On Turning 20

Whenever someone has a birthday, we always ask ‘do you feel any different?’ even though almost every single time we know their response will be ‘no’. I turned 20 this week, and still I’m waiting for some kind of knowledge or wisdom or somethiing to suddenly snap into place as if reaching that age is like unlocking a level, the reward some sort of ‘welcome to adulthood’ package which includes the skill to change tires, pay taxes, knowledge on the economic markets, and the ability to talk about politics in every conversation.

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So it’s not the day of your birth, the day you turn 18 or 20 or 30 or 100 that everything clicks in. It’s the years of mistakes and successes and pain and happiness that you actually learn. Which, really, is more difficult to digest. We say ‘you’ll understand when you’re older’, not because you’ll be a different age but because the experiences you’ve had and been through teach you. Those disney movies which nice messages may set a foundation, but it’s only through your own trials and tribulations that you actually figure things out on your own.

But it’s hard, learning things, because you start to form opinions and, as it seems, not everyone learns or thinks the same things. So it’s worse, when tragedies such as those that have happened all over the world in the past few days, that people never seem to be able to agree on what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.

Christina Grimmie’s death felt personal to me, as I remember watching her Youtube videos when I was younger. One in particular, her cover of ‘Titanium‘ by David guetta ft.Sia, was one that I obsessed over. I remember listening to it over and over again, trying to sing along but really just appreciating how wonderful I thought Christina’s voice was. Through her I discovered new artists and new songs and a better appreciation of music, especially in the Youtube community. So it felt worse, to go through the comment section on her videos – although comment sections are always dangerous – when people were justifying the thing that killed her. Saying that it wouldn’t have happened if she’d been armed and able to defend herself. It felt worse, because I wanted to scream my opinion at everyone that clearly something is disgustingly wrong in the world if we’re standing up for a weapon, where maybe if we just made access to that weapon much harder could have prevented it. It’s hard, because now I’m older, and I think I know what is right. But other people think they’re right, and why should they think we know better? Why should we think that we know better?

Then the tragedy in the Orlando club shooting, and although there were tributes and devastation, the debates erupted. Was it a terrorist attack? An attack on the LGBTQ+ community? Both? Then it turns back to gun control, and everyone arguing and calling each other names – and they start to forget, that in all the arguing and debating, lives have been lost. And it hurts to think about these things. It hurts to feel like you’re older and feel like you should know what to do and feel that maybe you’re powerless and you want to just leave it to someone else who knows what they’re doing to just stop it.

Back to Youtube, one particular video on the shooting got to me (see it here) and, once again, I felt the need to go into the comment section – only to see the same as before. Yet it was made worse by people targeting the person in the video. She’s crying, which makes her argument invalid. She’s an emotional woman, out of control. She’s faking her tears to make people agree with her. Again and again, it seemed like no one else was thinking the same as me. Have they not learned through their years? Have they not started to form the same thoughts as me? Can’t they see her obvious devastation and her plea for action? How can you get angry that she cries? She’s showing emotion, so bloody what?

There’s so much I could say on the subject. Maybe in several years I’ll change my tune, but for now all I can think is that getting older is hard because you have to come to terms with the fact that not everyone gets along. Not everyone thinks the same as you. It doesn’t get easier.

And so I enter my twenties, bracing for what’s going to happen next. My love goes out to everyone affected and hurt by the latest tragedies, and I hope that maybe, one day, we’ll be able to say that the future is brighter.

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Quick to Judge

It’s taken me a while to try and gather my thoughts on this particular topic, and I still don’t think I’ve fully committed to one thing or another, but I’m going to try to articulate my warring emotions anyway.

Most of you will have heard in the news about Cincinnati zoo killing a gorilla as a boy fell into the enclosure. There are many opinions flying around, as they are wont to do, and obviously everyone is devastated that the gorilla was killed. People are blaming the zoo, the boy’s guardian, the boy himself – and my main thought coming from this is that everyone is very quick to judge and lay blame on someone. Most claim that the gorilla was protecting the child, as we can see in the video leaked that the gorilla is standing over the boy and keeping him close. I have not yet seen footage of the gorilla moving the boy, as the video shows them in two different sections of the enclosure, so of course I can’t say whether he did drag the child or move him violently.

For me, I think that, yes, the gorilla may well have been protecting the boy, and it is very easy for us to jump to that conclusion. But a very tough decision had to be made. If they tried to tranquillise the gorilla, it would have taken too long to take hold and could have very easily angered the animal, bringing potentially more harm or even killing the child. If someone else tried to enter the enclosure, the gorilla could have harmed them.

There is no black and white clear answer. At the end of the day, a decision had to be made and I think the people who had to make that decision shouldn’t be criticised. In that circumstance, there isn’t much you can do under such pressure and a time limit. They couldn’t leave and come back with clear minds – the life of the boy was in danger, and they had to put him as priority. I don’t know whether we should be trying to find someone to blame. Sure we can blame the parents or guardians, but again for the majority of us we just don’t know what exactly happened.

It’s the easiest thing in the world to judge someone else’s actions. The ‘what ifs’ are dangerous, but understandable. Maybe we should question parenting. Maybe we should question zoo security. Maybe we should question the lives of animals in cages. One thing is for certain though – it’s easy to jump to decisions when you’ve read one article written by one person or heard something through the grapevine. It’s easy to blame someone else and claim that you would have acted differently.

But you probably weren’t there. You weren’t the one who had to make the fast decision between ensuring the child’s life or leaving it at risk. If the child had died instead of the gorilla, what would the headlines say? The zoo would be at fault, a mother with tear-streaked face would be everywhere – and maybe that one thought of animals in cages being wrong would pull through.

I don’t know all the answers. I don’t know what was right or wrong in this situation. Like I’m sure everyone does, I want to think that there was somehow a way to save both the child and the gorilla, but there is no certain way of doing that. So far, no one has offered an option where that would have been possible – yet at the same time, we’ve all had time to think up ways and possibilities and chances and opportunities.

So, I’m sorry, but I don’t know who to blame. I’m devastated that a gorilla had to be killed, but I understand why that decision was made. It’s so easy to judge, and when we can all comment on an article on facebook and voice our opinions to the world it’s tempting to take the superior standing and yell at everyone. However, that doesn’t make it right.

Why I’m scared to voice my opinion

Someone from my old school did something incredibly brave a couple of days ago, and it’s been covered by most media outlets – they came out as non-binary to President Obama. This post isn’t about what they did directly, but has been inspired by it – if you’re interested in their story, however, they here’s a link to one of the many articles they’ve been featured in: read here on The Guardian.

Of course my whole timeline on Facebook became filled with this story with people sharing their support, various videos of what happened, and the mentioned articles. I was unable to watch it live, so I went to look at one of the videos posted but ended up in the comments section. As expected, there were the usual disgusting comments of people being unkind, insensitive, and all the rest. However, there was one that stood to me for all the wrong reasons. It was a perfectly polite comment, saying something along the lines of ‘I understand being transgender, but not non-binary as I’m not exactly sure what it means’. This is me paraphrasing of course as I can’t remember the original comment, so forgive me.

It wasn’t this comment that got to me, but the responses to it. All of a sudden, just because someone commented that they didn’t understand, they were called racist, homophobic, sexist, and a whole bunch of ugly names. They hadn’t been rude in their comment, in actual fact they’d been polite and weren’t unkind towards the subject matter at all. They expressed not understanding, and it seems that in a lot of cases these days that is just unacceptable – and, as usual, I’m just talking from my experience.

I’m afraid of talking about, discussing, or even stating what I think on subjects such as feminism, racism, discrimination, gender, oppression, sexuality, and more, mainly because I’m afraid of the backlash. Of course there are the usual arguments, such as how because of the colour of my skin/gender/class, I’m not allowed to have opinions on certain patters. That, however, isn’t what I want to talk about today. What really puts me off is that I’m scared of getting something wrong, of causing offence, of being unintentionally rude. It’s not that I’m planning on going out and saying something controversial in a take-no-prisoners manner; it’s being afraid of being targeted for simply not knowing something.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds it difficult not just to discuss these matters but even asking about them, all because of the standard attack I’ve grown to anticipate. Let me try to say this in a clearer way – for me, it’s like saying that I’m scared of maths. You’d probably laugh and say that we’re all scared of maths. What I’m actually trying to say is that I’m scared of learning maths, and that seems far more ridiculous. Why should you be scared of learning about something? Why is learning scary? Why is educating yourself something to be afraid of? Well, from where I stand, it seems that if you say something wrong you don’t simply just get corrected, but you get flayed and strung up for all to see, ostracised for simply not knowing something. Again, and I reiterate this because I want to make sure you understand, I’m not talking about people being intentionally offensive. I’m not excusing people who are so hurtful and rude that they seriously plan to hurt someone’s feelings or put them down. I’m thinking more along the lines of being openly honest and curious yet still polite in trying to say what you think and what you don’t understand in order to then learn.

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With arguments and conversations, it should be a clear discussion with formulated opinions and justifications, not just attacking the other person. I kind of think of it like a discussion on books. Person A says ‘I prefer fantasy to history because I love the imaginations and creations of different worlds’, only for Person B to respond ‘my god you’re stupid and ugly and fat, go back from where you came from’. It doesn’t work. Reading comments on these posts about this person from my old school just made me upset and depressed that this is how some people think. Instead of stating that they just don’t understand, they attacked a person and mocked their opinions without even providing a justified opinion of their own. One person said ‘I don’t understand this generation’ and all I could think was ‘I don’t understand yours’. We should all want to join in on the train of progression and go along with it, not dig in our heels and try to hold it back. We should jump on board and want to learn and stay on that track to a better, and hopefully more understanding and open place.

I think for now that’s all I want to say until more comes to me, and no it’s not just because I don’t think I can continue this train metaphor for much longer. I hope I’ve articulated myself somewhat clearly and I’d love to hear what you think – this may just be the rambles from some white female student, but it’s what I feel and, whether or not you think what I believe matters, my thoughts are here for you to read and respond to.

As always, thanks for reading, and I think the next post I write is going to be on a topic that’s a little less heavy. I’ll need something lighter to help carry me through essay and exam season.

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