Those of us who are animal lovers tend to regularly take it on the chin from those who have no emotional affinity for four legged creatures.
Our love for our "kids" is mocked. Our grief when they pass is not understood. And our desire for all animals to be treated humanely is met with derision and a roll of the eyes.
Bringing a pet into your life is a commitment. It is a contract. It is a responsibility. And if it is done right, it is a love affair.
Birds, rabbits, ferrets, hamsters, iguanas, etc - they all find places in people's homes - dogs and cats obviously being the most common nonhuman member of a household.
And while they take in terms of needing cared for, fed, bathed, doctored - what they give in return is so much more.
Anyone who has a dog knows that unconditional love is waiting on the other side of the door each time we come back home. If we're busy, they wait. If we are sick, they know. They draw close to us, lay a paw upon us, stare into our eyes, and sigh. In that sigh you feel it. Love, caring, concern.
A pet, any pet, deserves those same three things in return.
That there are people in this world who get their kicks abusing, ignoring, casting away an animal? Well, personally I do not think they deserve another breath.
Think that's harsh? Read this and then get back to me.
Whoever did this to this beautiful soul deserves to be starved, beaten, dragged behind a car, and then dumped like trash and left to die in pain and loneliness.
Make an effort today - just when you are ready to walk past your pet because you are in a hurry or are busy - STOP. Look at their expectant, loving faces, and give them what feeds their soul just as much as kibble feeds their bellies. Touch them, speak kindly to them, and then thank them for the privilege having them in your life.
The more years I add to my life, the less I find that I believe in what I was taught to believe as a child.
Or brainwashed to believe as a child. Like it or not, by clinical definition every religion is a cult, and every syllable of dogma is used to brainwash a mind into buying it wholesale. Just because a church has existed for a long time does not make it any less cultlike in its precepts, or more right in its execution. Just because pretty costuming is used and pipe organs play from above does not make it THE one that is right above all others.
Church, basically, in my ever aging years, angers me. It creeps me out. It makes me sad.
As the fight for equality continues towards its boiling point, many so called "Christians" are doing what they do - banging their Bibles, cherry picking their passages, and condemning all who are LGBT, and all who support them.
Preaching what they have been taught to believe - that everlasting damnation and hellfire are where we are headed, that God will smite us for supporting our fellow human beings, and being, well, quite frankly, no better than the "God Hates Fags" sign bearers of Westboro.
Sorry, but hiding behind crap like "hate the sin, not the sinner" is weak, cowardly.
I choose to live my life well. Period. End of story. I no longer choose to live it in fear of "hell" or promise of "heaven."
I choose to be unencumbered by priests and preachers who threaten damnation and promise salvation as if it is actually theirs to dole out. As if they have some direct line to the "Almighty."
Not your minister. Not your bishop. Not your shaman. Not your Pope.
They are mere mortals like all of us. Nothing more, nothing less. They just get the perks of a congregation happy to support them because, well, God needs money. He always seems to need money.
Since writing yesterday I have received the expected damnation emails. I have engaged a total stranger, whose sole (soul) purpose in life seems to be professional proselytizer and victim, in a Facebook thread. And I have "listened" to Carson via text as her head was ready to explode over this very subject at school.
Fear. It is a powerful force. Most religion cannot exist without it. Fear of questioning the lesson. Fear of not following the rules. Fear of burning in hell for all eternity.
And it is that fear that confounds people trapped in it when they meet someone like my daughter (all of them actually), or me.
We are nice. We give our time, our money, our patience, our love, our hearts. Not because some book or titled man/woman tells us to. Not because we think we are getting another checkmark in the heavenly ledger.
We do it because it is the right way to live. Not because we think we have to. But because when you decide to live your life unencumbered by dogma, the choice comes pretty naturally. Decent human beings will treat fellow human beings decently. That's why little kids get along so well. They have not yet been corrupted by bigotry, hand-me-down beliefs about other people, and fear of the other.
They just know if someone is being nice to them. Color doesn't blind them. In fact, they are blind to color. Hate doesn't cloud their little hearts. They don't know how to hate. They have to be taught that. They don't know about Jesus or God or Allah or Vishnu or Buddha. They know about sandboxes, hugs, smiles, and laughter.
That is the path of a human being until it is jerked to an offramp to be taught something else, to be segmented, broken off, convinced he/she is right and all others are wrong.
Look, religion is fine. I have said before that I acknowledge it can provide comfort, a sense of community. And I don't particularly care what you think or believe - but it needs to stay in its church. When it crosses the threshhold with the intent of telling others they are wrong, condemning them, hurting them, and trying to influence the governance of a nation - it must be called out and stopped.
I do not HAVE to buy into what you buy into. If my support of LGBT human beings makes you uneasy, use that little "X" in the upper corner to leave. Happy trails to you.
I will be 47 in one week. I do not mourn the additional mileage. But I do regret the wasted years spent on a road that taught me to marginalize others, believe my arrogance was "holy," and that caused anyone else a moment of pain.
You may choose to live your life with the fear of unproven Hell, but I choose to live mine with the solidly proven, heart refreshing, soul fulfilling feeling of simply living WELL.
And if your god, any god, wants to hold that against me in the end? Fine with me.
Equality. A quaint notion we profess to have used as one of the rocks upon which this nation was built.
It is there in our Declaration of Independence, proclaiming to the world, the "truth" that is "self evident," "that all men are created equal."
What a load of horseshit.
This empty rhetoric has been stinking up the land since the ink was drawn onto the parchment.
Written in a time when we literally owned human beings, beating them, demeaning them, casting them aside when they had served their purpose or were so broken they could no longer serve our purposes.
Written by a cadre of privileged men who cared not one whit that their version of equality extended only to those like them. Not women, not blacks - just the good old boys club.
As this country has struggled to take steps forward, burdened always by those intent on dragging us back, people have died in their efforts to make this country live up to her words: "that all men are created equal."
The altar of equality is drenched in the blood of those who bravely took a stand and were cut down by cowards.
Have we made progress? Of course. Slavery was abolished. Yet there are still those wetbrained bigots who espouse their love for the "good old days" when "niggers knew their place." Women can vote. But the passel of ignorant dullards who still believe a woman's "place is barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen" is alive and unwell.
And then there are our brothers and sisters who are fully formed human beings, yet because they fall under the LGBT label, they are not treated as such.
Castigated by society, condemned by religion, brutally assaulted by heathens, and marginalized by law - LGBT human beings struggle daily to simply make others understand that they, too, fall under that line in our Declaration. They, too, were created equal.
I stress that because therein lies the disconnect. Bigotry, isolation, condemnation, and fear all rely on the ability and willingness to dehumanize another. Or the other.
Just because you don't understand someone else's attractions, gender identity, religion, does not make them less than you. In fact, I would posit that your unwillingness to understand another makes YOU less than them.
And hiding behind your religion doesn't give you a free pass in the bigotry stakes. Being hollered at by a preacher on Sundays doesn't acquit you from the responsibility to think for yourself, to actually dissect what you are being told to believe, and to ultimately call bullshit on it.
I truly feel sorry for those who hide behind the robes of Jesus, and who deign to speak for God. Because if there is a God - hell, if there are the 10,000+ currently believed in - I suspect the heavenly woodshed is not big enough for all the asses that will be dragged behind it by Them.
"Created in His image." "God created all things." "God doesn't make mistakes."
All platitudes used by those who claim to be holy, enlightened.
All platitudes that extend only to those just like them. Beyond that? Well, obviously what lies beyond are abominations and choices and Hell.
What lies beyond their selective interpretations are human beings. Beautiful, normal, loving human beings.
Lesbian, gay, trans, bi, non binary, and on and on. All feeling the same feelings as anyone else. All worthy of laws to protect them. All deserving of equal rights.
Gay parents do not make an adopted child gay. But straight parents pump out an awful lot of gay children. Go figure.
Two women raising a family are capable of just as much love and stability as the most straight laced hetero couple. And considering the divorce rate in this country, perhaps more. We heteros seem to excel at one thing when it comes to the sanctity of marriage: FAILURE.
No one has been able to explain to me how their marriage is threatened by allowing same sex marriage. NO. ONE. Not a friend, not a politician, not a pundit.
Because there is NO threat.
It is simply another tactic of fear to keep a base ginned up.
Allowing same sex couples to wed and enjoy the same legal protections afforded hetero couples does not mean your children will grow up looking for a same sex partner. It doesn't mean a squad of immaculately dressed and coiffed men will show up at Bubba's doublewide and drag him to the altar. And it doesn't mean that your hetero union is somehow suddenly worth less.
If your child is gay, they just are. If your daughter is attracted to women, she just is, and always was. And Bubba? I hate to tell you, but there are an awful lot of Bubbas who just so happen to be gay but are afraid of you, your hate, and your guns. And if your marriage tanks? Look in the mirror. It's not Adam and Steve who ruined it.
Gay men, lesbian women, bisexuals, transsexuals - all human beings. I don't have to hurt one to know they bleed red like me. I don't have to be one to know they laugh, cry, love, and live like me.
This is an important week in our history as the Supreme Court takes on Prop 8 and same sex marriage.
Personally, I don't see the debate. Remove the religious dogma that has zero place near the governance of our citizens, apply the words of our Declaration, and *VOILA!* the answer is simple.
Equality is an idea who time has come. Even if it is over 200 years late to the party.
Kids have gotten up to no good for as long as there has been puberty.
It doesn't matter if they are raised in a stable home, in the church, on a remote island - it's normal, and it's the natural extension of boundary testing, learning about themselves in relation to their world, and processing consequences for their actions. Heck, pushing to find the boundaries begins when a child is a toddler. The actions and subterfuge simply get elevated to an artform when hormones and the air of teen invincibility are added to the mix.
Through the ages kids have snuck around to meet up with friends, snuck out to meet a paramour, lied through their teeth, abused privileges, gotten away with it, gotten busted, and for most of us - gotten through unscathed. Wiser for the lessons learned, the fun/danger we survived, penalties we had to face.
But in the generation of kids currently being raised, the bad behavior stakes have been raised. Sure, technology certainly enables the bad ass personas they all like to front. It is much easier to bully someone who isn't standing in front of you and capable of balling a fist and smashing your lips into the wires of your braces.
It's also much easier to drastically alter the course of a young life with stupidly posed photos uploaded to every social network available. More than ever, colleges take advantage of these outlets to do a little background checking on applicants. And more than ever, students are finding that is what their capriciously stupid behavior and ego have turned them into: appliCAN'Ts, not appliCANs.
Schools find those drunken photos and thugshots (seriously, nothing is more pathetic than a teen taking a selfie in their suburban bathroom of them striking their best rapper pose. Well, maybe equally pathetic are the millions of selfies taken by girls who believe they are America's Next Top Duck Pout.). They find the disturbing, ballsy, drenched-in-ignorance bigoted ramblings, boastings, braggings, and attacks on others.
And they round file that application.
Which they should.
It is not a secret to these kids that their online activities live forever. It's just that they think they will, too, and that bad shit only happens in a town called Somewhere Else to other teens.
Couple technology with entitlement with a lack of accountability and you get the current Somewhere Else: Steubenville, Ohio.
We have all watched as the details of a night of partying among underage drinkers went into felony territory with the rape of an unconscious girl.
We have been sickened by the accounts of that evening. Free flowing alcohol. No supervision. And bystanders equally guilty of the crime as they employed their cell phones cameras, not their human decency.
Do the parents of ALL of these kids deserve some blame, much derision? Of course. Any parent who blindly accepts what comes out of the mouth of a teenager is asking for the police to show up at their door. In the case in Ohio, the parents, hell, the town, deserve blame for engendering such a sense of entitlement among the football players that they live day to day without fear of consequence for whatever their actions happen to be.
So secure in their stupidity, players and other partygoers were literally Tweeting details about what was happening in real time.
“Some people deserve to be peed on #whoareyou ” That's a beautiful nugget retweeted over and over by partygoers.
And why not? The town leaders, when they found out what had taken place, did what they do - tried to sweep it under the rug because of the boys involved. Boys FAR TOO IMPORTANT to the success of their football program to be sullied or taken down by the mere rape of a compromised teen girl.
As the story broke and rose to national attention, more Tweets began against the girl who had been abused. Along with those Tweets, hashtags like “#StuebenvilleStarsForever” surfaced.
The idiocy and lack of decency is profound here.
These boys and their friends are not "Stars Forvever." They are animals. They are criminals. Whatever was not instilled in them by their parents; whatever was killed in them by the repeated strokes of how great they are, how untouchable they are - that young lady paid the price.
Should she have been passed out drunk? Of course not. None of them should have been drinking, let alone drunk to the point of unconsciousness.
But her compromised state no more entitled them to abuse her, than a woman walking down the street in a skirt and freshly shampooed hair is "asking for it."
No compassion, no EMPATHY. No one even stopping for a moment to put themselves in that position. But again, they were too busy Tweeting, and posting photos to let a little thing like human decency slow them down.
Every day we see stories of teen violence against homeless people, against each other, against parents, siblings, animals. It just seems like we are raising a crop of kids so disengaged, so numb to what others may be feeling, so uncaring, and so callous.
Yes, I do ask the "Where are their parents?" question because it is APPLICABLE. So many teens simply have disengaged, numb, blissfully ignorant parents raising them - or NOT raising them.
And now, with the two main criminals in the Steubenville case having been found guilty, more arrests and charges are being brought against teens who are going online and threatening the victim.
Threatening the victim.
Seriously. I can tell you that I would need prosthetic feet if one of my daughters pulled shit like this because my real ones would be broken off in their ass.
But they wouldn't.
They have been raised from day 1 with accountablility, empathy for others, compassion, a bone deep understanding of right and wrong, consequences for their actions and inactions (because yes, as evidence in Steubenville, inaction can be just as bad), and the absolute understanding that I monitor what they do.
My girls may not be perfect, but they know I have their back at all times: To catch them when they fall; to push them forward when they are afraid; and to kick their sorry asses when they screw up. I do not buy excuses, I do not get between them and consequences. And if that means they hate me from time to time, FINE. Hate away. I am not in some parenting popularity contest, I am trying to raise decent human beings.
My crop is flourishing. The crop in Steubenville is dead on the vine. How is yours?
Today I finally had an opportunity to drop in at the Engine 2 Immersion taking place outside Austin the past week. It was my privilege to watch my friend, Natala C, speak to the attendees - all embarking on a plant based journey - and impart not only her personal story, but her words of wisdom culled from years and years and years of struggles.
Struggles that nearly led to death. Struggles that ultimately led to revelation, health, and renewed life.
Many of you know that Carson and I have been plant based for over two years. It was with Natala's guidance that we made the change, embraced the challenges, and now don't even think about it.
We just ARE.
We are happy. We are healthy. We are strong. We are energized. We are plant based.
Watching Nat hold the audience captive, I reflected on our journeys. She can speak of diabetes, near amputation, vision problems, weight up over 400 pounds. Dropping the equivalent of two of me from her small frame.
I can speak of how I feel, yes, some weight dropped. Carson can speak of the challenges of facing down fast food addicted peers and their truly stupid questions (Is water vegan?), learning how to balance being plant based with the high energy demands of her athlete life, and how much stronger, faster she is. But we know we started at a place far removed from where Nat was.
Our roads traveled to this place are different, but the destination is the same. HEALTH.
Listening to Nat, watching her bravely put up pictures of herself at her heaviest, and taking in the absolute candor she offers those who want to learn, I could not be more proud of my friend.
Seeing the teary eyed attendees flock to her afterwards to just bask in the glow that is this remarkable human being - well, I get it.
When someone is willing to show you themselves, wholly, completely, warts and all - people who are hungering to change gravitate to that light.
When Natala looked death in the eye so many years ago and told it to F*ck Off, her journey was just beginning. Baby steps taking her towards health, a future. And while she may not have ever envisioned herself as the poster child or pin up girl for Engine 2 and the astounding benefits of a plant based lifestyle, that is who she is. Giving advice, hope, love, light, and her heart that others may turn their lives around before it is too late.
And that deserves a standing ovation every single day.