Thursday, October 7, 2010

Homosexuality and Tolerance

I normally try to steer clear of touchy subjects that require a solid decision, either for or against. They usually have me stuck somewhere in the middle of the issue and it’s difficult to choose a specific side. I’ve thought about this for a long time now, trying to understand the arguments on both sides and learning from friends, family and even my own personal experiences.
For as long as I can remember, I have believed that the institution of marriage was meant for a man and a woman. I have been taught this through religion and for a more obvious, biological reason: because men and women create babies. This is a very simplistic and straightforward piece of information and I have clung to it for as long as I have been consciously aware of the idea of marriage and family.
Of course, living in a black and white world is simple; it’s either one way or another. The problem with this is that we don’t live in a world of black and white; we live in a world of color and this alone, makes certain issues more difficult to tackle. However, I have found that a lot of people want to cling to that black and white version of the world. It’s not difficult to surmise why; it makes things much easier. You stick to the one side you’ve chosen and you don’t have to deal with any conflicting feelings because you’ve made your choice.
I’m always questioning my world and the things in it, trying to figure out how I feel and why about various issues in life. And then I asked myself the ultimate question: why can’t I keep my own beliefs, yet still be tolerant towards others who don’t share my beliefs? We all have different beliefs and come from diverse backgrounds. Most (if not all) religions teach tolerance, acceptance and love, yet very few put those teachings into practice. I have a big problem with this hypocrisy in religion, especially when there is not one Supreme Being on this Earth.
I have thought about the main arguments I have heard from heterosexuals regarding why they cannot tolerate homosexuals, especially with respect to marriage and the family unit. What I have found and seen to be the main issues, involve: the religious beliefs on what a family is comprised of and whom a marriage should be between, health issues surrounding sexually transmitted diseases, whether being gay is something that one chooses or that is biologically imprinted and simply the definition that is socially accepted with regards to family and marriage.
The religion argument has been the hardest one for me to overcome. My religion has always played a very important role in my life and I couldn’t simply disregard those thoughts and beliefs. I took a lot of time to think about how I feel about homosexuality and what has been taught to me through the church. Yes, I do know that in the Bible, God condemns homosexuality and it is considered sinful. However, having said that, there are a multitude of other sins that heterosexuals commit everyday that are just as sinful, yet somehow these can be overlooked as long as you’re not a homosexual. This idea doesn’t resonate well with me, especially when you’re also taught to be loving, accepting and tolerant of others. I am not God; everyone has to account for their own sins and I do not feel I have any right to judge, as I am a sinner just as everyone else. God loves us all, even when we sin, yet I know many “religious” people that believe homosexuals don’t deserve God’s love and only care about converting them to what they believe. This leads me to my next point. If all you care about is trying to convert people to think the way you do or believe what you believe, you are not being the loving person as it is dictated in the Bible. We are supposed to love and care for all others, regardless of their own beliefs. It is only through love that the message of religion can really be heard. As a religious person, I would be highly offended by someone trying to influence my beliefs to match that of their own; what makes me think that I have the right to do this to other people? If someone chooses to have a different belief system from my own, it is their choice to do so. I would rather God be proud of me for loving and accepting all of his creations as opposed to trying to tear someone else down. As I said before, we all have to account for the decisions we make in life and I do not feel that I am better or more exalted than anyone else as I am too, a sinner.
The second issue that seems to come up a lot is the idea that homosexuals are the cause for the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. At the onset, one might be tempted to send the blame in that direction, but the group who spreads these diseases most rampantly is: heterosexual women! Yes, that’s right…heterosexual women. My thought behind this (and I’m not stating this as fact, but I guarantee there is some truth in it) is that there are men who are homosexual, but because of religious and social pressure, they remain in the closet yet they continue sleeping with their wives as well. It really is a shame that this happens because it’s really unfair to everyone involved. It isn’t fair to the woman because she believes that her husband loves her and is being faithful. It also isn’t fair to the man because, not only is he living a lie, but he doesn’t have much support to be open about these feelings. And it certainly isn’t fair to any offspring produced by the couple because they were brought into the world based on a lie. I would much rather live in a society where people feel they can be open about how they feel, to their partners and especially to themselves. If we had this kind of open forum in our society and in our communities, there wouldn’t be a need for the secrecy and we could better control the spread of these deadly diseases. However, as long as homosexuals feel they cannot openly express their true feelings, these diseases will continue moving through and killing people.
Another issue that seems to arise from the argument of homosexuality is whether it is something that is biologically imprinted or if it’s a conscious choice that people make for themselves. I think it’s easy for someone who isn’t homosexual to say that it’s a choice made by the person. I personally do not believe that it’s a choice made by an individual. Think back to all of the people in your life that you’ve been attracted to. Once you’ve done this, think about the forces that were at work when you realized your attraction. I’ll bet you probably had sweaty palms, your pulse running wild. Maybe your heart rate got faster or your mouth suddenly became dry. These are all physiological responses that are facilitated by the brain, which is attributed (in part) to a biological response. Now, think about those same responses and imagine that someone told you to simply “turn off” the attraction. Could you do it? Was there ever a person that you felt something for that couldn’t be explained by any rational thought? I know I have and there was no way that I could simply stop being attracted to that person just because someone told me so. If this is true for heterosexuals, why can it not be true for homosexuals? I do not believe that you have control over who you’re attracted to, even beyond all rational thought. If this is true and agreeable, one would have to admit that biology plays a role in homosexuality. Aside from this obvious observation, why would any person purposefully choose to be outcast, discriminated against, bullied or worse? I don’t know many people who would choose such a journey in life, one where they don’t feel that they can be themselves or have to hide from the world. In fact, there are some homosexuals who go to great lengths to rid themselves of the thoughts and feelings that undoubtedly (yet needlessly) plague their hearts and souls, especially those under societal and religious pressure. I guarantee you that even the “best” methods for trying to change one’s lifestyle by attempting to alter who they’re attracted to won’t work one bit. They will still continue to have those same thoughts and feelings. This, on top of everything else, will just lead to worse guilt that they cannot change something that isn’t truly meant for them to change in the first place. As a heterosexual, there isn’t any way that someone else could “convince” me through “reasoning” to change the gender I am attracted to and want to be in a relationship with. Again, if this is true of heterosexuals, then it must be true of homosexuals and that has to mean that there is a biological aspect at work.
Probably the most difficult issue that exists on this subject is simply how society views homosexuality and the accepted definition of marriage and the family unit. Historically, people who have been deemed by society as “different” have also been unfairly regarded as “bad” or “evil” people who don’t deserve to occupy space on this Earth, unless they have the ability to change. These unfounded, yet fast-held notions are the direct cause and result of slavery, racism, prejudice discrimination and the like. Is there a quick fix for these feelings?; absolutely not. If there was, these problems wouldn’t have existed for years, decades or even centuries. We are often times afraid and wary of changes and differences. Fear can lead people to have irrational thoughts, emotions and even actions. The thing we have to remember is this: we were all created differently; there is a reason why we all look, act, and do things differently. However, we all share common emotions that bind us together as humans. If we focus our energy into finding the common threads among us, we’d spend less time worrying about how people are different from us. What it all comes down to is this: there is not one person on this Earth who can claim perfection. We all do things while we are here that are despicable, wrong and sometimes, downright evil. How can any of us say that we are better than anyone else or that we somehow deserve to be here more than someone else? We cannot. Show me a perfect person and I’ll show you a liar.
My purpose here is not to try and change you to think or believe that homosexuality is “right” or “wrong.” I’m not here to influence what you believe about the issue. All I want to do is express a sense of tolerance and acceptance. I have a big problem with what lessons we are teaching our children. We are certainly not being very clear in those lessons. On one hand, we try and teach our children about loving and accepting others, yet we often practice something very different. What they end up seeing is that you are supposed to love and accept people, but only if they believe what you believe. I cannot equate treating someone who is unlike me with any less respect or tolerance as someone who is similar to me, in any aspect. Just because someone looks, acts or thinks differently doesn’t make them a bad person. If we don’t change these perceptions, we will end up being the cause of our own demise. If anything, just look back in history; the Holocaust, slavery, 9/11, etc…these events happened because we cannot allow ourselves to tolerate what makes us unique from each other. I believe that we can all co-exist without having to alter what we believe. Let me leave you with a quote:
“Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one's own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.” –JFK

If you don’t take anything else from what I’ve said, please remember to pass on the message of tolerance, especially to our children. Too many innocent people have died from sheer ignorance and lack of acceptance from our fellow man. When you strip us all down to the core, our labels vanish and we are inherently the same. When the Earth passes away, none of these things will matter anymore. Why do we insist on spending what little time we have hating one another? We cannot alter the past at this point, but the future is in our control and we can make change that we will be proud of once we cease to exist.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Entry #11

​I am utterly and completely DISGUSTED at what this country has become! And no, I am not un-American or unpatriotic, but we seem to be consistently taking our country further and further into the pits of hell. It honestly depresses me feeling that there is nothing positive in America anymore. It is because I love my country that I am upset at what we are becoming.
I do not blame one person or group consistently; I believe we have all had a hand in the demise of the good ole US of A. We seem to have been on this downward spiral for years and now we are coming to a climax of our greed, hatred and plain stupidity. I’m not even sure where to begin; there is a laundry list of things that are plaguing this country. Pollution, gluttony, discrimination, racism, the abuse of lawsuits, health care, crime, education, poverty, obesity, the power struggle, irresponsibility with finance and the economy, war, drugs, religion, money; it’s all present in society today. Not that these things weren’t present before, but certainly not as extreme as today. We have obviously not learned from the mistakes of the past and seem apathetic in even trying to learn from those mistakes. In fact, as I see it, we have taken those already-present bad things and made them even worse. It’s no wonder that you can’t even make it through the news without hearing negative story after negative story.
I think one of the biggest disappointments is that no one has any proactive ideas for change --- real change. We all want to point the finger and play the blame game. The only way we are going to initiate change is to stop blaming others (or even ourselves) and actually do something about it. Change is only going to stem from action. One thing I have noticed is that all of those things I mentioned above are all interrelated. This means that if we can get at the root of these issues, we will take care of several of them at once. We need to get out of this mentality of working against each other and begin working together. When it all boils down, we pretty much all want the same things in life; to be happy, healthy and provide a good future for ourselves and our loved ones. It’s amazing to see how we’re all so eager to get these things as quickly as possible, we are willing to knock someone else down on the way there. What happens in the end is that we all lose.  
The question that remains is: what can we do to begin that change or to simply BE that change? I believe that the answer is simpler than we all realize. We need to go back to the basics, the simple (yet important) values that this country was founded on. If the founders on this country could see us today, I truly believe that they would be saddened at what we’ve done to ourselves. Somewhere along the way, money, beauty, power and greed became our top priorities and we lost sight of compassion, love, generosity and kindness. If we could become unified and work together, we could accomplish these goals much quicker and more efficiently. If we put as much energy into these things as we do these so-called “priorities,” we would all be much happier and our journeys in life would feel much lighter. A chain of kindness and compassion needs to begin; if we cannot empathize and try to understand other people’s woes, we can’t expect others to do the same for us. This very act sends us into this vicious cycle that only seems to create more of these negative energies. I’m not saying there won’t be some who will continue to take advantage of these things in life, but those people would be the exception rather than the rule. At the end of the day, I would rather be known for loving and caring about the very essence of the human spirit (learning more about myself in the process) than a powerful billionaire who cared more about my bottom line than anything else. When we reach the end of our lives, the same thing happens to each and every one of us: we die. Game over. Then what? What will you have left at the end of your life? Are the things you are achieving today going to make a bit of difference when that happens? When you die, what do you want people to remember about you? There aren’t very many people (I don’t think) who want to be remembered for the money they had or the power they yielded. Tell me one thing, though. If that is truly how you want people to remember you, why is money and power (and the like) so important right now? Why wait until the end is near to care about the things that matter most when you can do that now? We all know how fast time flies by. Don’t let it all run out before you actually get up and do something about it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Entry #10

When I was younger, having “friends” meant being invited to birthday parties, receiving lots of Valentine’s Day cards and having others to play and be young with, apart from my family. To me, it felt like friendship was more of a social tool and there wasn’t a deep, significant meaning behind it. Don’t get me wrong; I certainly cared about the people I spent the most time with. I think it’s just that friendship played a more superficial role in my life back then. I don’t think it’s possible when you are a kid to truly comprehend the inherent value of a good friend. And that’s not a bad thing, per se; it’s just a part of growing up. Unfortunately, when you’re younger, part of that growing process can include moving away, changing schools, different interests and activities as well as other obstacles that often limit how far a friendship can progress. At those stages in life, there is still a lot of immaturity so the ability (and perhaps motivation) to maintain the relationship tends to falter. If you’re lucky enough, you will have at least one friend whom you remain close with into adulthood, but those relationships are usually few and far between.

I don’t think I truly began to appreciate what it really means to be a friend until just recently. I don’t believe this has anything to do with knowing what friendship means. I think you can know what the definition of friendship is, but the ability to comprehend something and the ability to actually follow through differs quite sharply. There have been many things in life that I have mentally grasped the concept of, but when it comes to actually living out those concepts I don’t do as well. I think this is true of most early friendships and the meaning changes throughout the friendships one acquires in their lifetime. Does this mean that I believe that friendships formed early in life are meaningless or can never survive? Absolutely not; in fact, I believe quite the contrary. I think that friendships formed early in life are extremely beneficial to the well-being and maturity of a person. Your friends (during early life) offer views into different family dynamics, ideologies and opinions that you might otherwise not be exposed to. Friends are one of the first steps towards autonomy and they are an important experience for a person to have. What it boils down to is that while all friendships have worth, we tend not to truly understand that worth until later on in life (which might also help explain why most early friendships fade).

I believe that as you grow and learn more about trust, betrayal, empathy, loyalty and the like, the concept of friendship expands further. For example, where you were previously fighting over dolls and daydreaming about teen heartthrobs, now you are consoling a friend who is divorcing or rejoicing with a friend who is expecting. What’s funny is that with friends who I’ve managed to maintain a relationship with over time, things that seemed so significant back then are often a source of comical relief now. I am enjoying my friendships on a much different level these days and I absolutely love it! Throughout our highs and lows, we have laughed, cried, hugged and shared intimate moments that have made us more like family. I certainly do not regret my earlier friendships. Without those, I don’t think I would be the person I am today nor would I have learned the things I needed to know to have the friendships I do now. What’s even more wonderful is that I learn how to be a better friend everyday. I consider myself fortunate to have the friends I do and I hope they know that without them, I would only be a fragment of who I am now. They are and will continue to be the notes in the music of my soul.

Dedicated to the greatest friends a gal could ever have: Tina, Rosa, Gladis, Susan, Jeanette, Maria, Zufan & Reina

I also simultaneously dedicate this to my dear childhood friends: Sylvia, Jessica Z, Shaki, Zufan (I also include Rosa in this category as she has been not only my childhood friend, but also one of my greatest adult friends too).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pet Peeves

Ok, it’s time to purge the soul. Lol. I have noticed that the majority of my posts are pretty positive, and while that’s not a bad thing per se, it’s always good to get rid of negative thoughts that unconsciously inhabit the mind. This will be my first “negative” post. I think what I am going to do is simply list my top ten pet peeves, things that others do that seem to really get under my skin (seems like a good place to start, doesn’t it?). Here goes…

Ashley’s Top Ten Pet Peeves

10.) People who “borrow” money with no intention of paying it back. I have had several people in my life borrow money from me, promising to pay it back and then don’t. This is why I no longer lend money to anyone except family (and even then I can be wary). Here’s my deal: If you want to borrow money and I have it, I have no problem letting it go. What I don’t understand is why people say they will pay you back knowing that they can’t or won’t. Maybe because they are afraid they won’t get to borrow the money if they say they can’t pay it back. Whatever the reason, don’t say it if you don’t mean it. I would rather someone be honest and say that they need the money but can’t pay it back. At least I will know what to expect. I don’t want to spend my time chasing someone down for my money. That is probably one of the quickest ways to lose me as a friend.

9.) People who steal from me. I do not tolerate thieves. There is no reason to steal from me because I consider myself to be a fairly giving person. Seriously, if you want something of mine so bad that you feel you have to steal it from me, then just ask me for it. I am the type of person who would give someone the shirt off my back if they needed/wanted it that bad. It pisses me off to no end when people or so-called “friends” take things that are mine.

8.) Bad Drivers. This is an extremely broad pet peeve but if I included each pet peeve behind the wheel, I could write several top ten lists. One thing I really can’t stand is when people ride your butt when a.) You are going the speed limit but they think you should be going faster and b.) There is plenty of room to switch lanes but they would rather try and bully you to go faster. And while I am on the subject of speeding, why do people feel the need to race down the street? I guarantee that they don’t get to where they are going that much sooner and it’s not worth the consequences. You might be speeding to save a few minutes and end up losing your life. Get a grip and drive the speed limit. It was obviously put in place for a reason! Another thing that irks me is when there is traffic on the highway and those who are furthest back take it upon themselves to drive on the shoulder and cut in front of everyone already waiting there!! Seriously, did their parents never teach them the common courtesy of waiting their turn? Then there are those who do not utilize the features on their car, such as a turn signal. Please let me know where you’re turning, so I don’t have to slam on my breaks at the last minute and almost crash into the backside of your car. And don’t even get me started on people who drive and talk/text on their cell phones. That is one of the most unsafe driving practices and it causes most people to swerve, drive too slowly, drive too fast and in general just don’t pay attention. Pull off to the side, make your oh-so-important call or text message and then get back out into traffic. If it’s not that important, then it can wait. Then there are those who ignore or simply disobey street signs. For example, there is a light that has two lanes, one of which is a turn lane and the other is to go straight only and people always try and go straight from the turn lane, especially if there is a long line of cars leading up to the light. Again, these people have no concept of turn-taking. And another thing, people who tend to perform the aforementioned driving actions always seems so indignant. Get over it! I honked at your dumb ass because you are in the wrong! Don’t get mad at me because you can’t drive and I had the guts to tell you about it. The thing is, they know they were wrong and just don’t like someone telling them how to drive. I don’t get annoyed by these things just to be a bitch; when someone is endangering my life by doing stupid things, I will not idly stand by. Driving is something that should be taken seriously and most people on the road only care about themselves and where they are going, not to mention trying to find the fastest way to get there possible. I just hope to make it from destination to destination in one piece.

7.) Rude and inconsiderate neighbors. We have all had them at some point or other. They are the ones who stomp around at 3 o’clock in the morning or the ones whose music is so loud, it sounds like as if it’s in your apartment. I’ve had my share of rude neighbors, especially since I lived in apartments for the majority of my life and I cannot understand the lack of consideration. You know, I even remember that when my sister and I were younger and lived on the top floor, my mom would always admonish us if we were making too much noise. My thinking is that if a seven year old and an eight year old can stifle the noise, why can’t an adult make the same concession? I’m not saying you have to walk around on tiptoe. Seriously, I don’t even really care about noise during the day, but anytime past ten or eleven (for sure midnight) is unacceptable. And what’s with the attitude of people when you request that they keep the noise level down? If I am polite enough to go over and ask you nicely, then I would hope for the same consideration back. Some of the neighbors I’ve had won’t even answer the door, which to that I say, ok. If you are not going to help remedy the issue, then I will call someone who will handle the problem (i.e. the cops).

6.) Rude people in general. I was brought up to have manners, respect for my elders and to be courteous. I’m not sure if other people did not have this upbringing or if they are just disrespectful as a human being, but it should be common knowledge. For example, if I’m at the grocery store, standing in front of an item you want, do NOT reach in front of me or walk in front of me without saying “excuse me.” It only takes two words and hardly any time at all to say it, so why not? Also, parents need to learn to teach their children about manners as well. When you have rude ass little kids, it’s only a reflection of the kind of parenting they’re receiving. Also, if someone opens a door for you, please say “thank you.” Again, only takes a second to say and it will only reaffirm my being kind in opening the door for you. I don’t think I would have such a problem with this one if these things weren’t so easy to do.

5.) People who talk about me behind my back. Ok, so I know that there will always be people who do not like me for whatever reason and I have no problem with that. What I hate is when people talk about me and I’m not there to defend myself. For example, my brother had a girlfriend awhile back whom I had never met before. I was on my way to my mom’s house to meet her, and while I was en route, she proceeded to say something negative about me. Not only had she never met me, but she didn’t even have the guts to say it to my face. If you have a problem with me, I am a big girl. Tell me to my face. Don’t go tell everyone else you know how I am this or that or whatever. I can handle criticism and negativity but if you cannot face me while you say it, then why say it at all? Doesn’t make much sense to me…and I never respond to comments made behind my back so it does absolutely no good except make whoever it is feel superior in some way. I’m just going to assume you’re jealous and move on.

4.) Waiting on people. I am a fairly punctual person. If I’m not on time, then I’m early. I do not like to be late to anything. So, if I tell you that I am going to be somewhere at a certain time, that’s when I will be there. I don’t like it when I’m not given that same courtesy. If I cannot make it, I will always let that person know. It may be that same day, but I try my best not to be late or a no-show. If I have planned to meet someone at a pre-determined time, I expect them to be there. I generally do not mind waiting 5 or so minutes for someone who may have had some kind of hold-up or something, but any longer than that, I’m going to be hard-pressed to keep waiting around. My deal with this is that my time (just like anyone else’s) is precious. I just don’t want to spend all my time waiting on other people.
3.) Pretending to be someone or something you’re not. I am me. You are you. Let’s keep it that way. I generally try to be myself at all times. And even though I may adjust or fine-tune my behavior to match the situation (for example, I’m obviously not going to act the same at a work function as I would something more casual, like hanging out with friends), I am always true to the person I am. I don’t like seeing other people think that the only way they can be acknowledged is by pretending to be someone they are not. I’m sure we have all known a person like this at some point in our lives. All I’m saying is to be true to yourself because that’s the only person you will ever be.

2.) When people “borrow” things and either don’t give them back or loan to someone else. If you ask me to “borrow” something, it is generally implied that you are going to give it back. If you would like to have something of mine, all you have to do is ask. I am not hung up on material items, so if someone asks to borrow something and doesn’t return it, then I would consider it stealing (which is my #9 pet peeve). I would say that if you’re going to borrow something from someone, these are the rules: 1.) You must give it back within an appropriate time lapse unless expressly otherwise understood, 2.) You should give it back, period, 3.) You should return it in the condition it was given to you and 4.) You should not let anyone else borrow it unless the owner has given you permission to do so. That last one sounds much like a no-brainer, but I have had that happen to me. If you borrow something, that does not make it yours; therefore, you have no right or authority to let anyone else take possession of it. If you loan out something that doesn’t belong to you, you are responsible for that person’s actions as well. I truly hate it when you ask for something back that you let someone borrow and their reply is, “I lent it to so-and-so. You need to talk to them.” No, I lent it to YOU, which makes you accountable. I also think if the person cannot follow those rules for borrowing, they should either have to replace the item borrowed or give you the monetary equivalent. It’s only fair.

1.) Freeloaders. This, to me, is almost like stealing. It’s essentially people trying to soak up the excess of something they did not contribute to. For example, let’s say you have a couple of siblings and your mom’s 50th birthday is coming up. You do all the work, buy the cake, decorate the house, etc…and your siblings never offer to lift a finger or help pay for it. Then, when it’s time for the party, they try and pretend that they helped. If you want to be recognized for something, then you actually have to do something. It’s completely unfair to let other people do all of the dirty work, while you get to reap the benefits of that hard work. Same thing if you live at home, don’t contribute and you’re over 18 years old. It’s not fair that you live somewhere rent-free and not only don’t help with money, but don’t even lift a finger to help around the house. You only earn what you tend to. If you didn’t do anything, don’t act like you did. And don’t act like you don’t know why everyone is looking at you with narrow eyes if you do act this way. Grow up; get off your lazy butt and do some work, plain and simple.