The poetic, playful and prophetic musings of quintessential voices trying to keep up with life

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Presidential Advertisements: A Public Display of How Screwed Up American Politics Are

A nice little video to introduce what I'm talking about.

This is a very important year, and we all know why.  Okay, the Olympics were also this year...Phelps, the Fierce Five, and a ton of other United States athletes kicked some serious butt...but that's already's time to move on.  It is a Presidential election year, and it seems that almost everyone has some sort of opinion about this year’s opponents.  I’m not going to lie, I hate politics.  I hate talking about politics, and I hate the current partisan system that we have in place.  Nothing gets done, because everyone just fights with each other and refuses to compromise.  Lately, however, what I really hate are political advertisements on T.V. 

Anyone from Iowa knows that these ads are especially bad here, and it seems like they are taking up the majority of commercial time on the old telly.  Election year is the opposite of the Superbowl...nobody likes its commercials.  They are annoying...all of them, Democrat and Republican…Romney and Obama…it doesn’t matter!  It's not just the sheer number of them and the amount of time they waste (I would much rather watch the commercial with the muderous dog that bribes a guy with a bag of Doritos to keep quiet), but the content of the ads really bothers me.

Presidential ads are straight-up attacks on each other.  They are glorified hissy-fits that the American public is forced to endure.  I might honestly fall over dead if I see a Presidential ad that actually talks about what the candidate is going to DO, and not what his opponent has done/will do wrong (I will admit that I JUST saw a commercial for Obama with President Clinton, and the former President talked about Obama's plans and only briefly mentioned the Republicans...but that is the ONE AND ONLY non-attack ad I have seen so far).  Yes, I understand that it is strategic to tear your opponent down and make him/her look worse than you, but this is getting a little ridiculous.  Let me put it this way: I would rather hang out with the Grinch AND a sea-sick crocodile than have to watch Obama and Romney rip at each other like a couple of bitchy highschool drama queens.  When less than FIVE SECONDS of your advertisement actually talks about what you are going to do right, how the hell do we, the average, uninformed American viewer know what your policies will be if you win?  And then the other guy is saying all of these horrible things about you…how are we supposed to process that?  I don’t even know what is true anymore.  Both sides claim to be relating “facts” to viewers, but those “facts” are always contradicting each other.  The American public should try to stay informed about the various candidates that they are supposed to be electing, and they should consider all of the pros and cons before putting an individual into a position of that much power.  That doesn’t mean all of the American public will be smart and sensible about choosing a President, however. 

These ads have more power and influence than people might think.  If you are completely ignorant to anything political, and do not keep up with what Obama and Romney are talking about or choosing to represent, these political ads are really a skewed source of information.  The hardcore followers of both sides are of course going to believe the advertisements their candidate puts out (and might put out some themselves) but what about the moderates?  The independents?  Those in favor of returning to a monarchy (we almost might as well, right?)?  What do these low-blow advertisements tell them?  Here is what they tell me:  Both candidates are going out of their ways to defame and undermine their opponent.  This makes me think they don’t want to take the time to actually say what it is they are going to do, or how they are going to make the country better.  Due to this, I am not comfortable voting for either candidate.  What do parents always tell a kid when he/she is fighting with another kid?  Be the bigger person. Don’t sink to their level.  Why do we let adult Presidential candidates get away with this behavior?

I can agree with policies from both sides, but it worries me when candidates for the Presidency, the highest and most powerful position in our country, are so willing to publicly snipe back and forth like children.  I’m sure my saying that will not make a lot of die-hard political followers happy, but really, is that how we want our country to be run?  Both candidates are qualified for the position, and either candidate could do a lot as President.  Honestly, though…I don’t know that I will vote for either of them.  I want a candidate who will take the high-road, and not sully himself by using low-blow tactics or by trying to ruin someone else just to win.  I want a candidate who can bring Democrats and Republicans together to work for the betterment of the United States, not someone who is going to feed into the major split in our government through negativity and harsh attacks.  Maybe I’m dreaming of a United States that can never be, because the system is so screwed up. 

The whole video is great...but wait for the last minute or so to see why it is relevant.  In a perfect world...*sigh*

I don’t know what is going to happen in November, but I hope that whoever wins does actually work to make the U.S. better.  One question will always bug me, though, as long as Presidential ads continue running the way they do:  Commercials are only about 30-60 seconds long…why waste so much time and money talking about the other guy? 

            What do you think?  Do these ads turn you off to the candidates and the electoral process…or do you think they are a completely legitimate form of campaigning?              

I'm Erin Broich, and I approve this message.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Hard to Hurdle With Monkeys on Your Back

A few months ago, Lolo Jones went public sharing her choice to remain a virgin until marriage. Initially, I will admit, I was curious why this was all of the sudden newsworthy. I mean, besides being an incredible athlete who hails from my home state (IOWA SHOUT OUT!), I’m sure there are many more interesting things about Lolo other than the choice she has made to remain a virgin. Like the fact her name is LOLO. Such a cool name, don’t cha think??

So why now talk about this? Is it “big news” simply because it’s an Olympic year and she has a name to make after a devastating performance in Beijing? Maybe. Is it a marketing ploy by her publicist? I don't think so. But so what if it is! That doesn’t change anything, other than it might make people uncomfortable. Oh, sorry, I forgot. We’re not supposed to talk about personal things in the media, because that would make people seem human. Excuse me… I'll keep my history and everything that makes me ME to myself because that might piss someone off. Because we can't all learn from each other or anything...

Seriously though, what is the fascination with this woman, other than her obvious physical and athletic traits? Apparently the media (or at least The New York Times) thinks Jones is an attention-whore, so that's why they're interested... A NY Times journo recently wrote a piece about how with Lolo, it's all about the 'image' or beauty and not actual achievement/talent. I guess Jere Longman was victimized by a beautiful hurdler somewhere in his past because why else would he be so cynical as to rip Lolo a new one, for no reason? And when did respectable news organizations start targeting individuals and make them into an effigy of public ridicule? (BREAKING NEWS: This isn't the 1950s. We have progressed... Kind of.) People get sued over defamation like this! Yes, she’s a public figure who opened up about some stuff and is therefore susceptible to criticisms, but this article should be recognized as crossing the line between professional critique and school yard-style bullying. Does she really deserve to be thrown to the lions? I doubt this will hurt her career (in all honesty, it'll probably help it), but for realz, this is just unnecessary.

Almost as much as the following statement:
Jones has received far greater publicity than any other American track and field athlete competing in the London Games. This was based not on achievement but on her exotic beauty and on a sad and cynical marketing campaign. Essentially, Jones has decided she will be whatever anyone wants her to be — vixen, virgin, victim — to draw attention to herself and the many products she endorses. Women have struggled for decades to be appreciated as athletes. For the first time at these Games, every competing nation has sent a female participant. But Jones is not assured enough with her hurdling or her compelling story of perseverance. So she has played into the persistent, demeaning notion that women are worthy as athletes only if they have sex appeal. And, too often, the news media have played right along with her.” - Jere Longman, NY Times
Photo cred:
Longman goes on to basically say Lolo is teasing everyone by posing nude for Sports Illustrated because she’s flaunting her stuff but keeping her virginity intact, thus exploiting herself to gain endorsements… Right. Because beautiful women can’t be virgins. Or maybe they can, but they must want the D really badly… And even then, if they are beautiful, they can't publicize it without looking like a phony. This is just another example of how society wants to keep all those demonic, feminine whiles in check. Because you have to either be sexy or chaste, not both. WELL EFF THAT. Did anyone even see that SI issue? Those were the most artistic and tasteful nude photos I've ever seen. And they were showcasing beautiful, female athletes. There is a diverse pool of women out there who are all beautiful in various respects. But the media tells women (whether they’re a famous athlete or not) again and again that in order to be successful, they have to be a certain kind of beautiful, showing off the right amount of skin (you know, so they don’t whore shit up everywhere) and then if/when they get any shred of empowerment from doing so, they’re portrayed as power-hungry demons who need to get back in line. If that isn’t sending mixed signals, I don’t know what is. --Maybe if everyone (especially Longman) wasn't so busy putting Lolo and other women in boxes (see the "vixen, virgin, victim" comment) they'd see that people can be a lot of things/labels, should they choose to use them.

Then there's all this smack about Lolo opening up about her past... You know what? It takes incredible courage to speak about about your past, especially if it's a rough one. I can sympathize 100%. The thing people need to understand is, everyone handles stuff differently. If you need to blog or keep a personal journal to get your feelings out, go ahead and do it. If you have to talk to close friends/family or perfect strangers who you meet on an airplane to get emotions off your chest, freakin' do it. Because individuals need to cope in ways that can benefit them. Maybe letting the world know is the way Lolo handles things. Who am I to judge that?

I don’t care if Lolo shared her story for marketing reasons (which, just to clarify, I don't think she did). I don’t care if she has a thousand sponsors she’s trying to please... That's kind of the price you have to be willing to pay if you're good at what you do. Everything is business. And I don’t care if she ever wins an Olympic medal (although I know homegirl will). What I do care about is everyone’s hypocrisy surrounding this non-issue. I mean, no matter who it is and what they're doing, people need to talk about it. But there's a deeper issue here. I think it comes down to an epidemic called, Jealous Entitlement. If someone is succeeding, haters have to tear that person down so they feel better about themselves... Let's be honest, we all want stuff. But most importantly, we want other people's stuff. Their beauty, their fame, their raw talent. And if we can't get it, we demonize that person to divert our attention from our own selfish problem(s) (Notice how I said we/our. That means me too, people).

Basically, what I’ve gathered about this whole thing is, Lolo's damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. Big brother is always going to be watching over, waiting for her to do something worthy of scrutinization. That has to be tough. And a lot of people have said, maybe going on the Today Show and getting emotional about how much this treatment must suck wasn’t the best way of handling things. But I want someone to tell me what is the best way of handling things… Please, point me to the handbook on life and the chapter that says, "You must respond in these ways to judgment from peers, America and culture because you, as a public figure, must accept that this is how things are." I'm sure being put in a box gets pretty old.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

(Almost) Drowning: Reflections on one bad decision

I almost died last week.

I was visiting my girlfriend, Lisa, in Michigan and she, her best friend Bea, our good friend Jeremy, and I decided to jump off Blackrocks into Lake Superior. The area was quiet water, tucked in a completely clear water cove. Lisa, Jeremy, and I had already done it a few days prior, much to my hesitance, but we lived through it, so we decided to take Bea.

It started like many traumatic events do. Bea described the day as jovial - we were laughing and joking, soaking up the sun, enjoying the day. They even convinced me to dive off the rocks.

There were three ways to get out of the water once you were in it: wuss out and walk to the beach, climb the rocks back up, or swim around the side of the peninsula and walk up some big rocks (see picture) to get back to the starting point. We chose the third option when we had jumped the other day, but because of the waves we had been climbing the rock on this day.

But Bea is an adventurer, the kind who pushes people out of their comfort zone sometimes. She's in ROTC, placed 10th in track nationals in two events (one of them was a marathon), and although she's probably only 90 pounds the girls is quite strong.

Bea wanted to swim around the peninsula. She went by herself a couple of times to try it, but got freaked out and came back. On Lisa and I's last jump, Bea convinced us to swim with her. Jeremy's ears were full of water and he decided to stay put.

As we were swimming around the peninsula, Lisa at one point exclaimed, "Look how big these waves are! There are waves in these waves!" We should have taken it as a warning sign, but instead we forged ahead. I was in front and because I'm cautious by nature, every few seconds I turned around to yell at the other two to hurry up. I got to the rocks, timed the wave right, and walked up to the top of it.

"She's walking on water!" Lisa said, much to Bea's delight.

Next, it was Lisa's turn. She got up on the rock just fine, but within seconds a wave came and pushed her back off.

I should stop and explain what was behind the rock we were getting up on: huge, massive rocks. Rocks that we couldn't climb up on. Rocks that we didn't want to hit.

As Lisa slipped off the rock, she looked up at me and I saw in her eyes an expression I had never see before and hope to never see again: terror. That was the moment we knew we were in trouble.

She managed to get back up on the rock and told me repeatedly that she was fine. As we turned our attention to Bea, we became more worried. Bea never even made it close to climbing up the rock we were standing on. As a wave carried her past the rock, Lisa bent down and grabbed her hand, most likely literally saving Bea's life. Bea was in a panic, not able to move at all, and Lisa held her through probably three or four waves until Bea slipped out of her grip. The next wave that came pushed Lisa and I both back into the water. It sent Lisa straight for a rock, which her head just narrowly missed.

I grabbed Bea, worried that her panic would inhibit her ability to swim. Bea had, at some point, began yelling for help, but the waves crashing on the rocks covered her cries. I held Bea for a moment, until we both realized that we wouldn't be able to swim back to the rock if we were clinging to each other. As we let go, we looked up to see the Lisa had gotten back on the rock and was safe. The waves had calmed. Relieved, we both swam back to the rock and climbed up, finally safe.

Jeremy had noticed our absence and had come looking for us after we didn't return. He saw the second half of our misadventure, and was about to jump in just as we rescued ourselves. None of us have much memory of the last bit of almost drowning, but together we pieced together the story.

Two seconds into safety, Lisa started laughing. Hysterically. I looked up at her, confused, until I realized that everyone handles trauma differently, and Lisa was a laugh-er. Eventually we all dissolved into giggles and took a few pictures to document the experience.

Now I'm not a very controversial person. I don't typically get in the middle of debates, as I don't like to argue. (I'm gay though, right? So sometimes controversy happens accidentally.) But I have some potentially controversial theological things to say about this situation.

Just as I don't believe God made those huge waves almost kill us, I also don't believe God calmed them. I don't believe God makes a habit of controlling the elements. I don't think God sends hurricanes or tornadoes, nor do I believe God saves some people from them sometimes when God doesn't think it's their time to die, while leaving others to die because it is "their time."

This isn't to say I don't believe God wasn't present the day we almost drowned. I absolutely believe God was there, helping us remain calm. I don't believe God calmed the waves; instead, I believe God calmed us. Lisa describes almost hitting her head on the rock as completely peaceful. Bea, after a few very tense moments, calmed down completely and swam herself to safety.

We all left Blackrocks that day knowing that people die doing what we did. All those newspaper articles I've read about drownings suddenly make sense. I don't believe the people who have died in those events died because God decided it was their time. I don't subscribe to "everything happens for a reason" theology. Instead, I believe God desires life. I believe God desires us to live fully - all of us - for a long time.

I also believe we can let God help us. I don't believe God ordains bad, but that God can help us to live better, help us to stay calm, and help us through waves.

I don't believe that God chose to save me because "it's not my time to die yet." I have a hard time believing it's ever anyone's time to die. But I will say that living through that experience helps put the shortness and frailty of life into perspective. We are not as strong as we sometimes like to believe. We are not stronger than some of life's waves, physical and otherwise. What we can do is remain calm, level headed, and try to keep swimming.

What are your waves in life? Misadventures? How do you make sense of them?

Warmly, Kelsey

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Why Dating in Middle School was the Dumbest Thing Ever

In sixth grade (also known as the Year Which Must Not Be Remembered), it seemed like everyone was dating... except for me.

I was eleven or twelve, awkward and tall, with long, spindly legs. My hair was a blonde bob which I had no intension of brushing, and I had never touched makeup in my life. My biggest interests were my friends, Pokemon, reading, and a slightly unhealthy obsession with dog breeds.

I got put into a class with 90% of the kids who would end up dubbed, the “popular kids,” in high school. The girls looked nothing like me. I might have had budding breasts, but these girls prided themselves on being skinny, flat-chested, boy-crazy, into cheerleading and hating to read. I still don’t understand anyone who is “proud” of hating to read.

Needless to say, I was the odd sheep out in that Johnston Middle School classroom. My interest in boys was… zilch. Nada. Zero. And on top of that, I didn’t know how to date.

Regardless of the obvious issues associated with it (i.e., none of us can drive), everyone else seemed to be dating. The girls in my class proudly asked boys out and were asked out on dates themselves. I didn’t understand. I even asked the class once why anyone would date right now. “I don’t get it,” I said, “What’s so exciting about it?”

The class laughed at me.

“So when are you going to date?” asked a boy.

“I don’t know,” I said, blushing, “When I feel like it? Maybe when I’m 21 or something?”

The class laughed at me again.

I soon changed my animosity towards dating, but it was probably due more peer-pressure than a real desire to date. Even in ninth grade, when I went on my first date, it was one of the most awkward experiences of my life.

I was asked out via note in class, passed from my friends to his friends and back. The date itself consisted of playing Dance Dance Revolution at the local movie theater and being dropped off and picked up by our parents. I had heard rumors about him that both horrified and fascinated me.

Once he tried to touch my boobs. I laughed and pushed him away.

The odd thing was, at Johnston, when you and a boy went on a date, you were considered “going out.” So because this boy and I had gone on a date, we were now “going out,” whatever that meant. I was his girlfriend, he was my boyfriend. If we had known about Facebook at the time, we would have changed our relationship status immediately, even if the “date” had gone horribly. I had my first kiss that year while watching “The Fellowship of the Ring.” Despite that, it's still my favorite Lord of the Rings movie. I thought that when you had your first kiss, it was supposed to be sparks flying and rainbows and maybe some music would play… But it was just a kiss, and we really never kissed again after that.

I was more interested in having a boyfriend than my actual “boyfriend.” I was intrigued by this dating thing everyone was talking about, but my boyfriend himself? I found myself getting sick at the thought of seeing him. I didn’t want to ever be around him. All I wanted at age 14 was pretty much the same things I wanted when I was 12; I wanted to watch Lord of the Rings with my friends, not him. I still wanted to play dress up (we called them fashion shows instead) and talk about the possibilities of boys, but not actually “be” with any boys. I wanted a dog. I wanted to play Petz and The Sims on my computer. I proceeded to ignore my “boyfriend” until he broke up with me over AIM.

In high school, I went on a date with one of my good guy friends. This was intended to actually be a date, but I hadn’t decided yet if I wanted to be with him. After the date, he called me his girlfriend, and I freaked out. I wasn’t ready to commit to anything, but I felt guilty for what he saw as me stringing him along.

It wasn’t until I got to college when I had an epiphany; I could go on dates without "going out" with the person. These strange rules- which had previously separated the “good girls” from the “sluts” in Middle School and High School- no longer existed. I realized that when my mom had laughed at me when I tried to explain that going on a date meant that you were now an item, she had been completely right. It was freeing to be able to hang out with a guy and not have to worry if this meant I had to change my Facebook status. It meant that I could go on dates whenever I wanted, and if I didn’t end up liking the guy, I could just tell him and that would be the end of it. This meant I could be “dating” a guy for months, and it didn’t mean we were in a committed relationship.

How weird, right? My middle school self would have been horrified. She would have called me a slut (behind my back, of course) and insisted that dating and going out were the same thing.

I’ve only technically gone out with two guys, including my current boyfriend. I’ve dated a lot more, but still a lot less than most people. You know as well as I do that people change, and our views on more than just this elusive concept of “dating” will change with us.

Does “dating” mean that you and the other person are exclusive? Does it mean that you’re getting to know each other? That you intend to marry? That you went on one date? Are "dating" and "going out" the same thing? Maybe you’re just feeling each other out (or up). Maybe it means whatever you and the other person decide it means.

Maybe “dating” doesn’t need a definition.

My middle school self is banging her head against a wall.


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