The eyes spill anger, the kind that festers.
Love turns to hate so quickly.
There’s a sort of hell inside a young mind. I see it every day at school and all the time at home. It’s the conflict inside all of us, but as an adult, we master it.
We live. We learn. We stop hurting so much over small problems. Most of us work on ourselves. The youth or young people seem to us to have everything while at the same time to lack the essential appreciation of that everything.
They desire too much and can’t control that desire. Some even acquire a collection of iPhones, iPads, and video games that startles the onlooker, the elder who never had anything.
They indulge in outrageous behaviors such as cutting or bullying.
They love too much, screaming and crying for a singer or rock band.
Some adults have the audacity to act the same way. And, all of it makes sense. After all, the young know how to live. Sometimes it even works to our advantage because we harness the energy level they have and use it to invigorate our lives, not harm them.
Some adults, however, know how to just be: to live without the need to return to the youth mindset.
But, what is it about youth, that age where you’re maybe 14 and you realize that you have a period and/or hair all over your body so you grapple with ways to cope with it? You go from insecure to almost good enough.
A teenage girl might struggle with body image and find a way to control it by exercising more and improving the way she looks in the mirror and to others.
But, the events that led to her struggle damaged her so much so that her hatred for herself and others lingers. No, it festers.
What is it that makes the youth hate so much? Hate everyone they love. Hate everything about themselves. Hate the most beautiful and pleasant moments in life. Then, what is it that makes them lash out—try to destroy themselves or those around them?
I often think of Hitler Youth when I see this in a tween or teen.
He must’ve known just how angry they were and simply gave them permission, encouraged them, to act on their rage.
Over every meal, during car conversations, or over coffee breaks, guns appear. No one seems able to turn away from them.
Guns are everywhere.
They killed the King of Civil Rights. They killed Hope over and over again.
They killed children, parents, and teachers.
But, we still love them—these guns we’re so proud of.
A recent conversation went like this:
“I think that no one here (in the U.S.) gets out of the car and fights anymore because we know that the other person might have a gun.”
I looked sideways at the person who said this. My heart beat faster. I told myself to calmly listen and do the same when I respond. I knew I would respond because, well, how could I not?
However, what made this an even more difficult situation was the fact that I respected this person and usually agreed with many of his views.
He said that in Australia people have been getting out of their cars and beating each other because of road rage. We happened to be driving when he said this. So, he continued with his theory that if only the Autralians had not banned guns….
“How can you say that?” I asked sharply.
I was answered with a slew of statistics about how many people in the United States have guns. But, I cared nothing about those statistics because all I could think about was those children and teachers being killed by a gun at Sandy Hook Elementary.
And, then, I spoke, loudly.
“You should be more careful about your opinions, especially because of what happened to those children and teachers. I realize people are the real killers. We do this. But, please, don’t tell me that giving people guns would stop the violence because of paranoia—the fear of being shot?”
He stopped. He realized how ridiculous he sounded.
As we talked more about guns and the people who use them, we also talked about why they use them. A gun in the hand of a hero might be a tool for protection either for himself or for another. A gun in the hand of a monster might be the end of any innocent life.
Then, we talked about what makes a hero and what makes a monster, and then, who’s responsible for making a hero and who’s responsible for creating a monster? I thought back to the last post here.
Could it be that simple?
Every adult reaches out to every child at one point or another. And, it’s not like the media doesn’t pick apart every angle of a killer’s life, a killer like that of Sandy Hook’s, Adam Lanza—lonely, withdrawn, anti-social. Oh, yeah, and don’t forget about the money. It seems he had way too much money.
So, what about the killers with no money?
I know a boy like many boys who plays an inordinate amount of violent video games, almost every one of them involves shooting people or zombies. I knew him before he did this all the time. And, yes, he was a brat sometimes, angry, happy, everything you’d image a smart kid growing up in the United States might be.
Now, at age 14, he’s withdrawn, angry, lonely, just like a lot of boys his age.
What makes a hero and what makes a monster?
Someone could’ve ripped the video games out of Adam Lanza’s hands, kept him in school, helped him understand why he was different, befriend him, give him the kind of attention he really needed.
Maybe. Maybe that would’ve made a difference.
But, it was the gun in his hand that killed all those innocent children.
With Yom Kippur coming up this Wednesday, my son reminds me that this teacher planning day is a Jewish holiday.
He says, “Memember?” tugging on my shirt, looking up at me. Yes, I thought, I do. I remember it all. How could I ever forget?
When he was turning four years old, I searched for a good school because the one he had attended when he was three left him acting like a mini hoodlum. I found a lot of good ones, but they were either too expensive or too snooty. I kept rolling right back to the Jewish Community Center. It housed a small, early childhood education center, and everyone there seemed so welcoming. I’d also heard some wonderful word-of-mouth reviews about the school and read some great articles about it.
So, I consulted my husband whose very Catholic parents applauded the idea. They themselves were members of the JCC gym. So, with the whole family’s approval, I confidently registered my son for Pre-K.
Not everything went smoothly. For one, I hadn’t thought about the difficulty of packing a Kosher lunch.
But, that wasn’t the most difficult part. It was the part about Christ because, yes, this four year old asked me about it. So, I did what any self-respecting parent would do. I first contemplated lying. After scrapping that pathetic idea, I asked him some questions instead.
The answers I got made all the difference.
According to him, Christ was a Jew so anyone who was Christian should also be Jewish. I told him that was the best answer to any question I had ever asked.
And it was. Not because it fulfilled my desire to avoid an answer I didn’t really have but because it was the kind of answer most adults can’t give.
We can’t give an answer because we forget. We forget the real meaning of religion. With all our piety, we forget that religion offers us a set of standards with which to understand our fellow human being, not destroy him.
The world we live in right now. This angry, vengeful place we all should share but can’t and won’t. In this world, we refuse to share. That’s the most basic concept we teach a baby. a child.
We can’t seem to get past those moments when we first possessed a toy and screamed then cried when another child tore it from our grip. We grow, we learn then we return back to being a baby, constantly craving more.
All those babies, screaming over who’s right and who’s wrong, could learn a profound lesson from a little boy.
He will always feel that a piece of him is Jewish. He keeps his kipas or yarmulkes in a drawer and asks me when’s the next Bar Mitzvah. He likes to bring out his menorah placemat during Christmastime. When we’re driving and pass the JCC, he asks when we’re going to visit again. I smile and remind myself we have to go back someday soon.
Liquid in my Eyes
Then, I read the latest news or listen to a report on National Public Radio and I’m reminded of the divide, the extreme, the hell we put each other through because of our beliefs. Instead of proudly admiring my son’s views, I begin to obsess over when he will change. When will he become one of us? Or worse, when will he turn into a baby all over again, screaming for what belongs to him, for what is “right”?
The shape of our world feels like liquid in my eyes, things always changing, but there’s a fire burning that the water can’t seem to extinguish.
We’re so furious, so hateful. It’s not just religion that fuels this fire. It’s the fact that so many of us lost the true value of it.
This is not to say that only a four year old possesses the ability to catapult right over knowledge into power.
I do see hope in the wisdom of his grandparents who rallied around my decision to put him in a Jewish school. I saw it in the JCC leaders and members. I see it in those who volunteer their time for various organizations such as Amnesty International.
But, for most it’s momentary.
The minute we insist we’re right and another person is wrong. It’s gone.
So, what if we didn’t try to be right? What if we just tried to make sense of the rights and wrongs by fitting them into each other? Like this little boy, what if we go back to Kindergarten and take our own basic lessons to heart?
Every Jewish holiday reminds me to do this. Don’t ever forget.
The mission: Helping great writers get discovered.
If you have a story to tell, a blog, a short story, a novel, a fierce desire to write, then you need to find Writer’s Bloq and the Kickstarter campaign. Because it’s only the beginning of the journey, this is an incredible opportunity for writers everywhere to join and find a place for their talent to be seen and heard.
The founder and CEO of Writer’s Bloq, Nayia Moysidis, embodies a spirit of blemished ferocity in the form of love. She refuses to buckle under the pressure of defeat—a very real, crushing reality for all writers at some point in their lives.
She started Writer’s Bloq after being rejected or, in more accurate terms, ignored 89 times.
Her hair pulled back into a long braid, her intensity alive, she speaks with the skill of a confident leader. Her power lies in her compassion. She understands and identifies with those who follow her. They follow her because they trust her. They follow her because she’s one of them: A writer.
Writer’s Bloq launched a Kickstarter campaign on August 22, 2012. Writer’s Bloq has seven days left to meet its goal in order to raise $15,000 so its team of writers can begin their Bloqparty Tour and promote their quarterly and their novels. They have raised $13,353. You can learn more about it by clicking on their Kickstarter campaign.
Writer’s Bloq isn’t just a writer’s showcase. It’s a home for writers to connect and draw attention their work in a way only a true hero can deliver. At the Bloqparty gatherings, writers meet up with industry professionals who have the opportunity to greet them in person, to give a voice to their words that might otherwise go unheard.
Nayia leads as Katniss does. Nayia braves the sorrows of talented writers being threatened with extinction. She’s the leader of a writing revolution because she embraces the fear inching through the publishing industry. A fear, if ignored, could become a reality.
She found a solution to a problem that’s grown into an epidemic, the kind that kills a writer’s basic instinct, to write and be published. Her solution means that writers don’t have to do what I did many years ago.
One of the main reasons I began this blog stems from this young, fiery soul. I had met Nayia Moysidis through friends and had gotten an email about her blog http://www.nayiaisms.com/.
When I read her blog, I chuckled. I read another post and cried. I read another and thought, “I used to share her passion for writing.”
So, right before bed when I was supposed to be too tired to think, the thoughts rushed around blocking my desire to sleep, so much so that I started writing again. And, I haven’t stopped since.
Yet, what I discovered was startling and sickening. I found that I’d become a good writer, not much different than I was 20 years ago, but I had nothing much to show for it. Okay, I had a resume with Publications Specialist on it and I could announce Award-Winning teacher with confidence. That was nice. But, I couldn’t proudly say, “I’m a seasoned writer because I’ve written this, this, and this.” I had worked in the publishing industry but I had created work for other people, most of whom either openly or insidiously claimed the work as their own.
I had been rejected as much or more than Nayia, so I packed away my dreams and slipped them under the bed. I became a very practical, very acceptable person, my true power sedated.
The worst part was that I had sold myself short. I had accepted my rejection as a truth instead of a reality.
To write this, as a writer, is even more painful than saying it out loud because when I say it, I usually contort my face and alter it or I say it as a source of twisted inspiration to those preparing for the beginning of their journey. It’s never truthful because it hurts too much.
I started out writing passionately and with a desire to change the world like so many artists. I did write. I have written. I have created, but I didn’t do it with the bravery I know I should have, the bravery I could have.
The Good Fight
So now, I support, love, and cheer for those who do what I didn’t. And, I do what I didn’t with trepidation. I say trepidation because after so many years of telling myself that I can’t do something, it’s hard to break that pattern.
If you don’t talk, if you don’t write, if you don’t take those chances that feel as if you’re stepping out onto a tightrope, you’ll just coast or even worse, you’ll just wander and wonder (yes, the spelling was intentional).
If the Katniss of this writing revolution existed then, I would’ve wanted to follow her. I wouldn’t be the same person I am today. She refuses to accept the stinging reality that only a handful of writers becomes published authors and that the majority of those who self-publish find little success.
Nayiafights the good fight, uniting writer with agent, writer with publisher, writer with an industry that itself wanders around lost and confused about where to look and how to construct a new path.
Her success ensures victory for all writers and for all those who honor the written word because she embraces the bitter, the wounded, and the lost then gathers the ripe and the ready to fight.
So, find her, read her, then support her and the writers of Writer’s Bloq and the Kickstarter campaign. Join them. Become one of them. It’s only the beginning of the journey.
Back to school bullies conjure up all sorts of images. I still remember my first beating, girl-style. I still cringe when near a school cafeteria–that loud clatter of trays, sharp voices stinging my ears, and the mean girls.
The Art of Punching with Words
You remember don’t you? She walks up to you in the lunchroom, her pretty teeth flashing from beneath a sweet smile, a bow in her hair. You think, “Wow, I’m so lucky. She’s trying to make friends with me.” You smile back.
But, there’s nothing nice about her smile. She’s only practicing her punch. She plans to use you to make herself more powerful.
Girls punch each other with words.
“Hi,” she pauses, ”Look, I don’t want to hurt your feelings or anything, but your food smells. Please stay away. Why don’t you move to the other table. Thanks.”
Her question is a command.
She says it all in an even tone with a slight whine on the “Thanks.”
She’s clearly mastered the art of punching with words. Her victim usually bows her head and moves away, sitting alone at another table for the remainder of the school year.
Girl power packs a deeper punch.
With all the girl power in the forefront of the news and media, no one seems to get to the core of a very real divide among women and girls. Mean girls still rule the roost.
My daughter learned this first-hand last year.
My daughter had grown taller than the rest of the fourth graders. She preferred boy shorts instead of skirts and tiaras. Oh yeah, and she liked to eat.
All this of course made her an easy target for mean girls.
They started surreptitiously.
In the mornings, they pointed out a flaw, which wasn’t really a flaw. “I like your ponytail.” Then POW, “Oh my god, look. You have a bump in your hair. Let me fix it for you.”
Then they fumbled with her hair until she marched off to the bathroom and ripped her ponytail out of her hair. She then let her hair hang walking with her head down becoming the monster they wanted her to be.
Bullies love lunchrooms.
Her worst nightmare lived in the lunchroom. When she unpacked her lunch, a chicken sandwich, they held their noses and slid away from her. “Your lunch smells. I can’t stand it. Go to the other table,” they whined.
Those few sharp words effectively damaged her self-esteem and isolated her at the same time. She didn’t want to be around them, and she definitely didn’t want to eat.
I felt so frustrated when we’d get home and she’d be starving, gorging down any morsel in sight.
But, later, in that quiet space right before bed, she told me why she did that. She said she was afraid they’d make fun of her again.
I then became her shoulder to cry on with bits of advice along the way.
So, this year, she plans to fight back with her anti-bullying campaign. She created a poster depicting a bully-busting superhero resembling wonder woman.
Most likely, she’ll become an even bigger target because she’s fighting back in a loud and clear way.
They will talk. And, they will do it with those same spiteful yet artful words.
You know what I’m talking about. Look around you, the gossip of mean girls still streams over the Internet, the television, the news. Everybody listens and often enough everybody follows. Why do you think so many girls and women attempt the daunting task of wearing skinny jeans?
But, this time, my daughter will be better prepared to deal with the backlash of a bully backed into a corner. She’ll know what it feels like to take a punch and she’ll be practicing how to bounce back.
And, me, I’ll be there to catch her when she falls or at least pick her up, brush her off, and give her a shoulder to cry on.
Film Quarterly offers serious film lovers in-depth articles, reviews, and interviews that examine all aspects of film history, film theory, and the impact of film, video, and television on culture and society.