The Brouhaha of Cultural Appropriation

I was talking with some Boomers in my life this past Halloween when somebody brought up how the holiday’s been “politicized.” I personally don’t think there’s anything “political” about treating a culture with human dignity, but somewhere along the line, somebody trivialized the act of being inclusive into a political construct. These boomers I know are good, kind, generous people who I think just haven’t considered the implications of cultural appropriation past the context of something childlike and innocent, like playing “cowboys and indians.”

I know anybody who’s reading this post of their own free will and volition is doing it because they probably agree with what I’m saying. That’s the first step, but carrying the belief of respecting other cultures and other peoples’ full humanity is lifelong practice! We all need call-outs and call-ins, and I want to continue to challenge us all to work towards these values. Also consider sharing this with somebody else who might need a little clarification in their life!

Cultural appropriation is the act of taking something sacred from another culture and donning it for aesthetic reasons while remaining willfully ignorant of the culture from which you are drawing. Usually, the culture being appropriated has faced pressure to assimilate with western ideals, dress, and religion. On a much less subtle note, cultural appropriation is also dressing up like a stereotype of culture. It’s a form of mockery and it’s overtly racist.

We are living in a politically volatile era right now. Duh. We are a polarized society, so when we take something and claim it’s “political,” we’re setting everyone up to brace for a fight, either in defense of a point of view or against it. However, as second-wave feminist writer Carol Hanisch wrote in 1969, “the personal is political,” and the experiences lived by cultures different from traditional western culture deserve to be acknowledged. If a group of people that western culture has objectively forced into assimilation says, “You are taking something important to us and using it for your own benefits while negating the strife that your culture has caused ours throughout history,” we should listen. If we approach cultural appropriation with respect for our neighbors, I think we’ll have a much better understanding of what, exactly, cultural appropriation is and why it is something that we should be mindfully avoid.

Kat Blaque’s got a pretty great video that discusses cultural appropriation in greater detail. Check it out here

Brace Yourselves, Daylight Savings Time is Ending.

 
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On November 4th, millions of people are going to jump for joy about getting back that one hour's sleep they sacrificed back in March. Sure, we can all stay out at the bars an hour later or sleep in an hour more the next day, but hold up--let's not forget that Daylight Saving Time sucks. Every year, we get used to sleeping in an hour later only to groan when next spring rolls around and we've got to adjust to the time change all over again. Here's a wild idea: let's NOT.

According to the internet (the ever so reliable WebMD, in this case), the time change affects our circadian rhythm quite a bit  because it changes its primary cue, sunlight, by a whole goddamn hour all of a sudden. NOT ON MY WATCH, IT WON'T! Okay, on my physical watch, it will, but you knew what I meant. By keeping my circadian rhythm intact, I'm hoping that adjusting in the spring won't be as hard as it usually is. 

My game plan is to go to bed an hour early on November 4th so that I can still claim my extra hour. On November 5th, though, I'm going to wake up between 6:30 and 7:00 am, which was 7:30-8:00 am the day before, which is the time of day my body is used to getting up in the morning. For those of you who live in more northern/therefore darker locations,  a daylight lamp is a great item to purchase. If you haven't heard of a daylight lamp, they're fantastic. It's essentially an alarm clock that wakes you up by getting gradually lighter, making for an easy (and circadian rhythm maintaining) wake-up. You can get one for as cheap as $29.99 on Amazon, but I really like the Phillips Wellner Smart Table Lamp. I can control it from my phone, use it as a bedside lamp, and it looks pretty cool and futuristic, sorta like Baymax.

Folks who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (appropriately dubbed, "SAD") can benefit greatly from a daylight lamp/light therapy. So can people with mood disorders! According to Psychology Today, "If one is treating a mood disorder, light therapy is best given for duration of 30 minutes for every hour one sleeps beyond 6 hours. So for example, if one sleeps 8 hours, they would require one hour of light therapy given one hour before they would normally wake. Since this is unlikely to be done by people who already feel the need for more sleep, it is best to use a dawn simulator light." They recommend starting light therapy one week before symptoms set in, or as soon as they do. Although studies have been performed using a 10,000 lux lamp, other studies show that a light with a lux of 500 could be just as effective. For more information on the benefits, check out the Psychology Today article referenced in this post!

 

"I Am Enough because I Say I Am" and Other Revelations

I have been telling myself some delusional story that I am not a writer, that I could not possibly identify as one, forever. I tricked myself into believing it was true despite the fact that as early as elementary school, I experienced most moments of my life with a narrator in the background. I crafted whatever I was experiencing into sentences and into short, fragmented stories. I wrote a short story in elementary school that was bound in a hardback book, took creative writing in high school, excelled in grammar, became a phenomenal speller despite having failed most of every spelling test I ever took in elementary school. I even considered majoring or minoring in creative writing at my college, which was KNOWN for its creative writing program and which produced the author of that one book that they turned into a movie about escaping an island with Leonardo Dicaprio in it. But I didn’t think I was a writer. I thought somebody else was more qualified to claim that title. And my sacrificing of identity didn’t stop there: somebody else was more qualified to study costume design, somebody else was more qualified to step up and perform a dance in front of the Emmy-winning Mia Michaels, that somebody else, that somebody else, that somebody else.

I got so mad the other day thinking about how I have put myself in a box to prevent me from taking up space that I thought other people deserved more. I was cleaning at the time and this narrator sentence formed in my head, only it didn’t go away, it kept knocking, knocking, knocking, bumping into my skull, begging me to listen and give it space. The sentence morphed into the first few lines of a poem and I grabbed a pen just in time to catch it as it all came pouring out.

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Writing this poem was a bizarre burst of creativity that came out of nowhere and ended as abruptly as it started. I feel like I vomited that poem out. Like one giant heave that cleared my head, splattered all over the page in front of me, and left me exhausted but feeling a little better.

The crazy thing about writing this poem is that I probably wouldn’t have realized what had happened had it not been for Big Magic. Big Magic is a book by Elizabeth Gilbert about living creatively and without fear. I finished it a couple weeks ago. In it, she describes a fellow writer’s experience with poetry:

“As [Ruth Stone] was growing up in rural Virginia, she would be out, working in the fields and she would feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape. It was like a thunderous train of air and it would come barrelling down at her over the landscape. And when she felt it coming . . . 'cause it would shake the earth under her feet, she knew she had only one thing to do at that point. That was to, in her words, "run like hell" to the house as she would be chased by this poem.The whole deal was that she had to get to a piece of paper fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page. Other times she wouldn't be fast enough, so she would be running and running, and she wouldn't get to the house, and the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it, and it would "continue on across the landscape looking for another poet."’

I felt that same experience for the first time in my life the day “I Am” hurled out of me. It was euphoric. My hand moved quicker and quicker to keep up with the thought and by the end of the poem, my words were big and lose and sprawled over twice as much space as they should have. By the end of it, I had taken up twice as much space as I should have. I realized that when I took up space with my creativity, I wasn’t taking space away from anybody else. The space for creativity is endless.

The experience was almost like an exorcism--only an exceptionally pleasant one where my inner voice made itself heard and acknowledged in concrete form. It said, “I am a writer because I write. I am a writer because I say I am. I am in charge of my identity.” To that voice, I say, “Rock on, you bad bitch.”

Don't Pray for Las Vegas

Don’t pray for Las Vegas.

Don’t change your profile picture in solidarity.

Don’t post a status about how hurt you are to see that this has happened again.

If the only action you’re going to take is to condemn gun violence from the safety of your couch to people who are mostly in agreement with you, don’t bother.

Now, I’m not condemning anyone’s religious preference or

how they choose to heal their wounds.

I’m condemning this laissez faire, “We care!” mentality

that “proves” that we care and “proves” that when others hurt, we hurt, too, that “proves” that we have an ounce of humanity left within us.

I’m condemning the unspoken elephant in the room that when you say, “Pray for Las Vegas,” you mean, “The only thing I will do for Las Vegas is Pray.”

You mean, “I care, but not THAT much.”

You mean, “That’s just the reality of the world we live in these days.”

You mean, “I will not google my representative.”

You mean, “I will not call or email my representative.”

You mean, “I will not speak out against gun violence except to do so with my fingers on a tiny glowing screen.”

You mean, “I will do nothing, but I will hope that somebody else does something.”

You mean, “I will let this world turn to ruin as I sit idly by.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I am sick of this “cog in the wheel” mentality, this, “I’m doing something, see?!?” when “doing something” means knowing what you’re doing is not enough and not caring to do better.

It’s lazy.

It’s privileged. It’s refusing to believe that the victims of all of these mass shootings assumed they probably wouldn’t die due to gun violence instead of old age, an accident, or cancer.

Don’t WAIT for somebody else to do something, grab the problem by the shoulders and face it square off. CALL YOUR SENATOR. TELL YOUR FRIENDS TO CALL THEIR SENATOR. DEMAND BETTER OF THE PERSON WHOSE JOB IT IS IT REPRESENT THE CITIZENS OF AMERICA. DEMAND BETTER OF THE PERSON WHOSE JOB IT IS TO REPRESENT YOU. Until you direct your attention to your representative, they don’t HAVE to do jack. Posting to Facebook and failing to contact your representative is like doing your homework and refusing to turn it in.