Category Archives: Society

A Post-Election Vent

I just have to say this, because I saw a few posts on Project Semi-Colon’s Facebook page smfrom people saying, “Republicans are not monsters,” etc. on a response to a post saying that calls to the suicide hotline were doubled, mostly from trans teens who were scared. And these people had the gall to come onto this post and say things like “No one cares about LGBT kids anyway,” or “Republicans aren’t monsters.”

No one has the right to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t be afraid of. No one. The people who are scared are scared because after hearing the rhetoric that has been spread around for the past eighteen months or so by “Republicans,” and seeing what has happened in the few days since the election by people because “our guy won” and what they’ve perpetrated, people have every right to be scared. No one should tell them, “Oh there, there, Republicans aren’t monsters.” Screw them.

If you’re a Republican and claim that you aren’t misogynistic, a xenophobe, racist, or anti-LBGTQA, you sort of signed your rights away to a pass on any of that by voting for him. He represents all of that. When you voted for him, you voted for the whole package. You don’t get to pick and choose the pieces that you don’t like. You choose the whole thing. You now have to own that. Own your vote. Own who _you_ voted for. Own _what_ you voted for.

I know that most of the people who will see this already agree with what I’m saying, so this is mostly just a vent on my part. I know that there’s the saying that “Love trumps hate.” I’m not quite there yet. I’m trying to get there. But I will help people who need help. I wish I could give my car bullet-proof glass and make it a hate-free safe zone, sort of a movable safety spot. A new sort of Lovemobile, not the 60’s sort, but one brought about to help people get through the bullying, the hate, the targeting wherever I see it happening. Sort of a purple TARDIS of love. Unfortunately it’s not purple and it’s not bigger on the inside than the outside. I can only fit so many people in it. But there’s no room for people who hate.

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“But She Seemed So Normal”

I hate these words. Especially when it comes to teen suicide. “She was at the top of her class.” As if that’s enough reason not to kill oneself, right there, correct? What reason could someone at the top of their class possibly have for killing themselves, they have everything going for them? “She seemed so normal.”

It makes me cringe inside, want to beat the walls in frustration. Why don’t people understand? Just because someone is at the top of their class, just because things seem fine, it doesn’t mean that they are fine.

What classifies as normal? Who judges what is and isn’t normal? People with no understanding of depression? People who have no real memory of how real and immediate the problems of a teenager seem when you’re a teenager? Much less if you’re a teenager with depression?

As a teenager, you don’t have a lot of control over your life. You can’t vote, you live at home, your parents hold the reins. It’s difficult if you’re a so-called “normal” teen (whatever that is), much less if you have depression, or identify as LBGTQ, or don’t fit in to any other of the myriad ways one is expected to in high school.

People are shocked when someone they thought was “normal” commits suicide in high school. Because the person was hiding a lot. Trying to fit in. Possibly afraid of the stigma of whatever issue they’re trying to deal with. “Why didn’t they talk to anyone?” Some people lament. Maybe they did, but no one really heard them. Not that it’s anyone’s fault, per se, but sometimes others don’t want to hear. They don’t want their images of “normality” shattered. “Not normal” is scary; it takes people away from the expected into realms of the unexplored and leads them into the uncomfortable, where things are difficult to talk about. But the difficult needs to be talked about. The uncomfortable needs to be delved into.

Teenagers today have it harder than they did when I was a teenager. Not only do they have all the issues I had to deal with, they have social media, a whole new wonderful world of torture. And those who use it for that purpose know how to do it well. And as for all of this zero-tolerance for bullying? According to the students I have talked to about it, that’s laughable. Bullying is alive and well on our K-12 campuses.

Some people think that the anti-bullying campaigns think that it’s preventing children and young adults from learning how to deal with these things on their own. I say those people didn’t have to grow up in an environment with social media, and the amount of viciousness that exists in schools today. I don’t remember the amount of hatred that seems so pervasive today, and I had my fair share of bullies. They were mean, but it wasn’t hate. If you broaden that out to statements made by adults on social media, you see a lot of hate there as well. It’s not a huge surprise it exists on school campuses.

But back to suicide. There are many, many reasons some teens feel hopeless enough to attempt it, and it’s tragic when they succeed. When the attitude is, “but they seemed so normal,” it’s no wonder that they hesitate to find people to talk to. At that age, trying to fit in is important to many kids (there are those who are brave enough to say “to hell with this” and find their own paths, and kudos to those kids), but there are some who aren’t, or can’t. They’re desperately trying to be “normal” and hide how they’re feeling, when in reality they need someone to tell them that what they’re feeling is normal, and it’s okay, and to please find someone to talk to them. It’s okay to ask for help, it’s not a weaknesses, it’s a sign of courage.

Being a teenager is hard. Really hard. It’s confusing, and sometimes things do seem like the end of the world, or that you’re stuck and there doesn’t seem like any other way. But wait. There is another way. And I know it’s not a huge consolation to hear it, but things do get better. There aren’t a lot of times I can say that with certainty, but when you’re in high school, and so much of your life is out of your control (you can’t even vote yet!), things really will get better. Find someone, anyone, you trust, and talk to them. Go on a walk. Give yourself time. Call a hotline. If there is ever a time to procrastinate, this is it. Make contact with someone. There are people who will help you, people who care about you, because you are important. Don’t ever forget that. Repeat it to yourself. You are important. You matter. You make a difference.

Normal is relative, and sometimes, being “normal” really isn’t all that important. Being safe, being loved, being accepted for who you are, and finding people who see the things in you that matter–those are the things that are important. Be who you are, not who others want you to be. You are your own “normal”, just the way you are. Your normal may be weird and funky, or depressed and odd, or whatever combination of things you can come up with, but that’s who you are, and don’t be ashamed of it. Let your flag of who you are fly, and be proud of it. There is only one you, and you are irreplaceable.

 

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Wonderful World of Languages

Languages are fascinating. At least, I’ve always thought so. I also want the ability to communicate with everyone, human or animal, to be my superpower. It was therefore frustrating for me to find myself stumped by Cyrillic when I find Russian to be a beautiful sounding language–I have an online friend in the Ukraine with an unbelievable capacity for languages. I can understand her English (and she had to get used to our alphabet), and now she’s learning Italian. And she has a three year-old. And is building a house with her husband. Talking with her has been fascinating, because one of the most wonderful things about learning a language is the ability to learn more about a different culture, other perspectives, another country. The Ukraine doesn’t look all that different from where I live, really. She sends me pictures and we have chats on WhatsApp. All because I bought a headband from her on Etsy, I made a new friend.

People in the United States seem, some of them, determined not to learn other languages for various reasons. The one that annoys me the most is the one that if someone comes here, they should speak English, d***it! Then they make fun of people of other nationalities and their broken English. I just think, man, they speak English a lot better than I speak _insert language of choice._  If I even speak any of the language they speak at all. I speak a few things enough to be partially understood, but nothing fluently anymore. You don’t use it, you really do lose it. My best friend, a German native, speaks English better than I do–he even knows all the grammar rules, which I’m pathetic with. I speak by ear; he had to learn and memorize all the rules when he moved to an English speaking country.

I think that’s what so many people don’t appreciate. English is a hard language to learn. Every time you turn around, there’s an exception to the rule, and pronunciation–phhtt, forget it. Other languages have rules about pronunciation and stick with them. English is all over the map with how things sound (and many things have been written phonetically to show this). It’s no wonder English confuses people. Yet it’s one of the most learned languages in other countries.

We are a little (ah-hem) ethnocentric in the US. I found an absolutely beautiful language map a while ago, drawn by Minna Sundberg, that is a work of art. In fact, you can purchase framable copies of it here: http://www.hivemill.com, under Stand Still Stay Silent, the webcomic she writes. There are other cool things she has done there as well.

I just found another language map that presents languages in a less beautiful form, but an interesting one nonetheless. I found it on http://www.themindunleashed.org, and the creator of the graphic is Alberto Lucas López.

I think it’s worth taking a good look at them and then thinking about English as a language, and just how many other languages–and cultures–there are out there. And then thinking about how many different perspectives there are on things. Supposedly this country was founded on the freedom to express those different perspectives–we were called the melting pot. But we’re not. We’ve become a bunch of globs that won’t cohere because of coatings we’ve put around ourselves that blind us to what other perspectives have to offer. The beauty that is the sound of Russian. The interesting things there are to learn about the Ukraine. The fierce unwillingness to unloose ourselves from our globs and reach out because it’s easier to stay in a lump.

Isn’t it worth a try, though?

Old World Family Languages Minna Sundberg

Old World Language Families
Minna Sundberg

SCMP Graphic: Alberto Lucas López

SCMP Graphic: Alberto Lucas López