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:,( You are NOT alone.

If you are a woman, a Muslim, an immigrant, a homosexual a person of color, a senior... I love you, and even though we might have cultural differences that we may not agree upon. I respect your human rights and appreciate the diversity that you contribute to my life. I have been here before and I know how bad it hurts when society shows that they see you as less than a person. Not everybody feels this way... You are not alone. I know you feel knocked down, give yourself some time to grieve and when you are ready to stand back up, know I am one of many to offer you my hand. Then we will start the fight again together.
I'm super excited how well the novel is doing.  The Wrong Side of the Sun is getting really good reviews and while I'll still be having to fall back on plan B to make a living, it's really awesome to hear from all the people reading it.

The number one thing people are stating/asking  "I hope there's going to be a sequel"

The good news is I've already started it.  The bad news is I am putting writing on hold until after graduation (Dec 2016).
Fear not my tiny handfull of followers, Victoria and Skye will be back... after a brief intermisson. heh.

Well, Now I hate my phone.

The environmental impacts of the production of a cell phone even before it is manufactured is actually very significant.

[A bit more info.]

Raw materials such as gold, copper, palladium, crude oil and silicone must be mined and processed which is destructive to the surrounding ecosystem.  According to cellphones.org it's estimated that over 220 pounds of mine waste is generated to extract the gold for a singel cell phonhe. The greatest impact comes from where the raw materials are purchased. Many of the metals used in electronics falls under what is known as "conflict minerals".  Gold ore is mined in the Dominican Republic of Congo funding civil conflict. In areas of conflict, people are forced to mine whether they want to or not. It is not uncommon for people to be hired at the point of a gun, if they refuse, their lives and the lives of their loved ones are threatened.  Actual working conditions for the miners are beyond horrible and many times lead to injury or death.

   The production of a cell phone is the process which has the most environmental impact, with estimates of as much as 50% of the phones negative impact occurring during the manufacturing phase.  The energy used and caustic waste created in the printing of wiring boards exposes workers to toxic chemicals such as lead, cadmium, mercury, and poly vinyl chlorides which contribute to an array of health problems, such as cancer, neurological damage, birth defects and more.

   Most cell phones are manufactured in China, the fossil fuels consumed by shipping phones to places across the world are significant, but not unlike other product manufactured out of country.Sadly the carbon footprint left from the transporting of goods out of China and to various places in the world is a small impact compared the other facets of a cell phone's life cycle.

Just using cell phones has both environmental and societal effects. The average cell phone uses 5 kWh per year when you multiply that by the 3.5 billion cellphones used world wide the energy use quickly adds up.  An argument in much debate is that of the decline of the worlds honeybee population over the past decade and the possibility of cell phone use contributing to it. Bee pollination impacts a large percentage of what we eat and if cell phone emissions are truly effecting them that is a very significant environmental impact.

The social impacts of cell phone use are astronomical.  It is common knowledge that cell phone use and driving are a bad mix.  According to the New York Times, the likelihood that a driver using a cell phone will crash is equal to that of someone with a .08 percent blood alcohol level, the point at which drivers are generally considered intoxicated.  Each year 342,000 auto accident injuries (Harvard School of Public Health), 2,600 traffic deaths (Human Factors and Ergonomics Society),  and $43 billion in property damage, lost wages, medical bills and fatalities (The Washington Post) are attributed to cell phone usage and distraction.

The average cell phone contains a dollars worth of gold inlaid into it's boards and pins, but according to the EPA, cell phones have a shorter lifespan than any other major consumer electronics, and 65,000 tons of electronic garbage or "e-waste" is created by cell phones per year, discarding or incinerating reusable and precious resources.  The EPA conducted a study of 34 different cell phones putting them through the conditions that simulated those of being in a landfill.   All of the phones leaked seventeen times the federal threshold of toxic amounts of metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, nickel and beryllium.

As of May of 2014 companies with US stocks are required to report to the SEC whether their resources are conflict minerals, but it was found to be a violation of the first amendment to force companies to have to post it to the public.  It is not only socially responsible to stop purchasing from suppliers that get raw materials from conflict areas but it is moral and ethical as well. A company should be transparent and honest, letting consumers know where the materials in their phones are coming from. If a company posts that they are purchasing raw materials from conflict-free areas and informs their customers as to why, this will help raise consumer awareness, which could help promote responsible mining and possibly even drive improvements in the conditions of conflict-mining areas a little bit at a time.

Improving the lifespan of a cell phone by making it modifiable, repairable and resilient is one way to help keep waste out of the landfills and when it finally is time to retire the phone establishing a recycling program for old phones will help with that as well.  An incentive program encouraging consumers to send their phones back for recycling could allow for the company to reuse many of the limited resources and precious metals contained in the old and obsolete components.  These are only a few things that a company can do to improve its corporate social responsibility practices,and with such a huge industry it seems to me that it is high time the public starts supporting the companies who are socially responsible.

A Homo’s View of a Handmaid

It seems that it’s human nature to dream of a better life, a place to live where no one is discriminated against; everyone does what they love, has enough to eat, and life in general is rainbows and unicorns.  In fact many believe that if one is a good girl or boy and follows the right rules, says the right prayers before bed at night and backs the right higher power, ultimately they will end up spending eternity in paradise.  Though we long for it, as a culture, we don’t believe a utopia can be achieved until we die. 
[My critique of The Handmaid's Tale, this is assuming that the reader of this text has read the book.] It’s difficult to imagine a perfect civilization in the real world, story after story tells of a harmonious, blissful society only to find that it’s an illusion, hiding darkness and discord beneath the fragile surface of perfection.  Why does is seem more plausible to imagine an anti-utopia, where a select few live off the oppression and dehumanization of others, like the society created in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale?  To answer that question, one only has to pick a single subject within the battle for human rights to find a parallel between the society we live in and that of a miserable dystopia.  This writing will be a comparison of the recognition and reactions to gender roles and sexual identity in Atwood’s Gilead to our present culture in the United States, showing that The Handmaid’s Tale is not as extreme as one might believe.
           Queer theory starts with the idea that any given sexuality is natural regardless of social and historical majority. Because the character of Moira is a lesbian, she at first glance appears to be an obvious topic of analysis, and she is, but it’s not because she’s gay.  She represents a modern feminist view; her lesbianism seems more of a way of showing a strong spirit rather than that of any true gay agenda.  She fits into queer theory because Moira is who she is, unapologetically; a sexual being comfortable with her sexuality, she just so happens to be a lesbian. Every aspect of her character could have been carried out the same had she been straight, and the character still would have been as strong of a role model for queer and gender theory, because she was secure with herself and her sexuality and didn’t feel threatened by men or other sexual preferences.  Her role as a lesbian in the story is far less important than the implication of how oppression, objectification, and forcing someone to be something they are not can destroy even the strongest of spirits.  In the end it comes down to survival and complacency.
           According to traditional beliefs of our society, gender is based on the theory of 'intelligible sex', where individuals are labeled by their sexual parts and their sexual identities are sequestered to those of heterosexual men and women (Lloyd, 196). The governing eye of Gilead dictates through law and religion, what a person can and cannot do with their own body, who and who they are not allowed to be with, and determines definition of gender and what role gender plays in people’s lives. Sex is taken to the extreme of necessity; according to their theocratic law, sex is only allowed as an action of duty, an obligation to procreate and populate. A handmaid is strictly an object for copulation and men are subjects that utilize women to further their genetic line.  Sexual love, desire, and attraction are not only inconsequential but blasphemous and illegal.  This is brilliantly depicted with the choreographed actions that take place during the Ceremony, which are sterile, forced and dehumanizing for all three people involved. Those who are caught defying the laws of Gilead are punished by torture or death.  Of course there is an exception with that of the commanders who are in a position of higher power and are allowed to forgo the law and act upon their sexual fantasies at underground, government sanctioned brothels.  The Jezebels are the women at these brothels forced into prostitution by the governing forces of Gilead.  Women are not bestowed the courtesy of being able to have sex for pleasure. Again an extreme case, but the double standards in American society between men and women, where it is acceptable for men to act in certain sexual manners but not for women, is being spotlighted. 
           In the pre-Gilead life the feminists and the religious conservatives are two foils worthy of noting, because they send a deeper message than what is seen on the surface.  Offred’s mother is a character that represents the feminist movement, a group fighting for women’s rights, which burn pornography, trying to convince the populace that it’s wrong and those who enjoy it are as well.  Serena Joy represents the religious conservatives who speak out against women’s rights and feel their place is in the home under the care of a man.  What one might not notice at first is the irony of their causes. The ultimate, bare bones, goal of both groups is the same; to restrict sexuality and sexual expression. Sadly, when the governing forces of Gilead take over, both groups get everything they wish for.  In Gilead men are the protectors, providers and caretakers; women are to be taken care of, provided for and protected.  At one point Offred’s commander uses the freedom of sexual expression, the equality of women and their ability to take care of themselves in the pre-Gilead society as a reason for the horrendous dehumanization of people in the new government.  Sex was too easy to obtain and the lack of challenge created in men, according to the commander, the “inability to feel.”  Without the ability to play the role of provider, men felt they had no place and no use in society. 
           With the overall intolerance of anyone who goes against Gilead, the objectification and oppression of women, the dehumanizing of individuals and  terms like Unwoman, Unbaby, Shredders, and Jezebels, it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine that queer, transgendered, asexual, and homosexual individuals would have no place in such a society.  In fact there is no need to imagine at all, because Atwood states it outright; the term “gender traitor” hung on the two executed soldiers at the wall refers to their being gay.  In a theocracy, “God” is the governing force and if you go against the law you not only are a law breaker but an evil sinner worthy of death and damnation.
            Currently, our culture does not take the views and practices of Gilead to such extremes, but that view of 'intelligible sex' is still the dominant way of thinking in American culture.  The problem with this archaic theory (however practical it might be for the act of copulating) is that gender and sexuality within a population is far more fluid than stating everyone is simply heterosexual male or female.  According to Michel Foucault, gender and sexuality are a social construct that are in constant flux. Gender and sexual identities cannot be demarcated with clear boundaries and set in binary opposition to one another (Foucault, 168).  Unlike the theocracy of Gilead, the United States government is supposed to have a separation of church and state, but religion is still a major staple of politics, and according to the Berkley center at Georgetown University, “presidents and candidates for the highest office have continually evoked religious themes, whether addressing foreign policy, economic and social issues, or their own convictions” ( Banchoff).  These convictions continually leak into governing agenda which go so far as to dictate the gender identity of an individual, the reproductive rights of women, and who is and is not bestowed the privilege of marriage. The ongoing and heated debate against same-sex marriage is deeply rooted in religion and according to ProCon.org, of the thirty-three states that have a ban on same sex marriage, six of those bans have already been deemed unconstitutional, but the decisions have been stayed until the issue is sent to the court of appeals (ProCon).  Unconstitutional because the bans were based off of religious ideals and yet stayed to give chance for appeal?  This is only one example showing that like those who took over to create Gilead, there are plenty of people who not only live by the law of their religion, but are very willing to force it on others.  It is the Constitution that gives homosexual couples any purchase in their fight for equality today. It is the same purchase that aided the civil rights movement and the women’s rights movement, without it we are subject to the morality of the monster that is society.
           Possibly one of the most blood chilling scenes in the book is when Atwood describes the apathy during the takeover of the United States government.  The coup claimed the takeover was to be temporary, and for the well being of the people, so when the Constitution of the United States was suspended, there were no riots, no masses of people enraged at the prospect of giving up all of their rights; people were complacent.  This is eerily comparable to Americans so easily rolling over for the Patriot Act; giving up their right to privacy and personal space in the name of preserving freedoms, using the fear of gun toting monsters to manipulate people into forgoing their right to bear arms one magazine at a time, and turning a blind eye to blatantly unconstitutional human rights issues to preserve the sanctity of a nation’s religious beliefs.
           Atwood touches on so many human rights issues in The Handmaid’s Tale it almost seems unfair to stick strictly to gender and sexuality, but even focusing on the one topic gives clear incite showing that in our society we have to fight constantly not only to gain ground in the battle for equality, but to keep it. In traditional American culture, transgendered people are forced to be defined by their sexual parts, the rights of marriage are denied to anyone but heterosexual couples in most states, and anyone who is queer (that includes straight allies) is a heretic and a social pariah.  In an interview with Bill Moyers, Margaret Atwood explains that she made it a rule to make sure everything in the book has at some point happened in our history (Moyers). Today the fight for equality is focused on gay marriage and sexual identity, yesterday it was race and gender equality, tomorrow it will be something else, but if we take our long and hard strides forward for granted and do not remain active we can lose it all in a moment.  A utopia is a future out of reach; Gilead is not only a reality we can touch, it is banging at the gates of our society.

          
Banchoff, Thomas , E.J. Dionne, Jr., Gerard Mannion, and Drew Christiansen. "Religion and Politics in US History." Religion and Politics in US History. Georgetown University, n.d. Web. 6 May 2014. <http://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/resources/topics/religion-and-politics-in-us-history>.
Foucault, M. (1997) 'Sex, Power, and the Politics of Identity' in Foucault: Ethics, Subjectivity and Truth. New York: The New Press
Lloyd, M. (1999) 'Performativity, Parody, Politics' in Theory, Culture and Society. Vol. 16, No. 2
Moyers, Bill. Bill Moyers of Faith and Reason: Margaret Atwood. Public Broadcasting Service. PBS, Atlington. 28 July 2006. Television. 4 May 2014.
ProCon, . "Gay Marriage Timeline History of the Same-Sex Marriage Debate." ProCon-Pros and Cons of Controvercial Issues. ProCon.org, 18 Sep 2013. Web. 6 May 2014.

 

I was limited to two pages.....eeerg!

The stupa, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is defined as, “a usually dome-shaped structure (as a mound) serving as a Buddhist shrine”[1].  This painfully sterile definition gives a tangible example of what a stupa is and what it’s used for, but lacks explaining a deeper understanding of the spiritual use of structure designed for enlightenment. [Just incase you aret bored yet.] According to stupa.org, the stupa represents the enlightened mind and body of Buddah Shakyamuni, and there were two main reasons stupas were built after his earthly death; to commemorate eight great deeds accomplished during his life and to enshrine relics after he passed away.[2] According to the Buddhist text the Karmavibhanga Sutra, the creating of a stupa is an enlightening experience that has a multitude of benefits both for the builder and to those who will experience the finished shrine.[3] A stupa can help individuals on their path to enlightenment because it’s a way of purifying negative karma and its creation aides in building extensive merit.  Buddhists believe that the quiet peace of enlightenment is the ultimate goal of life and a stupa is a tool to light the path.  The architecture of a stupa is usually a square containing a circular structure.  There are four entrances or gates, one at each quadrant of the circle.  The layout is specifically modeled after a mandala, which is a symbol that represents the wholeness of the universe, the micro and the macrocosmos, the organizational structure of life itself and the infinite world that extends into and outside of each of us.
A simple definition of a mandala, as given by The Mandala Project, is an integrated structure organized around a unifying center. Mandala can be two dimensional drawings or three dimensional sculptures or buildings. A structure built around a unifying center is not only found in the architecture of a Buddhist stupa, but in Muslim mosques, rotunda style cathedrals and even Native American tee-pees, which are built around a central pole called the axis mundi, which means “world axis”.[4]
Not all religions outside Hindi and Buddhism formally recognize the mandala as enlightened symbolism, but many religions use spiritual imagery that is so similar it is in essence a mandala. In Chartres France the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres, is an example of how mandala are used in Christian symbolism.   According to the Metis Linens web site, construction of the French Gothic cathedral started in 1193 and “is almost perfectly preserved in its original design and very few changes have been made to the interior or exterior.”[5] The architecture is basilica style, in the shape of a cruciform rather than a radial style like a rotunda cathedral or a stupa, but the rose window, a gift from Queen Blanche of Castille in 1230 C.E., sits above the main entrance and is very much a mandala, which symbolizes movement toward holiness. The radial lines of the stained glass move inward toward the center pane which is the Virgin Mary and Christ Child and the light itself spills outward illuminating the sacred space with the inspiring grace of God.  In the floor of the nave is yet another mandala, a labyrinth set in the tile stones.  The meandering maze is circular and its ultimate goal is to reach the center, the path walked represents the spiritual journey from the outside world to the sacred place within one’s self.  There is no written record of when the maze was constructed, but it is suggested by Craig Wright, author of The Maze and the Warrior: Symbols in Architecture, Theology and Music, to be sometime around 1215-1221 C.E., when the construction of the nave was essentially completed.[6]
A sacred space, whether it be Hindi, Buddhist, Christian or Muslim, is meant to bring a person closer to their higher power.  Spiritual beliefs have stunning similarities and vast differences but ultimately there is a path to follow to achieve the final objective.  The mandala, like a church, a stupa, or the beauty of a stained glass window, is only an aid in achieving the ultimate spiritual aspiration; what that goal is depends on the individual.
         




[1] Merriam-Webster Online. "Stupa." Concise Encyclopedia. United States of America: 2013
[2] "Information about Stupas." Stupa.org. N.p.. Web. 17 Nov 2013.
[3]Wang, . "Benifits." Shanti Stupa. There are over 450 sponcers, 21 May 2011. Web. 17 Nov 2013.
[4] "What is a mandala?." The Mandala Project. Cunningham, Lori Bailey, n.d. Web. 17 Nov 2013.
[5] Gunn, Laura Ingalls . "Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres." Metis Linens . N.p., 19 May 2011. Web. 17 Nov 2013.
[6] Wright, Craig. The Maze and the Warrior. Cambridge, MA & London: Harvard University Press, 2001.

Rights hmm.

Women’s  Womyn’s Rights
Throughout history women have been thought of as subordinate to men; the weaker sex.  With the exception of some very ancient societies, most cultures of yesteryear and those of today are undeniably patriarchal.  Christianity is the foundation of the cultural morals of our society and the bible is the blueprint from which those morals are interpreted and transcribed.
[Clicky to continue]
The Old Testament is riddled with example after example of how women are lesser to men, owned by men and exist for a man’s pleasure.  It’s very easy for anyone who believes in gender equality at all to look at history and other cultures in present day and become angered by the gross oppression, objectification and abuse inflicted upon the female gender.  1848 is dog-eared as a significant moment in the women’s rights history with the first women’s right convention in Seneca Falls, New York.  Over the past 165 years, many strides have been made toward the equality of women.  Still, it seems that after such a long fight to gain equal status, today, women are treated as the lesser sex.  Objectification, violence against women, abortion issues and wage gap are only a few of the problems that we in the United States need to overcome; worldwide is a completely different animal altogether.  Yet there is argument; some believe we in the U.S. have come much farther than feminists and avid equality supporters may want to admit. 
           Many of today’s ardent feminists feel that we as a society have only come so far and that media, industry, and family morals teach people to view females as lesser than males.  Some accusations are obvious and can be either proven or disproven with facts and statistics; wage gap and violence against women are examples of this.  But some women’s rights activists believe there are deeper, more subtle issues that deal with social norms and everyday language, which keeps us believing women are inferior to men without even realizing it.  Innocently used terms, such as “you guys,” “layman,” and slang like “she was knocked up,” is language that is demoralizing to women and has sexist connotations.  “Can you think of one, just one, example of a female-based generic? Try using ‘freshwoman’ with a group of male students or calling your male boss ‘chairwoman.’ Then again, don't. There could be serious consequences for referring to a man as a ‘woman’ -- a term that still means ‘lesser’ in our society” (Imbornoni).  When a person uses male specific pronouns and titles while referring to a female or a group that is a mix of the genders, it is considered to be a sexist use of language, whether it is done consciously or unconsciously.  The language we use is a product of our society; common phrases and slang that innocently place men in a station above that of women is proof that we need to be conscious of everything we say so that sexual discrimination is no longer a normalized part of how we communicate.  At what point is that taken too far, are we to walk on eggshells around everyone we communicate with?  Eventually doesn’t that lead to a society that is forcing people to lock up their personality and the way in which they express themselves, so as not to offend some possible unknown person?
           Words have incredible power and on an emotional level can be as damaging as physical abuse.  It is difficult enough to get out of a relationship with a single person who belittles, bullies and oppresses, what do you do when it is all of society?  There is absolutely no denying that the feminist movement still has many battles ahead, but how much of the problem is actually going on in present day and how much is hold over from past offenses.  In today’s workforce it is said that women only make about 77 cents to every man’s dollar.  It’s suggested that at the rate at which the gap is closing it could take as long as another four decades to catch up, but in an article by Forbes magazine it’s suggested that the gap might not be as wide and clear cut as it first appears.  “Conservative groups like the Independent Women’s Forum have also gotten in touch with me and insisted that the 77-cent number is a misleading statistic that doesn’t take into account education levels, experience and the sorts of jobs men take versus women” (Adams).  If there is argument with hard factual differences, what about the more subtle language issues?  Is using the term “mankind” truly detrimental toward the fight for equality?  It is possible that getting caught up in such small menial things is distracting from the bigger picture or even worse forcing women into a role of victim in which they never wanted to be?  Feeling the need to be hyper-conscious about what one says, all the time, causes awkwardness in relationships.  Is it possible that feminists want to stay in the role of victim because without it there is no cause to fight?  It is impossible to cater to everyone; depending on a person’s views my very existence could be offensive.
           It seems to me that the fight for women’s rights is still a legitimate cause even with huge changes in favor of equality, but I think battles should be approached wisely.  Things are changing, but extreme views that seem to deny any progress can anger not only those of whom the fight is against, but an audience that is on the fence.  It’s the people who exist in that grey area that will eventually make the tides change. 

Imbornoni , Ann-Marie. “Timeline of Key Events in the American Women's Rights Movement 1848–1920” Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. http://www.infoplease.com/spot/womenstimeline1.html

Adams, Susan. “Are Women Catching Up in Pay?” Forbes Magazine, Web 4/09/2013 @ 2:56PM. http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2013/04/09/are-women-catching-up-in-pay/

homo's getin' married, oh my!

[A Rainbow of Perspectives]
          Any subject worth arguing has many perspectives and even more facets within those perspectives; the subject of same-sex marriage is no different.  Gay marriage is an equal rights issue that effects and touches people’s lives in a number of ways.  Sometimes it’s difficult for people to see how a controversial issue affects the life of someone with an opposing view, and not everyone is simply for or against something.  Not everyone who is against same-sex marriage bases that decision on religious beliefs, and they may not even be anti-homosexual.  Of course homosexuals aren’t the only people who want to see same-sex marriage legalized.  There are countless straight allies, and to be fair is should be stated that a good majority of those people consider themselves to be Christian.  Sometimes who is for and who is against, and the reasons why, are surprising. 
          The next few paragraphs will look at four major perspectives on the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage.   The reason for opposition falls under many categories, and one of those is  the religious factor.  Though there are plenty of other religions that oppose or accept homosexuality, Christianity is the major religion of the United States, and thus will be the main religion of focus in this paper.  As individuals, not all Christians feel homosexuality is an abominable act, but as a whole Christianity condemns same-sex coupling. Another perspective to discuss is an opposition that is secular based, which includes homosexuals against marriage all together, thus encompassing documented same-sex unions.  On the other side of the coin, a majority of gays feel defining marriage between a man and a woman negatively affects equal rights and their lives, but some of the strongest proponents for gay rights are straight allies who fight avidly for the equal treatment of their homosexual loved ones. 
          In the U.S. it’s pretty commonly known that religion is a major opponent to same-sex marriage.  Though homosexuality is never mentioned in the New Testament,  Christians draw their beliefs from both the old and the new books of the bible.  The belief that it’s a sin is pulled from several places in the Torah (the laws of God described in the first five books of the Old Testament).   It’s first mentioned in the second book of these Jewish religious writings, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination” (King James Version Bible, Leviticus, 18:22).  Advocates for gay rights argue that a solid definition of marriage is never written in the bible, so it shouldn’t be defined as between a man and a woman. Marriage however, is emphasized as a union blessed by God, and there are plenty of accounts, rules and regulations (most pertaining to the subject of adultery) proving marriage is an institution that is to be considered a blessed event.  The combination of  the laws in Leviticus and then  the mention of  Sodom and Gomorrah where God destroys the entire city for the sins of homosexuals and the sympathizers who lived among them (Genesis 19), one can pretty easily deduce that a union born of sin has never  and will never be blessed by God.  Therefore, a gay union should never be considered a real marriage. Homosexuality is believed by many to be a choice, an influential display that damns the eternal soul of the sinner and threatens the soul of anyone who could be influenced by their ways.  Marriage is a very serious matter; a sacred union of individuals that leads to a family as God intends.   In the United States, many fear that if gay unions are supported by the government it will not only taint that sacred institution, but it threatens the morals being taught to children and any future generations by setting a precedent that makes it seem as if homosexual acts are not a sin. According to an article in The Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, “abolishing the conjugal understanding of marriage would imply that committed same-sex and opposite sex romantic unions are equivalently real marriages… this would undermine religious freedom and the rights of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children” (Girgis et al.262).  There is a fear of legal recourse and a belief that religious institutions will be forced by law to marry gay couples even though their beliefs are expressly against it, religious adoption agencies would be forced to turn children over to same-sex couples and a religious based company would be required to provide insurance benefits to same-sex partners (Bailey).  Groups such as the Religion News Service warn that there will be recourse due to discrimination because this has "marked them and their members as bigots, subjecting them to the full arsenal of government punishments and pressures reserved for racists" (Gibson).
          There is a very strong argument that crosses over from within religious beliefs and into  a secular or non-religious opposition.  Defining marriage and the reasons for such an institution is a heated subject of debate among opposition and advocates.  Those for same-sex marriage believe marriage should be seen as a romantic union of love.  “Marriage is a legal union between two people who are committed to sharing their lives together.  They should have all the legal benefits of such a union regardless of whether or not they choose to or are able to reproduce.”  (Angela Bosco-Lauth).  The question is, how does a marriage with a “romantic” definition differ from a typical live-in sexual relationship between two individuals, or for that matter a non-sexual relationship, such as two elderly sisters living together sharing expenses?  Some say there’s no difference, which is why a relationship based solely on love will never constitute a marriage.  According to an article in The Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, “Marriage is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally (inherently) fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together. The spouses seal (consummate) and renew their union by conjugal acts—acts that constitute the behavioral part of the process of reproduction, thus uniting them as a reproductive unit” (Girgis et al.262).  The argument is that an opposite sex couple is the only union capable of producing children in a “natural” manner, that is it doesn’t involve help from science, and therefore is the coupling that nature intended.  The most important aspect of marriage is seen by some to be concentrated around children, not just the creation of progeny but the rearing as well.  This view point is expressed by Peter S. Sprigg, MDiv, in an e-mail he wrote to ProCon.org, “Social science has shown that children raised by their own biological mother and father, committed to one another in a lifelong marriage, are happier, healthier, and more prosperous than children in any other households.” (Sprigg)
          Some people are strictly against getting married; the opposition of the institution of marriage itself in turn lends support against gay marriage.  A controversial but avidly spoken group called “Against Equality”  is a group of like minded homosexuals who speak out against same-sex marriage because they believe that gays should not fight to be part of  the norm, rather strive to break free and to fly above it (Weiss). Others see marriage as an archaic institution that is rooted in oppression and sexism. It is felt that gay relationships, which are based in love, should not belittle the importance of what they have with such a tainted institution.  In an article in OUT/LOOK National Gay and Lesbian Quarterly, it was stated, “The leaders of the Gay Liberation Front in New York said in July 1969, ‘We expose the institution of marriage as one of the most insidious and basic sustainers of the system. The family is the microcosm of oppression’” (Paula Ettelbrick).
         Children and the complete opposition of marriage are not the only factors in which opponents for same-sex marriage feel the way they do.  It’s not a highly argued point, but it’s felt by some that the monetary costs of allowing such unions weighs heavily on influencing whether or not laws are passed.  In an interview with Rhonda Wilson, a graduate from the University of Georgia in political science with  a concentration in criminal justice, she explains, “When the federal government created the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) of 1996 defining marriage as between a man and a woman, this was an effort to streamline a set of policies as they pertained to federal state and local benefits.  In essence creating this act was a way to save corporations and government agencies money” (Wilson).
          Regardless of whether someone is anti-homosexual, anti-marriage or worried that the implication of such unions will threaten the morals of a sacred belief system, advocates of same-sex marriage feel that their fight is for equal treatment of citizens of the United States. The number of legal rights and benefits that come with a marriage license is often taken for granted by many couples who have never had to deal with being in a long term, committed relationship that has no legal support.  Things such as hospital visitation, shared health care, rights of attorney, and social security benefits are some of the more obvious things that are fought for, and there are hundreds of other legal rights that a married couple automatically receives by having the legal rights to sign their names to a license.  One instance that came in to the spotlight recently was in the case of the United States v. Windsor.  Thea Spyer, in death, left her partner of more than forty years her entire estate.  The couple had been legally married in Canada and living in New York when Spyer died.  Though the State of New York recognized the marriage, the federal government did not, because of the Defense of Marriage Act (United States).  The Act had been signed into effect by President Bill Clinton in 1996. (ProCon)  “Windsor didn’t qualify for the marital exemption from the federal estate tax, which excludes from taxation “any interest in property which passes or has passed from the decedent to his surviving spouse.” Windsor paid $363,053 in estate taxes and sought a refund. The Internal Revenue Service denied the refund, concluding that, under DOMA, Windsor was not a “surviving spouse” (United States).  It was due to this landmark case that the United States Supreme court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act defining it as unconstitutional, in violation of the Fifth Amendment.
          Though there is the obvious hope for the constitutional rights and benefits that come with being a legally married couple there is also the issue of being viewed and treated by the State as less than equal.  The courts of California agreed with this sentiment in the ruling of Perry vs. Brown, where proposition 8 (the California law that was enacted to nullify the original vote to make same-sex marriage legal.) was brought before the courts as unconstitutional.  “Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples” (Perry).  As of today the federal government legally recognizes any same-sex couples who are married in a state where gay marriage had been deemed legal, but it’s not quite as simple as taking a quick trip to California, New York or any of the other twelve states that recognize gay marriage to get that license. A couple must be a legal resident of one of those 14 states for a minimum of a year before a marriage will be deemed legal by the federal government (United States).
          The search for equality is not being fought by gays alone.  There are thousands of straight allies who stand supporting their friends, family and loved-ones.  Though their perspective is different, their convictions are equally as strong, the concern and injustice they feel for their gay friends and family is undoubtedly intense and focused.   As with any fight for equal rights, allies are a pivotal key in changing the tides.  Many feel that arguments against same-sex marriage are weak at best.  They don’t just view it as a matter of someone being anti-homosexual, but anti-equality as well.  In Perry v. Brown, the case against Proposition 8 which was brought before the California court of appeals, argued that the proposition was in violation of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment, “ No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws” (US Const. amend. XIV, sec. 1).  Since the Defense of Marriage Act was repealed on June 26, 2013 (ProCon) it is now up to the States to decide what the definition of marriage is, and though things are slowly swaying closer to equality for gays, many advocates feel there is a long way to go, not only to change the opinions of the court, but of society as well.  In an interview with Ronda Wilson, she had this to say about a Christian’s view of homosexuals, “It has been argued that a person who is gay does not make that choice, but is in fact born that way.  If this is the case, and you are a religious person and believe that God creates all, then that means that God messed up.  If you believe homosexuality is a choice then you judge based on that choice, and you are still wrong because the bible says "judge not".”(Wilson)  For many allies, their hope for equality and sense of injustice is in some ways stronger than the homosexuals who live it.  Perhaps because it can’t be helped to worry for those  whom you love, or perhaps as members of a straight community it’s difficult for them to understand how their daughter or their sister is seen as less than human, solely because of their sexual identity.
          The issue of same-sex marriage is a heated one right now and the winds of change are definitely blowing.  It can’t be denied that there are strong convictions on all sides.  Christians against the idea of recognizing same-sex marriages are worried and scared that it will delude future generations into believing that an act of sin is alright.  It threatens the structure of their moral beliefs.  Those who don’t have a religious reason feel that it is wrong because it goes against nature. Sometimes it might not appear that objections of secular objectors are as strong, but they sympathize with the Christian sentiment just the same and fight to reclaim the once federal definition of marriage that was just recently redefined with the of the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act .  Equally as fervent in their desire for continued progression of change throughout the nation are the advocates for same-sex marriage.  Though gays and their allies do have different perspectives, it is difficult to separate the two when it comes down to the actual argument because they stand together so very unified.






Bailey, Sarah Pulliam. "Gay rights vs. religious rights: 7 issues to watch." Religious New Service. Religious News Service, 06 Sep 2013. Web. 9 Oct 2013.
Bosco-Lauth , Angela. Personal Interview. 05 Oct 2013.
Gibson, David. " Same-Sex Marriage Threatens Religious Freedom According To Religious Leaders ." Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc., 13 Jan 2012. Web. 9 Oct 2013.
Girgis, Sherif , Robert P. George, and Ryan T. Anderson. "What Is Marriage?." Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy. 34.1.245 (2010): 248-286. Web. 9 Oct. 2013.
Paula Ettelbrick, "Since When Is Marriage a Path to Liberation?," OUT/LOOK National Gay and Lesbian Quarterly, Fall 1989
Perry v. Brown. 671 F.3d 1052. United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. 2012. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 28 Sep. 2013.
ProCon, . "Gay Marriage Timeline History of the Same-Sex Marriage Debate." ProCon-Pros and Cons of Controvercial Issues. ProCon.org, 18 Sep 2013. Web. 9 Oct 2013.
Spriggs, Peter S. " Con to the question "Should Gay Marriage Be Legal?"." Message to ProCon.org . 12 Apr 2011. E-mail.
The Holy Bible, King James Version: Containing the Old and the New Testaments. Great Britain: University Printing House, Cambridge, Print.
United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675. Supreme Court of the United States. 2013. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 28 Sep. 2013.
US Const. amend. XIV, sec. 1, web.
Weiss, Margot. "Reinvigorating The Queer Political Imagination": A Roundtable With Ryan Conrad, Yasmin Nair, And Karma Chávez Of Against Equality." American Quarterly 64.4 (2012): 845-849. Academic Search Premier. Web. 6 Oct. 2013.
Wilson, Rhonda. E-mail Interview. 04 Oct 2013.

Took a weekend trip to Steamboat, we couldn't have picked a colder weekend to go, but I couldn't have had more fun.  

[Details]

I went to work for a few hours on Friday while Snow packed up her giant blue truck, which I have deemed “The Kraken”.  The drive up was really good considering a huge blizzard hit just as we were leaving and somehow we just managed to catch the edge of it and not get into the thick of the storm.  It was a bit of a nail biter, but Angela was a total champ and stayed super calm.  Really the worst of the drive was through Rabbit Ears Pass where there was about 15 miles of whiteout conditions and super slick roads, but we expected it put the Kraken into 4 wheel drive and went crazy slow.

We got in ate BBQ for lunch (wow that was a lot of meat) , checked in, canoodled in the room for a bit then caught the free bus and went to see the ice castles; underwhelming, but pretty.  We caught dinner at a steak house that I was required to cook my own dinner.  Apparently a popular place, but crazy overpriced, considering it’s what I always do at home for about 1/3 of the price, after diner we went back to the room relatively early and there was more canoodling which led to a very late night.

Saturday we got up, put on a million layers and went snowshoeing; beautiful and so much fun!!!  We hiked about four miles, it was 6 degrees outside, and I was dripping with sweat.  The trees were frosted over and the only sounds were the squeak-squeak-squeak of our shoes and some heavy breathing.

Came back in before the sun went down and found a little local bar off the main street. We shared a bowl of red beans and rice while we watch the football game. I laughed out loud when the Ravens scored the touchdown 30 seconds before the end of the game and almost got my ass kicked by an entire bar full of people, including my girlfriend. Snow pouted for an hour and a half after the game was over.  She told me she wasn't talking to me for the rest of the night...but kisses were ok.  Then broke her talking rule after about five minutes; no will power.

Intermittently though the game I’d run outside to go watch the fireworks (it was Steamboats 50th anniversary), and we finished watching them as we walked back to the Kraken.  Since it was after dark we drove up to the hot springs, got butt-ass naked and ran into the spring.  Not sure what part of that was crazier, that fact that there had to be at least 100 people there and I’m pretty sure we were the first to remove our clothes, or the fact that it was -4 degrees outside.  When I’d get out of the pool, my feet would stick to the ground; fuckin cold! We stayed and talked for about 2 and a half hours, taking turns on who sat in the other’s lap getting a massage. It was awesome

When we got back to the room we took a shower to wash to sulfur off then fell into bed and died until some asshole at 6:30 in the morning repeatedly opened and slammed his door for 45 min straight.  We snuggled and drifted in and out of sleep until about 10:00 then got up and hiked Fish Creek Falls.  It was completely frozen over and five people were ice climbing it; crazy fuckers (I’m just jealous).  Before we headed home we stopped back in Steamboat and grabbed some lunch.  Weather was rough on the way back and we missed a turn which took us about an hour and a half of course before we realized our mistake, but we got home in one piece and all in all it was a great weekend.  I think we are going to make this a biannual trip, one summer and one winter weekend each year.

Heeeeeebie!

For the first time in years I saw some shit that wasn’t really there.  I was a passenger in my girlfriend’s car the other night when saw this dude from the other side of the street start to j-walk.  I watched him step off the curb and in front of a car in the opposite and oncoming lane next to us.  It was close but he made it to the median without too much threat of getting hit. I figured once he made it to the median he’d stop and wait for our car, since there was no way he would make it across the street.  Nope, he just stayed in stride and stepped of in front of our car. I Managed to get out a horrified and breathy “Oh, Fuu…) when the headlights of the oncoming car hit him just right and I realized I could see though his legs.

Snow wanted to know what I had just freaked out about and when I explained it to her she was all, “Holy shit, did you just see a ghost!? Did you just see a fuckin ghost?!”

Then two days later I saw what appeared to be Snow’s aura, again something I use to see all the time, but not in many years.

Ok, I’m not saying ghost, but I’ve seen shit like that many times before through my teens and into my twenties.  It more likely some strange side effect of life long insomnia, but it’s freakin weird.

Just had to be said...ok, maybe not.

Note to Usher:

In many cases subtlety and the topic of sex can be intriguing and exciting.  In the case of the lyric in the song “Scream”  “Imagine me whisperin in your ear, that I wanna take off your clothes and put sometnin on ya.”, it is not the case.

Naturally people want to fill in the blank; give themselves a visual of what it is you are trying to portray in your song.  Let me elaborate by filling in the blanks of the “somethin” .

…I wanna take off your clothes and put my body, my hands, or my lips ; sexy.  Jizz, a golden shower, or my danger; gross.

Next time you may want to rethink your lyrics, in the meantime I’m gonna go take a shower.