The Musings of an Appalachian Activist

I Refuse

I refuse to live in a country where poverty is a crime and rape natural phenomenon.

I refuse to live in a country where hate is a traditional value.

I refuse to live in a country where homosexuality is something parents fear and children hide.

I refuse to live in a country where science is rejected and replaced by scripture.

I refuse to live in a country where hunger is as common as Golden Arches on every other block.

I refuse to live in a country where white immigrants demonize and pine for the deportation brown immigrants.

I refuse to live in a country where a lifesaving procedure is a luxury reserved only to the few who can afford it or those willing to give their soul to survive.

I refuse to live in a country where the color of your skin determines the level of suspicion.

I refuse to live in a country where being a woman is a pre-existing condition.

I refuse to live in a country where being transgendered is a fireable offense but acceptance sexual harassment is almost a required job skill.

I refuse to live in a country where an education is a privilege to a few and not a right for all.

I refuse to live in a country where mass incarceration is for profit, not rehabilitation.

I refuse to live in a country where “Well, what was she wearing?” is ever asked.

I refuse to live in a country where coal-companies kill miners, communities, and environments, and they’re supposed to be thankful to have a job.

I refuse to live in a country that fosters a society that ties the noose of the gay kid from school hanging in his room.

I refuse to live in a country where young men of color are shot by law enforcement for being young men of color.

I refuse to live in a country that mocks climate scientists and elects their deniers.

I refuse to live in a country where purity is only for women and not our drinking water.

I refuse to live in a country where abandoned homes and homelessness peacefully coexist.

I refuse to live in a country where books are censored and bullies are not a subject for discussion.

I refuse to live in a country where bulletproof vests are needed for recess.

I refuse to live in a country where votes and cash are counted together.

I refuse to live in a country where it’s easier to buy a gun than it is to vote.

I refuse to live in a country where your job keeps you in poverty, not lift you out of it.

I refuse to live in a country where xenophobia is considered patriotism.

I refuse to live in a country where candidates are elected because of the pews they sit in and not the views the stand on.

I refuse to live in a country where elected officials run on a platform taking healthcare and access to food away from millions of those who desperately need it.

I refuse to live in a country where ignorance must be respected and social consciousness derided.

I refuse to live in a country where we only honor soldiers if they’re dead.

I refuse to live in a country where children fear the night’s hunger pangs more than the monster under their bed.

I refuse to live in a country where the paleness of a group of people allows them to control the vast majority of our police departments, government bodies, and businesses.

I refuse to live in a country where grandmothers and grandfathers must choose between medicine and food.

I refuse to live in a country where drug sentences are mandatory but that same government decides that providing basic needs like healthcare for it’s people is optional.

I refuse to live in a country where “the talk” for black families is about being “safe” around police officers and not STD prevention and procreation like it was for me.

I refuse to live in a country where lines for free healthcare clinics are longer than lines for the newest iPhone.

I refuse to live in a country where democracy is for those who can afford it.

I refuse to live in a country that elevates itself to demigod status but can’t provide anything from clean water to a fighting chance to her citizens.

I refuse to live in a country where “Making America Great Again” means manifesting the hate and resurrecting the Jim Crow’s so many fought and died to bury so we could all march forward, together, hand-in-hand.

I refuse to live in a country would entertain such a vile creature as Donald Trump to lead the nation and the world.

I refuse to live in a country that isn’t a country anymore. A country that is a melting-pot of ignorance, classism, and hate stirred by a flaming wooden-cross.

I refuse to live in that country.

This country.

My country.

….but I’m not going anywhere.

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To All Trump Supporters and Those of Us Who Have to Put Up With Them

“Youth ages, immaturity is outgrown, ignorance can be educated, and drunkenness sobered, but stupid lasts forever.”

– Aristophanes

Donald Trump supporter Birgitt Peterson of Yorkville, Ill., argues with protesters outside the UIC Pavilion after the cancelled rally for the Republican presidential candidate in Chicago on Friday, March 11, 2016. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)


 

I want to start off by saying that I was wrong. Dead wrong, honestly, as I really didn’t think that Donald Trump would be the nominee. Why? Well a few reasons…

  1. When he first announced, he wasn’t running a real campaign. His appearances were scarce. He would hold only an event or two a week and give some crazy rally blathering his idiocy and vitriol, not much different than what he does now. Candidates, especially running for a higher office, typically have several events a day or do media when they’re not stumping.
  2. I thought the Republican Party would get their act together after being trounced in the last two presidential elections and finally realize that the country had progressed far beyond their disgustingly horrid social views the majority of the country abhors and economic policies that led to one depression nearly 100 years ago and the near-depression in 2007-2008.
  3. As the campaign went on and Trump’s vitriolic and hateful rhetoric increased, while also being wrapped in an empty bag of substance, logic, and common sense on virtually every single issue, I thought even the worst conservatives would go to another candidate and realize the Grand Wizard of Grand Ole Klan has no clothes. Many didn’t. While there were a lot who have been repulsed by him, there were many more who have taken control of the party. Now, even many of the the self-described “moderate conservatives have accepted he will likely be the nominee if no convention shenanigans occur and have not only accepted it, but are embracing it while showing their true colors.

But as I said, I was dead wrong.

Donald Trump will very likely be the Republican nominee for the general election this year. I wish I could feel sorry for those on the right who disavow him and all that he stands for but I don’t. Ever since the election of President Obama there has been a growing portion of the right who could have been stopped long ago but those moderates in the GOP never spoke up. The Tea-Party has melded with the far-right fringe and become the fervent base of Trump. They are the birthers who still think President Obama is some muslim insurgent born in Kenya. They are the government obstructionists who have hindered this country’s growth since the 2010 election. They are the Obama-haters who base their entire political worldview on memes, bullshit right-wing blog sites, and chain-emailesque conspiracy theories (or actual chain-emails). The racists. The xenophobes. The ignorant and uneducated Fox News viewers. The racist uncles, friends, and family members who have made you sick with their keyboard-coward Facebook tirades. They are fuel and engine electorally propelling Trump in these primaries. They are Donald Trump. They haven’t been taken seriously the last eight years and they shouldn’t be now.

The attitude I seem to hear a lot from his defenders, and the defenders of his defenders who may not even really support him passionately, is “We can have our own opinion! I disagree with your candidate but I don’t say anything! Free speech!”, and normally, I would agree with that. I work in politics. I have no problem with that attitude and know firsthand that all conservatives aren’t what I described above. This, however, is different. Why? Because Trump is different. For anyone who is remotely mature, decent, moral, and not a complete ignorant fool, it’s not hard to see how he’s different. My candidate, or any other candidate for that matter, isn’t in any way, shape, or form close to being as repulsive and dangerous as Trump. No other candidate mocks a handicapped man at a rally and on national media. No other candidate repeatedly makes disgusting comments about the hispanic communityNo other candidate has repeatedly made disgusting comments about women. No other candidate encourages violence at their rallies. That violence has in return has spilled over into our society in general. No other candidate has not only courted the fringe, far-right extremists but has widespread support and from Klan/White supremacist organizations and leaders, the endorsement from the most notorious white-supremacist in modern American politics, David Duke, and actually have these people and organizations actively supporting his campaigns with everything from fundraising to direct support to his campaign from robo-calling to volunteering in his offices. To add to the terrifying examples, his candidacy has also raised interest and recruiting in white-supremacist organizations and they have even proudly admitted this. And there’s also this, this, this, and this

Why on earth should I, or any thinking person with morals or an ounce of intelligence take any Trump supporter seriously? Maybe, and this is a big maybe, his supporters could have been looked at as anything other than an ignorant bigot who just doesn’t understand economic, domestic, foreign, or social issues and just liked his asshole personality that is sometimes humorous just because of the sheer ridiculousness of it. But that time has passedIt’s not funny anymore. It’s not entertaining anymore. It’s not harmless anymore. It’s not acceptable or excusable anymore, if it ever was. It hasn’t been any of those things for many months now. His supporters have had enough time to come to their senses and find their moral compass, if either exist in them, so they can’t be treated as simply someone who you disagree with. They can and should be ignored when possible. They should also be called out and ridiculed when necessary. They just aren’t in the polite “respect our opinion and beliefs” circle anymore that we already put waaaaaaaay too many people in. They are a part of an ever increasing dangerous and violent voting bloc and sect of the underbelly of society we have been fighting against for decades. Their kind have been damaging this country since it’s inception and fought tooth-and-nail against every attempt at progress this country has made. They are the same, for example, as those who wear the white sheets and showed their support for their demagogue with a raised, right hand and heel click. They just put the sheet back on the bed, lost the gesture (well, sort of), and have social media accounts to blather their ignorance and putrid views they beg the rest of us to respect because, well, they have no real coherent and mature defense of the indefensible. They have lowered themselves to nothing more than frighteningly fervent fools with Facebook accounts. 

Trump supporters lost all credibility a long time ago. The “new” supporters who are now embracing this vile man aren’t excusable either. While they may have been supporting the other clowns in the GOP circus, the Rubio’s and Cruz’s for example, they still saw the disgusting antics of Trump and his supporters while their candidate was still in the race. They can’t play dumb to what’s been going on for nearly a year now, especially not with the massive 24-hour news coverage Trump has been getting in the media. There is no excuse. There is no leeway to justify rallying behind Trump now that he has all but secured the Republican nomination. As I mentioned before, that ship of innocent ignorance has sailed long ago if it ever was in the port of rationality and decency to begin with. Trump supporters, whether they like or acknowledge it, have walked over to the side of lunacy and hate with those already there supporting der Führer. They have locked arms with them whether they like it or not. They have said to the rest of us that they are okay with all of those horrid things this man has said and did. They have now endorsed his demagoguery and condoned his vile behavior. They have expressed their lack of moral integrity and deflated the air of decency that may have surrounded them before. They have lost their fucking mind, morally speaking, and we don’t have to respect that. No one does.

So, I say to Trump supporters old and new: embrace it. You have disqualified yourself from any and all discussion on virtually every issue facing this country. If you haven’t already, start chanting “Build the wall!” and put on that red, modern-day dunce cap/white hood embroidered with the words “Make America Great Again”. Your candidate literally speaks on a third-grader level, and purposefully so because that’s what you understand and love about him. We wouldn’t take eight year olds seriously if they were to start incoherently rambling on important social and economic issues pertaining to this country and her people…and we don’t have to take seriously the adult-adolescents who do it now supporting Trump.

Run along now, friends and my patriots of the fanatical bigotry making America hate again. Go play on the playground of the obtuse and cover yourself with the callowness. Go dangle from the jungle-gym of disgusting nativism and white supremacy. Go wallow in the sandbox of idiocy and obliviousness. Just…go away. Your kind, like anyone who isn’t white, right, and full of fervent hate at a Trump rally, aren’t welcome here any longer. Those of us who treasure diversity, progress, and pine for the more perfect union you’re trying to dismantle aren’t having it anymore. This is our country. We’ll continue taking it forward, not back, come November.

An open letter to all of the “creepy guys”…

Creepy guys, or can you just chill the hell out for a second? This isn’t some white-knight rant about how I’m different or I really understand girls. I don’t and there’s probably more than a few of them that can attest to that fact. What I do know is that I wouldn’t leave the house and shut down all forms of communications if I were a female. I’m being completely serious. There’s a lot of guys that don’t seem to get that living as a woman in this society is a bit different. If you don’t think so, start out by asking yourself a couple of these questions…


 

1) Have you ever been messaged, called, texted, or stalked by multiple females in your life to the point where you’re actually fearful of these complete strangers?

2) Have you ever texted your boys after driving or walking home to see if they’re okay because there was a legitimate threat that you could have been assaulted, raped, killed, etc. by a anyone? 

3) Have you ever felt scared in a parking lot, your college campus, or at work? 

4) Have you ever been threatened by someone you’re talking to or have they threatened suicide if you stopped talking to them?

5) Have you ever been called a ton of names because you didn’t reply back fast enough to some pervert who kept messaging?

6) Do you carry pepper-spray, a taser, or any other weapon around regularly because the sheer amount of threats and attacks and constant threat of being attacked, even in broad daylight, is always there?

7) Do you constantly have to put up with sexist comments from co-workers, classmates, or complete fucking strangers on a near daily basis?

8) Have you ever experienced a rape or attempted rape like 1 in 6 women in this country have?

9) Have you ever been pulled out of class because someone might get aroused due to your shoulders and you had to cover them up since your fellow male students and male faculty apparently can’t control themselves at the side of nude collarbones?

10) Have anyone ever judged your worth or competency because you’ve, you know, had sex before?


 

No? Didn’t think so. I know there’s probably some insecure menimists out there trying to grasp at straws and claim every one of those things happened to them or they don’t happen to women every single day, but piss off. I do know that there is more than one female reading this that has experienced every single one of those and more. Those are just examples I have been told about more than once from real women on real incidents.

The internet has opened up a completely different outlet for women to be harassed. It’s not all bad. I say that because many relationships start with a facebook message or something else. I know it has for me. I also know that when I was a teenager I would message and try to flirt with everyone. That was creepy. What I didn’t get then, and still don’t now, is why guys continually message a girl dozens of times when they have been completely ignored or even told that the girl isn’t interested. What’s wrong with you? Do you think annoying and harassing them is going to get you anywhere after weeks of messages with no reply? Is it an ego thing? Is that your “game”? Is it because you’re that damn stupid and oblivious? Just stop. Take a hint. Do you know what kind of message that sends? Not only are you coming off as creepy, but controlling, possessive, and undoubtably stalkerish if they were to go on a date with you. And what do all of those signs point to? Abuse. Violence. Nothing at all good.

Recently, there was a local craigslist ad that was passed around that was a prime example of this. It was in the “missed connections” portion where a man posted describing how he was attracted to a woman he had saw and wanted to meet her. The problem was that he detailed how he had followed her around several times, stalking her, and even back to her home. He stated that one day he would go knock on her door and somehow she would be his. When that post was taken down, before I could get a screen shot of it back on my laptop, he posted another…

craiglist

I’ve been attracted to many girls, naturally, and have always wanted to have the confidence to approach them in a social setting and talk to them. And hell, some may even think I’m a creep now. But, I have never, ever thought about fucking stalking someone and following them around. That’s insane and frightening. Are you serious?

When I started dating, well more when I was dating and old enough to drive or them to come over to my house, I noticed something. Several of them would make a joke saying they asked around about me or looked me up to make sure “I’m not some killer” or “rapist”. I thought it was a joke most of the time. Other times I just thought it was incredibly odd but oh well. I was an 18-19 year old guy and of course I never thought about anything like that to check on the girl. It also never hit me that the girl may literally fear for their life coming over to a guys house. I was viewing it through my prism, one that was very narrow, ignorant, and oblivious. I would think “Me? I’m harmless.” I’m a short, chubby guy that looks 16 on a good day. I couldn’t imagine being threatening to anyone. I was, however, because I was a male that they didn’t know. That doesn’t mean all males are a danger. Of course not. It also doesn’t mean, at least from my point of view, that those negative assumptions should be made about every man….but I’m not a woman. I don’t know how it is to be one. I know that it’s different. I know that knowing what I do now from stories, statistics, and society, it takes a lot to put up with the shit women put up with daily in this country.

I remember being about 15 and a girl confiding in me that she had been raped. I was furious. I wanted to kill the guy. She told me that she never knew who it was, she was at at party, and nothing was ever done. I couldn’t believe it. Someone actually getting away with rape? My youthful ignorance was astounding looking back. I thought that rape and sexual assault were extremely rare. I also not only thought the crimes were rare, I thought the ones that got away with it were astronomically rare. I was so confused. I wanted to do something and felt so helpless…then I imagined what she must have felt like. It happened to her, this horrific thing, and nothing had been done about it. It’s been about ten years since then and I’d wager justice was never served. What’s worse is that that pieces of scum probably continued and may still be continuing to assault other women because he got away with it then. Or maybe that wasn’t the first time? Maybe there are rapists, many rapists, who do this their entire life and are never caught. The thought of that literally makes my stomach feel nauseous. All guys reading this should feel that way. And no, I’m not pretending that I’m some white knight of the highest morality. I say this as a son of my mother. I say this as a grandson to my grandmother. I say this as the nephew of my aunt. I say this as the cousin to three young women. I say this as the friend of many close, dear female friends that I would be devastated if they were harmed including my online friends. I also say this as a stranger to billions of women that I know and will never know. Anyone. It infuriates me and makes me sick that there are so many men out there willing and able to hurt someone and not only that but to escape justice.

Society allows, ignores, and propagates all of this at same time. There’s really no escaping it as a woman. Some experience it from the time they wake up with dozens of messages online, following by the walk to class or to their car. Maybe they hear it going for a jog. Guys, have you ever been in a large city and felt a little uneasy about your settings? With all of the things we’re told about the horrors of the “big cities”, I’d wager that you probably did if you have visited. I have a few times, at night, in cities I wasn’t that familiar with at the time. Now, take that uneasy feeling and imagine feeling that, sometimes a lot worse, every time you walk to your car from basically anywhere at night…or hell, even during broad daylight? That’s how a lot of women feel every day and it’s because creepy ass guys that lurk in every corner or the real and virtual online world. I’m sure many, many feel it at work. Even if the harassment is at a minimal, they experience via their paycheck which is, on average, 33% less than a man’s. While that number varies from job to job, that wage gap exists in both male and female dominated professions. I know there’s denial by many, particularly men of course, because they simply don’t want to admit it or maybe they’re just, you know, too distracted by your shoulders to notice.

Women are treated differently. It’s just the reality we live in and denying that reality doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. The only real way that’s going to change is for men to stop treating them differently. Treat them as you would want any female in your family to be treated. Picture them and apply ideas like these…

Women don’t owe you anything.

They aren’t obligated to have sex with you, ever.

Their uteruses aren’t a topic up for debate.

Their healthcare isn’t negotiable.

Their worth isn’t determined by their outfit or some archaic idea of “purity”. That’s for drinking water, not people.

…and for Christ sake, there’s no such thing as “Pens for Her”..

pensforher

..so stop fucking making them.

As you can see they deal with far bigger issues on a daily basis so I think their “delicate” hands can manage to lift one of those big, manly pens that I assume are only for the egos of that cocky douchebag who isn’t used to holding something that long in their hand.

I’m sure I left out a thousand other problems with our society today when it comes to gender bias. I’m sure I don’t understand or know a lot. I’m sure there might have been some sigh’s or things I left out or was wrong about. It was a view, a rant really, based on the ridiculous and outrageous things I have observed and learned as a 20-something male in this country, ever how little that is. I apologize for what I don’t know. I’ve been wanting to write about it ever since I found that Mother’s supplies for her classes she began at UVA included a bottle of pepper spray. The first time I had really ever thought about anything happening to her like, a grown woman of 46 who I’ve seen do anything, in my life. My message is mainly to some guys to just chill the hell out and maybe, just maybe, take a hint sometimes. Try your best to take a step back and look at things from a woman’s perspective or at the very least how your perspective may be flawed or contributing to all of these things. And guys, I implore you to purchase a “safety whistle” and blow it the only time one of those things should be blown, you know,  like when you see one of your bro’s acting like a jackass harassing some girl, some group of morons catcalling, or maybe whenever a lawmaker tries to infringe on their reproductive rights and access healthcare. I know that sounds like lot of blowing but, in all fairness, it’s really the only kind you should be loud and persistent about.

Part II: Race: Thoughts from a white kid from Appalachia

 

To my white friends reading this, has any of what I stated in the first part of this blog happened to you? I don’t mean once or twice. We all know there isn’t anyone immune to police brutality if you find yourself being harassed for no legal reason by a brute with a badge. Do you live in fear every day you’re in public that you will be stopped, and perhaps frisked, by a police officer? Do you have that fear driving? I get a bit nervous but then I check my speed and know I’m not breaking any law. It ends there for me, but not for many others. Could any of you ever fathom that you might ending up hanging in a jail cell like Sandra Bland? Did your parents ever have a talk, a serious one, about how to interact with law enforcement? I’m guessing there’s not many. I am also guessing that there are many people of color in this country that would answer “Yes” to every one of those questions and many of them probably have multiple stories that the rest of us should listen to and learn from. That’s one thing I have learned working in african-american communities. While you and your buddies may have a story dating back to your high school days with a “run-in with the law”, every single person of color I met had more than one, regardless of age or gender. It’s not the same and it’s not an accident.

I have never been stopped by an officer walking in any neighborhood I have been in many in several states working voter contact operations. I could foresee me living the next 50 years without a single incident like that. That’s probably the case for many of my white friends reading this too. I’ve only been pulled over three times in my life: once for speeding when I was 19, once for expired sticker in 2012, and once for expired tags in 2015. I had all pleasant experiences and didn’t even get a few tickets I could have. I understand that when an officer pulls someone over and has general concerns that a simple traffic stop, or approaching someone on the street, could get ugly and very dangerous. That’s especially so with the gun culture we live in today and the members of law-enforcement that we have witnessed do atrocious things with their power. What I’ve learned, a little about, is that people of color have those same fears too but vice-versa. They know they have a gun and they don’t know what type of person it is who is carrying it. I’m not talking about the nervousness you get when you’re pulled over for a ticket and or when you may get nervous talking to person with high authority. I’m talking about a very real fear carried by the citizen of color that an officer may fear, for whatever reason, approaching a vehicle during a traffic-stop. That person of color may also always be thinking that this could get ugly and very dangerous but not because of their actions….but of skin-color, ignorance, and baseless fear this society churns out for white consumption.

To make matters worse and compound the ignorance, the lengths people will go to to deny that such a society exists is another reason why this problem isn’t going away anytime soon. Some will deny it because they just don’t believe it and have never experienced it. Some will deny it because they live in some alternate universe where minorities have all of the rights and they’re the ones really being oppressed. Others will simply deny it because they know it exists and that’s exactly how they want it. When you hear these typically white, typically conservative, folks pining for the “good old days”, this is what they mean. They want minorities to occupy a lower place in society and always know their place in “our” country. They want people of color to know their place, period. They want them to stay with their “own kind” and not to mingle with whites more than “necessary”. They should always keep their head down and whatever they do, don’t ever date their children. Those are the simpler days ache for and when they say “take their country back”, they mean it literally to a time when they had more control It’s like that in many areas in this country. It’s just like when they fight to discriminate against LGBT citizens or “keep the Mexicans out”, it’s all the same white-supremacist mindset. They want their life to reflect a 1950′-60’s sitcom where the characters were white with an occasional person of color in the background always silent.

There’s nothing more threatening to a white, particularly conservative, than a minority having an opinion and having the nerve to speak it. But I can’t just pin that on the right as us on the left can be just as bad with our “whitesplaining”. It’s a threat to everything they know and the order of the society they want. They think that when a person of color, or a member of the LGBT community for example, speaks out against discrimination, it will somehow turn into discrimination them. When they speak, whites feel like their voice and cries can’t be heard. Of course this is all nonsense. It’s not a legitimate concern, obviously, but more of a reaping what our ancestors have sowed perhaps. When someone gains their rights and becomes freer, it doesn’t take anything away from anyone else when that’s achieved. If someone speaks out against blatant injustices, whether you acknowledge it or not, there’s no dark hand that appears over your mouth to keep you silent. Stop pretending there is and understand that sometimes, you should shut the fuck up for a minute fellow white folks. You’ve always had a voice. Some of our voices have been taken by politicians and corporations, but we still have one. Others, however, deal with those same suppressions while also having to deal with the heckling and calls for silence from the white crowd that just don’t like what they’re saying.

After writing all of this I’ll still readily concede that I don’t know what it’s like to be anything other than a white male in this country. I never will. A better understanding as I grow older, learn, and listen more is what I can hope for. I don’t know if society will progress as much as it needs to, or even come close to it in my life time. I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t know what else to say, but what I do know is that those who don’t understand, including myself, need not say anything sometimes. We just need to listen. Since the events in Ferguson, and long before that I’ll add, we have learned a lot. A litany of truths about our society have come out and are staring us in the face. The racism and ignorance we thought died decades ago, buried under white robes and sheets, surfaced soaked in blood letting us know that it never, ever left. We need to listen, acknowledge, and learn. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll begin stepping in the right direction again. It won’t be easy. The same types of people that stood in front of the doors in Little Rock or hurled disgusting threats at freedom marchers are still there. They have another platform, the internet, to do it as well. They won’t stop and they won’t learn. We just have to march past them and leave them behind where they belong. I hope I’m walking. I hope I’m walking in the right direction. I do know, however, I’m on the right side stepping in the right direction as they take the lead.

So, there’s what little I do know and what all I don’t learning little-by-little from the POV of a white kid from the mountains of Central Appalachia. I also know that whenever a white kid like me from my part of Appalachia goes on some facebook rant about how people should think and feel after the deaths of people like Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, or the dozens of others, it shows how far behind the youth in this area are and I’m sure all across the country. It’s a warning sign that racism and ignorance of these issues will be carried on for generations to come. Here’s some personal advice for those particular people who seem to think they understand racism or the issues surrounding this string of deaths the past few years: Shut up. Your opinion is likely derived from how little you know, and what you do know comes from people who only root for black and brown people sitting in the stands of a sporting event. People of color around here need more, and genuine, support than the kind they get under Friday Night Lights. Not the kind that would only argue unfair treatment towards a person of color only if a yellow flag is tossed or whistle is blown. Those are the only “fouls” you are aware of or choose to acknowledge. You live in a place where you can literally go months while attending school, going to the store, and all of the other normal daily activities and never see anyone that isn’t white. Stick to talking about what you know at that age: Carhartt jackets and bragging about how you get to miss school come deer season. And if you think I’m just talking about white males around here, I’m not. I think the “my daddy would kill me if I dated a black guy” crowd should probably keep their very uninformed opinions to themselves as well. You wouldn’t believe how many girls I have dated that shared that fun-fact with me when I was much younger and ignorant. I’m not taking shots at Appalachian youth to degrade them. I’m commenting on them because I am one and I grew up  surrounded by the same mountains and ignorance they are growing up in. The same kind of ignorance you can find in far too many parts of this country. Go out into the world, those “big cities”, and leave your prejudices behind in the hollers and mountains. I love these beautiful mountains but they shelter us from the real world. Learn from people who aren’t like you, or I should say people who don’t look like you. You might just learn something.

I did and will never stop trying to.

 

Confederate Matt

As some of you may or may not know, I’ve been doing a little “social experiment” online for the past month. I created a fake facebook profile about a month ago to keep track of a local confederate page that was known for making violent threats to groups I am a part of and support. I created a very simple profile that only included my location of being in Northeast Tennessee, my alma-mater of course being the “school of hard knocks”, a profile picture of a Confederate flag, and a cover picture of truck and a confederate flag. You know, typical generic redneck shit. I added maybe three or four people I knew were members of that closed group in hopes of me getting them to add me to it so I could do what I stated. I made a couple of generic posts that consisted of “fly em’ high” and inquiring if there were any local groups in my area that supported the flag and a place where I could be updated about future white-trash parades. It goes without saying that punctuation was non-existent and grammar was sub-par so I would fit in and not raise any red flags…only the stars and bars, by God. I won’t be sharing the name, profile picture, or any information that I think would lead to someone, somehow stumbling upon this blog and figuring out who I am on there. I did want to share with you as much as I could. You might find it as fascinating, unsurprising, and terrifying as I did at times.

I can say that I am fortunate to not have a newsfeed full of idiotic conservative nonsense. I’ve always deleted those types and the vast majority of my friends are very liberal or at least not a couple of Ashley Madison accounts or a pentecostal pin-up hairdo away from being batshit crazy. Even with that being the case, I do see many of the conservative memes or bogus news articles and am well-aware of their tumultuous relationship with reality. So, I was a little prepared for some people adding from the group and seeing that all over my newsfeed. What I wasn’t prepared for was what I experience on there for the most part. Some of it is not surprising, some of it is, but I wasn’t expecting what came next..


This wasn’t a profile I had planned on checking on more than every week or so, maybe a little more if there was a local rally. That’s why I was surprised that when I checked it two days later, I had well over 100 friend requests from confederate supporters from the local area and across the country. It didn’t make much sense to me with adding only a few people, not posting in any groups, and having virtually nothing on my profile but two confederate flags. I accepted every single one of them and more and more poured in throughout the day. By the next morning I had close to 400 friends and a wall and inbox full of random comments thanking me for my friendship and supporting the flag: the “cause”. There were some that I had more than a few mutual friends with and some only one or two. I send random request all of the time on my own personal profile, sometimes by accident, and my friends list is around 750 friends. I have added maybe ten people on this profile in total with all of the remaining coming from them adding me…. a profile with just a flag, a location, and a made-up name. It’s also not coming from shared posts as my posts on there are so boring and generic that even these boring and generic people don’t feel the need to share them with the world. As I am writing this the friends list keeps growing and growing so instead of having to go back and change the number, I’ll just add the number to the end of the blog when I publish it. I can say that it’s already over 4,000 as of right now. Yes. You read that right. I’ll also add that I have been screening the requests more to weed out spam accounts if notice them. Facebook limits your personal friends list capacity at 5,000, so I wanted to have as many genuine rednecks as possible before I reach the limit allowed.

Why is this? Why has a flag generated so many people wanting to friend me on social media? I’m as puzzled as you but I would wager that it has something to do with the insecurity these people possess. They people who are living in a society that is leaving them in the past as it moves forward and their notions of white supremacy behind in their hands. They probably feel like they must cling to anyone that they think shares their outdated and outrageous views. It’s a virtual example of the feeling of many in white, conservative America who are afraid to death of not controlling every aspect of society under their pale hands. Many, however, are poor whites who have historically blamed their woes and poor fortune on those who aren’t like them. They need a boogeyman. They need an out that doesn’t include admitting that their situation is partly due to influences of entities like corporations they have no influence on or admitting that even with their misfortune, they still hold a higher place in our society than anyone who isn’t white, male, and/or Christian. It’s much easier to let the racist dog-whistling by the Republican Party soothe them than acknowledging any of what’s really going on in this country. So they are charmed, like a snake, by racist leaders who tell them what they want to hear while they pine for that old society they hope that candidate can bring back to some degree.

The next thing that is semi-unsurprising and semi-terrifying is the amount of vile racism I have seen by those who have added me. The ones who go on and on about how they’re not racist and how it’s all about “heritage” is bad enough. We know better and there are too many of these people walking around at the grocery store to be surprised at their ignorance. No. It was the self-identified Klan recruiter that messaged me within 24 hours of my account being created asking me to check out their website and join.

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It was also the hundreds of people who have added me with profile pictures of swastika’s, pictures of their children doing Nazi salutes, the violent calls to action, the blatantly racist memes, and just about every other display of vile, virtual hatred you can think of. This was an observation of something I already knew. Racism comes in different forms. We tend to think of racists as the people who wear hoods and sheets when really that’s only a small part of who’s out there. These people are nurses, construction workers, small business owners, etc. The problem isn’t that they simply exist in this online world. It’s that they exist in our society and seep into various parts of it. They’re everywhere. The racism of the past that was so easy to spot didn’t die with the stroke of the pen on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Remember that Dr. King was murdered years after these milestones. Society suppressed it to a degree, but it was never removed from the minds of those who espoused hate. Naturally, they passed it down to their children, and they passed it down as well. Though I have so much hope for my generation, who is the first to widely support equality, hate is still being taught and nothing is going to change that anytime soon. While I don’t see a lot of this on my personal page, I’m sure there are plenty of you reading this that have and do see it everyday.

Another thing I experienced was people adding me to various groups of theirs. Keep in mind that I haven’t spoken with these people at all, nor have they gathered much of anything from my posts which are vague, rare, and not even remotely racist or even supporting the Confederate flag beyond my profile picture. They immediately jumped to conclusions of my feelings towards other races, religions, and political candidates. In total I have been added to 106 groups and counting. While there’s a handful that appear to be harmless, there’s quite a few that aren’t. The majority are Southern/Confederate pride groups, anti-Islam/pro-christian groups, several dedicated to informing me about “black on white crime”, and blatant white supremacist groups. Here’s a few screen-shots of them.

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You can gather that from a lot of the names but even in the ones that aren’t so obvious, the content is similar and sometimes just disgustingly horrifying. A perfect example of what I mean by that is this one in particular…

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The group titled “Resistance” I was added to turned out to be a secret online group for neo-nazi’s that is made up of mostly European members. Almost every post is in a different language and promotes racism and anti-semitism in various parts of Europe, but primarily in Germany from what I can gather from the regular posters. The most disgusting posts I’ve found are from members who visit Holocaust museums and take pictures of them gloating and posing with Nazi artifacts and displays like the “Arbeit Macht Frei”, “Work Makes You Free”, that was notoriously above the gates of Auschwitz.

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While of course I shouldn’t be surprised by these people doing something so vile, I was a bit taken back at this. It was something I had never seen before and it was certainly stomach-churning as I consider myself a student of the Holocaust since my fascination with it from an early age that fueled my fervor to one day join the military to fight the Nazi’s! I felt sick and still do looking at them here.

Another thing you may have noticed on that list of groups are political ones. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz to be exact. You may have noticed the countless jokes and memes shared about Trump and his support among proud racists and the “I’m not racist, but…” crowds here in the South, but what I learned is that while it’s a joke that you thought had a ring of truth to it because your racist uncle is a huge Trump fan, it has a lot more validity than even I thought. My newsfeed is flooded with pro-Trump memes and posts. It’s really not a joke at all. It’s a reality, at least in my virtual world that I created. That’s a small sample-size but I would wager that around 75-80% of the political memes shared are in support of Trump. I would say that Ted Cruz does come in second, and the rest is just a mixture of the rest of the republican candidates. These people, it should go without saying, are overwhelmingly conservative and in support of the GOP. The few that dissent never do so because they’re conflicted supporters of gay-marriage and Reaganomics, either. The griping I do see are ones, like the teabaggers, who are mad and frustrated because the candidates aren’t conservative enough. When I say that, I mean they aren’t hard enough on islam, aren’t supportive enough of their confederate causes, or pretty much don’t flat-out call Obama some racial epithet they use to describe him on a daily basis.

While I know that all of these people don’t vote, or are at least the sporadic presidential voters, I do know that there are many that never miss an election. That’s why we get the far-right representatives that we do. The Steve King’s, Michelle Bachmann’s, and Louie Gohmert’s of the world. If you are familiar with those former(Bachmann)  and current United States representatives, google them. The conservative base, demographically, vote more consistently than those on the left. That’s also why they have trounced us during the last two mid-term elections and will continue to do so if we don’t get our heads out of our asses. I could go on about the question I, and many of you I’m sure, have asked: Why would these people vote for a candidate that are so obviously against their own best interests? But, that’s a different blog and a question that has a lot of answers that make little sense as well. I just wanted to make mention of the political side of this little world I live in for a short while on most days.


So, there’s my update of what’s being going on in the alternate universe I’ve been checking in and out of for the last six weeks or so. As I am finished with this blog, I will add that the final count as of this morning of facebook freinds is 4,055 out which I added maybe ten in the first few days of creating it. I will be keeping the page up indefinitely. I have been thinking of various ways of using it now that it looks like a validated account with so many friends. One idea I have is creating a google form asking various questions for some confederate survey group just to see the responses. Please feel free to comment or let me know some potential questions that would be good for this!

It’s a virtual reality that I’m sure many of you reading this already know about because friends, family, and maybe those people you knew but really didn’t like in high school live in it as well and constantly share their alternate, yet terrible reality with you. A reality they believe actually exists in their mind as they pine for days past that they want in the future that would almost definitely bring all of the progress this country has made to a grinding halt. It wouldn’t be so bad if these attitudes existed only on Confederate Matt’s newsfeed, but it doesn’t. It hangs on the words they utter to their children. It many times sits on far too many teachers desk. Among other places, we know now since the events in Ferguson, it’s tucked behind the badges of some in law enforcement officers. Embedded down in their hearts as it is in the people I see on the computer screen. It’s everywhere. You don’t need this blog, nor the password to that fake facebook account. You just have to listen or maybe turn on the local news to see it. It’s there, I promise you that.

My history with depression..

Since my last blog on depression I wanted to touch a little on my history with it. This one will get pretty personal but I think it’s good for me to get some of it out and explore where I think my depression comes from. It’s not always easy to admit or acknowledge the things that have happened in our life, especially when they change us.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I have noticed depression quite a bit among my generation and in my area of Central Appalachia. Growing up I got glimpses into what depression looked like and it wasn’t pretty. My grandmother was and is a manic-depressant, along with being bipolar. When I was six years old she had a nervous breakdown which led to her completely trashing her home, the one that my mother, family, and I grew up in. I wasn’t able to grasp what had happened. Everyone around me knew that, so I was told someone had broken in and destroyed the home. Not long after that incident my grandparents filed for divorce. I was furious. This person had ruined a home I knew and a large part of my family. I remember asking again and again if they had caught who had done this, but it was always “No.” It wasn’t until I was about ten or eleven that I found out it was my grandmother and her mental health issues that I had long sought after. I was mad at first, but even then I knew it was beyond her control. My anger was lost but found again from time to time as my grandmother found alcohol as an outlet from her depression. She developed another disease to combat one she already had.

It’s easy to see where my grandmothers mental health issues might stem from. She was born into poverty, lost her mother to tuberculosis when she was a toddler, and bounced from orphanage to orphanage during the 1950’s as my great-grandfather became an alcoholic after my great-grandmother’s death. He would would come back into her life during those years sometimes, usually with a new stepmother. One of them was evil personified. Every day after my great-grandfather went to work, she would beat and abuse my grandmother. One time she beat her back into bloody stripes and poured bleach into the wounds. With bruises and marks that could be hidden and anything else blamed on playing in the neighborhood, this went on for sometime without my great-grandfather knowing while  working 10-12 hours in a mine. Another reason he didn’t find out was because my grandmother was threatened not to tell, but not her life. She threatened my grandfather’s. If she told him, her stepmother said she was poison his food she made for him everyday breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Eventually my grandmother broke down and told him everything chasing him down one morning on his way to work. From what I was told he turned around and struck the stepmother with the car (not seriously), and after an argument, she was kicked out and a divorce followed immediately. It was a story that you hear about in movies. I would have had a harder time believing if it weren’t for the scars down her back she still has today.

There’s no doubt abuse like that still happens today. We hear enough of it on the news to know that. What’s frightening is what we don’t hear about. I wasn’t abused growing up, however. I grew up in poverty and probably saw somethings that a kid wasn’t supposed to see growing up, but I did have a loving family that never, ever physically or emotionally abused me. I was much more fortunate than a lot of kids here in Appalachia.

There was one thing, though. Something about me, my family, that stuck out as I got older. I didn’t have a father. It wasn’t until I was about seven, when my mother married my stepfather, that I even thought much about it. I just thought that’s the way it was. I had my family and I was happy. My mother busted her ass to make sure I had everything I needed. Right before she married my stepfather she graduated from nursing school and became an LPN. After she married, I took to my stepfather but questions like “Should I call him “Dad”? were always on my mind. I began to question why wasn’t my biological father there. I eventually found out at an early age that he had left when he found out my mother was pregnant. With a son he already had from a previous relationship, he signed away all his rights to me. He didn’t want me but I can remember this not sinking in completely. It wasn’t until I found out that he had another child after me, by a third woman. With that I found out he had been in my older brother’s life and now my younger sister’s life who have different mothers. I was the middle kid, but the one that was discarded by him. After that I realized what rejection was. I remember breaking down to my grandmother one night asking “How come he didn’t want me?” when I was about ten. If you’ve ever watched that Fresh Prince of Bell Air episode, it was a real life break down like it..

…and I break down every single time I watch that episode. I think every kid that grew up with a biological parent out of the picture completely or sporadically loses it too.

As much as I didn’t want to admit it then, and even now, that rejection stings. While I am certain that I wouldn’t be the person I am today if he had been in my life, it’s natural to wonder why the person who contributed to the creation of your life didn’t want to have anything to do with you after you were born, yet did with his other two children. It affected me. It affects me now. I have no urge to ever see him. I haven’t so much as spoken a word to him in my 25 years. I decided that I wasn’t going to after one point in my life. It was when I was going through my second bout with cancer. Though he never even called during this time, it hit me after a stretch in the hospital when there were questions about me surviving. After my stem-cell transplant in December of 2013 I went home to Virginia. While we knew the cancer was still there, it might take some time for the transplant to work. On a check-up to the doctor, I wasn’t doing well and was immediately admitted to the ICU after it was found that my lungs were filling up with fluid which was also building up around my heart. It was the closest the death I have ever been. All my family visited, pastors came in, and my mother wouldn’t leave my side. I didn’t fully grasp how bad it was at the time, but later on I was told. During this time there wasn’t a single call or visit from my biological father to tell me “Hi” for the first time and “bye” for the last time. I think about that every now and again but I came to the conclusion long ago that someone that callous and negative wasn’t something I need or want in my life.

I remember right after I was in remission I began seeing a psychologist at St. Jude. They assign you one post-treatment which was such a great thing even if I didn’t appreciate it. I remember being asked dozens of times if I was depressed. My answer was always ‘no’. I didn’t feel sad all of the time, which is what I thought depression was. I had times when I was sad, particularly losing friends. The thing about growing up in cancer hospitals is that you make friends, young friends like yourself. The commonality is that you two have that one thing in common: cancer. No one quite knows what you’re going through unless they are or have experienced it. It’s a special common bond that I cherish. It’s something I have with a few friends today, even one I met much later on in life. What they don’t tell you is that the thing that bonded you together in the beginning can be the very thing that ends it as well. One week you can go in for a check-up or treatment, see a familiar face, and always getting to know a little more about them and their diagnoses. The next week you can go in and that person, that beautiful young person, has died. That happened to me a couple of times. One was with a young girl my mother and I adored. She was eight. You feel different things when that happens. My first thought goes back to “I could die.” Cancer does kill people, even sweet eight year old girls that were so full of life. The second thing I felt was: why did I live? You really wonder why you deserve to be here, breathing, while so many suffer and pass away. It may sound like a silly and self-deprecating, but I still ask myself that today.

I’m not special. I’m really not. I have no doubt that I’ve met and saw the faces of many children that aren’t around today. Those kids could be doing so much with their life today and when I’m feeling depressed, I wonder if I am doing enough with mine with the chance of life that I have while it was taken from so many who I passed in the halls of St. Jude. Maybe it was one of the kids that could barely hold their head up after a round of chemo. Maybe it was one of those countless smiles I saw peeking from behind a surgical mask. They deserved life as much as I do. It’s a burden I live with every day.

Depression has surrounded me my entire life and I didn’t even know it most of the time. It consumed me and my family from an early age until I more recently acknowledged my own depression. I have no doubt that my experiences I’ve talked about here contributed to my bouts with depression, anxiety, fear of rejection and failure. Our experiences shape us, whether we like it or not. That’s what life does. It hits us. It brings us to our knees. It never stops coming at you. That’s a lot to take in and we all have these things that happen, good or bad, which change how we think and feel. It’s hard to be positive at all sometimes. To a person with depression, hope and optimism can be almost impossible to even imagine feeling anymore. It’s been hard to look past all of the things I’ve talked about here, but I can see a lot of good things. I can feel them now. As much as I’ve been through in 25 years, I look back thinking it could have been so much worse. I know that because I’ve seen others go through much worse. I have a family I love. I have friends that I love and that includes the many I know only via facebook. You all have been some of the most supportive and kindest friends. I hope this was worth reading. It was definitely worth writing.

Depression and me…

I’m sitting here in my bed writing this after a kick of depression got me tonight wondering how many of you are sitting in your bed reading it and feeling your depression if you suffer from it. I’d wager there’s more than a few of you that are. I have been stunned at the level of people I have spoken to that suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. I feel it most days but to varying degrees. I have felt that way for years and only now realize that. Some days, weeks, are better than others. I’m optimistic. I’m more energetic. I’m hopeful. I’m productive. I’m more confident. I’m not afraid to talk to people. Other times it’s not so great. Sometimes I have to talk myself into getting up, taking a shower, eating, etc. I sometimes feel alone and pessimistic. I want to talk to a girl. I want to talk to anyone. I want go hang out with friends. I want to read. I want to do everything but this subtle paralysis takes over me. It prevents me from acting on those things, from feeling any positivity. I hate those days. I hate when it goes deeper and I start questioning things like am I’m successful? Will I ever get my degree? What’s going to happen in my career? Will I have health insurance next year? What if I get cancer again? We all have worries and concerns about our life. That’s only natural. Some days, though, my depression won’t let me think about anything else. It feeds my anxiety and triggers my PTSD. I hate it. It’s such a terrible disease and something I’ve spent my life denying and wishing I’d never experience after seeing how it can destroy a family. I have hopeless days and I wonder will this get worse? Will it become so bad that I can’t handle it? I feel as if I’m a long way from becoming that bad and I think I’ll be okay. I understand, however, that this is a disease. It can get better or get worse without treatment or help. The best and most helpful thing I have done to feel better was just admitting it to myself and my doctors. Talking about it, to anyone, can be so helpful.

I never really understood depression growing up. I had denied me ever having it and my experience with it was more extreme with my grandmother. I guess I saw it as someone who was sad, crazy. suicidal or there must have been something serious that happened in their life to make them that way. As high school always does, it introduces you to things.  I remember seeing for the first time people who had cut marks on their arms. I remember talking to girls and a few of them confiding in me that the had or did cut themselves. I couldn’t for the life of me understand it. Early on, I thought it was stupid…and I know how callous that sounds. Youth and ignorance do go hand-in-hand like that many times. Hurting yourself? Cutting yourself? I just couldn’t wrap my head around it, but I couldn’t wrap my head around depression much at all even if I didn’t know it. Since then, in spite of my ignorance, I’ve learned so much from the people I didn’t understand and judged. As I’ve said before, I’ve never considered suicide or hurting myself but I can see how someone could get to that point. I could see me getting to that point and that scares the hell out of me. What will happen if I lose someone close to me? What will happen if I lose a job I had? How will I feel when something bad, sometimes inevitable, happens? This is why this issue has become so important to me. It’s not just because of myself, but it’s because I know there’s so many out there that feel just like I do. I know there’s many out there that have it much worse wondering how much more they can take? Will the next bad thing be what disconnects them from our lifeline, the invisible element flowing through us called hope? I look at people much differently than I did before. Things seem so black and white when you’re younger, indifferent, or unaware.

On top of all of the burden, worry, and stress that we deal with, it’s compounded by the ignorance and misinformation that surrounds mental health issues. Many times we don’t even understand what’s happening with ourselves. To make matters worse those on the outside know so little about what we’re going through. Many times what they don’t know is replaced with an ignorance that creates stigma. It’s like pouring gasoline on a fire and preventing those who are trapped behind it from seeking an exit. When others label those with these issues as crazy, something to fear, as “damaged goods”, and so forth, it makes many of us feel that way about ourselves. It makes us want to keep it all to ourself and not let anyone know how we’re feeling. This country, one that prides itself on its modernity, is still far behind when it comes to issues of mental health. We don’t treat it, we just ignore it until something tragic happens. After that, we bow our heads and think “What a shame!”. When we’re not doing that, we criminalize it. If you want to find the largest collection of those inflicted by mental health in your state, you don’t visit the nearby hospital or mental health clinic if there’s even one close by. No. You visit the prisons, jails, and juvenile centers. There you will find those who we have already failed and failed terribly. The stigma surrounding this, us, drowns out calls for help and the ignorance washes them away. We have to do better. We have to talk, listen, and help each other whenever we can.

When I look at people I think of that story that I remember reading my first year of college, one that you’re probably familiar with. It’s called “The Things They Carried”. It’s a story about a group of soldiers and the things they carried with them in war whether it be a pocket knife or grief and fear. They carried those things. We all do. We carry the clothes on our backs, the phone in our pocket. Maybe a hat, a purse, or a backpack with our laptop in it. All of us, though, carry so much more. Things you can’t see. We walk around with these emotions, feelings, thoughts, burdens, and everything else that weighs us down and lifts us up. Do you ever think about that when you’re looking at someone? I do now more than I did before. I wonder what they’re thinking. Are they stressed out and exhausted? Do they have a mountain of responsibilities that I couldn’t manage or did they just lose someone they loved? Are they being loved and if they do, do they know it? Are they being abused, and if they are, does anyone else know it? Is today a good day for them or have they lost hope and are thinking of suicide? Depression is something those of us that who have it carry it around with us every day. Remember that. Remember that every time you look at someone. Remember it every time you look in the mirror because you’re not alone. I promise, you’re not alone.

I feel better after writing this. I feel better letting you know a little of how I feel. I feel as if I’m talking to someone even though right now is one of those times that I’m afraid to try. Sometimes I can express exactly how I feel with the perfect words I was looking for to describe it. Sometimes I want to express something, maybe to somebody, and I can’t find a “hello” no matter how far down I dig. Sometimes I won’t even try or will just make excuses to keep to myself. “They’re probably busy.”, “I know I’m bothering them.”, “They won’t even notice I’m not there tonight.”…..I have a long list. I shouldn’t think like that, though. I shouldn’t do that to myself. What I’m really saying is that “I don’t matter.”, “They don’t care about me.”, “They don’t like me.” I chip away at my worth and I don’t even realize it. I also have to remember that people really are busy and maybe they’re having a tough time talking to anyone like I am. Whatever the case may be, I need to work on that. That’s what depression really is when it comes down to it, taking things day-by-day and trying to get better. One of my favorite quotes sums it up perfectly….

I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way.

– Carl Sandburg