light night

“You must not reduce yourself to a puddle just because the person you like is afraid to swim and you are a fierce sea to them; because there will be someone who was born with love of the waves within their blood, and they will look at you with fear and respect.”

T.B. LaBerge

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the south, the rebel flag, and racism

i was born and raised in the boondocks of southwest georgia, in a town where the nearest mall is an hour away, and the nearest “decent” mall is almost two. i grew up listening to and loving country music and seeing the rebel flag waving in people’s yards and as a sticker on people’s trucks.

i’m not writing this to argue about the civil war, because there are people who are slaves on this earth right now and i pray they can receive half the media attention the civil war and rebel flag has lately. i don’t mean to sound insensitive to the slaves of the past, but honestly i think they would want more done about slavery in the world today as well. we can’t change what they went through. the only things we can change are how we deal with it, how we raise our kids to get even further past it, and what we do to eliminate slavery in our world today.

i see a lot of people who i consider family and friend defending the rebel flag, and i understand why. it’s because they don’t know any better. a lot of the people (but sadly not all) i see with it aren’t racist and just see it as a symbol of pride for our region of the country. because let’s face it, the south is behind the rest of the country in almost every aspect yet we still have that southern hospitality and the best food.

but here’s the thing — the south isn’t white. the south is white, black, hispanic, asian, native american, latino, etc.

so whether or not you personally intend for the flag to be racist, i want you to think about the fact that the KKK used the rebel flag. hate groups towards african americans aren’t using the rebel flag because they love the south. they use it because they are racist, backwards, bigots. if you truly love the south, then why do you want to associate us with that?

regardless of race, the south is about family, small towns, smiling at strangers, waving from your car when you pass another car on the road, frying our vegetables with our chicken because we can, sweet tea, watermelon and boiled peanuts and peaches, red clay, sundays, dinner with family, “soul” food, helping out your neighbors, and being ready to welcome anyone new with a friendly face. that’s our culture. not a flag that belongs in history museums anddddd that’s about it. i want people to love where i’m from as much as i do. and i want us to be a loving place for ALL our residents regardless of race.

so please, my fellow caucasian southerners, stop using the rebel flag as your way of showing your southern pride when there are so many other wonderful things about our home you could be sharing with people. (unless you actually are a racist. then i guess keep using it so we can use it as a personal red flag to avoid you because you’re unpleasant.)

yes, i’m white. i can’t begin to know what it’s like to be an african american in a racist society. but i’m willing to listen, i’m willing to be self-critical, i’m willing to change what i need to, and i’m willing to speak about it in a way that i hope is unoffensive and persuasive to people who need this message.

this is coming from the girl who bought a rebel flag from a POW gift shop in third grade and was gretchen wilson for halloween one year. just because we live our lives a little slower doesn’t mean we have to be “backwards”.

please feel free to message me (NICELY i’m sensitive) if anything i said here was out of line or stepped on any toes because that’s not what i’m trying to do! i genuinely want to help 🙂

Most Heartbreaking Deaths on The Walking Dead

After seeing one too many “Top Ten” lists of fallen Walking Dead characters that listed terrible choices for favorites — Shane? The GOVERNOR? — I have decided to compile my own. There are obviously spoilers ahead.

Here are the top 10 deaths on The Walking Dead that broke my heart, number one being the most emotional for me.

10. Merle Dixon. Okay, so Merle’s death at face value was only sad because of Daryl’s reaction to finding him. He was a racist, redneck jerk. But after watching Daryl’s character grow, it became sad in its own right to me. They were both abused and neglected as kids, and had crappy lives as adults. I can’t help but wonder whether Merle could have become a valued member of the group and learned how it feels to be part of a family if he had lived.

9. Lizzie and Mika Samuels. Mika was murdered by her psychotic sister, who was then murdered by Carol to keep Judith safe. Even though one of them was unstable and one was innocent, seeing both of them die was disturbing and sad.

8. T-Dog. In a show where the dead are eating the living and characters are dying left and right, I really wish they hadn’t killed off the comic relief in season 3. He risked his life trying to take Merle back the keys to the handcuffs even though Merle hurled racial slurs at him, and he also saved Carol’s life. That makes him an amazing character in my book.

7. Sophia Peletier. Seeing Carol’s daughter come out of Hershel’s barn as a walker was heartbreaking. She had a sad life with an abusive father, and died scared and alone. Pass the tissues.

6. Tyreese. Tyreese was the epitome of the gentle giant. He was just as tough as he was sweet. A big guy with a soft heart who protects a baby on the run does not need to die.

5. Andrea Harrison. Andrea gets a lot of hate for falling for the Governor, but losing her was emotional for me. She was the ultimate peacemaker and idealist. She couldn’t abandon the innocent people at Woodbury once she knew the Governor was corrupt, but she couldn’t leave her family to be slaughtered either. She tried to get Rick and the Governor to come up with a solution where no one had to die. In the end, she made it all the way back to the prison to fight with the group when the Governor caught her. Hence her last words: “I tried.”

4. Dale Horvath. Dale’s last words show the group didn’t need to lose him: “This group is broken.” As the level-headed moral compass of the group who saw through Shane, saved Andrea from committing suicide, and fought for the life of the prisoner at the farm who everyone else wanted to kill, Dale was just as necessary as Rick in my opinion. Rick lead the group physically and kept them safe, but Dale lead them morally and kept them human.

3. Lori Grimes. I know almost everyone hates Lori, but that doesn’t mean I understand why. Technically, she didn’t cheat on Rick since Shane manipulated her into thinking he was dead. She was a loving mother and a tough woman with a backbone of steel. Her dying speech to Carl during her C-section had me crying like a baby.

2. Hershel Greene. No one wants to see a kind, spiritual, selfless old man get slaughtered. End of story. From overcoming losing his leg to risking his life to take care of the sick people in the prison, he was, in Daryl’s words, “a tough son of a bitch.”

1. Beth Greene. Beth Greene was a hard character to lose for two reasons. As we have seen with so many people on the show, living in a world where you are constantly on edge and don’t know who you can trust can take its toll. Beth is the perfect example of a character who was ill-equipped for the apocalypse and kept going anyway. She had a hard time with the loss of her mom and her brother, but she overcame her depression and self-harm. She later witnessed the brutal murder of her father. She learned how to be strong, but she kept her softness, which is just as important in keeping humanity alive. She represented hope for the group. She raised Judith, rescued Daryl from his inner demons, and saved Noah’s life.
On a more personal level, as a very petite twenty year-old girl who is watching Michonne and Maggie kill walkers with skillfull ease, a character like Beth is a breath of fresh air. I love them all, but it’s nice seeing someone sensitive and caring with a tender heart who can still kick ass with the best of them.

(Don’t even get me started about how she only died for shock value, and Coda was a very poorly written episode.)

Things I Learned from Growing up Southern (That I Hope I Never Forget)

  1. Hospitality. When your car passes another, you wave to them whether you know them or not. If you don’t, they’ll think you’re from out of town. Or worse, a Yankee.
  2. Patience. There’s no such thing as road rage when you grew up in the South. I’ve been stuck behind a tractor on a curvy back road too many times to bat an eye at bumper-to-bumper traffic.
  3. Coping with grief. Depending on how close you are to the person who passed, you’re either taking their family a casserole or eating a casserole.
  4. Manners. Where I come from, you could be sent to the principal for not saying “yes/no ma’am” (or “sir”) to a teacher. And it’s a habit you never break, no matter how old you get. The first time a child called me “ma’am”, I had an existential crisis.
  5. The art of frying vegetables. Well, and pretty much everything else. But especially vegetables. Fried green tomatoes are life-changing.
  6. Blessing someone’s heart. Depending on the tone of voice, it can be an expression of deep sympathy, or a biting mockery.

On the perverse sense of modesty Christian females are expected to adhere to

I really started noticing it when I was 17. I had been attending a youth group for about a year, and it was my first time feeling like a member of a church. I loved it. I loved going two nights a week, I loved the other teenagers, and I loved the youth minister. One Wednesday night, I invited two younger girls to come with me and drove them there. They were announcing a beach retreat to Panama City, and we all three wanted to go. Then came the rules: girls are expected to wear shirts over their bathing suits at all time. “Even in the water?” Even in the water.

One of the girls and I went to the youth ministers office after the sermon was over and everyone had left. We understood that churches insist on modest dress, and that wasn’t something we planned to get into, but something wasn’t sitting well with us. “Do the boys have to wear t-shirts too?” we asked. We found out they didn’t. The boys were allowed to be completely shirtless. And the girls, even though some were as young as sixth grade and didn’t even have noticeable breasts yet, were already being taught to be ashamed of their bodies. Of the bodies that God created for them.

The story of what happened with the youth minister isn’t what this is post is about, but I’ll include a summary anyway to further demonstrate what’s wrong with the Christian church. The youth pastor made a joke of it when we requested that boys have to wear shirts too so that it was fair. He called us feminazis to blow it off. I was inconsolable. I had idolized this guy as the kind of Christian I wanted to be. He was the first person to make me feel welcome in a church. And now, I felt like he was making fun of me for an innocent question, one that I felt was important.

Needless to say, we did not attend this retreat. I was also humiliated for bringing two fifteen year-old girls to hear such a message.*

Why does the Christian church feel the need to sexualize not only the shoulders, stomachs, legs, and breasts of women, but also of little girls? If a grown man sees something remotely sexual about a sixteen year-old girl in a bathing suit, he is the problem. Not her. And teaching her to cover herself up while she sees men and boys walking around with their bare chests exposed is only causing her shame and insecurity. Why can’t we instead teach the men in the church from a young age how to interact appropriately with the opposite sex and respect when they don’t give consent?

Is it not enough that the media shows us what women should look like? Must we also know that we have to hide what we do look like to be good Christians?

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gone somewhere in a pair of cut off shorts and a t-shirt and had something crude and sexual said to me by grown men. And if a church places the blame on me, for exposing my legs in ninety degree Georgia heat, instead of on a grown man who is supposed to be able to (ideally) control his actions by now, then that’s a church I want no part in. Being catcalled has always made me furious, yes, but it’s also made me feel a sense of embarrassment I can’t really explain. It’s a feeling of wishing I could crawl out of my own skin that I didn’t even intend to be sexy.

What is wrong with us that we make girls feel ashamed for the very thing that has kept the human race alive for so many years? Without breast feeding, men wouldn’t be alive today to proudly display their pecs and abs.

Finally, I’d like to acknowledge what I’ve seen going around a lot lately on social media. Kylie Jenner versus Sadie Robertson articles by Christian bloggers, all trumpeting Sadie’s purity and degrading Kylie. If you’re pitting two teenage girls you’ve never met against each other on superficial guidelines, you are NOT a Christian blogger. Sorry. It’s not what Jesus would want, and it’s just plain “not nice”. It’s not really fair, either. They’ve both had two very different upbringings, as is evident from the reality shows of their families.

If you think that the way Kylie Jenner wears short-shorts, crop tops, and push-up bras is scandalous and un-Christian, then by all means, don’t wear them. But don’t shame her for them. If you think that Sadie Robertson’s conservative necklines and covered belly is what God wants you to wear, then wear it. But first, I want you to think about if you’re wearing it because you personally feel you’re honoring the Lord’s image, or because you feel you are honoring your churches image of not dressing “trashy”. Because here’s a friendly reminder: Jesus hung out with the sinners, the prostitutes, the low-lifes, and everyone who no one wanted anything to do with. He didn’t just talk about them in his suit and tie once a week in his air conditioned church on the nice side of town. He got to really know them for who they are in their heart, not their exteriority or their reputation. My point is that a girl in a Sadie Robertson-approved prom dress can be just as much of a sinner as a girl in dress Kylie Jenner would wear to the club, and Jesus would see through what they’re wearing. He would also love both of them.

I am not ashamed of my body, and I am not ashamed of wearing things that make me feel good about myself. So let’s not force the standard on women of all ages that they have to hide their bodies to be “good” Christians. Because I personally plan to rock high-waisted shorts and crop tops, AND have the grace of Jesus in my heart.

Let’s make a place for feminism in Christianity.

(* I didn’t return to this church for six months, even though he reached out to me and apologized for what he said. Then I found out he was leaving the church and moving to another state near the end of my senior year, and I went to his last sermon with an apology note for taking so long to reach out to him. We hugged and made up, and it was a great night. I thought about not including this anecdote in my post because I don’t want to paint him in a negative light for those who know him, but I decided it’s important to the message I have to say. What happened taught me a lesson about forgiveness, and I hope it taught him a lesson about how to interact with his female students in the future in a way that makes them feel respected and proud of who they are. I think he is an amazing man, but when it comes to this, he and a lot of other Christians, are wrong.)

Holocaust Survivor Hugs Former Nazi Concentration Camp Guard at His Trial

holocaust victim and nazi

“Today after the afternoon session of the court, I went up to Oskar Groening. He wanted to stand up. I said, “Please don’t, we do not want a repetition of last time.” I just shook his hand and said, “I appreciate the fact that you are willing to come here and face us. But I would like you to appeal to the old Nazis who are still alive to come forward and address the problem of neo-Nazis in Germany today. Because these young misguided Germans who want Hitler and fascism to come back – they will not listen to Eva Kor or any other survivor. You can tell them you were in Auschwitz, you were involved with the Nazi party, and it was a terrible thing.”

As I was talking to him, he grabbed me and gave me a kiss on the cheek. Well I probably wouldn’t have gone that far, but I guess it is better than what he would have done to me 70 years ago.

Everything he is accused of – I am saying he did all that. I told him that my forgiveness did not prevent me from accusing him nor from him taking responsibility for his actions. And I told the media that he was a small screw in a big killing machine, and the machine cannot function without the small screws. But obviously he is a human being. His response to me is exactly what I was talking about when I said you cannot predict what will happen when someone from the victims’ side and someone from the perpetrators’ side meet in a spirit of humanity.

I know many people will criticize me for this photo, but so be it. It was two human beings seventy years after it happened. For the life of me I will never understand why anger is preferable to a goodwill gesture. Nothing good ever comes from anger. Any goodwill gesture in my book will win over anger any time. The energy that anger creates is a violent energy.

I feel sorry for Oskar Groening for one reason: He lived a miserable life. I think if I were the judge, I would ask him one question: “Did you live a happy life?” When he looks back, he probably cannot be proud of anything, and will see he was wrong. So he would judge himself.

The purpose of this trial from my perspective is not to give him a piece of my mind but to teach the young neo-Nazis that Auschwitz existed. They can pretend and say it didn’t, and if I testify and say it was there, they dismiss me because I am a Jew and I have an interest in telling that story. But a former Nazi has no interest in saying Auschwitz existed – in fact he has an interest in denying it.

99.9% of the perpetrators will die without bearing witness. I would prefer that every Nazi, every perpetrator within a reasonable time – not seventy years but much, much faster – should come out of hiding and own up to what they have done. For that very simple reason I have to acknowledge that Groening at least made an effort. I do not think he is a hero for that, but at least he was willing to admit it in a public court.

I am asking a question: What do we want in the future? Do we want to keep pointing fingers and the accused stay in one corner and the accuser stay in the other corner and they never connect? How will that work out? Look at the world – it doesn’t work out. All we have is people who are feeling angry, people who are running around doing crazy things.

When tragic things happen, we have to sit down and discuss, what are the options for the victims and for the perpetrators? Most people are only here in court to accuse him of things he has already admitted. So now what? I don’t think we should raise a statue in his honor, but he can serve as a good example to young people that what he participated in was terrible, that it was wrong, and that he is sorry that he was part of it. Now there is a message that has some usefulness for society.

If I had it my way, the dialogue between the survivors and perpetrators would have started a long time ago. And it would have helped the survivors cope and maybe heal themselves, but even more so not to pass the pain on to their children.

My ideas in life are very different, I know. I am in the minority – maybe a minority of one. I know how society looks at it, but as I look at society, I do not think it is working very well. So what I am saying is, maybe we ought to try something else. And my idea is for people from the victims’ side and people from the perpetrators’ side to come together, face the truth, try to heal, and work together to prevent it from ever happening again.”

– Eva Mozes Kor 

The next time I am harsh and unforgiving with someone I love, may I remember this woman, who showed grace and a kind heart to a man she has every right to hate.