Let Us Choose Peace

fullsizeoutput_f64Grainy shot from my trip to China–an incredible experience!

Today is the International Day of Peace.  I was excited weeks ago when I read it in my calendar, especially because the healing writing group I am involved with meets today.

The concept of “international peace” is simultaneously a fantasy that seems attainable, while also being something we can never touch.  Over the past week, peace has been in my face—or rather, the lack of it.  My heart is filled with sorrow at the hardness of humans against other humans, for differences that should bring us together.  Instead our governments, many media sources, propaganda, and our own prejudices divide us.

Two days ago I listened to a podcast by The Corbett Report about the lies that started the war in Afghanistan.  Last night, my husband and I watched some more of a documentary we’ve been viewing about Israel and how the United States gives carte blanche loyalty to a country committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.  9/11 recently passed, and I was again reminded of the millions of people affected by the United States choosing (even possibly orchestrating the events) to go to war for geopolitical reasons (i.e. greed).

This week you may have seen a woman from CodePink interrupting a presentation on the Iran Missile Program.  She spoke clearly, even while they tried to deter her from speaking out in support of the citizens of Iran who are constantly being hurt by decisions made by the United States government.

Peace.  We all seek it.  We all desire it.  We want it…for ourselves.  However, how many of us want it for the people we perceive as our enemies?  I say perceive, because statistically speaking, you’re more likely to be stung by a bee and die than die from a terrorist attack.  I say perceive, because if you follow social media accounts of travelers in the Middle East (where so many westerners base their fear) you would see incredible hospitality, people having fun, the most delicious food you can imagine, and a culture that cares.

That is the difference between people and governments.

When will we, as humans, stand up to the partisan politics that continue to wreak havoc on our WORLD?  My citizenship does not make me blind to the beauty and the atrocities around the globe.  I consider myself a citizen of the world.  I cherish what I have learned from my travels abroad and my chance meetings with internationals in the countries where I have resided.

Peace requires a change in our mentalities.  It requires us to remember and acknowledge the humanity in each one of us.  It forces me to remember the love I have for the person who says hateful things about other people I love.  It teaches me that through education peace has a greater chance of attainability because when people know something it can change their perspective.

Today, and every day, let’s choose peace—a peace that comes with well reasoned ideologies and process to create something better than we have ever experienced.  Something that goes beyond what we can fathom.  Think outside the box.  Imagine what can happen if we fight for peace and stop creating war!

Let us choose peace.

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Art As A Weapon

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I was browsing a site that sells art this evening.  At the top of a page, there was a description of modern art’s color blocking that emerged in the mid-twentieth century.  I remember wanting to spend significant time discussing and attempting to understand modern art during my art history class in college.  I found the subject frustrating—starting with Duchamp’s Fountain.  Now, when I see images from that era, or artists attempting to continue the genre, I sit back, annoyed that I ever gave it the time of day.

You see, earlier this summer, my husband and I watched a four-part documentary series filmed in the 90s.  One of the segments shared that the modern art movement was really a CIA propaganda move to combat the rise of the Soviet Union.  Essentially, it was a war of the arts to prove who could produce higher culture.

Tonight I watched the movie Florence Foster Jenkins.  I won’t bother with the synopsis (because you should go watch it), but she is a well to-do woman who can afford to sponsor her own music career—while funding the career of her own pianist.  Her husband protects her from negative criticism because…well, you’ll just have to watch the movie.  But, while watching it, I realized how the arts can be a healing force.

I’m married to a musician, but I am not one.  I love music—certain kinds of music.  It makes me feel so many emotions.  I rise and fall with it.  Art does not only belong to the rich.  It belongs to all of us.  In our home we are so fortunate to be surrounded by art almost entirely created by people we know.  None of them paint or draw for a living.  For most, it’s a hobby.  Different techniques.  All bring me pleasure.

I suppose I’m trying to explain that I feel cheated by the government for manipulating the world with art.  Would Pollock be famous without the CIA?  I know the great artists were funded by patrons—often the Catholic church.  I’m struggling with the idea that what I’ve grown up admiring is not pure, but rather is tainted by the souls of those who sold themselves out to governments that do not work for the good of the people, but for their own self-interests.

How Do You Say “I Care And You’re Wrong”?

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You know the words you say when talking about dealing with people who disagree with you?  That you can still have a relationship with those people who post racist, bigoted, intolerant statuses, because you want to be open and facilitate and participate in constructive conversations?  You know what I’m talking about.

Well, today I found out that a man I’ve known most of my life, who is well known in a small, rural, Virginia community, posted something blatantly racist on a live broadcast of former President Obama speaking while in Africa (at the 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, no less).  The way I found out was that a black friend of mine posted a screenshot of it in an (understandable) outrage.  In my shock I did the only thing I could think of: I apologized to her for his words.

I looked up the individual’s Facebook page and saw that he’d posted a live apology for his statement.  He blamed it on his political stance, reiterating repeatedly that he was in no way, shape, or form racist, and that he has many friends who are people of color and of different nationalities—because we all know that means you aren’t racist, after you’ve said something very racist.

Here’s the question that this situation provoked: how should I plan to interact with this man in the future?  And even more than that, how should I plan to interact with people I care about more deeply who say or do something racist?

Closing myself off is not an option, because if I do that there is no chance for meaningful conversations and possible change.  If I let it slide and remain close, then I am choosing silence and allowing myself to become part of something I abhor.  Addressing it every.single.time runs the risk of the argument being tuned out, and thus “casting my pearls before swine.”

Typically, I try to point out when things are inappropriate—whether about race or anything else.  Usually, I’m ignored or laughed at (one time I was temporarily blocked…by a family member…and then left unfriended because the person never communicated they didn’t want me to keep commenting).  Sometimes there is a lot of feedback, and on the rare occasion, it’s actually a constructive conversation.  The BEST interactions, though, are the ones that occur over time and in person—like in the office.  Those people who get to see you juggle a million things, struggle with crappy bosses and absurd deadlines and workloads…they pause to consider what you say during that much needed coffee break.  And a year later?  You find out some of your soap-box-speeches made an impact.

So yes, in person is ALWAYS better.  And that’s what I’m really getting at—how do you choose to interact with people who not only disagree with you but who are morally wrong in their belief?  And deny it?  So far, the conversation is working with people with whom I have a relationship, but the people who are only acquaintances?  It brings out a whole different reaction.

I could always write a letter…to the editor.  (I really like writing letters when I don’t like something.  I’ve written to Miss America Organization, NBC, authors who didn’t answer the questions they created in their book, op-eds, letters to the editor…if nothing else, it feels good to get it out!)

What are your thoughts on these issues?

Thoughts While Aging

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Age is really on my mind.  Tomorrow’s my birthday.  I’m turning 27 (it’s still my mid-twenties, right?).  As I reflect on the last year…and two years…I realize I feel old and unaccomplished.

Maybe this is a theme in my life.  Growing up, I was always ahead; I knew more than most of my classmates, I read at a much higher level, was exposed to many historical and cultural things, and traveled around quite a bit.  Then I “mainstreamed” and met other people who were high-achievers and competitive.

Over time, my inner-drive diminished some.  Then, I started college—early.  Again, back to being ahead!  I graduated at 20, flew to NYC for an intensive journalism program, and then began job hunting back home (I was willing to move almost anywhere).  Truth be told, I don’t remember how many places I applied to prior to graduating.  They didn’t really prep us for those things.  In a way, I think colleges and universities didn’t realize how much the culture was shifting after the recession, which made getting hired way harder than it used to be.  (I promise this isn’t a sob story.)

After several years of working numerous part-time and seasonal jobs, moving across the ocean, and then moving back, I finally landed a full-time job.  It was rough at times, but it was employment.  Though looking for something new and in the field I love (journalism), I determinedly started my second year.  About a month into it, I found myself hospitalized and diagnosed with cancer.  Not exactly soaring forward in the career world.

Truthfully, the gap on my resume that comes from my nearly two year long fight with cancer and recovery is a stress in my life.  I often wonder how I will get hired without disclosing everything…and then they may not hire me anyway.  But, that’s a spiraling thought process—don’t focus on that.

The flip side of these nearly two years without work is the time I’ve had to grow as a person.  If I hadn’t fought it so much, I’d likely be much further along, but I do want there to be something to show at the end of this…more than a healthy body.  I want a healthy mind and spirit.  But, with all of that, I still feel behind—not as accomplished as other people my age.

Nevermind it all.  I have goals, daily, weekly, monthly, and beyond.  Now is the time to turn up the determination levels and dig in.  If I want it, I must work.  While I’ve been sick, I’ve simply felt like I could only survive.  Beyond that was often too much.  But, now I must push myself to increase my stamina as I continue to heal, recover, and regain normalcy.  These things beyond basic health will take work, but I want them.

So, now I close.  I’m only 26 for a little bit longer.
Who honestly knows what the new year will bring?
Only one way to find out!

Community in the Deep Side of the Pond

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I don’t know about where you live, but where I live, Spring is playing a teasing game of hide-and-seek.  The tantalizing scents, sights, and sounds cause my heart to swell with joy and anticipation of the refreshing weather and soul rejuvenation that is just around the corner (but the continued chilly days bring a damper).

With the changing of the season, I feel the urge to start some new life-habits, including a new book that I hope will give me some deeper insight into my own journey.  Have you ever read The Life You Save May Be Your Own by Paul Elie?  My impression is that it will compare, contrast, and ponder over what it’s four authors of focus wrote, lived, and contributed (the book looks at the lives of Flannery O’Connery, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, and Walker Percy).  I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve read it.

I know little bits about each of these authors—some more than others.  There is something deep and contemplative, hidden even, that I want to explore and gain from their experiences.  I’ve always loved the deeper things in life because that’s where bonding and community form, it’s where life is best lived and souls are grown.

Community is a beautiful and necessary thing.  When I reflect back over my 26.5 years, I see the ways I’ve grown and changed based on who I was around.  I also notice the maturing, though difficult, I’ve undergone during the lonely times in my life.  These authors, though separated by distance, have been placed in a category of influence during the 20th century much, it seems, like those members of the Lost Generation or the Transcendentalists (both groups with members or offspring from whom I garner inspiration) in their times.

Some of these communities burgeon into influential movements that impact the world, others will remain smaller and impact those in their immediate sphere of influence, but ALL serve a purpose.  One of my favorite times of community was during college when I was surrounded by close friends, all of us doing our best to figure out our lives.  It gets harder after graduating, when everyone disperses.  I’m thankful for the occasional visit or unexpected circle of peers (shout out to my Black Mountain people), because as a social adult, especially one recovering from a disease that limits my social time, I still need that connection that feeds my soul, the one that lets us share the struggles we are facing and what work we’re doing to address them.

One of my aunts shared a piece of Chinese wisdom with me yesterday: if you want to make a change in your life, do it for one minute a day until it becomes habit for that length of time.  Then, add a second minute.  The things in our lives we want to change—part of why I’ve chosen to read this new book—start with simple steps, like reading a short story in the evening before bed to feed my mind but without the commitment to something much longer.  It means making intentional decisions based on my personal goals for each day and stage of life.

Here’s to picking something you want to make a habit and doing it for one minute!
Here’s to creating community and going deep.
Here’s to Spring and rebirth.

Tea With a Side of Truth, Please

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A few years ago I was inspired to name a blog “The Teapot Journalist.”  Since then, it’s taken different twists and turns as I continue to seek out what exactly the name means to me…the teapot journalist.

On the surface level, I enjoy writing and sipping tea—who doesn’t?  I am passionate about writing and sharing information and ideas, but my passions don’t stop there.  I find myself wanting to write about a great many things that don’t necessarily correlate with each other.  What connects them is the multi-faceted realm of life.

I desire to be transparent and vulnerable in appropriate areas.  In a way, I want to work through questions that I, and others, are facing.  Nothing is straight forward, but for people (like me) with a tendency for the black-and-white thinking approach, going into the colorful waters of “in between” can feel very overwhelming—like a brain overload.  I’m learning where I fit and that I am an evolving person with changing ideas.

These evolutions we (I) face are not free from conflict.  It’s a battle between many forces, including the perspectives I was taught to believe while growing up, the ideas I encountered during those wonderful college years, and the uncomfortable unearthing of new information…forever altering how I view our world.  (Forever altering, if I allow new information in, that is.). The problem is when I am too afraid, or not yet fully prepared, to move forward with such a shift.

That fear is what I don’t like.  I don’t enjoy being afraid; I like being certain.  However, there isn’t much of which we can be certain.  When people question what is generally accepted, they’re labeled as conspiracy theorists.  *Side note: there are a lot of conspiracies floating around…how does one choose which one(s) to investigate?*  What if, instead of being labeled as conspiracy theorists, we called them “truth seekers”?  Looking for the truth, not the smoke and mirrors that become more prevalent as people become more professional and powerful, is an admirable trait that I wish more people would develop.

I wish I could pursue it more fully without all the internal conflict, but I suppose it’s like a rite of passage into deeper realms of thought and understanding.

Recovering and Growing

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For the past year and a half I’ve been battling and recovering from cancer/cancer treatments.  Over that time, I’ve striven to continue posting about things I care about.  However, I want to restart, sporadic or not as it may be, because I have this inner drive to write.  It helps me process issues and this blog gives me a platform to choose what I want to write about.

The inspiration for this blog has not changed: my passion for social justice, journalism, and championing change in my own way.  What has changed is the way I’m approaching this blog.  As I recover from my stem cell transplant, I want to continue to grow as a person, not simply recover my physical abilities.  Therefore, I am still going to write about issues that are important, but with a different tone—probably a personal one.  This is not a newspaper, it’s a space where I can explore, write, and share about topics that matter to me.

My hope is, if you read what I write and it impacts you, that you’ll talk about it with people around you and share the conversation—or talk with me.