Tag Archives: current events

When Love Doesn’t Trump Hate

“Love Trumps Hate.” People started chanting it almost immediately after the election, and it’s a nice thought, that the hatred that now seems synonymous with Trump and his supporters could be overcome.

I wish I could feel that. Instead, ever since the election, I’ve felt absolutely overwhelmed with hatred. Hatred for everyone—like, literally EVERYONE, no exceptions—who supports Trump. And that feeling has only intensified in the aftermath of Charlottesville. I truly, honestly cannot see any value in the lives of those who support a president who says, completely seriously, that there were “some very fine people” MARCHING IN A NEO-NAZI RALLY. It’s hard for me even to think of them as people.

The logical antidote to hatred would seem to be dialogue and attempts at understanding. Unfortunately, every attempt I’ve made to try to understand where Trump supporters are coming from results in me hating them even more. When I read Arlie Russell Hochschild’s  Strangers in Their Own Land, about white conservatives in Louisiana, I felt zero sympathy for the people she portrayed—just frustration at their stupidity and inability to look at actual facts that disproved their beliefs. When some of my more patient friends engage their Trump-supporting friends in dialogue on Facebook, I am, again, aghast at their friends’ willingness to believe “alternative facts” if they support their pre-held beliefs. For the life of me, I can’t imagine why my friends don’t end those friendships. And I hate it when people bring up people from struggling, economically depressed areas when the evidence actually shows that the majority of lower-income people did not vote for Trump. From my viewpoint, Trump voters are my dad’s businessman friends and my friend’s younger brother, who graduated from a good college. They’re just selfish, stupid, and awful.

I know nothing productive can come from this intense hatred and anger. From a religious perspective, I know it’s the opposite of what I should be doing and feeling. But, as the Charlottesville events demonstrated, there seems to be no difference between Trump supporters and Nazis—and if you wouldn’t love or defend Nazis, why would you do that for Trump supporters?

I don’t know what to do. Channeling rage into supporting worthy causes doesn’t do anything for me, either. The anger and hatred remain. I don’t like feeling this way, but as long as Trump supporters continue to exist, I can’t imagine feeling any differently.

Do I Love My Country?

Today is the Fourth of July, Independence Day, when people are supposed to celebrate their love of the United States of America.

I can tell you, I definitely love Boston. I love Massachusetts. But do I love the US as a whole?

…Eh. It’s okay.

It’s kind of like that old, cranky, racist relative whose presence you don’t enjoy but whom you can’t bring yourself to disinvite from Thanksgiving. Or the apartment that has bad water pressure and a terrible landlord and no air conditioning and heat that barely works, but that you don’t move out of because it’s cheap and convenient.

Speaking of moving, if you’re thinking that if I don’t love it, I should leave, chill. I didn’t say I hate it. But love is a strong word, and while I tolerate America enough that I’m not actively trying to leave, I wouldn’t say I love it.

And if you’re indignantly thinking that people have fought and died for the right for me to say that I don’t love this country, I agree that freedom of speech is a wonderful thing. In fact, so do several other countries. It obviously doesn’t exist anywhere, but it does exist in just about every other developed country. Same for freedom of the press and freedom of religion. It’s great that we’re not, say, North Korea or Syria, but why are we comparing ourselves down instead of up? Why not compare ourselves to Canada or New Zealand, which have all those great freedoms but also have universal health care, guaranteed maternity leave, and less gun violence?

It’s hard to love a country that’s so full of stupid people—or, if I’m being generous, willfully ignorant people. In any case, no one who voted for Trump is smart. I do think that’s a pretty fair statement. Take a look at this Facebook group, which I sometimes read when I want to see how the other side thinks. Or, rather, doesn’t think. Seeing the things that Trump voters believe written out in their own words make it impossible for me to have even the slightest bit of empathy for them.

We are a country that finds value in ignorance and inexperience—hence, the election of Trump, the denigration of educated people as “out of touch” when they’re the ones with more information, the clinging to beliefs in things that are easily disproven—“alternative facts,” if you will.

We are a country that disregards an overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is man-made and that our county is the biggest perpetrator of the pollution that causes it, all because people don’t want to make sacrifices and work for the well-being of the world.

We are a country that clings to the Second Amendment—which refers to a “well-regulated militia” rather than the individual right to bear arms, and which was written when it was impossible to perpetuate mass shootings with the types of weapons that existed then—despite overwhelming evidence that there is less gun violence in countries with stricter gun laws, all because people are too selfish and fearful to pass any laws that would make it even slightly harder to possess a weapon that’s much more likely to hurt you or a family member than to be used in any sort of self-defense.

We are a country that regards life-saving health care as a privilege rather than a right, a country where many people would consign their fellow citizens to medical bankruptcy or death because they’re afraid that they might have to pay a bit more in taxes to prevent that from happening.

We are one of only three countries TOTAL that does not guarantee paid maternity leave to new mothers.

We are a country where cops are constantly getting away with unjustified shootings of innocent black people.

We are a country with an alarming tendency to disregard inconvenient history in the name of patriotism. It’s true that every country has shameful things in its past, but we have people who take pride in having ancestors who fought for the Confederacy—ancestors who were traitors to their country out of a desire to preserve slavery and white supremacy—and defend public Confederate monuments. We have people who whitewash the horrors of slavery, people who defend horrific things in our history like Japanese internment, people descended from immigrants who were discriminated against who nevertheless would reject refugees fighting for their lives because they’re not from the right country or don’t follow the right religion.

It’s funny how things have changed in the seventy-odd years since World War II, when we fought against a genocidal German regime. Now Germany, which has sheltered many of the refugees we’ve been rejecting, is a moral leader for the world.

And us?

We’re the bad guys now.

So I’m very grateful to live where I do, a place that’s less ignorant than most places in the US. But until the attitudes of much of the rest of the country change, until we acknowledge and reject the worst parts of our history while embracing the best parts, like our welcoming of immigrants from all over the world looking for a better life, I can’t say I love this country as a whole.

Playlist of the Moment: Wintry Mix

A few years ago, for a friend’s birthday, I made her a mix CD where every song had “winter,” “snow,” or “cold” in the title. We’d been joking about doing a snow dance to make it snow.

 

As I’m sure you’ve heard, we recently got a couple of feet of snow dropped on us by the blizzard that the Weather Channel called Juno. Much like the dog it shares a name with, this Juno DEMANDED everyone’s attention. But I don’t mind- although it can sometimes be a pain, I really love snow and I’m happy that we have so much of it now.

 

For those of you who are not so lucky, here’s my snow dance/”wintry mix” playlist:

 

1. Let It Snow, Dean Martin

2. It Snowed, Meaghan Smith

3. Snowfoot Waltz, The Divers

4. In Time It Snows, Nedelle & Thom

5. Snow Like This, The Softies

6. Winter Wonderland, Tony Bennett

7. Your Winter, Sister Hazel

8. Sister Winter, Sufjan Stevens

9. Song for a Winter’s Night, Sarah McLachlan

10. Whisper in Winter, Frame the City

11. A Cold Wind Blows Through Your Door, Bill Ricchini

12. Cold, Nakia

 

Stop Throwing Cold Water on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

You’ve heard about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by now, if you or your friends haven’t done it. Unfortunately, by now you’ve already probably heard some of the backlash against it. I know I’ve been reading a lot of negative articles about it, seeing people rain on the parade on Facebook, and hearing friends and coworkers be cynical about it. Let’s see if I can sum up the Debbie Downers of the world’s thoughts on it:

  • It’s a stupid gimmick and people should just donate to ALS research and skip the ice.
  • Why are you only supposed to donate if you don’t do the ice bucket? Donating shouldn’t be the consolation prize.
  • People are doing it for the wrong reasons—for attention or because it’s trendy, not because they care about ALS.
  • People were doing it anyway before it became about ALS.
  • It’s taking attention away from other worthy causes.

 

Did I miss anything?

 

I’m sick of hearing all this, and I’m more than happy to be part of the backlash-to-the-backlash, as New York magazine would put it.

 

The Ice Bucket Challenge first started popping up on my newsfeed a couple of weeks ago, but it wasn’t my first time hearing about  Pete Frates. I don’t know Pete, but he was at Boston College when I was, and I’ve been hearing about him and his battle with ALS through the BC alumni community for a while now. At first, it was just people from college doing the challenge, and I was thinking it was mainly a BC thing. But I was surprised by how quickly it spread. I saw friends I knew from places other than college start to do it, and, well, the rest is history—everyone from Justin Timberlake to Bill Gates to Ethel Kennedy has done it by now.

 

Can you donate to ALS research without throwing ice water on your head? Of course you can. You can also donate to charity without running a marathon (or any other road race or bike race or swim race or triathlon or walkathon) or attending a gala. And dousing yourself in ice water, unlike those things, is free. But athletic events, galas, and ice bucket challenges get people to pay attention in ways that simple discussion of a cause doesn’t—a basic marketing principle. Those of you arguing that it’s taking money away from other causes, why don’t you just find a better way to draw attention to your cause? This certainly shows that it’s possible for charity to go viral.

 

I do understand skepticism about social media gimmicks to raise awareness. The Facebook trend where women were posting the colors of their bras without context, ostensibly to raise awareness about breast cancer (a disease I can’t imagine anyone being unaware of), was beyond pointless. But ALS is a disease that could certainly benefit from greater awareness, and this challenge is about raising money as well as awareness.  

 

And if you want to talk about money, here are some numbers for you:

$5.5 Million: How much money has been raised for ALS since the Ice Bucket Challenge started.

$32,000: How much was raised during the same period of time last year.

 

That should be the end of the argument right there. ALS is a horrible, progressive, incurable disease that causes its sufferers to lose control of their bodies. Maybe one day there will be a cure, but cures are found through research, and research needs money. Now there’s $5.5 million more going towards that research.

 

So who cares how or why that money was donated? It’s not even the ends justifying the means—more like the ends justifying the motive, even if that motive was less than altruistic. Yes, there are people who are only doing it for attention or because it’s trendy and haven’t given ALS a second thought. Even so—$5.5 million. It’s hard to argue with that. And by my own unscientific analysis, I believe that most people who do the challenge are donating anyway, even if technically the rules say that you only have to donate if you don’t do it.

 

There are so many terrible, sad things going on in the world right now. The fighting in Gaza, the Iraq crisis, the Ebola outbreak, the killing of Mike Brown and its aftermath in Missouri, the suicide of Robin Williams. It’s beyond me why anyone would want to turn people raising millions of dollars for an extremely worthy cause, something I’d consider unambiguously positive, into something to complain about.

 

I myself got tagged by my friend Erin on Monday. I had to wait until yesterday to film it (turns out there are unforeseen challenges to living alone, like not having anyone to hold the camera when you want to make a video!), but I would have donated even if I’d done it within twenty-four hours.

 

And so should you. Enjoy this video of me throwing ice water on myself, then visit www.petefrates.com and donate. I tagged my friends Christina, Jon, and Steph in the video, but if you’re reading this, consider yourself tagged!

 

We Reduce People

In fiction, moral complexity is in. Today’s golden age of TV have brought characters who are difficult or whose intentions are ambiguous out of the realm of literary fiction and art house movies to popular shows like The Sopranos, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, House of Cards, and countless others. And we love it. When you consider a character, your opinion of that character is colored by many things other than “hero” or “villain.” On Mad Men, when nearly every main character has either cheated on a significant other or knowingly slept with someone who’s cheating, how do you measure which character you enjoy the most? On Breaking Bad, why do some people root for characters who’ve killed innocent people but hate other characters for smaller, personality-related reasons? I don’t watch Game of Thrones, so I can’t really comment on it, but I’ve picked up on some of the Snark Ladies’ interesting thoughts regarding the actions of some characters on that show.

Here’s what I’ve been noticing lately: this cultural embrace of moral ambiguity does not extend to actual human beings. With current events, there always has to be a villain, even in accidents where no one was really at fault. On the Internet, if anyone says anything regrettable, they’re never given the chance to backtrack or apologize—and even if they do, people will label them and discount anything they say from then on. There’s this ridiculous Tumblr, which I won’t link (if you’ve heard of it, you’ll know which one I mean) that catalogs everything that popular celebrities say that could be construed as “problematic”—even though some of those things are hardly problematic and some of them are things said or done while playing a character.

We reduce people.

We boil down every single thing about a human being—all experiences, all circumstances, all thoughts, all actions, all feelings—to one single thing we don’t like and slap a label on them.

We do it all the time, with everyone from celebrities to politicians to criminals to people we know personally or engage with online. It’s too much work to consider the bigger picture or to imagine that there’s anything more to a person than whatever we don’t like.

I say “we” because I’m guilty of this, too—too often. It’s easy to reduce. It’s harder to look closer and find the humanity in people we don’t like, or people who do things we don’t like.

I mentioned before that Schindler’s List, which I saw for the first time last year, is something I have a hard time talking about. The reason why is that what I took away from it was very personal, and I was afraid if I tried to explain it, it would come out sounding like I was making a movie about the biggest genocide in modern history all about me. But this was the revelation I had while watching it, a movie about a man who, despite doing an incredible thing that saved over a thousand lives, was not by any means a saint: if you lose your ability to see beyond whatever you don’t like about a person, if you can dehumanize people enough to boil them down to a single thing about their complex being—then that’s one thing you have in common with the Nazis.

When you don’t consider the humanity of every person, the inherent worth everyone has just by being alive, even people who do terrible things with their lives, it looks pretty ugly.

I’m often amazed by people who are more generous, compassionate, and forgiving than I am. When Fred Phelps died recently, I was surprised by the subdued reaction, which could be summed up as “let’s not stoop to his level.” My basic instinct is more often than not a desire for revenge, even if it always stays just a revenge fantasy, but thank God for the example of people whose hearts are bigger than mine.

Sometimes I’m not very good at forgiveness. But I’m trying to get better.

There’s no one thing that inspired this post. It’s a conglomeration of observations of things around me and in the world. But this is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and something I always want to keep with me as I check my reactions when anything upsets me.

I don’t want to reduce people. And I don’t want anyone else to, either. People are all more than the sum of their complex, sometimes infuriating parts. I need to remember that while there is a great capacity for evil in humans, there is an even greater capacity for love, kindness, and compassion. And I need to recognize that greater capacity in all people as well as in myself.

How to Live Through a Week of Tragedy

You can’t remember so many bad things ever happening in such a short amount of time. Information keeps coming in about the bombing at the marathon and the people who were killed and wounded. All of your friends who were at the marathon (it is not an exaggeration to say that EVERYONE in Boston knows someone who was there) are uninjured, but the stories of people who were hurt are hard to hear. You remember how when events with mass casualties happened in the past, you tried to think of who you knew who could have been hurt—on September 11th, your cousin who often flew from Boston to LA, and when the shooting in Arizona happened, your friend who lived in Tucson. You had to wait to hear if those people were okay.

Now it’s your turn. You’re the one people are trying to get in touch with to make sure you’re okay. You’re the one getting texts from your parents, sister, aunts, cousins, friend who’s on vacation, friend in Seattle, friend in DC. It’s not some distant event that you’re mildly disturbed by and think about occasionally—it’s here. It’s your city, your people.

And despite the acts of kindness that are reassuring you of the goodness of people out there, this week of tragedy keeps getting worse. Poisoned letters are sent to President Obama and a Mississippi senator. A plant explodes in Texas, killing and injuring dozens of people. The bill for background checks on guns fails in the Senate, which makes you so angry you’re afraid to talk about it for fear of saying something you’ll regret. Something else in your own world that you don’t want to talk about publicly—something not on par with everything else but still pretty awful— also happens this week.

You don’t think things could get worse…and then they do.

*             *             *

Before you go to bed Thursday night, you hear that an MIT police officer has been shot, then that he was killed. You’ve seen the photos the FBI released of the two suspects and note that there’s nothing distinctive about either of them—they could be anyone. You wonder, before you go to bed, if this shooting is related to the bombings or if it’s yet another unrelated tragedy in a terrible week.

Friday morning, when you finally drag yourself out of bed after hitting snooze several times and start to get dressed, it occurs to you to check the news and see what the latest is on the bombing suspects, so you pick up your new iPhone.

You don’t make it to the news. Your phone has blown up with text messages and voicemails almost as numerous as they were on Monday after the bombing. Dazed, you check the computer and try to make sense out of the hell that’s broken loose while you were asleep. Your office is closed. The T has shut down. Cambridge is one of several cities and towns on lockdown. You’re not supposed to leave the house.

You stumble downstairs and turn on the TV, bringing your laptop with you and trying to get yourself up to speed. They think the suspect is in Watertown, not very close to you, but who really knows? You see pictures the news crew has from around the city. Boston, on a workday when people are normally rushing around and doing their day-to-day thing, looks post-apocalyptic. This, oddly, is just as scary as anything else.

Your fright turns to impatience when you realize that it might be awhile before they catch the guy. The news starts repeating the same things they’ve already said. You go to the back porch to read the paper. You answer work emails from your customers, who all live out of state and have probably forgotten where you live. You talk to your parents, who are flying home from their vacation in Florida. You have a long chain of text messages going with three friends, and your discussion of the news coverage is interspersed with talk of guys, one friend’s cat, and the Geek Squad at Best Buy. You get annoyed when you realize that you barely have any food in the house and can’t even order takeout because businesses are all closed. You get more annoyed when you realize what a nice day it is and how great it would be for running but you’re now stuck inside because of some murderous assholes. Then you feel guilty for being so annoyed at little inconveniences when everyone you know survived the bombing unscathed and so many other people can’t say that.

Around 6:30 they hold a news conference where they tell people the lockdown is over but the suspect has not yet been apprehended. You’re still nervous but dying to get out of the house, and since the T’s running again, you and your friends start making plans for drinks and dessert. As you’re getting ready to go out, you see something happening on the TV. It’s clear now that they’ve found the guy, and you and your friends immediately postpone your plans. You keep texting each other new things that you hear. You keep on watching until finally it’s over and the suspect is captured.

On Saturday, you get up, get dressed, and head out for the plans you didn’t get to last night. You drink multiple glasses of wine at lunch and buy cupcakes from a bakery. You and your friends head into the city and see the makeshift memorial set up on Boylston Street. Several blocks are still shut down. There are some adorable therapy dogs over by the memorial that you and your friends pet. The dogs look tired—like everyone else, they’ve had a long week.

Saturday night you sleep for twelve hours straight.

 

*             *             *

So much goes through your mind this week. While you don’t know any victims personally, little connections keep startling you. Jeff Bauman is from your hometown and was two years behind you at your high school. Patrick Downes graduated from BC a year ahead of you, and many of your friends know him. Sean Collier lived near you, on a street your roommate walks the dog down every day. They’re jolting details, but you have to keep reminding yourself that it wouldn’t be any less tragic if it had happened to people who come from some place you’ve never heard of. You know it will be hard to remember this the next time something tragic happens somewhere that’s not here.

You try to piece together the bits of information you keep hearing about these two brothers, everything their friends and relatives say, trying to make sense of what could have led them to do this before ultimately concluding that you never will, because dropping bombs on a crowd of people at a marathon will never make any sense.

Humor is one of the only things keeping you sane. You’ve always liked The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, but you usually only tune in after some kind of major current event, like to see what Jon Stewart has to say about the presidential election. But this week, watching Comedy Central is getting you through the day. And aside from every other awesome thing they do this week, their Boston tributes are especially gratifying. This clip from Colbert manages to be hilarious while also getting Boston exactly right.

[hulu id=pi5tsuwrierrkrzc3_8vyq width=512]

You feel profound gratitude for everyone who helped put an end to the manhunt that dominated Friday. You’re horrified when you think about the guy who found the suspect hiding in his boat and how scary that must have been.

You wonder how long it will be before Hollywood makes a movie out of all this.

You stop talking in the second person.

                                                    *             *             *

There are so many ways a person can use the word “love,” so I need to get across what I mean when I say I love Boston. A lot of people say they love their hometown but still roll their eyes at it, as if their love is like the love they’d have for a parent who means well but doesn’t understand them at all, like Emily on Gilmore Girls. But Boston, for me, is not Emily Gilmore—it’s Lorelai Gilmore, the mom you can’t believe you were lucky enough to be born to. Boston may have been the city I fell into because it’s so close to where I grew up, but that’s not why I stay here. I stay here because there’s no city in the world I could ever love more.

I love that it’s full of colleges and therefore full of people who are here for education, people who are intelligent, people with ambition, people who want to go on to do great things. I love that it’s so easy to get around on foot. I love the passion people have for sports teams—one of my fondest memories of college was watching the whole city erupt in happiness after the Sox won the World Series for the first time in eighty-six years. I love that people who are liberal and open-minded are the rule rather than the exception here. I love that so many big moments in American history occurred here. I love that so many funny people grew up here—Amy Poehler, Steve Carell, Conan O’Brien, Mindy Kaling, just to name a few. I love that Boston inspired movies like Good Will Hunting and The Departed. I love that we have good seafood. I love walking down Newbury Street, getting a cannoli in the North End, taking a ferry to the Boston Harbor Islands, spending an afternoon at the Museum of Science or the Aquarium or the MFA. I love that we have independent bookstores and artsy little movie theaters. I love that it’s not far from the ocean or the mountains. I love that you don’t need a car to live here. I love that we have four distinct seasons, unlike so many other parts of the country. I love that it’s such a foodie city that I feel like my list of restaurants to try will never end. I love the view as I’m going over the river on the Red Line. I love the Boston Globe. I love that the local furniture companies keep trying to outdo each other with their TV commercials. I love that our medical care is among the best in the world—I know multiple people who might not have survived some scary health issues if not for the excellent medical care they received here. I love that the people here respect each other’s space but won’t hesitate to help someone in need—a quality on display in all its glory this week.

“This is our fucking city,” Big Papi so eloquently put it at the Sox game on Saturday. And it’s MY fucking city, too. I have no desire to live anywhere but the Boston area for the rest of my life, and it’s too bad it took a week of tragedy to remind me why.

For Boston

It hasn’t really sunk in yet that the bombing all over the news and the pictures that look like a war zone are from something that happened here, in my city, at a race that many people I know were running or watching and that I’ve attended myself multiple times. My friends, as far as I know, are all unharmed, but many other people can’t say the same.

I grew up watching the Boston Marathon. Marathon Monday is always on Patriots Day, a holiday commemorating the start of the American Revolution that falls on the third Monday of April and is only celebrated in Massachusetts and Maine. (My dad, a native of Lexington, where the Revolution started, thought Patriots Day was second to Christmas when he was growing up. He wants it to be a national holiday, but this was definitely not the way we’d prefer for the rest of the country to find out about it.) It’s always during school vacation, since Massachusetts public schools get the week of Patriots Day off. In college, we always had the day off because BC is at Mile 21 of the marathon, and people would start drinking early, put on their summer clothes, and cheer on their friends who were running, many of whom were running it for BC’s Campus School. My first two years out of college, I lived just about at the top of Heartbreak Hill, and I could see the runners going by from my bedroom window. My sister ran for the Campus School a few years ago, and my parents and aunt and I went to watch her at the finish line.

I tell you all this just to get across that everyone in the Boston area has some kind of association with the Boston Marathon—these are just mine. It’s a huge part of living here. Every Bostonian who wasn’t on the marathon route today knew someone who was. It’s not only a state holiday but it’s a day that’s supposed to be fun, joyous, and full of personal triumph, and a day we share with runners and their families from around the world.

I can’t begin to imagine the horror that the victims and their families are going through right now or how awful it must have been to be there when the explosions happened. And I think it might actually be worse for Bostonians who aren’t in Boston right now—like I said, it’s school vacation week, so a lot of people are on vacation, including my parents.

Bostonians can sometimes get a bad rap, for reasons that are somewhat deserved—we’re reserved and unfriendly, our sports fans are obnoxious, we put lawn chairs in parking spaces after snowstorms and then fight over them. But the silver lining of tragedies like this one is that they bring out the best in people, and I am really heartened by the stories I’ve heard about people rushing to help at the scene, running right from the finish line to donate blood, and offering housing to runners who, due to the crime scene being sorted out, no longer have a place to stay. (They’re now saying they have enough blood donations, but that it would help to have more donors in coming weeks, so consider doing that!)

Right now, we don’t know who did this or why. We do know that the response was swift and that, as President Obama said today, “Boston is a tough and resilient town. So are its people.”

I’ve never lived anywhere but the Boston area and I never will. I have so much love for this city—and despite our reputation, today proved that there’s also plenty of love inthis city.

Pray for the victims and for the city, everyone.

Love Actually Is All Around

I thought I was pretty desensitized to violence in the news, but all day I’ve been in tears about the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Murder is always a tragedy, but when it’s twenty little kids- many of whom were probably excited about Santa visiting them in a week and a half- it’s even more heartbreaking. We were all in elementary school once. We all have little kids in our lives somewhere. We all have teachers we love, either when we were in school or friends and family members who teach. When a random shooting happens in places like a school, a movie theater, a mall, you can’t help but think of how easily you or someone in your life could have been a victim.

I’d already been planning on watching Love Actually tonight, since I usually watch it around Christmas.     The central message of the movie, that “love actually is all around,” is pretty comforting right now. At the beginning, they mention how, as far as we know, all of the phone calls placed from the World Trade Center after the planes hit it were messages of love- and although this is a movie that thinks Hugh Grant is a plausible prime minister, that’s actually a good point.

Then I saw this- Diane Sawyer’s interview with a first-grade teacher at the school, Kaitlin Roig, who saved her whole class by barricading them in a bathroom- and who, incidentally, is only a year older than me. And I started crying all over again.


“I said to them, ‘I need you to know that I love you all very much and that it’s going to be okay,’ because I thought that was the last thing they were ever going to hear.”

Horrible acts of hate and violence will never stop happening in one way or another. When they do, I think the only way to keep from losing faith in humanity is remembering that acts of love are happening around us all the time- whether it’s something as small as listening to someone who needs to talk or something as heroic as wanting to make sure that if your six-year-old students die, the last thing they’ll hear will be words of love rather than gunshots. Those acts of love are more prevalent than acts of hatred and violence, even if we don’t hear about them, and we need to remember that.

And to remember this:

I need you to know that I love you all very much and that it’s going to be okay.

On Celebrating Thanksgiving

Halloween is over and Christmas is coming. But this year, I am on a mission not to forget that holiday that comes in between them.

Thanksgiving.

You know, the one with all the turkey and football. (And, speaking of “the one with,” a lot of good Friends episodes, too.) But it seems like every year, Thanksgiving gets shoved further and further out of the way as retail stores insist that the Christmas season starts right after Halloween. This year, Target even started running commercials that basically said, “Get ready to get ready for Christmas,” in October. And as much as I love Christmas, like Nordstrom, one of the few retail exceptions to that rule, I believe in celebrating one holiday at a time.

One of the nicest compliments I’ve ever gotten was from someone I had just met. About four years ago, I was on a business trip in Savannah and had dinner with a freelance editor I was working with and had only spoken to on the phone. I was a little nervous about having dinner alone with someone I didn’t know, but she turned out to be awesome and we had some great conversations. At the end of the night, she told me, “You seem like a very positive person.”

I loved being told that, and while it’s true of me often, it certainly isn’t always true. If you read this blog, you know that despite my best efforts, sometimes I can’t resist being emo or bitching and complaining. And while letting out negative emotions can be therapeutic, I think pushing them aside to focus on the positive can be equally so. While there are many things in my life I’m not happy with, there are many more things that bring me joy. And while I do think the phrase “first-world problems” is overused (taken to the extreme, it would pretty much mean that you only have the right to complain if you’re a sick, starving orphan in a developing country), it really does apply to most of the problems I do have.

This year, I am going to attempt to spend this time between Halloween and Thanksgiving being thankful for what I have. Unless some kind of major tragedy (we’re talking death, destruction, or serious injury or illness) happens between now and November 22, all my blog posts during that time will be on what I love and what makes me happy.

This will be especially challenging due to Election Day next week. All the negativity surrounding it, both in the presidential election and in a close senatorial race in Massachusetts, is wearying me. I feel a lot like this little girl:

And after that, maybe I’ll get back to bitching and moaning. But I’ll do my best not to.

Song of the Moment: “Atlantic City”

Hurricane Sandy has come and gone. Here in Boston, most of us are relatively unscathed- my office was closed for two days, but I didn’t lose power and there wasn’t any major damage to the area where I live.

Sadly, not everyone can say the same. I’ve been looking at photos from parts of New York and New Jersey and they are just heartbreaking. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone dealing with the damage the storm has left.

My friend Carr, who’s a New Jersey native, posted this song on Facebook today. Bruce Springsteen is one of the best things ever to come out of New Jersey, and this is one of my favorite songs by him. The line from the song that’s always haunted me seems appropriate for the events of this week:

Everything dies, baby, that’s a fact
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back