Have We Regressed? Or Have We Just Been Silent?

Hi everyone! I’m doing something a little different today.

I’ve been largely quiet on this page as to my views and beliefs, and I want to state right now, before anything else, that I respect and honor your opinions and beliefs and will fight to make sure you are always able to express them; please do the same for me.

Now, like many people in America, I’m upset and disturbed at the path our supposedly progressive country has chosen to go down. I recently discovered that I’ve honestly been fairly naive and arrogant in thinking that the America that I grew up in, and the world I grew up in, is this great, loving, free state of life. In reality it’s still just as backwards as it ever was.

So why am I writing about this? Well, I grew incredibly upset with an article I read in People Magazine titled Jinger Duggar’s Big Day! This article is about a 22-year-old from a well-known reality TV family. The Duggar family is consisted of two parents, Jim and Michelle, and 19 children. They believe that God will give them exactly what they need in the world, so they do not believe in contraceptives, abortions, or medicine interfering when it comes to children. This girl, who I believe is the fourth oldest, recently married a not very well known ex-professional soccer player, Jeremy Vuolo, 29. I think it’s fantastic that these two got married, as long as they’re happy.

What I had a hard time sitting with was this exact quote from Michelle Duggar:

“Jeremy is a strong leader, and Jinger is such a gentle people person and a great follower.”

Let’s read between the lines here: Jeremy, an athletic, wealthy, religious man, is head of the household and is a great leader, and Jinger? Why she’s a pretty young girl who just can’t wait to follow her husband to Texas, and be a little social bee in their upscale neighborhood.

Maybe I’m just stubborn (I think anyone who knows me would agree with this) but if my boyfriend ever told me to  be his “follower,” I’d plant my heels in the dirt so fast he wouldn’t know what hit him.

Now I brought this up to my boyfriend (who promptly agreed that this would not be a favorable situation for him, but who also looked me in the eyes and told me, “I want you to know I value your opinions.” D’awww!) and we started to have a very interesting discussion – not about these particular people, who can do whatever they please in life, but about American society as a whole.

You see, before the Duggars, I actually did not think there were many people out there who still had their way of thinking: God is king, man is law, woman is behind man at all times. Again, if this is your way of thinking, that’s great. But it’s not mine, and frankly I don’t personally know of any woman who would agree with this either.

So before this well known family emerged, I thought this type of thinking was in the past. Arrogantly, I thought, okay, I know there are some men out there who think a woman’s place is in the kitchen, but there aren’t THAT many. In fact, I distinctly remember when the Duggar’s show came on air, and I thought, wait, is this real? Like actually real? I couldn’t understand that this was a show about real life people and their real life beliefs; that it wasn’t a scripted reality TV program like Laguna Beach, and the people in it were expressing genuine views.

I’m having this same train of thought now, in 2016. Donald Trump had been running for President of the United States of America. A whopping title! I, like many others, believed it to be a joke and he’d jump to the side of the podium one day with jazz hands flailing, yelling, “Gotcha!” And everything would be back to normal.

But nope. Sadly, his campaign has not only succeeded in getting that whopping title, but it’s succeeded in bringing out all of these different people that I thought history had erased. I didn’t think the person across from my apartment complex could possibly be okay with sexual assault, sexism, racism, bigotry, misogyny, and many, many more things that we, as a people, have tried so hard to get rid of. I didn’t think the person that gave me my bagel in the morning was an advocate for inhumane rights, homophobia, and making Muslims wear identification tags. I didn’t think that the friendly people I see every single day secretly hated others so much that they would proudly come forward with Trump. No, sir, I did not.

Growing up in school, the question always raised in history classes was: How could people have let Hitler do the things he did? How could someone have been okay with this?

Well, I’ll give you a new question: How could we, as a supposedly caring, kind, empathetic, accepting group of people, have that age-old-question and still follow Trump blindly?

The answer is so simple. We just haven’t changed as much as I thought we had.

History is doomed to repeat itself. I never thought that the horrible ideals that people had in the past would come back, but apparently they just never left! People are still out there preaching hate, condemning other people based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and even sticking to the idea that women are nothing but pretty objects to look at (but God forbid they talk!) These opinions are nothing new, they’ve just been largely silent for the past 70 years.

I guess what I’m saying is that, it seems to me, large groups of people with ancient and hurtful ways of thinking, have suddenly surfaced in a time where I thought we were civilized enough, advanced enough, and accepting enough to never let history repeat itself in this large of a fashion.

This is a scary time. But remember, it can get better!

My one plea to you is this: Our country and a lot of the people in it are moving backwards. If we, as individuals, can keep moving forward we’ll be all right. We just need to accept people as they are, and understand that you can’t change them – but you can change the way that you react towards them.

I’m going to leave you with a poem that I absolutely love, and find strength in all the time. I’ve tried to live up to this every single day since I first read it.

IN LAK’ECH

Tú eres mi otro yo.

You are my other me.

Si te hago daño a ti,

If I do harm to you,

Me hago daño a mi mismo.

I do harm to myself.

Si te amo y respeto,

If I love and respect you,

Me amo y respeto yo.

I love and respect myself.

Until next time,

Rachel

rachel@booksandcleverness.com

P.S. I’m sorry to anyone who is offended by this post. I did not mean it as an attack, or as hurtful criticism. I simply wanted to get my opinion out there. If we have different opinions, that’s wonderful! I’m glad! That makes life interesting, that makes the conversation better. But let’s keep it at that: a conversation.

A Little Bit Of Me | You Are Perfect

I’ve been re-reading an excellent book, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. This book is fantastic, I read it a few years back and absolutely loved it. It sparked a big chapter in my life of books about Asian cultures (particularly the wonderful Amy Tan!) and I just can’t recommend this book enough.

But that’s not what I want to say. You see, in Memoirs of a Geisha the main character is forced into the Geisha life at the age of 9. She has to go through a lot of really difficult situations, but the biggest situation in the beginning of the book is her relationship with the Geisha in her house, Hatsumomo. Hatsumomo thinks she is God’s gift to everyone and treats everyone around her like shit because she can.

She is jealous of the main character, Sayuri (Chiyo), and seeks to make her life hell. And this is why I’m writing: I was thinking about this chapter in Sayuri’s life a lot, because bullying is unfortunately something I know a lot about.

Since I was a child I have been bullied relentlessly. Whether it be about my body, my skin, my features, my clothes, my house, whatever it may be, I was picked on for it. Growing up in a wealthy town but not having as much money as the people going to school with you, you really are made to feel inferior.

I had a hard time getting the school system to listen to my complaints, and unfortunately that gave my bullies more ammunition. By the time I entered high school I was already so beaten down that I couldn’t physically walk through the door of the school. I would go in to school and throw up in the bathroom because I was just so uneasy.

I was constantly avoiding classrooms, avoiding people, and sadly that meant that I was failing my classes. What was a girl to do? I couldn’t get inside the building without being physically sick, I couldn’t stay home because then I’d fail my classes, but I couldn’t face the people I’d have to see at school.

So I did what any sane person would do. I stopped going to school. (NOTE: I do not condone dropping out of school) For about a year I just stayed home and had anxiety attacks. It was an incredibly hard time for me.

But you know what happened in that time? I started to learn about myself. I began to look back on my life and the people in it and I could say, “hey, I’m fucking awesome. I’m smart, I’m funny, I’m pretty, I have an awesome family, I’m comfortable with who I am. So if people can’t appreciate that then they go kick rocks!”

This was a good period in my life. Because once I came to that conclusion I actually managed to get back into school, and this was an interesting school. It was basically an academic program that allowed kids who have difficult home-life situations earn a high school diploma while catering to their needs as individuals. This was a godsend. That school taught me so much about life.

You see the kids I went to school with were rough and tough – the kinds of kids you’d see on the street and be like, “shit, I don’t want to mess with them” but when you talk to them they’re incredibly sweet and intelligent people. They all taught me a lot about acceptance. I was finally accepted somewhere. Granted, I was a quiet person and one time I told someone to shut the fuck up and everyone was super taken aback, but they accepted me, still. They never shut me out or made me feel unwelcome. Even though I didn’t look like them, I was still one of them because it didn’t matter how I looked, it just mattered that I accepted them too.

The teachers were incredible, they constantly made me feel like I was doing something well. I’ve always been smart with history and English, but math and science you can just forget about. They were not my best subjects, but I was offered help and I took it.

By the time I graduated high school and started going to college I felt like the person I was supposed to be. I felt comfortable in my skin and felt confident that I could succeed in anything I did.

But you know what? I had to go through years of mental and verbal abuse, years of thinking I would never be worthy enough for someone to love, years of thinking it would never get better and it might be easier to just not be around anymore. And yes, that sucked!

But here’s the thing: it gets better. I was fortunate enough to have a great family to help me through the difficult times, but even without them, I would have been just fine. Because I know, and I knew, that the person I am is worth it. I am worthy of being loved, I am worthy of a good education, I am worthy of earning respect, and I am worthy of being around.

And guess what? All those people that made fun of you, they mean nothing. They were making fun of you and tormenting you because they had something wrong with them. They felt inferior about something and found someone to pick on to use it against them. Their mean spirits and their abuse has nothing to do with you or how you look or how you act. It has everything to do with them not feeling good enough. You are always good enough, and you are strong for holding on to who you are even in the toughest of times.

So whenever you think you aren’t good enough, that your body isn’t exactly what the magazines say it should be, or that you have crooked teeth, or your clothes aren’t in style, or whatever it may be that makes you feel inferior. Just remember, you are perfect! You are exactly what you were meant to be. You are intelligent, you are funny, you are kind, you are helpful, you are strong. And you will get through anything you’re going through, and will look back on the other side and realize how much stronger you are after going through those obstacles.

Never think it will not get better. It will get better. I know it’s hard, but you can do anything. And I mean really, if Sayuri can get through being bullied by Hatsumomo and then proving everyone wrong by becoming the best Geisha in Kyoto, then you can get through anything too.

I hope that helped at least one person, because if I knew what I know now back in school, I wouldn’t be sweating that small stuff. I’d be so blissfully happy knowing that I would have a wonderful boyfriend who loves me no matter what, a supportive and loving family who has helped me through everything in life, an amazing little dog who eats my lipstick but is the cutest thing in the entire world, and the most awesome, badass life I could ever imagine.

It gets better. And you are perfect. Don’t forget that.

Until next time,

Rachel

e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com