Tag Archives: hot button topics

Diversity, Prejudice and Acceptance: how do you roll?

In my youngest and most formative years, I grew up a minority. I also lived in a string of apartments, a trailer house and a tiny home that was broken into despite the three German Shepherds guarding it and the ten foot high fence surrounding it. I did not have the typical white-washed childhood that many of my current community members have.

I grew up in a world of socio-economic, religious and cultural diversity. At one point, I was one of two white kids in my class. I played with anyone who was nice and steered clear of the meanies. Not because of their skin color or ethnic background, but because of their behavior.

Every day, I am thankful for my real-world education in Human Acceptance 101. On the flip side, I am saddened that my children will not experience the same abundant diversity that I did.

My predominantly conservative little town was recently made famous for two reasons: having a couple apply for the first same-sex marriage license in the state and for having a very public and adverse reaction to this application. While different opinions are great, the way we go about expressing them can be extremely destructive.

I was taught to respect others. I was taught to accept others. I was taught to express my views with open-mindedness and to always remember that everyone is entitled to his/her opinion. I was never taught to hate or to partake in fear-mongering. Prejudice was a dirty word in my home.

Funny, since my parents did this despite their lack of religious conviction. Of the six members of my childhood family, only two of us attend church and openly express our faith. Only three are baptized and confirmed. Two simply don’t believe in God. When I listen to the religious hatred that people use to justify their persecution of gays and lesbians, I can understand why my siblings don’t want to be associated with a church body that uses God’s love to hurt not heal.

This saddens me, though it does not rock my spirituality. You see, I have a strong faith. My love for God was hard-worn. I didn’t grow up in a church, but rather was drawn to it because of the promise God made: Whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

Wow, WHOEVER believes. That’s powerful. That’s amazing. It was utterly unimaginable that He would love a child like me so much He would look past my sins and open His arms to my eternal redemption. But He does. He even promised to love everyone without providing a clause to exclude some believers and not others. In case you’re unfamiliar with His promise, look it up. John 3:16.

My faith in God is not dampened by His judgment–that is between me and Him. My faith in others, however, suffers greatly when the very sinners that God promised to save use His words to condemn those different from them. Personally, I feel this detracts from the message Christians wish to spread to the world. It turns people away from a faith we want them to embrace.

The only way that using God’s words against anyone for any reason is acceptable is if the individual using such words is sinless. I am not. I have broken many a commandment in my day. Sure I’ve never killed anyone, but I have gossiped. Same thing in God’s eyes. Neither have I robbed a bank, though I once took a small bowl from Perkins to provide water for my puppy. Thief either way.*

We are all sinners. We have all fallen short of God’s glory. We do so every day. Amen.

But that isn’t my only concern with this heated issue. I also get squirmy when people use the whole “breaking up traditional marriage” thing as a defense against allowing everyone in the world to openly love who they love. Why? Because there is no traditional family anymore.

None.

I work in the family law business. I provide custody evaluations. I help divorcing or separated parents figure out custody and parenting time arrangements. My job would be unnecessary if the traditional family wasn’t in jeopardy. And trust me, the reasons behind the divorces, separations and one night stands have nothing to do with whether a gay couple got married or not. Every single case I’ve worked in the past five years has been composed of two heterosexuals.

These families are broken by abuse, adultery, chemical dependency, crime and poverty. Currently, an estimated 65% of children live in mixed families. That is terrifying and in much greater need of attention than whether or not two women can lovingly live together.

One night stands between homosexuals do not result in unwanted pregnancies. In fact, babies adopted into homosexual families are hard-won. They are wanted and planned for, and often fought for despite extreme opposition. This isn’t the case for all babies. Cohabitation and casual relationships are becoming normalized by society to the point where over 40% of all babies are born to unmarried women, a number expected to skyrocket by 2016. (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/unmarry.htm)

This, more than gay marriage, threatens the integrity of the traditional family, as does the rate of adverse childhood experiences. According to a 2009 study by the CDC, 59.4% of adults questioned reported having at least one adverse childhood experience including divorce, abuse (physical, sexual and/or verbal) and mental illness in the home. That’s a lot of suffering that has nothing to do with homosexuality.

I realize that some people reading this will agree with me and others will not. That’s okay. I accept and encourage different world views. After all, every one of us comes to a situation with vastly different life experiences and belief systems. Likewise, I am not asking anyone to change their opinion on this issue. Rather, I simply ask that everyone (those in favor of and those opposed to any hot-button topic) examines how they deal with ideas that challenge their beliefs.

Know that even if you are vehemently against same-sex marriage or enthusiastically for it, I don’t judge you personally. I only judge your behavior. There is room in this world to respect and accept others who differ from us in myriad of ways.

I was lucky to grow up among diversity. I love that we are all different. I hate television and haven’t turned one on in years. My Dear Hubby uses it to relax. He golfs: I don’t. My eldest loves spaghetti: my youngest does not. One neighbor is a vet tech while another is a retired PE teacher. My pastor is single, I’m married and some of my best friends have been divorced. My brother dislikes kids even as I would have a hundred of my own.

If we were all the same, life would be very boring and not worth living. If we continue to hate, there will never be peace–not within ourselves, our homes or our communities.

How do you deal with opposition in your life? Do you use reason or emotion to debate? How do you separate your beliefs and fears from the facts?

Curious minds want to know.

*The statute of limitations is long up on this infraction, though the memory of my theft still haunts me.

**I welcome any and all respectful comments. Those who attack will be deleted without apology.

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Dark YA: Catalyst or Cure?

Currently in the news: a 10-month-old baby is missing, a 23-year-old woman was slaughtered and her unborn baby harvested, a high schooler was shot while eating lunch.

We openly acknowledge these events because of the public way in which they were committed.  If we had a choice, we would scrub these memories from our minds and go about our own lives oblivious to the pain others have suffered.  Not because we don’t care, but because it scares us to do so.

Dark YA takes this a step further.  It dares to dig into the hidden.  It probes into dirty secrets and spills the details in a way that makes our stomachs churn.  Some readers embrace it, while other feel the need to challenge it.

Categorically, young adult novels that deal with serious topics fall under great scrutiny.  They are frequent targets of challenges by parents, politicians and religious leaders.

I’m not exactly sure what makes a book dark.  By my best guess, Dark YA is visceral.  It often makes the reader feel uncomfortable or unsettled because of the topic and the raw nature in how it is presented.  It is almost always emotionally disturbing.

Take Unwind, for instance.

“Well-written, this draws the readers into a world that is both familiar and strangely foreign, and generates feelings of horror, disturbance, disgust and fear. As with classics such as 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, one can only hope that this vision of the future never becomes reality.”–Kirkus Reviews as found at Amazon.

In Unwind, Neal Shusterman tackles the very heavy issue of right to life versus the right to choose.  Abortion is settled in a way that satisfies both sides, but is unnerving to the reader.  His solution is unthinkable.  Thankfully, however, authors like Mr. Shusterman are not afraid to write about taboo subjects.

Yet for every great review these books get, a negative reaction will surface because some people believe dark YA encourages bad behavior and experimentation.  They blame certain books for the emergence of homosexuals in our communities.  For the romanticism of cutting.  For the acceptance of eating disorders and the escalating numbers of teen suicides.

I beg to differ.  I firmly believe these dark topics have always been a part of the human race.  We’ve just chosen to push them under the rug and pretend they don’t exist.  We scrub them from our memories, because to remember is to care and to care is to take action.

Incest, domestic abuse, theft, rape, alcoholism, drugs, teen pregnancies, homosexuality, religious persecution and bullying–these things have been around since recorded history in some form or other.  We are just now giving our kids the means to understand and cope with the experiences in their lives.

Dark YA?  Yeah, it most definitely serves as a form of therapy.  It is the chance to acknowledge the fear, anger, shame and impotence that haunts our children today.  And, most likely the adults who read it.

These books don’t encourage poor choices.  Rather, they validate that we are not alone, that we are accepted and that we can survive.  In my mind, Dark YA is a message of hope for a better future.  It is a call to action and change.  It is balm for our wounded souls.

What says you?  Do these hot button topics belong in YA?  Why or why not?  How do these books stimulate poor choices?  How do they encourage, inspire and motivate?  Is Dark YA the reason for our social ills or the therapy our kids need to overcome a dark existence?

Curious minds want to know.