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How to Talk to the Adults in Your Life About Tough Topics

edit 12  By Jesse Turner

I recently celebrated my sister’s birthday with much of my immediate and extended family. I have a very conservative family and given the current election, conservative political and social ideas are often a topic of conversation. It took roughly twenty minutes before Colin Kaepernick was brought up, and not in a positive way. As someone who is well-versed in ideological family conflicts, I am here to give you advice on talking to the older adults in your life about frightening new ideas like gender roles, feminism, and protesting.

I know you care about the adults in your life and you want to protect them from harmful, scary new ideas. But as the times change, so must the people. If you don’t talk to your parents about tough topics, they’ll seek the information elsewhere. Who do you want your parents talking to? Glenn Beck? Bill O’Reilly? I didn’t think so.

Always start by giving your parents the facts. Asking someone for their preferred gender pronouns when you meet them won’t hurt you. The United States will not burst into flames just because Colin Kaepernick exercised his constitutional right to kneel.  And no, Grandfather, the downfall of the American family did not begin because women were given the right to vote.

Next, address the many startling images the adults in your life may be seeing on television or on the internet. Tell them it’s really not OK to share that racist meme. Be sure to remain attentive and make sure they know you’re listening to their concerns. You may hear some of the following questions: “I don’t mind people being gay, but why do I have to see it all the time?” or “Why doesn’t Christopher Columbus get any respect anymore?” and the classic, “This is my country, why do I have to press 1 for English?” Now, you may want to respond to these questions with anger, but remember, they’re learning and you’re there to help them learn.

Do your part, and make talking with the conservative adults in your life a regular part of your day.

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I’m Real, But I’m Not Sure You Are

img_4875  By: Beth Manney

A couple years ago, during one of my late-night Internet quests to find a video of a flying lawnmower that suited my needs, I stumbled upon the theory of solipsism, the philosophical idea that “only one’s own mind is sure to exist.” In an existential nutshell, how can you be sure anything else other than you is real?

I’ve been pondering what I’ve dreamt up in the past six years while writing fiction, and what I have the capacity to create. I think if you keep an open mind, solipsism theory is plausible. Thinking about all that’s happened in human history, I wonder, could I think up such cruel and beautiful things? If you look at it in the right way, which I would define as being able to keep an open mind without developing a narcissistic god complex, it’s fascinating to wonder what could be and what is.

I think my generation is in existential crisis. Spend any time on most forms of social media, and you’ll find an endless stream of nihilist memes that embody our need to plant our feet firmly on the grounds of actual existence. This angst also circulates around the intrinsic human need to belong. I think that Portland State does an excellent job catering to students’ wish to fit in by offering a multitude of various resource centers and events. There are so many opportunities to get involved with things you’ve never tried before and things that are familiar. In this vast, frightening world, find a buddy to scream into the void with you.

I’d love to hear your perspective! Do you think solipsism is narcissistic? Give the ol’ noodle a whirl.

 

chronicles u of c

Stop Praising the University of Chicago

edit 12By Jesse Turner

This week,  University of Chicago Dean of Students John Ellison sent a letter to incoming freshmen saying that the university does not support “so-called trigger warnings” and “safe spaces, where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.” This is not a welcoming or inclusive letter.

Trigger/content warnings are not meant to warn people that differing opinions are meant to be shared. I have never seen a trigger warning used in this manner, despite many people’s beliefs that my generation is so weak that we can’t handle hearing an opinion even slightly different than our own. On social media, I have come across trigger and content warnings informing the reader that the following content will discuss things like abuse, suicide, sexual assault, and police brutality. I have never seen the content warning, “I am about to share a conservative opinion.” So stop believing trigger warnings are useless and a sign of weakness.

One of my professors at PSU used a very helpful trigger warning in her syllabus. She informed us that in a class about death, we would specifically be discussing Death with Dignity, suicide, and dying in low-income and marginalized communities. In no way was she saying, “Here’s what we will discuss so don’t take this class.” She was saying, “Here’s exactly what we will discuss, so proceed with caution and take time to prepare and take care of yourselves.” That’s what trigger warnings are. They are a cautionary step, not the end to a conversation. Yes, freedom of speech and freedom of expression are both integral and important. But why does someone else’s freedom of speech mean that I have to listen to and read every story and conversation about rape and child abuse that comes across my timeline? Am I really stifling your freedom of expression because for my own sanity I don’t want to read another story about Brock Turner getting away with only 3 months in prison?

Not wanting to hear about sexual assault and abuse constantly doesn’t make you weak, it makes you healthy. Stop praising the University of Chicago for not caring about the mental health of their students and instead taking a hurtful and deeply misinformed approach to content warnings and safe spaces.

chronicles fat acceptance

What it’s like Being a Fat Girl

edit 12  By Jesse Turner

At almost 200 pounds, I am fat. I don’t call myself fat as an insult, I call myself fat because it is the reality of the way I look and the body I maneuver the world in. I am what feminist writer Roxane Gay calls “Lane Bryant Fat.” This means I am overweight but can still reasonably find clothes that fit me. However, as much as I have worked to accept the size that I am, I also call myself fat so I don’t have to hear other people call me fat. If I know I’m fat, I take the edge away from people who would use “fat” as an insult.

A lot of people would think I should not be OK with being overweight because I am not the “good kind of fat.” I don’t have a thyroid condition, and I am not actively working to lose weight. I like eating, and I don’t make a lot of time to exercise. When I get off work, I would rather take a nap than go to the gym.

Now, there are precautionary measures I take to make my thunderous size as minimally shocking to myself and others. I am sure to include pictures of my body on my Tinder so I don’t get the grimace from guys who didn’t realize I was fat when I first meet them. I only wear crop tops if I haven’t eaten in the last five hours so my stomach doesn’t especially stick out. I would hate to offend someone with something as unsightly as a stomach full of food. I psych myself up for at least 24 hours before I go out to bars, as being the “fat friend” requires especially steely nerves.

What I find weirdly troubling is that instead of using fat as an insult, I have noticed that some men like to point out my size, claim “thick girls” as their fetish, and expect me to take it as a compliment. Recently I had a guy online tell me “You’re very beautiful I’m sure you are told otherwise from…ostentatious people who don’t know what a real woman looks like.” First of all, real woman? I’m not a real woman, I’m actually a bundle of limbs sewn together and packed with straw. Second, I know you thought you were doing a good deed, but you’re not noble or brave because you find a fat girl attractive. Telling me that I should grateful for your compliments because most people would be insulting me is a slap in my fat face.

 

chronicles welcome to oregon

Here’s How Little I Know about Portland

By Jesse Turner

We all know Portland is white. Very white. I am white. I grew up in a very white neighborhood and went to some of, if not the, whitest public schools in Portland. And for years I was told that Portland was “politely racist.” None of us are openly racist, because different races live in different worlds. There’s no opportunity to be “openly racist” as a white person because you rarely ever encounter a non-white person. I didn’t learn until I was in college that black people were not legally allowed in Oregon under the state constitution until 1926 when the clause was finally repealed.

I now work in the juvenile correctional system, which means I work with a lot of young men who claim gang affiliation. I will now tell you just how white I am and admit that the other day I googled, “gangs in Portland” because although I had heard of several gangs in conversation with the youth I work with, I knew nothing of their history, nor could I keep them all straight. I grew up in Portland, I have lived here for 21 years, and a few days ago was the first time I had ever heard of Lil’ Smurf or Kerby Blocc or vice nights. Because I live in a completely different world. Gangs have only recently become a part of my reality, and only because I work with people who are a part of them.

I also work at a residential home for formerly incarcerated young men. One of the housemates, one who is gang affiliated, was recently arrested for armed robbery and because he is 19, he will go to prison. This person is Latino and so is the man he was arrested with. Their mugshots are featured on the Oregon Live article about their arrest. And I am not exaggerating when I say that every public comment on the article is race-related, the vast majority of which are negative. The top comment is “Jeez, Maybe Trump is right….” Another person says “this is why we need Trump to build the wall.” Scroll a little further down and you read “Dreamers. They’re just here to work.” A couple people call out these racist comments and they are bombarded with comments of being too “sensitive” and needing a “safe-space,” the argument of people with no empathy.

These are internet trolls and likely not an accurate representation of the whole of Portland. But I would encourage you to question the nature of “Portland Polite” when it comes to race. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.

chronicles trump

I Got Fired, Now What?

edit 12By Jesse Turner

For the first time in my life, I got “fired.” I put “fired” in quotation marks because it wasn’t an official firing. It was a volunteer practicum position and I was offered a different, more restricted position for this term but was told that I could no longer continue in the position I had been doing for the last ten weeks. I was told I was causing too many disruptions, enough that the practicum had to end immediately.

I don’t want to go into the details of the firing (maybe dismissal is a better word) but I will tell you that I cried on my drive home, barely restraining myself from crying in front of my supervisor. I felt as though I had lost part of myself in losing that position. I tie my work ethic so centrally to who I am. I take pride in the fact that I work two jobs while going to school full time. I take pride in my exhaustion. I brag about my transformation from a lazy, self-pitying person to someone who has tried her best to take control of my future. Getting fired does not fit into my personal narrative.

This was my first placement in the specific field of study I want to work in. What do I do now? This is the field I want to spend the rest of my life in. Sure, I can study it in a classroom, but maybe I’m truly not good enough. My supervisor told me that he understood my behavior did not come from a place of malicious intent and that with more experience, I would do much better. I cling to his statement because it feels like all I have. This position was so draining, it consumed my waking hours and still I loved it. I miss it.

Now I am in a new practicum position, in a different youth correctional facility. I had my period of mourning but then was forced to take my love for my previous position and work to get a new one. In this position I have met young, incarcerated men who face rejection every day, rejection that is often worse than my own, and yet they continue to persevere. One young man earned his high school diploma, associate’s degree, and two bachelor’s degrees in five years under incarceration. There is no better kick in the pants than seeing people accomplishing more in lockup than you are on the outs. So getting fired is not all bad. It was a hard experience and one I will feel the sting of for a while. But I have to take it as a bump in the road, a learning experience, and not the end. I love this field too much to be done with it now.

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What I Learned from Lockup

By Jesse Turner

For the final project for my Youth Work class, I made a board game. I called it, “The Game of Life in Juvie.” This term I have been interning at an all-male juvenile correctional facility. One of the ways the youth and I pass the time is by playing card games and board games. “The Game of Life” is one of the games we have played several times, and because going to prison is not an option in that game, I find it a sadly ironic one to play. I watch each youth choose to go to college, start a family, and pick a career with the highest salary.

I made my board game as similar as I could to the original. Instead of a job, each player picks the crime which sent them to juvie. Instead of advancing through the life stages, players must advance through the point-and-level system that the facility uses so they can gain more privileges and eventually get out. I tried to make the game as unwinnable as possible. When asked if I would share this game with the youth on my unit, I said, “Absolutely not.” For one, I wouldn’t be allowed to bring in contraband. But really I would never show it to them because the youth already know how horrible life in juvie is. I wouldn’t want them to think I was reducing their situation to something trivial. That’s not how I meant for this game to be taken. I wanted it to express how often many of the hardships that happen to the youth on my unit are out of their control and simply left to chance.

Many youth on my unit have shared with me their goals for when they get out. Most of them express desires to continue school, get jobs, and start families in front of staff. But around other youth, they are much more honest. The two biggest plans I hear about are to get as high as possible and to get tattoos for the gangs they affiliate with. I come from a place of incredible privilege, and many of the youth react to what I say as empty rhetoric. But I keep telling them I want them to do better on the outs. I don’t know who will listen, but I do know that the Oregon Youth Authority has a 65% recidivism rate. This is not the first time in juvie for most of these youth. And the sad truth is it probably will not be the last.