Laura G Owens on July 5th, 2017

free speech

Written by Sam Cook

The internet as we know it is nearly 30 years old. Sure, the web is a bit more complicated — and more intricately connected — than it was 30 years ago, but it’s no less of a modern Wild West today than it was in the 90s (although you may need to dig deep into the darknet to experience the real gun-slinging). The freedoms and anonymity we enjoy online are, however, constantly under scrutiny, by both governments and businesses alike.

At the heart of the issue many have with the internet in its current form is the aforementioned anonymity. That freedom is in no small part is guaranteed by the First Amendment, but it comes in direct conflict with the distinctly gray legal areas the internet seemingly creates with ease.

On the surface, online freedom of speech seems simple enough. The words inscribed within the First Amendment appear to be fairly straightforward in covering the topic:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

We see all of those freedoms expressed on the internet with stunning regularity. Religious websites of all kinds abound; people can and do say almost anything, sometimes with reckless abandon; newspapers are now surviving almost exclusively because of their internet presence; social media websites and online forums allow anyone to “assemble”; websites, such as petitions.whitehouse.gov, exist to streamline our legally-required right to petition the government.

Yet much of what happens on the internet falls more specifically under the broad concept of “free speech”. However, the definition of “speech” has expanded in the past 200 years to now include far more than just written or spoken words. Actions themselves can constitute free speech. This broad definition makes interpreting the freedoms, and subsequent limitations, all the more vague as some actions are certainly harmful to others in ways that infringe on their rights.  Full text

Image credit

Tags: , , ,

Laura G Owens on June 6th, 2017

God, agnostic, religion, questioning God

…I have no doubt I helped destroy my daughter’s faith in God. As Tina grew up, my higher power shifted from a His Will Be Done Christian to a genderless “divine force in the universe” with good intentions and a wry sense of humor. It’s pretty hard for kids to grab on to God when God is radiant healing energy crossed with Mother Theresa and George Carlin.

Tina insists losing religion isn’t my fault, that she started questioning back in middle school. She tells me not to worry, that she finds hope and comfort knowing she can “question everything in the universe” and then sit back and “consider the infinite possibilities.”

Wonder is her worship now, and I’m thrilled she has the same unquenchable awe I had at her age. But when Tina told me she didn’t believe in God anymore I was heartbroken. I felt like I’d stolen something from her, like I gradually chipped away at her faith until she had nothing left but skepticism…

From “Losing My Religion” published on Purple Clover. 

 

Image credit

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Image result for gender fluidity

When I say confused I’m not saying anything is wrong with the spectrum and fluidity of gender identity; I’m saying I don’t understand how someone can feel like a man one day, female the next or at any given moment, somewhere in-between or entirely genderless?

But to quote my 19 year-old daughter, “Mom you don’t need to understand something to accept it.”

Clearly my ignorance and age is showing.

I’ve been socialized in a culture that lives and breathes by the construct of two genders, whether as cis or trans. No where in my upbringing despite liberal parents and my lifelong need to understand “the other not like me” was I introduced to gender identity across a moving spectrum. This is a new and complex conversation even inside my progressive circles.

Writes German Lopez, “It’s now more accepted if someone is a man and loves a man, or if someone is designated a woman at birth and identifies as a man later in life — or perhaps during childhood. Seeing this progress, others are trying to expand concepts of gender even further — to directions many Americans may not be used to.”

Actress and model Ruby Rose explains what gender fluidity means to her:

“Gender fluidity is not really feeling like you’re at one end of the spectrum or the other,” she said. “For the most part, I definitely don’t identify as any gender. I’m not a guy; I don’t really feel like a woman, but obviously I was born one. So, I’m somewhere in the middle, which — in my perfect imagination — is like having the best of both sexes. I have a lot of characteristics that would normally be present in a guy and then less that would be present in a woman. But then sometimes I’ll put on a skirt — like today.”

My daughter who identifies as cis gender told me that yes it’s all very confusing, the genders and associated matrix of pronouns (he, she, they, ve, ze…) but that her generation just isn’t hung up on labels.

But I feel old and stuck and I admit, a little uncomfortable with gender fluidity as it relates to privacy in public changing spaces.

What if I walk into the locker room at the YMCA and someone walks by who appears to be biologically male but who self-defines as a woman that day? Of course this is all wildly hypothetical. I’m not going ask the person’s gender identity.

But does the fact that my stomach drops when I see a presumed man in the locker room mean I think he might be a straight guy sneaking a peek at naked women?

Well, yeah.

But then we get into the issue of sexual orientation which has nothing to do with gender identity. Sexual orientation is the gender you are attracted, and like gender identity can be fluid. It can change.

And the reality is in any given moment in a locker room, on the beach, in the sauna, we have no idea who is attracted to who. We just go about our business…..

Want to read the whole post? Here it is.

Image credit

 

 

Tags: , ,

Laura G Owens on January 31st, 2017

walkingI’m delighted I found Grown & Flown, a website and blog about parenting older kids (ages 15 to 25).

Grown & Flown recently published my essay “Why I Stopped Worrying If My College Daughter Was Lonely”

Tina is a thousand times more self-loving and grounded than I was at her age. This is probably why I keep asking if she’s lonely; I’m projecting my 18-year-old unsettled feelings on to her. At 18 I was still emotionally damaged from childhood, anxious and terrified of every new situation. I didn’t enter college as my own best friend and I was always trying to fit into some group or some version of myself.

If you’re interested, you can find the full essay here.

 

Image credit

Tags: , ,

From The Huffington Post

Hillary Won. But Lost.

At about 3:30 am on election night, I moved out of denial and into the bargaining stage of grief. I sat on my bathroom floor and pleaded “Please, pleeease, God, no. Do you know what this means? My daughter just voted for the first time.”

About 4am, my husband came into the family room and saw me still watching the election returns and sobbing on the couch. Blurry after too much wine, shock and despair, I almost couldn’t get the words out, “This can’t be happening.”

The last stage of grappling with grief is acceptance. Acceptance is the place where you don’t agree with the outcome but you make peace so you stop feeling so shitty.

But I’ll never accept that *61,336,159 Americans decided racism, sexism and misogyny weren’t deal-breakers. I shouldn’t have to explain why in 2016.

Now all I can do is ask what’s next? What do we do? Where do we start? Full post

*running total

Image credit

Tags: , , , ,

Laura G Owens on November 7th, 2016

Planned Parenthood

 

Excerpted from “God Is Also Inside Planned Parenthood”

They were last night as I walked in to a Planned Parenthood discussion on “A Celebration of Faith and Reproductive Health.”

They’re always there, the voices to protect the unborn.

A few protesters waved graphic images of bloody broken babies and held “Planned Parenthood = Murder” signs. A man on a megaphone shouted Scripture from the curb.

For a moment I wondered about all the good these protesters could do if they combined their passion and turned it into everyone’s cause. Because everyone wants to reduce unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

As I walked into the meeting room I was struck by the number of men who showed up, men who don’t own a womb but must understand why they must never own mine.

I grabbed a chair in the front row and listened to a panel of faith leaders and one secular humanist share why they support reproductive rights in the context of their beliefs.

Rev Davis, former Chair of Planned Parenthood’s Clergy Advisory Board, spoke frankly about his years as chaplain at Skidmore College during the late 60’s.

When he first started he told his wife, “How hard could it be to counsel 1400 girls?”

“‘You’re an idiot,’ she said, ‘It’ll be hard.’” Read full post

Image credit

Tags: , , ,

Laura G Owens on August 18th, 2016

We’re all guilty of this. We slip out a horrible or ignorant comment, cringe, then wish we could take our words back.

Before I was became a mom I once asked a very pregnant friend who mentioned she was going to the beach, “Do pregnant women go to the beach?” “I mean I know they can but do they want to? What kind of bathing suit do they wear?”

“The kind made for pregnant women. Maternity,” then she shot me exactly the you dumb ass look I deserved.

But for the most part unless you’re a horrible person, these verbal gaffs are just innocent ignoramus blunders.  Foot in mouth. Hopefully we apologize, eat crow and move on.

But what about senior citizens who regularly say outrageous stuff simply because they think they can.

They do it because we think “they’re too old to change.”

Nonsense.

I once had a beloved relative who I loved dearly for her warmth, charm, sense of humor, elegance and full on unapologetic moxie.

I remember the day she screamed “Asshead!” across a golf fairway to former Bears coach Mike Ditka because he accidentally hit his golf ball too close to her putt. I’m sure he didn’t hear but the fact that she waved her golf club in his direction surely got her point across. (Coach Ditka hobbled over on his painful hips and apologized). I had to keep myself from laughing in case my amusement pissed her off even more.

“Asshead” was also this relative’s favorite expletive when people cut her off on the road.

But as full of charming moxie as this wonderful lady was, there was a line she crossed for me. Not often, rarely in fact. But once was too often.

She casually referred to black people as “coloreds.”

One time as “that darkie.” She never said it to black people but about black people. She also collectively and with ever so slight disdain, sometimes referred to “those Jews.”

Again this was rare, but it only takes once to shudder.

Out of respect for her age and our relationship, when she said “that darkie” I politely interrupted and asked how she managed to raise six kids who weren’t racist.

“Oh I’m not racist,” she said calmly. “I know plenty of black people I like.”

That she thought “darkie,” a word abandoned by even the overt modern day racists, was okay because if you “like plenty of them,” you like enough, is a level of convenient ignorance I can’t ignore.

This relative was a warm sophisticated smart lady. She lived among well-aware class suburbanites. She read books and newspapers. She religiously watched the nightly news. She and her husband, (equally privately racist) visited historical monuments near and far, sites stained with our nation’s enslavement.

Of course she knew “colored” and “darkie” were racial slurs.

But to keep the peace, most of us (myself included) usually shrug off senior citizen’s racist words because we’ve given up.”That’s the way some of the older generation is. They’re too old to change.”

No one is too old to change. Old dogs can learn new tricks.

Listen, I get as we age we want to put less energy into filtering our words. At 80, 90+ years old we’ve earned the right to not give a crap what people think.

Not exactly. The free-to-finally-be-yourself movement, you know, the “When I’m Old I’ll Where Purple”movement, isn’t about letting down your racist hair.

It’s about the freedom to be who you want to be in your mind, body, spirit and flashy gold lame shoes. It’s about dancing like no one is looking, but they are looking.

What seniors rightfully earn is respect for their impressive years, fortitude, and their contribution to our nation, families and collective wisdom. Every generation should bow to their elders for what they endured and sacrificed.

Seniors have earned a level of mild crankiness, should they feel cranky with pain. We’ve earned our eccentricity for oddly matched clothes we believe expresses seasoned or tired confidence. We shorthand politeness in favor of blunt talk to get to the point. Maybe we’re a beloved pain the ass.

But basic decency doesn’t have an expiration date. None.

I don’t think seniors should be allowed to pull the “Well I’m old so I’ll damn well say what I want. Not in front of you or God forbid in public.  No, “colored, nigger, darky, “faggot, A-rabs, Kikes, Spics or Orientals or hey you girlie”

I don’t care if grandma or grandpa are pushing 107. If they’re of sound mind, they need to join us in this century. If they can’t change their views (too old to change, frankly, that’s a load of crap). Then they need to keep their mouths shut.

People are fighting their asses off for civil rights and unfortunately more often these days, for their literal lives.

The Sort of Sad 

I’ve been seriously depressed. Very sad people generally just hole up quietly and don’t bother anyone because they don’t have the energy.

But low simmering sad people who aren’t clinically depressed but who hate their life and really hate that you love yours regularly get a pity card (“Oh that’s just Fran. Ignore her comment about how you always look tired. She’s always miserable. I feel bad for her”).

Sure, if someone lost her job or has a child hooked on drugs or was just diagnosed or is in chronic pain or God forbid lost a loved one, clearly the right thing to do is to let her spout off for a while.

But I told my stepmom years back, even a paralyzed guy in a wheelchair is an asshole if he always acts like one.

“But maybe that’s why he’s an asshole,” she said, “because he’s in a wheelchair.”

But there has to be a statute of limitations on using sad to say whatever we want because at some point sad is no longer an excuse, it’s just a bad personality.

So here’s the thing, being politically correct can be filled with land mines. Not giving a crap is less work.

So sometimes I think we let the non-pc mouthy types off the hook because maybe like us, they’re nervous about what’s okay to say.

Transgender. Gender non-identifying. Bi-curious. Able-bodied. People of Color. African American. Native American.

It’s hard to keep up.

Let me suggest if you can’t keep up ask someone or Google. And if you make a mistake because someone defines herself in a way you didn’t know, it’s okay.

No one has this all figured out. Political correctness is a moving target.

But basic thought for what is clearly or likely offensive only takes a tiny bit of common sense and decency.

 

Image credit

Tags: ,

Laura G Owens on June 23rd, 2016

#OrlandoStrong

#OrlandoStrong

After my city’s tragedy, the world’s tragedy, I didn’t cry.

Oh my eyes welled up a little, but I was too shocked, too devastated, too in despair to fully release my horror.

I could not cry because perhaps if I did, I might not stop.

For years and reasons that no longer matter, I’ve learned to place layers of protective emotional covering over my heart. And so throughout my city’s beautiful candlelit vigils, throughout the crowds of sobbing, the overwhelming grief, the tearful hugs, the piles of flowers and the carved crosses lined with victims’ names, I did not cry. 

I do not want to sob.

Still, we must honor our fallen and our hurting, even, especially, if the tragedy is close to home

But how I do this, or you do this or they do this, really doesn’t matter. How we sit inside each stage of grief is for the individual to decide.

I write.

I watch briefly, the stark gruesome news. I painfully swallow the Pulse reality in measured small doses. I cannot imagine the overwhelming sorrow the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends, lovers, daughters and sons bear now and forever.

There’s no formula for how each of us heal. When I feel drowned in the details of that night, the night that happened 30 minutes from my home, I turn off the TV and radio.

A mother of 11 protected her son. She died. He did not.

A daughter, only 18 and the youngest victim in the shooting, escaped safely out of the nightclub until she ran back in to save her friend. In moments of gunfire she texted her parents and begged for help. As she huddled in a bathroom stall the gunman came in and she was shot in the arm.  She might have lived, were she not hit in that artery and waited and…

My daughter is 18.

I listen to the stories, to the surreal hell the survivors endured while their friends and others died in pools of blood inches away. Brain matter, one said, on her clothes.

I shudder and then I move away from the words, from the horror of that night. If I don’t I feel helpless and paralyzed.

And so I grieve by activating, by renewing hope through action. I give. I relentlessly support gun control, again and again and again.

I look for signs of recovery. I look for billowing strength.

And those signs are everywhere in Orlando.

You can’t step away from the wallpapering of sad reminders when it’s your town, and yet you don’t want to step away from the showering support from all over the world.  The world is blanketing our community in love.

It was finally this Keep Dancing Orlando video shared on Facebook the other morning, this, that made me weep.

The joy despite the sorrow, allowed my tears to flow.

Our City Beautiful is the world’s epicenter of fantastical fun, of imagination, of diversity and always, not just now, of support for our LGBT community.

And so we rise and once again — we dance.

#OrlandoStrong

#OrlandoUnited

Image credit

 

Tags: , , , ,

Laura G Owens on June 20th, 2016

Orlando Strong

Orlando Strong

I’ve long been horrified by Westboro Baptist.

On the continuum of LGBT haters, they spew the worst anti LGBT post tragedy bile imaginable with such Godly views as: they deserved it.

WB is apparently “Orlando Bound” to protest, as they often do, at local funerals of victims of the Pulse tragedy.

It goes without saying but it takes a special kind of broken, I’d suggest mental illness, to vomit hate on the grieving.

But here’s the thing, Westboro Baptist or any anti LGBT individual or hate group, you’re coming to my town. These are my people.

Your kind is not welcome here there or anywhere across our nation. You are the fringe, the true Left Behind, the outlier.

Our Orlando churches, many who stood in the way of same-sex marriage and who continue to pit God against gays, never set foot into your language. They grapple, they do not gouge out hearts.

Their version of God might tell them (sadly) that the LGBT community doesn’t deserve civil rights and protections. Still, their God, Muslim, Christian or otherwise, doesn’t command them to stomp on the mourning.

My Central Florida community is filled with bridge builders. This is who we are. This is what we do. Our local LGBT community has led the conversation for decades.

Cheers to Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs for her warning to funeral protesters: “If that happens we will not leave their presence unchallenged.”

Westboro, it’s best you turn that bus around because love and grief make for swift and determined justice.

I’m not suggesting violence. I never suggest violence, which the rational know begets…

I’m saying funeral protesters will be legally banned. Westboro knows this is likely and yet emboldened by a perverse sense of religious righteousness, they dare to come anyway.

But Westboro protesters will be surrounded and outnumbered. Calmly. Swiftly. Love advocates will stare protesters directly in the eyes, into the windows of the soulless. Unflinching. Many will say nothing.

‘Angels’ block Westboro Baptist Church protest at Orlando memorial.

And so, we win.

It may not feel like much of a triumph in the wake of our community’s deepest tragedy made more painful by verbal assaults on the grieving.

But we are indeed winning.

More of Us, than You.

#OrlandoStrong #OrlandoUnited

 

Image credit

Tags: , ,

Laura G Owens on May 20th, 2016

throwing cap in the airRemember to stand tall.

Shoulders back. Head up. Carry yourself with the spectacular you are. The world will treat you as you expect to be treated. You are mighty and deserving.

Remember that humility is not the opposite of confidence. Humility is to ask, to listen, to learn and to grow.

Remember to apologize. Do this. You must.

Remember to forgive yourself and them. This is very hard. Be patient.

Remember that you’re no one’s fool or doormat or plaything. It is better to be disliked than to dislike yourself.

Remember that true friendship must begin with trust, the rest is gravy.

Remember to speak your truth. Some will hate you for this. Do it anyway.

Remember that beauty is by chance, that character is painstaking and earned. Do not compromise on character, ever.

Remember that your body is a gift to nurture and to share as you decide. Do not compromise your body, ever.

Remember to be safe and smart in your choices.  One mindless decision can alter your entire life.

Remember to create your image on your terms, not his, or hers, or theirs. The media must not define you. You must define you.

Remember that joy is the point of life, it really is. Let no one convince you this is selfish. Joy without harm, is the point.

Remember how much you are loved. It is big. It is wide. It is forever.

Remember that hostile mean hard people are sometimes in pain. I forget this, often.

Remember that kindness is the most important “thing” you can give another human being.

Remember to be open to the “other.” Celebrate diversity because doing this I promise, will make your life feel more compassionate, connected and alive.

Remember to travel to “strange lands,” to eat “strange” foods and to delight in other cultures.

Remember to ask life’s big questions and then to sit comfortably in the not knowing.

Remember that science and faith are never at war. One fills the gap where the other simply cannot. And when you think about it, isn’t that wonderful?

Remember to have faith in the unseen and in the possibilities.

Remember that all men and women are created equal. You are not special. But indeed, you are.

Remember that wonder is life’s greatest free entertainment. Wonder never needs a screen or to re-charge its battery.

Remember to forge your own path. It is yours, and it will be surprising and glorious.

Remember to live your life with unquenchable curiosity. Be giddy. Be ridiculous. Be a wise-ass around the ones you trust, around the ones who understand your family’s twisted humor.

Remember to be courageous and to pick-yourself-up again, and again, and again.

Remember when you fall, and you will fall, to ask for help. The strong ask.

Remember to ask God, anything.

Remember that your version of God is yours to decide.

Remember that the good in your life will return, because good always returns.

Remember that the Golden Rule is perfect. It is divine. It is the way.

Remember to be a voice for the voiceless, for there are millions in our world who need yours.

Remember to laugh and to laugh and to laugh and to laugh. And then to laugh again.

Remember that when you need to cry, do it. Do it unashamed. Do it big. Sometimes our weeping puddles become our only relief.

Remember to be grateful. Gratitude will give you strength and healing. Gratitude for merely the soft warm wind against your tears is sometimes your only, and I mean only, comfort.

Remember that although I don’t always say this, or feel this, or remember this:

That most people are good.

That life is good.

Default to that. Live that. Feel that. Convey that.

This will lift you. I promise it will. And then my sweet girl, you will soar.

Love always,

Mom

 

Image credit

 

 

 

Tags: ,

Site last updated March 25, 2019 @ 1:46 pm

%d bloggers like this: