Fiction On Odyssey: Her And Her And Me, Too

Fiction On Odyssey: Her And Her And Me, Too

She didn't want it, but that didn't matter.
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CAROLINE is number one in our class.

She’s the president of four clubs, captain of the varsity volleyball team, and has won the statewide debate competition three years in a row now. She raises her hand in class while the rest of us stare blankly at our phones or try to discreetly unwrap a granola bar without making too much noise. She always gets the highest grades on exams but never has the under-eye circles to show for it. Caroline’s hair is always in the right place and she consistently looks like she stepped out of a catalog. Beauty and brains, we say behind her back. Most of us have neither. We wonder if she somehow has more hours in the day than the rest of us.

On Friday morning, Caroline strides into school like she owns the place (doesn’t she?). We all watch in awe. She’s so confident. We would be, too, if we were her.

The principal, the cool principal, is greeting all the students, but he halts when he sees her. He walks up to her and leads her to his office and we assume he’s going to tell her she’s valedictorian or something.


In front of us, Caroline sucks in a deep breath. The dimness of the school after hours casts a shadow upon her face, and she suddenly doesn’t seem so confident anymore. And she’s here, so we know she’s not. She tugs at the neckline of her shirt before proceeding with her story.


She wonders if this is going to be a vote of confidence for the fourth statewide debate competition she has next week or a "congratulations" for getting into her top-choice college. The principal pulls her into his office and closes the door, holding his breath as if he has a reason to.

He looks down, and at first, she thinks he’s nervous, but her heart drops to the bottom of her stomach when she realizes that 1. this is neither, and 2. he’s not looking at the ground.

“That dress is awfully short,” he says, trying to ease into it. “I’m seeing more of you than I want to.”

Then stop looking, she thinks but doesn’t have the voice to say.

He tells her she’s a girl, but dressing like that is only going to bring her the wrong kind of attention. “You want to be noticed for your intelligence, don’t you?” he says. “Why don’t you go home and change? With all of these teenage boys…that dress is too distracting.”


Caroline tries really hard not to cry in front of us. She’s supposed to be strong. She’s supposed to be breaking glass ceilings for girls everywhere, even though that man shattered her before she could even touch the glass.

She tells us that the principal went off to look over some paperwork and call some troubled kids into his office and have his regular day and his regular lunch break and all, while she locked herself in a bathroom stall, wept, and never wore that dress again.

Caroline’s a smart girl, but that didn’t matter.


MARIE is at the bottom of our class.

She went to one fashion club meeting in her sophomore year but left after one of her guy friends told her that fashion was shallow and stupid, and she realized that, yes, it was silly to care so much about that kind of stuff.

She has a weakness for football players. One in particular. And he’s the kind who knows how to smile the kind of dazzling smile that reveals the perfect amount of self-assuredness without daring to come off as cocky.

All throughout football season, she works to catch his eye, his sparkling blue eyes. She whispers the response to him when the teacher calls on him in class. Lends him a copy of the math homework he didn’t do. Wishes him good luck before the big game.

And then one night, she thinks it’s all worth it. The team wins the game against the rival school, and there’s a party to celebrate.

The house they go to is huge, but the room he takes her to is “perfect”: intimate and downright claustrophobic.


Marie pauses for a long time, like she doesn’t want to give us the rest of the story, like she’s going to fall apart if she does. Some of us already are because we know where this is going. We know it too well.


It’s dark. He’s gotten a few drinks in her. A few in him, too, she can tell because his breath is hot against her skin and it’s tinged with the traces of cheap beer.

He kisses her neck. Seizes her arm when she tries to push him away. Forces her onto someone’s unmade bed.

His blue eyes don’t seem like they belong to the same person anymore. They don’t sparkle anymore, or enliven. They paralyze. Terrify. Terrorize.

“Come on, Marie. Didn’t you want this?”

“You can’t just turn a guy on like that and play hard to get.”

“I know you want it.”


The room grows silent. She brings her knees up to her chest and wraps her arms around herself, using herself as a crutch. She stays quiet, not giving us the boy’s name.

Who is he, we want to ask. Do we know him? What if we just passed him in the halls and didn’t even know?

She bursts into sobs.

Marie didn’t want it, but that didn’t matter.


BONNIE loves the football team almost as much as Marie does.

Did.

But school for Bonnie is the opposite of what it is for Marie, because the boys don’t give her the attention that they give Marie.

They never saw girls like her on-screen, in one of those action movies as the love interest in the impractically tight clothing, or on the cover of the magazines they hid under their bed. But she always saw them, as the superhero or the enigma or the sweet boy-next-door.

They don’t notice her, so she doesn’t know what to do when she does get noticed.


“I know it’s unusual to say this,” a man begins, appearing from behind her, “but I just wanted to say you’re very beautiful,” he finishes off, giving a sheepish smile yet maintaining unrelenting eye contact.

It seems innocent enough but strange, nonetheless. At first, she can’t tell if it’s strange-because-it’s-new or strange-because-it’s-unwelcome.

“Are you a college student, or…”

“High school,” she answers because she’s sure this must be a nice guy, and it takes courage to go up to someone, right?

“Ahh,” he says understandingly. “It’s hard to tell with Asian women. You know?” he adds, nodding to his own question. “Hey.” He lowers his voice and raises his eyebrows and something immediately shifts. “I know Asian women have the stereotype of being shy and submissive, but apparently they’re actually pretty wild. Is that true? Do you like to party?”

She doesn’t have the heart to tell him she’s not interested, but she hopes that glances to the side will be enough for him to take the hint. He doesn’t.

When he tries to touch her, she recoils and insists that she has to leave, because she has to, she has to.

Bonnie races home to take a shower, wanting to wash away the stranger’s presence that sticks to her like a layer of film. She scrubs and scrubs, though something tells her it’s already seeped in through the skin, spread through her bloodstream, and etched itself into her DNA—become an indelible darkness in her. She rinses off for the third time, though the way he smiled so unassumingly and unwaveringly still remains stuck in her pores, lodged under her fingertips, embedded in her memory.

She lets the hot water wash over her and cries because she’s more disgusted with herself than by the man who came onto her.


She cries now, too, as she recounts it. Before the tears drip down her chin, she moves swiftly to wipe them away with the sleeve of her red sweater, and then hiccups an apology.

For what, we want to say. We’re sorry, we feel the urge to add, partly because we are, and partly because we’ve been taught to put ourselves in the wrong.

Bonnie’s got a kind heart, but that didn't matter.


LOIS is a tough girl.

She graduated two years ago and goes to the community college just outside of town in the city. Whenever she comes home for the weekend, she tells us about all these situations, too many situations in which she was walking down the street and a man took the cigarette out of his mouth and shouted, “Why don’t you give me a smile, honey,” in which the nice guy from her night class thought she owed him something because he was so nice, in which she was sitting at a bar and a guy thought he could buy a drink and a feel of her inner thigh, too.

She tells us that after one of them threatened her family, she went straight home and searched for engagement rings on Amazon. She bought the most inexpensive one she could find, with a rock as fake as the person she realized she had to transform into every night to protect herself.


For a while, the ring works. When Lois meets an unknown man’s eye across the the room, and he sits down next to her, the fake little diamond ring and a joyful, “Oh, my fiancé and I have been engaged for two months!” is enough to ward him off. The stranger respects her (or at least respects whoever the guy must be).

One night, Lois forgets to put on the ring when she goes out with her girlfriends.

She limits herself to two drinks and reminds herself to shut them down if she’s not interested. Be resentful. Cold. Caustic.

And even though she knows all the right things to say and all the right things to do, when a man comes up to her that night, she finds herself trapped. She’s not small, but men always have a way of making her feel that way.

“What, you think you’re so much better than me?”

“Hey, now, who said I was even interested in you like that?”

“It doesn’t have to mean anything.”

“Come on.”

“Bitch.”

He tries to touch her thigh, it’s always the thigh, and she shoves him away from her.


Lois clenches her hands into fists. She should’ve known better, she says. She should’ve acted sooner. She seethes because she felt powerless. She seethes because she can’t help but feel like it’s on her.

Lois is a tough girl, but that didn’t matter.


CARINA is our student teacher.

She teaches history, the parts of it that the textbooks always leave out. We find it unsettling to see her here, because it’s different, because it’s harrowing, because most days it seems like she knows so much.

Sometimes it seems like she knows everything.

She tugs at the hem of her gray pencil skirt. Crosses and uncrosses her legs. Her heels click against the floor when she uncrosses them the fourth time around, and she winces as though she’s painfully aware of it and herself.

She has years on us, and looking at her, frazzled and frayed at the edges, we see our futures.


She’s twenty-one and at a job interview, wearing a blazer that’s a little too big around the shoulders and a pencil skirt she nearly burnt her thumb off trying to iron.

The interviewer’s blazer, on the other hand, fits perfectly around the shoulders. Custom-made suit, she deduces. The name engraved in the gold plate on his desk is stippled all over newspapers and magazines, and her heart drums against her ribcage.

What’s her employment history. What can she bring to the table. How does she see herself fitting into the work environment. Is she clear of the job requirements. Does she have any questions for him.

She remains polite and professional throughout the entire interview, the way she was taught to be since she was a young girl and her mother whispered to her that sometimes the world would seem like it wasn’t meant for her.

They shake hands, and she feels good about the job, and he kisses her.


Carina did everything she was told to do.

That didn’t matter, either.

Cover Image Credit: The Tab

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Islam Is Not A Religion Of Peace, But Neither Is Christianity

Let's have in honest converation about the relgious doctrine of Islam

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Islam is not a religion of peace.

Christianity is also not a religion of peace.

But, most people in both religions are generally peaceful.

More specifically, bringing up the doctrine of Christianity is a terrible rebuttal to justify the doctrine of Islam.

That is like saying, "Fascism is not a good political ideology. Well, Communism isn't any good either. So, Fascism is not that bad after all."

One evil does not justify another evil. Christianity's sins do not justify Islam's.

The reason why this article is focused on Islam and not Christianity is the modern prevalence of religious violence in the Islamic world. Christianity is not without its evil but there is far less international terrorist attacks and mass killing perpetrated by Christians today than by those of Islam.

First, let's define "religious killings," which is much more specific than a practicer of a religion committing a murder.

A religious killings are directly correlated with the doctrines of the faith. That is different a human acting on some type of natural impulse killing someone.

For example, an Islamic father honor killing his daughter who was raped is a religious killing. But an Islamic man who catches his wife cheating and kills her on the spot is a murder, not a religious killing. The second man may be Islamic but the doctrine of Islam cannot be rationally held at fault for that killing. Many men with many different religions or experience would make the same heinous mistake of taking a life.

Second, criticizing a doctrine or a religion is not a criticism of everyone that practices the religion.

It is not even a criticism of everyone who make mistake while inspired by the religions. Human are willing to do heinous things when governed by a bad cause. Not every World War 2 Nazis was a homicidal maniac but human nature tells them to act this way in order to survive in their environment. It is hard to fault a person from traits that comes from evolutionary biology and natural selection.

However, commenting on a philosophy, ideology or a religion is not off limits. Every doctrine that inspires human action should be open for review. The religion may be part of a person's identity and it holds a special place in its heart but that does not mean it should be immune to criticism.

Finally, before going into a deconstruction of the myth that Islam is a religion of peace, there needs to be a note about the silencing of talking about Islam.

There is a notion in Western Society that if a person criticizes Islam, then that person hates all Muslims and the person suffers from Islamophobia. That is not the case, a person to criticize religion without becoming Donald Trump. In Western Society criticizing fundamental Christians is never seen as an attack on all Christians because there is a lot of bad ideas in the Bible that Christians act on. Therefore, criticizing Islam should have the same benefit of the doubt because the Quran has many bad ideas in it.

The Quran advocates for war on unbelievers a multitude of times. No these verses are not a misreading or bad interpretation the text. Here are two explicit verses from the Quran that directly tell Followers to engage in violence:

Quran 2: 191-193:

"And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah (disbelief or unrest) is worse than killing... but if they desist, then lo! Allah is forgiving and merciful. And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allah) and worship is for Allah alone. But if they cease, let there be no transgression except against Az-Zalimun (the polytheists and wrong-doers)"

Quran 2: 216:

"Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not."

There is no rational way to interrupt these passages in a peaceful way. The whole premise of both passages is to inspire followers that war against the unbeliever is justified.

The first verse advocates for genocide against non-believers for the mere transgression that a society worships a different god or worships another god along with Allah.

The second passage is arguable more dangerous because the first passage just advocate that fighting may be a necessity, while the second passage encourages it. The second passage claims that war on the unbeliever is a good thing under the eyes of Allah.

The reason why these passages are dangerous is because they directly incite religious violence. For most followers of Allah, these passages are ignored or they convince themselves the passages means something they do not. However, for a large numbers of followers that view the text of the Quran as the unedited words of Allah, these texts become extremely dangerous. These passages become all the rational they need to wage war on non-believers.

This is dangerous because there are millions of followers of Islam worldwide that believe every statement in the Quran is true.

Therefore, the Quran becomes a direct motivation and cause for its followers to attack non-followers. Rationally one can understand where the Islam follower comes from, if a person truly believes that Allah or God himself wrote these words then why would you not comply.

Especially when there is verses in the Quran that says the Follower who does not fight the infidel is not as worthy of a Follower that does wage war against the non-believer (Quran 4:95). Finally, when male Followers are told that their martyrdom fighting for the faith will be rewarded with an eternity in paradise with 72 virgins for personal pleasure. If a Follower truly believes all of this is the spoken word of Allah then there is more rational why a person would commit these atrocities then why they would not.

Men and women are radicalized by these passages on a daily basis.

No, it is not just the poor kid in Iraq that lost his family to an American bombing run that indiscriminately kills civilians but also the middle classed Saudi Arabian child or some Western white kid that finds the Quran appealing. If radicalization were just poor people, then society would not have much to be worried about. However, Heads of States, college educated people and wealthy Islamic Followers are all being radicalized and the common dominator is the doctrine of Islam.

Osama Bin Laden, one of the most infamous terrorist in history, was not a poor lad that was screwed by the United States military industrial complex. Bin Laden was the son of a billionaire, that received an education through college from great schools. There is no other just cause for Bin Laden to orchestrate such grievous attacks on humanity besides religious inspirations. A person can rationally tie Islam Followers gravitation towards terrorism to a specific verse. Quran 3: 51 tells readers,

"Soon shall we cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers."

Any rational person can tie Islamic passages like this directly to terrorism. It is not a complicated correlation to like Nazism and Jewish persecution to Christianity. The Holy Book of Islam directly encourages the Followers of Islam to inflict terrorism unto the non-believer.

So why do some many people deny these obvious truths about Islam and violence?

Political Correctness and the want to not be viewed as a bigot. The correlations here are as direct as the terrors of the Spanish Inquisitions and Catholicism and no one is afraid to retrospect and say, "Yes Christianity caused the direct murder of thousands of people". A person would not even be controversial if one stated that both World Wars has significant religious undertones. However if anyone states that terrorism and violence has a direct link with Islam then there is an outcry.

Even President Obama refused to use the terms Islam and Muslim when publicly talking about the War on Terrorism. I am a hypocrite also because I used the term Islamic Follower instead of Muslim in an attempt to sound more political correct.

That is a problem when society refuse to use terms that are correct in an attempt to not offend anyone. Imagine if scientist could not report their findings because the underlying politics. Society needs to be able to have open dialogue about this problem or else it will never heal. Society needs to throw away the worrisome about being politically correct and focus on identifying the problems and solving them.

The world of Islam needs to open themselves up to this criticism.

There can no longer be a closing of dialogue where the West cannot speak on the doctrines of Islam because they are not partakers (That applies to all organized religion too, especially the Catholic Church). People who draw Muhammed must no longer be threatened with attacks on their life.

When Islamic women and men speak up about the sins of Islam, they must stop being silenced. If humanity is going to take steps into the future with better technology and more dangerous weaponry, then we need to solve this problem with Islam and gradually to organized religion at all.

If not it will doom us way before we get there…

Thank you for reading and if you enjoyed this article follow my podcast on Twitter @MccrayMassMedia for more likewise discussions.

Cover Image Credit:

https://unsplash.com/photos/JFirQekVo3U

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Respect And Celebrate Different Identities

Just because you don't think it's "normal" doesn't mean you can disrespect it.

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I've always believed "respect is earned, not given" to be utter BS, but that's even more true when it comes to how people identify. June is LGBT+ Pride Month, which means you're going to be hearing about a lot of different identities (gender- and orientation-wise) that you've probably never heard of.

Please, for the sake of everyone involved, don't be an ass if you don't understand what they identify as. At one point, everyone has questioned an identity that they came across (and if you say you haven't, I'm going to say you're lying). Do that in your head, but be respectful to the person.

I've been online for years, and I'm guilty of bashing people's identities because I thought they were "weird" and didn't fully understand them. Guess what? I recognize that as being a horrible thing to do and have since matured.

It costs you nothing to be respectful.

When I see an identity I don't fully understand, I either ask the person about it (respectfully) or shrug it off because it's none of my business. The most it affects me is when it comes to their preferred name and pronouns, but even that isn't a big deal. It won't end my life if I call someone by a set of pronouns I don't understand.

Now, I'm not saying to not ask questions out of fear of being disrespectful; I'm saying to not be a total jerk when asking.

When in doubt, ask them about it. "Hey, can you explain what ____ means?" is a very different way to start a conversation than "I've never heard of ____ and think it's gross/wrong, so it doesn't exist."

The worst possible thing you can do is tell someone their identity doesn't exist. That pretty much tells the person that they don't exist, which is really just a dick move.

Because, again, what does it cost you to be respectful?

That's right, nothing.

Their identity doesn't hurt you in any way. Them being gay or trans or somewhere in the middle or both literally does you no harm. Respecting them does you no harm.

You may not understand if someone identifies as a "non-binary pansexual they/them," but they know full well what it means. That's all that matters. All you have to do is respect them and call them what they want to be called rather than what you think they should be called.

Nobody knows someone better than they know themselves.

Cover Image Credit:

Pxhere

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