A Quick Religious Comparison: We’re Not So Different

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Remember when we were all kids who fought over whose mom made the best cookies, whose uncle belched the loudest, or whose dad was actually a super man? As we grew, we learned those petty points of contention were never going to be solved; everyone’s own mom, dad, or uncle were the best, at least by their own perception. It’s also likely they were probably all quite similar, just as many of the things we fight about as adults. Unfortunately, we no longer work out our angst with do-overs on the ballfield to prove who’s the best. Instead, we wage literal war against one another not only with words, but also real military weapons, fighting over whose god is best, or who is the most righteous.

While these deadly battles play out in villages and towns torn to shreds while children look on, the looming question is: what does any of this matter? Just like everyone’s dad was a superhero in his own right, each religion has their own important figure who is probably wonderful. Moreover, just like all the dads were similar in that they held similar positions: worker, father, provider, protector, each religion is strikingly similar.

Admittedly, this comparison leaves out a great many religions. It will not cover eastern or pagan religions. It completely excludes atheists and agnostics. The focus here is on the big three: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Why? The answer is pretty simple. We don’t see many wars fought over Buddha, nor do many Wiccans commit terrorists attacks in the name of a sacred crystal. That statement is only recognizing fact. It’s not meant to say any religion is superior.

Having an attitude of moral and spiritual superiority is what causes us to fight in the first place, so let’s put that aside to investigate how three religions are similar rather than constantly pointing out why one is right or wrong.

I’ve included a nifty Venn diagram I found on the net to help compare some of the bigger components. It’s not my own, but I think it’s fairly accurate. I also think we can add to it.

religion

As we can see, great parts of the beliefs are the same. Only a very few are different. There are some other similarities we can add:

Head coverings—
All three religions include some component of females covering their heads. Catholic nuns wear the habit, which includes a white coif. Married Orthodox Jewish women wear the tichel, or mitpachat. Lastly, Muslim women wear hijabs.
We tend to micro-focus on Islamic religions requiring head coverings for women, but as we can see, they are not the only ones. Furthermore, none of them feel oppressed when they wear them. It’s simply a part of their religious tradition.
We should also recognize it is not only women who cover their heads. Although the traditions vary and may not necessarily be religiously required, Muslim men may wear a prayer cap called the taqiyahs. Jewish men wear the kippah. Although men in Christian religions do not normally cover their heads, Roman Catholic cardinals regularly wear head coverings called the zucchetto and the biretta.

Beards—
Another common denominator betwixt the three is beards. No matter Jewish, Islamic, or Christian, beards can be required. Because of the media, we are more familiar with the Muslim beard, but the Old Order Amish also require beards, as do Orthodox Jews.

Modest Dress For Women-
While it seems Muslim women are the focus of many discussion concerning their modest form of dress, all three religions may require women to be covered and dressed in a modest fashion. This may include sleeves to cover elbows and dresses long enough to cover knees in the Orthodox Jewish and many Christian religions. It could also be a complete covering from shoulders to ankles in the Muslim and other religions. Regardless, the Islamic religion is not the only one to require women to cover themselves, especially if they are married.

• Raising Devout Children
Although we often hear words like “brainwashing” used to describe the way children are raised in the Muslim community, all three religions begin teaching children from birth, specifically when they are old enough to attend school, in the ways of their respective churches. The Catholic Church, in fact, provided all the education and educational materials for most of Europe until secularism gained popularity during the late 19th and early 20th century. While secular teaching was used as early as the late 17th century and was the subject of many philosophers like Locke and Voltaire, church-led education was still the standard until well past the Enlightenment. Yet today, if one so chooses, they might send their child to a Christian or Hebrew school. Muslims do not own the market on educating children in religion.

• Conflict—
There has been no shortage of conflict between the three religions. From the earliest crusades to now, the three have had obstacles between them. The Jewish and Christian communities do not have the long-lasting war we see between the Muslim and Jewish communities, but we cannot overlook the fact Hitler used religion against the Jewish community during the genocide he and others committed in WWII.

To say we have all been peaceful in our religious practice would be what we might now call an “alternative fact.” However, I’ve only listed a short amount of similarities here, omitting the similarities between these and other religions not listed. Why we continue this battle between whose religion is best astounds me. We’re all great in our own ways. We all have downsides. Most importantly, we’re all humans trying to attain the same thing.

It shouldn’t matter what word we assign for “God”. It shouldn’t matter on what day we worship. It shouldn’t matter what book we read the message from. All that should matter is if we would all stop killing each other, we might actually be living the way all three texts expect us to. If we all quit fearing one another, maybe we can see we’re more alike than we ever imagined.

( Since this is not meant as a scholarly paper for publication, I did not cite the information in this piece. All the data and facts are easily searchable, and most is basic common knowledge, anyway. The source of the diagram is watermarked inside the graphic.Thank you for reading. I’ll include a couple links in case you’d like to fact check me.
The history of secular education: http://science.jrank.org/pages/11240/Secularization-Secularism-History-Nature-Secularization-Secularism-1914.html
Islamic Male headcovering:https://www.reference.com/world-view/muslim-men-wear-heads-1cdc44449fd15f2f
Traditional clothing for Orthodox Jewish women:http://www.orthodox-jews.com/jewish-clothing-for-women.html#axzz4XS3f9gRB
)

A Cycle of Abuse:Understanding Why Women Might Vote for Trump

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If there’s one thing I know, it’s the mindset of the abused woman: how we get there, why we stay there. I was an abused woman; it’s not just observation that gives me this insight. So, when I read this New York Times article about why women chose to vote for President elect Donald Trump, I heard the voices of so many women, myself included, who have excused an abuser’s bad behavior. Many of the reasons some of these women cite could come straight from an abused girlfriend’s or wife’s memoir.

One woman, Kasia Riddle, used the “good earner” excuse, stating the PEOTUS has “good business sense”. Pam Cornett said the words many abused women say when confronted by loved ones about their abusive significant other, telling others they shouldn’t categorize him: You “can’t put him in a box.” There were other varying reasons, but two were particularly bothersome and telling. Guzin Karide says she believes Trump is “a voice for women,” while Sandy Pearson is quoted as saying Trump is a “good man, deep down.” Pearson, from whom the headline of the article is taken, suggests her choice was easy when she would overlook the bad and “focus on the good.”

Women have been conditioned to “focus on the good” for centuries. We are taught from infancy to speak only kind words and to never mention someone’s negative attributes, no matter how bad they might be. Ladylike decorum trumps being truthful, pun not intended, but fitting. We’re even told to smile through pain and difficult situations; our menfolk don’t like to be uncomfortable due to our disapproving facial expressions. We’ve also been taught we don’t have a valid voice in the world. As Karide’s statement suggests, we need someone to be our voice—someone besides a female, someone who the world takes seriously: a man.

Despite our struggle to escape this unfortunate truth, the word of a man, even an abusive man, is worth far more to the world than the supposedly overly emotional, indecisive, misguided, shiftless voice of a woman, regardless of her level of experience or expertise. Thus the reason women for centuries have married men who mistreated them, stayed with their abusers, and focused on men’s “good” qualities instead of giving them the boot. After all, both men and women describe females who choose to be single as “damaged” and “faulty,” or even as “rabid feminists” not to be taken seriously. We don’t even trust other women, let alone expect men to see us in a different light.

Understanding the fact women still rely on men who leave them battered and broken emotionally, financially, and physically makes understanding why some women can look to Trump, and his plethora of male-centric supporters, as the “voice of women,” the man who will “Make American Great Again,” the “good man, deep down” who, regardless of his repulsive rhetoric and actions, will lead us into a financially and socially secure place as a nation. Men have inculcated women to not only ignore, but deny abusive actions and words in order to protect the patriarchy and its power. Escaping this harsh truth is difficult at best.

American women who speak out about their decision to vote for Trump are reminiscent of the hundreds of women I’ve spoken with who try to excuse their abusers.

He only wants what’s best for me. It’s my fault he has to be so harsh.”
“He’s not that bad once you get to know him.”
“He really loves me. He just sounds mean.”
“He didn’t really lie. He just didn’t tell me the whole truth because he knew I’d overreact. ”
“He’s better than someone else who might abuse me worse.”

I’ve heard the stories over and again—different voices, same plot. Women who’ve decided to vote for Trump are largely the same. Just as we shouldn’t judge a woman whose significant other punches them in the face, we shouldn’t judge the women who choose to support Trump. Instead, this should open a new dialogue. Maybe if we changed the way we taught women to respect men and excuse their abuse, these supporters would have viewed our President Elect through different eyes. Maybe if we taught women not to accept misogyny,they wouldn’t accept it from the man who will be in a position of power strong enough to diminish all we’ve fought to achieve.

Why #BlackLivesMatter Matters

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Looking at the recent violence from afar, it’s easy to say what should or should not happen. It’s easy to armchair quarterback when the dime in the dollar isn’t yours to lose. That’s the privilege we have when we don’t have to be out on the field trying to hold our ground. And that’s the problem with many of the opinions surfacing on social media today.

We live in a country that mistakenly believes the election of a black president cured our ills and erased our dirty secret we like to deny. Yet, we live in a country that was built upon systemic racism and sexism, so it’s still okay to shoot a person whose skin color doesn’t allow them to have the so called “freedom” fireworks celebrated four days ago. We still live in a country where it is okay to rape a woman—we can even say it’s her own fault for being too much or something or not enough of something else, especially if the melanin in her skin runs darker than her attacker’s. We live here in this country that decries freedom and democracy, yet men of color are gunned down like rabid dogs in the street for crimes their pale counterparts walk away from unscathed. We live in this country that has built a pressure cooker boiling so hot, it is bound to explode.

We have silenced the voices that have told us for decades they were not going to be oppressed anymore. Moreover, we have denied their truths, their stories, their life experiences so much by hiding our racism behind thin veils and smiles as we utter the word “thug,” hand out swift justice in the street, and deny them true freedom that they simply cannot abide in peace any longer. Yet, here we are living in a country that allows our white privilege to override that truth; we can deny because it is not us crying for our children in the streets; it is not us dying because of the color of our skin.

We live in a country where some can decry reverse racism without blinking an eye, believing this fantasy of white oppression really exists. And for as long as we continue to live this lie, there will be violence. You cannot squelch the voices forever. If words do not penetrate our minds to enact change, those who have been targeted for generations will take action. We live in a country where we should be acknowledging our sick past to try to make a better future instead of teaching lies. We live in a country that is being torn apart from the same problems that have plagued us for decades up decades, and we have the power to make this better. We choose not to. If we want to live in a country where we can raise our children without fear of gun violence, riots, and turmoil, then we need to live in a country that is truly “free” for each human being, and not just a few. We live in a country where not all lives matter, as has been proven in the past week—and this is why movements like #BlackLivesMatter simply must exist. We can certainly end the violence and make every life matter, but we must take positive action. If we want to walk what we talk as Nation, it’s time we get real and end the oppression.

Appealing To Fear: A Man Named Trump

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How could anyone be drawn to someone toxic? We’ve all asked that question so many times about people in abusive relationships. As so many people are caught under the spell of all things Trump, I can’t help but wonder the same question. It’s like an entire part of our Nation’s population is bemused by the words of a man who the rest of us want to warn them about. “No. Don’t pick him. He’ll only hurt you.” He doesn’t even hide his abusive nature very well; he makes openly misogynistic, racist remarks on live television for the entire world to hear. The curious thing isn’t that he says these things. What’s interesting is why so many listen in earnest.

Donald Trump has an appeal. He’s confident. His face is stern, fatherly maybe. He nearly sweats masculinity, and he doesn’t mince words. His reputation as a wealthy, successful businessman proceeds him, making him seem like an authority figure. Many look to Trump as a great leader because of his authoritative appeal, but there is something lurking beneath the surface they may not see.

Trump is a businessman. He knows how to pitch a good business plan, even when it’s not so good. He can make the sale, obviously. There is no doubt he has summed up his audience and their desires in order to make the sale. What he found when surveying a group he knew would buy into his pitch were people who had been terrified. They were fed up with terrorist attacks, and they wanted a solid solution. I mean, we all want a solution, right? The problem is that some folks are looking for a definitive solution to an equation without an easy, workable solution. He also found an underground of supporters who love his politics because it aligns with their own racist ideals. No doubt they want him because it helps them implement their own sickening agendas, and further resist the push for equality.

Another part of his appeal is his overtly masculine demeanor. People want protection. They’re looking for a daddy figure to roll in and save the day much like children being bullied on a playground. Trump stands up with his unapologetic “I’ll get ‘em at all cost” attitude, and people are more than willing to buy what he’s selling. Of course his logic is, at the very least flawed, and at the worst racist and misogynistic, but his supporters only see a protector. What they fail to recognize is his “plans” could crumble and divide this entire Nation. The underbelly of our country, ripe with racist agendas, would say the Nation is already destroyed because their white authority has been threatened, but they would say that until every person of color was back in chains. They’d love to have a man like Trump to help them get there, and so far, Trump seems like their fearless leader. At this point, though, he has only suggested  vague policies that are impossible to implement from the outset, and would enrage and alienate a large portion of our population, not to mention the rest of the world, causing increased violence.

He isn’t the first person to run on the guise of triumphing over fear. Unfortunately, so did Mussolini and Hitler. We can all see how those regimes ended, and I don’t think the American people want to follow in those tragic historical footsteps. Avid Trump supporters need to wake up and realize that their Wannabe Daddy will bring more harm than he ever will good. He’s only appealing to their fearful sides, and fueling a fire of racism, discrimination, and hate. Trump isn’t offering working policies for the betterment of the American people any more than the dad who threatens to beat up an 11 year old bully is. He’s no more than a mouthpiece looking to profit from the fears and insecurities of American citizens. If elected, he will without doubt, become the abusive parent from whom we will have difficulty separating ourselves. He’s already shown us the signs with his debasing, pejorative language and overbearing attitude. What Trump hates is logic. It’s his kryptonite. While his supporters call what he says “Truth,” his words are not only not true, they aren’t even close. We do not need to be led by a man who refuses to work in facts and logic. We don’t need a father figure, either. What we need is someone who leads by intelligence. The solutions are out there. Trump isn’t it. The quicker his supporters come to terms with the fact he will only harm them, the better off we’ll all be.

 

(Cover image source: http://www.bustle.com/articles/119046-donald-trump-hair-makeup-tutorials-for-halloween-2015)

Addiction Culture: Private Prisons & Creating the Addict

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Today I read a disappointing clip in the local paper’s list of arrests reporting a person I remember from school being arrested for heroin. In another section was a huge write up about a local drug bust. Most everyone denounces the former person while applauding the latter, and I suppose there’s some reason, but before we clap too loudly about the sweeping drug arrests, let’s get real.

Living in reality, we must realize the fact that we can arrest a million drug dealers, but it solves nothing. We can lock them away, throwing away the key along with their freedoms, but it doesn’t matter. So long as there is demand you can just know for certain there will be a supply. The war on drugs is, and always was, a façade. It is impossible to implement and win simply because we aren’t addressing the real issue of addiction.

Our country has a drug problem, don’t get me wrong, but it’s more of a people problem. We need to figure out how to help addicts fix their lives so there is no more demand—and jail isn’t the answer. All jailing addicts does is feed an ever growing privatized jail and prison system with an insatiable greed that will only be whetted with more inmates.  Making our system of incarceration profitable made justice in its truest sense impossible. These people rarely get a fair shake, and nearly never have the opportunity to address their addiction issues that are generally wrapped up in comorbidity. They’re these huge multifaceted problems so interlaced only dealing with one cures nothing. Meanwhile, suppliers look at addicts as the customers who keep their pseudo-pharmacies alive. This doesn’t even address the addiction culture we create by medicating young children. Yet, here we are locking people away, creating felons who have difficulties securing employment and housing post incarceration, and will probably reoffend because they can’t deal with their addictions.

No. This country doesn’t need more jails and prisons—especially not private, for-profit institutions. We don’t need to hate and blame addicts for our ills. Our country needs to decide why we hate each other and our own lives so much. We need to realize that of the 355 mass shootings this year, only 4 were committed by those who had a blood feud against Americans. The rest were by Americans who hated other Americans—domestic terrorism. What we need to address is a need to understand why we hate each other so much. We need to know why we hate life so much we’d rather self-medicate than enjoy each day. Maybe it’s the disease of capitalistic greed creeping into our brains. Maybe it’s the fact we’re overworked and underpaid. Maybe it’s income disparity. Or, just maybe, it’s the fact we never deal with problems as they come, but instead blame everyone but ourselves. No matter, criminalizing addiction is like blaming the smoker for his cancer. Yes, in part, it was a choice, but it’s still a disease in need of a cure nonetheless.

 

(Image Source: http://www.freeenterprisewarriors.com/free-warrior-blog/jims-blog/dealingwithaddiction/)

Doing Equal Opportunity Right: Steak and Shake

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So often the media only gives us the negative stories of an employer’s blatant discrimination or mistreatment of staff. However, today I’m happy to bring you one story that proves one of my favorite places really cares about us all, not just some.

I love Steak and Shake. It’s unclear if it’s their burgers, shakes, or just the atmosphere that I appreciate most, but I really love going for a relaxing, yummy meal in a burger place that does not qualify as “fast food,” even though the service is usually relatively fast. So today when I checked out my Facebook page, I was saddened to see a woman on a garage sale site advertising that my local Steak and Shake was in need of employees. The fact they needed help wasn’t what upset me, though. It was the fact the woman’s profile pic was the rainbow flag with a black vertical line through it. She clearly did not support the LGBTQ community, and I was saddened thinking one of my favorite places to eat might not be an equal opportunity employer.

Because LGBTQ rights means so much to me, I immediately called the restaurant, asking the manager if she would hire me if I were openly gay. Her response was an immediate “Yes.”

My hear felt slightly better hearing that, and it only got better following her answer.

The manager quickly contacted the regional manager, having him call me to discuss this matter. He promptly gave me a call assuring me this anti-gay representation did not represent the policies or standards of Steak and Shake, and told me the woman who had made this post was not even an employee, but the wife of an employee who would be asked to remove the post.

He went on to say that Steak and Shake fully supports the LGBTQ community, and would never discriminate.

Whew! My conscience can allow me to return to Steak and Shake!

I was really proud that an employer did vehemently stand behind his LGBTQ employees. It made me happy to know at least someone is helping make the world a better place, and making a job a little easier for some folks out there who already face far too much discrimination and inequality. Steak and Shake is not only a great place to eat, but apparently, also a friendly environment in which to work.

Thank you, Steak and Shake, for being on the right side of history with those of us who just want the world to be equal and fair for all. It means so much to know there are wonderful, safe places in the world where we may all gather for food and conversation, equality and support.

Confessions of an Anorexic’s Daughter

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You only have value if you’re skinny. This is what I believed growing up. My formative years were spent hearing how my mother never wanted to be fat. I was raised hearing that fat people were unhealthy, lazy slobs, and they were no more than the brunt of the joke. No one, she made clear, likes a fat person.

These teachings were reinforced by a step-mother who told me, an already active teenager, I should work out more, and missing a few meals would do me some good.

Never mind the facts I was a healthy size for my age, I ate healthy foods, and I was active. I was not rail thin.

I assume this fouled teaching comes from the fact these women came of age in the time of Twiggy —during the 60s and 70s, when having hips or curves was something not allowed in our society. Regardless, other generations suffered because these women taught us that we should always scrutinize our bodies, and that our shapes and form were subject to public judgement if we didn’t fit the right criteria.

Pointing fingers at my mother, or making her feel less than because she had body image issues is hardly my point. In fact, I think she was as much a victim of the way society tends to try to regulate acceptable body types as anyone. Yet, the reverb from those decades that complicated the teachings of peace and love with skinny or not accepted is felt still today.

It was hard growing up in a household overhearing my mom constantly criticizing her own body. I looked at her thinking she was the most beautiful woman in the world. When she lamented how ugly and fat she was, I somehow transposed that onto myself thinking “I must be super disgusting, then”. I just knew I didn’t want to be all the things she said were horrible, but I also watched her hurting herself to be something she thought was the definition of beautiful.

During my teen years, I ran the gamut between trying on mom’s anorexia/bulimia for size, and trying to just be super athletic. I was also obsessed with the new wave of exercise programs on stations like ESPN during the mid to late 80s, and I really liked the look of the muscular, healthy women. Thank goodness. They were probably what saved me from full on anorexia/bulimia. Today, I am thankful girls can see the role models of Laila Ali and Rhonda Rousey instead of only models who are often making themselves sick to fit fashion industry standards.

By the time I was in my 30s and early 40s, I had outgrown the need to harm myself to be skinny. I’d spent years watching my mom take laxatives like candy, telling me stories like “I’ve had a hysterectomy, so I don’t have a uterus to support my intestines, and I have to have laxatives”—a story I believed when I was young and naïve. I watched her become sick and weak when she hadn’t eaten, nearly passing out. She never had energy, and was nearly always too tired to do anything. Mom was frequently sick, and I realized it was because she wouldn’t eat.

The irony in all this lies in the fact Mom always equated being fat with being sick, when it was her trying to be 100 pounds or less with a 19 inch waist that was making her sick. What mom never understood was the fact that body size and type does not in and of itself determine health. I know heavier people who are actually quite healthy and athletic, just like many of my very small-built friends. I also know many smaller framed people who are just as unhealthy as many overweight people—especially those who have lost weight in unhealthy manners.

Still to this day, mom equates being fat with being unattractive, sick, and lazy. She still makes jokes about heavy people when she sees them out. She’s also still anorexic. Her bulimia has seemingly stopped, but she still only eats very few calories a day aside from her soda intake.

Now that she’s older, the toll her eating disorders have had on her are striking. Mom has dental issues. She’s losing muscle tone all over her body, making her look older than she is. Osteoporosis is now a reality for her, causing her to have to be on prescription medication.  In short, she’s frail and susceptible to sickness more so than other people her age, and there is no talking to her about it. She denies her illness, makes excuses for not eating, and still seems proud when the number on the scale continues to drop.I realize now, she doesn’t just hate the way she looks, she hates everything about herself, and that’s the worst part of all.

I feel horrible for her, but it’s also maddening to watch someone still committing slow suicide, even with loved ones begging her to stop. It’s infuriating to watch a woman in her mid-60s who still thinks if she gains an ounce she’ll be disgusting. What’s more, it’s very difficult to know she thinks I’m a fat slob because I don’t fit her ideal body type. Even at her age, she cannot see the falsity behind the idea that people are supposed to look a specific way. It hurts me to see her not realize how much of a beautiful, intelligent, fun woman she is. It hurts me that she has never realized her own value, and that her value, as well as that of others, is defined by more than curves and the numbers on a scale.

So many of us my age were raised by people who thought exactly the same way as my mom. We’ve battled our way through food guilt and the humiliation of not looking exactly like we’d been taught we should. Many of us fought one food disorder only to end up on the other end of the spectrum, using food as comfort.

Had our parents taught us that healthy eating and exercise are all that’s important, that eating a piece of cake or pizza is fine occasionally, and that no matter what, we’d always be loved and accepted, many of us would be far healthier and happier than we are. How can we blame them, though? Society never taught them, so how could they teach us?

According to South Carolina Department of Mental Health 

  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness
  • A study by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reported that 5 – 10% of anorexics die within 10 years after contracting the disease; 18-20% of anorexics will be dead after 20 years and only 30 – 40% ever fully recover
  • The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15 – 24 years old.
  • 20% of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide and heart problems

Eating disorders can be deadly. The psychological effects from believing the lies that lead to them can be long lasting, and lead to death. If you or someone you love suffers from an eating disorder, please seek help, and let us not forget, eating disorder affect all genders. Anyone can suffer this tragic disease.

(Image source:https://www.google.com/search?q=anorexia/bulimia+images&espv=2&biw=1366&bih=643&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=ZFpqVav-Bc2VyASg9IKoCg&ved=0CAYQ_AUoAQ#imgrc=7NKpvR70mGbC_M%253A%3BiaEls5VDDYM10M%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252F25.media.tumblr.com%252Ftumblr_m6bfo348iz1r78eeno1_400.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Frebloggy.com%252Fpost%252Fdepression-edits-thin-fat-anorexia-bulimia-ed-myphoto%252F26058720679%3B400%3B327)