Monday, November 7, 2016

Just between us Millennials...

If you’ve been friends with me for a few years, you know that every election year I post a blog about why you should vote. I talk about a woman in Thailand that told me how lucky I was because my government actually has to follow the constitution. I talk about Mugabe’s brutality and the struggle in Burma for democracy.  Normally it’s my attempt to get out the vote and inspire some civic duty. I never say who to vote for. I get to use the same blog each year because my arguments are always relevant and I never felt the NEED to say who you should vote for. I believed in the principle of the vote so much that I kept my politics out of it and focused on the duty and the right.

But this year is different. I don’t have to inspire civic duty or remind people to vote. Because the public is more aware of this campaign and the importance of voting than I have ever seen. I DO feel the need to promote a side this year. A lot of people feel that way too, with the result that people are *sick to death* of being yelled at to vote and who to vote for!

So what do I write about? What do I post? How do I elevate the dialogue and appeal to those highest of democratic principles that I hold so dear? Principles written into law by deeply flawed men that I love and revere?

I don’t have an easy answer, but I know there is one group of people that holds all the power in this election so I’m going to talk to you: my millennials, my Bernie bros, my peers, my countrywomen. All the polls have Hillary winning tomorrow. Many of my friends are sighing sighs of relief. But I can’t. I can’t because I REMEMBER this year. I remember all my friends that said they could never vote for Clinton. I remember all my friends who said they would write in Bernie, or vote for Stein or just say home. And I remember 2 hours ago when I went head to head with a friend of mine who voted for Trump.

I have never once seen a post for Stein on my feed in the last 4 months. Not once. Instead my feed is filled all day every day with Johson and McMullin. My liberal friends are shocked when I tell them this. They are shocked when I say that my older sister loves Reagan, that my environmental activist little sister is voting for Johnson and that my childhood friend that was born days before me protests in front of planned parenthood. They can’t believe that there are people our age that are that conservative. They can’t believe I *actually* know Trump supporters. I think to them, Trump supporters are like unicorns. Or maybe a boogieman used to scare us into being good. And that concerns me. Because they are not unicorns or boogiemen. Trump supporters and conservatives are a real force in this country and it’s not something we can just wish away. If you struggle with Hillary, if you still mourn the Sanders loss, if you look at the polls and think “Maybe I CAN get away with a protest vote…” then I am here to tell you that you can’t. There is a whole other half of this country that are not like you or me. They’re mad as hell and they’re not taking it anymore! And their anger has made them powerful.

I don’t have to tell you what a disaster Trump would be. You know this. But if all of us stay home, if all of us decide to vote our conscience, then that disaster will happen. Please don’t take that chance. Please don’t gamble with the very democracy that we love so much.

The rest of society likes to shit on us, saying we’re entitled, lazy, unrealistic, idealists to a fault. Maybe we are. Maybe we aren’t. Maybe we are coming of age in a very difficult time, where rules are changing, power is shifting, and terrible consequences of long-ago choices are painfully felt. Maybe we look at these challenges and meet it with irrational, overwhelming hope that we CAN make things better. Maybe we’ve learned not to trust the old way of doing things and instead forge a brave new path, like the great generations before us. People like Bernie and Elizabeth Warren inspire us to run down that path. As well they should.

But we all know that we can’t run for ever and we can’t run for always. Breaking path is hard, often soul-crushing work. (If you don’t believe me, try hacking your way through a tropical rainforest… it SUCKS). Does that mean we give up? NO. But it does mean we grow up. It’s time we take control. It’s time we come to the table. Our ideals profit us nothing sitting around the drum circle, or philosophizing over a cup of coffee, or meditating on a yoga mat. And they really don’t help us when we’re working three part-time jobs while looking for anything full time that is even remotely related to our degree. If we really care about changing this world, we have to SHOW. UP. It’s our time to take control.

We’re not 18 years old anymore. We are 30, underpaid, saddled with debt and smart as fuck. Let’s put our ideals to work. Let’s elect the first woman president in US history. Let’s annoy the hell out of that woman every day of her four years to make sure she is speaking for us. Because it’s on us now. We can’t spend the rest of our youth blaming the establishment or baby-boomers or bible-thumping Christian fundamentalists. Why? Because we out number them. This society, this country, this democracy is ours for the taking. All we have to do… is vote.

So, are you with me?

Good. Cuz I’m with her.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Peace Corps

Dear Friends and Family,
Lately, a lot of friends and family have been asking me about the Peace Corps and if I've heard anything from them yet. This is totally understandable. I have been super excited about it the past year and my loved ones are sharing in that excitement. I appreciate this so much. Your excitement and support means so much to me.

Unfortunately, right now I'm playing "the waiting game" with the Peace Corps. I've turned in all my stuff, so now I just have to wait until they invite me to serve. Unfortunately, that will probably be another couple of months. I don't anticipate knowing anything new until January. The problem is, I'm so nervous about the whole thing that any time anyone asks for an update, when I have absolutely nothing new to report, it just makes the whole waiting thing so much worse. So if you all could help me out and not ask about the Peace Corps, I'd really appreciate it. Trust me, if I get invited to serve, every person that is even casually connected to me will know! Thanks again for all your support!


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In the eye of the beholder...

Earlier this week I told a co-worker that I do not consider myself to be a cynic. He laughed in my face. I told a friend about my co-worker’s reaction. My friend laughed in my face. I told my mentor about my friend and my co-worker. She just smiled. All of this has led me to the conclusion that people consider me to be a cynic. While this revelation is disturbing in and of itself, it leads to a far more troubling question: Am I A Cynic?

Lets begin with my friends’ and co-workers’ opinion of me. They view me as a cynic so whether I am or not, the fact remains that I come off as one. Why? Am I really that negative? Their reaction made me consider my attitude and general life-style and I realized that yes, I was that negative. Most of my day was spent criticizing one thing or another. If it wasn’t a stupid thing one of my students wrote it was gender relations. If it wasn’t gender relations it was the church. If it wasn’t church it was BYU. If it wasn’t BYU it was gay rights. If it wasn’t gay rights it was global inequality. If it wasn’t global inequality it was some combination of all of the above. I’m generally angry about something, and I am rarely positive about anything. This realization is very disconcerting to me.

And yet, I wouldn’t say that I’m unhappy. Quite the contrary, I am very happy. Yes I’m often frustrated, but if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be true to who I am. I mean, if we don’t become frustrated with the unequal, established order, how will we ever change it? Furthermore, whether I’m cynical or not, I have serious issue with being labeled as one. Cynics don’t change the world, they don’t have hope for a better future, they don’t fight for anything. But I do want to change the world. All I want to do is fight. That’s why I get angry, that’s why I constantly criticize, because I’m uncomfortable with the status quo. I mean my favorite poem is “Say Yes” for crying out loud! Cynics tell us you can’t but I want to shout to the world “You Can!”

Still, constantly giving off negative energy can’t be good. So how do I fight, but be positive at the same time? How do I refuse to accept inequality but still be joyful and excited? I mean part of the problem is that I’m fully aware of the depth and extent of the inequality. It’s bad enough that I study International Development which deals with GROSS inequality all day every day, but on top of that I’m a sociologist, which teaches you to see inequality EVERYWHERE. So what do I do? Ignore it? Compartmentalize it? Rationalize it?

The thing is though, I LIKE what I do. I LIKE studying International Development. No matter how angry my Sociology of Gender class makes me, no matter how annoyed I get at some of the truly asinine comments made in my Race and Ethnicity class, I LIKE my courses. I LIKE my readings. I LIKE discussing the things I discuss, and I LOVE working on things like the Hunger Banquet. I LIKE confronting people’s assumptions and challenging their ideas.

So, does this make me a cynic? If it does, do I need to change? And if I do, how do I do it?

Food for thought…

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Is it worth it?

I had a conversation this afternoon with a dear friend of mine, who was trying to decide if she should continue a difficult relationship with someone she loves. I was being completely unhelpful by saying that I would not judge her in the slightest if she stayed, but that I wanted to impress upon her just how difficult things could get if she did stay. At the end of the conversation, we realized that what it came down to was "Was it worth it?". I had no answer for her and I just felt really bad about the situation she was in.

What was really interesting was that 2 months prior, I was telling her how GREAT relationships could be. She was hesitant to fall in love, especially because she was very aware of a difficult relationship that I was dealing with/ending. But I continued to INSIST that it was totally worth it. The heart-ache, the pain, the emotional insecurity was a totally fair price because being in love, being in a relationship was AWESOME. I used the analogy that when you are in a relationship, you are greater than the sum of your parts. 1+1=3. But today, one plus one equaled negative 6.

Then I thought about my other two friends who were dealing with similar situations. They truly loved the person they were with, but there were external factors that were literally tearing them up inside. All of their emotional energy was being spent on their relationships, as they struggled to decide if it was worth it. Was it worth hurting my parents, was it worth changing my beliefs, was it worth hurting myself? What do I believe, how important are these things to me, how important is this relationship to me, I don't want to hurt him, but maybe I have to, can I handle this discrepancy in our feelings, what is right, what is wrong? Do I even want to put this much energy into this relationship? A great amount of stress and anxiety was expressed. It was very difficult to watch.

And always it would come down to that same question: Is it worth it? To be honest, I don't know. As I watched my friends in pain, and I thought about my own pain and emotional stress that I was experiencing over a failed relationship, I thought "Nope, we should all just get vibrators instead." But of course my friend pointed out the conversation we had had 2 months ago and expressed he facetious disappointment at my cynicism.

But the fact remained, NONE of us knew if it was worth it! I mean, at the end of the day, what was gained from the heartache? I look at past relationships, seeing what was gained from the heartache and I find that I had nothing. I don't look back at the breakup with my first love and think "Wow, I learned a lot from that." I think "God that was an awful time, I'm glad that's over." I look at what I'm going through right now and I think, "Can this PLEASE be over now?!" It's just awful, ticking off the days until you feel nothing. But even after the months and years have done their job and healed your wound, you find that two years later you scrape your heart against something new and it breaks wide open again; maybe for a moment, maybe for a day, but still there, reminding you of the pain that shadows all the goodness that you felt when you were in love.

I would like to sit here and say that we learn things from each relationship, and that being in love is so worth it. Two months ago I did. But as I watch my friends struggle with their decision to end or continue their relationships, I just can't muster up the optimism. All I think is "No. No it's not worth it. It's just too hard. It's better to love your friends, your family, yourself, and leave the romance to poems and movies. Because the reality is much more bloody, much more damaging, and simply much harder than the movies would like to admit."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Comparing Cancer Survival Rates

This is for you Kris ;)

My sister told me to compare the cancer survival rates in this country compared to countries with socialized health care. Because I was thoroughly sick of doing my homework, I did and this is what I found:

Survival rates of breast cancer patients
Japan: 81.6%
Canada: 82.5%
USA: 84%

The US is slightly better, but I hardly think it's a smoking gun. Lets look at some more cancers:

Colon Cancer
Canada: Men-56.1%, Women-58.7%
USA: Men-60.1%, Women-60.1%
Australia: Men-57.8%, Women-57.7%
Japan: Men-63.0%, Women-57.1%

Rectal Cancer
Canada: Men-53.1%, Women-58.7%
USA: Men-56.9%, Women-59.8%
Japan: Men-58.2%, Women-57.6%
Australia: Men-54.8%, Women-59.6%

Definitely not a smoking gun. There is also a table in this article that shows that France comes in at number one for survival rates for women with rectal AND Colon cancer. (Cuba is in there too but they symbolically throw out the data by mentioning that the numbers were inflated and unrealistic and probably doctored by the government).

Now here's what's REALLY interesting about this study. They did a detailed analysis of survival rates in America based on several different factors including race and location. What I find very interesting is that African Americans (who are typically part of the urban poor) had significantly lower survival rates across the board.

Colon Cancer
Black: 51-52%
White: 61%

Black: Men-47.4%, Women-49.4%
White: Men-57.3%, Women-60.4%

Black: 70.9%
White: 84.7%

Now to me, THAT is a smoking gun. That is why we need universal health care. Because large groups of people do not have access to health care because they don't have the money or a good enough job to provide benefits. We need to prevent categorical discrimination across the board and providing universal health care is a decent place to start.

* All information in this blog comes from an article in the Lancet Oncology published by Michel Coleman and company (lots of company, too many to include here). Dr. Coleman is a professor of epidemiology and vital statistics. His web page is here

The link to his article is here *

Monday, August 24, 2009

Consuming Buddha

About a year ago, I spent four months in Southeast Asia. While living in Thailand, I learned a great deal about Buddhism and found it to be a fascinating and deeply edifying religion. As part of my study there, I read a biography of Siddhartha Gautama (more commonly known as The Buddha). In this biography, the author described the physical and spiritual journey of Gautama and laid out the basic principles and teachings of Buddhism. The first set of these principles is known as the Four Noble Truths: Life is suffering, Suffering comes from desire, In order to stop suffering we must give up desire, We give up desire by following The Way.

Of course, all of this was written in a different language so I need expound on the term "Desire". This word or concept could also be described as craving, longing, covetousness, or attachment to the physical world. I personally like the phrase "attachment to the physical world" because it provides room for righteous desire like the desire to help people (something that Gautama was a big advocate of). It also shows us that attachment to people, while not negative (as covetousness would imply) is a major source of suffering.

For the purposes of this blog, however, I would like to focus on the concept of attachment to physical things. I once had a wonderful conversation with a monk in Chiang Mai about this concept. He explained to me that everything we "own" serves a functional purpose. We have shoes to protect our feet, we have clothes to protect our body. So if the reason we have shoes is to protect our feet, why do we need more than one? MAYBE two? Why do we need different colors or styles or brands? They all do the same thing perfectly well: They protect our feet. If we have clothes to protect our bodies, why do we need a whole closet full of robes? We only need two: one for wearing, one for washing. We don't need all these different colors or styles. If we do have all these different colors and styles, then we like one robe more than all the rest. We become attached to it. Then what happens when it gets ripped or stained? We are sad, we suffer. Or worse, what happens when someone else rips it or stains it? We are not only sad, we are angry as well. Now we cause suffering as well as feel suffering. The bottom line: the ownership or consumption of material goods for any other purpose than to meet the needs of life leads to attachment and suffering.

Now for the purpose of this blog. I recently decided that I needed more bangles in my life to match all my cute bohemian summer dresses (I know, the exact OPPOSITE of Buddhist non-consumerism). So I went to The Icing and was pleased to see all sorts of boho chic jewelry for my consumption. I don't go shopping very often though and I am somewhat behind the fashion times. Thus I was completely shocked when I saw all these little Buddha's on bracelets, necklaces, rings, scarves... There was actually a big gold Buddha on a massive gold chain necklace. Here I was faced with the opportunity to literally consume Buddha! My friends who knew I lived in a Buddhist country immediately started pointing out Buddhist motifs and saying I should buy them but I just couldn't do it. It was just too funny. Here we were, doing exactly what Buddha told us NOT to do (participating in consumerist materialism) by LITERALLY consuming Buddha. The irony was absolutely brilliant, especially because no one understood the irony! (I had to explain to my friends exactly why I was laughing).

For the first time in my life, I could appreciate the irony and hilarity of western orientalism. I can only imagine the essence that once was Buddha sitting up in the cosmos of Nirvana saying "Are you serious?!" Only he wouldn't say that because he would no longer be attached to his doctrine or his image, and he certainly wouldn't be angry. He would probably just have a little smirk on his non-existent face, shake his non-existent head and think "They'll get it eventually".

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Because I Have Been Given Much

My roommate went to a singing testimony meeting today where people from the congregation would go up, say what they liked about a particular hymn, and then the congregation would sing that hymn. Below is one of the testimonies:

"I am going to sing this hymn because we only get to sing it once a year and I think that's just a shame. I'm going to sing "The Star Spangled Banner" because I just love this country so much and I'm so grateful I live here and I know it's the best country on earth, even with a socialist president ;) " He then proceeds to sing "The Star Spangled Banner" and everyone joins in enthusiastically.

Well, as you can imagine, I was SO SAD I missed this because lets be honest, I would have had a field day. But lets not fret friends, for we have the internet to come to my aid! I will now post the response I would have given, had I been blessed enough to attend such a meeting.

"I chose this next hymn we are going to sing because I am just so grateful to have the teachings of Jesus to guide us in our physical lives, as well as our spiritual. I am particularly grateful for the story of the wealthy young man who goes to the savior and asks what he must do to obtain salvation. The Lord tells him to give all he has to the needy, and follow him. Unfortunately, this blessed young man did not love the savior enough to share his physical blessings with his less fortunate brethren. I am grateful that none of us are like this young man. I am grateful that we belong to a global church that does not shy away from things like socialism, but instead has a history of holy revelation, like the Law of Consecration, or the Bishop's Storehouse. And most importantly, I am so glad we live in an apparently socialist country. A country that understands that when we have been given much, we too must give. For are we not all beggars? It is in this spirit, that I would like to sing Hymn 219, "Because I Have Been Given Much."

Because I have been given much, I too must give;
Because of thy great bounty, Lord, each day I live
I shall divide my gifts from thee
With every brother that I see
Who has the need of help from me.

Because I have been sheltered, fed by thy good care,
I cannot see another's lack and I not share
My glowing fire, my loaf of bread,
My roof's safe shelter overhead,
That he too may be comforted.

Because I have been blessed by thy great love, dear Lord,
I'll share thy love again, according to thy word.
I shall give love to those in need;
I'll show that love by word and deed:
Thus shall my thanks be thanks indeed.