Here’s Why Rescinding DACA Sucks (including links to help you speak out)

Last Tuesday, Trump decided to end DACA.

It’s no secret that I am very much not on the Trump train, and this just adds to the reasons why.

Trump claims that the reason behind moving to rescind DACA is basically that it’s not good enough, and that the US isn’t ready for a “comprehensive immigration plan.” But if that were the real reason, and he honestly wanted a better immigration process, he wouldn’t be rescinding DACA. Rescinding means taking a step back, not moving forward.

Trump claims that the 800,000 DACA recipients — DREAMers — are taking jobs away from millions of Americans. Those are his words. I have two problems with that.

First of all, like most of the things Trump says, it’s highly illogical. It’s literally impossible for 800,000 people to “take” jobs from millions. It’s true that 800,000 people (if they all have jobs, that is) are preventing another 800,000 people from having those exact same jobs, but by that logic, I’m taking a job away from someone else too. So is my fiancé. So is almost everyone I know. Yes, the job market may be brutal, but you don’t “take away” someone else’s job by having a job yourself. That doesn’t make sense.

Second, DACA recipients, by definition, have grown up in the US. They are children of people who have come here illegally, so while they are technically also undocumented, they have spent almost their entire lives in the US, living as and among Americans. Culturally, socially, and mentally, they are Americans. They pay for American goods, work jobs that serve Americans, and go to American schools. As residents, they’re contributing members of American society, and most of them don’t know anything different. They are Americans. The only thing they lack is the paperwork, and DACA was Obama’s attempt to give them the time they need to make their status legal. What will the US gain by taking that chance away?

I can’t answer that, but I can tell you what we will lose.  By rescinding DACA, we will lose hundreds of thousands of people that could be bettering and investing in our society.  We will lose more respect than we’ve already lost by electing Trump in the first place.  And we will lose the trust of everyone, not just DREAMers, who were told that the US government would welcome them, help them, and value them.  The only thing rescinding DACA will accomplish is announcing to the world that if you weren’t born American, Trump doesn’t care about you.  But I’m pretty sure we all knew that already.

Trump’s America is the opposite of what America is supposed to be.  Emma Lazarus wrote the famous poem “The New Colossus” in 1883, as an effort to fundraise for part of the Statue of Liberty.  We all know the famous lines:

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Starting DACA was one way Obama tried to put those lines into practice.  Trump may as well take the torch from Lady Liberty.

Unless, of course, Congress passes the Dream Act of 2017.  

This act was initially introduced in 2001, but it didn’t pass.  Now, with DACA being rescinded, it has been introduced again.  You can read the actual text here, but in a nutshell, the Dream Act would protect DREAMers from deportation and give them a legalization process, which DACA did not do.  It is not a perfect process, I’m sure, but it would be much, much better than deporting 800,000 people.

From what I’ve read, phone calls are the best way to get noticed by your congressmen.  However, any way to make your voice heard helps, so here’s how to find your representative and your senator.  Let’s get the Dream Act passed and stop the ridiculousness.

 

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Modern Day Corsets

My mom and I ordered my wedding gown back in May.  It came in in August, just a few weeks ago.  Rather than spend almost the cost of the dress on tailoring, we decided to take it to a family friend who does alterations for a living.

The dress came in, I traveled to Knoxville, we went to the friend’s house for a fitting.

Once we got there, I took off my normal clothes and put the dress on, wearing my normal bra.  The woman looked at the dress, agreed that yes, it was too big and would need some taking in, and then refused to measure me until I had purchased a strapless, longline corset bra.  We spent the rest of the visit looking online at undergarments.

Why did she refuse to measure me?  Well, she’s in her 60s.  She grew up in a different era.  In her words, “weddings are about beauty, not about comfort.”  I thought they were about two people choosing each other for life, but I guess I was wrong.  Weddings are about me looking “my best,” and “my best” apparently means even skinnier than I already am, with bigger boobs and a completely smooth torso, giving no sign that I have abs, a belly button, or even hip bones.

At the time, I said, fine.  I just need this dang gown altered, and if this is what it takes, so be it.  My parents are paying for half of my wedding, and my mom apparently is fine with paying almost $100 on constricting undergarments.  So if she’s okay with adding this to the cost, okay.

But then we started actually looking for these “undergarments.”  My gown has a lowish back, and it’s been difficult to find anything that will be low enough to go under it.  Plus, no one actually carries these types of bras in stores, so we’ve had to look online.  So this means we have had to guess if a certain bra will be low enough, guess at my bra size because everything is sized differently, order a bra at $70 or more, wait for it to ship, try it on, find out it doesn’t fit, and then send it back and go through the hassle of an online return.

I thought the whole thing was ridiculous before, and now I really do.  I’m not even comfortable in the bras I’ve tried on.  I can’t breathe in them.  I can’t really bend.  How am I supposed to enjoy my wedding if I am tied in to a literal corset, like in the 1800 and 1900s?  And then there’s the fact that I, the bride, think I look perfectly fine in the dress without a longline corset bra.  Sure, it’s thin fabric, and when it’s pulled tight, like it’s supposed to fit, you can see the outline of my belly button and hip bones.  But so what?  That’s what I look like.  I’m a real human being, with real bones and muscles.  Humans look weird and lumpy sometimes.  And then there’s the fact that I’m very skinny.  It’s how I’m built.  It’s not as if I want something to hold in my stomach, because I don’t really have one.  If I did, and if I wanted a bra to suck me in a bit on my wedding day because I knew I would feel self-conscious about myself if I didn’t, then I wouldn’t have a problem with this.  But at this point, it’s as if this woman who we asked to alter my dress is trying to hide the fact that I am an actual human.

I know that’s not what she means.  In fact, she probably hasn’t given this a second thought, because most brides today do wear undergarments like this.  But I don’t think I need it, and I don’t want to wear one.  I stated this, and was overruled by this much louder, much older woman.  What happened to my preferences for my own wedding day?

As my mom and I have already ordered several bras, if one of them fits and works under the dress, I will wear it.  I’m trying to pick my battles, or maybe I’m just being a pushover.  But even if I end up with a corset bra, I have sworn to myself that I’m only wearing it for the alterations and the ceremony.  After that, I will ditch it for a sticky bra, because I want to be comfortable for my reception.  And if none of the bras we have ordered fit, I will repeat these thoughts to the alterations lady, and I will get my dress fitted on just my normal body, and I will wear a sticky bra for the entire ceremony and reception.  Screw longline corset bras.  They’re more like medieval torture devices, and it is 2017, after all.

Would OITNB Be the Same Without the Language?

Orange is the New Black is one of my absolute favorite TV shows.  At first, I liked it because it was entertaining, and I’d never seen anything like it.  I continue to love it because the characters are incredible.  Every one of them has good and bad traits — I love them sometimes and they annoy me at others, just like they would in real life.  It portrays real people making realistic decisions, and that’s my favorite thing about the show.

My parents, on the other hand, are not fans (understatement).  They don’t like the lesbian themes (although there aren’t nearly as many sex scenes in the later seasons are there were in the first few), and they really don’t like the language.  I don’t watch the show when I’m at my parents’ house anymore, even in my own room late at night, because someone might wander around and hear it.

The language can be excessive.  It doesn’t bother me anymore, partly because I’ve heard it all before. I don’t swear much myself, but many of my friends in college did, and it became a normal thing to hear. Unless it’s specifically directed at someone, I hear it more as a speaking style than something offensive. But I definitely understand that it’s not something everyone wants to hear when they’re trying to watch TV and relax.

So it begins the question: would Orange be the same show without the swearing?

The issue here is realism vs. portrayal. TV shows are art in that they are stylized portrayals of real or imagined life. Some shows, like Game of Thrones, we understand to be complete fiction. Others, like Orange, attempt to portray things that might actually happen in real life. They attempt to show plausibility rather than fantasy. And part of that plausibility is making characters as realistic as possible. Since real people swear a lot, it follows that some of the characters should also swear. It shows personality.

And there is a lot of nuance in the personalities of the characters on the show. Some characters don’t swear at all unless they are extremely enraged or provoked. Others use swear words as fillers and commas. The use of language is one way the writers show different characters’ backgrounds and values. The women from better socioeconomic backgrounds tend to swear less than those who come from poorer or more broken households. Or they just care less what others think of them.  Regardless of the meaning, swearing is a signifier.

It’s true that the writers could have shown that in ways other than swearing. But would it have been as realistic then? Would the characters feel as credible if none of them ever uttered so much as a “dammit”? Would it be the same if the swearing was simply toned down, but not erased from the script completely?

I want to say no. Swearing is a part of life, so why should it be erased from a show trying to portray that?  Plus, the women are in prison, and if that situation doesn’t call for the occasional swear word, I don’t know what does.

But as I mentioned above, I do understand the desire to watch TV without being inundated with bad language.  And while the show is already extremely popular, lessening the swearing might be a way to draw in even more viewers, and thus get more people hearing the stories the writers want to tell.  For example, if more people watched the show, maybe more people would realize how women prisoners are often treated and try to bring about change.  But on the flip side (again), real life people swear.  So would eliminating that and drawing in that kind of audience really help?  Would it really benefit the show’s message to erase the swearing, when it’s not a completely true portrayal of real life?

I don’t have a definite answer to this dilemma.  I enjoy the show as it is, and tend to believe that swearing, while offensive to some, is not one of the more important social issues.  And I know in my parents’ case, it would probably take more than eliminating the swearing to get them to watch the show, anyway.

What do you think?  Would reducing the swearing on Orange or other shows reduce the believability too much?

Just Admit You Love Your Wife

The other day, I took my car in for an oil change.  It was a bit overdue, and I had a coupon, so I ended up at the local Midas with my fiance.  While we waited for the mechanics to get done with my car, we chatted some with the manager.  He saw that we were a young couple, so he ended up telling us the story of how he met his wife.  It went something like this.

“I’m not from here originally; I’m from up north.  I came down here 30 years ago for a two week bike trip.  But close to the end of the trip I got into a wreck; some woman hit me as I was driving down a mountain.  I ended up in the hospital for awhile.  Right before I was supposed to be released the nurse came to do one last check and I told her, ‘I’m only here for a day or two more.  Wanna go on a date?’ I didn’t think she’d say yes, but she did.  I got back up north, and after a couple weeks I called her and said, ‘I’m thinking of moving down south.’  And she said, ‘Okay.  You can move in with me.’  So I moved in with her and her roommate, and six months later we were married.  We’ve been together 30 years now.  That’s a lot longer than most guys my age.”

At that point my thought was, How cute!

Then he added, “Thirty years…it’s about time for me to get a new one, don’t you think?  Ha ha ha.”

The cuteness vanished.  Instead of thinking how sweet his story was, I felt sorry for his wife.  I don’t know his life, or his relationship, or his wife.  But I would bet that he doesn’t say stuff like that to her.  To me, it sounded like he still loves her.  I mean, he told us their story in detail, and seemed proud that his marriage had lasted longer than many of his friends’, even if it was because it began earlier.

I could be wrong, of course.  It could’ve been that they married when they were very young, and realized they weren’t right for each other, but stayed together anyway.  They could be having issues.  I don’t know.  But that comment really rubbed me the wrong way.

Making that thoughtless comment, in my opinion, devalues the person you’ve committed your life to, for better or worse.  Most marriages, at least in the beginning, are entered into because two people love each other and plan on doing so by combining their lives for, hopefully, the rest of them.  Thirty years ago, the man that did my oil change loved and valued his wife enough to envision a life with her, and to commit to her.  But now he feels okay joking that it’s been 30 years, and for whatever reason — they don’t love each other anymore? he’s restless? she’s too old? — he should “get a new one.”

It’s been said, but I’ll say again — women aren’t like cars that you can just replace when you get tired of them, or when they quit running as well as they used to, or when you decide you like the newer model better.  Marriage is a serious commitment, and whatever your situation is, you’re not going to make it any better by joking about replacing your wife like you would a vehicle.

As I said above, I bet the man doesn’t say stuff like that to his wife, even jokingly.  And I do understand that the comment was meant as a joke.  But why is staying married to your wife for 30 years, which to me is an incredible accomplishment, something he felt like he needed to make an excuse for?  Does staying married to one person, admitting you love her to strangers, make you feel so uncomfortably vulnerable that you have to joke that oh, I don’t love her that much?

know he didn’t mean any of this.  Even my fiance, when I mentioned it later, didn’t think anything of it.  It’s seen as normal, because tons of guys make this joke.  Everyone gets that it’s a joke, so it’s okay.  Right?

I don’t think so.  To me, a woman who will be a wife very soon, it sounded harsh and stinging.  I wouldn’t have wanted to have been his wife, even though she wasn’t around to hear the comment.  I’m tired of jokes like this, about wives being the “ball and chain” and about how 30 years is too long to have one wife, especially given the fact that marriage is more beneficial for men than women.  See this quote from the link:

“Not marrying or cohabiting is less detrimental among woman than men,” said Dr George Ploubidis, a population health scientist at the UCL Institute of Education.

“Being married appears to be more beneficial for men.”

I’m ready for us as a society to quit devaluing women as wives.  Not spouting off comments like the one he made would be a great place to start.

Hello, My Name Is

I have one of the most common names there is — Sarah.  Everyone knows a Sarah or five.  It’s one of the female names that are timeless, like Elizabeth or Anna.  Names go in and out of style, but there are always those few that hover near the top of the list no matter what.  Of course that goes for boy names, as well — how many Johns, Christophers, or Michaels do you know?

I was named after my grandmother, and despite having one of the most common names of all time, it’s never bothered me.  I like the name Sarah.  And while I’ve had close friends named Sarah, distinguishing us hasn’t really been too much of a problem.  One of us will go by our last name, or we’ll add an adjective to our names — I’m the short Sarah.  It’s annoying occasionally, but it’s more often funny.

But while having a common name doesn’t bother me as a Sarah, it bothers me as a learner of other people’s names.  My fiance and I just moved to a new city, and at his job, he works closely with a group of four other men.  One of them has the same name as his brother, and since I’ve never met the coworker, I always end up thinking my fiance is talking about his brother.  But he usually is not.  It’s confusing.  And I can’t tell you how many Samanthas, Rachels, and Emilys I know.  Having to add descriptors to a few like-named people is fine.  But having to do it for everyone gets exhausting.

When I was in middle school, I wrote a lot of stories for fun.  At that time, it was popular for parents to name their kids something normal, but spell it really weirdly.  I liked that trend, so I ended up with a bunch of characters named Emaleigh, Haeli, or Lorynn.  (I also only did it for girls.)  Looking back, I seriously cringe at that.  Thank goodness that stage happened before the appropriate kid-bearing age.

But while I scoff at that attempt at uniqueness, the idea of having more unique names appeals to me now.  Why do we use the same names over and over, when there are literally millions of words we could be using instead?  Does the world really need another Sarah?  Wouldn’t that hypothetical person be the same with the name Juniper or Desdemona?

Names do have an effect on us, of course.  I’ve read before that children named Joseph Allen III, for example, think better of themselves than children named Joseph Allen Jr.  (One gives a sense of a whole identity while the other makes one feel like a mere shadow or copy of their parent.)  Names that are traditionally non-white get turned down more for job interviews.  And people with names like Storm or Ocean might be less likely to be taken seriously (even though people don’t usually name themselves, so it’s not their fault…but I’m getting off topic).  Naming a child is an important task, and one that should not be taken lightly.  Parents know this, and know that there are many factors to take into consideration, so more common names are often the safest options for multiple reasons.

But you don’t have to sound like a hippie to pick a more unique name.  There are plenty of “normal” names below the #100 mark on popularity lists that work just as well as the more popular ones.  Parents could decide on a meaning first, and then search for names based on that.  They can search cross-culturally and cross-religiously.  I’ve even seen ancient place names listed as possibilities on baby name sites, and not all of them were that weird.

There’s an infinite world of possible names out there.  Giving people more unique names will definitely make them more memorable, and it may even make the world a better place — if a kid has an uncommon name, who’s to say it won’t give them uncommon confidence?

Realistically speaking, I know it won’t happen that way.  Humans are creatures of habit, and that won’t change.  I also don’t really want kids of my own, so unless I change my mind, I can’t even do anything to make my dream world of unique names a reality.  Until then, you can call me Arazou Kaegan — it means wishful thinker.

Discussion: Political Statements in Jane the Virgin

I posted awhile ago about all the reasons the TV show Jane the Virgin is one of my favorites.  As season 3 comes to a close, every one of those reasons still holds.  Jane the Virgin is definitely in my top five favorite TV shows ever (up there with Parks and Rec and Breaking Bad, in case you’re wondering).

Jane the Virgin is also one of the most politically active fictional TV shows I’ve seen.  Other shows may use politics as a small plot point here and there, but Jane the Virgin sets itself in modern day, where the characters can react to politics and other current events as they happen.  It makes the show even more relevant than it already is, and may serve to get viewers more interested in current events and activism.  And it makes so much sense that the show is like this, because Gina Rodriguez, who plays Jane, is very politically and socially active.  She advocates for many minority groups on social media, and has an Instagram feature called #MovementMondays where she highlights minority actors and activists to get her followers learning and excited about change.

One example of current politics done well in Jane the Virgin is the status of Jane’s grandmother, Alba.  Alba is a Venezuelan immigrant, and when the show begins, she is completely undocumented.  For this reason, she is deathly afraid of police and other authority figures, and wants to apply for her green card but is afraid her lengthy illegal status will get her deported if she applies.  Jane and her mother help Alba overcome her fears and apply for her green card, and she later ends up marching in a protest to advocate for herself and for her boyfriend, who is undocumented when they meet.  It’s a very real situation for many here in the US, and Alba becomes a stronger character because she overcame her fear.

But there are other political statements that feel like they’ve been forced into the plot.  For example, Jane begins dating Fabian, one of her father’s coworkers, and feels she is ready for casual sex.  So she goes for it, showing up at his apartment dressed to impress, but Fabian ends up talking to her for two hours about books.  She’s frustrated, obviously.  But at the beginning of the scene where Jane tries to bring up her intentions, Fabian first asks a question about one of the books, to which Jane replies with a statement about free speech for everyone.  Then they launch into the sex conversation.

To me, that interaction felt forced.  It didn’t flow like a real conversation might have.  We didn’t see any of the previous book conversation, and after that one statement was made, there was no follow-up.  It wasn’t part of the plot, or part of any character’s development.  It was social commentary with no basis in the story, stuck into a conversation seemingly at the last minute.

Another thing that bothers me is the use of Jane’s child, Mateo.  At this point in the show, Mateo is about 4 years old.  Like any 4-year-old, he notices things about the world and wonders about them.  But I don’t know if the statements he makes are ones that a 4-year-old would think to ask.  He asks about abstract and complex concepts often.  Of course, young children are often much wiser than we give them credit for, and can surprise us with incredibly deep questions.  But the way they ask them is different than the way an adult or an older child would ask them, and I think Mateo’s writers may need to further study the way 4-year-olds process information.  Also, the fact that Mateo is even used at all to further the show’s political agenda (because it’s clear there is one) is a tad cringe-y to me.  Kids themselves do ask intelligent, political questions, but Mateo is used more as a mouthpiece for the writers than his own character, and that’s not the high quality storytelling that Jane the Virgin has shown previously.

Another show that makes political statements often is the comedy Last Man Standing.  Its views are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from those on Jane the Virgin, but the statements are usually more tastefully made because the characters’ political leanings are often a crucial part of the plot.  The father character on the show, Mike, holds opposite political views from his oldest daughter and some of his friends, and these differences are sometimes the basis of entire episodes.  As a sitcom, political differences make good fodder for jokes intertwined with the characters’ (and presumably the writers’) deeper values.

Last Man Standing, which aired on ABC, was discontinued on May 10, 2017 after 6 seasons.  Six seasons is a pretty good run for any show, but some are saying that ABC stopped it because the show is staunchly conservative.  I hope that’s not the case, for two reasons.  One is because TV shows should be protected under freedom of speech and expression, and removing a show because it differs in values is a little sketchy.  The other reason is because having different perspectives represented in TV is important.  People use TV for a ton of different reasons, but arguably the biggest is to relax.  Most people have come home from work or school and vegged out in front of the TV for a few hours, because it gives us a break from our own reality.  It gives us a reason to laugh or cry, and it gives us something to enjoy even when we’re so exhausted we can barely move.  Different perspectives need to represented on TV because everyone watches, and we all like to see ourselves.

Since we’re all watching TV anyway, adding some political and social commentary in there can be beneficial.  When it’s done artfully, it gets people thinking, and then maybe acting.  When it feels forced or not genuine, it alienates people from the perspective it’s trying to portray.  That’s why the best way to insert commentary is to do it subtly, make it an important plot point so that it doesn’t feel forced, and don’t overwhelm the show with it.  Regardless of my complaints, I feel that Jane the Virgin, overall, does an excellent job balancing social and political responsibility with superb storytelling.  I just hope the writers don’t go overboard.

The Maiden Name Dilemma

This has been on my mind since before I even got engaged.  To change my name, or not to change my name?  That is the question.

Lately, the more I think about it, the more I lean toward no.  I’m pretty traditional, but this is one thing that doesn’t sit quite right with me.  At risk of sounding feminazi (the horror!), I feel like it’s an antiquated practice that I could do without.  In the “olden days,” women changed their names to signify that they were now under the care of their husband rather than their father.  It was a sign of commitment, yes, but also a transactional symbol.

Obviously, that’s not really how name-changing is seen these days.  Most women change their names as an added symbol of commitment and as a public symbol of the switch from single-ness to marriage.  And if that’s what you want to do, that’s all fine and good.

To me, though, there are enough symbols without me also having to change my name. Our commitment to each other will be displayed through our marriage certificate, our rings, and our wedding.  Everyone important to us will see us get married.  We will both make the mental, emotional, and financial commitment (which really has already been made).  And after the ceremony is over, we will both wear rings on our left hand that say to everyone who sees them, I am a married person.  To me, that’s plenty.

Marriage, in its proper form, is a legal, emotional, and financial commitment between two individuals.  I am already a whole individual, and so is he.  Therefore, I think that the legal documentation, the rings, and the ceremony are sufficient public symbols.

There are obviously some cons to not taking his name.  The first and most obvious is that he is a traditional person as well, and I know he’d like for me to take his name.  That, honestly, is my biggest hangup.  It’s a little difficult to balance my own wishes with his, but that’s what marriage is.  Two individuals essentially becoming one unit comes with a ton of issues like this, as I know most are well aware.  Probably (definitely) more aware than I am.  We will have to discuss this and come to an understanding.

The other big issue is potential children.  I don’t particularly want any children, ever, but in case we do have children, whose name would they take?  I would be fine with them taking his — again, I’m fairly traditional, and I got my last name from my father, so I have no problem with them having his.  But that would be something that would have to be discussed.

I haven’t completely decided what I’m going to do yet, and I have some time before I really have to make that decision.  But it’s definitely something to think about.

I know many people have strong feelings on this; feel free to tell me what you think and/or share your own experience!

 

This Should Be Everyone’s Pet Peeve

Yesterday, my boyfriend and I went to get a pizza.  He drove, because I hate driving.  From his apartment, it takes about five minutes to get to the pizza place.  It’s a straight shot.  Turn out of the parking lot, drive, turn into the pizza lot.  The end.  It’s so easy.  And it should’ve been a happy drive, because I got pizza at the end.  But it wasn’t.  Do you know why?  Because in the five minutes that it took us to get to the pizza place and back, I saw five drivers staring at their phones instead of looking at the road.

Five drivers.  In five minutes.

Behavior like that infuriates me.  By this point, we have all heard the statistics.  In case you haven’t, here’s a rundown:

  • Texting while driving makes you 23x more likely to crash,
  • slows your brake reaction speed by 18%,
  • causes 1.6 million accidents a year,
  • and is the cause of 11 teen deaths every day.  Source

These are ridiculous numbers.  This stuff shouldn’t be happening.  It’s really not that hard to not use your phone while you’re driving.  And I know most of us have seen these statistics and messages at one point or another.  So why the crap are we still doing it?

  • I need everyone to see that I’m driving fast.  Live large!  A lot of people I know Snapchat while they drive so they can put up the miles per hour filter, as if we’re all going to be so impressed that you’re going 80 in the left lane.  Congratulations, friend, all you’ve done is give me road rage from my living room and also endangered everyone on the road around you, including yourself.
  • My fave song came on the radio and you have to listen to me sing along. #totalfan  Again, this is a common Snapchat thing.  Even if your viewers share your music taste, which they probably don’t, if they wanted to hear the song they’d just pull it up on Spotify, where they don’t have to listen to your (probably terrible) voiceover.  Not only is this dangerous, it’s dumb.
  • I’m texting a romance interest and I have to reply now because if I wait too long they’ll think I’m not interested!  No, they won’t.  They should think more highly of you for practicing safe driving.  And if they don’t, well, you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
  • I’m a good driver; I can use my phone while driving and be fine.  I’m still paying attention to the road.  Maybe, but not enough attention.  Your brain is not wired to do two things at once.  Sorry.  See brake reaction time stat above.
  • I’m bored and I’m tired of just looking at the road.  Sucks.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to die anytime soon.  And I don’t want to be the cause of anyone’s death, either.  I think most people agree with me on that.  So I honestly don’t understand why people think this is still okay.  It’s not okay.  It’s stupid.  You can be the greatest person I’ve ever met, but if I catch you using your phone while you drive, my respect for you will plummet.  And while I know my opinion of you means nothing, the fact that you’re more likely to harm another person by texting while driving definitely should.

I’m really not trying to sound all self-righteous here (I know it sounds like I am).  (Okay, maybe I am a little.)  But really, in all honesty, I am just genuinely baffled by the fact that texting and driving is known to be one of the most dangerous things you can ever do, and yet people still do it.

Y’all, it’s not that hard to just wait.  I know it’s tempting.  I know think you’re a good enough driver.  I know there might be no one else on the road right now.  But please, for the love of God, just stop.

Spanish: More Than a Language

Since I first mentioned my Spanish capstone project on this blog, it’s changed a bit.  Not drastically — my overall focus is still immigration, and I’m still reading a lot of books.  But even though I’m still fine-tuning my thesis statement, I’ve already learned something valuable.

For background: I’m white.  I grew up in a two-parent home.  Both my parents are college-educated, and they have always earned sufficient income to give me and my two siblings everything we need, plus extracurriculars such as 4H, music lessons, and summer camps.  Spanish language and culture has been an interest of mine since I was 8, and my parents had the means to allow me to learn.  Now, I’m about to graduate college with a Spanish degree, with a highly commendable command of the language.  I’m proud of this.  And I’m grateful.

More background: for my capstone, I’m mostly focusing on the work of Esmeralda Santiago.  Santiago, if you don’t know, is a Puerto Rican woman who moved with her family to the US when she was 13.  She did not speak much English when she arrived.  It was not her choice to move here, so unlike me, learning English wasn’t something she did for fun, or because it was interesting, or because she had dreams of being able to speak other languages.  Santiago learned English because she couldn’t have survived here without it.

It hit me, as I was reading Santiago’s two memoirs, that for me, Spanish is a luxury.

I have worked hard at learning Spanish.  I’ve worked hard for confidence and accuracy.  Languages come fairly naturally to me, but it hasn’t all been easy or fun.  I’ve continued my study of Spanish just as much to gain an advantage in the job market as I have because I enjoyed it.  But that is the difference between Santiago, and every other Spanish-speaking immigrant, and I — I had a choice.  I chose to study Spanish because I could, not because I had to.  And I was not thrown into the Spanish-speaking world before I was ready.

One of my old roommates was also a Spanish major.  She now works at a refugee resettlement organization, and teaches Spanish to kids after school.  She uses Spanish all day, every day.  Spanish, for her, is a talent and a passion, but also a way to do what she really wants to do, which is care for people.  While Spanish may have started as an interest for her, now it is entwined with her purpose.

Honestly, that is my goal too.  I want to be able to use Spanish in my daily life.  One, because I enjoy it, and I’ve spent a lot of time learning it, but also because it enables me to expand the circle of people to whom I can be useful.  Being able to speak Spanish opens me up to other parts of the world, and by extension those I’m connected with.

A few posts ago, I put up a graph of the results from a personality test I took.  I scored very high on the “dutiful” aspect, which makes sense.  When I realized that Spanish began as a luxury for me, I felt kind of spoiled.  But then I thought about Bill Gates — his asset, now, is that he is very wealthy, and he puts his money to good use through philanthropy.  While being able to speak a second language is a little different than being worth millions, I can try to turn my own luxury into something that is useful to the world as a whole.

Why Do We Hate Discussing Controversial Issues?

I know very few people that enjoy discussing politics and controversial social issues.  Most people, including me, tend to shy away from these topics and stick to lighter, more enjoyable, less divisive conversations.  In my experience, the people who actively bring up politics and divisive issues are the ones who have strong opinions backed by very little research (not always, but usually).

I have one friend I typically discuss social issues with.  She’s a sociology major, so she often talks about current events in her classes, and we generally have similar opinions.  Even if we disagree, we know how to do it respectfully, and we both admit when we have and haven’t done research on a topic.  Last time we met for coffee, we intended to stay away from politics, but ended up discussing them and other controversial issues almost the entire time we were together.  It was intellectually refreshing.  And then we wondered why people don’t do this more often.

Of course, there is the obvious reason.  Politics and social issues are divisive.  I’ve mentioned before that talking about politics means talking about everyone’s baggage as well.  It’s uncomfortable and annoying, and sometimes not worth the arguments that will inevitably ensue.

But why do these things hold so much passion for us?  One reason is that our political beliefs are closely related to how we view ourselves — our self-identity.  I read an article the other day about what parts of our brains light up when we discuss politics.  I couldn’t find the original article, but I did find this (older) one that got similar results to the one I read.  In the study, scientists monitored subjects’ brains while they evaluated “information that threatened their preferred candidate” just before the 2004 presidential election (I told you it was an old article).  Here’s what they found:

“We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning,” said Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory University. “What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts.”  [emphasis mine]

Discussing politics isn’t the same as discussing what color to paint the walls.  Attacking someone’s political beliefs is more like insulting their kid.  The parent isn’t going to think rationally about that (at least at first); they’re going to be angry.  How dare someone say that about their kid, who they have a strong emotional connection with?  How can they believe x, when clearly y is true?  It’s hard to separate reason from that innate emotional response, and it’s much the same for politics.

I think another reason it’s hard to discuss these things is because it requires true self-examination.  It’s hard work.  First, we must inform ourselves about what’s really going on.  Then, we have to compare our moral values against what’s happening in the world, and then we have to pick a stance, and then we have to defend it.  It’s difficult.  It’s time-consuming.  In my experience, I’ve never just known what my opinion is on a hot button issue.  I have to research.  I have to discuss.  I have to mull it over.  And then I sometimes end up changing my mind.  It’s introspective, and introspection is hard, because it requires us to really know ourselves.  And sometimes, we don’t like what we find.

Other times, we think we do know ourselves.  We have opinions and we stick to them. But we still avoid discussing hot topics because what if someone has a better argument?  What then?  If my views are disproved, am I really who I think I am?  Good counter-arguments can dismantle us, and our sense of self-identity, completely.

But as uncomfortable as it is, these things can’t be avoided.  If we avoid learning and trying to form opinions, we will get used, or ignored.  We’ll be seen as ignorant or outdated.  Our usefulness to society declines.  My friend brought up this specific situation: over the past two summers, she has worked at a children’s Christian sleep-away camp.  It’s similar to the quintessential camp experience: horseback riding, rock wall climbing, and overnight camping trips.  But the staff faces big issues.  Last summer, they received  call from a mother wondering what the camp’s policy was for transgender children.

Transgenderism and gender dysmorphia is something that Christians typically avoid.  It’s incredibly difficult to understand, especially within the context of Christianity, and on top of that it has to do with sex, which is often a taboo topic in Christian circles.  But if the camp staff hadn’t discussed it, they would have come across as willfully ignorant to that mom.  And they might have missed the chance to minister to a group of children that needs love the most.

Politics and issues like this aren’t fun.  We live in a messed-up world that often just looks bleak.  But the only way to affect it is to know what’s happening, and know how we feel about it, so that we can do something to enact change.  They say nothing good in life is easy, and in this, it’s more than true.