The Days After the Election

I think it’s safe to say that, no matter where you lie on the political spectrum, this week has been crazy.

On the day after the presidential election, a progressive Christian magazine I enjoy put out a call for readers to share their stories.  Wednesday was pretty turbulent for me emotionally and putting things into words is usually helps me process things, so I took the time to write about how I felt.

Usually, I keep my head down on social media when it comes to divisive current events.  I try to keep away from politics and anything that will cause division, judgement, or criticism.  I broke that rule on Facebook a few times this fall in outrage over our now president-elect’s words about women.  In the days after the election, though, I found that there was just too much going on inside me and found the words pouring out.  If I were to put my piece in a category, I would call it a lament: an outpouring of emotion that captures the pain of a moment in time.

I submitted my piece and, to my surprise, Sojourners published it on their website.  Before you read this post any further, please take a moment to read the piece, which can be found here. Continue reading

Reverse Culture Shock & Moving Forward

Everyone always says that the hardest part about going abroad is coming home.

Slowly, I’ve been getting used to being back in America.  At first, it was WEIRD.  It’s the little things about your own culture that are the oddest, the things you only notice when you’ve been away for a long time.  Used to everyone speaking different languages and a wide variety of accents, I found myself wondering why everyone sounded the same.  American accents are so bland!  Also, accustomed to the reserve of most Europeans, I found the open friendliness of Americans strange.  “Why are all of these people being so nice?” I wondered.  “I don’t even know them!” Continue reading

Of Faith and Refugees

My Facebook newsfeed today was filled with opinions this morning.  This isn’t unusual, as I have friends on both sides of the political divide.  I usually don’t like to engage in such things on social media.  I don’t like to associate with a political party.  Such things breed division and strife–so I keep my opinions to myself.

But in lieu of current events and the hate that has risen in their wake, I’m finding it hard to remain silent.

As I’ve been following the debates regarding the Syrian refugee crisis, I have been absolutely appalled by the response from Christians.  My Facebook feed is filled with messages along the lines of “Close the boarders because we don’t want terrorists to get in”.  I saw a comment that said, “I’m all for helping the refugees, I just don’t want to let them in.”

Or, in other words, “I’m all for helping people as long as it doesn’t impact my life.”  “I’m all for taking care of the poor and needy, as long as my comfort isn’t threatened.”

This makes my blood boil.

What, then, is more valuable?  Comfort or human life?  The ease of the rich or the despair of the poor?

To make things clear, I understand the fear.  The refugees are people who are very different from us.  They look different, sound different, and follow a different religion. Differences are unknowns and unknowns are scary.  And yes, there is a risk that the wrong people can get in.  Is this a risk we are willing to take?

A couple of my friends posted links to a short piece on Relevant Magazine titled “What the Bible Says About How to Treat Refugees“.  I recommend giving it a read, for it is very good. It is a list of verses with little commentary, letting the Bible speak for itself.  These verses speak of loving the poor, caring for the needy, and putting the needs of others before your own.  They talk about setting aside what is comfortable in favor of preserving human life.

I’d like to add a verse to the list.  1 John 4:18:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. (ESV)

Is allowing refugees into America worth it, despite the risk of letting terrorists in?  Absolutely.  Because perfect love, God’s love, casts out fear.

We, as Christians, are called to love the needy and care for the broken.  It’s not an option.  Loving one’s neighbor as ones self is not only a command, it’s the GREATEST command.  So are we going to obey? Are we going to trust that, even though there are unknowns and even though we are afraid, God is in control?

I realize that I am addressing this from a Christian perspective and you may not share my worldview. This is okay. Biblical rhetoric aside, I think my questions are still valid because this is, ultimately, not only a Christian issue. It is a human issue. These refugees aren’t faceless, soulless drones. They may be different, but they are human beings with just as much right to life as I. They have the same capacity to love, to feel, to dream as you and I do.

Are we, Christians and non Christians alike, going to set aside our comfort, riches, and fears, and care for the refugees?

I honestly don’t know what this looks like in my life.  As an American, I live a life of incredible privilege. There aren’t poor and homeless people lining up at my door. The refugees are on the other side of the world. But with privilege comes responsibility. If and when the time comes to take action, I hope that I am able to do what is RIGHT and not settle for what is EASY.

It’s a complicated issue.  There are a thousand arguments and counterarguments that can be made.  It can be discussed for hours on end.  Your opinion and worldview may be different than mine, and that’s okay. I don’t mind. Differences are not something to be afraid of. They are our greatest strength.

But I’m tired of remaining silent. I’ve been given a voice and am choosing to use it. So this is me, adding my thoughts to the universe.

Thanks for reading.

  

Election Tuesday

Growing up, my parents always stressed the importance of voting.  It was so important that, when I turned eighteen, I didn’t care about lottery tickets or any of the other things you now get to do.  All I cared about was going to the polls, filling in my ballot, and emerging with the little red “I Voted” sticker.

This time of year, some people cite the Founding Fathers, the Revolutionary War, and go on and on about all the things men have done to win us the rights we have today.  But I don’t.  As grateful as I am for the all that has been done, I cannot forget that if I had lived on hundred years ago, I would not be able to vote.  I’d have no say in the way my country was run, no voice.

When I go vote later today, as I stand in the booth filling out my card, I’m going to think of all the women that fought hard so I could stand there.  I’m going to think of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, and many, many others who took a stand for women’s suffrage.  They endured slander, ridicule, and even imprisonment and torture all in the hope to earn voting rights.  Because of these women’s sacrifice, I will go to the polls.  I honor what they suffered by practicing my right to vote.

So, dear readers, go out and vote.  I know that a single ballot does not feel like much in the sea of constituents, but think of what has been done to give us these rights.  Do not dishonor their sacrifice.  You have a voice.  Go out and use it.

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P.S. Want some great speeches on the subject of Women’s Suffrage?  Check out these pieces of fantastic rhetoric by Susan B. Anthony’s  and Emmeline Pankhurst.

Anniversaries and adventures

Yesterday marked the anniversary of my departure for London, England.

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I can’t believe it’s been a year already.  It feels like yesterday that I stepped on that airplane.

The thing about adventures is that they change people.  It happens in books all the time.  In The Hobbit, Bilbo returned to the Shire a very different person who left.  No matter what he did, or how much time passed, he could not go back to the simple life he had before.

My adventure changed me.  I became aware of how much I can accomplish; confident in my ability to follow through; and incredibly independent.  I learned to see the world beyond my limited American perspective.  I learned to be globally minded, and gained a deep appreciation for people and cultures apart from my own.  I got to see amazing things–the Alps, Stonehenge, the Eiffel Tower, the Cliffs of Moher, the Scottish Highlands, to name a few.  I met wonderful friends that are still dear to my heart, people who understand parts of me that no one else can.  I experienced how dark this world is, but also gained appreciation for the light that does exist.

Like Bilbo, I returned home a different person.  And adjusting back into normal life was a challenge.  People who had been dear friends no longer knew how to relate to me, and I to them.  I tried, for a while, to make up for ground that I had lost while away, but eventually gave up.  Connections were lost, and I decided to move on.

Being an English major, my three and a half months abroad changed the way I read.  In my Victorian Literature class, not a day passes when my experiences fail to enhance my experience.  Just today, someone put a map of the city up while discussing a historical detail and my heart gave a tinge because I know those streets.

The other thing about adventure is that once you have a taste, it never lets go.  You’re hooked for life.  Already, I feel the desire to see lands unknown rising up in me.  I long for city streets to explore, train rides through countries that are new, and conversations with people from far away places.

Thank goodness I’ve only got one year of school left.  Because adventure is out there, and I am going to chase it.  Who knows where I’ll be a year from now?

On the East Coast

There’s something incredibly empowering about learning to travel alone.  Stepping on an airplane bound for the other side of the country by yourself is so liberating.  Traveling is a love my parents instilled in me at a very young age, and learning to do it on my own is such a grand adventure.

I’ve gotten to spend the past week exploring Boston, MA.  I flew out last week, navigated the transportation system, and found my way to the MIT campus.  My old roommate, Alli, is at grad school there, you see, and offered free lodging and good company.  Despite valiantly striving towards the completion of her thesis (which she submitted the day I left), she was kind enough to be my guide and traveling companion!

Boston has been on my list for a long time.  I was drawn by the call of American history, of Revolution, of massacres and meeting halls and tea parties.  And it did not disappoint!  We spent a whole day following the Freedom Trail from the State House o the U.S.S. Constitution.  Along the way we passed the location of the Boston Massacre, various meeting halls, Old North Church (a la Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride), and the site of the Battle of Bunker Hill.  We treated ourselves to cannolis on the North Side, and I may or may not have dropped a tea bag in the Harbor.

Some of the time was spent on my own.  I found my way to the art museums, where I spent a day wandering through galleries.  I went to the MFA and Gardner respectively.  Although very nice, they weren’t anything to write home about.  I highly suspect that my time in Europe has spoiled art museums for me.  Ah well.

One afternoon, Alli and I explored Harvard University.  Let me tell you, Harvard lives up to its expectations!  There’s a certain gradure to all the red brick buildings arranged around large grassy malls with flowering trees.  We didn’t go in any of the buildings, content to wander the campus.

The highlight of the trip was our day trip to Concord.  We took the commuter train in the morning and spent the day walking around the New England town.  The sun was out and the lilacs in bloom, rendering the atmosphere idyllic.  Throughout the day we saw the homes (and graves) of famous literary figures such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Louisa May Alcott.  We actually toured Orchard House, which belonged to the Alcotts, and is where Louisa wrote Little Women.  We also walked to Walden Pond, where Thoreau lived by the labor of his own hands for two years.  We saw the location of his cabin and had a picnic by the water’s edge.  On a more historical note, we visited the Old North Bridge, where the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired.  Throughout the day, we crossed paths with several of the locals, who treated us to free lectures on lesser known historical figures and poetry recitations.

I could go on about my trip for pages and pages.  In fact, I could easily write up a post for every little thing I saw, explaining their historical significance and general awesomeness, but really… I don’t have time for that.  So this, my friends, is all you guys will get.  It’s funny, the more you travel, the more your wanderlust grows.  I’m so thankful to have gotten to take a week to dig deeper into history, art, and literature.  Who knows where I’ll go next?

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Alli and I on our Concord day trip