Tag Archives: controversy

Where’s the Respect?

“We don’t need to share the same opinions as others, but we need to be respectful.”
– Taylor Swift

Respect, Respect, whereforart thou, Respect?

Cue the moans and groans.

We sit around typing away on our phones and computers about how the youth of today have totally lost respect for their elders. We rant and we rave about how this country has “gone to hell” and how this new generation has no morals or ethics. We wonder what has happened and we cast blame, blame, blame. [Thanks, Obama.]

But ladies and gentlemen, guess what? I’ve single-handedly figured it all out! I know whose fault it is and I’m here to tell you the answer once and for all. You ready?

YOU.

It’s your own damn fault.

And here’s why.

web1_KeanTriplettBarackObama-1

Photo from Jefferson Post 5/30/2016

An article was just posted in our tiny little town’s newspaper about a local teacher, Keana Triplett, who was named North Carolina’s Teacher of the Year. As part of this major honor, she was given the opportunity to meet President Obama. (Read the article here.) The article had only been posted online for about 10 whole minutes when the negativity started rolling in.

“I feel sorry for her.”

“He’s not my president!”

“I would have passed on meeting Obama – I’ve got better things to do with my time.”

“The president and his family sure haven’t been respectful to America, why should we respect them?” [Note: His family?? What did those little girls ever to do to you??]

What in the hell?

Okay, tell me what on Earth these comments have to do with Keana Triplett, North Carolina’s Teacher of the Year? You know that lack of respect you’re bemoaning in your children? Well, right here is where they learn it, folks.

Right here.

Where is the congratulations for this insanely huge distinction given to a woman who is teaching your children? Where is the admiration for the honor of a small-town hero being afforded the opportunity to meet the leader of our country?

YOU are teaching your children not to have respect.

Yes, YOU.

The next time you go blaming Obama or “the gays” or whoever else is on your radar at any given time, take a look at yourself, okay? Look at how you’re acting. Look at what you’re saying. Look at how you’ve totally twisted a news story about our small-town hero into your own personal political agenda. Look at how full of yourself you are and how much more important you think your opinion is over the intention of this story.

And hey, while you’re at it – take a good long look at how you’re treating the man who runs this country.

You want to know where our country’s morals and ethics and RESPECT have gone? Take a look in the mirror, people. Take a look in the mirror.

You’ll find your culprit staring you right in the face.

***

 

 

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Agreeable Disagreers

“If you have learned how to disagree without being disagreeable, then you have discovered the secret of getting along – whether it be business, family relations, or life itself.”
– Bernard Meltzer

Last week, I was a mess.

In case you missed it, I wrote a blog late one night called In Hate I Trust. That night was a rough one. After participating in a peaceful protest against a waste of taxpayer funds in our small mountain community in North Carolina (read the local newspaper article here), I became the target of much vitriol from many locals who disagreed with my stance. Because our protest was tied into religion, the “you’re going to hell” folks came out in full force. One of whom even targeted my child with her “God-fearing” bitterness and hatred.

and

Photo by Cassondra Greer

The night I wrote that blog, I thought I was done. I thought I would never speak out about anything ever again because I would only be misunderstood and condemned, and my children would be the ones to suffer the consequences.

But. As it always does, morning came.

And in the days to come, for a multitude of reasons, my heart was healed.

First, after a teary apology to my daughter the next morning for what had happened, I was greeted with a blank stare and a simple, “Why are you sorry? You didn’t do it.” Oh, the simplicity of a child. She saw right through my misplaced self-contempt and redirected it to where it belonged – onto the person who had wronged her. “What did I ever do to her?” was her question. And what a good one it was.

With my daughter’s blessing, and a newfound determination, I got back up on that horse and continued fighting.

And thus, Agreeable Disagreers was born. Let me explain.

igwt going up

Letters going up – April 19, 2016

A few days before the peaceful photography protest mentioned above, a conversation was started on my Facebook account over the $2500 in taxpayer funds used to place “In God We Trust” in big golden letters on our local courthouse. When I posted a picture of the letters going up and expressed my controversial disagreement with such, a multitude of viewpoints started rolling in. One of which came from Teresa Kimberlin Martin, a faith-filled Christian who grew up in Ashe County with my husband. Teresa’s comment was, “Private contributions paid for this. No public funds were used. Why is it an issue?.”

And there was the crux of the problem.

Private contributions did not, in fact, pay for these letters. Without a vote or say from the county’s citizens (many of whom are not of the Christian faith, as shocking as that may be), the five county commissioners decided to allow taxpayer funds to cover this expense. (Read this story in more full detail here.) Once the Facebook conversation led to this fact, after snippy comments back and forth, suddenly Teresa had a thought:

Ok. So I have an idea. Melissa, you and I differ on most things political. Well, all things political and religious. Since…the county has decided to pay for the letters, why don’t we have a fundraiser and split the funds to homeless shelters, food banks and any other program that needs funding?…We may not share the same views on all things, but we DO share the same views on helping others. Your thoughts?? And I am serious about this. Why not use our differences to solve some really serious issues??”

And with that, an idea was born.

What could have continued like any other Facebook argument between people who don’t see eye-to-eye, suddenly, with one change of attitude and heart, blossomed into a compromise. And not only a compromise, but a mission.

No, I do not think “In God We Trust” needs to be on a courthouse building that serves a Christian and non-Christian public. Yes, Teresa, thinks those letters do belong on that building. We disagree, that much is obvious. But what we both do agree on is this: in a poor county like ours, a county that has captured both of our hearts for different reasons (hers because it was where she came from, mine because it’s where I finally found a place to call home), $2500 could have very well been spent in a more logical manner.

After a few conversations back and forth between the two of us, we decided to put this idea in motion. I suggested the name Agreeable Disagreers. Teresa contacted the local bank to get our account set up. I went by and signed for it, ordered checks, etc.

And a fundraiser was born.

AD logoAt first, I was skeptical. I knew that others would see this as an “anti-religion” fundraiser.  In fact, I’ve heard those very words. But that’s not what we are at all. Actually, we’re quite the opposite. We’re pro-religion: all of them, including the lack thereof. Our foundation is based on inclusiveness. Our co-founder is a faith-filled Christian in every sense of the word. We are anything but anti-religion. Our goal is to help others, without any prerequisite of a particular political or religious affiliation. In other words, we don’t care. We welcome all, and we want to help all.

Because of our controversial start, and this misconception associated with our mission, I wondered if we’d receive any donations at all. Our goal was originally just to raise the $2500 in funds and distribute them back into our community. We didn’t know how long that would take (still don’t) and hadn’t give much thought to what would come after that.

My, how much can change in just a few weeks.

AD shirtsAs of today, May 6, 2016, Agreeable Disagreers has taken in $1,520.  We are only $980 short of our original goal. One member, Kizil McCay, volunteered her services to create our fabulous logo. Another member, Loni Miller, offered her screen-printing services and set us up a website, offering t-shirts and bumper stickers supporting the cause (all profits going directly into the fundraiser – click on the photo to the left be taken directly to her site). One member donated a whopping $300, and another offered a donation match of $500, which was met within three days! People are hearing us. They know what we stand for, and they believe in us.

Six donations have been distributed from the fund so far. Two to local charities (the homeless coalition and the food bank), one to a local fundraiser celebrating diversity among our county’s middleschoolers (click here to read about that and support them if you can!), and three to local individuals suggested to us who had fallen on temporary hard times and needed a helping hand.

We have started something beautiful, and we are not ready to quit anytime soon.

We have developed a board of four members who meet periodically to discuss distributions and future plans. Some of these future plans include volunteer work. (AD member Cassondra Greer has submitted an application for an Adopt-a-Highway in our name and the local food bank has provided us with a list of times and locations for opportunities for group volunteer efforts). We are all agreed that this fundraiser will not stop once that $2500 has been met. We are going to keep going.  We are going to keep funds and helping hands available to spread into our community when needs arise.

If you’d like to learn more about Agreeable Disagreers, visit our Facebook page by clicking here. Donation information is found there if you’d like to donate, and volunteer opportunities will be posted as they become available. Also, most importantly, if you know someone in our local area who needs our help, whether it be monetarily or through volunteer services, please let us know!  Just post in the group that you’d like to be contacted by a member and we’ll gladly get in touch with you asap.

I am proud of what we’re doing here. I’m proud of the helping hands that have stepped up, and the hearts that see beyond the differences that could divide us. It’s such a tough time in our country right now. Differences are glaring more than ever. We are all screaming to be heard. I’m not preaching here, I’m guilty of it too. It’s the climate that this country is in right now, and it’s sad. It’s truly sad.

But maybe there’s a little hope.  Right here, in little bitty Ashe County, North Carolina – there are a group of disagreers who are putting their differences to work.

It’s amazing what happens when we take the time to actually hear one another.

peace

***

“There are those in need who really don’t care which side of the aisle you sit on,
they would just like a seat at the table.”
– Agreeable Disagreers co-founder, Teresa Kimberlin Martin

 

 

To Read It or Not To Read It….

“A good novel tells us the truth about its hero…”
– G. K. Chesterton

There’s a debate in the literary world that most of you have probably heard of in some form or another. A “new” novel by Harper Lee was just released yesterday. It’s called Go Set a Watchman and was apparently written prior to To Kill a Mockingbird.

GSAWNow, depending on which story you hear or believe, the overall gist is that Harper Lee supposedly provided this book to her publishers, and they felt that there was a better story to be told—a story that the world needed to hear. They wanted the same characters that were in her book, mind you, but wanted the story moved back a few years. Altered a bit. Told from the viewpoint of the little girl, “Scout,” instead of the grown woman Jean Louise that is telling us the story in Go Set a Watchman.

Now, before I go any further, I want to give you this disclaimer. I have not read Go Set a Watchman. Not yet. Will I?

Therein lies the question.

Harper Lee is an incredibly private individual. I’m not going to profess to be a Lee scholar by any means, but I do know that she will not give interviews and detested the amount of publicity she received after To Kill a Mockingbird became such a phenomenon. So, why would she allow this publication now?  Ah, therein lies the rub. Did she allow it?

I read one article that stated:

Residents of Monroeville [where Lee now lives] gossip that Ms. Lee is mentally infirm these days, does not recognize old friends, could not possibly have signed off on the publication, never wanted to do a second book. But those who are closest to her scoff at such conspiratorial theories, saying Harper Lee, now 88 and admittedly frail, remains fully capable of making up her own mind.

Quite the fodder for controversy there, huh? Did she or didn’t she?  Is she a frail little 88-year-old woman (now 89, I think) who is being taken advantage of by those who stand to benefit from the profits that this new book will bring in?

Or is she truly what the article I mentioned above says she is?  (Click on the link to check it out if you haven’t already.)  Is she a little old lady who wrote a book long ago – back before the digital age where there would have been copies upon copies of drafts saved on a hard-drive or flash drive somewhere – who truly misplaced the draft?  According to the article, she was delighted when it was found.

I have to interject here for a second while I imagine this scenario to be true. I’m a writer too…obviously not of the caliber of Harper Lee…but a writer nonetheless. And recently, I lost a portfolio full of poetry that I had written over the past ten years. Why were they not saved on a computer somewhere? I don’t know. I just know they were in a folder and I lost them. I was devastated. I searched the house over to no avail…only to find it months later hidden in the back of my closet. I can’t think of another word to describe that feeling other than joyous. All of that work hadn’t been for nothing! My work had been found. Was it any good? I don’t know. A few of them had already failed to win anything in various writing contests I had entered them in, but did I care? No! It was my work and it was found.

Could I have, on some minuscule scale felt what Harper Lee felt when her baby, her novel was found? Did she care that it had once been deemed “not good enough” for publishing? I’m betting not. And when it was suggested to her that it was time to publish it, would she have denied such a suggestion?

Hmmm. I wonder. Some think she would have. And that she did.

But all of that “Did she or did she not want it published?” stuff aside, I think the bigger, truer issue lying behind the controversy is what has been revealed now that reviews have been released. Turns out, Atticus Finch – the protagonist of To Kill a Mockingbird – might have had a darker side.

Now, trust me, I get it. I get the reaction that literary lovers of Atticus are feeling. We LOVE Atticus. Atticus is the true epitome of goodness. He lives in our hearts as a hero, as a true pioneer of equality and justice. But you know what? He isn’t real. Really. He’s not. He’s a product of one author’s imagination…and only after influence from others as to what and who he should be. So, did Harper Lee really create Atticus Finch? Or did we?

Go Set a Watchman was written first.  What that means is that Harper Lee’s original intention was for Atticus Finch to be who he is in this book. Again, I look at this through the eyes of a writer. Do I have the right to tell Miss Lee that the image I have in my head of her character is better than the one she had? Is that my place? Like many others, should I thus refuse to read a book that tarnishes the glow that I put on this beloved man who touched my heart the first time I read this book at the tender age of 18?

I don’t know. But you know what? I don’t think so.

What it comes down to for me is this: there’s a new book out there. It’s a much-talked about book. A much-anticipated book. And a book that’s shrouded in conspiracy. Am I going to read it?

You bet your patootie I am.

Am I doing a disservice to Harper Lee if the rumors are true? Am I reading something that an author intended to keep to herself?  Possibly. But my writer’s heart just somehow knows that an entire novel could not possibly have been written only to keep hidden from readers’ eyes. Look at the history of it…she presented it to publishers years ago. Does that sound like a hidden manuscript?  I just can’t believe it is.

In my heart of hearts, I feel like this is the story that Harper Lee wanted told.

Will my mind change after reading Go Set a Watchman?  Will I wish I had never picked it up? Will I wish that my memories of Atticus Finch remained the way I had him – in all his saintly glory?  Hmm. Who knows?

But I can tell you this…I’m definitely going to give myself the chance to find out.

***

The only way you can truly get to know an author is through the trail of ink he leaves behind him. The person you think you see is only an empty character: truth is always hidden in fiction.”
– Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Love Thy Neighbor. (Aw man, do I gotta?)

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44

Okay, honest show of hands. Who else has unfriended or un-followed people on Facebook over the past few weeks? Anyone?

Well, I sure have.  *both hands raised high*  And you know why?  Because people are ignorant and that pisses me off.

Okay, so that’s not very lady-like of me, I don’t suppose. Doesn’t exactly go with that whole “turn the other cheek” spirit we’re supposed to have. But dear Lord, I cannot shut up when people are spewing hate and ignorance towards recent current events.  Racism, gay rights…you name it, people are throwing around their opinions about it…swearing that they know all and that the confederate flag should fly high and gays should stay in the closets where they belong. It absolutely infuriates me. So, what do I do?  I jump right in there and tell them how wrong they are.  And do you know what that solves?

Nothing.

10410790_10153491412603707_6179317090721641426_nNot one flippin thing.  In fact, it probably hurts my cause more than helps it. I am doing exactly what they’re doing, just in reverse. I am infuriated at them for being so judgmental and so narrow-minded, and yet I’m being the same way in a sense. I’m exercising my own hatred, it’s just directed at a different group – the ignorant and the narrow-minded.

Now, I’d like to believe that I’m a Christian. I fully believe that Jesus was who he said he was.  I really do. But I don’t believe that we are supposed to adhere to everything the bible tells us to do. I don’t believe that a rape victim should have to marry her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29).   I don’t believe it is shameful for me to cut my hair (1 Corinthians 11:6).  I don’t believe that eating or touching a pig is forbidden by my lord (Leviticus 11:7-8). And I sure as heck fire don’t believe that  a woman is supposed to remain in quiet submission while she is in church (1 Corinthians 14:34).  Heck, just ask my husband – I don’t believe that a women should be in quiet submission anywhere. Ever.

I could go on and on and on with the things in the bible that I don’t believe are still accurate today. I believe that times have changed and that much of what was put in there was just what the writers of the time believed to be the case based on how things were done at the time they were walking the earth. I’m a writer – just about everything I write is tinged with my opinion.  (Ha! “Tinged.” Okay, maybe I need a different word there.) But still – you get the point. I think God wanted some stuff done and we were sucking at it, so I think he sent his son to explain it to us. And I think his son did a fine job of doing that when he told us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31).  In fact, he made it pretty clear that no other commandment was greater than that one.

And what have I been doing?  Failing miserably. I don’t love my neighbors. I hear and see the hateful things that people are saying about people I love and I get mad. I get ANGRY. And do I feel love towards them?  No, I don’t. I think Jesus rocks – and I think he had some seriously good advice, but I’m not him. I just can’t do it. I can’t feel love towards these people who make others feel dirty and worthless, and then use the bible as their weapon in doing so. The God I believe in wouldn’t stand for that for a second, and neither do I.

A woman that I recently did a community theatre play with posted something as her Facebook status one day in the midst of the hatred, and I want to share it with you.  Take a few seconds to read this, won’t you?

I will not “UNFRIEND” those who lack empathy or those who refuse to understand. If I “UNFRIEND” them, then I allow them to retreat deeper into their closets of ignorance. If I “UNFRIEND” them, I offer them greater refuge from the reality of the world around and deprive them of the opportunity to develop sensitivity and demonstrate true love for humanity. No, I will not “UNFRIEND” them. Instead, tidbits and snippets of my life will continue to pop up in their news feeds. I will continue to allow myself to be available should curiosity get the best of them and one day, they decide to try to understand. SOMEDAY; that closet of ignorance might get lonely and they might start to crave the richness of life that comes from connecting across the differences. Don’t get me wrong- this is not a passive surrender because I REFUSE TO LIE DOWN AND ALLOW THEM TO TRAMPLE MY SPIRIT!! I WILL STAND UP AND RISE ABOVE!! I will keep living this GLORIOUS life and do it with BOLDNESS, JOY, and LOVE because that is the true children of God!!
Tiffany Christian

Oh wow. Tiffany, what I wouldn’t give to have your attitude. I try, I really do. But then I backslide all over again. Am I just made of a different caliber of material than others?  Oh, I don’t know. All I can figure is this: I’m human.

That’s it. I’m human. I’m not perfect. And neither is anyone else. None of us have all the answers. We really don’t. Are gay people going to hell?  Heck, I don’t know. Is there a hell? Is there a heaven? Did that first haircut I got back in 1983 seal my spot on the front pew in the pits of hell?  Don’t know that either. NONE OF US KNOW ANYTHING. We really truly don’t.  So why do we go around acting like we do?

Why do I go around acting like I do?

Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know the answer. I really don’t. But I’m pretty sure love is the first place to start looking for it. I have to try to find a way to get this anger and hatred out of my heart because it’s not healthy. I wish we could all just love each other, but there’s nothing I can do to help anyone else with that if I don’t first start with myself.

Anyone care to join me?

It’s a work in progress, friends.  We have to start somewhere.

***

“For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”

– Sun Tzu