Failing freedom in 2011

Once again, an article I read on Yahoo! has inspired me to write something. I was reading this article about various things that have been banned this year, both in America and abroad. It mentions babies being banned on planes and in restaurants, baggy pants and skinny jeans, too-short cheerleader uniforms, Happy Meals in San Francisco, etc. Three of the items on the list really caught my attention – “happy couples,” “having eyes,” and “brown-bag lunches.”

“Happy couples” referred to a situation in Kentucky where a church voted to ban interracial marriage and bar interracial couples from joining their church. I can’t even believe this type of ignorance is still happening – in a CHURCH, no less. There is no Biblical ban on interracial marriages. Are there Bible verses that could be MISUSED to support this kind of racist decision? Yes. Does this make it right? No. Deuteronomy 7:3 states (addressing the Jews), “You shall not marry them, you shall not give your daughter to their son and you shall not take his daughter for your son.” The “them” referred to in this verse is the gentiles (non-Jewish people). The reason for this was because the gentiles did not worship the same God as the Hebrews. God commanded the Jews to marry only other Jews so that they would not be led to worship false gods by their gentile spouses and families. It was not a RACE issue – it was a CULTURE issue. Another verse that is often misused in this way is 2 Corinthians 6:14, which states, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” This verse says basically the same thing: Do not marry non-believers because they will lead you astray. The part about light and dark communing has nothing to do with skin color. It’s a metaphor for opposite belief systems trying to come together – they cannot exist in the same place at the same time. That a church would treat people this way is unbelievable, and it is most definitely NOT a Christian way to behave. God created people of all colors, and we are all made in his image. For us to show hatred to other people because of their skin color is a sin. The fact that this type of blatant racism is still around in 2011 means that we have not come as far as we thought we had.

“Having eyes” showcases the absolute absurdity that is the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Apparently Saudi Arabia’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (read: religious police) has decided that women with “nice eyes” need to cover those things up so that the men of Saudi Arabia (who apparently lack ANY kind of self-control) won’t be tempted to think dirty thoughts about women other than their wives. Who defines “nice eyes?” Anyone can have “nice eyes.” Come to think of it, I’ve never seen a picture of a Middle Eastern woman with eyes that WEREN’T nice. They are lovely women, and they continue to be oppressed on a daily basis. The eyes are the only thing left that these women do not have to cover up. They walk around in the oppressive Saudi heat, covered head-to-toe in black head scarves and cloaks so as not to lead any male to stray. The extreme Wahhabi form of Islam that is so popular there is intolerant of anyone who is not a devout Muslim and is extremely oppressive to women. My heart goes out to the women and girls of Saudi Arabia because they are so obviously being abused, both by their government and many times by their families and husbands as well. Why we continue to be allied with a nation that so clearly does not share our values and doesn’t even like us is beyond me.

Finally, “brown-bag lunches” talks about how a school in Chicago now forbids students from bringing a lunch from home. They HAVE to pay the $2.25 for a school lunch, or go hungry. Exceptions are made only for food allergies (and possibly religious reasons. The article doesn’t say this, but I would imagine they would allow a kid to bring halal or kosher food as well). The reasoning behind this decision, according to the principal, is that school lunch is healthier than what the kids bring from home. First of all, why is that the school’s business? Believe it or not, parents have been successfully feeding their children for thousands of years without the benevolent dictatorship of the public school system peering over their shoulder. This is clearly an infringement on the rights of parents to do what they think is best for their child. It is not the schools system’s job to feed my kids. That’s my job. Second, this is not a good move for the kids. Yes, the food MIGHT be healthier than what they bring from home (but not necessarily), but if a child doesn’t like what the cafeteria is serving, they are not going to eat it. A hungry kid does not perform well in school, and that is a scientific fact. It’s hard to focus on a math lesson when your stomach is growling loud enough to drown out the teacher. If I were a parent, I would prefer that I pack a lunch for my kid that I KNOW he or she likes and will eat instead of paying money for food that they might not like and probably won’t eat. This brings us to my third point – buying lunch every day is expensive. The cost of a student lunch in this school is $2.25. Kids generally go to school for 180 days a year. This means that for one child, a family will spend $405 each school year on lunch. If they have 2 kids enrolled in this school, the cost doubles to $810 a year. Many families receive free or reduced lunches, but many families do not qualify for these programs even though they are far from wealthy. This puts a hardship on the families that are not poor enough to qualify for free/reduced lunch, but not wealthy enough to be able to throw away over $400 a year. It’s much cheaper to send leftovers or a sandwich with your kids than to pay for school lunch. This is clearly yet another case of progressive government overstepping its boundaries and intruding on the family in ways that are totally Orwellian and uncalled for.

The trampling of freedom exhibited by these incidents, both here and in other nations, really enrages me. How can man (or woman) flourish under governments, churches, and governmental churches that insist on infringing on the rights given to us by the Creator? What the good Lord giveth, the government taketh away, apparently.

Encounter with an Estonian Exchange Student

Today I worked as a substitute for a math teacher at the high school close to my house. In addition to geometry, this particular teacher taught a “service learning” class. I’m not exactly sure what that is, but today the kids were supposed to go around to the other classrooms, collect their recycling, and then return to our room for the remainder of the period, where they were free to chat, do homework, etc. As I was calling the role, I came across a student named “Laura,” which also happens to be my name, and I told her so. The other kids all mentioned that she was an exchange student from Estonia, which I thought was interesting. After all the kids came back to the classroom, I sat down next to this particular student and asked her a few questions about her home country and what she thought of America. She seemed impressed and excited with my extremely minimal knowledge of her homeland (oppression under the Soviet Union during the Cold War, its vicinity to Latvia & Lithuania), which surprised me a little. She then mentioned that students at the high school she was attending here in the US had asked her where Estonia was, with some asking if it was in Asia or Africa. Might I add that this girl was very white, with blond hair and blue eyes. She looked neither African nor Asian. I was quite disappointed with our (American) students’ lack of critical thinking and knowledge of geography. It’s no wonder that other nations think poorly of us. I don’t think it’s vital that we try to impress anyone (especially Europe – about that whole “defeating the Nazis” thing – you’re welcome), but a little self-improvement would not hurt our nation in the least, especially in the realm of public education. That’s really my first and only “point” for this entry.

My other thoughts on this incident are centered around my desire to travel to the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), but especially Estonia. I had heard of these nations when I was little, but I didn’t know much about any of the Baltic states beyond the fact that they existed. The first time I remember hearing about Estonia was in a Miss Universe pageant that I was watching with my mom one year when I was maybe between the ages of 5 & 8. My next encounter with anything Estonian was this absolutely terrifying Soviet-era commercial for chicken. I first watched this video when I came out to visit my husband at the base here where we live now. He was at work, and I was holed up in his barracks room with his laptop, trying to go undetected by roaming officers and NCOs. I watched several of these crazy ads, all made by a man named Harry Egipt. The ads piqued my curiosity about the nation, so I started looking for other info on it. The pictures I’ve seen of Estonia are very pretty and the towns all look like charming places. Laura was very friendly and seemed happy to talk to me about her country, so my hope is that other people from this region are friendly too. One of my teachers from high school that I’ve kept up with has been to Estonia, and he said it’s a beautiful country. I hope maybe I can go visit one day =)

Battling Acne with Makeup Skills

Today I saw this article on Yahoo! which led me to this video on YouTube, and I was amazed at this girl’s transformation. Essentially, this young lady, Cassandra Bankson, suffers from severe cystic acne. She says she got her first pimple in 3rd grade and then it was all downhill from there. She is extremely self-conscious about her skin (as are most people with acne) and has tried all kinds of medications, creams, and other remedies to get rid of the pimples, but nothing worked so she decided to cover it up. She has basically developed a makeup routine that takes her skin from rough and acne-covered to airbrushed perfection. She even works as a model! Does it require a lot of products and time? Yes. Is it worth it if it makes her (and other acne sufferers) feel better? Yes.

After I watched her tutorial, I read some of the comments posted by Youtube users and was disappointed (but not surprised) to see all kinds of ignorant and mean comments. Things like “Well maybe if you wore less makeup, your skin wouldn’t look so bad,” or “Wow it’s so sad that she has to pile on all that crap to feel good about herself,” and other such nonsense. She clearly states in the information about the video that she is under the care of a dermatologist and that they have tried many things but nothing has cleared up her skin. She also points out that her skin erupted in zits well before she ever started wearing makeup. And for people to comment on how “sad” she is for wearing so much makeup, they have obviously never suffered the scourge of severe acne. My guess is that those comments are from girls who have never had a zit in their lives. If you’re born with perfect skin, then no, you don’t need makeup and you might be better off without it. You can glide effortlessly through middle school dances, prom, senior pictures, and every other appearance-centered event in a teenager’s life with ease. But for those of us who have struggled with poor skin since we were in elementary or middle school, a little makeup helps a lot. There are a lot of misconceptions about acne: that it’s caused by being dirty, wearing too much makeup, eating poorly, etc – Basically that acne is something you can fix by changing your bad habits. For some people that might be true, but acne has other, more widespread and uncontrollable causes like hormonal imbalances, genetics, extremely oily skin, etc. These causes are out of the acne sufferer’s control and can leave them feeling powerless and ugly.

Acne is generally associated with nerds, basement-dwelling WoW players, and other societal outcasts, not because this condition weirdly targets ONLY those types of people, but because people who get acne often BECOME socially awkward BECAUSE they have it. Acne often begins to rear its ugly head at the most inconvenient of times: the already awkward and confusing stage of puberty. A child who is already self-conscious about their changing body and who may have a natural inclination towards shyness may be driven totally underground by the appearance of pimples all over their face. And let’s not forget how cruel kids can be. They are highly intolerant of physical imperfection among their peers. God help the poor child if he or she is fat AND has acne. Special events like prom become cause for extreme social anxiety for a kid with acne because they KNOW their skin doesn’t look good. They KNOW it’s unattractive, and it’s extremely hard to cover up. And they KNOW that these precious moments (and their pizza face) will forever be documented via photography and Facebook. That’s a lot of pressure, and interestingly enough, stress is a trigger for acne.

I think what Cassandra is doing is really a great thing. She has a whole series of videos that teach girls (and guys!) how to cover up their acne effectively and make it look natural. She also does regular makeup tutorials that show you how to achieve a classy, natural look, which can be difficult, especially for people just learning how to apply cosmetics or people with acne who need to use a lot of products to cover their pimples. Her videos teach people how to properly apply makeup so that they can feel confident and beautiful, even WITH bad skin. For some people, their acne clears up on its own after a couple of years. For other people, antibiotics, Accutane, or topical medications work. Mine was never as bad as Cassandra’s, but I did have acne and I used a variety of prescription products when I was in high school with varying degrees of success. I think mine was probably hormonal, because around the time I turned 17 or 18 and went on the Pill, it cleared up, for the most part (I still get a few pimples now and then, but that’s normal). For some people though, it plagues them far into a adulthood, even up into their 40s and 50s. For people who have chronic, unrelenting acne like that, I think Cassandra’s videos are a Godsend…haters be damned.