There have been a lot of things said over the past several days in regards to the turmoil in St. Louis, and the controversy surrounding the ruling not to indict Darren Wilson. I found the words of Benjamin Watson, a tight end for the New Orleans Saints, to be really truthful, in the midst of it all. Worth a read.
From Benjamin Watson's Facebook page:
"At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:
I'M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.
I'M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.
I'M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I'm a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a "threat" to those who don't know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.
I'M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.
I'M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.
I'M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn't there so I don't know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.
I'M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I've seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.
I'M CONFUSED, because I don't know why it's so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don't know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.
I'M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take "our" side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it's us against them. Sometimes I'm just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that's not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That's not right.
I'M HOPELESS, because I've lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I'm not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.
I'M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it's a beautiful thing.
I'M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I'M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that's capable of looking past the outward and seeing what's truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It's the Gospel. So, finally, I'M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope."
Hannah and I have decided to try something new: poetry Sundays. Every Sunday we'll post a poem. It'll be a mini poetry education for all of us (and feel free to suggest poems!)
This first poem is one that has meant a lot to me over the years. There are some words or phrases that can be held onto--clutched, even, if necessary. The final line of this poem is one of those, for me.
by Denise Levertov
I had grasped God's garment in the void
But my hand slipped
On the rich silk of it.
The 'everlasting arms' my sister loved to remember
Must have upheld my leaden weight
From falling, even so,
For though I claw at empty air and feel
Nothing, no embrace,
I have not plummeted.
Came across this article that discusses the societal pressures, medical unknowns, and other facets of the issues surrounding birth control and messing around with women's hormones. Take a look!
Women on the Pill have More to Worry About than Fancying Their Partner
Here is a completely unsurprising revelation: it's really difficult to write a post every day (or every other day, as it were.) Hannah and I have been struggling recently to not fall behind in our posts, and while part of the problem is lack of time (we're both in grad school and working) part of the problem is running dry creatively. There are times--like tonight--when I sit down and nothing comes to mind. I draw a complete blank about what to write. Part of me chides myself because there is so much happening in the world and inside of myself, it seems like I should never be without something interesting to write.
The bad news is that Hannah and I have 323 posts left. The good news is that not every blog post needs to be earth-shattering and ground breaking. And what I'm realizing is that really, they're not all going to be.
This is a different style of writing--instead of waiting until I have something really important to say and then writing a post, this kind of blogging is more about sharing my day-to-day thoughts and reflections with people. I'm hoping that this 365 day exercise will teach me about seasons--hoping that I will eventually enter a season in which I have a lot of really interesting things to say, or wisdom to share, or helpful quotes to post. And until then, I am learning about perseverance, and structure, and living up to my word!
Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.
This past weekend I took a class called “Exploring Social Issues Through Drama.” As part of the class, we each chose a social issue to explore. I chose objectification of women, inspired by a female friend who told me about harassment she’d experienced that week. While on a packed train, a man took advantage of the situation and aggressively pressed himself against her. She didn’t say anything, just moved away, frightened she would only escalate the situation. No one on the train did or said anything. With her story heavy on my heart, I used the class time to explore this topic and how it affects all women, whether we realize it or not.
Ironically, this is the week that the photo of Kim Kardashian’s bare butt debuted, displaying quite clearly to the world that controversy is deeply imbedded in this issue. It should come as no surprise that women (and men) everywhere feel the need to address the photo shoot. And while talking about it is of course exactly what Kardashian intended, the issue has to be discussed. We are, as a culture, silent bystanders, watching a metaphorical (and all too real) sexual assault on the subway. It’s time to talk about it.
The facets of the issue are endless. Leaving aside for now the question of photoshop (related to objectification) and the disturbing connections to racism and sexism in photographer Jean-Paul Goode’s work and personal life, the question of objectification of the female body rises up front and center. What should be quite obvious is that Kardashian herself is the one doing the objectifying. Yes, she is part of a culture that puts immense pressure on women to buy into the role of sexual plaything, and yes she is responding to societal demand. But when it comes down to it, she is the one that took off her clothes.
I’ve realized recently that one of the biggest problems with the feminist movement is that it means so many different things to different people. There are many tenets of feminism that I identify with, and simply because I am a woman and care about women’s issues, I recognize that I can and should call myself a feminist. But there are also feminists who bare their butts on the covers of magazines, and pass it off as a step toward less body-shaming or toward sexual freedom. While I’ve never heard Kardashian explicitly call herself a feminist, women like Scout Willis and Chelsea Handler seem to be constantly on Instagram crusades to allow topless photos, and Beyonce has certainly identified quite strongly with the movement. (Though it gets sticky talking about Queen Bey, because that conversation tends to get intermixed with discussions of race and cultural expectations.)
The issue became crystal clear to me while talking with my brother, who I called during a break from my social issues class. I asked him what his response was to the feminist movement, and he replied, “Well, it depends on what you mean by that.” As we talked he expressed confusion about the stances of women; he felt he supported many of the arguments, but was unsure about many of the intentions and affiliations within the idea of feminism. Because there were so many voices with such divergent views, he was hesitant to claim the banner of feminism as something he could completely stand under.
In talking with my roommate, the matter became even more tricky. As a woman who works at a pub in midtown Manhattan, she is constantly being objectified, being told: “Come over here baby so I can grab that ass.” But her words gave me pause when she began to talk about how women treat themselves. She described the outfits girls wear on Halloween, and how they’re clearly expecting men to look at them in a sexual way on that night. “Girls want to be cute and sexy on Halloween, but then they want to walk down the street the next day and not get any comments. It’s like they want to be selectively objectified,” my roommate said.
I want to tread lightly here, because I do not mean to suggest that women should feel obliged to hide their bodies, or that they bear the responsibility of keeping men in line. And I certainly don’t want anyone to think a woman is ever “asking for it,” or any of the other justifications used for objectification, sexism and violence. But both my brother’s and my roommate’s comments have something pertinent to offer this messy business of Kim Kardashian’s butt (and boobs, apparently. If you buy the magazine and flip to the inside.)
How seriously would you take a man who exposed himself on the cover of a magazine?* I think this is an important thing to think about. I believe that bodies are beautiful and we should be proud of them, but there’s a cultural precedent built into society that indicates that it’s okay to display the female body for the delight of men. Kardashian’s photos support this flawed view, to say nothing of the dangers of the photoshopping involved in the photo.
As much as I hate to say it, those who desire change have to—at least somewhat—play by the rules of the dominant culture. There is a balance to be struck between stirring the pot and allowing people time and incentive to change their minds, and that change has to come from the heart. Just as guilt and shame are horrible motivators, rage and defiance don’t work either. If we are to build a culture in which men stop making comments about my “titties” on the street, and in which women feel their voices are heard and respected, women have got to stop playing into the stereotypes.
Kim Kardashian is not desperate—she’s not trying to make a living or a name for herself and being forced to use whatever means she can. She has an incredible amount of money and power, and a platform to say whatever she wants. Until women like her stop objectifying themselves, we are going to keep having these same conversations, over and over.
*Which, by the way, has happened—as is evident from articles such as this one. I need to note here that this isn’t exclusive to women, and men are playing into their stereotypes as well. It’s just far more common for women.
"It should be obvious, but 'women'—half the population—are not a uniform voting block with uniform ideas about what is best for them."
Well articulated thoughts on allowing room for a diversity of opinions and beliefs.
The Midterms Were Only Bad for Women If You Have a Very Narrow View of Women
I’ve written before about living with a soft heart and open hands. I’m still discovering exactly what that means, and every day I learn a little more about the challenges and triumphs of having my heart softened and my grasp loosened. Some days I clutch more tightly than I ever have. Some days I find myself able to open my hands a little further.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about living with a wild, open abandon when it comes to romance. To clarify, I don’t mean wild in the way your mind probably automatically jumped to—I mean wild in the sense of loosening my grip on the control I desire, and the way my self-worth is tied to how many men I perceive to be attracted to me.
I love control. I love control in relationships. I like it when I’m just on the edge of being in command—when I’m not being smothered by attention, but when I know that I’ve caught someone’s eye, and they’re going to reciprocate my affection. And I hate losing that control. I hate knowing that someone is attracted to me, and I’m not attracted to them, and knowing that I can’t make them stop liking me. I hate knowing that as much as I am attracted to someone, I can do nothing to make them return my affection.
This past year showed me a lot about my heart. I experienced mixed messages, and ultimately the realization that sometimes the more time you spend with someone, the less they'll pursue you. That is a hard thing to face. It’s something we all go through (or at least, most of us) but that doesn’t make it any easier. To know that someone is becoming less attracted to you the more they get to know you—how can that not sting? And yet that is exactly what dating is. Dating is essentially opening your heart to another person, all the while knowing that they might realize they aren’t interested in your red, ready heart and decide to step away.
So this is where living with abandon comes in. Because the more I experience relationships and heartbreak, the more times a boy looks at me or I look at a boy with longing, only to see it rejected—the more times I say no—the more I feel my heart softening. And I wonder why anyone would want to close themselves off from this kind of change. We are so afraid to feel pain that we forget that greeting the world with open hands means that someday we will have open eyes to see the struggles or triumphs of another, because we will have felt it too. I’ve written before about the fingerprints left on our hearts by those in our past. I want as many fingerprints as possible, because that is how I will know that I loved and I gave.
When it comes down to it, it’s not such a bad thing to be rejected. We talked this week in my community group about self-worth, and about how we are created in God’s image. With this knowledge, I think it’s possible to feel rejection and know that it’s okay. I’ve rejected boys who I respected immensely, simply because it wasn’t the right fit, or the right timing. We shouldn’t be so afraid to be judged that we can’t open our hearts to the possibility of love.
I’d rather lie awake at night and feel the soft sadness of rejection, rather than the stillness of a buffered heart. In this world of tight circles and white-knuckled control, I am resolved to loosen my fingers and let my heart slip through the cracks, painstaking though it may be.
I've been so busy recently that my routine has devolved into coming home, dropping my backpack, grabbing a snack and then watching some Netflix before falling into bed. Though I often think about doing something more productive, such as reading a book, when it comes down to it, I never do. It seems like all I can muster the energy for is turning on The Tonight Show or an episode of Parks and Rec.
Because of this, questions about leisure versus vegging out have been on my mind. I've always struggled with feeling guilty about watching TV instead of reading or doing some other leisure activity. Why is it just so hard to play the piano instead of watching TV? Both activities are, technically, leisure. But there's a part of my brain that has to be engaged to play the piano, whereas with TV I can be totally, one hundred percent relaxed.
I've begun to ask what the purpose of leisure is. And what I've decided is that leisure is one step below work and one step above vegging out. Leisure time is when I do something that will enhance my mind or my life, but is still something that is enjoyable. I play piano because it's good for me to learn, but also because I enjoy it. I read to become more well read, but I choose books that interest me. Ideally, leisure activities build a bridge between being completely at rest and doing something productive.
The problem is that I so seldom actually do any leisure activities. And from my interactions with friends and family, I think my experience is pretty common. There are always things we mean to do, but they end up getting crowded out either by work or by vegging out, which so often feels necessary. I've felt guilty about choosing TV over books for so long now that it's just a natural part of my routine. Plan to read, get home, collapse instead on the couch. Repeat the next day.
What has occurred to me recently is that there is a reason for this, beyond me simply being lazy. Though being lazy is definitely a factor, I think an important part of doing leisure activities is having enough time. When I get home at the end of a long day, I really don't have the brain power to read. I rightly feel the need to reward my tired body and brain with rest. My problem, therefore, is not in allowing my body to rest, but in doing too much during the day. To truly build a balanced schedule, I need to work less and arrive home with enough energy to pursue a leisure activity.
This is obviously easier said than done, and in this stage of life I have to accept that it's not going to happen. Being a full time student in addition to working part time means I will continue to arrive home exhausted. But it's worth thinking about, as I enter a new season of life. In our fast paced and, frankly, workaholic culture, we have to choose to work less. But just as building a day of rest into my schedule has been a huge blessing in my life, building time to pursue leisure activities will also, I'm sure, be a really good thing for my body and my soul.
O Changeless God,
Under the conviction of the Holy Spirit I learn that
the more I do, the worse I am,
the more I know, the less I know,
the more holiness I have, the more sinful I am,
the more I love, the more there is to love.
O wretched woman that I am!
I have a wild heart,
and cannot stand before thee;
I am like a bird before a man.
How little I love thy truth and ways!
I neglect prayer,
by thinking I have prayed enough and earnestly,
by knowing thou hast saved my soul.
Of all hypocrites, grant that I may not be
an evangelical hypocrite,
who sins more safely because grace abounds,
who tells her lusts that Christ's blood
who reasons that God cannot cast her into hell,
for she is saved,
who loves evangelical preaching, churches,
Christians, but lives unholily.
My mind is a bucket without a bottom,
with no spiritual understanding,
no desire for the Lord's Day,
ever learning but never reaching the truth,
always at the gospel-well but never holding water.
My conscience is without conviction or contrition,
with nothing to repent of.
My will is without power of decision or resolution.
My heart is without affection, and full of leaks.
My memory has no retention,
so I forget easily the lessons learned,
and thy truths seep away.
Give me a broken heart that yet carries home
the water of grace.
-From The Valley of Vision
~ He Held Radical Light, Christian Wiman
~ An American Childhood, Annie Dillard