Posted in Blogs

THAT CRAZY DESIRE TO CONQUER HATE WITH LOVE

by Kyrian Lyndon

Photo by GDJ

If you are defending the rights of others who are denied whatever privilege you enjoy, does that mean you have a savior complex?

It’s one of many questions I ask myself, given the fact that I’ve been doing this since I was twelve. It was instinctive then, and it’s instinctive now because I don’t want to live in a world where bigotry seems to be the norm. Whether people were happy or unhappy about this stance I’d taken has never made a difference to me.

I have also questioned my own motives at every turn.

It’s not about being politically correct. As far as I’m concerned, it is simply right, and I’m so confident of that that I’ll stick to it no matter who or what I stand to lose in the process.

Photo by Mark

 Is it about tolerance? Nope. I would not even list that trait among my qualities, since there is much I can’t and won’t tolerate, including things that may seem unreasonable to the culprits, and yep, one of those things is the cruelty generated by prejudice. So, in choosing friends and partners, there are plenty of deal breakers, sure, but their origins will have nothing to do with it.

Who am I to merely tolerate people anyway because they weren’t born with my skin color, ethnicity, sexuality or socioeconomic status, or happened to be taught some other religious philosophy? There is simply no part of me that believes whatever I was born as makes me superior to another. Nor is there any part of me that wants to deny people justice or the rights and equality they deserve.

That’s my two cents’ worth, and I’m not claiming to be the bigger or better person than anyone who opposes because I’m simply hardwired this way. Besides that, I have plenty of faults. Barbarity just isn’t one of them.

I’ve accepted, too, that impartiality doesn’t help you win popularity contests. Gaining acceptance and fitting in are often about forming alliances based on race, gender, religion, orientation, ethnicity, political beliefs, and so on. There are those who consider me naïve for stubbornly hanging on to this neutrality like a Pitbull with a pork chop. Others may chalk it up to me having this willful, rebellious, antagonistic nature. Either way, some individuals feel I am wrong and are perplexed by my fierce defense of the “other side.”

I can honestly live without such flimsy alliances. Most of those alliance-forming factors are not a basis for forming an opinion. And when people come back at me with, “Stereotypes exist for a reason,” I say, “That is still what they are, stereotypes. You don’t know someone until you do.”

Anyway, here’s my story.

nucleo antico di campochiaro (campobasso).
molise -italy- Photo by Francesco de Vincenzi

My father was born in Campochiaro, Italy. He came to the U.S. with his family when he was fifteen years old. They lived in Woodside, Queens, which was a predominantly Irish neighborhood. Italians were not welcome. They were called everything from dagos to greasy meatballs. Italians had initially been greeted in some places by “No Italians Allowed” signs and had to change their surnames before anybody would hire them. My dad always worked, rarely taking sick and vacation days. He married a woman of Spanish descent, born in Havana, Cuba. She also came to the U.S. as a teenager, and they met in a class where they were both learning to speak English. Like him, she made sure she remained employed and dependable. While they were still newlyweds, he fought for our country, on the front line, making the rank of Sergeant, and he received a Purple Heart.

 By the time I came along, there were plenty of Italian families in Woodside. Italians had made the acceptance cut. Spanish people were the new threat, committing the crime of paving the way for other Hispanics. Because of my mother, my siblings and I were told to “go back to Cuba,” a place I’d only visited once when I was three. They called us spics. And the main culprits of this bullying were, surprisingly, Italian.

In Havana – my mom holding my hand and
my Abuela behind my oldest sister

My mother lied about being Spanish to strangers, saying she was Italian. She thought she’d be perceived as another one of those wetbacks coming over to the U.S. for a handout when she, in fact, came here legally. She also refused to speak Spanish at work to avoid being judged.

Some people will tell you it’s all about paying your dues, earning your place. Irish people experienced oppression and persecution before the Italians did, and once everyone got over the Spanish neighbors, they were directing their venom at the Indians, Pakistanis, and so on.

Regarding black people, I’ve often heard the argument, “Well, we did what we had to do to earn respect.” My answer to that was, “But you weren’t brought here in chains and forced into slavery. You’re not being discriminated against anymore. They are.”

Understandably, people of cultures that have been oppressed feel a kinship with their own, especially when the oppression continues. Who could blame them for supporting and defending one another?

If you go through life as a member of any oppressed group, which includes women, you see the global and systematic imbalance, the unfairness, and the cruelty. One example is women believing other women when they share experiences about rape and abuse. Some men hate these women for making their gender sound like monsters and feel they’re being blamed because they are also a man. The thing is, we should all want the truth and due process, but some must adamantly defend their “group.”

What I’ll never understand is people being okay with anyone facing the type of scorn, ridicule, and discrimination that tore their own hearts out. I don’t understand anyone being okay with it period.

My extended family on both sides had their own prejudices, to say the least. Meanwhile, my curiosity in wanting to get to know all these non-white people was insatiable. I kept seeing that I had beautiful experiences and encounters with them. When I was twelve, my favorite bands were The Temptations—five black soul music vocalists and dancers— and Santana, featuring a hot Mexican-American guitarist. (Santana’s music is defined as Latin-infused rock with salsa, blues, and African rhythms.) On The Temptations’ Puzzle People album, there was a song called “Message from a Black Man,” and God knows what my parents were thinking when I amped it up and sang along with the lyrics. But I really wanted to hear that message.  I felt compelled to.

Say it loud ! Be proud of who you are without hating!

During my high school days and later on in other community-like settings—even recovery circles—it was apparent to me that some people showed a preference for making friends with people who shared their background. I certainly got the impression that they felt superior to anyone who was not “one of them.” And to this day, when I go to the doctor, and I’m sitting in the waiting room, white people look delighted when I sit beside them. Maybe if they knew all the details of my ancestry, they’d scoot away. Who knows? 🤷

It’s all part of the world’s obsession with sameness—feeling safe, secure, and comfortable primarily with people they believe are exactly like them. The common assumption seems to be that whatever a person was born as, whatever belief system he or she inherited, that is the right one and the best, and the only one that matters.

It’s right up there with other concepts I don’t understand—like the enjoyment of shaming people or delighting in someone’s suffering because revenge is supposed to be sweet.

And the idea that we’re supposed to feel more outraged or upset when something happens to someone who was born in the same country we were born in or who shares our ethnicity, race, etc. As if bad things happening to people in Syria or some other place has nothing to do with us.

Suffering is unbearable, no matter who suffers. I hate to see it.

Hey, I’m all for the celebration of culture, but people who share my origins don’t have an immediate edge with me. Heritage is fascinating, including my own. I enjoy listening to people talk about it. Accents are intriguing. I love seeing all these fantastic places and trying out different cuisines. But I identify with being a global citizen and human being more than being an American or anything else. That’s crazy and even awful to some people, I know, but I can’t help that, and I’m not sorry about it. I’m glad.

People go to war over bias and entitlement. They discriminate and violently target others based on the very same.

I will admit that as a white female, or a female perceived to be white anyway, I’ve had experiences where black teen girls started fights with me for no apparent reason. But so have white women! I’ve also met some nasty-ass gay people, but I’ve met even nastier straight people. And while I was raised as an Italian/Spanish Catholic white girl, the worst incidents of sexual trauma, harassment and assault throughout my life were at the hands of white, Italian Catholic males. It’s never meant that every white, Catholic Italian guy was going to be like that. As far as I’m concerned—no matter what group you’re talking about—it takes all kinds. There are good and bad people on the right and the left, good and bad men and women. What I see with a lot of people though is, when someone not like them hurts, appalls, or devastates them, it is a reflection on that group culture. They won’t stop to think of the people of their own kind who have done the same thing or worse.

People caught up in the opposing mindset don’t like to hear that there are good and bad eggs in every bunch.  They have this blind loyalty to their kind.  When it comes to others, they often know only the stereotypes or what they’ve read in the news or saw on TV. Without having any real relationships with the people from whatever culture they shun, their impression is based on limited experience.

Not having shunned people who weren’t like me gave me an advantage in life. I always had that frame of reference. Even the people I agree with politically are not necessarily people I like. People I don’t agree with aren’t always people I can’t love.   

To be honest, though, whenever there is a reunion, high school or whatever, I know by now not to go because nothing changes with most people. For me, there is no joy in seeing people hold on to this ignorance, these old ideas, and this hate for certain cultures. The end result is, people you love with all your heart say the most appalling things without batting an eye and think there’s not a thing in the world wrong with it. It’s their normal, and it’s heartbreaking.

Bigots, for one thing, are people with inferiority complexes who flipped the coin and developed superiority complexes instead. It’s an unconscious or subconscious survival strategy. At every turn, they have to prove their superiority and so refuse to be perceived in a less than flattering light. If you represent them or are a part of their group, you have to measure up to their standards which means looking, acting, and thinking like them because they need to believe that everything about them is right—better than anyone else, even perfect. If you are their child, sibling, niece, nephew, whatever, your job is to fulfill expectations or be mocked, rejected, and shamed. They resent you for causing them shame.

So they’ll make fun of the kid with the lazy eye. They’ll tell someone he or she is retarded because they don’t understand the kid’s behavior. They’ll shun someone for not being pretty or call somebody fat because they think it’s the worst thing anyone can be. Since they are so into their own standards of beauty and perfection, they quickly find what they perceive as imperfection in others. Yet, they don’t notice their own shortcomings.

I once heard a child ask this about one of my adult relatives. “Why is (so and so) always making fun of people?”

Good question.

Some will defend the behavior, saying we’ve become weak as a society. Those individuals believe being mocked toughens you up. It doesn’t. It makes kindhearted people forever sensitive, insecure, and self-loathing. The ones who did get “toughened up,” so to speak, are merely bullies of the present day, bullying their own kids and the other adults in their lives.

Their values were handed off to them by their parents, and there’s an ingrained belief that their parents could never be wrong. They’ll say, “Well, they raised me, and I didn’t turn out so bad.” (In many cases, they didn’t turn out so good either.) But the evil they know is less frightening than uncertainty. It’s the perfect justification for passing this crap onto their own kids. It’s worse, too, when the parents are deceased because then they feel they can’t say anything unflattering about the dead. (Maybe the fear is the ghosts might hear you, but don’t quote me on that.) Whatever the deal is, you have to pretend these people were not only good—they were perfect. And the stuff they did wrong, which had been previously acknowledged, will now be denied.

In these families, you either get on board, or you take your broken heart someplace else.

I’ve talked about all of this with my own child, who attributed the lockstep mentality to a fear of not belonging, not fitting in—most importantly, not having that total acceptance from their loved ones. I can’t answer for why my own convictions became more critical than that acceptance, but they did. I can say I chose my soul over their acceptance, rejecting their mentality no matter the cost.

My son, Jesse, and me
Jesse and me

Getting back to those people who say they turned out just fine, well I did, too—after clawing my way back, inch by inch, step by step. After fighting to learn and grow and heal for many, many years.

That doesn’t mean that my parents or someone else’s parents wholly screwed up. No one is perfect, but if each generation learns from the one before, we can not only do better, we should.

Here’s the thing. We can all be wrong. At a certain point in my life. I had to question whether everything I knew was wrong—everything I was taught.  Because ultimately, only the truth serves me. Denial has cost me, and many others, I’m sure, way too much already. It’s self-destructive to allow it to continue.

We can never take things at face value or count on what other people teach. Children must be allowed to think for themselves and form their own opinions. They need to know they will be unconditionally loved and accepted without buying into your total mindset, without having to live the life you have envisioned for them.

So, to wrap this up, I believe that every culture should be celebrated. Certain people get tired of hearing it, I know, but we are one, big, beautiful, and colorful family, and, no matter whose heritage we are celebrating, I’m in.

Some photos of Woodside Queens, New York

House where I grew up. 🙂
My grade school
Around the neighborhood – photo by Susan Sermoneta
Around the neighborhood – photo by ly09ter
Roosevelt Avenue – a frequent haunt, photo by Gonzalo

My old train station – photo by Joshua Pomales


I can’t tell you how many times I watched this video.

“We all have a divine mission on earth. Let that mission be to inspire love and embrace the light within. Let that mission be to have peace in our hearts as we create heaven on earth. Let that mission be to seek empowerment through transformation and to breathe joy into everything we do. If we allow these things to be our mission the golden light of the sun will shine on our souls and change our world forever.”~ Michael Teal




© October 9, 2018 by Kyrian Lyndon

Note: The views in this post are that of the author exclusively and not known to be endorsed by any of the photo or video contributors.

Posted in Blogs

ANNOUNCEMENT! NEW MAGAZINE!

 

Brave Wings is a new online magazine that focuses on the human condition—whatever we experience in life that helps us learn, grow, and evolve. Sharing perspectives about healing and empowerment can be exciting and helpful, but we also want to provide entertainment and fun while sharing the beauty of creativity.

Some of the topics we will cover:

Adversity, anxiety, artist(s), authors, books, writing (editing tips and experiences), childhood, classic literature, codependency, compassion, creativity, depression, dreams, ego, evolving, feeling unworthy, fiction pieces and excerpts, fun, giving back, gratitude, grief, growing, healing, hope, humanity, humility, humor, inspiration, interviews, judgment, learning, letting go, life, loss, love, mental health, narcissism, oppression, panic attacks, parenting, passion, poetry, politics, prejudice, reading and reviews, recovery from addiction and trauma, relationships, religion, romance, sadness, self-sabotage, self-care and self-love, shame, stigma, stress, and tolerance.

For entertainment, we are interested in short stories and book series (all genres). We’re interested in humor.

For creativity, we may be interested in photos, handmade products, something that showcases your talent.

Content for submission will include blogs, videos, audios, slideshows, and photographs. Please see the submissions page for instructions on how to submit!

We will not pay for submissions at this time. However, we will always share your work on our social media sites, and we encourage all contributors to share magazine contents submitted by others on their social media sites. Helping one another with exposure is what will make this site work.

In addition, we will provide the following for all contributors to the magazine:

A listing in the contributor section, where more information (links, etc.) will be added with each contribution. The most frequent contributors may also have a few of their books, products, or recommendations in the listing.

The opportunity by contributors to submit news that provides opportunities for artistic communities, as well as their own business events and significant personal news, all of which we will share on our social media sites.

Access to the chat room (as a moderator, if they prefer), and the ability to hold monitored topic meetings to promote their talent/business.

For those privileges, you must be a regulator contributor. There are no deadlines. However, you must have contributed at least twice with acceptance and publication.

We do intend to have a community that includes a discussion forum and chat room where we can present topics hosted by contributors.

Our Announcement page will provide news of available opportunities within the artistic communities, including contests and contributor events.

We will post book reviews that are submitted by contributors, but we don’t assign books for review.

We will post interviews by our contributors if they are relative to our platform. If you feel you are a good candidate for an interview, contact us at submissions@bravewingsmag.com.

If this venture is a success, we may eventually monetize and pay for content.

For those interested in getting involved, we may also need editors, site moderators, group moderators, page moderators, etc. who will have contributor status. Those most involved will be given domain e-mail addresses for the magazine. We have four more available, so if you love this idea, the opportunity is there to get as involved as you’d like.

Another thing I’m tossing around is whether we’ll have a group or newsletter for interested parties, so please, please, weigh in with your thoughts about everything! All suggestions are welcome!

Please visit our site at Bravewings.mag.com, and feel free to follow or subscribe.

Please like us on Facebook and connect with us on Twitter!

Photo by KH Koehler Design

Posted in Blogs

THOUGHTS ABOUT THE “ROSEANNE” MESS

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When you try to look at something from all angles, you make no friends, but I’m compelled to do it anyway. That said, I hesitated to write this because as others have wisely pointed out, horrible things are happening all around us every minute of every day, and here we are battling over a comedienne and the “right” to see a TV show.

Many seem to think this controversy is about one person insulting another. They’ve brought up Joy Behar, Jimmy Kimmel and other liberals who have “gotten away with it.”  I don’t watch The View or Jimmy Kimmel, but I do agree that anyone who has made bigoted statements or who does so in the future, should be called out the same way and, if necessary, face appropriate consequences.

I didn’t defend Michelle Wolf for roasting Sarah Huckabee Sanders or Kathy Griffin and her decapitated Trump photo. I did notice, however, that the same people who were appalled by those two incidents are okay with Roseanne’s crap and Ted Nugent’s crap. So, it’s kind of like pot/kettle. There’s a lot of, “but he said, but she said, and hey, he started it.” It all seems rather childish, except the anger we feel toward each other knows no depths, and the venom feels poisonous.

As far as comediennes go, I have always liked the ones who target institutions, government, and politicians. All of that to me is fair game. I’ll admit, too, there are people I don’t mind them poking fun of, but those people are usually guilty of offending us and putting themselves out there in such a way that you kind of feel they deserve what they get. They are comedy gold, and I understand that.

But this issue is not about insulting someone. It’s about destructive and divisive hate speech, i.e., racism. There’s a big difference.

Some people claim that what Roseanne said is not racism. Let’s see, there was the “Roseanne didn’t know Valerie Jarret was black because she’s light-skinned” argument. Except she knows damn well who Valerie Jarret is, enough to still be talking about the woman when Obama is not even in office anymore. Roseanne follows politics obsessively and knows all the players. She has made a run for President. At the very least, she didn’t know Ms. Jarret wasn’t black, but the ‘ape’ reference was not  a coincidence. And it wasn’t the first time Roseanne tweeted something racist.

Then there was, “Why are they offended if they believe humans evolved from apes?” “They” includes all liberals, I presume, because, of course, they must all believe the same thing when it comes to creation, right? Wrong.

People who make this argument don’t seem to understand what it means to evolve. Per Merriam-Webster, it means to undergo an evolutionary change. It is “a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex, or better state.” So, you don’t evolve from something and still appear to be that something.

But the people who make that reference know this. They know full well that the ape reference is used to dehumanize and to subjugate. They did it to Michelle Obama. In fact, they were downright merciless in describing Mrs. Obama.

Those who make this reference believe they can pass it off as an innocent joke, or harmless insult, and that the rest of the world will be stupid enough to believe it.  Sorry, but no.

Alas, there is the freedom of speech cry! That is a good one when all else fails. People don’t seem to understand the First Amendment either. They think it means there should be zero consequences regardless of what we say, that no one should react unfavorably or reject it or use his or her power to handle the situation. These same people feel differently, however, when someone is saying something that they don’t like. Yes, double standards, indeed, but we’ll get to that.

Let’s get to that right now, in fact, because double standards exist everywhere between genders,  parties, religions, races, and more.

And, of course, I can’t speak for everyone, but when some celebrity gets caught with his or her pants down, as many have, I don’t care about their politics. It is not about left or right, and it shouldn’t be. It’s about right or wrong.

Yes, sometimes Democrats get away with things. Sometimes Republicans do. Just look at the “C” word argument. Both Roseanne and Ted Nugent have used the word against Hillary Clinton. That was way before Roseanne got a TV show and before Ted Nugent got invited to the White House.

The president gets away with saying despicable things all the time.

Similarly, people call out the predators and pedophiles in Hollywood, as they should, but then turn a blind eye to predators and pedophiles in the Catholic Church. They think because there are predators and pedophiles in Hollywood, all Hollywood celebrities are predators and pedophiles. No, wait—all liberals, according to some. Imagine if anyone said that because of pedophilia in the Catholic Church, all Catholics, or all Republicans must be pedophiles? Yes, it is absurd.

FFS, must everything be a competition?

Now, I am not here to defend ABC. Roseanne was the same person when they hired her. They knew who she was. Apparently, she also knows who she is, as she had serious reservations about doing the reboot in the first place.

It would have been one thing if she’d come on playing the character she played in the 90s, and the show didn’t have plans to explore and possibly heal the divisiveness with a real-life Trump supporter as the star pretty much playing herself, and liberal producers and writers. On the one hand, they were trying too hard to appease both sides. On the other hand, they were encouraging the series star in her belligerence and paving the way for her downfall.

Yeah, it was a bad idea.

And many won’t like this, but I do feel empathy for Roseanne. I can’t help that.  I do believe that this fallout has been hell for her and that she is not doing well. Besides that, something is clearly wrong with her.

Conservatives who watched her screech the national Anthem hated her then, and they hated her for many years after that, as she wasn’t their physical ideal or very ladylike, and they probably figured, on top of all that, she was a liberal. They pretend to support her now, but if they genuinely cared about her, they would not encourage her bad behavior.

The smartest tweet I’d read about this whole thing came from White House correspondent April Ryan when she tweeted Roseanne, saying, “Just stop.” Ms. Ryan told Roseanne to go on a retreat or something, stay off Twitter, off the phone, and stop listening to the enablers who are defending her mess. It’s easy to see that people are exploiting her in a way that will only make things worse.

She needs to fix this not dig a deeper grave.

And, okay, I couldn’t help laughing at the Twitter backlash she got from the Ambien excuse. She walked right into that, but I still feel bad.

Her “supporters” say she should not even have apologized. I say she should have stopped with the apology, no drama like, “I’m leaving Twitter,” only to come back and begin defending herself, justifying what she did with excuses.

It’s not a good feeling, watching someone self-destruct. It gives me no pleasure to see another human being crushed, humiliated, and used this way. There is that part of many of us, where we can’t look away from a train wreck, but it is no less awful.

And personally, I couldn’t keep quiet about any of it. I’ve hated racism and all forms of bigotry from the moment I was old enough to see it for what it was.  I was a child then, but I’d seen no evidence that any one group of people were superior to another and I’ve firmly believed that we are all entitled to dignity, justice, and respect.

Still, I don’t claim to be righteous and tolerant. I can’t because I am genuinely happy to coexist with people. I don’t claim to be tolerant because I am not a nice person who is just being politically correct. What I do or say along those lines is not for the sake of pleasing anyone.  When I speak out against racism, I am not defending the people targeted because they are more than capable of defending themselves. I’ve seen it. I am defending myself and what I believe. I’m fighting for the world I want to live in. Lastly, I don’t claim to be tolerant because there are things I can’t and won’t tolerate. And, yes, racism happens to be one of them. It is crucial that we call it out when we see it, and it’s about time.

© Copyright June 1, 2018 by Kyrian Lyndon at kyrianlyndon.com.

Photo by Alexandra on Unsplash

Posted in Blogs

THE THIRTEEN REASONS WHY BACKLASH: MY THOUGHTS AND BOOK REVIEW

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*WARNING- SPOILER ALERT*

If you’re planning to read the book, Thirteen Reasons Why, or watch the Netflix series, you may not want to read further. This blog does contain a few spoilers.

***

I became interested in the book, Thirteen Reasons Why, when a reviewer of my book, Shattering Truths, said that fans of Thirteen Reasons Why would absolutely love Shattering Truths.

It is true that we explore similar topics, even though the premises are different.

In Thirteen Reasons Why, Hannah Baker takes her life and leaves behind cassette tapes that retrace her steps and explain her reasons.

In case you haven’t heard, the backlash over Thirteen Reasons Why is the perception that the book glamorizes suicide.

Romanticizing suicide in art isn’t new. Did people want to ban Shakespeare? I’ve listened to Don McClean’s Starry Starry Night and Chord Overstreet’s Hold On song tributes to suicide victims that inspire hauntingly beautiful imagery, and their lyrics have moved me to tears. Maybe there is something about giving up that most of us can relate to—the notion that if worse comes to worse, no one can make us stay here. At the same time, we are also filled with profound sadness over the depth of another human being’s despair.

Interestingly enough, I once wrote my own book about the aftermath of a protagonist’s suicide— not Shattering Truths but an earlier workI was nineteen at the time. The editor I submitted it to felt readers would not find this character sympathetic because, as a suicide, he’d be considered psychotic. That bothered me more than anything else—the distressing mentality—the heartbreaking reality—that even in these modern times, people are uncomfortable with any mental instability and quick to reject it. I submitted it anyway. The publisher said they would be interested only if I changed the ending and had my character survive. I wouldn’t do that. My whole point in telling the story was that the guy died, and he shouldn’t have. I shelved the project.

At the time, I did romanticize my character’s suicide. I hoisted the guy up on a posthumous pedestal and became obsessed with his life and death. But I didn’t want to die.

Sorry (and not so sorry) to say, that as a poet, a writer, and an artist, I embrace all of it—the good, the bad, the pretty, the ugly, the dark, the light and the scary.

But I am also an adult who realizes that death is not pretty, and it’s likely to be quite lonely and painful. Nothing about Thirteen Reasons Why gave me the impression that it would be anything but lonely and painful. There was never a moment I envied Hannah Baker or wanted to be her—before, during, or after. What happened to her seemed anything but glamorous.

I’d go so far as to say the story makes it clear that taking your life is not the solution; that there is always hope. A few minutes, days, or weeks could make all the difference in the world. That hope is extinguished when your light goes out for good.

I also happen to think that people who hurt you don’t deserve to take anything more from you!

From my perspective, the book actually provides clear examples of how not to behave, how not to treat others. It brings to light how little thought teens give to how their behavior may affect someone else, although, this is also sadly true of adults. Some will live their whole lives hurting and punishing others without thinking it through, without ever trying to understand the people they target.

That’s one of the messages in Thirteen Reasons Why. We need to be kinder to each other.

No doubt, some people will read this book and see it all differently. They’ll see that Hannah is talked about more and with more sensitivity after her death. They’ll see that people feel guilty. They may think that would bring satisfaction, but true bullies who destroy other human beings are not usually the ones who feel guilty. They don’t have consciences.

To a lesser degree, Hannah Baker herself lacks empathy in this story and is rather self-absorbed. That’s okay. Victims don’t need to be depicted as saints. A character can be tragically flawed in fact, and still not deserve the torment. It is normal for a trauma survivor to go through a period of victimhood that includes a great deal of introspection and a degree of self-pity. She has a human response to a rude and painful awakening. Yes, trauma does quite a number on the psyche. It changes a person, causing behavior that won’t make sense even to the survivor. The point is, what happened to Hannah Baker should not have happened to anyone. It’s sad that she’ll never have the chance to heal and evolve beyond what she became, so it’s a story worth telling and worth telling right.

I’m willing to bet that most of us can make a list of at least thirteen people who screwed us over and/or possibly scarred us for life. Some of the reasons might be the same or worse than what Hannah Baker experienced, but, for most of us, suicide was never an option we considered.

We are all different. We have varying degrees of ability to cope, and those who are coping well may be at less challenging stages of the healing process. To some of us, a burden is a challenge, and we push back. No matter what happens, we keep pushing. But not everyone can do that. It’s not weakness, and it’s not for lack of trying. We are where we are. None of us have control over the circumstances we are born into or everything that happens after that. We can’t be sure why we take the paths we take or what we need to learn. Healing begins when we are ready. It’s a long, grueling process that, unfortunately, some people will never begin.

I think it’s safe to say that Thirteen Reasons Why will be triggering for certain people and not others.

There’s always a chance that any one of us will find something we read, see, hear, or experience to be triggering. But that doesn’t mean we should censor ourselves, as writers, or as artists. We can’t. We can’t shy away from controversial subjects or prevent others from having those important conversations. For those wanting to sue and to ban, do we really want to set that precedent? Where would we draw the line? Would we have to stop talking about rape, about murder, about mental issues, and about everything that could be triggering? I hope not!

A common complaint people have made is that the book doesn’t delve into the mental illness factor when it comes to suicide. No, it doesn’t. Thirteen Reasons Why focuses on raising the level of awareness for bullying/harassment/character assassination, etc. and depicting how the victim feels—how a suicide victim feels. Hannah, in my opinion, sought to educate the culprits. She may have wanted them to feel her pain, too, but more for their benefit, I think, than in retaliation. As a trauma survivor, I can relate to wanting to raise the level of awareness. Even if the people who need to hear it most are not listening, someone is. And making a difference to anyone at all is a great start.

It doesn’t mean we should ignore the mental illness factor in our conversations about this topic. According to the University of Washington’s School of Social Work, “Of those who die from suicide, more than 90% have a diagnosable mental disorder.

Mental Health America states that “substance abuse may be involved in half of all suicide cases with 20% involving people with alcohol problems”.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse claims that drug abuse is a mental illness.

Sadly, families often have a difficult time acknowledging and accepting mental illness in a loved one. There is rejection, ridicule, even mind-boggling cruelty. For the person with issues, it leads to a social ineptness that only results in more ridicule and cruelty. The damage is hard to shake, and it’s heartbreaking because, with acceptance and unconditional love, a lot of the issues can be minimized or managed.

Shame is a key word here. Many parents and siblings are more concerned about what others may think. Are we sending a message of, I will not love you unless you are normal by my standards and anything less will be ridiculed and rejected? Are we teaching our “normal” kids to ridicule and reject?

The truth is, we have dangerous psychopathic narcissists running amok in this world, and they are considered normal by many. Meanwhile, people who struggle with things like autism, Asperger’s, bipolar, anxiety, etc. are met with skepticism.

I’ll admit, due to lack of acknowledgment/acceptance in my own life, it took me quite a while to realize and understand the problems I had with anxiety, OCD, and possibly other afflictions. I may never have realized if I hadn’t met some of the people I met along the way, people who had the same problems and steered me in the right direction. Awareness is key, and it helps to learn as much as you can about what you’re dealing with. It is a lifetime struggle with good days and bad, but it can keep getting better.

So, in light of all I’ve stated above, I believe Thirteen Reasons Why, is a profound experience for the reader. I felt like a part of the story, swept right in and completely absorbed, turning page after page. I loved the powerful descriptions of how the characters felt in critical moments. The book, written straight from the heart, shows compassion in abundance, and it brought me to tears.

Co-protagonist, Clay Jensen, in fact, shows considerable empathy while listening to Hannah’s tapes. He wants to understand what happened to Hannah. He not only forces himself to listen to every excruciatingly painful word—he follows her instructions, putting himself in her place and allowing himself to feel what she felt.

Imagine living in a world where everyone sought to understand one another like that! That would be beautiful indeed!

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© Copyright July 24, 2017 by Kyrian Lyndon at kyrianlyndon.com. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted without proper attribution.