The Yahoo! Contributor Network is closing. I will start putting the articles I want to save here. Today I chose to be political and open a can of worms. It's the 4th after all. Freedom of speech is important to me. This is an earlier article of mine before I understood how the internet worked lol. The links are not embedded, but if you follow the citations at the bottom you'll see my sources and can read the information for yourself. I never did believe in telling people what to think, so I really hope you do follow the citations and find these things for yourself. Come to your own conclusions if you don't like mine, but at least do the research and be critical of websites you trust. An old history teacher of mine once said, "Using a search engine is a little like standing on a busy street corner and yelling, 'Who knows anything about this!' Most of the people that answer have no clue."
Originally posted on the Yahoo! Contributor Network: One Nation Under God We Trust ... Maybe
How many of you have seen the rants on Facebook and other social media sites about 'keeping God in the pledge'? How many have seen the inflammatory artwork on both sides of the debate passed around and re-posted within an inch of its life by nearly everyone you ever knew and some you wish you didn't? The debate about including or excluding mention of God or any other deity in the American pledge of allegiance or on American money has gone viral and some days it's everywhere you look, hot, angry, and sometimes misguided. We are force fed a diet of phrases like, 'If it's on our money it should be in the pledge!' or 'I didn't ask your god to be in my government!' But do we really understand where 'One nation under God' or 'In God we Trust' have come from or why they found their way into everyday life?
I've had this debate with several friends in recent years and have argued on both sides of the coin. As I learn more my opinion changes. I am increasingly surprised at how many people don't realize where this all started. I hear a lot of arguments that the 'atheists' should stop the argument because they are such a small minority. While it is correct that the smallest groups usually scream the loudest, it might be important to learn that what they are screaming actually has a point.
The original pledge of allegiance was not even written for the United States and it was not written or adopted at the start of our government in 1776. According to USHistory.org, the pledge was written in 1892 by socialist minister Frances Bellamy. He had hoped the original pledge could be used in any country. Mention of God or a specific country wasn't included. It read only, "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." ("US History ") United States of America wasn't added until 1923. It wasn't until 1942 that the pledge of allegiance was recited in schools which became the familiar ritual most of us remember growing up. ("ProCon.org") You'll notice we're up to 1942 and 'Under God' still hasn't made its appearance.
In the 1950s the United States was deeply entrenched in the cold war. This was an ugly time for America. The US government began what was later termed 'witch hunts' trying American citizens for their political beliefs. There is no better example than the Rosenburg trials of 1950. Summarized, based only on their Russian ancestry and therefore familial contacts and a few doodles that could have been anything, brother and sister Julius and Ethel Rosenburg were put on trial for being communists and eventually put to death. (Linder) It was 1954 when Eisenhower signed into law a bill adding the words, "Under God," to the pledge of allegiance. At the time he is quoted as saying this was to distance US legislation from the, "Godless communists." ("ProCon.org") Communist Russia did encourage and sometimes enforce atheism, but what does that have to do with putting God into our own government?
The other phrase that has people in uproar is, 'In God we Trust' printed boldly on our money. This has been around much longer than 'Under God,' but again its origins do not go back to the start of our country but rather a time much later.
It was 1831 during the civil war when appeals from Christians around the nation started filtering through secretary of the treasury. The idea was that of course we couldn't win the civil war which had already stolen thousands of lives if we separated ourselves from God. Many different ideas were given but all had to do with adding to our money some reference to God protecting country. In 1864 congress agreed and the phrase was added only to the two-cent coin. Very slowly over 20 years or more the phrase was added to all coin money. However, it wasn't until the 1960's, again very close to the cold war and the induction of 'Under God' to the pledge that we began printing, 'In God we Trust' on paper money. ("UStreasury.gov")
Overall, I have to say 'In God we Trust' bothers me a great deal less than the phrase 'Under God,' because the original idea was to help heal a torn country rather than out of fear like the addition to the pledge clearly was. That being said I still disagree with it. My reason for that is fairly strait forward.
Most of us know about the constitution and a good deal of the bill of rights so I won't bore you with tedious information. At the time the United States government was created the settlers had come from places where the Christian Church controlled everything. It held more power than the government itself. Children were only taught what the church allowed them to. People on trial were found guilty or innocent at the whim of the church. Punishments were at the church's discretion. Arrests were made of people who simply believed differently. People sometimes died for no more reason than having an original thought. Our forefathers ran from that. They saw a nation where citizens would be free to think, speak, and believe as they saw fit.
The United States of America was created specifically so that no faith would have power over the government and that all peoples would be free to believe or not believe as they chose. This is not just an ideal but the founding principle on which our entire nation was formed. Whatever the intentions; allowing phrases about God or deity to infringe upon that most sacred belief chips away at the foundations of our government, eventually rendering it less and less effective.
Some of you will look at my profile and see that I am pagan and think, 'Of course she doesn't want God in the pledge, she doesn't believe in him.' I assure you that couldn't be further from the truth. I believe in a creator, a higher power, I simply choose to define it differently. I put faith into every aspect of my life, but I also believe in the reasons the United States was formed and the original vision for a nation of abiding peace. I worship and follow my faith at home. I walk the walk and talk religion with anyone interested, but even as I strongly as I believe in my faith, it has no business in my government. By keeping my faith and everyone else's out, I truly have the freedom to believe as I believe. This protects us all.
"10 Minute Summary on the Pledge of Allegiance." ProCon.org. ProCon.org, 06/08/2009. Web. 21 Sep 2012. .
"Hisory of 'In God We Trust'." UStreasury.gov. United States Department of the Treasury , 03/08/2011. Web. 21 Sep 2012.
Linder, Doug. "Trial of the Rosenburgs an Account." law2.umkc.edu. University Missouri Kansas City, 2011. Web. 21 Sep 2012. .
"Pledge of Allegiance." US History . Independence Hall Association, 1995. Web. 21 Sep 2012. .
The raising of children is a sacred duty. If we want a better society, we start with our children and attempt to raise them better, to not accept the societal problems we live under. Books and art are a great way to incorporate those ideas to children.
JEA very recently opened up a kids imprint, JEApers! My fellow press artists and I have been in lots of discussions about getting these books good art and what the industry looks like for children’s writers and illustrators. What burdens do they bring into the market? Should we be the press that publishes books about gender creative children (pre-adolescent group that defies gender status quo. i.e. boys who wear dresses) because it’s right, and stick our noses up to the inevitable backlash from new ideas? Or should we stick to the tried and true golden book model? What do we gain or lose then? Dr. Seuss was a huge pioneer in his day, incorporating ideas into his books that could potentially have him arrested in his era, but has become a mainstay and standard of children’s literature, in some cases for those very ideas.
I’m going to go back to an old landmark study from the 1940’s. Kenneth and Mamie Clark conducted a study in which both black and white children were asked which baby doll they liked better, the black or white one. A huge majority chose the white doll because they, even the black children, perceived the white doll as being all around better. Prettier, smarter, nicer. This study showed how very damaging racism is and the messages we surround our children with. It took many many years, but that study was a step in normalizing race equality. The lesson was so well learned in fact, that I run into all white families that purposely buy their children black, American Indian, and even Asian dolls, so they can normalize these cultures for their children early on.
I believe children’s illustrators have a chance to really make a difference here. I think we need to make a point of including different cultures, races, gender creativeness, faith practices in our drawings. If the character is never described by the author, why not make the child Asian, or American Indian? If the room is never described why not put some African tribal art on the walls? How about sneaking in bits of culture into the nick nacks of a scene? Maybe Grandma wears a pentacle, or Uncle Dan has picture of the Baha’i house of worship on his desk. Maybe Mom is in a wheelchair, or uses fake legs to walk. If we want our children to live in a global society we need to make seeing these cultural cues normal.
I’m currently illustrating a children’s book written by my husband, who likes the pen name, Uncle Dave. You see a sample page above. I have armies of teddy bears in this book and it was very important to me to include a gender creative bear. This choice was made after watching the struggle, devotion, and strength of a friend of mine who is raising her children to make their own music in every possible way. For me, personally, gender creative children are on the rise. Just like being in the LGBT community or a bi-racial community, they are here to stay. I support rainbow and blended children everywhere. And on a more selfish note, when my children come in contact with someone who looks or thinks different, I would be ashamed if their first reaction is fear. It doesn’t really matter in the end whether you agree or disagree with the differences people are born with or choose. It’s about teaching children to learn and grow from them all and to sing their own personal music as loud as they can because it brings them joy.
This is something I struggle with. Whether or not to review another author's work. Like any book worm I always have a book for pleasure on top of whatever I'm editing or formatting for JEA and my own projects. I just can't get enough of the written word. However, this brings up some ethical debates.
Reviews and ratings are an author's life blood. We live and die by them. Think about it. When you are on amazon or a library site looking for something to read, you first look at the star ratings. You organize your list so the highest ratings show up first. Then you find a cover the jumps out at you and click on it. Next you look at how many reviews the book got and how many were 5 star and so on. Then you finally read the description. It is essential that your book keep good reviews and lots of them. No one spends 20 minutes deciding on a book (well I do, but I'm a strange author type person).
As a new author I need to generate contacts with other people in the industry to get more exposure. I want everyone to read my books and review them and recommend them to other readers or folks in the industry, but then everyone wants me to do the same thing. That sounds simple and fair, but it's really not. This whole system can easily lead you into media and career hot spots you want to avoid.
Let me throw you some what if's. What if I read your book and love it? I leave a good review and you're happy so now you read mine, but you hate it, however you don't want to upset me so you fudge over the true critique the work needed. Well now you put a stamp of approval on a piece of drek. You have a bad reputation and now I do by association.
Okay so that one is a little far fetched. Try this one on for size. What if I read your book and hate it? If I put in a good review I've just associated myself with terrible work and whenever anyone reads it because of my recommendation their opinion of me goes down. If I give you the review you deserve you get mad at me and might either bash me publicly or leave me a bad review and hurt my career. So what do I do now? There is very little recourse. I can complain about bully reviews, but you can do the same to me. Who decides which review was fair and which wasn't?
One response to this is to only review books you genuinely like and hope for the best. Well now you've opened another can of worms. Sites like Goodreads tell the public how many reviews you've done and what the average star rating was for those. So if my star rating on reviews is high people think I'm a pay for review kind of person, no one trusts what I have to say. If my star rating is low, I'm mean and persnickety and just out to hurt people. Neither is true of course, but that is the perception.
It feels like because I'm an author my reviews would never be taken seriously. At the moment I've set my amazon to anonymous to avoid some of these pitfalls, but that doesn't help me generate more reviews or ingratiate myself to the industry. I've tried to look for creative solutions to this mess, but every way I go it seems another stumbling block.
I have joined the 21st century, folks. Didn't see that one commin' did ya? In any case you can now follow me on Twitter @SusanS_Writer.
It's been no secret I have been reluctant to join the mass market of social media. I never saw myself as someone who had a whole lot interesting or important to share. I have brief flashes of soap box material tangents or causes that mean something to me, but never a large amount on any one topic. I hate being spammed. I hate reading tweets like, "In the line at the store," especially from authors and musicians I follow. Because these things bother me so much, it never occurred to me that someone out there might genuinely want to know what I do with my day or the types of things I find important or funny.
Trying to market the things I do and my books has forced me into a borderline spammers market because everything is a numbers game. If only 10% of the people who read my posts buy a book...well then 10% of 200 people is more than 10% of 50. Exposure is everything. I always feel uncomfortable spamming but force myself to do it for the greater good. I think being forced into a corner doing something I take issue with has made me stay away from other uncomfortable corners out of spite for my situation.
Well I finally decided to put my big girl panties on, and deal with it. I won't be posting about long lines at the market or the quintessential search for my keys, but you may find excerpts and teasers from up coming books, art, jokes, and maybe a cause or two. Social media is what you make it. It is only vapid if you make it so.
Recently I saw an article that broke my heart a little. It was a tiny little thing with very limited information. ABC News reported additional violations on the freedoms of Baha’is in Iran. It wasn't so much the information in the article that hurt, it was the memory of how long this has been going on, the knowledge of how bad it really is, and anger at how little recognition this gets.
I was raised Baha’i, and though I choose to walk a different path, this issue remains near and dear to my heart. The Baha’i Faith is a standalone world religion, complete with its own sacred texts and manifestation of God to found it, that comes out of what used to be Ancient Persia and is now Iran and Iraq. Founded in 1844, the primary belief systems for the faith are the three onenesses. #1: There is only one God and we all worship him by different names and in different ways. #2: All religions are good and come from God, they just teach us different social teachings to cope with the challenges of the time they were founded and remind us of the overlying truths. #3: Man is absolute one family. We are all interrelated and symbiotic of each other regardless of race, nation, age, or gender.
This is all very straight forward. It is a peaceful faith that abhors violence of all kinds. I told one of my friends the other night that Baha’is are non-violent on a Ghandi scale. In fact, Ghandi is a figure that is much respected among Baha’is though he followed another faith himself. The leaders in Iran disagree. They see Baha’is as a wayward and dangerous sect of Islam, much the same way early Catholics saw Protestants as dangerous. What has ensued has been a one sided war from the Iranian government.
Let me be 100% clear here. This has nothing to do with the Muslim Faith. I know many Muslims who are friends of The Baha’i Faith. This is specifically the Iranian government. Please do not turn this into a tirade against Muslims. It is not.
In Iran Baha’is are:
*Denied higher education.
*Denied business ownership
*Not allowed to practice their faith in public OR private
*Labeled as deviant and misleading
*Subject to raids on home and property
*Often unable to leave the country
*Often unable to see family from other countries because they are denied entrance into the country
*Frequently arrested for practicing their faith
*Sometimes submitted to torture and death when arrested for practicing their faith
This is one concentration camp short of the holocaust. The Ayatollah’s recent move to tell ALL Iranians to avoid any dealings with Baha’is effectively shuns an entire population. I see history repeating itself and sometimes I worry if Iranian Baha’is will be forced to wear nine pointed stars on their clothing next.
What has me the most angry here is that this is not news. This has been going on since the faith was founded in 1844, and HAS NOT STOPPED. Many faiths have terrible beginnings in bloodshed as the predominant faith grapples for a strong hold from this new idea. Eventually the tides and times turn and things settle and we begin to LIVE with this new idea rather than fighting against it. That has not happened yet for the Baha’is in Iran.
I grew up with this. I am not of Middle Eastern descent. My parents were born and raised in America and so were their parents. My parents found The Faith in their adulthood and converted. And even so, I remember Persian refugees my entire childhood. I remember Sussan (pronounced Su San with soft S’s), a refugee who lived with us for a time. My older sisters had stories of going to the airport with family and friends to pick up refugees and listening to them comment on the girls wearing shorts. This is not some exception. We lived in rural Wisconsin, had a community of barley nine adults in the county. The Iranian issue was, and still is, so large that it hit every community in the world. Most Baha’is of my generation and the generation before have similar memories.
I used to do school reports on a girl named Mona Mahmudnizhad (yes I know Wikipedia is dubious but I’ve personally checked it and the limited info it supplies is correct). This young lady was 16 when she was arrested. She was teaching children who were not allowed to attend regular school because they were from Baha’i families. Because she was Baha’i as well she was arrested for “misleading children”. They raided her home and that of eight other women. They were arrested, tortured and hung. The story of Mona always stuck with me because of her strength. She was asked three times under torture to recant her belief in the Baha’i Faith. She refused. There are reports of her having dreams in which a long passed leader of the faith, Abdul’baha, the eldest son of Baha’u’llah the prophet founder of the faith, came to her and asked what she wanted. According to others who were able to speak to her before her death, she reportedly asked for perseverance, not freedom or life. When asked what she wanted before her death she said only that she wanted the children to be dancing so they wouldn’t be sad at the moment of her death. There are unconfirmed reports of her kissing the rope that would hang her and placing it around her own neck. She was my childhood hero and still is today.
Mona is also a prime example of the abuses indicative in Iran in present day! Maybe a little less than ten years ago I sat with a room full of Baha’is at our regular worship meeting and listened to a friend, who was a refugee himself, talk about his brother’s death in Iran.
Nothing has stopped. In fact it’s getting worse, and there continues to be very little media attention. The other night I was talking to a friend. He knows me almost as well as my own husband, and while I post information whenever I find it, this was still news to him. He had heard of The Faith. He knew I was once a Baha’i, but he had no clue as to how bad things really are. I realized I have been remiss in doing my part to get the word out. Maybe I am just so used to things being this way it doesn’t occur to me others don’t know. I showed him the most recent link from ABC News and he says it sounded like it was time for everyone to get out. I almost laughed, but instead smiled sadly and proceeded to explain, this is nothing new. The time to get out safely never existed. Iran has never been safe, and these abuses have continued since the founding of the faith.
I’m not much of a media butterfly. I’m more of a shrinking violet and continually fight my own shyness in all things media. However, this time…this time I am asking, pleading, almost begging for this information to be shared. No group of people, regardless of your personal views of their beliefs, should suffer in silence. No group of people should be persecuted or treated as less than human. This has nothing to do with faith or belief systems. It has everything to do with humanity.
Warning this has nothing to do with writing.
This is an old pet peeve of mine and probably not the last time you will hear about it. Every so often I kind of have enough of the media and the skewed images it forces on us. I get easily up in arms and pull out the soap box.
So here it is. News flash!
I'm a big woman. That's right I'm fat. By today's standards I'm probably downright obese. How many of you right now are thinking, "Whoopie freaking doo! A fat chic on the rampage. What else is new?" Maybe this isn't some major revelation but it still needs being said. Here's another news flash:
Big women are just as beautiful and desirable as skinny women.
Let me repeat that. Big women are just as beautiful and desirable as skinny women. That's right, I said it,and I stand by it. Here's another shocker:
I'm a big woman in the United States and I DON'T have body image issues. While I could stand to lose a few pounds for health, I still feel beautiful, feminine, confident, and desirable. I may not be every man or woman's cup of tea, but you'd be surprised at the offers I get, even being married, and not just from the freaks. Some of these men and women are GORGEOUS! And just to put this in perspective when I say confident, I don't mean in a put on a girdle and fake it till you make it kind of way. I'm talking, I once had to take a life drawing class online. This is the nude model class. Guess what happens when you have to do that online? You draw yourself. I had the guts to take a mirror and draw myself nude, in all my round glory, and I wasn't afraid of the reaction. In fact I got nothing but good comments.
It shocks me a little sometimes when people expect me to be depressed or want to hide myself because I'm big. I look at them and wonder what planet they live on. The average size woman in the USA is about an 18. The average size woman in the world is a 14. While there may be some countries that worry more about obesity in general, the fact remains, fat people live there too. Big and small people live everywhere.
I wasn't always confident. In my youth I struggled a lot with body image. The messages all around me were telling me I was ugly because I was fat. My mother mad major issues with obesity so the messages I got from my family were the same. "Don't be like your mother." They said this out of love and as an adult I can respect that, but as a kid...yeah it messed me up a little. Messed my mom up too. I was the freak. The outcast. I really was depressed because I was starved for peer attention but didn't understand what I had done to send them all away. And through this my heart kept telling me there was nothing wrong with me. But the evidence was to the contrary right?
Here is a truth I learned in adulthood, after having children, bad relationships, and a lot of time down and out.
1. It takes all kinds. There is every size shape and color imaginable on this planet and all of them are beautiful. If you take the time to see it and not be afraid of going against what the media says you're supposed to like, you'll see it for yourself. Get rid of the size 0 model image in your head. Drop the idea that women need to have DD breasts or men need to have washboard stomachs and really *look* at the person next to you. There's beauty there.
2. Your body has a natural place it likes to be. If we stop dieting and take the time to eat right--I'm not saying go ultra mega vegan, but maybe cut out fast food when you can and make better choices when you cant, and eat fruit and vegetables--and stay active--again you don't need to run a triathlon, but go play with your kids, do things you love, take a walk--your body will naturally find where it likes to be and go there. For some of us it really will be a size 8, for others it might be a 28. I know people in my life who are legitimately 300lbs and perfectly healthy. No heart trouble, no diabetes, no joint complaints. And I know 100lbs people are very sickly.
3. The media will only show the minority, not the ideal. There are very few people who can fit Abercrombie clothes. They show us that because it's exotic. Those models aren't always healthy, or happy. They do not love their bodies unconditionally or even their souls and minds.
4. There is more to life than beauty. Yes I am beautiful in my way, but I'm also smart, kind, creative, and funny. I love these things about me. I'm not perfect. I have flaws like everyone else, but when I started to love myself for these other qualities instead of judging myself by someone else's standard of beauty I began to love the whole package and that's when others started to notice me. It wasn't my size or shape that attracted other people it was the confidence shining out from underneath that attracted them. If you hide yourself and sulk you can look like a million bucks and no one will pay you any mind. If you walk tall and smile and let your soul shine, then you can be fugly and you'll attract everyone around you.
Here's a good example of all my points. I am a huge fan of Les Toil. He does BBW pin up girls. Look at this woman. She has to be over 300 lbs easily. Look at how lovely she is? How alluring? How sensual? How confident? How many women of all shapes want to be her right now?
Size means diddly. Living your life and loving yourself unconditionally is much more important and will do wonders for every part of your life.
Just to be very clear. Unconditionally means you love yourself regardless of what others think of you. Not judging yourself by other people's standards. Forgiving yourself for your mistakes. Wanting good things for yourself. Taking chances to make those things happen. Standing up for what you believe in. Loving ALL your good qualities. Knowing that even when life throws you for a loop you are worth the work it takes to see the other side.
That is my wish, ladies and gentlemen. That each of you can learn to love yourself unconditionally and stop the media blind side telling who and what we should be. They're not in your mind, your heart, or your soul. Who the hell are they to judge you anyway?
Susan is a writer and artist by day, a child and pet wrangler by night, and occasional crazy person on the weekends. She walks the path of a Siedr and strives to grow day by day.