Monday, November 14, 2016

Putting Pen to Paper

...or fingers to keys, as it were.

Writing has long been a tool I use to process emotion. It's also the way I prefer to communicate. My mom would often get mad at me when I was younger because rather then tell her I had done something wrong, I would write her a note. It's how I would apologize to her after a fight, too. It's easy to dismiss this approach as cowardice--it is, after all, easier to write something than to say it to someone's face. But this dismissal fails to account for the fact that often, I can't say something out loud, as much as I might want to. I'm a rational, logical person. But I also feel emotions very strongly. And when I know that my emotions will interfere with my logic or rationality, I look for ways to dilute those emotions. Writing is usually the solution. If I try and say something to your face--something I care about deeply--there's a chance I'll fail because I cry or I get off track or you interrupt me. I'm normally confident in my ability to be articulate, but when I doubt my ability to be as articulate as I need to be, the written word will always be there for me.

So that's why I'm writing this. Because I have so many thoughts, fears, disappointments, and emotions right now. Completely free of hyperbole, I can tell you that I'm in mourning. Six days removed from the election, I can see slightly more clearly and I know that that mourning is not for an entire nation. I (still) believe in America. I (still) believe in the Constitution. And I want to believe that the structure of our government that has withstood nearly 230 years will remain undamaged four years from now.

But still I mourn.

I have not been quiet about my support of Hillary Clinton. But I haven't told many about my political journey over the last year--about going from "not that female president" to #ImWithHer. It has been a year full of research, of reading, of realization. It's a process that deserves its own post. Its own conversation. I have come to love Hillary Clinton for who she is, without reference to any other candidate. And trust me, knowing that she will not become this nation's first female president brings forth its own round of tears every day. I mourn that loss, that possibility, too. But again, that's not why I write.

I write because I thought I knew you. Maybe not you, specifically, who's reading this. But you my community, my religion, my friends, my countrymen. On November 7, I thought I knew who surrounded me as I drove on freeways and walked on city streets. I thought I knew whose tweets I liked. I thought I knew that even if we disagreed on politics, we agreed on morality. On kindness. On goodness.

I thought I knew that there were some people in this country who wore red hats and trolled my feeds and hashtagged #MAGA and that those were the people who supported a man who spews hate and greed and conspiracy and lies.

I thought there were people who said both #NeverHillary and #NeverTrump and that those were the people who refused to vote for Hillary for reasons I disagreed with but who also refused to vote for him for reasons I respected. I saw people talk about Evan McMullin and I was inspired. I was inspired to believe that my hope for the end of the two-party system could eventually become reality. I was inspired by people who knew that their candidate couldn't possibly win the election and who were principled enough to support him anyway. I thought many times, how neat would it be to see Utah neither red nor blue on CNN's election map but to see a third party win the state? Because even though I support Hillary and wanted her to win, I wasn't naïve enough to believe that a republican state would suddenly go blue. I did believe, though, that those who profess traditional republican values would be willing to support a traditional republican and vote for McMullin.

And on November 8, I was blindsided. Yes by the entire country who defied the polls. Yes by millions of Americans who support a man I find despicable. But mainly by people who I thought were similar to me. BYU fans and members of the Church. Members of a Church that decried hateful immigration and refugee policy proposals and rhetoric. Members of a Church that teaches love for your neighbors. Members of a Church that preaches respect for women, chastity, and godliness. I tremble as I type this truth: 61% of members of the Church voted for him. Voted for hateful immigration and refugee policy proposals and rhetoric. Voted against their neighbors. Voted for sexual deviance. For sexual assault. Voted against women. And while religion and politics are separate, religion and values are not. And I just. can't. believe it. I can't believe that so many of you who share my chapel and my temples and my name turned your back on what I thought united us.

Am I judging and generalizing? Yes. But that doesn't change the fact that since last Tuesday, every person I see, I wonder. I wonder, "Are you one of them? Did you vote for him? Did you do this?"

Twitter, a social network I loved, has been tainted. Because the same people I cheered with every time BYU scored a touchdown started to show their true colors last Tuesday. They came out of the closet, so to speak, and embraced a man publicly that prior to that day they had only supported in private. Maybe that support started during the primaries, or after the republican convention, or maybe only in the voting booth. But whenever that support started, they didn't admit or acknowledge it. They lied by omission. They tricked me into believing that whatever our disagreements, on one thing we could agree: He cannot be our president.

But then the election results rolled in. People who I had previously connected with and respected severed any connection and lost my respect. And I thought, if 6/10 Mormons voted for that man, did 6/10 BYU fans? And I thought, do the people who sit next to me at games agree with him? And I thought, we are not the same. And I thought, I don't want to be associated with you.

And I thought, how? and, why? and, is this real? and I cried.

And still I cry.

Friday, November 13, 2015

mission: accomplished

If you follow my other blog, you might already have seen this. But I decided to double post for maximum reach.

I know De Nouveau Review is a beauty blog and this giveaway might seem out of place there. But no amount of makeup, skincare, or hair products could rival the beauty of watching a loved one accomplish a goal.

My little brother, Matt, is my hero for a lot of reasons. One of those reasons is his ability to set goals and then attain them, even in the face of adversity. I often see what he overcomes to reach his goals and realize how little I do to develop my own potential.

Earlier this year, I was in St. Louis when Matt won the NCAA wrestling championship at 174 pounds in about the last three seconds of the match. Then, I was fortunate enough to watch Matt reach another goal: writing a book about his journey. I have had the pleasure of reading the book in its many versions, and it is nothing short of inspiring. It has helped me as I prepare to face the next chapter of my personal and professional life. It has, in short, recommitted me to excellence.
I want you all to have the chance to feel inspired, too. So I'm giving away a signed copy of Matt's book. Enter below, and then go buy the book here. If you win, you can keep the signed copy and give away the one you bought, or vice versa. (Remember, Christmas is just around the corner!)

Spread the word. And, as always, thanks for reading!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Your New Favorite Band

I love music. I especially love good music. And I really love introducing people to good music that I love.

So if you're not yet acquainted, I'd like to introduce you to The Royal Concept.

Really the only thing you need to know is that this is their lead singer:

But if for some reason you need more than that devastating face to make you listen to a band, here's the story.

I started listening to The Royal Concept nearly two years ago, in preparation for a concert Jessica and I attended in Denver. They opened for American Authors, Jessica's favorite band at the time and our reason for going to the show. I couldn't find a lot of music from TRC, but I added what I had to a concert-themed playlist and drove to Colorado.

The Royal Concept was the second act, after MisterWives, and they put on an unbelievable show. High energy, engaging, just fantastic. Almost immediately I pointed out to Jessica how cute David, the lead singer, was. And we fell in love with their adorable Swedish accents. American Authors was great, too, but for me they had been eclipsed by their opener.
I met David after the show; Jessica met Zac (the lead singer of AA), and we left Denver pretty high on life. Jessica and I still talk about that night regularly.

Anyway, after the concert I invested more time in getting to know The Royal Concept. I got my hands on a copy of their full-length album, Goldrushed, which (for some reason I'll never understand) was never released in the U.S. For several months, Jessica or I would periodically text one another and lament, "The Royal Concept needs to release more music!" Then last month we saw this:
 Sadly, it's another EP rather than a full-length album. But hey. Beggars can't be choosers. But they can be beggars. And here is my shameless,  unabashed plea to you: go pre-order the EP. It's five bucks and, if my history with TRC is indicative of anything, will bring you immeasurable joy. Plus, if the band makes enough money, maybe we'll see them touring the U.S. again soon, and maybe--just maybe--I can get a picture with David where his eyes aren't closed. (Sorry, Jess. I had to bring it up!)

At the very least, give them a listen. They might just be your new favorite band.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

My Atticus

I stayed up past my bedtime to finish reading Go Set a Watchman for book club tomorrow (well, technically, later today). And even though I should be getting some sleep, I can't stop thinking and feeling about this book. So I'm blogging.

It wasn't until the day of the book's release that I learned about Atticus-the-racist and Atticus-the-Klan-member. But I knew I'd still buy and read the book; how could I not? I was prepared for the worst. I was prepared to hate this different version of my literary hero. I was all set with my most dependable emotional defense mechanisms, intent on not allowing whatever happened in this book to color my view of To Kill a Mockingbird. I resolved to finish the book and quickly set it aside if that became necessary.

But all of these preparations were uncalled-for.

I don't care what anyone says. I don't care if you think that the characters evolved between Harper Lee's draft of Go Set a Watchman and her writing of To Kill a Mockingbird. For me, the Atticus Finch that I just read across 278 pages is the same Atticus Finch I have idolized since eighth grade. And I want to explain why.

I think my relationship with To Kill a Mockingbird will sound similar to most. It was required reading in junior high, and after we finished the book we watched the movie. I loved both. Like many people do, I saw my own father in Atticus. My dad, the defense attorney who taught me to believe in the presumption of innocence with a fervor that would shape my education and career goals. The man who taught with gentleness, kindness, and love. Yes, of course, Atticus was my father in so many ways.

And I think both men--the one who worked hard to provide me with a comfortable upbringing and the one in black and white print who will forever look like Gregory Peck in my mind--played a role in my decision to attend law school. Obviously my dad had more of an influence there, always talking to me about the law, sharing his love with me. But the first thing I hung on my refrigerator when I moved to Omaha, a week before starting law school, was a laminated quotation from To Kill a Mockingbird wherein Atticus extols the benefits and necessity of the jury system. I read that quote often, a near-constant reminder of why I was there, doing what I was doing.

Toward the end of law school, I had a few unsettling experiences. It might not seem strange from an outsider's perspective, but it was hard for me to handle. My dad saw me compete in and win a regional trial team competition, and the way he spoke to me afterward informed me that the dynamic between us had shifted ever so slightly. He was complimentary about my performance, as any good father would be, but there was more to it than that. He seemed to admire what I had done. He treated me like his equal. This happened a few more times. Once he called and asked me a legal question. My dad is brilliant, but he was asking me a question. I'm brand new in this profession. My dad is still my example and the embodiment of so many goals I have for myself. But in my childhood, that example seemed unattainable. He was perfect in my eyes. He was, in so many ways, a god.

As I grow older and my understanding of the law deepens, I'm confronted with the fact that my dad doesn't know everything. This is something I honestly would not have believed 15 years ago. Along similar lines, I have finally developed a social and political identity entirely separate from my parents'. My dad sometimes makes comments that startle me. I have a hard time understanding some of his political views. When we disagree, I am made more aware of his humanness. These subtle shifts in our relationship haven't led to me loving or respecting my dad any less. Instead, I respect and love him differently. I'm an adult, and a parent/child relationship looks different from a parent/adult-child relationship.

So, back to the book. I don't think it's spoiling much to tell you that Atticus can accurately be described as racist. But you know what? So is Jean Louise. I mean, it was written in the 50's. But the father's and daughter's brands of racism are definitely different.

Jean Louise is more liberal than her father; she thinks states should desegregate. She believes an individual's potential in life should not be hampered by his skin color. But at the risk of sounding like an apologist, I'd submit that Atticus actually agrees with this latter belief. He just has a more paternalistic view about the process. He has an us/them mentality and seems to think that "we" know best; "they" aren't ready for equal rights. He doesn't seem to resent the progress that has been made since the Civil War. But he does think that progress should continue at a "natural" pace rather than being forced too quickly. Jean Louise holds the simpler view that all men are created equal, and there's nothing equal about waiting for change.

When Jean Louise realizes the views her father holds, her world seems to fall apart. She feels like her childhood was built on lies; her father defended a black man accused of rape on principle but now talks about blacks like they're less-than. Jean Louise implicitly realizes that the father of her childhood looks different from her position as an adult. In similar fashion, the Atticus of To Kill a Mockingbird looks different from the Atticus of Go Set a Watchman. But isn't that what you'd expect? In Mockingbird, Scout sees her father as a god. In Watchman, Jean Louise grapples with the understanding that her father is human.

I don't think the two Atticuses are inconsistent. I don't think you have to abandon your admiration of one in order to accept the other. I think the two books and the two Atticuses and the two Scouts are representative of the divide between childhood and adulthood. A loss of innocence. The shedding of naiveté. And I think it's simplistic and unfair to say, "Oh, treat this as an unfinished manuscript. It's not really a companion to To Kill a Mockingbird. It shares only the barest similarities." That takes away from the beauty of Go Set a Watchman. It is a beautiful and heartbreaking book because it forces you to confront how we treat our heroes and idols and how we react when we realize they're flawed. I can't separate that lesson, which is contained between the covers, from that same lesson that is taught when we, as readers, hold Mockingbird and Watchman side-by-side and ask ourselves, "Who is my Atticus?"