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#TakeAKnee

A player gets hurt, you take a knee. You’re at church and something holy is happening, you take both knees. You’re begging for something to happen, you’re generally kneeling then too.

I thought the issue of football players kneeling during the national anthem was so last year. It started with Colin Kaepernick and has moved through many of the other NFL football teams. This simple act, kneeling whilst hearing the national anthem has been condemned, especially by Trump. But is kneeling really disrespectful? Historically speaking, it’s the opposite.

But first, let’s talk about what is disrespectful to the flag. According to the US Flag code, anything from holding the flag horizontally (like at the beginning of many sports events) to printing the American flag on something disposable like a paper plate is disrespectful. I cannot express how irritated I’ve been to hear about flags being balled up instead of properly folded, or how frustrated I become when I see a flag that should be retired waving in the wind like old laundry. Actions like those are disrespectful. Taking a knee might break conduct rules, but it is not inherently wrong.

Historically speaking, kneeling is a sign of reverence, of submission, of acknowledging that something is greater than you are. That is why I don’t have a problem when these players are kneeling during the anthem. They are still showing respect, albeit in a different way, and should not be condemned as such.

In a time where hurricanes are ravaging our coasts, climate change is affecting our earth, and we are trying to inhibit people’s pursuits of happiness, we should not be so bothered by the fact that football players are kneeling during the national anthem. We have more important things to worry about. #takeaknee

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Let Us Bring a Hurricane of Help

The end of summer has brought the end of a variety of things but I want to talk about two—the end of safety in many of our coastal cities and the end of DACA. It seems as though natural disaster and social disaster has come in a pair and both are leaving the nation worried sick.

Between Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, not to mention the other hurricanes that are anticipated, lives have been lost, homes have been destroyed, and humans have showed both compassion and competition.

“Catastrophic flooding” in Houston has kept the nation on its toes. With people sending prayers and money, the local residents have been getting some relief. We saw valiant examples of everyone from the Coast Guard to local reporters to neighbors all helping to rescue all the people and animals displaced by Harvey. Sadly, we also saw some people close doors to the hurricane and flood victims, and then days later the same people, or rather person, said that those statements were untrue. Regardless of who helped immediately and who needed coaxing to join in the effort, Harvey brought the country together, something that we have not seen in nearly a year considering the current socio-political climate.

Then came the announcement to end DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, came and the country, for the most part, was outraged. Even many conservative congressmen urged the President to keep the program saying that we should not punish the children for their parents’ “sins.” Most DACA recipients, or Dreamers, have lived in the country since they were young children, meaning deportation would send them back to a country they have little memory or knowledge about. Additionally, all DACA recipients must go through an arduous selection process—they cannot have a criminal history and they must have a high school level education or be studying at university. Ending DACA would take away the opportunity for approximately 800,000 people to contribute to our society, especially financially. All Dreamers pay into social security and standard annual taxes—taking those taxes away from society would be economically questionable, if not detrimental.

Dreamers and supporters of DACA have all made the effort to protest the appeal, and strangely, it now seems the president is against it as well. In a tweet, he said that Dreamers have “nothing to worry about.” I, like many people am scratching my head at this apparent turn around by the president. Despite some of the ambiguity surrounding the government’s stance on DACA, many citizens seem to be showing enormous support, sharing information about how to survive what is a scary time for the Dreamers.

As the nation is beginning to recover from Harvey and is dealing with the issue of DACA’s end, a new threat is looming: Hurricane Irma. Irma, which was recently downgraded to a category three storm has hit Florida today. While most Floridians have already evacuated, some are still in the area and it seems that the confirmed death toll is currently at 25 people. It is difficult to understand how there doesn’t seem to be a mention of climate change, especially with two large hurricanes right after each other and another hurricane, Jose, on the way soon. But the silver lining is that the nation is still working together in the effort to help victims of the hurricanes.

Despite these natural disasters and this social outrage, we can see the country trying to come together, which is quite welcome after the Charlottesville riots. It’s important to be informed, to want to help, to see that despite our differences, humans are caring creatures. So, I urge you to do what you can to help those displaced, both by the hurricanes and by DACA.

And….We’re Back in School!

Some of why I’ve only been able to write bi-weekly is because I have a campus job (and don’t live close to campus), and have been slammed with errands to be completed before school starts. That being said, with classes starting tomorrow, here’s five tips to help make this year a success!

One should get lots of sleep and hydration. I know it’s tough sometimes, especially with 11:59 pm deadlines on papers, or parties, or roommates, but sleep is important! It’s the human version of “turning it off and on again,” and is a good thing to reset. If you’re anything like me, you might have some trouble sleeping, and that’s normal, if you have a lot of trouble sleeping, though, you might wanna get that checked out. Hydration is super important too, dehydration can lead to fatigue—que needing more sleep—or other irritating side effects like headaches. If simply bringing a water bottle around campus/school is still not enough to remember to stay hydrated, there are plenty of apps out there that can help. I know, it’s crazy to think that there’s app to remind you to drink water, but if that’s what works for you to stay healthy, it’s worth it!

Two many pieces of pizza sound good now, but won’t later. (See what I did there, I can be punny.) Food’s super important, we all pretty much love it, but not all of us treat it with as much importance as we should. Sure pizza or Panda sound good and are cheap and easy, but that doesn’t mean they’re the best choices. If you don’t have the option to buy your own groceries, try your best to hit at least every food group at a meal. I know it can be difficult, as someone who loves bread and other carbs, it’s tempting to get just the pasta and garlic bread, but it’s always good to throw in a carrot or an apple. Lastly on food, don’t skip out on breakfast, whether or not you think it’s the most important meal, it helps get you going and helps keep you going. Opt for something light like yogurt and fruit if you’re not a big breakfast person, or you can go the traditional bacon and eggs route if that’s more your speed.

Three can be a crowd, so make some time for yourself. Even extroverts need time to recharge themselves. Whether you just have you time in the car or you have a whole day to yourself, make it count. You don’t need to be with people all the time and you don’t need to always be doing something. Take some time out of the week to just do you—take a bath, binge watch your favorite show, or try that recipe that you found online. Being alone doesn’t have to be sad and it doesn’t even have to be a time for reflecting, it’s an opportunity to re-center yourself and get a grip on whatever it is that you’re normally busy with.

Four success, plan it out and be prepared! Whether you like to schedule out your life digitally or old school with pen and paper, it helps to have some sort of visual of your schedule. There are tons of apps you can use, I’m really into these bullet journals myself, to get your life organized. Between classes, work, clubs, friends, and dates, you’ll likely find yourself grasping at straws trying to make time for everything that’s important, so find a way that works well for you and go for it! If you’re not sure what you might need to stay ahead of the game, there are tons of lists online that can help you out too. Bed Bath & Beyond and Target have great lists for dorm/apartment essentials, and here’s another great list for school supplies (it has preschool through high school).

Five is good company, so make some social time! Not to get all social psychological on y’all, but humans are social creatures, we need to make connections. So while it’s important to make time for yourself, it’s also super important to make time to hang out with others. Study groups are great for some people, if you need to actually be productive and social, or you can just go out with friends. However it is that you choose to hang out, and whoever you choose to hang out with, switch it up! Maybe go to the movies one night with co-workers, and then have a pasta night with some friends from your class. Just make sure that you leave enough room for your other responsibilities.

Bonus tip: college, and even senior year of high school really, can make you feel invincible. But just remember that it’s okay to ask for help; whether it’s problem in your math class or problems with your s/o, it’s okay to go to someone and talk it out. Don’t be afraid to get a tutor or take a visit to the counseling office, you won’t be the only one there, you’re not alone in whatever you’re having a tough time with. So my final bit of advice to you is to ask for help when you need it, it doesn’t make you less cool, it actually makes you more aware of yourself and more ahead of the game!

You Gotta Call It Like It Is

Okay, so I’m still getting back in the swing of posting again. So thank you all for bearing with me!

As I’m sure many of you have heard, late Friday night, a group of white nationalists, or according to some, supremacists marched on the University of Virginia campus, yelling chants implying white oppression. According to Rev. Seth Wispelwey in an article from the New York Times, “People are angry, they’re scared, they’re hurt, they’re confused.” As per the same article, the march started in part because this group of white nationalists were opposed to a plan to take down a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

These people’s fear are well founded too, in a report by the Huffington Post, three people have died and 35 people have been injured following the rally due in part to a helicopter crash. Others were injured when a car plowed into an anti-racist group while they clashed with the white supremacist activists, some of whom were armed while others were not. Given that there have been injuries and death on both sides—the white nationalists as well as anti-racists—many are upset and have spoken out against the incident.

In fact, Virginia governor Terry McAuliff declared a state of emergency yesterday afternoon, Attorney Jeff Sessions declared an investigation into the violence, and Trump has made a speech that prompted a lot of backlash from many.

He blamed both sides—again, the nationalists and the anti-racists—for the violence, saying that we must respect each other, and hopefully love each other. He began by discouraging the bigotry that prompted the protests and violence. Many celebrities as well as political figures have called him out on his statement, implying a level of inconsistency between this speech and his previous statements. Furthermore, many have scolded him for blaming both sides—Colorado Senator Corey Gardner tweeting “Mr. President – we must call evil by its name. These are white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.” Others scolded him for only paying attention to the Charlottesville, and completely neglecting the Mosque bombing in Minnesota that occurred just over a week ago.

I’m not going to share my personal opinions on his statements, but I will say that I find it refreshing to see this many people, especially those who have power such as politicians, calling Trump out on his inconsistencies. We cannot only condemn terrorism that has been acted upon us by others; it is important to recognize domestic terrorism. We, unfortunately, have a history of acts of violence against our own people. So to hear our commander in chief, our international representative, our national role model (to an extent) ignore domestic terrorism is disgraceful, but to see so many writers, performers, politicians, etc. call him out with such rigor is a welcome change to people seeming complacent or merely shocked his statements.

The Power of a Great Read

I know it’s been a while since I’ve written anything in a while, some of that’s due to my busy summer and some of it is due to not knowing what to write about. So, to get back into the swing of things, let me tell you all about a book I just finished by Fredrik Backman called My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry.

 

The novel follows Elsa, an almost-eight-year-old living in Sweden. She doesn’t have many friends and is bullied mercilessly in school. Her grandmother was always her support system and her superhero, telling her fairytales and taking her to the Land-of-Almost-Awake, a kingdom where imagination rules and everyone is a little bit different. Sadly, for Elsa, her parents are divorced, she’ll have a new half-sibling soon which makes her feel even less important, and unbeknownst to her, her grandmother has cancer and does not have much time left.

I’ll try to avoid giving too many spoilers but I’ll try to give some context. Unable to return to the Land-of-Almost-Awake, Elsa is sent on a treasure hunt by her grandmother to deliver letters to the neighbors in their house. The consistent theme among them being that they are apologies from her grandmother to each of the residents in the house and Elsa then learns the backstory to each of them. She discovers that some people are not “total shits,” and helps many get through the losses that shape them, realizing that many of the neighbors are also characters in her grandmother’s fairytales.

Slowly, Elsa makes friends with the neighbors and eventually becomes less lonely, as every almost-eight-year old should have both superheroes and friends. She teams up with her neighbors against the mysterious and threatening shadow that has been hunting Elsa since her granny passed away, coming out victorious in the end.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed the novel, Backman has a way with words and emotions that make you see what his characters were feeling and see what they were feeling. Throughout the book, I wanted to be friends with the characters, empathize with them and help them through their struggle. Backman takes the reader on an emotional journey, investigating loss, anger, and forgiveness as Elsa makes her own journey delivering her grandmother’s letters.

Other than a few passages that I had to reread, I do not have complaints about either the writing style or the plot. I was kept guessing throughout the story, very engaged and intrigued and certainly never bored. As someone who has always loved stories, it was an interesting and heartwarming story about the power of stories and how they bring people together. I highly recommend this novel to anyone wanting a good read that blends fictional reality and fantasy, and I’m definitely not sorry to praise it so highly.

Missing the Point… Book vs. Movie

I was sitting in my class the other day, listening to celebratory speeches. One girl, a very talented speaker, has a power point; she turns it on and it’s a photo for the Netfix show Thirteen Reasons Why and says “This is not suicide.” How poignant, I was instantly reeled into her speech, the girl continued saying that the media needs to stop “romanticizing suicide,” now I’ve seen these arguments before, particularly online, and as much as I wanted to continue agreeing with her speech I couldn’t.

Now I’ll agree, that there are generally some issues that arise when suicides are highly publicized. While I was in high school, a young man in my community committed suicide and I’m not  sure if it was the publicity he got or other kids were simply seriously shaken up, but a number of other suicides followed shortly after. In fact there have been studies that have found a link between highly publicized suicides and so called “copy-cat” cases.

But I digress, I’d like to share my previously held private opinions about suicide in Thirteen Reasons Why. Something I’m sure some are unaware of is that it started as a novel by Jay Asher first published in 2007; and honestly I think the book is better, the show took a lot of creative liberties. But if the book’s been around ten years, why did I only hear about it in the last year or so, and why did many people not even realize that it is a book? I think it boils down to the fact that film is so much more sensational in that it doesn’t make the viewer work as hard–with a book you have to mentally create scenes, what characters look like, and how they interact, with a movie, all of that has been done for you.

So when people saw Thirteen Reasons Why and saw Hannah Baker cutting her wrists, it caused a much bigger uproar than when people read about Hannah Baker over-dosing on pills–it was a stronger, more violent image. As a result, more people spoke out about and against the film when most readers stayed fairly quiet about it.

In the back of the novel, there is a section in which Asher gives a little Q&A about the book–why he wrote it, some of the thoughts that went into it, et cetera. From this you can see that while suicide is the driving force of the book, it’s not necessarily the most important thing about it. Interestingly enough, there are “special features” after the series on Netflix as well in which the directors and producers say somewhat similar things about the plot and the characters as the author did.

Both the book’s Q&A and the show’s “special features” stressed that the important thing was not that she killed herself and we need to be aware of the signs because there might be other “Hannah Bakers” out there. The “moral,” if you will, of Asher’s story is that you never know how you affect others’ lives. Hannah didn’t see that she was important to Clay, her parents, anyone really; and no one on the tapes saw how their actions affected Hannah. Those characters that she “blamed” did not take away her agency in suicide, they did not force her, it was still her choice. But people who haven’t read the book or even watched the movie and only read comments about it online might think that’s the case. Not one review article I saw said anything about that message; they just focused on the idea that Hannah was stupid and selfish.

I wish there were more media coverage of comparisons between the book and movie, I think that would have given people a better appreciation for what Asher was trying to communicate. Overall, I recommend the book, especially the tenth anniversary edition–it includes the original ending in which Hannah Baker survives. I’m not going to tell anyone to not watch the show, or to avoid articles about show or movie, I’m not even going to tell people to stop “romanticizing suicide.” I just hope that we are all more aware of the implications of our own actions and approach media about touchy topics like suicide with a more open mindset.

Media and Me…for Now

Let me tell you a slightly embarrassing story. Growing up I had many career aspirations, but the one that stuck with me the longest was being a spy. I loved James Bond and Scooby-Doo, so much so that I made my own little spy-kit and pretended to solve mysteries all the time. I would write my own mystery stories and would read even more, one novel I came across, Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy gave me more hope for this dream. Then one day my sophomore year of high school, I suddenly realized that I didn’t want to be a spy anymore and panicked because I no longer had a plan. Lots of premature worry and a creative writing class later, I saw myself as being able to use my writing skills in the future.

While I always enjoyed all the elements of speech writing and performing, which lead me to pursue communications in college, I wanted more. I’d always been fascinated by journalism; shoot, instead of playing kickball in middle school I would pretend to be a sports announcer and commentate the game. So when I first started taking an intro to journalism class (which prompted me to create this blog and share it with you lovely people) I found myself even more excited about news and the media.

In both my journalism and communication classes, I’ve learned the importance of critical reading and verification. Attending these classes at CU has given me a new perspective of looking at the media; it’s hard to think that I used to just see news programs as basic reporting. Now I know more about all the ethical choices that were made about the material being presented; I know more about how and why media outlets, especially social media platforms, make the choices that they do. I have been able to see that while I try to limit my digital footprint, my information matters to someone and that anyone and anything has the ability to be newsworthy.

I can’t say for sure that I will be a journalist. I can say that I will continue writing—whether it’s on this blog, in a book, an article, or even for a news company. I do hope to continue this type of work because I’ve found a lot of joy and satisfaction in finding new or even old information, but finding an interesting way to share it. I hope that by my continuing to learn about journalism and the media, if and when I find myself in a more professional setting that I will be able to apply these lessons. It’s exciting to think that I could be part of such a dynamic and complicated aspect of our society, and that I could have some influence on its future.