Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Facebook Conundrum: To Respond, or Not to Respond?

So...one of my biggest problems has always been silence. Oh, I like silence in my home, enjoying the calmness of having only my thoughts for company. I get a lot of good ideas that way. No, my problem with silence is my holding my tongue when I know I should speak out, especially in the face of overwhelming stupidity.

I usually do this to keep the peace. It's what I've always done. But with things like Facebook where people can post the most dumbass things it really begins to weigh on a person. When people post a status such as, "Jesus is my lord and savior! Click "Like" if you agree!" or "Please pray for my family. blahblahblah" I swear I want to smack them over the head verbally. I want to tell them what a fucktard they are being and that no magic sky daddy is going to save them because he was invented by simple minded desert dwellers who had NO idea how the fucking world or universe operated!!!!! That magic book you're waving above your head isn't worth an ass wiping! You're living your life based on archaic mythology that has no bearing on our modern world! So shut the fuck up!

...But I don't say any of that. I don't open my mouth, I keep it shut tight. I don't even allow my fingers to graze across the keyboard. That alone is too much temptation. That's when questions start running in my mind...Is it appropriate to respond to someone else's post? Could I say anything that wouldn't be considered an attack? How would this affect my relationship with this person? If they are family, will this exchange get back to my parents?

All of these questions keep me at bay. They stay my ready hands. And I...cannot...fucking...stand...it...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am truly sick and tired of the religious community being given more free speech immunity from attacks than the secular community. A Christian in America can post all the "Jesus" bullshit posts they want and they get rounds of applause and agreements from the sheeple around them. But is anyone allowed to challenge them? Hell no! They and their minions gang up on you and attack your character, your morals, your values. They say you are a terrible person because you don't believe in anything. They have the inability to be logical, and no matter how innocuously you word your disagreement you are greeted with a firestorm of hostility. On the flipside, if I post something about my atheist opinions I run the risk of being ostrazised, attacked, etc. I've had family members and friends end relationships with me over my atheism.

So all of this was going through my head when I came across a post by my aunt on facebook...


I wanted to respond. Oh fucking Jesus H. Christ, how I wanted to respond!! This overly simplistic, irrational statement is what they really think of atheism. They have missed the point entirely. The logical person in me wanted desperately to pull out all the scientific evidence I had stored up in my mind and explode all over the post.

But I didn't. Was I right not to? Or should I have said something devoid of passion, but with a neutral voice of reason?

Thoughts on God: Part I - Journey to Atheism

Just for a little personal background, I was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I admit, that my early years were not shaped well by the church, seeing as how my family barely went until I was in late elementary school. But my parents instilled in me a love of God by praying nightly with me, childrens Bibles, etc.

Once I began attending the Mormon Church on a regular basis I became enraptured with the teachings and principles, and although there were some things I didn't like I was still thankful to have been born into God's only 'true church'. I even began to perceive anything outside of the Mormon church as an evil, including the behavior of my classmates whom I loathed for their baseness and shallowness. I took a Book of Mormon to school with me and read it on the bus, during lunch, on breaks, any time really that I had a spare moment. But I used it mostly for bus rides which were truly excruciating for me as the quiet outsider who got beat up on a weekly schedule. I did anything to keep my mind off of what the end of the ride would bring.

That was early middle school. By the time I was in late middle school and high school I had serious questions, as did the rest of my family. When I was 15 we all broke away from the church amid a firestorm of retaliation from our former church members, 99.9% of whom never spoke to us again. After that, I was soured significantly on religion, but a great friend of mine, a Baptist at the time, would not let me wander in the world of religion alone. She brought me to a church meeting or two in an effort to help me. The youth meetings consisted of silly Christian rock bands full of praise for God and Jesus, and I didn't really feel comfortable there.

It also didn't help that I was struggling with admitting my true sexuality at the time. I felt deserted, unjustly cast away, and depressed at the thought of God. It would be easy for me to say that it was this struggle in particular that caused me to embrace atheism, but that would be inaccurate.

Many issues brought me to my current state of atheism. The first of which would be the failure of Mormonism to fully take me in. In this religion I felt trapped and so much guilt over every little thing. The most innocent white lie was to me an eternal sentence of hellish proportions. I began to understand the amount of control I was under, and it didn't make sense to me at all why I had to do so many things in a certain way or say things that didn't feel right. I also realized that my personality was greatly suppressed by the church social structure in a effort at conformity. I saw others who showed signs of deviation and they were left behind by the rest. I resented that. I saw it happened even with myself when I made suggestions in my Young Women's group. In this group we were taught to be young ladies and take up interests in handicrafts in preparation for eventual motherhood. We were told to keep ourselves pure for our future Mormon husbands who would hold the sacred priesthood and carry blessings as returned missionaries. We were discouraged from doing things that were considered "boy activities". This was all terrible for me being an absolute tomboy who loved playing in the woods and getting muddy in the creek behind my house. I played sports. Boys were friends only. I resented the young women for being so passive and meek. They never shared an opinion that had not first been pre-approved by the majority. I certainly did not fit in and I began acting out with another misfit during our Wednesday and Sunday meetings. We even had a motto worthy of our middle school rebelliousness; "We don't walk. We don't talk. And we don't participate!". Unfortunately, of the two of us, only I stayed true to what we rebelled against. Once I left the church none of the girls or boys talked to me ever again except one, and even that was sporadic at best. If there was a god, I reasoned, this is not what he intended. Why should a child made to be one way be forced by society to behave in a way contrary to one's nature? It didn't make sense.

The second would be my abhorrence at the idea that God would hate me and cast me to Hell for being a lesbian, which made no sense and which I believed, rightly, to be totally unfair. This took years of reasoning through. I was trying to do two difficult things at the same time: deprogram myself from Mormon ideology, and accept my sexuality as a benign aspect of myself.

The third would have to be my history lessons and seeing all the ways religion has been used to murder, enslave, corrupt, vilify, terrorize, etc. the people of the world in a mad grab for power. It is absolutely sickening. I could go on with this but there is too much to put here.

And the last, my own innate Reason which doesn't allow me to accept anything less than the humble search for truth, rather than the arrogant certainty that Christians, Muslims, and others try to sell to gullible minds.

Atheism was something I was afraid to grasp at first since I was still in the clutches, albeit weakly, of Christianity. I was frightened of leaving the faith, not because of any loyalty to Christ or God, but because I was frightened at the possible consequences of me exercising my mind fully should the God I'd been educated to believe in turn out to be real. Once I realized the nature of my fear I understood that my belief in a god was predicated on the possible punishment of my soul and not out of love. In truth I was furious, first with god, and then with Man for putting these ideas and fears in my head. Naturally, since I don't think it's likely that god exists, my anger towards him/her was totally moot and unreasonable and has since dissipated.

Unlike what Christians and other religions would have you believe, I felt an incredible weight lifted off my shoulders when I let go of my faith in god. I saw with both amazement and rage the potential energy, enlightenment, reason, intelligence, and knowledge all around me; amazement at how Man might use these resources to create their own paradise, and rage at how they squander and demolish them under the claws of religion, greed, etc. instead.

So do I think that religion is dangerous? Yes, I do. Look at history, look at the situation in the present world. In the whole of recorded history more people have died in the name of religion than for any other cause. Men have tortured and murdered because of their belief in a deity. People today are killing for the same reason. We've had the Crusades, witch hunting for hundreds of years in Europe that killed countless innocents (especially women), Kings and Queens killing their own people for having the "wrong" religion, genocides and religious wars on the Balkan Peninsula, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and so on. Pakistan, a Muslim nation, has the bomb. Iran, a Muslim theocracy, is working on the bomb. And the United States of America, a nation that was founded on Secular Humanism but now claims to have been founded on Christianity and "Christian Values", has one of the biggest stockpiles of nuclear weapons on the planet. And in that powerful country the religious crazies are gaining power and influence. Nuclear winter, anyone?

Do I want religion eradicated from the Earth? Well, that's a loaded question. I think that the world would be better without religion, no question. However, I believe that people have the right to have a religion if they want it, no matter how much I cringe when I see them do it. It's not up to me to force them into atheism. That's just wrong, and I would become no better than them if I did that. I can only hope that they realize they're talking to an imaginary magic man who supposedly resides in the sky, and no amount of praying and believing he is real will ever make him so. I can hope that people will embrace their innate reason and logical thinking processes and realize that society is not built upon their personal religious choice. So have what religion you want just do what George Carlin said: Keep thy religion to thyself. I don't want to see your religion directed at me and I certainly don't want it in our government. This is something we have to share and use to better our society for the common good, not your or my personal beliefs. This is the ultimate test of the 'agree to disagree' compromise.

I probably sound harsh. I don't really care if I am. Christianity has been so harsh with me I figure I've earned the right to be a staunch critic. And I'm tired of being afraid of speaking my true opinion, especially when the people around me can express and preach their love of Jesus. Now it's my turn...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My American Life

For me life stateside was filled with all kinds of emotions and events, just like everyone else. However, unlike most people, I can easily describe these events and my reactions to them into two categories: the Base, and the Lesbian. However, the broad range of my emotions evelopes them together under the umbrella of human experience.

Let me start by saying that I don't like being known only for my sexuality. I hate it really. I've known too many people who have let their sexuality define who they are. For me it's a piece of what I am. I don't want it to consume me. But, there are two reasons why I focus on my sexuality in this blog; 1) I think it will be easier for the general reader to relate to me if I categorize everything, and 2) living in Korea is very difficult for me on some levels and this is my outlet. It satisfies an emotional purpose. Living in the West I would never draw so much attention to it.

But let's get back to it!

On the whole, life in America was mundane. In all my activities I was unchallenged. I had always been highly intelligent so I was never easily stimulated. Public school and university were terribly, horribly, mind numbing lumps of dullness for me that I was forced to participate in for some valuable piece of paper. I read voraciously, and if I'm honest I have never felt more myself than when I had a book in my hand and a few dozen at my disposal in close proximity.

Social situations were fun and enjoyable on the surface, but I could barely stand the shallowness of the people around me. None of them seemed interested in the outside world beyond the borders of our city, our state, or the country. They talked about the same boring ass shit everyday, who slept with who, who tricked out their Honda, who was acting crazy on the lastest drug, who had gotten fired from their deadend job for doing some kind of stupid shit, and needed to find another one fast before they got kicked out of their apartment. I wanted to scream!

When I lived in Tennessee briefly with my girlfriend (let's call her "Harriet"), I worked a deadend job at a local restaurant and lived in a shitty, tiny apartment off Middlebrook Pike. And Harriet made me fucking miserable, more miserable than I've ever been in my whole life. Her interests included partying, clubbing (which included making out with random girls...in front of me!!), spending money as soon as it grazed her fingers, and pouring verbal salt into all my open, emotional wounds. I could write a book about her...

I had a great friend of mine, one of the most intelligent people I've ever met (let's call him "Gabe"). Gabe was a man of refined tastes in knowledge, an expert in obscure authors and texts, and obsessed with research. A conversation with him was my drug, and we would talk for hours about the ethics of human social norms, philosophy, religion, politics, etc. Harriet would often be there for these conversations, during which she never spoke unless it was to make a joke inappropriate to the subject at hand. And she always had the same thing to say to me on the way home: "I don't like going to Gabe's house because you turn into a complete asshole. You don't talk about things I want to talk about. You talk about things I can't have an opinion on."  That's when it hit me. Not only did she not HAVE an opinion (which I could have dealt with), but she had already refused to form one.

These are the kind of people I'm talking about. And I met them everywhere I turned.

As for my sexuality, I spent most of my life trying to cure it. I had always known that I was attracted to girls. But, like most of us, I grew up thinking I was the only one and one of the reasons for that is I was unaware that society had a word for people like me. Had I known the word "lesbian" or "gay" I would have understood that there were people in the world like me and my early misery would have been null and void. It also didn't help that I grew up Mormon (more on that later). Though my family did break from the church I still struggled with deprogramming myself and trying to justify my sexuality with my newfound nondenominational Christianity. Living in the Bible beating South didn't really help much. I really didnt feel free until I embraced my atheism/agnosticism in my early 20's.

My parents remain Christian, my emotionally abusive mother becoming more and more of a Bible thumper day by day. I do not trust my parents, which is no secret among my few close friends. They betrayed me at my most vulnerable, and for that I cannot forgive them. To this day I'm the only homosexual I know who has had to come out twice to their parents. That's another story.

Though I'm only scratching the surface of the surface, I suppose any reader would understand how thoroughly unhappy I was in America. Living abroad has given me a new sense of self, incredible confidence, enhanced my adaptibility, and opened up endless possiblities for me on different levels. For now I'm content, but I don't mean to stay that way for long.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Why Korea?

Ah, Korea! The Land of the Morning Calm, a tiny peninsula caught between the super giant China and the delicate cherry blossom of the sea, Japan. Korea, the mysterious country foreigners either hate or love, where the breezes are scented with garlic, dried fish, and spicy whiffs of kimchi.

Due to its close proximity to the more dominate China and Japan, Korea gets overlooked. Let's face it, if it hadn't been for the Korean War most foreigners wouldn't be able to find Korea on a map (Well, actually, most Americans still can't). It's really a shame because Korea has a lot to offer those interested in culture, exotic food (it's a chili head's heaven), learning a unique language, or just to have an eye opening world experience, Korea is a great place.

So how did I come to my decision to live in Korea? Why not China, or Japan, the even more desirable destination among those of my generation obsessed with Anime? Simple answer: I didn't know a damn thing about Korea. I wanted a country that I had no impression of, and Korea was it.

And I love it here! It didn't take me long to fall in love with the country. Even though you'll hear me point out some of Korea's less attractive features and views, please don't let that deter you from interest in the country. I really do love the people and culture, and can even handle the Confusian hiearchy system despite being the lowest on the totem pole.

Korea is the ultimate underdog country, and the loyality of Koreans to their country is incredibly strong. Any little victory by a Korean on the international stage is a source of intense national pride. A good example is J.S. Park, the Korean striker for Manchester United. Not only will you see his face everywhere around Korea but you'll also see men and women sporting Manchester United apparel and everyone's a fan. Being a Bayern Munich fan myself, I love to engage in football related debates with my male students.

Korea is a country that likes to get things done quick, fast, and in a hurry. The national motto should be: "Whatever you're working on now was due yesterday at 6am. Hurry the fuck up!"  You can see it on the streets among the people as everyone runs to catch the metro, the bus, or get a taxi. The words "빨리, 발리!" (hurry, hurry!!) will be heard several times a day from people of all ages. The tough old women called "아줌마" (ah-jum-ma) will push and elbow you out of the way with such force as to make you stumble back just so they can get the last seat on the bus, and then wonder why you're taking so long to get on the bus as you recover from shock and the bruise on your ribs. Don't you know that you're making everyone else late? 빨리, 빨리!!!

The "hurry hurry" mentality, plus the small size of the country supporting a large population, make standing in line physicially and mentally uncomfortable. How many times have my breasts been unwittingly pressed against the back of the middle aged man in front of me, who glances back to see what's sticking him and then smiles pervertly as he leans back a little for a better feel. Or having an Ahjumma looking over my shoulder in an obvious manner to see what the strange foreigner has in her basket. At Dunkin Donuts there is aways a tray jabbing your back.

But I will say this for Korea, you never wait in line long. Thank you, 빨리, 빨리!

In my time here I've adopted new behaviors and tastes. Kimchi is a favorite food and cravings for rice have made it one of my staples. I remember to fold my arms in front of my chest while standing in line. And I know how to step out of the Ahjumma's way while getting on the bus.

Having an open mind makes what was once an annoyance a funny anecdote at the end of the day.

Quick Overview of Current Living Conditions

Of course, it ain't easy. This isn't the decadent West where you can tell if people will shrug or beat your head in with a Bible (since I'm from the American South I've experenced a LOT of the latter). At least in the West I know how to act; I know where I stand with most people; I know that living out is an option that I frequently indulge in.

There is no option here.

I came very close to ruining my career here in the ROK (Republic of Korea) my first week in during a welcoming dinner at my hakwon. While sitting in the back of the school van with the Korean teachers, my Korean boss and his wife asked if I had a boyfriend. I answered immediately in the negatory category. When asked why by the surprised populace of the vehicle I smiled and opened my mouth. I knew what I wanted to say. It was poised on my tongue, softly vibrating in my throat. The hope I had of being accepted in a notoriously anti gay country welled up within me.

But my rationale, thankfully, suddenly kicked into overdrive and I made up some bullshit story about an exboyfriend. You know, the standard lesbian bullshit that all of us learn by heart."Yeah, he and I broke up just before I came here. I'm ok. He was a jerk anyway. So where are we going for dinner?"

I hate doing this. I feel dirty every time I lie about my relationships, past or present. I hate having to endure the bombardment of offers to set me up on a blind date. "Oh, he's a very nice Korean guy. He likes the western!" <--- (That's not a mistake, that's Konglish. But we'll get to that later). As close as I get to my Korean coworkers and my abundance of Korean friends, this is the one thing that makes me hurt, angry and resentful. They constantly ask me when I plan on having a boyfriend, getting married, or having children. I smile, shrug it off, and change the subject as best I can, but Korean women for the most part are obsessed with getting a boyfriend. And guess what their favorite subject of conversation is? Yeah, I know I'm screwed.

The first six months here were brutal. My boss at the hakwon revealed himself quickly to be a fucking dickhead. He made snide comments on my clothing style, my weight, my "not looking American enough" (where he got this from I don't know. Apparently sandy reddish brown hair and blue eyes don't make the cut!), and always asking why I never had a boyfriend. He went on and on and on about how I need to get married as soon as possible and that I would never get a man looking the way I do. I needed to grow my hair out, wear skin-tight pants and shirts, and mini skirts.

I wanted to hit him, scream at him that this was me in every sense, not just my sexual orientation. My personality fit into loose jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers. My mind felt peaceful with a boyish, yet feminine, short hair style. And I couldn't care less about attracting men! After years of living out of the closet, wrestling my way back in was a nightmare. I had to rehone my practiced romantic senarios, make up fake blind dates to satisfy my increasing number of Korean friends, force my natural instinct to check out beautiful women out of my body language (and here in the ROK, there be hotties every block). Every day there were countless little things I had to keep in check.

Some people would say, "Well, you brought this on yourself. You knew going in what kind of country it was!".  True, I did. But should I stay back in the States where I was miserable to the point of mental and emotional decrepitude? Hell no! I wanted out. I wanted the world. And I'm paying the price. But I think I have the right to talk about my experience, my thoughts, etc. 

And then I met M.

My Korean goddess, the one who keeps me sane! She was the first and only Korean I told about my leanings. Turns out she had latent homosexual feelings too. And guess who they exploded upon! We've been together for 2 1/2 years now and it's been a helluva ride so far, filled with culture differences, fights, love, secret sleepovers, and all the rest.

So, now that you're caught up, let's get to the details.