CryptoCurrency

CryptoCurrency
by Aaron Sturgis

The Global Financial Crisis which occurred in 2007-2009, is considered by many economists to have been the worst economic
recession since The Great Depression. The bursting of the housing and credit bubbles, caused mainly by the expansion of subprime lending, caused many major financial institutions to fail altogether and declare bankruptcy. The crux of the issue with many of these failures was banks playing fast and loose with day trading, using advanced computer systems to practice arbitrage as quickly as possible, taking advantages of fractions of cents in stock changes but on hundreds of millions of shares. Many of these banks, who essentially gambled with their clients’ money, were then “bailed out” by the federal government, provided vast loans at 0% interest with very pliable repayment dates and terms.

The biggest social side effect of this is the growth of public distrust in centralized banking as a whole, and one of the largest developments from this distrust is the advent and explosion of cryptocurrencies. The literal definition of a cryptocurrency is a “digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, operating independently of a central bank.” In layman’s terms, it means this: you have independent control of all the money that you have converted into a cryptocurrency, as does everyone else, and any money exchanged between individuals can be executed entirely on a person-to-person basis, taking any central financial institution out of the equation.

And in an ideal world, this sounds like a wonderful idea: taking the big corporations out of the equation, those same corporations who failed to manage our money properly in the first place, and put control of our finances back in pur hands. Part of the problem is, spending Bitcoin (or any other cryptocurrency) is difficult at best – no major retailers accept it as a viable method of payment yet, so most transactions are executed on an individual basis, and it is much harder to trust a stranger on the internet than it is Walmart or Amazon. The other major issue is that most of these cryptocurrencies are still extremely volatile. Bitcoin started off as a volatile currency, with many investors losing hundreds of thousands investing as it bounced around for all of 2012-2014.

Bitcoin started off in 2009 with BTC basically having no value at all, reached parity with the US dollar in 2011, and then slowly rose for about a year after having hit a price bubble of $31 and dropping rapidly. Then in 2013-2014,  it reached an all-time high of $1216.73 before dropping later that year to as low as $50. While Bitcoin has now settled as a relatively nonvolatile currency over the past 6 months or so, it will take years to rebuild consumer confidence in something that was so risky and untrustworthy in the past. And so, unless cryptopcurrencies like Bitcoin can effectively maintain their reliability, it is possible that cryptocurrency may not be the currency of the future. Because still above all else, the most trusted currency continues to be cold hard cash.

But certainly, cryptocurrencies are not going away anytime soon – and perhaps a new contender will emerge from the fray, with a solid backing and a relatively stable exchange rate. If this happens, retailers will begin to accept cryptocurrencies as valid methods of payment, and Americans will start to place faith in something they picture as essentially gambling. Then again, banks have been gambling with our money for decades.  Perhaps a cryptocurrency will become the centralized currency of the future, an inevitable step on a path towards digital globalization: but in the present, it remains exactly as trustworthy as banks in the minds of the American people: not much.

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Guns, Roses, & School Shootings

by Aaron Sturgis

Over the past few decades, we have seen a meteoric rise of planned and horrific mass shootings on school campuses across all grade levels and ages, most of the time causing catastrophic loss of life. In a majority of these incidents, the perpetrators were mentally unstable, socially ostracized, and desperately craving acceptance – many times finding this acceptance in fringe communities with radically unhealthy beliefs, only serving to further stoke the flames of hatred and disdain for their fellow human beings. This is not to sympathize with these acts of terror, nor to paint a one-sided portrait of these people – it is instead to turn the light inwards on ourselves and question what as a society we are doing to continue to allow and encourage this tragedy.

Many, while certainly not all, of these murderers were young men –  and I think most readers can relate to some degree to the cruelty of primary and secondary school for almost all students. Though while most of us react to bullying and ostracization with more healthy emotional responses, these young men were further driven into solitude, and in today’s day and age – that is a recipe for disaster.

In most decades past, unhealthy emotional responses and troubling mental signs were reacted to quickly and swiftly. Friends and family were more aware of unusual actions and behaviors because most of these individuals would have no choice but to expose themselves to them, having no other outlet. The rise of counterculture communities that serve to cultivate and perpetrate hate-filled ideas or gaslight mentally ill individuals is a relatively recent phenomenon, occurring mostly with the accessibility of Internet access to the general population.

While a majority of people realize that racism, misogyny, and all various forms of discrimination are destructive behaviors, there are many groups on the Internet that do nothing but encourage and confirm these ideas as acceptable. The problem obviously isn’t inherent to the Internet however, it is within us. We are forcing what we consider the “fringe elements” of society further to the fringe, where the only place they can seek refuge is amongst those of similar principles. An effort has to be made to include those who we feel are ill, because we bear responsibility for them remaining sick.

No matter how we identify or respond to the problems we have outlined, it will never fix the damage that has already been done for the victims of this senseless loss of life.  We must take care to treat those who have suffered with as much love as possible, and understand why they might hate those who perpetrated it. We must empathize and love freely. It is the only way they will ever heal, if they ever do.

The hard part comes when we understand that the quickest way to preventing further catastrophes is by showing that same selfless love to those who display unloving principles and ideas. And by maintaining an open perspective about everyone we come into contact with, perhaps we can start to identify those who are in need of further help before it is too late – before we lose them completely to ideas we know full well are damaging to the fabric of our society.

There is no panacea or quick fix for the continued rise in these tragedies. But there is an easy to distinguish cause: hatred. The form of hatred and the target of it differs, but the root always remains the same. And there is only one true weapon against hatred, and that is love. Continuing to shun and separate those who have problems, those who hate from us, will only continue the trend.

Hurricane: A Short Story Submission

There is no beginning. There is no end. There is only flesh. The soft pink outskirts of a facet of bones and foreign crevices. Crumbled into itself it works hard to sustain the whims of life in all of its glory. It is fragile, young, adorned in the latest niche. Reckless and easily broken with a blow or a word. The top of the center lays the heart. An enigma of passion. Like all muscles it pumps the very life force it feeds and like all mythical creatures it hides itself in false tongues and nodes. Yet, above all things, it is at its core true to its desires. For desire lasts forever. You can lock it up. You can cover it in lies and gore. You can paint it blue and call it another name. But year after year if you look back it’ll look a little older, a little cooler, a little worn for wear, but furthermore the same underneath. The fickle Noir in a read sheath.
We often think of desire as an emotion that comes and goes. Something that wishes for things in prose. The soft kiss of a hand or the admiration of many can be a blanket for which it lends its face. Two can desire love and end up getting swept up by the sea. Like the color red they can burn hot. Heart beats racing, hands tracing, bodies thumping to the movement of a beat. But just as easily the elements can take you places you’d never thought you’d go. And the last whisper at the edge of a window can be the last blow. She, just flesh, never thought she’d be there thinking on a dream. She was just a girl when she started. They called her by many names. Her hair often blew one way and swayed another. She’d often wash it hoping it would choose a direction but it hadn’t yet tamed. Her ears that were often covered were swayed too much by the voices around her. A yell would shake her bones. A compliment would move her. A whisper would break her. Sometimes on a sunny day she’d hope for a cure to this, but she’d look to it in those same voices. And they’d whisper.
One day she saw him at the end of a milkshake. He woke her from herself. He was fresh and full of life. Simple. Yet his feet remained firmly planted untethered by the world. He saw her in a kaleidoscope never quite looking in. It was kismet in its sick and twisted way. And that was the beginning of the boy and the girl. They never quite ran at the same time. It wasn’t meant to be. Too many questions unanswered- too many things done. But she often found herself going to sleep and falling deeper into the path that once was. In this dream it felt real. As if she were in a place she’d seen before walking the same old path. It was in a letterbox hurricane by the sea in a glow.
In a breath it blew by the sea. Looking at him she could feel his hot hands caress her back as the storm raged past them. A full ambiance of emotion- pain, sadness, love, unwanted devotion filling her heart with needles and pins. They etched painstakingly deep inside with the knowledge that she would never feel the same again. Her soul cried like a dream that beats in the rain. It was a sound from deep within the earth’s core itself. It shook and fluttered but he stayed near. It was wet on the edges of his neck, her hair, her dress. Drops from a simpler time, but nevermore than her eyes as she wept for the want of nothing and everything at the same time. But her mouth never opened. Just eyes bleeding into a soul by the ocean.
Did he remember by the water? The crashing of the waves upon them so hard that they might be swallowed up whole. The giving of a heart meekly heading its way into the tide. And while she awoke inside her room from a broken sort of existence she remembered in the dead of night feeling very naked to a whisper or a crow. That this he didn’t know. And she could see it now in the distance of the sky. Someday she’d find herself sitting by a window in a storm not nearly content. Though life would be happy she’d think of those waves and feel torn between two world’s again. She’d see the nape of his neck so close. He’d feel her hand on his cheek in his mind. And it would be as if they’d be suspended for a moment. Only if for a night. A coo in the molecules in-between. In real time he’d tend the weeds and the hither every day at half past two. Gently his hands caressed the grain. They were made for this. Creation. To mend the earth all in due time day by day with water below his ear as the summer buzzed hot. He’d smack The smacking of lips on a soda can and hands on hips as he scraped dry skin from his fingertips. He’d come to the flame of manhood threaded in sinew and song.
Every so often in the silence of sound he’d remember that place. When nothing was louder than the brush of wind against open earth. That sad lonely place where he tended the weeds at the edge of the world alone in his dreams. His only companions father sky and mother earth with whom he spoken to often. For they were always open. They simply listened. And he’d wonder when he’d ever feel safe like this again. Did the chase change him so thoroughly that his crown had fallen love? Empty was the world at times far away from those skies. He could see it as he spoke to the eager companion behind the smoke of the day. They all had such shallow stares as if molden from clay. He’d see their heals beaten raw by ambition. And he could feel it too. The clean shave becoming him as potention ridden with doubt laced his morning cream. The pedestal of society like a singed neck tie choking at the times. He’d feel himself without breath.
“Lay me down.” He’d roll a phrase.
Every once in awhile he’d wait up like a broken record thinking of her alone next to the warmth of another with far off thoughts of heat from a foreign place. Deep inside he’d feel it so real he could touch. Like an old drum beat in that same storm it’d pound in through his toes to the edge of his spine, the nape of the neck, against the blanket of a song. Sex. Intimacy incarnate. And for him it was a one sided squeeze at the end of earlier’s lime. But I’d still be ringing in his ears. Her held back tears. The way she bit her lip. The way she curled her hair as if something were ever wrong, but the lions heart roared strong. He’d feel it as if he could forget everything but her pink lips.
Two worlds away desire never lies to the heart. The storm does. For a moment in two worlds she’d feel like she was in that ocean by the beach. Her dreams floating like a little bubble toward the surface as she sunk down. Slowly they’d release from her belly out her mouth to the air above. Where they’d pop. But she couldn’t quite see the end of their journey from the bottom. The ocean floor below is like an old friend you can’t quite shake. Unwanted but comfortably familiar. It’d be embraced for a moment as she thought of a time when they were together in the wind. Oxygen slowly releasing would bring it back to the climax.
A simple memory. He’d look at her wide eyed hoping. She’d advert her brown hue coping. His leg would move forward. Step, two, three. Knocking on the ground as if purposely proving the point of hesitation. And they’d catch eyes to the sound. The world would spin around. She’d feel it. A film on the even grain of her constitution. It only happened when he was around. The nitty gritty dust ridden crevasses she couldn’t wash away with media or soap. Relation in all its Machiavellian precepts couldn’t keep skin tight over the catacombs of insecurity. Every inch, every pour, every dimple felt that much more pronounced. The scar beneath her chin from a fall when she was seven, the cut on her wrist inflicted at thirteen, the wrinkle from sad lonely nights waiting. Moments when she fell prey to naivety now naked before an equal being. The prince gazing at the world with a smile gaping wide grazing just beneath her chin.
Those wild eyes that once kept her captivated now held her captive. Wrists turned round making a clicking sound as if an uncomfortable shift of the scenery took place. He moved with his hand from his knee to the bed next to her. The urge to lean into the touch surged through her fingertips but the pulse of the sound held them back. Tones from a feeling indescribable slowly floating through tongues form behind tonsils to ears. Deep within the recesses of the belly creation through tune. Fingers floating toward the great big moon pointed up at the rarest of the rare. Highest into the air as the strands of hair float on. It was bigger than open eyes behind a lovers kiss. Something as sweet as raw skin grazing ever so slightly. Neither poetic or rare yet beautiful behind comprehension for its simplicity. For its meaning. The lexicon of human relations in depth and straight forward couldn’t even catch it. And neither could she.
In a house by the sea they conjure up these spaces. Soft unstable molecules grazing an open wound. How come you can feel the pulse in a single hand shake when you can hardly feel it in a word/ Even an adjective or a verb couldn’t get there quite like body language. A poor young writer takes his time hitting the bottom of a rhyme on his Remington 17. His creation from a mass conscious of hope and love. His only truth being that his heart is set to that very tapping of the key as it stamps in each letter. For sound is the perfect expression. The bane of a womb opening up from a bleeding heart by use of jilted lines curved, slanted, and obtuse. They need no explanation because they simply exist. Yet, that same writer knows that even the tapping sound doesn’t compare to the beat of the hand. The original language of the belly creation through tune. Fingers floating toward the great big moon pointed up at the rarest of the rare. Highest into the air as the strands of hair float on. It was bigger than open eyes behind a lovers kiss. Something as sweet as raw skin grazing ever so slightly. Neither poetic or rare yet beautiful behind comprehension for its simplicity. For its meaning. The lexicon of human relations in depth and straight forward couldn’t even catch it. And neither could she.

In a house by the sea they conjure up these spaces. Soft unstable molecules grazing an open wound. How come you can feel the pulse in a single hand shake when you can hardly feel it in a word/ Even an adjective or a verb couldn’t get there quite like body language. A poor young writer takes his time hitting the bottom of a rhyme on his Remington 17. His creation from a mass conscious of hope and love. His only truth being that his heart is set to that very tapping of the key as it stamps in each letter. For sound is the perfect expression. The bane of a womb opening up from a bleeding heart by use of jilted lines curved, slanted, and obtuse. They need no explanation because they simply exist. Yet, that same writer knows that even the tapping sound doesn’t compare to the beat of the hand. The original language.
The sum of what they were in one act. In motions he speaks to the world and then to her. Side by side one slightly bigger than the other. Lovingly his rough hands speak shaking her existence making the film thicken slightly. An emulsion of color black and blue shaking beneath fresh white skin. The sensation of his fingertips grazing on the surface little whispers of a man to a girl in flesh. Without knowing his atoms align with an impervious substance. The man firms his grip to the elasciticy of the girl he holds in one abstract gilt. She’d reply with words. They hit the air slowly like bubbles floating high above their heads. And as they’d pop as if from the ocean to the sky above pretense would return to the past tense of love. And the dream would be slowly removed to the present. As it usually does fading with the waking hours of the morning.
They’d return from their state of singularity. Split in two. Painful as it may be they’d exit through the proverbial door. That room would be left empty with stale hair. But many years in the future they’d look off in the distance by an open window during a storm and see. That there are rooms filled with heavy laughter. There are rooms filled with lies. There are rooms down the hall where we lock away our cries. There are rooms governed in remembrance with heavy fists and past chances. There are rooms filled to the brim with smoke where the only things that can be seen are dark glances in the night. And there are rooms filled with nothing at all. But then there are rooms shown often in our dreams that can seem very small. They can be off in a house by the sea or nowhere at all. There are times we’d think of these rooms and stand very tall ahead in grievance- sometimes he’d let out a whisper, her a cry. Whether we’d come or go is a choice in and of itself. But its chosen by the heart, the hand, and the head. And he’d think of this door painted bright red in the dead of night for in a moment desire was brought to light. And the storm as it swallowed them up. For there are times when a whisper is not enough. And regret runs like the wind in the eye of a hurricane. And in that eye there would be no beginning. There would be no end. There would simply be flesh.

Pluralism & Syncritism

Religion in the Americas is diverse and tumultuous. Its history is filled with stories of pluralism, syncretism, conversion, creative adaptation, and assimilation, and it is this way because of what happens when people of very different viewpoints, cultures, and belief systems come in contact with one another.

It is estimated that when Christopher Columbus arrived to the Americas in the late 15th century, there were five hundred and fifty different indigenous tribes inhabiting the land. Thus when Europeans were seeking out new lands and avenues for business, they immediately encountered peoples unlike any they had ever seen before. These indigenous natives dressed, acquired food and shelter, and even believed in their own gods in a manner far different from any European culture. The fact that the Americas were already occupied did not change the plans of Columbus or any European following him (that of occupying and profiting off this new land), and each European group that followed for the next several centuries sought to control the natives.

As part of this intent to control the native people, European conquerors and colonists brought with them religious missionaries who sought to convert them to Christianity. Occasionally, these missionary efforts had help. This was the case for the Franciscan friars who, under the protection of Spain and the soldiers accompanying them, set up Spanish Catholic missions in Pueblo villages. Their attempts to convert the natives were often reinforced by the threat of military force. Their efforts were aided by Spain because the monarchy felt that by converting the native people to Catholicism they would become more ‘civilized’ and be more willing to accept Spanish rule.
But in some cases, missionaries did not have reinforcements to aid them. For instance, the 17th century French Jesuits were alone in their religious mission to convert the Huron people. They would set up “longhouses” in Huron villages in northern America, and preach to the native people. In Brian Moore’s “Black Robe”, a fictitious account of the Jesuits’ experience, chief Taretandé of the Huron village Ihonatiria recounts a story of the “Blackrobe” (priest) of the village inviting “families with children into their longhouse and there had given the children presents of beads if the children would learn answers to questions which the Blackrobes taught about their god” (Moore, 227.) This is one such example of the conversion efforts of the French Jesuits. Most missionaries truly believed that the natives were a people of darkness, and that they needed to see the light of God. This was perhaps how they justified the suffering that they and their European conquerors inflicted on the indigenous people of America.

With the understanding that the Europeans and indigenous Americans had never come in contact with anyone like the other, one can see why it was necessary for religious missionaries to creatively adapt some of their teachings and language to fit the native perspective. This can be seen in “Black Robe”, when Fathers LaForgue and Jerome use a sudden eclipse of the sun to save themselves from being tortured and killed by the Huron people. A fever has almost completely wiped out the village, and believing that the “blackrobes” are sorcerers, the Huron accuse the Jesuits of causing the fever. Given that the natives derive religious meaning from their surroundings, such as the plants, animals, and weather, they understand the priests when they say that the eclipse in their God’s warning that he will be displeased with their deaths (Moore, 223.) Their adaptation of the natives’ belief system ultimately saves them from their possible demise. It was common for priests to be killed by the indigenous Americans they were trying to convert, as they were often seen as untrustworthy and dangerous. This meant that the French Jesuits had to be resourceful and flexible in order to survive. Towards the end of the novel, Father LaForgue performs a mass baptism of almost the entire Huron village. He does this because the natives believe that his God will be pleased with them taking the “water sorcery” and cure them of their deadly fevers (Moore, 246.) Despite his misgivings, the priest fulfills their wishes; he does so partly because of his desire to save their souls, but also with the understanding that by biding by their wishes, he is less likely to suffer at their hands. Thus Father LaForgue is adapting to his surroundings.

Father LaForgue’s baptisms of the Huron are also just one example of a mixing of cultural viewpoints and beliefs, and there is numerous more in American history. Often times, the syncretic blending of cultures was forced, as was the case for the enslaved West Africans who were shipped to the Americas in the 15th century onward. Slaves that were forced to work in the new world were exposed to its culture and to Christianity, and over time there was a blending of African and European religions. In the 18th century, slave owners were reluctant to integrate the enslaved Africans into their Christian practices, concerned that by baptizing their slaves, they were morally obligated to set them free. But as slavery grew in popularity, slaves were transported directly from Africa to America, rather than from the Caribbean (as they had been before), and thus had not experienced the conditioning camps that slaves before them had undergone in an effort to make them more ‘civilized’. As a result, slave owners began making efforts to convert their slaves to Christianity, believing that “religion sustained rather than threatened slavery” (Joyner, 183.)

Thus, Africans were encouraged to accept Christianity as their mode of faith. But this did not mean that they abandoned their former culture entirely. Rather, “Christianity had to compete in a religiously diverse environment” (Joyner, 182.) Different parts of African religion found their way in enslaved Africans’ Christian religious practices, depending on the region. For example, “one stream of inherited African cosmology [in South Carolina and George] included polytheism, the concept of rebirth, and spirit possession in religious ritual” (Joyner, 189.) Slaves from these parts “worshipped their new Christian God with the kind of expressive behavior their African heritage taught them was appropriate for an important deity” (Joyner, 189). In this way, African American Christianity was original in its syncretic interweaving of its African and Christian religious elements.

Though syncretism was a common way of coping with the diverse nature of two cultural perspectives colliding, it was also normal for migrants entering America to assimilate more fully to the dominant culture. For instance, though European migrant Jews had in the past integrated American culture into their religious practices, none were more assimilated than the “domestic” Jews of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The domestic Jew centered on the home rather than the synagogue. Being Jewish centered more on one’s family traditions and their private life (such as having a bar mitzvah), rather than on a regimented set of practices (such as eating kosher) that one had to follow in order to be a Jew. Domestic Judaism welcomed the American practice of consumerism. Being Jewish became synonymous with more elaborate ceremonies and weddings, as well as owning Jewish religious symbols to be displayed in the home. These changes made it easier for American Jews to live in the dominant American culture while also feeling like they still belonged to their Jewish culture.

The effort to assimilate to American culture and religion was common for migrants entering the United States. It was also normal for migrants of the same religion to join together and form their own sects within a denomination, but it did not always happen this way. Occasionally, pluralistic religious and ethnic groups were so different from one another that they instead chose to exist alongside one another as different sects of the same religion. This was true for the waves of Catholics who migrated from Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries, which consisted of Irish, German, Italian and Polish migrants. They also had to compete with French-Canadian and Mexican Catholics who inhabited America as well. These Catholic groups chose not to assimilate or syncretize to one form of Catholicism, and often resented having to share the same religious space. Instead, migrants formed ethnic or national parishes, in which a group could worship alongside Catholics from their country of origin. These parishes had priests of their own ethnicities, services in their own languages, practices specific to their own culture, and religious statues and artwork from their own countries. These parishes were different from the territorial parishes of each region, and often several ethnic parishes of different countries were situation closely together near the original Catholic Church in the area. These ethnic parishes were the Catholics’ way of worshipping God separately while still living alongside one another in the same country.

American religious history is rich and tumultuous. Its history is filled with stories of pluralism, syncretism, conversion, creative adaptation, and assimilation, and it is this way because of what happens when different ethnic and religious groups come in contact with one another and attempt to live side by side.

LINEAGE

A mother and daughter discuss the lineage of feminism throughout their family in two separate parts.

MOTHER.

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I’m 47. And I’m an angry feminist. I come from a line of feminists who never knew they were feminists. My great grandmother worked for the railroads during the second world war. She did the grueling job of cleaning the engines in the pits  during a time when the men were away at war and the nation selectively forgot women weren’t supposed to do this work. A few years later, of course, they came back and she was ‘retired.’ She was my age when she did that. I think about that sometimes when the pain in my hands gets bad.

But that’s not the reason I’m a feminist.

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It’s also not because my grandfather wouldn’t let my mother go off to college because the world was dangerous and she was a girl. And it’s not because I, myself planned to go to West Point until my boyfriend decided to get me pregnant effectively ending any career I would have in the military. And then joined the army himself.

I’m a feminist because I never understood why I wasn’t just a person. They tell you the rhetoric that they tell everyone: you can achieve any dream, you can do anything. But they don’t tell you the unlikelihood of these things. They don’t tell you there are places that you can’t go. They don’t tell you how differently you will be treated and that even when you do the job, in some environments people will dismiss you as a token.

I grew up in a neighborhood full of boys. I never thought of myself as being a boy. I just never thought of myself as not being a boy. Over my lifetime as I would be interested in things and try them I was always surprised at the reactions of others. I played flag football on the boys team. It never occurred to me that I was the only girl. I was always the only girl in every group. I was just me. All the boys in the neighborhood played football or baseball. So it seemed that I should play. Otherwise who would I play with outside of the house? It was strategic and I was trying to keep up. If they respected you they would play with you. I didn’t want to be alone.

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When I was in my mid twenties I became a plumber. It never occurred to me how odd that was. The general manager was encouraging when I applied. I was surprised to find myself the only woman in the company nationwide. The men frequently didn’t know how to treat me. Even more difficult, when I showed up at jobs the customers were bewildered. I was constantly proving myself every single day. And it was so tiring. I just wanted to support myself and my family and make decent money. My neighborhood friends growing up were electricians and plumbers and construction workers able to support their young families. I was willing to do the work and didn’t understand why doing so would be a monumental display everyday of representing my gender. If I had a bad day I felt like I was letting more than myself down. I didn’t feel like I could ever be wrong about anything.

I grew up in an age, where the idea that women could be anything was something that was possible. Women could become pilots and firemen and doctors. ERA was on everyone’s lips. My teachers were hippies. They had marched, hitchhiked across country, they took our rights seriously. My parents were a military man and my mother the athletic tree climbing tomboy. And I never once thought about it because as a child I thought I was already a person. But change takes time. I would be passed over for jobs because of my gender or the assumption that I couldn’t do the work necessary since I had children. The attitudes of my upbringing were in direct contrast to the world I found myself in.

My feeling over the last decade has been that the conservative environment that has overtaken this country has done much to degrade whatever progress it is that we have had. There has been a duality that has risen up across the world. With all the things we can do in this country as women we are still not people. We are still objects that are used to sell products. We are objects that in some countries must be hidden away so that we aren’t raped or dishonored. And in my lifetime we are still not people. I want so much, before I die, to just be a person. I want people to concern themselves with the fineness or roughness of my mind and my spirit, of my heart. I want to be a symbol of humanity and hope and not judged by terms that separate me from others. I want everyone to have that same right- to live, to be happy, to explore their mind and spirit and offer others something real and lasting.  That is what feminism is. It is the belief that everyone should have those same rights.

I know that it isn’t likely to happen in my lifetime. It is so difficult for people to change. But I know it is possible.

 

DAUGHTER.

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I came from women built for war. There was no question whether I could succeed only how I would weather the changing tides that came my way. Like my mother, and her mother, and her mother a generation fighting an entire ocean of regret and finding strength within ourselves to carry on. And as a mother now it is as if all at once I see my daughter becoming a part of a great lineage moving forward in the world toward an endless destination.

My great great grandmother Dothy is famous for many things. I was told stories all throughout childhood even when she was around in her old age. She died at 103 and I can still remember her stern face as it peered out at me at family gatherings. It was an expression that once held great passion and tragedy between her eyes, on the bridge of her nose moments of great pride, and beneath her cheek bones big full smiles of great happiness when the world felt comfortable and safe. I was brought up with tales of how she braved the border crossing in Mexico with children on her back. There are endless romantic stories painting her as a lone woman rogue who despite all odds worked on the railroad and raised children. She built businesses and in her Native tongue spun a fantastic web that allowed her family to flourish. She was a hard woman. There is a single photo of her I look at from time to time. It is of her in her younger years and she’s wearing a fur coat and looking very severe at the camera. It is as if on the surface she’s telling me to get my shit together or so my mother recounts a dream she had of her after her death when she did just that. To me she has always been this great myth of a woman.

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My grandmother never took no for an answer. She was the pinnacle of integrity and grace. She worked a job helping young teen mothers for the State even before programs like WIC existed. Her life was to be a nurturer. I’ve always had the best moments with her. When I was younger in times with great turbulence we would go to her house and I would play as I saw my mother off in the distance holding her mother’s hand across arm chairs and speaking in hushed tones. I remember Sunday morning coffee with a little extra nutmeg, almond scented lotions, and coffee table books on napkin folding. And I remember how kind she was even when she was attempting to be severe with eyebrows down but little crinkles of laugh lines on the edges of her mouth. And I have replayed every time she leaned over to touch my arm gently and say, “You don’t worry about what anyone else says. You just keep your head up and do your work in the world.” My grandmother was someone who lived for her family. She attended every game, every recital, and never let her kids get away with any unkindness. She has always been this hero to me. Even now and again when we come over for family dinners on special occasions and I see her wave her hands about as she laughs or talks I can see how dainty they are. How graceful the undertones of her gripes are. If you ever want to see the beauty in someone look at their hands.

My mothers are covered in tattoos. This is a fact I am very proud of and I often tell strangers about them. She has always been a one woman revolution. She is the first person who taught me that art is seeing and that you can have anything as long as you have integrity and compassion. Before the age of 12 she made me read most of the cannon of literature, properly educated me in art history, movements of progression, and prepared me for a well-practiced Armageddon out of survivalist hand books. I knew of the history of man waged wars before I began a veiled war against them. But there were things I didn’t learn from books. There have been many hard lessons I have learned from simply watching her as she struggled to raise three children as a single mother. I grew up on college campuses and help from others. When I was younger I begged my mother to put me in the girl scouts because all I wanted to be was like the other little girls. Their mothers all had Polo shirts and marked out calendars full of kid friendly events while mine had tattoos and a dark room in our bathroom. I just wanted to be normal but she was the first person who taught me to be extraordinary. Because I got to subconsciously take in every time she gave a homeless man a sandwich, or paid to get new clothes for a family in need even when we were barely scraping by. I got to witness every first hand moment of weakness where she cried and the speech thereafter where she rallied us behind justice, integrity, and compassion for our enemies. I thought perhaps sometimes we shared the same karma. The world felt like it was attempting to beat us down in waves but she always stood still like a mountain. A force to be reckoned with. I still tell my friends she’s the scariest kindest woman you’ll ever meet. She was the one who coined the quote for me, “We do not negotiate with terrorist.”

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I did not always appreciate the lessons she taught me. In my young arrogant haze I glossed them over because in her world third wave feminism was a thing while the rest of the world was constantly telling me we were already equal. This is a lie big men told little girls like me, an internalized oppression. I remember once when I had a boyfriend who was treating me badly my mother sat me down and said to me, “We must be kind to men. For they can be weak. They do not carry the same burdens that we carry. They do not do the same job.” This idea that they and not I were the weaker sex played over in my mind through endless trials where I met strong men who, without quite recognizing the privilege of their sex, would shout me down and belittle me until I was very small. As if the very nature of me as a woman was a threat to them. When they crumbled it was from pin drops and guilt and I wondered how when they were meant to be strength itself I could carry whole mountains on my back without breaking a sweat. When they argued it was passive aggressive while I became direct so as to pierce through the very soul of my opponents. I learned to do things from her like become gentile say they would listen or use my energy like a great sword so they would disappear. Because as I grew up the one thing that was beaten into me by the men in my life was that nothing is scarier than an intelligent woman. My mother taught me to be a tactful warrior.

We are in a new era where I am a person not a prop. I have often times said that my being a feminist comes second to my being a person but now I see how ridiculous that sounds. Us, the We that is the new wave of feminists, who speak of color, sex, race, love, and glory stand on the backs of those who came before us. I am made from them. My mother’s voice is in my voice. And as we speak at times I feel as if we are not simply two women living congruent lives of oppression and fighting it in our own ways, but human beings that have become this beautiful one. A lineage of great love and hope.

Photographs are personal archives from artist Jacqueline Moreno-Garcia