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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

I will not be silent

Let me say again: I will not be silent

I've been putting off this post for a while. There's so much I want to say, and it's so hard to find words adequate to express these feelings. But it has to be said, because I cannot simply let it go.
What feelings do I need to express? Rage. Horror. Sorrow. Fury. Despair. Terror. 
Why? Shootings. Terrorism. Discrimination. Scapegoating of Refugees. Hate.
The world is a pretty terrible place in a lot of ways. Bad things happen everyday. I feel like nothing I do can make a lasting difference. But I believe that feeling is wrong. Bad things happen, but so do good things. The good things are just smaller, easier to miss. Why am I taking time from my final papers and pushing back my lunch hour to share my thoughts? Because I believe in hope and change. 

Shootings

People saying that more gun laws won't fix the problem of mass shootings. Well, maybe not, but since we currently don't research the subject on a large scale, and gun stores aren't required to publish their sales data, and we keep losing people to other people with guns, it's time we actually did something. I don't know what we should do, but I don't want to live in a place that has had more shootings than days in the year. Yes, this year. 2015. In our country that's supposedly at peace. And it's not the end of the year yet. There has to be a solution. Banning automatic, multiple shot weapons (assault rifles, sniper rifles, etc.) from sale to private individuals would be a good start. I don't care if someone wants to have a rifle, a shotgun or target pistol, even though I will personally never own one, but anything more is designed for killing people, not hunting or self protection. And note I said private individuals, not law enforcement agencies or military. Don't bring up the argument that if guns are illegal, only criminals will have them. Other countries with tough gun laws don't have mass shootings. Japan's laws are so strict that not even criminals have guns. Note that the guns used in most mass shootings are obtained legally, sometimes thanks to loopholes or mistakes in background checks. Those loopholes need to be closed, and background checks need to be much more thorough. And don't tell me that most shooters have mental illnesses. Some do, yes, but there's more to it than that, and if it were just mental illness, all the perpetrators would fit that profile, or all people with mental illness would be violent. They do not and they are not. This is domestic terrorism. The fact that we only discuss mental illness after a shooting where the perpetrator is mentally ill is another severe societal problem. The stigma surrounding mental illness needs to stop. 

Terrorism

It's happening everywhere. Syria. Paris. Beirut. Pakistan. It may not show up on Fox news, but people are dying every day. And of course the shootings I discuss above are domestic terrorism. Daesh (ISIS) is one of the perpetrators, and it's a mistake to confuse them with their victims. Most Muslims are shocked and horrified by the Paris attacks, and those who live in places where they experience such attacks with regularity can empathize even more. 

Discrimination

Some claim that we'll be safer if we turn away those who are different from "us". People try to set "us" against "them" in another attempt to create a scapegoat to blame for the world's problems. Muslims. Jews. Blacks. Native Americans. People of Japanese Descent. Muslims again. It's happened before, and this is how it starts. We forget history, we ignore its lessons, and we fall into the same trap. Again. The photo is of a sign at Auschwitz with a quote by Santayana, "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." In 1492, Spain exiled Muslims and Jews, and over the next centuries, Spanish society fell into the trap of trying to distance itself from anything Islamic or Jewish. People with the wrong names or the wrong ancestors (those who converted when they were forced to choose: convert, leave or die) were shunned. Purity of lineage and religious orthodoxy were highly esteemed. Severe economic problems were only one side-effect of this. Similar things happened during Francisco Franco's dictatorship. Franco, like Hitler, was fascist, and tried to squash independence among Basque and Catalan people, among other atrocities. 

Scapegoating of Refugees

I worked with refugees from Burma for a few weeks in 2011. Cast out of their country, their cultures and languages despised, they'd spent up to years in refugee camps before coming to the USA. They struggled to learn English, they worked, and they opened their homes to three white girls who were there to share a message about Jesus. They had little and they welcomed us and fed us. They remain a marginalized group here, but at least they no longer fear for their lives. Hearing about the refugee crisis now reminds me of those people. They are good people who just want to live with their families somewhere that they don't have to be afraid. Most refugees have to apply for safe haven, and they don't get to choose where they go. It's the least likely way for a terrorist to try and get into the USA. 

HateLove

The world seems filled with hate, and that overwhelms me with despair at times. I wonder what I can possibly do to make a difference when so many people with power and influence transmit messages of hatred and divisiveness daily. Well, this is what I will do. I will not be silent. In the face of hate, I will share love. In the face of scapegoating, I will build bridges of understanding. In the face of discrimination, I will befriend those around me. In the face of terrorism, I will spread hope. In the face of pain and death, I will mourn with those who mourn and I will do everything within my power to stop the suffering. Let us learn from history and break the cycle of hate. We are more than our fears. We are more than hate. We can love one another and rejoice in our shared humanity. If we come together rather than let divisive rhetoric drive us apart, we have a chance. 

When I dwell on the hateful, terrible things in the world, I want to push back, and I get angry. No, furious. Rage fills me and my first impulse is to lash out. But hate only breeds more hate. The only way to overcome hatred is with love. We can make the world a better place. If each of us does one small thing each day, it will make a difference. Small, everyday, ordinary, simple deeds can change the world and push back the infectious power of hate. Learn from history. Learn from literature. Learn from one another. And keep fighting. 


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

How to survive an MA program

I graduate from Brigham Young University my MA this December, although I am already at the University of Kentucky working on my PhD. I have been meaning to write a list of advice for incoming MA students since I left BYU.
My specialty was literature, so my advice specifically applies to that area of study, but I think it's general enough that pedagogy and linguistics students could also benefit.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

My name and birthplace

What is your full name? Why did your parents give you that name? 

My name is Kiersty Lemon-Rogers. I was born Kiersty Lemon. My parents were going to name me Alexander, but thankfully they decided that I might be a girl so they picked a more typically female name shortly before I was born. One of my great-great-great-something grandmothers was named Kjerstina Trulson, and my parents liked the name enough that they wanted to name me after her. They decided that most Americans (United Statesians, to be more specific) wouldn't be able to figure out how to say Kjerstina, so they went with Kiersty instead. 

When and where were you born? Describe your home, your neighborhood, and the town you grew up in.
Well, I didn't grow up in just one town. I was born in Detroit, in Henry Ford hospital where my dad was doing his residency in Emergency Medicine. The main thing I remember about Detroit is that we had a garden and a tire swing. We moved to Valparaiso, Indiana, shortly after my brother was born. He was born at home, during the last nap I ever took. I was two and a half. In Indiana we had a blue house with a hill. We lived close to my Aunt Edna and her family, and they were the closest family I had. I remember going to Primary (the children's class at our church) there, and playing with my cousins. When I was five, we moved to Quincy, Illinois. I remember the first house we lived in there, a rental house right next to Madison park. We had a merry-go-round in the back yard, too, and there were plenty of room for playing inside. We lived there until the house we lived in next was built. That house had an awesome playset that my parents built for us. When my mom was called to be the president of our ward's Relief Society, my parents decided that it would be best to move to a house with a smaller yard and less upkeep, so she would have time to dedicate to her calling. That house used to be a duplex, and it had a huge attic. Our cats loved running up all the stairs and around the attic and back down and back up again. (I'll talk about all our pets in a future post). We moved to Idaho Falls, Idaho, when I was 16, and lived there until I was 17, when I went to college and my family moved to Iowa. If you're keeping track, we've lived in all of the "I" states. I went to BYU for my undergraduate, and I visited my family for at least a couple weeks each summer and for Christmas. I think that pretty much concludes the growing up years. 

Life story questions!

Family history is super important, but it's sometimes hard to know where to start. For me, I mostly focus on indexing and writing my own story. Today I found this article with some ideas about what we can write about when we're starting our personal histories. Why do personal histories matter? Well, someday our descendants will be trying to do family history, and wouldn't you like it if your ancestors had written things down for you to find? In my next post, I'll start answering the questions, and by this time next year, more or less, I should have a significant personal history. Here's the list of questions that I found on FamilySearch if you'd like to use them:

Friday, October 2, 2015

Thoughts on shootings

So, when I think of the shootings that have taken place, I think of the suffering of the people and their families. I don't know why these things happen, but I do believe that someday, all losses will be made up. In the Book of Mormon, one of the most difficult chapters for me is Alma 14, where a group of people are killed for their beliefs. Verse ten reads, "And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children [the men had been exiled from the city] who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene?" Amulek wants terribly to put a stop to the suffering. He and Alma are tied up and forced to watch. It's horrible, and there's a distinct possibility that Amulek's wife and children are with the rest of the group that's being tortured. But they can't do anything. Alma tells Amulek, "The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of theinnocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day." That's HARD. I don't completely understand it. But I trust that God loves His children and that justice will be done in the end. 
I believe in the value of life. Our society has somehow come to believe that these tragedies are normal, that they just "happen." I don't know what to do to make them stop. Maybe we can't. But we should try. Right now, though, we should remember the victims and keep their families in our thoughts. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Education and Social Commitment

I looked for cool pictures of books and the google image search
led me to this cool blog post on reading books by women writers.
I've been thinking about the point of education and academia. I love what I do, most of the time, and my goal is to teach other people to read and write and think. And I've come to feel that although literature and cultural studies are valuable in and of themselves, one of their most important functions in our increasingly connected global society is to teach people empathy. Being able to feel what those outside of our own circles of experience feel helps people think of people as fellow humans, rather than "others" who don't matter to us. This can also help us overcome careless generalizations. The very act of reading and trying to figure out what is happening in a story trains our brains to think empathetically That's what my MA thesis deals with, in a general sense: breaking the divide between normatively separate groups of people.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Anxiety

Like most people, I am a weird mix of introvert and extrovert. I also have anxiety, which makes life extra interesting. It's not just nerves, and it's not a normal level of stress, even for a graduate student. It's hard to tell what normal is, though. Anyway, anxiety manifests itself in various ways. One, I hate calling people on the phone and am eternally grateful to whoever invented texting. Just the other week, I had to call someone to cancel an appointment because despite the handy online appointment making tool, they provided no way to cancel that appointment without calling. I tried to call after hours and leave a message, but there was no answering machine. It's a trap for introverts, I just know it. But I managed to make the call and I didn't have to leave the house for the appointment. I'm perfectly capable of calling when I know I have to do it, but I have all these worst case scenarios come to mind, like dialing the wrong number and accidentally saying something ridiculous... yeah, anyway. Anxiety isn't rational, all right?

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Adventures in Moving: Part Two

Last week I felt lots of uncertainty and plenty of anxiety. I'm planning on writing a separate post to talk more specifically about what that's like. In this post I'll simply tell why we're still in a hotel and not an apartment.
We got to our apartment on Friday, July 31st, signed the papers, and went over to start moving in. We walked in the door to find a completely different floor plan than we thought we were getting. It was only 30 feet smaller, but the layout was much less convenient. In addition, it wasn't at all ready to live in. We found several issues that evening and the next day. The fan in the laundry room/powder room came on with the lights and sounded like an airplane taking off. The floor in that room leaked water when you pushed on it. The paint job was terrible, including leftover tape and paper and paint on the new kitchen floor and appliances. There was a smell of gas in the upstairs bathroom (probably from the water heater), The kitchen counters had been painted, not very well, and there was paint in the sink. The cabinets were still tacky, like they hadn't been cleaned before painting, and there were gnats stuck to the cabinets above the stove. Lots of them. There was an e-cigarette, a poptart, a package of splenda, and old, dirty contact paper in the cabinets. All of the windowsills were covered in dust, flies and construction debris. The carpets were filled with debris as well, as I discovered when I tried to vacuum. There were cracks in the windows and not all of them closed properly. There may have been other problems, but those were the main ones. We moved everything in Saturday morning, before we discovered ALL the problems, and then we sat down and made the decision that we really needed somewhere else to live. We couldn't contact anyone from the office, since it was closed, and the cell phone number they'd given us remained unanswered. We decided that even though it might mean breaking the lease, we weren't going to stay. We repacked the truck and went to another hotel on Saturday night, then to church on Sunday, where we met some great people and hoped and prayed that we'd be able to stay in the ward, and that we'd be able to get out of the lease without breaking it.
On Sunday afternoon, I napped while Jacob and his parents drove around to look at other potential apartments, then we went out again that evening. We found several possibilities.
On Monday morning, we went to the apartment offices and spoke to the manager, who had no idea we'd been promised a refurbished unit. I still don't think that apartment was fit to live in, and we warned her about the gas and mildew smells. She gave us our lease and our check back, and that's the reason I'm not naming the apartment complex here. I would have if we'd had any difficulties. She explained that they were refurbishing many of the apartments, but that they wouldn't be ready until later this month. We decided to carry on with our apartment hunt, which we did while Jacob's dad unloaded the truck yet again into a storage unit.
We looked at several places but felt happiest with Steeplechase Apartments, which met all of our requirements and was still in the ward, besides having really good rates. So we filled out the paperwork to reserve the apartment, and we'll be moving in on Wednesday, with some help from people at Church. We've spent the rest of this week setting up insurance, looking for pets, and learning our way around. I think we're going to be very happy here.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

My Easter week: Sunday will come (Adventures in Moving)

The title of my post today refers to a talk by Joseph B. Wirthlin. We talked about it in church today, and it seems to apply really well to this last week. You can read it here, and hopefully it will be clear how it applies. This has been a pretty crazy week, mostly really good, some really rather bad. We've driven 1,600 miles, more or less. It was a good trip, and it was great to see parts of the country that I hadn't seen before. My wonderful parents-in-law drove our moving truck with all our things, pulling Jacob's car, and we rode in my car. Jacob drove, we listened to lots of music, read a book, and I napped a lot.  We stopped the first night in Denver with some of Jacob's cousins, and it was fun to have dinner and meet a lot of family members I didn't know yet. Then we stayed in Topeka on Wednesday night. On Thursday, we drove to St Louis and spent half the day at the Science Center, where we met up with my cousin and her kids. That night, we met up with one of Jacob's cousins at the Gateway Arch, then went for dinner at a nice Mediterranean restaurant. That was the highlight of the trip for me. The last day of the trip, Friday, we crossed through four states. Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. It was fairly uneventful and I slept a lot. I also discovered candy crush on Jacob's phone, so I've been playing that a lot. In order to stop borrowing his phone every time he turns his back, I've started playing on Facebook today.
We got to Lexington right around four thirty and reached the apartment and signed the lease and.... unexpected and unfortunate things ensued. For now, suffice it to say that we are currently looking for a place to live. Until things get worked out, I'll hold off on details of places and names and pictures. As soon as everything is settled, though, boy have I got a story to tell.
The ward we attended today, where we'd love to stay if we can find an apartment within the boundaries, was wonderful. So many nice people and of course it is lovely to have the same Church meetings wherever we go. I've had the opportunity to attend church in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Spain, Portugal, and England. I know that the Church and the gospel are true no matter where I go. I have been blessed to meet so many lovely people because of the Church. It's like an extended family. Plus the lessons today were all about hope. We talked about the Resurrection of Christ and what it means to us. We talked about how Good Friday and Holy Saturday were dark, somber days, which probably seemed to the Disciples to be without any hope. However, that Easter Sunday was full of joy and hope. And even in the darkest Fridays and Saturdays, Sunday will come. I feel like it's Saturday night, but there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. More than a glimmer, even. I'm optimistic that we'll be able to at least have the paperwork started on an apartment before the end of this week.
I have to admit I felt homesick today, which is an odd feeling when you don't have a home to go to. I go back and forth between laughter and tears because of this situation. I'm missing my old wards, and my friends, and my city. But I know that within a few months, or even a few weeks, we'll get to know the ward, the roads, the grocery stores, and the university, and it will start to feel like home. It'll help when we have a place to put our furniture and can adopt a cat or two, but until then, we'll be okay. Sunday will come.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Final Countdown



So, in less than two weeks, I'm defending my thesis. Weird. In less than three weeks, we're leaving Provo for at least four years. Also weird. The last few times I've left Provo, I've known exactly when I was coming back. New things. We're going to Lexington, Kentucky for my PhD program. And then, who knows?
As far as the thesis defense, I'm thinking of using the following format for my presentation:
Thesis Defense
I'm pretty sure it would be effective. 
And after the defense, which I'm hoping I pass without too many revisions, comes cleaning, returning library books, packing, moving, driving a long distance... I'm actually pretty excited for the trip out. We're going to stop in St. Louis and see the science center, where I haven't been in years. And they have an exhibit on androids, which is part of what my thesis is about, so I'm really excited to see it. And then unpacking and cleaning and organizing. Changes are interesting. I like them and I don't. I like going new places, but I don't want to leave the place I've lived the second-longest in my life. I love travel, but I am kind of tired of moving around. The good news is that I know where we're going to be for the next 4 years, minimum, and we have an apartment (probably). We are also going to adopt pets, as soon as we possibly can. One cat and one dog. It's been too long since I've had a cat. And I've never had a dog, so more new things there. Well, things are going well. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

What I believe

After the shooting last week in Charleston, I heard that the perpetrator had written a manifesto, outlining his hatred towards his victims. I have not read this, but it seems that it is similar to other manifestos written by other murderers on other occasions. And I felt motivated to write what I believe, to counter the negativity of that tragic event. Today, after seeing the Supreme Court's decision (a much different and far more positive event), I also felt that my thoughts were relevant to that. So here is a list of the basic beliefs that guide my life.

I believe in God. I believe He is our loving Heavenly Father and that He truly cares about what happens to us. He sent Jesus Christ to be our Savior. I choose to worship God as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Most everything else I believe is rooted in this.

I believe in love, all kinds of love: for family, friends, and our fellow humans in general. If we love one another, we should act accordingly. I believe in treating others with kindness, dignity, compassion, and respect. I believe in building loving relationships with those around us.


I believe in equality, regardless of gender, religion, sexual orientation, ability, race, ethnicity, nationality, marital status, income, height, weight, eye color, hairstyle, favorite food or anything else. People are people and should be treated with love and dignity.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

What is feminism and why should we care?

I'm a nerd and words are really important to me. Also, I'm a feminist. The words "feminist" and "feminism" have been really misunderstood, and because I am who I am, I feel that it is partly my responsibility to explain what they mean to me. I also think I should explain why it matters to me that other people understand these terms. This is more than a grammatical issue; it has to do with how we think about people and the labels that we use. So often I hear or read "feminist" as an insult lately. It gets used as a label for people, usually women, who are perceived as somehow going too far in their search for women's rights. Unfortunately, this is an incredibly narrow definition, and both men and women mistakenly use it to label those women whom they perceive as radically beyond acceptable bounds. This is not how I use the term feminist, and I am doing my best to share the broader, more accurate definition.
In the most basic terms, a feminist is a person (male or female) who believes that women are people. Merriam-Webster defines feminism this way:

fem·i·nism
noun \ˈfe-mə-ˌni-zəm\

: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities
: organized activity in support of women's rights and interests

Sunday, January 4, 2015

2015: New things

So it's been a while since I wrote my last post, and many things have happened. For one, I met this guy, and we're getting married in April. Thankfully, most of the wedding plans are set, so I won't have to stress out about that during this semester. Christmas was good, I finished my own classes, turned in the grades for the class I teach, and got my new teaching assignment. Which is the same as my last teaching assignment. I'm teaching at 8 in the morning, Monday through Friday, once again. And my other classes are at 11and 4-6 MWF, and 1-1:20 TTh. I'm sure worse schedules exist, but I can't think of many. The main good thing about this schedule is that I'll have plenty of time on campus to study and write my thesis. I'm trying to focus on that... because I need to get lots of work done this semester. I have an Independent Study course to finish up on top of the other three and writing my thesis. Hopefully that will pay off and my thesis will be mostly written before the wedding on April 23. I am really excite about my thesis, because I love my topic and I want to share my ideas with ... well, all the people who are likely to read it. Which isn't many, but I'll rework it for publication later, so it'll be useful.
I do love studying... That's why I got myself into this program and why I applied to eight PhD programs for next fall. Yes. EIGHT. Here's crossing my fingers that I'll get into at least one of them, because I don't know what I'll do if not. I love reading and writing and sharing ideas. It's what I do. So I'm excited for the opportunity to do lots more of it. At the same time, it's fairly overwhelming. But I know I can do it with support from friends and family and God. Without that support, there'd be no way. I just can't imagine doing anything else with my life, because this is what I want to do. I'm committed to this path, and I'm really grateful for a fiance who's willing to come along for the ride while pursuing his own goals.
Every year, sometimes every day, brings new challenges. And there's really nothing to be done but keep moving forward. Happy New Year!