The Abolitionists: Prudence Crandall

Disclaimer: I wrote this a few months ago. I don’t know why I didn’t post it right away. I think at the time I had wanted to do more research on the Abolitionists before talking about them with any sort of authority. Anyway, I read more about them. Anyway, except for finding what Crandall’s opponents said, my thoughts on that, and adding that transgendered people are also now being banned from the military, this post is largely unchanged from what I wrote then.

I was reading Slavery in the Courtroom by Paul Finkelman not too long ago, and this paragraph really stood out to me:

“Abolitionists were considered social radicals and outcasts. Most Northerners did not consider themselves to be Abolitionists, and many Northerners despised those who did. Mob attacks were not uncommon, particularly in the 1830s. In addition to the Alton, Illinois, riots and the attacks on Prudence Crandall discussed in this section, there were riots in Cincinnati, Utica, New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston during that decade. (pg. 139)”

So, I’m from the South. I know we were on the wrong side of history. The North were the ones who fought to end slavery during the Civil War. But… I mean, I knew there must have been a time where they didn’t care about ending slavery, but I didn’t realize that even in the North there was a time where the Abolitionists were outright unwanted.

The next section of the book details Prudence Crandall’s story. The quick summary is that Crandall owned her own private school for young women, and when she admitted a black girl into her school people complained. Many parents took their daughters out of the school, and Crandall decided instead to reopen her school as one for girls of color and ran an ad in The Liberator – a well-known Abolitionist newspaper run by William Lloyd Garrison. Then all hell broke loose. Here’s the next page:

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Her neighbors prosecuted her; they created a whole new law just to try to harm her. and she wasn’t convicted because of a technicality. Just, let that sink in. Surely we can all agree now that the Abolitionists were on the right side of history. Surely, by now we can all see who was morally in the right. But just look at how much opposition the moral side really had.

Where am I going with this? I think there’s a lot we as a society still need to learn from this story. People today are still being oppressed. People today still don’t have equal privileges. There are still people like Crandall’s neighbors who would rather have things stay the status quo instead of allowing good and necessary change to happen. There are still people today who would like to pretend that treating each other as human beings with all of the same hopes and fears as you is a worthless endeavor.

What’s so messed up is that I am sure Crandall’s neighbors would have considered themselves Christians. Obviously the text doesn’t explicitly say one way or another, but considering we’re a Christian nation, it sounds like a safe bet. But as a Christian, shouldn’t their basis – their entire worldview – revolve around the love of Christ? But it would be ludicrous to argue that they were in any way trying to show the love of Christ to the girls they were barring from having an education.

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” –  1 John 4:8.

Okay, just to be fair to the other side, here are Crandall’s opponents’ words in a Resolution they stated during a town meeting:

“Whereas it hath been publicly announced that a school is to be opened in this town, on the first Monday of April next, using the language of the advertisement, “for young ladies and little misses of color,” or, in other words, for the people of color, the obvious tendency of which would be to collect within the town of Canterbury, large numbers of persons, from other states, whose characters and habits might be various and unknown to us, thereby rendering insecure the persons, property, and reputation of our citizens. Under such circumstances our silence might be construed into an approbation of the project…” [italics mine](The Abolitionist Decade, 1829-1838: A Year-by-Year History of Early Events in the Antislavery Movement. by Kevin C. Julius. pg. 106.)”

So, essentially, they didn’t want these school-aged girls in their town because they were afraid of them. They didn’t want these girls to come to their town to get a good education because of what it might do to their reputation. Really? We can all agree that’s ridiculous, right?

The Abolitionists realized that how we treat the lowest in our society will set the bar on how everyone is treated. Of course we see that now, right? Of course I would have sided with the Abolitionists. But stop yourself right there. Please. It’s so easy to just dismiss whoever is obviously the bad guy as just the bad guy, and to never look at ourselves and reflect on how we may be like them.

People of color still are not treated the same as white people. Their lives are not valued in the same way a white person’s is. Weekly I hear stories of another person of color getting harassed or shot by police. What are you doing to stand up for the people who don’t have your privilege?

I shouldn’t just be talking about white privilege either. What about the poor? The immigrant? The homosexual? Oh, but that last group is morally in the wrong though, aren’t they? Surely, their lifestyle is just hurting so many people, isn’t it? But, for the sake of argument, even if it is, as a Christian, I have to ask: So? How does that change how I treat them? How I treat anyone? Again, as a Christian, isn’t my basis the love of Christ? How is keeping trans-gendered people out of bathrooms and the military showing the love of Christ? How is taking away Welfare programs from the poorest in our society showing the love of Christ? How is banning refugees showing the love of Christ? How can you be content with the high cost of healthcare when people need healthcare when they are at their most vulnerable?

Read Prudence Crandall’s story again. Our country was not great. It still isn’t. I’m not saying we have nothing to be proud of. I’m not saying there have not been great people in our country.  Prudence Crandall was one of them. In the face of adversity she followed her convictions no matter what obstacles she faced. But I have to ask you to be honest: Who are you most like?

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Fine, Let’s Talk About History: The Robert E. Lee Edition

On Saturday, Aug. 12, I woke up, checked my phone, and read about the far-right protests in Charlottesville. The night before people were waving around tiki torches as they marched on the University of Virginia campus and on that Saturday at least one person was killed in the riots.

What the hell is happening!?

I’m not asking that because I didn’t research why those people were there. From what I understand, these people had congregated in Charlottesville because the city is taking down a statue of Robert E. Lee, the famous Confederate general.

…Okay? As a Southerner, that sounds like a good thing to me.

Robert E. Lee was on the wrong side of history. At best, it could be said he acted in a way that most closely aligned with his conscience, but at the end of the day he lead soldiers in a war where his side were fighting to keep people in chains.

Oh, and since then I’ve heard that taking down these statues commemorating people that most agree were on the wrong side of history is “destroying our heritage” and “erasing history.”

…Are you seriously telling me that the best heritage we have is the Confederacy? I would love to think we can do better than having the heritage we honor be people who fought to keep slavery. Why do we have statues honoring what should be the most shameful time of our Southern history? If we must commemorate Southerners, why can’t we replace these statues with people like Helen Keller or Martin Luther King?

On the second point, is taking down these statues erasing history? Answer me this: Who last learned their history from a statue? Literally tell me. I’d love to know.

But if you want to talk about history, then let’s talk about Robert E. Lee. What were his views? Why did he fight for the Confederacy? What were his thoughts on slavery? Lee wasn’t an excessive writer; he didn’t keep a journal like Washington did. But he did write letters. His words were recorded.

The best answer I could find for why he fought for the Confederacy is what he told a friend in 1861, “If Virginia stands by the old Union, so will I. But if she secedes… then I will follow my native State with my sword, and, if need be, with my life.”

What he thought about slavery was easier to discover. This is an excerpt is from a letter Lee wrote to his wife in 1856:

“The Consequences of [certain people of the North’s] plans & purposes are also clearly set forth, & they must also be aware, that their object is both unlawful & entirely foreign to them & their duty; for which they are irresponsible & unaccountable; & Can only be accomplished by them through the agency of a Civil & Servile war.

In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild & melting influence of Christianity, than the storms & tempests of fiery Controversy. This influence though slow, is sure. The doctrines & miracles of our Saviour have required nearly two thousand years, to Convert but a small part of the human race, & even among Christian nations, what gross errors still exist! While we see the Course of the final abolition of human Slavery is onward, & we give it the aid of our prayers & all justifiable means in our power, we must leave the progress as well as the result in his hands who sees the end; who Chooses to work by slow influences; & with whom two thousand years are but as a Single day.

 Although the Abolitionist must know this, & must See that he has neither the right or power of operating except by moral means & suasion, & if he means well to the slave, he must not Create angry feelings in the Master; that although he may not approve the mode which it pleases Providence to accomplish its purposes, the result will nevertheless be the same; that the reasons he gives for interference in what he has no Concern, holds good for every kind of interference with our neighbors when we disapprove their Conduct; Still I fear he will persevere in his evil Course. Is it not strange that the descendants of those pilgrim fathers who Crossed the Atlantic to preserve their own freedom of opinion, have always proved themselves intolerant of the Spiritual liberty of others?”

…Just as a reminder, this is what slavery looked like:

Gordon,_scourged_back,_NPG,_1863

…At best, at literally the absolute best, the man is completely delusional.

Let’s dissect Lee’s letter further. In short, he acknowledges slavery as wrong, but he believed bringing Africans to America was ultimately better for them because everyone knows Africa is a terrible place full of backwards and savage people and OBVIOUSLY America is always a better place for all people at all times of its history. [Heavy sarcasm]

America was better for the pilgrims, right? Better to brave the wilderness of a new world than to be subjugated to the religious doctrine of others. Even Lee acknowledged that! “Is it not strange that the descendants of those pilgrim fathers who Crossed the Atlantic to preserve their own freedom of opinion, have always proved themselves intolerant of the Spiritual liberty of others?”

Yes, Lee, “descendant of those pilgrim fathers,” who are you to partake in a system that is not only “intolerant of the Spiritual liberty of others” but also keeps them in such a low state that they are unable to even seek out “spiritual” liberty or any other kind?

Then there’s the religious connotations in his letter. He expresses the same sentiments Martin Luther King Jr. argued against in his letter from a Birmingham jail written in 1963. This sentiment that “all good things will come together under God’s perfect timing” sounds all good and holy, but where in the Bible does it say you must wait on God’s timing before you can feed the poor, clothe the naked, or visit those in prison? Or in MLK’s words,

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have never yet engaged in a direct-action movement that was “well timed” according to the timetable of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “wait.” It rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This “wait” has almost always meant “never.” It has been a tranquilizing thalidomide, relieving the emotional stress for a moment, only to give birth to an ill-formed infant of frustration. We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” We have waited for more than three hundred and forty years for our God-given and constitutional rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward the goal of political independence, and we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward the gaining of a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say “wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize, and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society… when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodyness” — then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of injustice where they experience the bleakness of corroding despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience…

… I MUST make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. In your statement you asserted that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But can this assertion be logically made? Isn’t this like condemning the robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical delvings precipitated the misguided popular mind to make him drink the hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because His unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to His will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see, as federal courts have consistently affirmed, that it is immoral to urge an individual to withdraw his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest precipitates violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth of time. I received a letter this morning from a white brother in Texas which said, “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but is it possible that you are in too great of a religious hurry? It has taken Christianity almost 2000 years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” All that is said here grows out of a tragic misconception of time. It is the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time is neutral. It can be used either destructively or constructively. I am coming to feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be coworkers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.”

…I know I’ve just been quoting large bodies of texts, but MLK’s words are true, and I can’t say it any better than he did.

Robert E. Lee should not be forgotten. But there is a stark difference between remembered and venerated. As a Southerner, I don’t want him to be venerated. I would much rather honor those who fight for the equality of all people and recognize the worth of every human being. Let us learn to venerate the type of people that all can look up to and admire. Not a man who fought on the wrong side of our shameful past.

 

A Girl Named “Fear”

A few months ago, I was getting a cake from Publix for my friend’s birthday. I didn’t know what flavor of cake she would prefer, but since the cake was a surprise for her I couldn’t ask her. So I asked her husband and he didn’t know either (turns out she doesn’t have a favorite cake flavor). I ended up going with the raspberry flavor since that’s what sounded good to me, but the whole time between getting the cake and giving the cake to her I was insanely terrified that she would absolutely hate it because of the flavor.

When I say I was insanely terrified, I’m literally talking about a fear beyond what’s rational. My friend is a very sweet, mature person, but I was still terrified that she would yell at me or be upset with me because I somehow got the “wrong” flavor. I mean, after I gave her the cake she thanked me. She told me I had made her day. Everyone liked the cake and I even had some people come up to me and tell me that they especially liked the cake flavor. I mean, of course she’d like the cake, right? It’s cake! Where in the world did that fear come from??

That wasn’t the last time I’ve felt fear like that and it was far from the first. If I had to guess, I’d say it was the worst in Middle School. Back then, I felt like literally everyone was smarter than me. I didn’t talk much for fear of saying something stupid and then everyone would realize that I was a total idiot.

So for me, fear is a girl who has just become a teenager. She wears glasses and has braces and zits on her face. She’s pale and spends a lot of her time alone wishing other people would come up and talk to her. Sometimes they would; sometimes they would and she wouldn’t know how to interact with them. She never thinks she’s good enough. She always listens to the negative voices in her life – the ones who thinks she’s weird or fat.  She thinks that if she stays around people too much everyone will just see her as a burden or annoying. She feels awkward if someone does compliment her. She’s terrified of taking risks. She never tries any new styles because no one has criticized her old style and why take the risk? Her hair always looks the same. And if she does try something new she is going to make sure she is least decent at it before she even tells anyone she has an interest in said thing. She amplifies her negative traits in her mind to the point where everything else about her is eclipsed.

I’m visited by this girl a lot. No reason to feel lonely when she’s around, right? I know this girl isn’t real. She never was real. She’s just my fear and I am more than my fear. But then the question is how much of her is me? How much does Fear control me?

She doesn’t have to be any part of me, right? I don’t have to be anything like her, and wouldn’t I be much better off if I could just ignore her? If I could just not have anything to do with her and leave her on the side of the road until she slowly dies off for want of nourishment? (Is my metaphor getting too literal?) But can I ignore her when I know that that’s one of her strongest fears? If abandon her – the person who knows her better than anyone – isn’t that just confirming to her that she’s worthless? Isn’t that telling me that there’s a part of me that deserves to be abandoned by everyone? Doesn’t that just play into all of the negatives that she tells me? All this talk of getting rid of fear reminds me of a scripture verse:

1 John 4:15-18 “15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. [emphasis mine]”

Then… What? Should I love the girl named Fear? Would that get rid of her negativity? Should I just accept that she’s a part of me? Should I accept her? Engage her? Treat her the way I would want to be treated? What would that do to her? Can my fears and negativity exist in the face of perfect love? What is perfect love?

I know what perfect love is not. I know that perfect love doesn’t stop loving. That it doesn’t give up or throw in the towel. I know that it doesn’t hold a grudge against the worst in people. I know that it doesn’t look down on people or judges people beyond how you would judge yourself in their shoes. I know that it shows mercy and prays for good for people. It doesn’t belittle people or makes anyone feel worthless.

So can I show that love to myself? Can I know that love if I don’t see anyone who loves me in that way? How can I show love to myself and others if I can’t accept the love that others have for me? How can I understand love if I don’t experience love? Isn’t that the whole importance of the gospel? Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” So Christ is my example of perfect love. Because of Him, I know what love is. Because of Him, I see an example of love so strong and sacrificial that he gave everything – even his own life – for the people he loved. So knowing He loves me and others in that way, I can also show that love to me and others. That’s the gospel.

Should I Change My Names?

Over two years ago, I was sitting in one of my art history classes. This was before I had switched over to taking notes on my laptop, (I really can’t tell you why it took me so long to make the switch) so I had a notebook where I would doodle in the margins instead of paying attention to the lecture.

One day, I was thinking about Harry Potter and how “I am Lord Voldemort” is an anagram of Tom Marvolo Riddle. I thought it was really cool that a character’s name was an anagram for their role in the story. So then I tried doing that with The Dark Lord.

…I couldn’t think of anything.

So I tried just mushing it into Thedarklord to see if that would help me. In the picture below you can see that near the top right of my notes.

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From there I said to myself, wait, what if I just change the spaces? Then I got Thedar Klord. Then I got a bunch of other names using the same formula. Like Thech Ose None and her younger sister Forg Otte None, Whitesor Cerer, and Bur Lywar Rior. So for the rest of the semester whenever I couldn’t focus on my class I’d come up with stories for my characters.

Over the years, I got serious with my story and now I have enough words for a decently-sized book. My characters changed a lot over the years too. Some things have been small like changing Mis Singking to Nomis Singking because my sister said Nomis sounded more like a name. And Spo’s last name is now Iledare.

But there’s been bigger changes too. For instance, at first Spo really did act spoiled. She was shallow and had trouble really caring about anyone that wasn’t her. She cared about pretty dresses and makeup and things that in my youth I disliked because of how “girly” they are. I didn’t want to be girly because to call someone girly was an insult. My sister and I would pretend to gag whenever we passed by anything too pink and cutesy.

But the more I wrote about Spo, the more I saw myself in her, and I began to empathize with her. She was always someone who fantasized about dating someone cute and well-respected – but her crushes were never reciprocated. I’ve experienced my fair share of unrequited love too. Once I could see myself in her she really became her own character. I feel like we grew together in empathy and understanding. But after seeing our similarities I had to step back and see how she’s not like me. I’m not someone who dresses up just for the fun of it or likes to be the center of attention, but that’s still who Spo is. And I learned that she doesn’t have to be like me in order for me to like her. I can love her for who she is apart from me too.

I’ve had similar epiphanies with a lot of my characters. To me they’ve really become their own three-dimensional characters that far eclipse who they were when I first came up with their names. I’ve always felt like their names were pretty silly, but that’s why I liked them. But now since I guess I’m writing a novel that I actually want to get published some day, I keep wondering if I should change their names.

So, my question: Are my names stupid? Should I change them?

Reworking a “Happy Scene”

There’s this “happy scene” I wrote a somewhere between a few months and a year ago that badly needed revision. So I figured I’d post my process for rewriting this scene.

This is what I had:

“There you two are! We were wondering when you two would show up!” Queen Advi greeted them joyfully as they entered the room. She gave her only nephew a hug, since she had missed her chance to earlier. She looked a good deal like her son, with same blond hair and blue eyes, but Thedar suspected that Nomis would look more like his father in a few years. He came up now to shake Thedar’s hand. He wasn’t one for overt displays of physical affection, not even in a private place like this. As king, he felt like he had to take on an air of regal aloofness, in fear that his enemies may think of him as soft and weak if he did not maintain a sort of rigidity about his person. His hair and beard had greyed prematurely.

“What did you do today?” He asked both Nomis and Thedar.

“We were… working on one of my songs…” Nomis answered, knowing that his father would have liked to hear a more productive answer.

The king’s face remained neutral, so at least it wasn’t the look of disappointment Nomis had expected to see. “Well, today is a day of fun. Our relatives are here, so the next few days are to be days of fun!” He said with a glance towards his wife.

“That’s right!” Queen Advi said with a smile. “Who wants to play charades?”

Thedar went first. His word was “cat.” Nomis and Queen Advi laughed when began to claw on an invisible scratch post. It wasn’t long before Lady Blac and King Lea were joining in on the laughter too. Blac was the one who guessed right. They all laughed when it was King Lea’s turn and he had to be an elephant. He placed his arm in front of his face and pretended his arm was a trunk that he was blowing through. The others were enjoying the spectacle too much to guess right away.

Suffice to say, it was a fun night with light hearts and merry faces. Too bad it didn’t last.

“Suffice to say,” it… hurts to look at. It hurts a lot… So I tried completely rewriting the part I hated the most:

“Let’s play charades!” Nomis said with a huge grin on his face. “Thedar you go first.”

“Okay.” Thedar said before taking a card. It said “cat.” Thedar thought for a moment. Then he got down on all fours and started rubbing up against King Lea. X Then he got down on all fours and pretended to scratch the furniture. (He’s never owned a cat. Is that a habit he’d know about? He likes cats, so I’d say yes. He’d’ve read about them or something.) Nomis and Blac wore baffled expressions on their faces, but King Lea realized what Thedar was doing pretty quickly.

“Cat!” He yelled.

(Yeah no I can’t do this I’m bored.) Unless I can reveal something about the characters (the character of my characters?) then this scene is pointless. I might try to expand the one paragraph, but to make this a whole scene feels mind-numbingly dull…)

Then I asked questions:

What am I feeling right now? Lonely even though I’m surrounded by people. Is it because none of the people I’m around are the people I want to see the most? Or am I deliberately not reaching out to the people I’m around because I want to save my energy for the people I feel like matter more? Would Nomis or Thedar feel similar to that right now? Haven’t they both tried to reach out to the people they see every day and been dissatisfied? Do they purposely keep a part of themselves apart from everyone except those they’ve decided they’re closest to? Are they actually picky in who they consider friends or is it that their position demands that they don’t treat their subordinates as friends?

Then I answered those questions:

Nomis and Thedar have both tried to reach out to people, but people see their position before they see the person who just wants a friend. That’s why they’re so close to each other, because their position is so similar that they can’t be overawed by their positions. They’re so close because they really would be alone if they didn’t have each other.

Of course they’re close to their parents too, but no one wants to only be close to their parents.

Nomis has a fear of loneliness. Thedar’s more of an introvert, but he empathizes with Nomis’ fear. Should I show that fear in the charades scene? Or did I do enough with that song to show Nomis’ strong desire to interact with people?

I’ve read that every scene needs to either reveal something about the character or advance the plot. So since the “happy scene” is supposed to be a scene that happens before the plot really begins, then it needed to show character. So I listed the struggles the secondary characters in the scene would already be having too.

King Lea. The closest person he had to a father figure growing up had a quick and volatile temper. No one he’s around now has a quick and volatile temper. But maybe he should act like any moment now someone could suddenly blow up even though he has no reason to think anyone would. Maybe I should show that aspect of him in the “happy scene.” (I came up with a backstory I liked for King Lea VERY recently; so that’s why literally none of this backstory is hinted at in the earlier draft of this scene.)

Obviously Blac misses her husband. I go into that a lot later in the novel. I don’t believe it’s necessary to bring it up this early.

Queen Advi. She’d miss her brother (Blac’s husband). But of all my characters I’d say she’s the most adjusted. What does that really mean? To be adjusted? Do I actually mean she has the least scars? But she’s affected by everyone else’s scars because she loves them and what affects them affects her. She’s not going around trying to fix broken people, but she does love the broken people, and are quick to remind them of their better selves and of the bright side of life. Light and happiness are just as real as darkness and gloom. It’s harder to dwell on happiness, and it’s important to work through negative emotions and talk about them, but don’t dwell on them. Learn to live and love again. That’s what she tries to tell Lea and Blac. What was Blac’s mantra? Don’t dwell on it. Don’t be consumed. Maybe that’s something ADVI tells Blac.

Then I rewrote the scene:

Queen Advi greeted them with enthusiasm. “There you two are!” She said before giving her only nephew a hug because she had missed her chance to earlier. She looked a good deal like her son, with same blond hair and blue eyes, but Thedar suspected that Nomis would look more like his father when he was older. King Lea was only a little bit taller than his wife and his hair and beard had greyed prematurely. He came up now to shake Thedar’s hand. He wasn’t one for displays of physical affection, not even in a private place like this. For as long as Thedar had known him King Lea had had an air of rigidity and aloofness even with the people he was closest to. Thedar had just assumed rigidity and aloofness were just how kings were supposed to act and his uncle didn’t want to break character.

“What did you two do today?” Lea asked.

“We were… Working on my song…” Nomis answered suddenly feeling very unproductive. He braced himself for what he was sure was the inevitable “That’s it?”

Instead, what he got was, “Well, today is a day of fun! You can’t work hard every day!” Lea said with a glance towards his wife.

“That’s right! Who wants to play charades?” Advi said with a pleased smile.

Everyone voiced their consent. Thedar went first with the word, “cat.” He thought for a moment, then he began clawing at the furniture.

“Squirrel!” Nomis yelled excitedly.

“Baker!” Advi yelled.

“You have OCD!” Blac yelled.

“Cat!” King Lea answered correctly.

Next it was Lea’s turn. He extended his arm out from in front of his nose and stomped around the room. Everyone was laughing too much at the comical sight to guess right away. With tears in her eyes Blac was finally able to get “elephant” out and finish Lea’s round.

The game went on for a long time. Everyone was exhausted when it was time to go to bed. “If only this day could last forever.” Thedar told Nomis before the two of them departed from each other to head toward their respective rooms. Little did Thedar know that there would be many times in the future where he would look back on this day and think, “If only that day could have lasted forever.”

It’s…… better. Good job me. 

Jesus: An Outcast Who Ministers to Outcasts

There is a lot of comfort in knowing that Jesus understands our sufferings. There’s comfort in knowing that Jesus sees us and comes to us where we are. Well, don’t get too comfortable with Jesus; because following his ways have costs.

Luke 6:20-23  “And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. 22 Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. 23 Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.”

In my last post I said that Jesus ministered to the outcasts. But here he says we’ll be outcasts as his followers. “But the outcasts are the people who don’t speak like us or look like us or act like us! The outcasts are the poor and the prisoners. Did you hear me? Prisoners! The morally decadent in our society! Are we to be like them!?” Well, no, that not what I’m saying, Voice-I-Really-Hope-Is-Only-In-My-Own-Head-Because-Said-Voice-Sounds-Like-A-Really-Unlikable-Person-And-I-Wouldn’t-Wish-This-Voice-On-Anyone. But if we’re following Jesus, then Jesus expects us to do as he did. That includes ministering to the outcasts and seeking justice for the oppressed. In doing so, we may be unpopular. We’ll face opposition from whoever is doing the oppressing. We’ll have people look down their noses at us because of who we associate with. People questioned the type of people Jesus associated with too.

Matthew 9:9-13 “As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him. 10 Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

I strongly believe that Jesus will always more readily be found with the outcasts that with the religious. He went out of his way to talk to the shunned Samaritan woman, to eat with the hated tax collectors, to hang out with the rough fisherman. He called them friends.

Jesus was always telling people to not judge. But… Doesn’t he judge people? Doesn’t he see both the good and the bad? Didn’t he call people out if even their thoughts were bad? Well, yeah:

Matthew 9:4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?””

But… You’re not Jesus. You can’t know what’s in a person’s heart. Heck, I’ve had times where it took me months to completely sort through how I felt about certain things. So how can I ever say I understand what’s going on in another person’s heart? But Jesus sees. He sees both the good and the bad and desires to love people fully regardless of what’s there. “Come as you are.”

One more thought: Isn’t it good to try to understand people and their motives? Are we really not supposed to put any thought in discerning a person’s character? Shouldn’t we be finding out who is trustworthy? Shouldn’t we be looking out for who would make a good friend? Etc.? The answer is “Yes!” All of that is good. We should seek to understand people. And we also should call people out if we think they’re doing something harmful. We shouldn’t be passive in dealing with people. But there is a danger in conflating a person’s character with their worth. It’s easy to dismiss someone who you think has a negative character, and by all means don’t be afraid to distance yourself from toxic people. It’s okay if you come to a point where you need to say, “Enough is enough! I can’t associate with this person any longer! This relationship is doing more harm than good!” But even there, don’t mistake a person’s character with their worth. Jesus doesn’t. He loves.

It is better to love than to be holy. Or maybe it’s better to say it is the loving who are actually holy. But how can you love people you won’t associate with (I’m not talking about people you won’t associate with because the relationship is toxic, but people you won’t associate with because you think they’re beneath you.)? Why is it that the image I have of holiness are people sequestered behind stone walls far away from the rest of the world? Is that an image other people have too? Why do I even care what image I give off? That sounds like a pride issue. Pride cares about our own image; it also keeps us from looking at others. C.S. Lewis said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” Those with humility don’t bother themselves with asking how holy or righteous they are, or whether whoever they’re associating with is good or bad.

“So, what? We’re to love people regardless of how they treat us? Are we supposed to be a doormat? Should we just let people walk all over us? Is that really what you’re saying?” No. That’s not what I’m saying. At all. Do you not remember Sophia Auld from my Frederick Douglass post? Letting someone control you is not being loving. Letting someone control you harms the other person as much as it does you. Look, it’s because you love them you don’t let them treat you like a doormat. Not giving people control over you could be the most loving thing you could do.

The question ultimately is, what is your focus on? Is your focus on Jesus or yourself? If it’s on Jesus then your focus is on his love for you and how he sees and loves the people around you. You’re not asking yourself how other people see you. It doesn’t really come into the equation.

Esmeralda: The Jesus Figure

Bahahaha! Who was expecting that? Who looks at the dark-skinned outcast character who hangs around thieves and ruffians and who is persecuted after speaking her mind with cries of “Justice!” and thinks Oh, that person is just like Jesus?

Esmeralda: “You mistreat this poor boy the same way you mistreat my people. You speak of justice yet you are cruel to those most in need of your help.”

Frollo: “Silence!”

Esmeralda: “Justice!”

Can you see Jesus having a different response? Wait… Did you just say yes? …Have we read the same scriptures?? Or did you just skip Matthew 23?

Matthew 23:23-24 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 24You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!”

How can I describe Jesus? He went out into the world; he preached to the poor; he reached out his hand to the leper (Matt. 8:3); he talked to the shunned Samaritan woman (John 4); he ate with tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:9-13). What can I say to make you understand his character? I grew up in the church – I’ve been reading the Bible since I was a child – but even now I feel like there’s still so much to learn about who he is and how he would react and what he was about. He is still my teacher on so many things. So how can I describe all that he is in just a few simple words?

Luke 4:17-21 “And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to [Jesus]. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, 19 To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” 20 And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

A few words, but Jesus is more than this. He is our High Priest, our intercessor, and our friend. He comes to us where we are and he loves us. He seeks us out. Knowing all that, can I still say that Esmeralda is like Jesus? Am I really still saying that Esmeralda, the dancing, voluptuous Gypsy girl, is like Jesus? Yes, yes I am.

Think about it, Esmeralda acts like Jesus. She calls out for justice. She prays for those less fortunate than her. But not just praying, she pours her heart out. But not just that, she lives with the outcasts. She’s friends with the outcasts. She is an outcast. Her actions match her words. “Do not merely look out to your own needs, but also to the needs of others (Phil 2:4).”  She realizes that Jesus is the champion of outcasts. That he, too, was an outcast when he was on the earth.

She sings, “But still I see your face and wonder, ‘were you once an outcast, too?’”

“He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from who men hide their faces he was despised, and we did not esteem him. (Isaiah 53:3).”

Why was Jesus an outcast when he was alive? He went around healing people – yet he was an outcast. His first miracle was making more wine at a party – who wouldn’t love that guy? Yet, he was an outcast. But… Is it wrong to be grateful that he was an outcast?

I saw a video recently where this man was walking the streets of New York and had money taped on his suit. He was carrying a sign that said, “take what you need.” In the video those who had the most took the most money with little to no thought for the ones who may have been less fortunate than them. It was the homeless, the poorest, who took the least and asked the man to give what he had to those who also needed the money. If this is human nature, then is it wrong to be grateful that Jesus’ life was more like that of the homeless outcast? Is it wrong to be incredibly grateful that he understands our sufferings? Jesus is God, so I’m sure he’d understand us when we go through tough times anyway, but is it wrong that I’m grateful I can KNOW he understands because he went through things even worse than what I have gone through?

Frederick Douglass and Slavery’s Corrupting Influence

On my last post I ended with this paragraph:

What’s so troubling about Frollo is how fully he’s able to convince himself that he is on the side of righteousness. Maybe you’re thinking, “Well… But he’s a cartoon villain! He’s evil and that’s all there is to it. Real people aren’t like that!”

Well… Time to counteract Innocent Little Lamb. Frederick Douglass was a real person who witnessed real atrocities in his day. He was born c. 1818 and died February 20, 1895. He wrote a biography about his experiences during his time as a slave entitled Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave published in 1845. I’m just going to quote a few things from that book:

“What I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to the ~slaveholding religion~ of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper; for, between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference–so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land… I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which everywhere surround me. We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members. The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus.” – Appendix.

He goes on to compare these hypocritical religious people to the Pharisees in Matthew 23. Seriously, if you haven’t read Frederick Douglass’ Narrative go read it. There are parts that are deeply, deeply disturbing, but… “I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather to be false, and incur my own abhorrence. From my earliest recollection, I date the entertainment of a deep conviction that slavery would not always be able to hold me within its foul embrace; and in the darkest hours of my career in slavery, this living word of faith and spirit of hope departed not from me, but remained like a ministering angel to cheer me through the gloom. This good spirit was from God, and to him I offer thanksgiving and praise.”

Maybe it’s hard for you to see slaveholders as people. I think people in general just tend to consider whoever is on the wrong side as evil, and therefore completely unrelatable. But there was a slaveholder that Douglass knew who I, at first, related to. Her name was Sophia Auld. She was a weaver by trade. Douglass first came to live with her and her husband to help look after their son when Douglass himself was only a young boy. Before Douglass she had had no slaves. She began to teach Douglass to read, but through the influence of her husband she became cruel.

To quote: “But, alas! This kind heart had but a short time to remain such. The fatal poison of irresponsible power was already in her hands, and soon commenced its infernal work. That cheerful eye, under the influence of slavery, soon became red with rage; that voice, made all of sweet accord, changed to one of harsh and horrid discord; and that angelic face gave place to that of a demon.” (pg. 77-78) and again “My mistress was, as I have said, a kind and tender-hearted woman; and in the simplicity of her soul she commenced, when I first went to live with her, to treat me as she supposed one human being ought to treat another… Slavery proved to be as injurious to her as it did to me… Under its influence, the tender heart became stone, and the lamb-like disposition gave way to one of tiger-like fierceness. The first step in her downward course was in her ceasing to teach me. She now commenced to practice her husband’s precepts. She finally became even more violent in her disposition than her husband himself… Nothing seemed to make her more angry than to see me with a newspaper.” (Pg. 81-82)

In Matthew 7:18 it says, “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.” Evil brings about more evil. But there’s hope in the fact that the opposite is also true. Namely, that good brings about greatness. Next post let’s get back to what started this whole long train of thought, The Hunchback of Notre Dame soundtrack. Let’s focus on someone who is good: Esmeralda!

Disney’s Frollo

Titus 1: 15-16 “…But to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.”

This is how Frollo’s character is described at the beginning of the movie: “Judge Claude Frollo longed to purge the world of vice and sin. And he saw corruption everywhere except within.”

The irony, of course, is that Frollo projects his own corruption onto everything and everyone around him; he just doesn’t realize it. It’s hard for anyone to realize that not everyone thinks like them. But maybe I’m projecting when I say that. The thing is, I’ll never find out without listening to another person’s point of view. One caveat, don’t just listen to people who you know have the same point of view as you. Just, trust me on that. God is bigger than you think He is. I’m telling myself that too…

Wait, this is about Frollo.

I strongly believe that the world looks the cruelest to those people who are themselves, cruel. During the first song, The Bells of Notre Dame, Frollo wanted to drown Quasimodo. He says to the archdeacon in reference to Quasimodo, “This is an unholy demon. I’m sending it back hell where it belongs.” But then later when he’s talking to Quasimodo, Frollo says, “When your heartless mother abandoned you as a child, anyone else would have drowned you.” He is projecting his own darkness onto others. He is a deceiver. He deceives both himself and others because he has to look at others as even worse than himself. If he didn’t he might actually have to acknowledge his own sins.

The thing is, no one is immune to doing evil. But if you can demonize another group and say that all people from that group has some inherently bad quality, then no matter how depraved you are you can always say “Well, at least I’m not as bad as those people.” And therefore you are able to deflect examining your own character.

“All my life you’ve told me that the world is a dark and cruel place, but now I see that the only thing dark and cruel about it is people like you!” – Quasimodo

What’s so troubling about Frollo is how fully he’s able to convince himself that he is on the side of righteousness. Maybe you’re thinking, “Well… But he’s a cartoon villain! He’s evil and that’s all there is to it. Real people aren’t like that!” Well… Aren’t you an innocent little lamb, voice that is probably only in my own head? We’ll talk more later.

Titus 1:15-16

I was listening to Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame’s soundtrack recently and I started getting ideas… and thinking… And in a week’s time I had a 6 page document filled with thoughts. (Because of course I did that. Would you believe me if I said there was a time in my life when I didn’t want to be an English major specifically because I didn’t want to write a lot? Hello irony!) My plan is to spread what I wrote into a few different blog posts. For this post I am going to try my absolute hardest to keep my focus on Frollo. Here I go…

Cue relevant scripture verse!

“To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.” – Titus 1: 15-16

Okay wait. I need to talk about this scripture verse first. Next blog post will be about Frollo.

I have been surrounded by scripture since I was a child, so this verse, along with many, has been swirling around in my head for a very long time. Especially “To the pure, all things are pure.” What in the world does that mean!? Let’s get this out of the way first, this does NOT mean, “To the good, all things are good.” It does not mean that the good are unable to perceive evil. It does NOT mean that the “good” are unable to do evil. Then what does it mean? Would it help if we were to read this verse in context?

Titus 1: 10 – 16 “For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain. 12One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” (Note: The book of Titus is a letter Paul wrote to a man who was living in Crete helping to establish leaders of the church there.) 13This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, 14not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth. 15To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. 16They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.”

Okay, I don’t know if putting that verse in context adds to this discussion or not, but it is always good to keep context in mind. So we’re going to do that. Anyway, so Paul contrasts “pure” with both “defiled” and “unbelieving.” Contrasting pure and defiled makes sense; I mean, they’re antonyms. But pure and unbelieving? And then these people also say they profess to know God. So they think they know God, but if they really did then their deeds would reflect that. What does it mean, then, that to the pure or believing all things are pure? Wait… This is starting to sound familiar…

1 Timothy 4:1-5 “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 2by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 3men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. 4For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; 5for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.”

Romans 14: 14 “I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.”

And, you know, a lot of other scripture verses. Like the entire book of Romans, basically. Go read it.

So what Paul is saying, based on all the other letter he wrote, is more along the lines of, “To the believing, all things are lawful.” I could expound more on that, but… I really wanted to talk about Frollo. So next post we’re focusing on the second part of Titus 1: 15-16, “…but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.”