Category Archives: Opinion

Saving Lives, Bad for Business?

Recently a report has been published by Goldman Sachs analysts exploring the question “Is curing patients a sustainable business model?” The idea behind it being that as “one-shot cures” rid more and more people of their disease and/or medical condition, the need for that particular medicine will go down, as there fewer people to spread it. The report cited a study about treatments for Hepatitis C that have more than a 90 percent cure rate. As a result of that effective treatment, the need for that treatment decreased significantly, as did the profits from it. All of this begs the question, what in the world is wrong with medical companies?

It would seem that profit is the greater concern over improving lives and saving lives. This report appears to suggest that medical companies developing treatments and cures for sick people should focus their efforts on diseases that can and will appear on their own, without the need for carrier. It suggests that the research should focus more on disease like cancer or medical conditions like asthma not because they should try to cure it, but because it has a more sustainable business profit. That is to say, because people will always have to deal with these conditions, and therefore they can continue to profit off of the sick. And as for the people will curable or potentially curable disease or conditions? It seems they are just going to get ignore and be left to suffer. It is apparently a bad thing that so many people got treated for Hepatitis C.

What sort of world do we live in were profit is put above improving and saving lives? It is understandable that companies need to make a profit so they continue to fund medical research, but it should never be taken so as to even consider placing profit over the lives of their patients. If this is how things are going to go, how until we hear from our doctors that our illnesses are curable, but that they will not cure it because it would mean less money for them and the medical companies?

 

Photo from the Wall Street Journal

Trump Rants on Twitter… Again

Once again, Trump has taken to Twitter to address his grievances with the latest debacles, news, and world affairs concerning him. No surprise there, as this seems to occur on an almost weekly basis, which is something we should talk about. For now, let us ignore the specific subject matter of Trump’s latest Tweets, though they do merit attention and consideration, and concentrate on the fact that this is how Trump deals with any backlash or negative criticism.

Donald Trump is, unfortunately, our president, and he should act like it. This man is meant to be the figurehead of our nation, and the singular person that the rest of the world looks to and sees America, and what do they see? An angry man that response to every piece of negative criticism like a child. This man is supposed to be running our country, yet he appears to spend too much of his time concerning himself with the opinions of others, and rushing to Twitter so he can bash and decry those he does not like. This is a man that resorts to, essentially, pointing his finger, calling someone names, and saying they are a liar. He is doing precisely that to James Comey, who is releasing a book on April. 17 that details his (poor) experiences with Trump and had an interview on the 15th about this same book. Given the numerous issues and problems facing the government and America as a whole, not to mention the recent missile strike in Syria (which should be mention), Trump has better things to do with his time than concern himself with a book.

Frankly, Trump only seems to really care about his image. This is not news, by any means, but it bears repeating. His actions seem like that of a desperate man doing his best to discredit any who oppose him for fear that people might actually realize what a horrendous job Trump has been doing. This man may be the President, but he does not act like one or seem to hold much, if any, respect or regard for the position. Simply put, Trump is president in name only.

Let Me Out

I recently watched a movie called ‘Let Me In’ on Netflix. It’s a sorrowful tale of a young boy growing up isolated, alone and afraid. Bullied at school and suffering through the divorce of his parents at home, his only solace comes when a girl, Abby, moves in with her father, Thomas, next door. He is instantly intrigued by her; she is aloof and reluctant, for reasons that are explained later. But they nevertheless find themselves drawn to one another and are able to bond over a mutual love of puzzles.

The tale unfolds in one sense as a Peter Pan fable. There are elements of eternal youth depicted in the character of Abby, who is revealed to be a vampire. In a more traditional take on the vampire myth, she must be invited into a house like in vampire legends of old. She burns in the sun and is only seen at night. And while it is unknown if religious artifacts have an adverse effect on her, there are numerous religious overtones displayed in the character of Owen’s mother who listens several times throughout the movie to late night sermons on T.V., a habit that is hinted to have contributed to the dissolution of her marriage. Abby is also super-strong, and seems to revert to a more animal state with glowing eyes when feeding.

Despite this, she remains very much a child. In describing her plight to Owen, she self-describes as being “…12. But I’ve been 12 for a long time.” She is inquisitive, laughs, and engages at every turn with Owen for all the world like a 12-year old girl would. She doesn’t really hint that she knows why she has to be invited in to a house beyond knowing that it eventually causes blood to pour from her eyes, nose, and mouth. She knows that she must not be in the sun, and that she needs blood to live. And that is all that is given.

In another sense, this makes Owen and Abby’s infatuation all the more tragic. While being an otherwise very stereotypical childhood crush, the revelation that Abby is a vampire, combined with the discovery that her father is not in fact her father but the last boy she fell in love with, gives rise to the implication that Thomas’ fate is what is in store for Owen.

Owen, like Thomas, will grow old and die in service to a childhood love that cannot grow old with him, in addition to his already ravaged childhood, torn asunder by the divorce of his parents and, towards the end, his near death at the hands of his bullies. This spells depressingly cruel consequences for Owen that two children, one immortal and the other merely troubled, could never be adult enough to foresee. Thomas, it is shown, commits several acts of murder just to collect blood for Abby to survive.

During overheard conversations between Abby and Thomas, it is shown that decades of such murders begin catching up to him as an old man. In the end, after botching a second attack and about to be captured, he douses himself with acid to obscure his identity and, thus, his connection to Abby, protecting her. When she comes to visit him at the hospital, he is unable to invite her in due to the acid damage to his vocal cords. Lastly, unable to speak, he offers himself to Abby, who feeds from him before allowing his body to fall from his tenth floor room. On a police tablet, left by an officer near his bedside should he wish to confess, is scrawled a single line: “I’m sorry Abby.”

By the end of ‘Let Me In’ I was shouting internally ‘Let Me Out’ as I tried to imagine any way in which the ending of such of a path could ever be thought of as romantic or good.

Organ Donation

Organ donation is a long and incredibly difficult process. It can be very difficult to get on an organ donation list, and they may not get the organs they need due to the short supply. People can only donate a few organs while they are still alive, so organ donation after death can be extremely helpful for sick people with conditions like heart defects.

There is also the issue of getting a compatible organ. You have to get an organ that matches with your body in order to get the transplant. There is no guarantee that the one organ available will be compatible with a person. Even a blood relative might not have an organ that is compatible. So the more people who become organ donors, the better the chance there is for another person to live.

Organ donors do not have to be the healthiest individuals; anyone can donate parts of their body even if other parts are not in the best shape. A heavy smoker could still donate something like their eyes or even the bones after their death. Every part of the human body can potentially be used to help a person in need. The skin, for example, can be used to help burn victims if doctors get to the deceased fast enough.

In your will, or by proxy after you die, you can still dictate what parts of your body are available for use. If a person wishes to hold on to specific parts of their body, they can. An organ donor still has a certain level of control over their body.

The community still needs organ donors; they are in great demand. While scientists are working toward creating organs in labs to help save lives, they have not yet reached a point where they can keep up with the demand of organs.

School’s Almost Over, Now What?

As this semester comes to a close, many students will be wondering what to do for the summer, or if you are a graduating senior, what to do for the rest of your life. The students that are not yet graduating will need to be looking for short-term occupations for the summer. Part-time jobs will most likely be high up on that list. A little bit of extra cash will always be helpful for a college student; if nothing else, it will give them a bit of pocket change for when those exams get tough. A night out or a good meal can be just what the doctor ordered. Internships are another good opportunity for the summer, though those can be difficult to achieve and maintain. To realistically be able to hold one, you need someone who is willing to financially support you, which is a lot easier said than done. The real trouble comes for the graduating students though.

First of all, every student has to decide what to do, whether or not they are going to go on to grad school, or head into the workforce. That in and of itself can be a pretty drastic decision, and can be cause for a lot of concern. Graduate school can significantly increase the amount of debt a college student is in already, but it can potentially mean more money. However, there is also the issue of financing graduate school, which can be difficult after spending all of that money on four years of regular college.

Going into the workforce is not much easier nowadays. For all of the emphasis on getting a diploma, many employers also want their applicants to have years of job experience that no one fresh out of college realistically has. Job experience can be difficult to gain because no one will hire you in the first place without job experience. It is a vicious cycle, one that is made even more dangerous by the fact that recent graduates will soon have to pay off their accumulated debt. The best option is unclear, and it is a decision that is ultimately different for every person. There is not an easy way out, even though many of us may want that.

Some Advice with Paper Writing

Everyone in college inevitably has to write a few papers for some of their classes. It is all part of the college experience, especially when you end up writing a paper at 3 in the morning when it is due at 10 that morning. We have all had to pull a few all-nighters to get our work done. Part of the reason for that is always the time getting away from us. We think we have enough time, that the paper is not due for another week, or four days, then suddenly it is the night before it is due and none of us have even made the word document. It would probably work out better if we tried to write a small bit at a time rather than all at once.

There are some pros to writing a paper in a single night. You can spend all of the extra time working on the other homework that piles up. We all end up with an overwhelming amount of work eventually; sometimes the best course of action is to put off that big paper to get other work done, especially when it is due much sooner than the paper. But we could do better with a bit of time management and a willingness to spread the work around.

A more efficient way to go about writing a paper, especially as we near the end of the school semester, is to write small portions of it over the course of the week before it is due. Spend an hour and write an introduction. The next, you can take another hour to make your first body paragraph. Keep up that trend and before you know it, you will have a full and finished paper. Admittedly, this is just one way to go about writing it, and it has its cons too. It can be difficult to start and stop when writing a paper and maintain the same level of quality, but it is just some advice for the upcoming weeks of finals.

A Queer Life

Gay people have been making more and more strides over the years. The LGBT community has been increasing awareness over the years and has made more progress towards general acceptance. A few years ago, they even got to the point where gay marriage became legal in every state, a landmark occasion that showed years of hard work and support can pay off. Since then, talk of discrimination against people in the LBGT community has dropped significantly; that is to say, many seem to think that gay marriage was the end of it all. Except, it is not over; it just gets swept under the rug more often than not.

Many people still have to deal with the discrimination, and dangers, that come with being queer. Even the word queer in and of itself can cause issues. It was originally used by people of the LBGT community to describe themselves, but over time it became a term of discrimination and hate. But the LBGT community decide to reclaim that word and many are using it to describe themselves, particularly some of the lesser known sexualities and gender identities like pansexual, bisexual, and asexual. That does not stop people from using it as a hateful term, nor does it mean that everyone in the LBGT community likes that as a label. Whatever the case, it is still representative of the conflict that the LGBT community has to face.

In August, a man in Florida was killed for defending his gay friend. Juan Cruz was at a restaurant with friends when another man at the restaurant became enraged over the fact that one of Cruz’s friends was exchanging numbers with another man. He began yelling hateful speech at the group and threatened to kill all of them several times throughout the night. Once both groups left, this man pulled out a handgun and began to fire at Cruz’s friends. Cruz himself got shot and died at the scene. This was only a few months ago. There are still people out there that are ready, willing, and capable of killing LGBT people just because they are not straight. But no one likes to talk about that. Or about any discrimination, for that matter. Too often, events like this get swept under the rug, and it seems more than strange that no one talks about it and that life just goes on. There is more work that needs to be done, and people cannot act like the fight is over just because some progress has been made.

I’m Dating a Magician

So I started dating a magician last year. I didn’t know this when I first started dating him. I guess magicians don’t like to advertise what they do; otherwise, people would think they are creepy. They are not wrong. Anyway, because 80 percent of the people in the audience of any magic show are other magicians looking for ideas to steal for their act, I’ve been dragged to about 40 magic shows. I’ve seen a couple of good shows, but I’ve seen way more terrible acts. Along the way, I’ve made a list of my top three favorite magicians. See if you can figure out what they all have in common.

My number one magician is Zabrecky. He performs in the “The Zabrecky Hour.” He looks like Lurch from the Adams family and acts like the Count of Monte Christo. He feels like a character that would perfectly fit into an Edgar Allan Poe story. All of his tricks find a perfect balance between funny and creepy, but he will never understand why the audience is laughing. He has a Sheldon Cooper level of social awkwardness, but once the audience is on his side, he hits that sweet spot of lovably awkward.

My number two magician is Rudy Coby. He performs as the “Labman,” a mad scientist magician. His show captures the best parts of classic 90’s zaniness. Rudy demonstrates his various inventions and creations in a way that just barely works on the supposed shoestring budget of the show. There is also a superhero component to the show, as various supervillains interrupt the show, and force Rudy to do some sort of magic trick to vanquish the villain. It’s the perfect mix of comedy and action. He is also famous for parodying other magicians. His roast of David Copperfield is a must see.

Rounding out the list is my number three magician, Jeff Hobson. Most magicians like to pick a lady volunteer for their tricks because they can’t interact with women in any other context, but Jeff is famous for picking men volunteers. You see, if Jeff were on fire, he would be less flaming than when he is performing. This man has a very openly homosexual personality. He prances about the stage, plays ABBA music while his helper shuffles the cards, and generally does everything he can to push boundaries with his male volunteers. I laugh to the point of screaming watching this man work his magic on the men.

Have you found the link between the acts yet? Here’s a hint. I never told you a single magic trick they did. That’s because the tricks they did were not important. These magicians could have done any trick and still been entertaining. These acts are character driven. The characters are so interesting and fun to watch that they could have done anything on stage and would have been good. That’s the real secret to being a good magician, having a good entertaining character, and then picking tricks that really let the character shine through.

Gun Violence and Mental Health

It’s a depressingly familiar pattern here in the United States. Social media blows up with news about the latest shooting. Whether it’s at a school, a bar, a movie theater, or literally anywhere, it is always the same story. A white man walked into a place and opened fire. Numbers start climbing. 2 dead, then 5, then 10, then 21 until finally the numbers plateau at one that is too high and too depressing. Finally, the shooter is identified, a white man with a deranged look in his eye.

The pattern continues as we discuss the tragedy, and try and make sense of the pain. Lots of people, conservatives and liberals both, start a discussion about mental health. Because only a crazy person would use an AR-15 on an innocent crowd of people, right? Maybe the shooter is a lone wolf, or maybe he was in the boy’s scouts. Maybe he was bullied. But he was certainly mentally unwell, deranged. Mental illness is thrown around as the one true cause for this horrible tragedy.

But here’s the deal. Those shooters aren’t mentally ill. According to the American Psychiatric Association people with serious mental illness represent less than 1% of all yearly mass shootings. It’s not the crazy people doing this. It’s the angry, privileged, white men who see others as deserving of their violence.

There’s a serious problem with equating mental illness with violence. It produces an awful stigma for people diagnosed with mental illnesses, making getting help and treatment difficult. People with mental illnesses need our support, not the constant stream of news that tells them they are the problem. Mentally ill people cause about 3% of all violent crime annually, and very little of that involves guns.

It makes no sense to have laws that target the mentally ill when it comes to gun control. It won’t change anything. Keeping guns from them won’t stop the real perpetrators. We need comprehensive gun control; laws that will keep everyone to the same high standards for gun ownership. Targeting the mentally ill only increases the stigma around these disorders and lets the problems with gun violence in America continue unchecked. It doesn’t help anyone.

Makeup is not Freedom

As I go into the final stretch of my undergraduate education here at Radford University, I’m preparing to enter into the adult world of employment. I, like many of my peers, am searching online sites and talking to different professors about potential job opportunities in my field. For the first time I’m looking at jobs that offer an annual salary and health benefits, wondering which ones I qualify for, and what to do to ensure I get the job I want. What to wear to an interview, and what to put in my resume. That’s what I’m focusing on in the last four weeks of the semester, not, for the first time in years, on my finals.

As a woman, I have a whole slew of things I have to consider when it comes to presenting myself to future employers. How high my heels are, how short my skirt, how to style my hair and most importantly what is the exact right amount of makeup. These questions are debated over and over until I finally perfect my interview outfit.

I’ve been told by many people that makeup is a tool. It’s a form of self-expression and it’s freeing. Strong women wear makeup, and they use it to show off their inner beauty. These same people were also trying to sell me thick concealers and foundations so maybe they were a little biased.

Here’s the thing. I love makeup. I’m the kind of girl that owns bright purple lipstick that I will wear around the house just for fun. But makeup isn’t freedom. It’s not strength. It’s definitely not a sign of great feminism. Women are expected to wear makeup in the professional world. Women who do are paid more and are more likely to be given promotions. Women who don’t are told they aren’t dressed appropriately. There are real-life consequences for me if I don’t put this gunk on my face.

No matter how people want to spin makeup to me, it still doesn’t change that fact. Girls can love makeup. They can become amazing artists and even make careers out of the field. But this one fact remains. Makeup isn’t freedom. It’s another way that society has made women feel like they are not enough. That we need to cover up our very skin in order to look appropriate to work in a cubicle. That’s damaging. Don’t buy into the idea that makeup is for strong women because that only deludes you into believing that you are benefiting from a system that preys on your insecurities and weaknesses.

Ronny Jackson, Good at Fixing People, Bad at Fixing the VA

Continuing the new normal in the United States, President Trump has fired by tweet the current Secretary of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA), David Shulkin. As his replacement, Trump has nominated his personal physician Ronny Jackson. According to Shulkin, he was completely blindsided by this decision. Experts indicate that the decision was likely related to Shulkin’s resistance to the Trump administration’s desire to privatize major parts of the VA hospital systems.

Ronny Jackson served as the personal physician to President Trump, President Obama, and the second President Bush. Before that, he served as a doctor in the navy. By all accounts, he is a competent physician, but that does not qualify him to serve as the new director of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs is the second largest federal agency, second only to the Department of Defense. The VA employs 377,805 people all across the country. Shulkin, the past director, served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. He had the experience required to manage a system as large as the VA. Ronny Jackson has never been in charge of more than a dozen or so people in his capacity as the white house doctor. His appointment follows President Trump’s pattern of nominating people who he likes regardless of their qualifications. This is a recipe for disaster in the already troubled VA. Our veterans deserve better. I am calling on Republicans, who always support the veterans, to reject this nomination and demand that President Trump nominates a qualified secretary.

Moderate

Late one Saturday night / Sunday morning, I’m scrolling through my Facebook feed when I come across instructions for how to find out what your political views are based off Facebook’s algorithms. Intrigued, I track it down. It’s buried 6-7 links down in your Account Settings: Menu to Account Settings to Ads to Your Information to Your Categories to Review and Manage Your Categories to US Politics.

As I’m scrolling through, I begin to worry. As a Computer Science major, I’m more aware than most of just what kind of data can be collected, and despite that knowledge, I have maintained a pretty steady online presence where Facebook is concerned. There are many reasons for this, not least of which is I like to read, and Facebook does a good job of giving me delicious content to consume.

But in the past few years, the content I consume has turned more political than when I was in my 20’s (I’m 30 now). I have over 2,400 different groups liked on my profile. Thousands upon thousands of viewed articles, comments, and replies. Many would view Facebook’s interpretation of its users’ political stances as sort of a “What kind of toaster are you? Take our 5 question quiz to find out!” gimmicky tagline, and take it with a grain of salt. I, on the other hand, know the sheer amount of information I have interacted with online tells me that it is a statistically significant result. What Facebook’s algorithms think is more than likely a true representation of my political inclination.

What if I’m one of those right-wingers that everybody on-campus hates? What if people summarize my political views as “God, guns, and gin” or “King James, jacked up trucks, and Uncle Sam”? What if I get pegged at the opposite end and live out the rest of my days trying to figure out how to weave hemp undergarments with locally sourced, gender neutral, cruelty-free knitting needles? I have read news from all sources, everything from Huffington Post to Fox News. Doubts assailed me from all sides.

Imagine my relief when I see, in parentheses, the word “Moderate.” That’s like getting a ‘C’ on a final when you’re expecting an ‘F.’ But further down, there’s a little box. It says “Sorry, we don’t have an example of this kind of ad to show you right now.” This entire thing, Facebook and its affiliates, are nothing more than ad recommendation engines. 2 billion people all “turned on, tuned in, and dropping out.” And not a single recommendation for “Moderate” US politics? There are 170 million people who didn’t vote in the last Presidential election. Approximately 340 million total living in the US.  And there is no sizable subset who might be interested in Moderate political ads? That’s a scary thought.

More Than Just Gay Clubs

Most people are aware of the popularity of gay clubs, and how they seem to be the go-to spots for any interaction between LGBTQA+ people. It has almost reached the point of becoming a stereotype; clubs are just where all of the gays hang out. In a sense that is true, but from that stems a bigger issue. There are no casual locations for LGBT people in that community to hang out. The only places that cater to them are bars or clubs, both of which exclude younger members of the community and are often inherently sexual. It is not an appropriate place to really make friends or for people under the age of 18 to become more involved with the community. With clubs, it is hard for LGBT people to connect with those who are going through similar life experiences as they are.

The simplest solution to this is to create spaces for members of the LGBTQA+ community that are more casual and not a part of the bar/club scene. Though it is a bit of a cliché, coffee shops aimed towards LGBT people would be a good starting point. It provides a calm and casual place for people from the community to meet up and hang out. Younger members of the community could also be involved without fear of predatory behavior or overt sexual tones being an issue.

People in the LGBTQA+ community often feel the need to hide or avoid talking about their identity. They can feel isolated from the people around them and the community they belong to. Locations that cater to LBGT people can provide a sense of belonging and ease the burden of having to watch how you act and what you say around people you do not know. They often have to guard their actions and words around strangers for fear of discrimination, but in locations that are more casual and designed for LGBTQA+, they can relax and they do not need to hold their breath in anxiety.

 

Photo from nicophoto.com

Trump’s Transgender Ban

Once again, Donald Trump is trying to ban transgender people from serving in the military. Trump has recently signed a memo that would ban transgender people who have undergone, or are requesting, a gender transition. His previous ban was blocked by federal judges, but Trump is making another attempt, though this one is trying to limit only certain transgender people in an attempt to make it pass. The new ban also allows transgender people to be banned if they have experienced gender dysphoria. Essentially, the new ban would ban virtually all transgender people, or at least a vast majority.

Needless to say, this is vastly unfair and blatantly transphobic. The gender of an individual has no impact on their ability to serve in the military. Frankly, whether or not a person is transgender should be inconsequential to their ability and potential. There is no legitimate reason that transgender people cannot serve in the military; this ban is nothing more than a hateful and pandering gesture on Trump’s part. What good does it do to ban people from serving their country? Why deny them their own agency?

Trump and his ban disrespect transgender people’s very existence because the ban suggests that their presence somehow has a negative impact on people. It does not consider what they do and how they act, just that they are transgender, and that is somehow wrong, according to Trump and his ban. Trump seems to believe that transgender individuals will cause a distraction among the military because of their gender dysphoria and they will not be able to “stand ready.” This coming from the man who is, frankly, a walking disaster and a constant distraction from the real issues with his many scandals and numerous Twitter rants.

 

Photo from Splinter News

Arm Teachers with Books, Not Guns

As the students and victims from the Parkland shootings march to advocate for stricter gun laws in order to protect themselves and others in school, a new measure has been suggested to prevent school shootings. Add more bullets to the shooting in progress and create an undeniably more dangerous situation. Or as others would like to put it, we should arm teachers so that they can shoot the shooter. Somehow, the people who would argue for arming teachers do not see the danger in adding more guns into an already dangerous situation, or the way that their stance reveals that they care more about guns than the lives of children.

If a person’s stance is to arm teachers rather than pass stricter gun control laws, then they are saying the endangerment of children, and the loss of their lives, is an acceptable price to pay to keep guns around. Here is the issue with arming teachers; they cannot shoot the gunman until the gunman has already fired. They will not be aware that there is a shooter until he has already fired. You cannot expect teachers to spend the entirety of their class constantly looking out a window or door looking for a potential mass shooter. They cannot do their jobs if they do. So they would have to wait until after a gunman has fired and potentially killed at least one child, if not several.

You could avoid the entire situation from taking place by passing laws for stricter gun control. If a potential shooter cannot get assault rifles at all and has to wait at least several days to get a regular gun, then the threat will reduce significantly, almost to the point of wiping it away completely if the gun laws are made well and appropriately strict. Arming teachers is a passive response that does not solve, or really address, the issue. Rather, if lawmakers make the selling of assault rifles illegal, or at least vastly more difficult to the point that the average person could not buy them, as well as incorporate background checks and waiting periods, you can prevent the problem from occurring in the first place. If we do not give mass shooters the tools to commit mass shootings, then the problem gets solved and prevented.

 

Graphic from the Colorado Independent

The Austin Bomber and White Privilege

In the recent aftermath of the bombing attacks that gripped the areas surrounding Austin, Texas, many have been asking why? Why did the Austin bomber do it, and why did he pick the victims he did? Many have said that there is nothing that links the victims together, that they all came from very different places and backgrounds. Except many seem to be forgetting one important detail. The three targeted victims were either African-American or Latino, but this seems to be largely ignored.

Mark Antony Conditt has repeatedly been described as “quiet, respectful, and reserved.” Almost any online article will describe him as such, as if those traits somehow excuse what has happened, or mitigate the damage somehow. He was a white, conservative, Christian terrorist, regardless of how you try to spin it. His quiet-ness or respectful-ness does not excuse or remove the fact that he terrorized a community for weeks and killed two people and injured several others. Yet, many seem to want to almost ignore that fact in exchange for making the Austin bomber an almost tragic figure. His religion is being used to make Mark Antony seem like an upright citizen, yet if he was Muslim, then virtually everyone would be saying he was a terrorist because of his religion.

All of the bombers targeted victims who were people of color, yet no one, be it law enforcement or the media, wants to even entertain the idea that his motives were not racially motivated, simply because he did not explicitly state so in his taped confession. This bomber’s race and religion is being used to make him seem like a sympathetic person, when with any other race or religion everyone would be jumping to use them as a motivator. People often like to act like white privilege is not something that actually happens, that it is not real. But what do else do you call it when a white domestic terrorist is treated like a misunderstood child rather than the menace and monster he is?

 

Photo from the New York Post

Stop Defending Racists

“He’s from a different time!”

“He’s only a kid, he doesn’t know any better!”

“It’s how he was raised!”

People, white people specifically, have this weird desire to defend racists. We know racism is wrong; we’ll happily say it. We talk a big talk, especially on social media where real-life problems can sometimes seem distant and distorted. We rake in useless ‘ally’ points when we post about how we support black people or the LGTBQ community but when we see someone acting racist first hand we balk. We step back and defend and justify the actions of white people around us.

Sometimes, we even go so far as to defend the racist actions of long dead people. We’ll read literature written by white men who depicted people of color and women in awful ways and defend it by saying that the author didn’t know any better, that it was a different time. When the discussion of slavery or Jim Crow laws comes up, (laws which still have actual impacts on black people today), we dither over whether or not those white people knew their racism was wrong.

Let me tell you this. They knew it was wrong and they didn’t care. Our ancestors weren’t stupid. They had the same ability to think things through that we did. We can all read about and find old studies done by scientists hundreds of years ago. These studies found that black people were lesser, less evolved, brutish, dangerous and in some cases more animalistic than their white counterparts. Science that didn’t have any basis in fact. These studies were funded by the rich, the rich that wanted to justify what they were doing. The sheer volume of the literature out there seems to imply that they needed a lot of stuff to justify making their wealth by owning and torturing other people.

We need to stop justifying what they did by claiming it was a different time or that they were ignorant. Our grandparents lived through the 60’s, which means they were teens and children through one of the greatest civil rights movements in American History. They were there, alive and able to witness those moments in a way we couldn’t. They were the ones who failed to learn and understand what it meant. It’s not being from a different time; it’s being racist.

When teenagers or people our age say racist things, we try and play it off. Make them seem ignorant rather than malicious. When we do that, we prioritize the feelings of a racist over the feelings of people who are being oppressed. We side with the oppressors, and every time we justify what they do we only further prove that we find racism in any form acceptable. All of us have things we have to unlearn and relearn as we grow. It’s part of life. But justifying things as being how we were raised is just immature and empty. If we want real change then we need to hold ourselves and those around us to a higher standard; we need to stop defending racists.

The Problem with Consent

Imagine, if you will, a seven-year-old me going to her 2nd grade classroom to find the room filled with sugar cookies and balloons. It’s one of my classmate’s birthdays and their mom had brought in some store-bought birthday themed cookies to celebrate. I was what adults called a picky eater; I still am actually. I hate those store-bought cookies—the ones that come in those difficult to open plastic containers and have frosting that sticks to the roof of your mouth like cement. My parents never bought these cookies and so the only times I ran into them were at events like these.

Before, whenever a parent would come in with these cookies, I’d be given one, which I’d immediately sneak into the garbage can when no one was looking. I hadn’t yet learned the skill of eating something just to be polite. This year though I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to waste the cookie. I told the woman passing out cookies that I didn’t want one, that I didn’t like them.

If you’ve ever been in a situation similar to this one you know how persistent people can be when you tell them that you don’t like a certain food. They’ll cajole, prod, and sometimes even trick you into eating the food. Convinced if you try it just one more time that you’ll love it. This woman bothered and harassed me so much about her gross cookies that I ended up taking one and biting into it, even though the taste made me gag. From then I started lying, telling people when they offered me those cookies that I was allergic to one of the ingredients inside.

On the surface this seems like more of an annoying thing that people do rather than a real societal problem, but it’s actually a larger symptom of the problems with consent in America. In that classroom that woman taught everyone in that room that it doesn’t matter what you want. “No” didn’t mean no. “No” wasn’t the end of the conversation, it was the beginning of a siege. You can see parallels in how people pressure others into drinking at parties or even having sex.

This woman thought she knew better what I wanted inside my body than I did. She wasn’t my mother, my doctor, or me. I’m not trying to demonize her, but to merely show that we have a serious problem with how we teach kids about consent. She taught every child in that room that the word “no” was meaningless and that others can and will bully you into doing things you don’t want to do. We can tell children that “no means no” all we want, but unless we put the weight of our actions behind it, then it’s meaningless. Teaching people about consent starts when we respect people and their own personal wants.

Whether its about cookies or sex, No should mean No.

 

Cover Photo from “Forks in the Road”