Peace Isn’t Always Peaceful

Before anyone goes off thinking I’m advocating for war, please understand I am not. Ok. With that out of the way, let’s talk making peace in the United States of America, because we haven’t been this close to civil war since well, the Civil War. And forgive me if this post seems like it’s all over the place. Heavy topic.

Those on the far right have been saying the divide between right and left will never be bridged unless those on the left knock it off already. Those on the far left have said pretty much the same. There have been many a Tik Tok featuring a toothless, aging white man with a huge beard and a dirty trucker hat threatening to come for the sheeple and snowflakes for their deft thievery of the national election. It’s been super easy to laugh at the images and roll my eyes.

Then January 6 happened. As more details are emerging, the intent of the insurrection at the capitol has now been revealed to be much more sinister than many dared to believe. After all, why storm a building with zip ties unless you were planning to tie someone up and do harm?

This week, 20,000 National Guard troops have been setting up in DC ahead of the Biden/Harris inauguration. Everyone is on high alert because the toothless and those with a mouthful of chompers have been pretty open about what they hope to do with January 20. Thankfully, law enforcement appears to be actually listening.

So, where do we go from here?

I’m a history nerd and love the fact that I live in one of the 13 original colonies. I love our proximity to Washington D.C. and the fact that when we stroll the mall on a Saturday afternoon or take pictures on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial we are literally standing in the steps of history. This capital and this nation and all its stands for has its stories.

The world has seen great divides for centuries and at some point, amends have been made—sometimes freely, other times with great caution. Watching the World War II movie, Windtalkers the other day, a bigoted character in the film exclaimed disbelief that the Indigenous fellow GI he’d taunted actually saved his life, before saying the following: “Wouldn’t it be crazy maybe in 50 years we’ll be sipping beers with the Japanese?”

He spoke prophetically, did he not? The same can be said of Germany, (well prior to Trump messing things up), now one of our staunchest allies. How was peace brokered and nurtured there?

Well, one side had to surrender; one side had to admit defeat and accept it. That’s a starting point. But ideologies don’t just disappear overnight. Did Nazi ideas of racial supremacy evaporate once the Allies occupied and split the country into two? In Japan, did Emperor Hirohito cease to be a god in the eyes of his faithful when the articles of surrender were signed?

Interestingly enough, both Japan and Germany’s aggressions against the world were built on the ideas of race supremacy. To my knowledge (and I could be wrong), splinter groups in Japan embracing the ideas of their former emperor haven’t gained the footing that Neo-Nazi groups have throughout the world. As we’ve seen here in America, the flag “with the ugly spider,” as described by Gretl in The Sound of Music, is still waving—in the very nation who stormed Normandy to stomp it out.

Peace can be made in theory, but not always in action.

What will it take for the United States to truly be peaceful in action, not just in word? I wish I had answers. There are too many people entrenched in conspiracy theories, lies, and white supremacy right now. And unless you let those things go, there is no hand holding with truth tellers and people of different colors. In other words, you’ve got to get on the correct side of history in the eyes of humanity or common ground can’t be found.

You see, there are issues that go beyond the politics of running a country where compromise can’t be found. And those issues center around life and death. Racism leads to death for many Americans. As some have lamented their shock at why friendships and families have been ruined over Trump-following, I’d assert the issues of equality, justice, and the denouncement of racism and white supremacy are deal breakers. You either value all life in its diversity as on par with your own or you don’t. On issues like that, the side against that notion must capitulate or there is really no place to go.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., always chose a path of nonviolence, even when confronted with violence. All these years later, he is not wrong. Going high when others go low? That allows you to hold on to your dignity.

That said, I don’t believe in saying nothing. As Dr. King did, speak, write, and engage with others. Set people right when they are spouting wrong. Don’t shy away from the hard conversations. Have them and be firm about dispelling untruth with truth, facts, and a steady hand. Resist hysteria and lowering your standards out of anger. Stay even keeled and stay the course. I don’t know how or when or even if the nation will reach a point of peace at this point. But I do know that peace doesn’t come from standing back doing nothing.

For peace to truly win out, the method has to outweigh the madness.

Stop With the “Both Sides” Flawed Logic Already

I clicked CNN on Wednesday morning while working. I thought it would be good to listen to the speeches on the floor of the senate regarding the final certification of the election results. Isn’t it interesting that election after election rolls by and this same event happens (albeit with less drama), and most of us aren’t even aware that it happened? But not this year. After multiple lawsuits, a continuous barrage of lies crying fraud, failed rallies, and more lunacy out of Trump and his faithful, the senate certification was the last step towards Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ inauguration January 20.

So, one minute Ted Cruz was speaking (and I was rolling my eyes), and the next, cameras were panning out over a swelling crowd rapidly moving toward the capitol building. The reporters covering events went from monotone-speak to panic, as the crowd approached the building and forced their way in—unbelievable to anyone who’s been in DC post 9/11.

We all know what happened next. Surreal, shocking, disgusting.

Trump didn’t call in the national guard who could have squashed the insurrection. The Capitol police were woefully unprepared and, in a few cases, appearing to be welcoming to the brazen trespassers (photo evidence is available). It took hours before police backup from Maryland and Virginia assembled and got in place.

This is so vile.

Thankfully, all elected officials were evacuated to safety and the official boxes containing the electoral college votes were rapidly removed thanks to a quick-thinking squad of women who in all honesty, helped save our democracy.

As the dust somewhat settled as late night rolled in, analysis on all news networks picked apart what was clearly an attempted coup, minute by minute.

And several ugly things emerged.

  1. Had the crowd been Black Lives Matters, or really any group of minority protestors, they would have never made it to the first steps, let alone broken windows to climb through.
  2. There would have been many more deaths.
  3. The National Guard, SWAT team, DC Police, Capitol Police would have all been positioned at the ready in full riot gear, guns locked and loaded.

By the early hours of January 7, objections had been rescinded on the senate floor and resignations from White House staff and cabinet members began flowing in.

But by morning, I already knew what was coming next. And sure enough, the chorus began to swell with the “violence is terrible and both sides are guilty of it,”  or “It’s just so sad, but both sides have been violent—look at what the left did this summer, etc.” I don’t want to write all the things I heard along those lines because they are literally raising my blood pressure to recount them.

Hypocrisy much?

The violence of this summer in the wake of George Floyd’s death and nationwide protests was terrible. We all can agree that violence is not the answer and does more harm than good. However, it’s the reasons behind the violence of both the summer and January 6 that can’t be placed on equal footing.

Dr. King said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” Before anyone says I’m trying to defend Target looters and the people who sacked the police department in Minneapolis, stop and understand what could drive people to so much rage and despair destruction offers the only outlet. The protests against the murder of George Floyd and all Black individuals who have been killed at the hands of senseless and ruthless cops, were necessary. These deaths stem from deeply rooted systemic racism going back to the infancy of this nation. If you haven’t made peace with the following fact, do it now: America was built on the backs of Black people—from its early infrastructure, economy, right down to the White House itself. That Black Americans have been treated as less than human at worst, and second-class citizens at best, for 400 years is unacceptable.

That legacy was never squashed with the abolition of slavery or the laws enacted as a result of the civil rights movement. Not even Barack Obama as president changed things enough. Human nature will allow rage to bubble up when nothing is done. And in this particular situation, when nothing is done, innocent Black people continue to die. Is it heartbreaking to see this type of violence break out in the very communities that don’t need that? Absolutely. Do I get where the anger, hurt, rage, and sense of hopelessness comes from? Yes, I do. While I understand it, it doesn’t make it the right option. Let me be clear on that.

But the riotous act of sedition and treason that resulted in an attempted coup on January 6, 2021 was the result of the false and incendiary rhetoric of Donald Trump and legions of Americans who have been foolishly swept up by their loyalty to one man over their country. As more details of the attempted coup are emerging, it’s getting clearer that what transpired was not a gang of over enthusiastic Trumpers getting out of hand. Multiple bombs, Molotov cocktails, weapons, and even zip ties for restraining people were part of the mêlée. Does that sound like just a spur-of-the-moment, whipped into a frenzy, charge toward the Capitol building to you? As author Dan Koit reports, “They were out for blood.” (https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2021/01/was-there-a-plan-for-hostages-or-killings-at-the-capitol.html). There had to have been planning involved with only one purpose behind it—to keep Donald J. Trump in power, at all costs. Patriots? Hell no.

“Patriots”

What has resulted now are ongoing GOP defections and a quickly growing list of federal and local investigations which will likely result in prosecution. That sort of stuff doesn’t quickly pop up from a “peaceful protest,” gone awry. Those who remain defending Trump while refusing to condemn the acts of January 6 should be ashamed of themselves.

As Trump supporters both ardent and mildly sympathetic, keep popping up with their “both sides have problems” logic, they are only painting themselves as too blindly devoted to a foolish despot. And its pathetic. Because its apparent now that many of these otherwise sensible people have clearly lost their true north.

In 2021, how much more needs to happen to call out what must be called out? Oppose violence yes, but at the same time pay close attention to the objectives and results of protests and make sure you understand the root causes. One of the obvious problems with people spouting “both sides have problems?” They are paying more attention to the dominant color of the protesters than the reason behind the protests.

After the nation nearly missed a total coup this week where elected officials could have been held hostage and/or murdered, to try to lump this in with BLM protests and the like, is completely inappropriate and totally out-of-order. Because if you aren’t desperately clinging to Donald Trump and all that he represents, you should be able to see what’s what. So when you can’t, it only reveals your true colors.

But there is a silver lining to this very dark cloud—the voices calling for justice in America are only getting louder and growing in number. And come January 20, they will also get considerably more powerful.

Oh, Ye of Little Faith…In the Power of the Suburban Woman

A few months before November’s election, the current and more importantly OUTGOING president, seemed to think the vote of the American suburban woman was easily in his tiny, tiny hands. I think it’s safe to say the image of the American suburban woman blissfully ensconced in his muddled brain was that of June Cleaver or Donna Reed. You know, right back there in the good old days of America when white people ruled supreme, segregation was A-OK! and women did what their men told them to do… in pearls. Kids also roamed around outside unsupervised from dawn till dusk and no one had to worry, but we’ll get to that another time.

Except for Dear Leader, the times have a-changed—and since the country’s greatest stable genius doesn’t believe in reading, he likely missed the memos over the last 60+ years. Women are not unequivocally in the hands of anyone—especially these suburban ladies that do indeed, determine elections.

The suburban woman of 2020 and now 2021, is educated (in more ways than just a university degree, but we do have a lot of those), she works inside and outside of the home often juggling side-hustles to her main gigs, she is married, single, straight, and gay. She is young, old, and in-between. She has biological children, children born of surrogates, and children born in her heart through adoption. This woman approaches faith on her own terms or doesn’t. She is a friend, a daughter, a sister, a wife, even a hermit. She is no June Cleaver for she comes in all shapes, sizes and COLORS. And she has a voice she isn’t afraid to use.

I was among many suburban women these past several months who found ways to get involved in Anti-Trump activism during a pandemic. That’s right: I wrote postcards! I started with 100 cards, hand-written no less, to swing voters in Wisconsin. When it became apparent Wisconsin had flipped blue, I had to wonder if my cards had anything to do with it. Ha Ha! Maybe they helped just a couple souls find their way to the polls to vote in favor of someone who cared that they had good schools and access to clean water (among so many other issues). Maybe they wondered who this strange woman with a weird name was and decided to humor her.  

But when Georgia called run-off elections for this month, I was at it again. One hundred cards went to voters in the Peach State signed by some woman named Wilo asking them to help Jon Ossoff and Rev. Warnock do better for Georgia than what they had. And as of this writing, there are two blue senators heading to Washington. Did we do that? (Steve Urkel voice, please).

Let’s be honest about Georgia for a minute. There is one name that will go down in history as synonymous with the greatness that occurs when people of color and their allies show up and show out. Stacey Abrams. Take a moment, please. This woman. Oh, my goodness, THIS WOMAN.

This woman and millions of women inspired by her, have embraced activism in earnest in these past four years since Donald Trump backed his considerable caboose into the Oval Office. We’ve stormed the gates of Michaels (hard no to Hobby Lobby, thank you) in hot pursuit of poster boards and giant sharpies for our multiple protest signs. We’ve written the post cards, got involved in text and call-banking, wrote and called elected officials. And talked to our children (no small emphasis can be placed on that). You see, we’ve gone above and beyond kvetching on social media, folks.

And somewhere along the line others have listened, thought hard, and made some different choices than before. We’ve finally spoken out to our racist and sexist relatives, refusing to just smile politely to keep the peace. Voices that were previously silent, have been unleashed.

And some red states went blue with a Jamaican/Indian American WOMAN as vice-president.

There is obviously so much more work to be done, but it’s clear that big things happen when we women dig in and get involved. And on that note: To the Black queens who brought Biden to victory. THANK YOU!

So, for those still hell bent on returning America to its “golden days” of the 1950s, please go watch your reruns of Leave it to Beaver. Because that’s as close as you are ever going to get to that again.

Especially as long as we suburban women keep doing what we’re doing.

*Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

What Are You Complimenting Exactly?

As we have officially embarked on the season of New Year, New You, it won’t be long before you might start seeing evidence of the new gym equipment, diets, cleanses, and detoxes. How long they remain is as another question for another time. But you will see them. Some will be subtle, and some will shock and awe you. And you will likely respond with varying levels of enthusiasm and/or hysteria. But be careful. And here’s why.

Unless you know for gospel truth the exact things that have brought a person startling and hopefully lasting change for their health and wellness, compliments and the way in which you compliment, may not be as helpful as you think. It is natural for someone who has not been unhappy with their physical appearance to feel great about 1. Changing said appearance; 2. People noticing desired improvements; 3. People showering accolades upon the person for all the above.

But here are some of the types of comments that can be dangerous:

  1. You are looking so much better now!
  2. You look so beautiful.
  3. You are so hot!
  4. You’ve been hiding that bod all this time?
  5. So glad you have finally lost all that weight.

Basically what you are saying is that in the absence of weight loss/tightening and toning, a person looked worse, was not beautiful or hot before, has been hiding hotness behind something, and that others have been wanting them to lose weight for a long time. While one’s intentions may have been pure, there is a lot loaded behind these types of accolades.

If you’ve gone through any diet/exercise programs—especially if they are strict—results come. But they don’t always stay, particularly if the program is not sustainable. I speak from experience. I used to follow a strength training/clean eating approach that was extremely strict. On vacation I still woke up at 6 or 7 to workout. I brought bands and mats with me in case I couldn’t get to a hotel gym. And I followed a pattern of eating six meals a day that adhered to macro requirements. That meant I carried protein bars with me at all times, packed Ziplock bags with protein powder to spike oatmeal with, picked meals at outstanding restaurants according to protein/fat/carb ratios, not whether the dish was something special I might only get in this one corner of the world. You get the picture.

Eventually I reached a point where this lifestyle was the pits (have you ever ducked out of church to go to your car to snarf down a cheese stick and dry Ezekiel bread as people walked by looking at you weird?) and yes, I carried an insulated lunchbox in the car on most days. And when I reached the point where I just couldn’t deal with that lunacy anymore, I stopped. Naturally my body changed, and the compliments ended. So, what did that mean? I was only beautiful and praiseworthy when successful on a difficult diet plan and not for just being me. And that messed with my head. And it messes with the heads of anyone who has been on the weight loss/gain train.

I know someone who is addicted to pills, never exercises or pays attention to nutrition, or any other healthy lifestyle habit. This person naturally became emaciated and in terrible shape. Yet I’ve witnessed people falling over themselves to tell them how great they look. So, what does the compliment mean? Drug addiction and a terrible lifestyle will get you praise!

Here’s another story: A woman was at a Thanksgiving buffet helping herself at the table. Another woman (who I know for a fact prizes skinniness as a virtue above kindness and decency) excitedly squeals at her: “oh, you are so nice and thin!” The woman helping herself to dinner was fighting cancer. She could barely eat most days and was trying really hard for thanksgiving.

This is the point. We need to flip the switch on heaping praise on people’s physical stuff (which can change fast) and focus on the real stuff that matters. Has a person worked for the last year or so to make long-lasting changes for overall good health? Do you know how hard that is? That person needs to know their hard work, dedication, and courage are inspiring. They need to be told that their beauty now is as wonderful as it was before, but that the thing to be admired most comes from their depths of their soul.

I’ve known women who have become vapid, obsessive, and quite honestly idiotic as the numbers on their scales have gone down. They have literally morphed from normal human beings to things no one wants to be around. Inside, I knew they were battling demons of still not thinking they were good enough but were still hell bent on gaining their internal peace (which they never got) from showing everyone how amazing they were through their new and small clothes and ridiculous behavior. Praising them for their weight loss and new bodies only fed the angry beast within.

When you see someone who looks fitter, healthier, and yes, smaller, ask them about their program. If and when you find out exactly what they’ve been doing and it’s sane and sensible, applaud their efforts, their power, and their determination. They deserve that. Remind them that they could walk around with a bag on their head for the remainder of their days, but you’d still find them beautiful. Tell them how proud you are of them and that they are inspirational. But don’t stop there—if you notice a person has relapsed a bit (because fitness/weight management is never perfectly linear), keep your encouragement of their effort coming. Keep reminding them of the real beauty they possess, helping them to know that all is not lost if they have setbacks. It’s just part of the journey.

In the end, what compliments really matter? Not the ones that applaud a smaller number inside of a pair of jeans. Not at all.

It’s Beginning to Look A lot Like … Weight Loss Lunacy Season

It’s starting. Weight Watchers commercials, social media ads for discounts off downloadable guides and programs, Nordic Tread testimonies and Peloton tidings of comfort and joy (in the form of lower scale numbers). After a pandemic Christmas where there was little else to do but hunker down and eat, following 10 months of the acquisition of quarantine cushioning for many, the annual race to finally claim one’s dream body is off. Because maybe, just maybe, summer beach vacations in 2021 can actually be a thing and everyone will want to celebrate that with a body to parade around (yuck, that shouldn’t even be a goal).

So, here’s my issue with this (and kind of with the fitness industry as a whole). Let me preface this by saying I’ve been an NASM certified personal trainer for five years. This has been a side hustle to my day job as a writer, editor, and creative producer. Needless to say, the day job has kept me plenty busy, which didn’t leave much time for pursuing job #2 in my off hours. That, combined with my own realizations about fitness and diet culture, and my conviction that many people wanting to lose weight also need some psychological conditioning (which is not my field), led me to “retire.” But I’m certainly not without a level of expertise in this field and I have some things to say, As people hurry to buy out Gymshark apparel and order their Booty Bands and protein powder off Amazon, please permit me to pop off.

  1. There are valid reasons for why weight loss/body goals kick off with a bang in January and die a quiet death around March. And that’s actually nothing to be ashamed of.
  2. There is a difference between getting fit and losing weight. The two are not synonymous.
  3. People with great looking bodies and desired scale numbers are not necessarily happier humans.
  4. The fitness industry, like pretty much everything in a capitalistic society, is designed to make money. Instilling guilt, shame, and panic in people is part of how you get that done.
  5. There are many medical professionals who are as clueless about weight loss, exercise, and how the body actually processes those things, as Regina George was in her Mean Girls quest to lose three pounds by only drinking cranberry-flavored sugar water (aka, juice). Example: Stop using office scales that don’t tell a fraction of the total story as as your most important metric for trying to motivate patients. More on that another time.

Can you tell I’m just a tad frustrated at this topic?

Here’s what I want people to know (my perspective, of course, but one that has taken me a long, long time to develop).

  1. Developing an exercise habit is not rocket science. Find something that moves your body in a way you enjoy and be consistent about it. Did you read that right? Do what you like. Keep doing it. That is all.
  2. Stop looking at Instagram pics of people with bodies you want to emulate. In the majority of cases, those looks are hiding what really goes into getting them: Expensive training programs, supplementation, and ridiculous diet techniques that are not sustainable.
  3. On that note, sustainability is key. Unless you are completely cool with eating eat cheese wraps and investing in copious amounts of grain substitutions and Costco Keto ice cream bars for the duration of your natural life, Keto is not your long-term salvation. You have to eat in a way that is sane and sensible for life.
  4. Living a fitter, trimmer, and healthier life is about nourishment and movement, as it best works for you.
  5. This is coming from my Christian perspective, but basically if it was food available in the Garden of Eden, it’s really good for you to eat. Like your mama has been telling you: eat your fruits and veggies. Stop demonizing natural foods and then think you’re better off shoving a synthetic protein bar into your mouth.
  6. If you are clueless about proper nutrition or have legit health conditions that call for a certain way of eating, the BEST way to navigate this is to see a registered dietitian. Not the sweet hippie at your favorite spa (unless there is an RD after her name), but a person who studied human nutrition and had to get board certified in that field. To be clear: your primary care provider does not have that in depth training the way an actual RD does. More power to you if your provider actually refers you to one. If you are going to invest in anything to help you become fit and healthy, invest in this.
  7. Don’t hop on any bandwagons. If your brother or sister does something, or your neighbor, or even your best friend who is also a nurse; that doesn’t mean that particular approach is right for you. We are all wired differently, so you must do what is right for you.
  8. Resist the January weight loss lunacy and focus on a long-term strategy of doing better for yourself by trying new ways to move, and find a registered dietician to help you. You’d honestly be surprised how much they despise all the fads that have become gospel for people trying to lose extra weight (low carb, keto, paleo, etc.).
  9. If you have to spend a lot of money on something (outside of home workout equipment which I pray you will actually use) in order to lose weight, don’t. Invest that money in an RD if your health plan doesn’t cover it. I can’t stress that enough.
  10. Here’s my final and easy tip, but by no means the last word on the topic of health and wellness: Tik Tok. I know, I know. Hear me out. There are many licensed, board certified dietitians and physicians using the platform to educate the public properly on nutrition and wellness. Do a search, check some accounts out. You might get some questions answered there, or at least find a starting point.

Stay sane, find a course, stay that course and just focus on being kind to yourself in 2021. Lord knows after 2020, we could all use more kindness—especially to ourselves.