The Art of Teaching Civil Disobedience

I was a bit of a rebel growing up. By that I mean, I did whatever I wanted with really little care of what people thought about it. That is still mostly how I deal with things today, though I do accept that sometimes for the sake of my family that maybe I should take more care. For instance, as much as I don’t care if people think me having blue hair is ridiculous, I wouldn’t show up to one of my husband’s work events like that. His colleagues would judge him for that and it could affect his career. I get that.

I have always believed in the power of civil disobedience. In posts about the “Black Lives Matter” movement and any other protest, my theory has always been that protesting is a privilege that we have here and it should be nurtured whether we agree in the cause or not as long as it is peaceful and civil. I’m a firm believer that the masses can influence change and that there is power in numbers. I believe that as American citizens that it is our civic duty to stand up for our beliefs to try and inspire change in the world. We were given that right to keep the government in check. We were given that right to fight against injustice. We were given the right to have words that we can freely speak. We are so fortunate to have these rights. People who speak against the protestors, questioning their patriotism should realize that their protest is displaying a love of patriotism. Our soldiers put their lives on the line to protect this right, an important foundation in what it truly means to be American.

In my local government, there is an issue with teachers and their contracts. Without getting into the debate about the problem with teachers in America (the problem isn’t how much the schools get rather how they appropriate the money, in my humble opinion, though we do need to invest in our teachers because they are educating the next generation), there is a work-to-rule in effect due to contract issues. The students at my son’s high school yesterday decided to do a walk-out. He mentioned it over the weekend and I made my stance on the topic very clear: If he believes strongly enough in what is going on, then do it knowing that there will be potential consequences from the school. I, however, was not going to punish him. I made this decision for a few reasons.

  1. I 100% support our teachers. They do a lot for our kids, it’s the least we could do.
  2. I was not going to punish my child for civil disobedience. Kids could learn something from ignoring apathy and caring about a cause. I was not going to squash a potentially teachable moment for him. At almost 15, he is learning how to navigate the world. He is learning about his own belief system and developing his rational thinking skills. He is learning to be an adult. Part of that is to stand up for when you see injustice. I will encourage his intellectual growth. If he wants to stand up for something I may not agree with, I would still let him do it because he needs to develop his own belief system not just repeat back mine.

As we walked up to the school last week, the first day of this work-to-rule, my youngest son asked why his teachers were outside. I explained to them that the teachers need help to be even better. He stopped and looked up at me: “Why don’t they give my teacher what she needs? She is always nice and says ‘Good job, Georgie.’ We should be nice to her too.” My 5 year old seems to have more sense than a lot of adults out there. Also, the fact that he didn’t start talking in sentences until he was around 4 was very much thanks to the teachers at his public school preschool. He is starting to learn.

We are parents, tasked with raising the next generation of children. That is not something that we can just cruise control through. This is something that requires teaching valuable lessons to them through leading by example and encouraging their emotional and intellectual growth as well as their physical growth. My son ultimately decided he didn’t want to take the suspension and risk his swimming/college career with a sullied school record. Instead, he wanted to figure out better ways to help the cause. That was his choice and I was going to be proud of him no matter what he decided. He needs to learn what he feels is morally right. I am so proud of the adult he is becoming.

 

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When You Come Across a Childhood Bully

The past is the past, except for when you come face to face with it. I, for the most part, don’t hold anything against those “minor” bullies in school. High school was a lot better for me in this regard than middle school. Middle school was an absolute nightmare, one that I wish I could say I never think about. I do. Not often, but sometimes a memory hits and it feels like I’m in those middle school halls all over again. I can probably pinpoint this as one of the worst set of years of my life and admit that most of my problems started then. One bully, among the worst in my early years of middle school, apologized profusely for his behavior at our class reunion and I forgave him. We drank together for a few moments afterwards and I wish I could say that this healed the wound. It didn’t. But it made it a bit easier to not want to punch him any time I saw him after that.

That’s the problem with bullying though, right? The fact that it could be many years later and ultimately you still have a vivid memory of it. You can feel the sadness and embarrassment that you felt in that moment. People say that it builds character, and it does. It made me a stronger person today, albeit one that has a low tolerance for other people and someone who really feels uncomfortable around people. I’m socially awkward and closed off emotionally, and they are the reason for that.

Last year for NaNoWriMo, I was going to write about this. I was going to face these demons once and for all, discussing it in a journal form to pass it off as a “work of fiction” when really it was just an effort to get it out and forget it for good. I couldn’t. I tried, and I couldn’t. I quit because quitting was much easier than facing the truth.

That’s the real problem, right? Bullying scars the victim and they will remember it for many years. But does the bully share those scars? Maybe I would feel better if I thought they did. Now that today bullying is infinitely worse than when we were kids, I sympathize with them. The difference is once I got home, it was done until the next day when I had to suck it up and go back to school the next day. Today, people have social media and smartphones to continue their power trip that bullying gives them. Parents used to tell their kids “they are only bullying you because they are jealous of you” or “because they have awful lives so they have to take someone down with them”. As well-intentioned as these sentiments are, it doesn’t help. I was fortunate that eventually I had a group of friends that stood up for me and helped me get removed from the situation, one of which I have recently reconnected with. They may never know how grateful I am to them, but I am.

What’s the point of all of this? Bullying is a problem that needs to be better addressed than it is today. I can’t be the only one that still is haunted by this past. I could be, but something tells me that I’m not. I’ve (hopefully) given my children the tools that they need to stand up for themselves, but I know that no matter how much I try to prepare them for this it can inevitably happen. With the world becoming a crueler place, we have to start fixing this somewhere.

The Only Legal Monopoly

I like having options. I like going to the store and price shopping to find items that I want at the lowest possible price point. For instance, last year I bought a pair of light blue Beats Luxe for about $70 brand new. Just the other day, managed to replace my guilty pleasure Ugg boots for under $100, though apparently it is impossible to find them in the dark brown I loved so much in my monster foot size. The point is that I like to save money and options are the only thing that can help you with that.

We live in America, a country that boasts not only opportunity but brags about the wonders of capitalism. I personally feel as though options are a part of that and you would think that the government would agree thanks to monopoly laws. It’s a sham. Why do I think it’s a sham? Think about your options for watching television and I mean your real options. You have a cable company or a satellite company. Those are your options. Your city has a contract with a single cable company, which means that this is the only option for that type of service in the area unless you want to deal with the hassle of services from satellite companies. Now the textbook definition of a monopoly is “The exclusive possession or control of the supply or trade in a commodity or service”. Microsoft got in trouble for a monopoly in a very famous case which shows that this is certainly something that is frowned upon by the government. By why are cable companies exempt from giving us options?

The only reason I haven’t switched to a service like Hulu’s live television offering is because they lack channels that the children enjoy, like Nick. But the fact that I pay nearly $200 for sub-par quality internet and cable that breaks up all of the time is actually disgusting to me. I have no options and that is a problem that everyone is having right now. This need is going to be resolved through services like this Hulu offering and people are eventually just going to start a revolution over this. We have to if we want to stop this madness and we know our city politicians are loving the money that they get in exchange for holding their constituents hostage to a terrible cable company.

Viacom, go to Hulu live instead of bothering with this madness with Charter. In fact, all of the channels should stand up for their viewers and make the switch. Let us have options because that is what the whole point of capitalism is. We should be allowed to make these decisions for ourselves because then cable companies will actually have to compete. They will have to provide quality services and amazing customer service. They will have to keep their prices as low as possible to compete and stay in business. Let capitalism do its job and we will all benefit from it. Until then, I’m rooting for Viacom to leave Charter.

Everyone Has Those Days

As a parent, it can be extremely hard to stay positive. You see parents boasting about how their angels ate their organic meatless Monday meal perfectly and ate an apple that wasn’t covered in sugar or candy for dessert. I’m lucky if I can get my 5 year old to eat anything that isn’t a hot dog, Burger King, or covered in so much ketchup that the ketchup is the main dish. I’d like to think I’m in the majority on this one.

I will never be that all organic mom that can leave the house in yoga pants with confidence and a kale only smoothie for my detoxing. I can guarantee that I’ll either have a tea with sugar or a coffee with an obscene amount of creamer in it. I can guarantee that 9 out of 10 times my children will be on time. I can guarantee that I will grab whatever jeans and t-shirt smell and look like they could be clean. I can guarantee my hair will be disheveled as if I’m purposely trying for that bedhead look. I’m not. That is probably actually either bedhead or I was trying to pull my hair out because parenting can be infuriating.

There are a lot of things that you cannot guarantee as a parent and you have to cling to those things you can be sure of. I can guarantee that if I even say “Please” and “Clean” in the same sentence, my teenager will roll his eyes at me and groan about how unfair life is. I can predict that and hold my breath to avoid getting annoyed. Not everyday is going to be perfect as a parent. In fact, you may have more bad days than good ones. That’s okay. I admit that I lose my shit more often than I should. Just yesterday I spent 40% of my day raising my voice and yelling at my kids. Was it effective? Not really. Did it make me feel better? Nope. Did I eat a bunch of lemon Oreos to soothe me? Oh yes, that absolutely happened. If I had bought my peanut butter M&Ms for NaNoWriMo early, those probably would have been devoured too.

Remember this anytime you see a mom on Facebook that seemingly has their life together: They are likely losing it just as much as you do. The problem is they sweep it under the rug to give this illusion of perfection to make them seem better. I have no shame. I don’t mind admitting that I bribe my kids with cookies to eat their supper. I’ll admit that my youngest said “mom, you need to have more patience with me” for me to respond “I’ll learn patience when you learn to listen”. I’m okay with not being perfect because I refuse to achieve an unrealistic expectation of what it means to be a parent. My children have clothing, a roof over their head, and are still alive. That’s really the important thing. My sanity is apparently optional.

A parent is someone that wakes up with pee on them because their child had an accident while sleeping in your bed. A parent is someone who complains about running up 4 flights of stairs in a nightmarish situation for you because Open House is important to engaging in your child’s education. A parent goes to an elementary school Open House where it is so packed with children and parents that you just want to keep a hold of your anti-bacterial pocket buddy because you know you are going to get sick from it. (Spoiler alert: I did get sick from it. I should have had the anti-bac out.) A parent promises that they will not cook more than one meal but sometimes will actually just cook another meal because you have been beaten down and want to keep whatever shred of dignity and sanity that you have left. A parent is beaten down more easily than they care to admit. A parent will always, always, always second guess their every decision. They will think about what they could have done differently in every scenario, big or small. Most importantly, a parent loves their child unconditionally even when they consider the possibility of eBaying them or finding another parent that will want to take them off your hands for a while. Totally unrelated note: anyone want to set up a play date with their children outside of my home where I don’t need to be present?

Joking aside, I always come back to this same point: You are enough and you are doing okay. Too many times other moms feel the need to rub perfection in other people’s faces and those “imperfect” moms are left feeling dejected. I’m here to tell you that we all feel like we did a crappy job at this parenting thing some days. Some days your child has an anxiety attack and you have to breathe through it with them and it’s not your fault that they are that way. They were made exactly the way they were supposed to be. And they were given to you because they were the child that you we meant to have. You can handle it. You can do it. Just breathe and accept that you are going to lose your shit and cry in the laundry room where no one can hear you and you know for a fact know one will ever go. That’s okay because more moms than you think are right there with you.

Just Dress in More Modest Clothes and You’ll be Fine

Today’s post was originally a light-hearted commentary on things to improve jury duty. It joined the “in case you’re needed” area and was replaced with something more relevant and important: victim shaming. This is a response to the story about Donna Karan saying that women “ask for it”. “The way that they dress, they are asking for trouble.”

The minute I hear those words, my skin crawls. I can’t imagine someone wakes up and says “I think I’ll wear this and I really hope I get sexually harassed or assaulted for it. Boy, that would be fan-freaking-tastic, wouldn’t it?” That is exactly the implication you are making by comments like that. It’s not just insulting; it’s downright vile. Especially coming from a woman who has probably experienced it in her lifetime. If you look at the statistics, somewhere around 81% of women have experienced it as have around 20% of men.

She used the go-to excuse of “words being taken out of context”, a.k.a. what every celebrity says when they realized that their actual opinions could potentially destroy their livelihood. Next will be the very public mea culpa that tends to follow these events. Then people will forget that she ever said it and life goes on without ever addressing the greater problem again.

There is a reason why people stay quiet. This is the reason. I don’t want to call these people (both men and women can experience this) victims. They are not victims. They are survivors of whatever happened. They moved forward. They suffered in silence, which can even be worse than the harassment or especially any unwanted touches/assault. The minute people can start holding the person who did the act accountable rather than blaming the one who experienced this power play, that is when things change.

At the end of the day, sexual harassment and assaults are about the power a person can have over another with very little to actually do about sex. People become more powerful by taking the power away from another. As long as silence is the only solution for those who suffer, this is going going to get worse. We need to start blaming the right people in these matters than the people who have to feel shame or embarrassment. It doesn’t matter what a person wears. It doesn’t matter if they said something flirtatious. It doesn’t matter what the other person did. They do not deserve it. We have to make sure that this is no longer acceptable behavior. We have to stop looking at the innocent party in this to see what they could have done to cause it. Rather, we need to look at the guilty party to see what is broken in them that makes this all okay.

The People’s Curiosity 

Every time there is a tragedy, whether it is one personal to you or one where the masses are affected, we cannot help but to ask why it happened. “Why did my friend beat cancer to only die of a stroke?” “Why did that person shoot down all of those people?” We are curious by nature. That is why religion exists. Because people are curious and want answers and sometimes religion is needed to give those answers.

But what happens when there are no answers? It’s hard to believe that any God would wish that type of slaughter of the masses, so is there really an answer to be found in your belief? What happens if there are never answers? Will it be something that we will obsess over? The unfortunate reality is that sometimes there are no answers and we have to be okay with that. We have to accept that sometimes people just snap and kill people without any reason or without any one definitive answer.

Right now, we are obsessed with Las Vegas. But soon we’ll forget about it as we have with every other tragedy. Nothing will change. People won’t change. People need to change. Everything needs to change.

This isn’t about gun control. Another unfortunate reality is that there is nothing that we can do, and I say that as a person who thinks the idea that anyone can buy a gun without anyone looking into them is a crazy idea. People are still going to find guns illegally. People are going to find ways to cause whatever mayhem and destruction that they want to. It’s a terrible reality that we cover up by thinking reforming gun laws is going to help. We like to lie to ourselves to make ourselves feel a little bit better about things.

I’m afraid to send my kids to school, even my youngest at elementary school. I don’t admit it to them. I worry when my oldest walks to Burger King. I worry when he takes his scooter out or goes to a place where there are a lot of people. I worry whenever I go to a convention, looking around for the closest exits wherever I am. When I’m at home, I have something hidden in every room that I could potentially use as a weapon just in case. I worry but I suck it up and just hope that today is not going to be the day. We think that because we live in the greatest country in the world that nothing is going to happen and that we are safe. We’re not. The worst part is that it is not the terrorists from other countries that we have to worry about; it’s ourselves.

Now that I’ve already said that sometimes there’s never going to be an answer, that gun control laws are not going to help matters, and that I live in fear, you may be thinking “but what can we do then?” I don’t know. I’m a writer. I write thoughts and feelings with the hope that someone gets inspired about my words or sit back and go “I know exactly what you mean”. Maybe if we taught our kids to wake up and make someone smile every day. When my youngest goes to school, he hugs anyone that will let him to say “hello”. He smiles at other kids and they seem to be infected by the smile, and a chain reactions of hugs and smiles happens. We could learn a lot from kids. At jury duty yesterday, as miserable as I was to be there (massive sinus headache and general illness in addition to the “ugh, why do I have to be here every 3 years”) I smiled at everyone I saw and politely conversed with them despite my better nature to ignore everyone and just stay to myself. I wanted to see what happened. As it turns out, everyone smiled back and engaged me. They seemed better and it started a chain of kindness.

The whole point here is that maybe we can change. I keep emphasizing that our children are a blank canvas that we can mold into better people than their previous generations, but we can be better. Start off by doing one kind thing every day. It could be a simple smile at another person or it could be a larger act like donating those clothes that you’re never going to wear again or donating time at a soup kitchen. We have more power than we think we do. That is how I think we can change the world.

But Boy, Am I Tired

I’m tired. I am tired that we live in the world we live in right now. My latest release, a short story, was supposed to make me feel better about the social climate of the world right now. “How Not to Be a Bully: The Guide to Being Kind That We Shouldn’t Need” was inspired by this hatred we seem to have towards each other. It needs to stop. It has to stop. Our future generations are depending on this to stop now. They are going to be poisoned and the future will be full of people who think that a reasonable conversation is one where people hurl insults because the other doesn’t agree. What happened to that time when people could sit down across from each other and say “Well I believe this and this is why” and the other would say “Well, I don’t and this is why”? Is that really so hard?

Over the weekend, my family (I include my husband’s family as my own) took the annual trip up to this gorgeous orchard in the mountainside for apple picking. After having a great time enjoying the Pats game on my phone while picking apples, we went to the car to drop off the apples to sit around the stunning view and enjoy ourselves. (Even living in Massachusetts, the views here never get old.) As we were walking back, we heard screaming then saw a truck angrily pull over and everyone started piling out of the vehicle. I didn’t know what was going on until I noticed the signature red hat that we are all familiar with. That’s right, two grown men got in a fight about politics in a place where families are trying to enjoy their Sunday afternoon. Apparently the anti-Trump person said something to the Trump truck group and the Trump truck group felt the need to pull over, pile out of the truck, and get aggressive back. I told them to please not swear in front of my child and the Trump person turned on me. “It’s that f_ing snowflake’s fault. He disrespected me.” “When you got out of the car instead of ignoring it, you became just as guilty. Grow the hell up.” The very kind woman at the orchard apologized and asked the group to get back in their truck and to leave. The other guy, just as guilty in this for starting it and continuing it, should have also left for being a nuisance. He said it started over the other guy insulting his wife. My opinion: Ignoring people is a lot better for everyone. I again ask “Is being kind really so hard?”

Instead, we live in a world where people are constantly putting each other down. It is easier, I suppose, to lump everyone in with hateful words rather than being open-minded. We all are entitled to having a specific set of beliefs. I really like to hope that people can sit down with each other and have a reasonable conversation without the terms “racist Republicans”, “snowflakes”, or “libtard” ever being mentioned. It’s a foolish dream, but one that I have no less.

The thing is… this is not something that we can’t achieve. It can happen if people learn to put their pride aside, stop thinking that they are smarter or better than anyone out there, and just listen to another perspective. As the expression goes: “God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we ought to listen twice as much as we speak.”

I can start by making this very simple for you. No, not all Republicans are racist, uneducated, misogynistic white men. There are some but that does not mean all of them are. Not all Democrats are “snowflakes”, whiny liberals who are offended by everything. There are many people who are offended by everything, on both sides of the aisle and many “whiny” liberals but not all Democrats are any of those things. Independents are not wishy-washy people that can’t choose a side. These are people who realize that both sides have their flaws and would rather vote on political stances rather than a political party. I am a proud Independent and I know exactly how I feel on every political topic and that is what decides my vote. Not all Muslims are terrorists. Not all Catholics are pedophiles. Not all Puerto Ricans and minorities want to live off of welfare rather than work. Not all cops are corrupt murderers. However, all politicians lie. That is a fact that we can agree with. (Just kidding… there may be one or two out there that don’t.)

The point is that this is getting out of hand. We’re Americans, dammit. We have the right to an opinion without getting insulted for it. If someone is telling you something, you can fact check them. However, that doesn’t mean a person is insulting rather they are just trying to point out that you may be missing some information that can be helpful for making an informed decision on any topic. If you don’t want to listen, that’s your right but in neither case should anyone spend any effort insulting each other. What does that even prove? That the other person is right about their preconceived notion of who you are? We’re better than that. We have to be better than that. (Shameless promotion incoming) This is the whole point of my short story, which is now available in eBook format on Amazon.