermore, 9/11 happened when I was 12 years old. It was in many ways the defining moment of my generation. I realize most of us did not lose a loved one that day- I certainly didn’t- but there is no denying that the events of that fateful day had lasting impacts on our culture & in many ways shaped the mindset of my generation. Between that & the many recessions & the increasing inflation my generation has experienced, it’s no wonder that we’re largely a cynical generation that is distrustful of authority (or maybe that’s just me projecting myself onto others). I remember when Osama Bin Ladin was killed when I was a senior in college & people burned couches on the street & all kinds of stuff in celebration. Being the studious person I was, I slept through all that of course (or at least stayed inside). Granted college students are always down for any excuse to party but it actually made sense because Bin Ladin was the mastermind behind the event that changed our culture in so many ways when we were still so young- but not so young as to be oblivious to it. So to see things in Afghanistan end this way is indeed a tragedy & a disappointment that I think many of us feel quite strongly right now.

Having said all that, I’ve often seen lots of parallels between Afghanistan & Vietnam, certainly in terms of the American military involvement in both places. And this week of course we are seeing another parallel- with helicopters & planes leaving Kabul much like they did in Saigon in the 70s. The main parallel I see is that both wars seemed truly unwinnable– if that’s a word. And I think the biggest reason for that is that we can’t fight other people’s battles for them. We can’t force democracy on people. It’s quite antithetical to the very idea of democracy, if you think about it! The end result is that you can’t accomplish something that neither side really cares about, so inevitably it’s a loss, really on all sides. At the end of the day as incredibly complex as all of this is, it boils down to the fact that you can’t change a community or a country or a culture from the outside. It has to start from within. Imagine if I (or folks like me)- a white woman from a very rural background- tried to infiltrate an inner city gang in NYC or southside Chicago or even somewhere more local like Durham. It would not work for a multitude of reasons! It’s like trying to erase racism from people’s hearts. No matter how talented, educated, & professional black people might be, they alone can’t stop some white (or maybe I should just say non black) people from being racist. Those changes have to start from within. Same as you can’t make someone quit smoking or drinking or using heroin, etc. People have to make that choice themselves. The point is you can’t change a country from the outside, & the reason for this is that you can’t change a PERSON from the outside. And what are countries except for a multitude of people?

Furthermore, while I clearly think our (American) culture- while far from perfect- is preferable to any culture ruled by the Taliban, is it really our place (or anyone’s) to police the world? My heart says no. While my heart breaks for the people of Afghanistan, I don’t think it’s our place to be the “savior” of the world. Certainly not our military. Militaries were not designed to set up entirely new systems of governments in other countries. They were designed to fight wars. And this was so much more than just a war. We were asking our servicemen & women to do something that in all likelihood was impossible. As much as it hurts to think that their sacrifices may have been in vain, I think the truth of the matter is- like a toxic relationship- it was always going to end this way. Whether we left five years ago or ten years ago or if we stayed another 20 years, the end result would be the same, for all the reasons I’ve just discussed.

There is so much more we could deliberate here. We could talk about how Afghanistan as a country was largely defined by outside powers carving up the land with no respect for tribal history or local traditions. We could also discuss the opium trade, which is massive in Afghanistan, & of course oil. We could discuss how religious extremism is incompatible with freedom & democracy. While all of these things are relevant I still think all of this boils down to our essential human nature. And that nature says that change must come from within. As much as it sucks to admit that sometimes, as much as it makes us feel powerless at times, it’s just the way it is.

Now does any of that make sense? Or am I just spinning my wheels on a lot of BS trying to make sense of a shitty situation?

P.S. I do 100% believe the actual evacuation of Afghanistan could & should have been handled better. But that’s a whole other post right there.