#LivesMatter

I’m currently in Brazil so I get all my news from the internet, which is how I found out about the shooting in North Carolina. I want to take a moment to discuss something with y’all.

It seems that there is some confusion as to what the murderer’s motive was—I’ve seen articles asserting he shot and killed three young adults over a parking dispute. Ignoring the religious/racial aspect of the murders for a moment, this idea alone is ridiculous, and a great example of why gun control is needed. Don’t get me wrong, I love guns. I shoot them for fun. At a piece of paper. In a range. However, I do not own one, because I do not need one. But I digress, this blog is not here to debate gun control issues, and I’m not well versed enough in the intricacies of that debate to assert a solid opinion (the one thing I know I believe is that background checks should be mandatory).

A man, possibly angered over a parking issue, murdered three people.

Over a parking issue.

Now, in the next several days, there will be many debates over whether or not it matters that the three victims were Muslim. Pundits will argue back and forth about whether this man would have killed these people if they had been WASPs, and whether he should be labeled a terrorist. Hypotheticals will be bandied about in an effort to eat airtime and justify the profit made off of commercials.

So does the religion of the victims matter?

Yes. Yes it does. But not necessarily in the way we might think.

This man may not hate Muslims. I don’t know him, I don’t know what went through his head. But I do know he looked at three people in anger and shot them. And this tells me something. It tells me how little he valued their lives.

As humans, we have a tendency to categorize other humans. It’s our nature. It makes it easier for us to draw connections, easier for us to think we understand the world and the people in it. This person is Christian. That person is Muslim. That other person is Jewish. This person is conservative, that person liberal. This person rich, that person poor. This person religious, this person not. We walk around every day and we carry our labels. We are asked to define ourselves using them. Life is simpler that way.

There is a movement out there in the media and in politics that defines Christians as good, Jews as less good, and Muslims as evil. Cities fight to forbid mosques from being built. Extremist pundits argue that it is not possible to be Muslim without hating America. Most of us know better, but the message is there, and it is prevalent. It eats away at us as we argue over Islam and forget that we are talking about other human beings.

This insidious message got to this man, this murderer. He was angry. Maybe at Muslims, maybe about parking. But either way, he saw Muslims, and he did not think of them as living, breathing humans. He looked at two women and saw their headscarves instead of their beautiful faces. He looked at another man and did not see an equal.

And so three lives, filled to the brim with potential, were tragically cut short.

What are we doing?

It is time to stop categorizing. It is time to stand up for the only category that matters, humanity. I am human and you are my brethren. It is easy to get angry at each other as we encounter one another in the world, but at the core, beneath the superficial slights, we share a consciousness, a knowledge of each other, a bond beyond comprehension.

We should be judged individually, on our own merits, or not at all.

Please take a moment today to value the lives of 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, his 21-year-old wife, Yusor Mohammad, and her sister, 19-year-old Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, and mourn their loss. We owe it to them.

And then take another moment to value all life, this beautiful gift we have been given that can be so easily taken away. Hug someone and hold them close. That is humanity. We are beings of love.

Interview 9: Emily

Once again, sorry for the gaps in posts. Traveling internationally takes a toll on the blogging! If you want to be updated when I post a new interview, you can subscribe via email (at the bottom of the page), via WordPress, or you’ll see it when I post it on Facebook (since I assume many of you are my Facebook friends). But let’s get to the point–my interview with Emily!

I met Emily over seven years ago, at nerd camp–the Governor’s Honor’s Program in Georgia. We were both selected as “Communicative Arts” majors, a fancy way of saying “bookworms”. The first time I saw her, I knew I was looking at a kindred spirit. I don’t really know why. But we’ve been friends ever since. We went to different high schools and different colleges, but in Atlanta, so we saw each other at least a few times a year and spoke frequently.

Emily once wrote on her blog (check it out, it’s witty and poignant and fantastic) that she feels about me “roughly the same as Leslie Knope feels about Anne Perkins,” which is probably the nicest thing anyone has ever said about me. And if I am Anne Perkins, she is definitely my Leslie Knope. She’s smarter and more focused, positively adorable, and overall a better person than I–and I would HAPPILY punch anyone for her or make her a last minute wedding dress. She’s also wickedly funny. And I know if I needed her, she would drop everything and be here for me in a second. She’s that kind of friend.

When transcribing interviews, I usually have to edit out a few shared jokey moments or make some things clearer because of my history with the interviewee. What I discovered during my interview with Emily is that not only do we have a habit of understanding where each other is going and interrupting–we also don’t finish sentences because we know the other knows what we are thinking. The result was an interview that made me laugh out loud while I transcribed it and also required a lot of editing for clarity. I’m still not so sure that some of my questions are clear–but Emily knew what I meant. There’s also a bit toward the end where we both started crying–I didn’t keep the actual crying in the transcribed interview, but you’ll probably be able to tell where. We managed to pack a LOT of interview into less than thirty minutes–so this one is a bit long, but it’s definitely worth the read.

Interview 9: Emily

“To be remembered, and remembered well by people you have helped, is a motivation for doing good works, and also for making as much of an impact as you can in your time on this planet.”

Me: If you would go through how you were raised, and how that brought you to where you are religion-wise today?

Emily: Sure! So…my mother was raised as a practicing Reform Jew, and kind of quit practicing herself when she was in high school, and didn’t really identify as a practicing Jew past that point. My dad was raised…my paternal grandfather was raised fairly strictly Baptist and my paternal grandmother is the daughter of a Methodist minister and went to a Methodist college on scholarship as a result. Both of them, I think, had fairly aggressively lost their faith by the time they went to grad school, and they were both in a PhD program, that’s how they met…they were super into the Beats, that was their whole deal, so they super didn’t believe in anything. They identified, I think, my grandfather in particular identifies as an atheist, and so raised my dad not as anything, and my dad pretty aggressively identifies as an atheist at this point, but an atheist descended of Christian stock, so I grew up celebrating Christmas and Easter as non-religious but family holidays. We’d go visit my grandparents.

Emily

We always did Thanksgiving with my mom’s side of the family so as a result—because on that side of the family, everyone else is still practicing Jews—we would do Hanukkah then, just called it good. Beyond that, my cousins on that side of the family were all named growing up, so we’d go to my grandmother’s synagogue for the naming; when my grandmother died we had an unveiling after a year–so that side of the family is actually Jewish, and my sister and my dad and I are kind of the anomaly there. So yeah, I was raised—that was kind of roundabout—was raised not really believing anything, didn’t have to go to church, didn’t have to go to synagogue, didn’t have to do any of those things, which was considered super weird by the standards of Tulsa, which is where I grew up. My sister and I used to joke that we’re Jewtheists, but like—there’s a difference, I think, between atheists who …walked away from the faith they were raised in versus people who just weren’t raised with any of that, and we fall into the latter camp. We were never rejecting anything, we just weren’t raised practicing as anything. So as a result, my sister and I both went to Emory, my dad works for Emory, my mom worked for Emory—which is…Methodist affiliated—and so, I don’t think we ever had any issues with that particularly, liberal Methodists being the Unitarians of the Protestant denominations, and so my sister was in the Glenn Methodist Youth Group growing up, and did that kind of stuff; I was involved in the Inter-Religious Council in college…we weren’t really ever like “Fuck religion, it’s the worst,” but we just didn’t—it wasn’t ours.

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