Ferguson and a Broken Criminal Justice System

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

~John F. Kennedy

Looking at video footage coming out of Ferguson, Missouri was like looking at a scene from the Gaza strip. Of course the journalists went right to reporting the burning buildings and the overturned cars and the looting. It would be hard not to, I imagine. Of course they reported on being tear gassed, harassed, pummeled with random objects, and some even looked down right afraid. Domestic journalists in a war zone on the home front.

As I watched the muted scenes on CNN, I also listened to the police scanner in Ferguson, Missouri. A police officer, identified only by his badge number, Trooper 987 went missing and didn’t respond as he tried to help firefighters put out the fire that eventually burned the Little Caesar’s to the ground. It took over an hour for him to be found, thankfully, unharmed. Someone got hurt in the Toys R Us and the EMTs refused to respond because they were afraid for their own safety. Firefighters abandoned buildings which would later turn to nothing but ash because there were shots being fired around them.

I sat awake until one in the morning watching the chaos, biting my nails, shaking my head and wondering how it was possible that this could be happening in our country.

It’s happening because our justice system is broken. And while I understand why so many people are enraged, the only thing I can find in myself is sadness. Sadness because I want to believe in the American myth that we are the greatest nation on earth and that things work in this country. Sadness because I feel like we’re falling off a cliff into darkness and it seems almost like I’m helpless. I felt sadness for Michael Brown’s family, who were so stricken with grief that they said some very inappropriate things. But how can you really talk about what is and is not appropriate for a family whose son has been shot dead by someone paid to protect him? I felt sadness for the business owners who lost everything they’d spent their lives building up. Mortgage payments, car loans, college educations for their children, poof, out like the fragile flicker of a candle. I felt sadness for their employees who would be out of a job in the morning. Meals for their family, rent payments, electricity, heat for the oncoming winter, gone. I even felt sadness for the looters, who were so filled with what they felt was the pain of injustice and likely so desperate, so poor, that the only way they could express their anger was to steal from their own community.

Everything, it seems, is broken.

And then, on the heels of Ferguson, comes another failure to indite. Another black man killed by a white police officer. Eric Garner, strangled to death on camera. I thought about the amount of rage it must take, to strangle someone to death. Normally, you hear of husbands killing adulterous wives by strangling, because it is a personal way to kill someone. Easier to shoot them dead than to literally choke the life out of someone, to hold them in your hands while you crush their trachea, while they struggle to get free. Just now, writing this, I took a deep breath and felt so grateful for the way my lungs work, for bringing me the oxygen my body needs to sustain itself. We take that for granted, every single second. And still, the thought of the rage. How could there not have been red, blinding rage, fueling the officer who strangled that man, a stranger, to death?

Where did the rage come from? And what, as a society, can we do to fix it?

I managed to find some hope in the protests that took place after the failure to indite in Eric Garner’s case. They were largely peaceful and deeply symbolic. They hearkened back to the 1960s protests led by the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They have so far embodied what I find tragically beautiful in this country. And they’re being led by my generation, the millennials, a generation that has been largely dismissed as lazy, entitled children who have no desire to aspire to anything at all.

Well guess what America – we are aspiring. We are aspiring to make this country what it should be, what we’ve been saying it is but isn’t – color blind. And that’s a damn good start.


(c) 2014 Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed News



I Challenge You…

I will bite my thumb at them; which is a disgrace to them, if they bear it.


This #Youcannotmakethisshitup moment is brought to you by this guy:

Who is this guy you might ask? He is Igor Plotnitsky, the “president” of the Ukrainian separatists “Luhansk People’s Republic.” And he recently did something pretty interesting.

He challenged Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko to a duel. Yep, you heard me right. A duel.

As an American when I think of a duel, I automatically think of the Old West. Two cowboys, who are fighting over a woman, or who spilled beer on the other one, line up, then turn their backs to one another and take an allotted number of paces and on the count of three they turn around, shoot and see who dies. There are even specialized pistols for the event, called dueling pistols.

But duels actually go back way further than that. Dueling came to Europe during the late medieval period and was prevalent mainly among the higher classes. It was a call to honor for many aristocratic men. It was also widely believed that God would make sure the winner was the man in the right. (Note: see my recent post on crazy shit that happens in the Christian religion and add this thought to the list). Dueling was widely practiced in England, France, Germany, Ireland, Russia and other European nations. Many of these countries even recorded the rules of conduct during a duel in books. Oftentimes, these rules included a provision wherein the challenged party could choose the venue and/or the choice of weapon.

So is the case here. Igor Plotnitsky has told his rival, Petro Poroshenko, that Petro may pick the venue and the weapon to be used (I’m personally hoping he goes for the bow and arrow). And he’s issued a rather interesting statement regarding the whole thing:

If you want to spill the blood of your and our soldiers, their wives, mothers, old people, and children, then prove that you are prepared to spill your blood too – and take my challenge.

Very interesting. While this is most likely simple propaganda (I would like to hope that the man leading the separatists is smart enough to know that the president of Ukraine was not going to fight in a duel to the death or at the very least I hope that Putin would have advised him of this), it isn’t something we haven’t all thought about before. How many times during the conflicts in the Middle East have we heard politicians and regular people bemoaning the loss of life? How many times have you heard people shout at politicians that they should send their sons and daughters to war, or better yet, go themselves, before they commit us to another battle? How many times have we thought that maybe this would be an equitable solution to our wars? One dies to save the masses.

Of course it’s not so easy as all that because, unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely that God makes the right man in a duel a victor. Probably because God doesn’t condone killing. You know, Thou Shalt Not Kill and all that. Or, if you’re an atheist, because God doesn’t exist, whichever floats your boat.

If we resolved things by dueling, then we would all probably be just one giant Russia by now, because – have you seen Putin naked? Of course you have, the whole world has. Scratch that, we might not all be taken over by Russia because the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott might give Putin a run for his money.

Seriously, if they did do a duel, do you think they would air it on live TV? Because Ukraine is really hurting for money from what I understand, and I think the Pay Per View subscriptions would skyrocket over this one. Maybe Poroshenko could choose an arena like in the Hunger Games even? But the best question is – why am I not an artist because I would so be cashing in on the comics for this right now.

Just imagine, you have Plotnitsky kicking Poroshenko into a pit and screaming, “THIS IS RUSSIA!” while Putin claps merrily on a throne behind him. Oh the possibilities.



Believe in Something, Be Open-Minded to Everything

Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won’t come in

~ Isaac Asimov

November 12, 2014

While I was sitting at home, watching TLC’s My Five Wives (please, no judgment, I find it really fascinating), the thought floated into my mind that these people were bat-shit crazy. Cult crazy. For those who aren’t familiar with the show, it basically is a reality TV show that follows the lives of a man, Brady Williams, and his five wives, Paulie, Robyn, Rosemary, Nonie and Rhonda and their cumulative 24 children. It’s reported that the family came from a fundamentalist Mormon sect that believed in polygamy, but the family split with the sect over core principles. The family still prays and believes in God and continues their polygamist ways, but incorporates Buddhism into their prayer and tells their kids that they can marry and love whomever and however many people they want (including supporting gay marriage).


(c) in Photograph, courtesy of TLC

This all comes in correlation with a new posting from the Church of the Latter Day Saints (the official name for the Mormon church). According to the Church, Joseph Smith, the religion’s founder, had somewhere between 30-40 wives. In the essay, it’s stated that the belief of Mormons is that marriage is between one man and one woman, but sometime while studying the Old Testament, Joseph Smith prayed to know why some of the prophets in the Old Testament were permitted multiple wives. God responded to Joseph that He had instructed these men to take multiple wives. He later sent an angel instructing Joseph that he too, should bring back the old practice of plural marriage. Joseph allegedly struggled with the notion, because he knew that it would devastate his wife, Emma. However, God sent an angel again, commanding him to wed multiple women. Again, Joseph vacillated until an angel appeared a third time, wielding a sword. The angel threatened to kill Joseph unless he obeyed God’s commandment. Thereafter, Joseph began “sealing” women (i.e. wedding them) according to God’s command.

Yeah. I know. I thought it sounded crazy too. Cult crazy. But then, while watching My Five Wives and contemplating how one could believe this whole ridiculous scenario and how did these wives not just kick Brady in the dick every time he opened his mouth, I thought to myself – well, it’s not like my version of the Bible doesn’t have its crazy moments. Take Genesis, for example, you know, the whole, beginning of the world story. God creates man and rips out one of his ribs and creates woman. Woman eats some tasty fruit from the Tree of Knowledge (*gasp* a woman cannot have knowledge) because she was tempted by the Devil, who was dressed as a snake. Adam and Eve get kicked out of the Garden of Eden even though Adam’s all, “Well wait a second, I didn’t do anything, therefore I’m going to blame women for everything and strip her of all her power for the next bazillion years”, and the world is created through incest, basically. Massive, massive incest.

Because that’s not crazy right? And it’s not like the crazy is relegated only to the Old Testament – it’s not. In both the books of Matthew and Mark, there’s a story where Jesus is walking from Bethany, and he gets hungry. He sees a fig tree which unfortunately has no fruit. Despite the fact that it was not fig season (as noted in Mark), Jesus apparently gets angry and tells the tree it shall bear no more fruit and the tree withers away. Don’t believe me? Matthew 21:19 and Mark 11:13-14.  A simple Google search for “crazy stuff that happens in the Bible” will give you plenty more fodder where that came from as well.

So what does any of this have to do with war and why am I ranting about the crazy stuff in religious texts?

Well, because as I contemplated how crazy it all seemed, I thought to myself: If I believe in something, I should be open-minded to everything. I can’t dismiss polygamy in Joseph Smith or an angel threatening his life and then say but it’s completely legitimate that the holiest person in my religion (Jesus) killed a tree, because he was pissed it didn’t have fruit during non-fruit season. That’s just not very fair.

Which somehow, because my thoughts always tend to spiral into this abyss, brought me to thinking about war. Specifically, the kind of war we have going on the most lately, religious based wars.

In Deuteronomy 13:12-18 there is a commandment from God that says that if you come upon a city where other people are worshiping another god, you should kill everyone (and all their cattle) in the city and burn it down so it can never be built again. That’s not in the Qur’an, that’s in the BIBLE. There are passages like this in the religious texts of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. These are the passages that most people pass over, and they’re also the ones that religious extremists latch onto as justification for their religious wars. It’s not just Islam that can be corrupted, it’s Christianity too.

It’s easy to live in a bubble of ignorance. It’s easy not to think too hard, but it also causes wars. People get tunnel-vision over the rightness of their religion or their interpretation of religion and the wrongness of everyone else’s. And it’s because the “other” is different. Like the polygamists. My gut instinct is to assume they’re crazy, but when I think about it, there’s a lot of crazy shit going on in my version of the Bible too. And it’s not like all the Catholic rituals are completely sane (think: exorcism).

If we believe in something, we have to be open-minded to everything. I’m not saying that we have to be open-minded to the extreme violence that is being perpetrated in the name of religion all over the world, or that we have to feel it’s right, but we should avoid gut reactions like labeling people “crazy” or the “other” or “right” or “wrong” or “just” or even saying that we have some kind of absolute “Truth” (and yes, that’s Truth with a capital “T”). Because we don’t . I don’t, you don’t, ISIS doesn’t, Hamas doesn’t, the Israeli government doesn’t, the Pope doesn’t. No one does. It’s the human condition.

I don’t look at the polygamists in My Five Wives under the same scope anymore. Who am I to judge? And I don’t look at religious wars under the same scope anymore either. Killing innocent people is wrong, but it is only by being open-minded to the reasons why it’s happening that we can find a real solution for it. And maybe that starts by taking a deeper look into our own religions and finding what violence could be done with them as well.


The True Red

There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in

~ Graham Greene

November 6, 2014

On Tuesday night, the Empire State Building turned red to symbolize a midterm win for the Republican party.

On Thursday, thanks to US air strikes in Northern Syria, the desert turned red as well – with blood. More blood. This time, two children are expected to have died, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (a UK-based organization). You won’t read about the children on CNN, however. There, you’ll read about how the strikes probably, maybe, sorta, we think, killed a suspected French jihadist and bomb maker working for Khorasan, David Drugeon (who changed his name to Daoud after he converted to Islam at the age of 14).

You can learn all about his radicalization in the CNN article. The “key” jihadist bomb maker was born in 1989. He was a year younger than me. You can learn about his parents’ divorce and how he took odd jobs driving to pay for trips to Egypt to learn Arabic and then slipped off the radar when he went to Afghanistan to fight Americans there.

What you can’t learn about is the identity of the two children who died in pursuit of ending David/Daoud’s life.

Who were they? What did they want to be? Did they aspire to be bomb makers too, or were their childhood dreams for more peaceable things – a doctor, a teacher, a mother? What were their names and what were they doing there? Who were their parents and what choice did they have about where they lived or where they just happened to be passing through?

The more cynical among us may say that it is “collateral damage” and that if they were hanging out near a bomb maker they were likely already radicalized or well on their way and maybe we did the world a favor by snuffing their little lives out.

I disagree.

Innately, I believe that we are all children of God. We all deserve a chance to overcome the obstacles thrown in our way. None of us is perfect. We are all dealt a hand that we must play. It isn’t right to push the hand down and force a fold because someone else has played their cards wrong.

Although I doubt 25 year old Daoud thought he had played his cards wrong. He obviously thought we, the United States, are wrong.

And maybe we are. It’s not like our society couldn’t take a good, hard, long look at itself and find some room for improvement. As a whole, we’re material, we’re selfish, we’re vain, we don’t listen, we’re arrogant, egotistical, divisive, combative, and not always bright. Of course there are some gems among us, a lot of them, shining brightly and hopefully they will eventually outshine the lot of carbon beneath, but every society is the same at its core in this fact. Every society has its problems but there are always, always gems. That’s what makes humanity so beautiful. And those two children that were murdered – were they gems? Could they have been? Does anyone care about them or to even ask who they were or what they wanted out of their lives? Could they have grown to be a better person than any of us?

I guess we’ll never know. That’s the real tragedy. The true red.


Naming the Bones

In Bosnia, I remember, they spoke about a holocaust. I went to Bosnia to see. I felt, if it is, I must move heaven and earth.

~Elie Wiesel

October 21, 2014

When I was in school studying creative writing at the University of North Carolina, my obsession with the Bosnian War sprang back to life. I wrote half a dozen short stories based on accounts that I’d read and heard. I spent dozens of hours in the massive Davis Library, researching the war. I wrote down quotes and cites and made notes in my neat, small handwriting which I filed away in a tabbed three ring binder. Some of the tabs were names: “Milosevic”; “Mladic”; “Tito.” Some of the tabs were places: “Srebrenica”; “Sarajevo”; “Tuzla”. And some of the tabs were atrocities: “Rape camps”; “Siege of Sarajevo”; “Genocide at Srebrenica.”

The library research was much different than it had been when I was eight. The internet made things easier, but harder too. The amount of information we can take in quickly using the internet makes it easier to become scarred. I watched videos. In the videos were Muslim men wearing ragged, dirty clothing, lined up next to one another. And Serb soldiers walked up and down the line and shot them all in the head. One by one they fell into graves they’d dug for themselves.

Nightmares, which I’ve always been plagued with, got worse. I would wake in the middle of the night screaming and sweating, grasping at my chest, sure that I’d just been shot. I was starting to experience symptoms of post traumatic stress from a war which I’d never lived through. But I pushed on, because I wanted to tell these stories and because I felt weak and guilty. I shouldn’t be affected like this, it wasn’t my war. I was just a passerby. These weren’t my horrors to suffer from. I was just telling the story. Or trying to.

The following is one of the many stories that would follow. It was written after I’d graduated college. It was the first story I’d written about Bosnia since I graduated. When I wrote it, I thought I’d put my pen down. I thought I was done writing about war, especially this war, but as it turns out, I’m never really done.

July 9, 2012

I’m naming them now, the bones, that is. I didn’t do that before, but now I think I hear them speaking to me.

This one over here, this is Fatima. We have her femur and a couple broken pelvis bones. I estimate she was about 12 when she was killed. She suffered trauma to her pelvic region, suggesting a violent rape. Because we don’t have her skull, we don’t have dental records to identify her. We’ll have to send some DNA from the bones to the lab, which could take months, maybe years, maybe forever. For now, I call her Fatima and dust the dirt off.

This is my sixteenth summer in Bosnia. Each year I tell myself I won’t go back, that I have done enough, but there are still more bones being found, so every year, after the snow and the ice has melted in the hills, I get on a plane in Philadelphia and fly to Sarajevo, to take a bus to Tuzla to dig through the bones found around Srebrenica.

I’m working on Amir now. He was most likely in his mid to late thirties. He’s unusual because we have almost a complete skeleton and some shreds of clothing. I am proud of Amir. He will be identified quickly as long as he still has family coming here, looking for him, as long as he still has family at all. When I have him cleaned up, we will put an identification number on a yellow piece of cardstock. My assistant will write it in his big, blocky lettering and carefully attach it to the body bag. When he is done, he will create another identical tag, and we will lay out the scraps of clothing along with the Swiss army knife, the silver chain from a pocket watch, and the lighter we found around Amir. My assistant will put the tag on the top of the blanket we assemble the items on. The blanket will be in a room the size of an auditorium, and the families of the missing will walk up and down the aisles of shreds of clothing and items and tags, searching for something that sparks a memory from nearly two decades ago.

Amir was a smoker, I can tell by the state of his teeth. If we had found him sooner, we may have been able to find the brand of cigarettes he smoked, which would have led his family to him quicker. But the years have worn away the paper cartons, taking the fibers back into the earth and leaving the bones behind.

One day, the bones are going to disappear like that paper, and I will never have to come to Bosnia again. But if the bones disappear before I am done, that means I have failed, so I force myself to work faster, longer, harder. Every year there are still more bones found, but less people to tend to them. The unidentified line the catacombs of Tuzla, waiting.

The site that has brought me to Bosnia this year was found like many others. A Serbian man, who was a boy then, came to us, no longer able to bear the guilt, and led us to The Place. The Place was not much different in appearance than many places in Bosnia. It was forested and green, the trees just beginning to bud after the frost. The soil was rich and smelled wet. A tree had fallen nearby but had not yet begun to rot. The Place was just inside the forest, bordering a field which had to be swept for land mines by a canine unit before we went in. Our man’s eyes darted, and he wrung his hands while he waited for the dogs to finish their patrol, insisting that there were no mines, that these fields were farmed and that the mines had been tripped long ago, not by dogs, but by people. Still, there are codes and procedures that need to be followed. The living must always come before the bones.

When we came to The Place, he pointed to the ground and said one word, “Dig.” And so we called in the excavators and began to turn the soil. It didn’t take long for the bones to show up, this grave was shallow, and it surprised me that it took so long to find; we found the shallow ones first, years ago. I told the excavator to stop and examined the bone closely. I shook my head, tossed it aside and told the excavator to continue on. It wasn’t a human bone, but a pig bone, a common occurrence. The Serb commanders told men like our man to cover the graves with slaughtered pigs to hide the bones, which were bodies then. Our man shifted his weight and looked around and wrung his hands while the excavators began to dig again.

Eventually, we found the bones we were looking for, and when we did, we sent the excavators away and proceeded with shovels and brushes. The first thing I teach all of my assistants is that they must be respectful of the bones.

That’s where we found Amir, who would be close to fifty now, had he not been shot in the back of the head, buried in The Place and covered by stuck pigs. As I brush the dirt out of Amir’s eye sockets, I wonder if our man had killed Amir. I used to stop myself from thinking these things, but now I let the thoughts wander. I have found that if I do not let them have free reign during the day, they come back to torture me during the night.

While I prepare Amir, my assistant comes in for Fatima. He asks me if this is it, and I nod without looking away from Amir. I can hear him placing the bones in the bag. The noise of the hard calcium hitting the metal table is muffled by the body bag, so I have to strain to hear it. I know he is being gentle. The zipper slowly creeps its way up the length of the bag. It zippers smoothly, because there isn’t much to fill the bag. I’ll miss her.

My hands no longer twitch to do the sign of the cross when I hear the zipper. In this place, my religion is the enemy, so I give the bones the respect they deserve and still my habitual hands. At first it was difficult, now it isn’t.

My assistant exits almost as quietly as he came in. I like this one; he doesn’t bother me with useless questions and philosophical blather. Perhaps that’s because his English isn’t very good. He comes from Rwanda, which confuses me, because there are many bones there, but I don’t ask him why he’s here. I leave him to his thoughts, because he leaves me to mine. What’s important is that he is gentle with the bones, and he gives them something I cannot – prayer. Before he sets them on the truck to be delivered to the catacombs, he says a prayer over each one. Sometimes, I stop my work to listen to his deep voice mumbling the Muslim prayers, but not today. Today, there is too much work to be done, and I cannot break, not even for Fatima.

When I am finished with Amir, I move onto Halim. I have a skull, four ribs, a femur, assorted foot bones and both lower arm bones, though the radius is missing from one. I estimate Halim was about 13, one of the younger boys from The Place, though not younger than the youngest, my Fatima.

Years ago, when I first came to Bosnia, I asked how so many girls ended up in these graves. I was just out of medical school, and when they briefed us, they told us to expect many men and possibly boys. The women and girls had been separated out and put on buses to Tuzla, they told us. It was just the men who were left behind. But it didn’t take long for girls to start appearing in the graves. When all of the stories were sorted out, we learned that the mothers of the bones tried to disguise their girls as boys to protect them from rape. They cut their hair and smeared their faces with mud. They removed their headscarves and put them in their sons’ clothes and watched while they boarded the buses with their fathers and brothers.

Sometimes, on the way to The Place, the girls would cry or speak, and the soldiers would discover them, and they would end their days like Fatima. Other times, they stayed silent, and they would end their days like Halim, who was beaten and then shot through the temple. An example killing – held up in front of the other prisoners and executed in plain sight. He was most likely not killed at The Place, but before, to keep the Muslims in line, flocked like the sheep they used to tend.

I smile and pet Halim’s skull. What a brave boy. He must have been a fighter, or he tried to escape. The mammalian instinct to survive never ceases to amaze me. I cannot gaze on Halim for long, I have to hurry, there are many more bones to get to before the morning.

Tomorrow, the auditorium will fill up with the sound of wailing. Many will come, and some will leave clutching a yellow tag that will allow them to collect their bones from the catacomb. Mothers, wives, siblings and children will line the room, supporting grandmothers and more mothers and more siblings and wives. A few will not cry. A few will touch the things gingerly, then pick up the tag and bring it to my assistant, who will use a translator to get the story and try to match the bones.

It won’t be long now before the three day march begins, where buses carrying the bones will flood out of Tuzla and descend upon Srebrenica. Those who are able will walk over 60 kilometers. The army will follow behind as the Muslims enter the Serbian territory. Some tourists will come and some reporters, but not many, not like the first five years. Only those like me still come. Those like me, and those who have no choice.

They will say prayers and bury the bones that I have cleaned for them, whatever we have been able to give back to them. And their hatred and their screams will shake the once Bosnian, now Serbian city so that not even the bravest of the Serbs will leave their stolen homes. Some will go back to the homes that they remember their fathers building. They will go back and confront the Serbs who live there now, who eat off of their dishes and sleep in the bed they shared with their dead husbands. But most won’t. Most will just go to Srebrenica to bury their bones and then get back on the buses like they did seventeen years ago, headed for Tuzla once more.

On that day, July 11th, when the bones reach their final destination, I will sit at a Serbian bar in the center of Srebrenica and drink the sweet wine until I can’t stand up. And then I will yell at the bartender, a Serbian who is barely eighteen, who was only a baby when it happened, and I will blame him for what has happened here, in slurred Serbian fragmented with English. At first, he will tell me that he hasn’t done anything, but eventually, he will just listen to me and pour me another drink, because he really doesn’t care what I say as long as the money keeps coming. Srebrenica is a very poor city now. When I can no longer remember the language, the bartender will help me out the door and walk me as close to the buses as he dares, and I will board the bus and sit next to my assistant who doesn’t drink because he is Muslim, and I will speak more words to him than I have spoken all summer.

And the next day, I will give myself back to the bones.

Five Reasons To Love the Peshmerga

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why

~ Mark Twain

October 17, 2014

It’s recently come to my attention that the Kurdish Peshmerga are the most bad ass people around. And I want to be friends with them. I can’t believe it took the US so long to become friends with them. They’re super bad ass. And here are just five of the many reasons why:

1. The Peshmerga stayed to fight when the Iraqi army totally bailed


(c) 2014 Reuters

How seriously bad ass is that? An entire army, which was trained and equipped by the most powerful and largest army in the world (ours) bails, and the Kurdish Peshmerga say whatevs, we didn’t need them anyway. We got this whole ISIS thing.

2. The Peshmerga helped out the Yazidis despite their religion


(c) 2014 Rodi Said/Reuters

Okay, to be fair, the Yazidi people are technically Kurdish, because Kurdish is an ethnicity, not a religion. However, a lot of the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters are Muslim, and the Yazidi faith is a little bit dodgy with just about everyone else. Probably because the sacred angel that they worship, Melek Taus, has some striking similarities to…you know, Satan. He’s not Satan, for the record, but he did some bad stuff for which he was kicked out of Heaven and eventually repented and that’s part of the reason ISIS was trying to wipe the Yazidis off the face of the earth. Well, that and ISIS is pretty much just evil. But despite their somewhat questionable angel, the Kurdish Peshmerga stepped in and saved the Yazidis from what would unquestionably have been a genocide. And that’s pretty freaking fantastic in my book.

3. They have an all-female fighting force which is super awesome at what they do


(c) 2014 Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters

Cosmic justice anyone? I love the fact that the Peshmerga has a female fighting force battling it out against ISIS, a group who recently “justified” enslaving women they’d captured and selling them or marrying them off as sex slaves. This elite group of women are known as the Women’s Protection Unit and are informally called “lions.” The reason, you ask? Because there is a common Kurdish phrase which translated means, “A lion is a lion – be it male or female.” Boo ya.

4. Even non-Peshmerga want to be Peshmerga


(c) 2014, Leftenis Pitarakis/AP

While Kobani still remains under siege, Turkish Kurds are looking for a way into Syria to help join the Kurdish fighters there in their battle against ISIS. They’re stalled by Turkey right now because Turkey is afraid of their bad-assery, I mean, afraid they might be going to join ISIS and not the Kurdish fighters.

5. In some ways, they’re a little bit like us, in the beginning

Think about it, they’re a militia, a banded together with duct tape and bailing twine type of army. But they’re tough as nails. They’re forward thinking, relatively moderate, and they want the same things we wanted when we were just a bunch of colonies the British could steal shit from – a home. They want a state that they have control of. They want to be free from exploitation. They want liberty. But they also recognize that they first have to kick ISIS’ ass. And after they do that, maybe we should all sit down and have a civil conversation about giving them their state. Because if they keep on keeping on, they will have more than earned it.



Let’s Talk About Gay Marriage

Those who would renegotiate the boundaries between church and state must therefore answer a difficult question: why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly?

~ Sandra Day O’Connor

October 13, 2014

To be fair, gay marriage really has nothing to do with war and may not have a place on this blog…unless you’re one of the conspiracy theorists who think that gay marriage will tear this country apart. That being said, so many people are talking about it, I don’t think it’s fair not to. Except for the Supreme Court. They’re not talking about.

I guess I should profile myself here, because profiles seem to be so important in this whole debate. I am 26 years old. I am female. I am heterosexual. I am a semi-practicing Catholic who wishes she would get up and go to Mass more often. I am a registered Republican, but the older I get, the more liberal I get. It’s normally the opposite, I understand, but as the Republicans try to cling onto the older voters, they lose touch with my generation.

I don’t speak for my generation, but I do know a lot of people in it. We don’t give a shit about who one loves or who one marries. We care about finding jobs and paying off crippling school loans. We care about the fact that we don’t know if we’ll ever be able to afford a home of our own or if landlords will continue to take half of the entirety of our paychecks, which money we will never see again. We care about ISIS. We care about Ebola (at least enough to know we don’t want to get it). We care about our celebrities more than our soldiers, which is shameful. For those of us who identify as heterosexual, we don’t really care about who ones loves, and we take the fact that it’s easy for us to love and get married and get divorced and get married again for granted. I know a lot of people who are complete “rednecks,” who sport the Confederate flag on their diesel truck, who will talk until they are blue in the face about how they hate Obama and terrorists and maybe-Obama-is-a-terrorist (for the record I think this is ridiculous, but I entertain it) who when you ask them about gay marriage, rather surprisingly say, “That’s between them and God.” Their guns are a different story. That is between them and them and if you try to take them…Lordy.

It’s not about gay couples and the state. And people realize that. Do these above-mentioned people think homosexuals are going to hell? Maybe. But it doesn’t matter to them because it isn’t their deal and, in their opinion, separation of church and sate should matter. These gun-toting, conservative, mostly white Christian men, believe in the Constitution that separates church and state. They believe in it because they have to. Because of the guns (have I mentioned them?)

Oh right, church and state. That used to be important. I remember reading about that somewhere, a long time ago.

Recently, Pastor John Garlow of Skyline Church in California announced to his 2,000 plus person congregation that he would not be backing the Republican candidate for the 52nd congressional district of California, Carl DeMaio. DeMaio is Republican, Roman Catholic and openly gay. Garlow is quoted as saying, “I know enough that you cannot have the advancing of the radical homosexual agenda and religious liberty at the same time, in the same nation.”

Gee, I didn’t know that wanting a semblance of equality for yourself was a “radical” agenda. I kind of just thought it was what this nation was founded on. Liberty for all and all that. I must have missed something in history class.

And another thing – how does Carl DeMaio or any other gay person loving who they love infringe on your religious liberty? I didn’t realize that gay people being able to marry made me any less Catholic. And apparently, the Catholic Church didn’t realize it either. Nor did Mr. DeMaio, who identifies as Catholic. I had no idea that love and supporting people who are in love, brought me further away from God. Because I was pretty sure that it was supposed to bring me closer to God. But once again, I should be attending Mass more frequently.

You know who else should have been attending church with more regularity it seems? Mr. Garlow. Or he should be attending some church not his own. Or maybe he should pick up a bible. John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 1 John 4:20: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” 1 Peter 4:8: “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” Romans 13:8: “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

I could keep going, but I won’t. I think that sums it up nicely. “The one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” It doesn’t say the man who loves a woman or the woman who loves a man or the husband who loves a wife or the wife who loves a husband. It says “the one who loves another.” Love is love.

Moral of the story, get with the times Mr. Garlow. Keep religion out of the state and while you’re at it, maybe you should pick up a bible and reevaluate your own religion before you start spewing hate all over the pulpit. The God I grew up knowing and loving, taught us to love one another, above all things. That’s why He sent His son, to reeducate us and remind us that despite our differences, we are all in this together.