Diamonds: A Modest Proposal

value of diamond

I left my camera in China, so I had to take a photo on my computer…my bad

About 15 years ago, I went to my dad and said that I wanted a diamond ring. No idea why I wanted one, but there we are. When I mentioned the ring, Dad responded by telling me that diamonds are very precious and expensive–that they are only given on very special occasions to very special people–that they are more than just a gift, they are a sign and a symbol of something very important (or something along those lines; I’m abbreviating…it was 15 years ago, after all),

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Sallie Mae or Welcome to Student Loan Slavery or Making Deals with the Devil or Sadness 101:

Image via Sallie Mae

I wrote this because I think people need to know how Sallie Mae operates, and I wrote this because I want people to see that the system is broken. But mostly, I wrote this because, as much as I need … Continue reading

God, Religion, SB 2861, and LGBTQ Discrimination in Mississippi: An Open Letter to Rep. Joey Hood

“What we’re trying to do, gentlemen, is just protect the religious freedom of Mississippians.” 

-Mississippi Rep. Joey Hood, as quoted in this article.


Mr. Hood,* how can you say that your goal is to protect religious freedom as you pass a bill (SB 2681) which stipulates that “In God We trust” will be added to the state seal? You realize, of course, that this seriously undermines your statements about your desire to protect religious freedom for all of Mississippi’s citizens? After all, if you genuinely cared about religious freedom, then you would recognize that not all Mississippians believe in God (not the Christian God, not the Muslim God, not any God), and you would work to ensure that these individuals are represented by their state.

What I am getting at here, Mr. Hood, is that there are many atheists in your state.

I happen to be one of them, and I can tell you that this bill does nothing to protect my religious freedom. In fact, let me be honest with you, it makes me feel like an outsider in my own state. In God we trust? Who is this “we” that you speak of? It certainly isn’t me. But of course, you must have known that not everyone in Mississippi believes in religion. It’s 2014. Surely, you must have known.

And yet, you had the audacity to put such language in a bill that is meant to secure religious freedom? How do you justify such actions?

I realize that a majority of individuals in Mississippi may support such language being added into our seal, as a majority of people are religious; however, the majority’s demands do not always need to be met. Indeed, the United States is founded upon the ideal that all citizens will be free from persecution. To that extent, the government should ensure that the minority is not tyrannized by the majority or made to feel like “others” in their own culture. How do you think that this state sponsored endorsement of religion makes non-religious individuals feel?

I can tell you—it makes us painfully aware of the fact that we are the minority. Moreover, it cultivates an atmosphere of hostility. I have been told, time and time again, that I am immoral, that I am going to hell, that I am blind, indeed, that I am un-American, and all because I do not believe in God.

This bill is not going to make anything easier for me.

And of course, I have read the Constitution. I know that, “separation of church and state,” does not actually appear in this document. But I also know that a government that endorses religion is not truly concerned with equal representation for all its citizens; it is not truly concerned with an individual’s ability to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. Such a government is, in fact, an unfit, broken travesty. It is a government that favors certain groups of individuals above others.

And Mr. Hood, we haven’t even gotten to the ways in which this bill endorses discrimination.

Let us be honest. We exist in a culture. And in culture, nothing occurs in a vacuum. In recent years, our country has moved towards granting full equality to individuals who are LGBTQ. Currently, 17 states recognize marriage between individuals who are the same gender. The United States Supreme Court recently ruled in Windsor v. United States that Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that denies legally married same-sex couples over 1,100 protections and responsibilities of marriage, is unconstitutional.

That’s an awful lot of protections and responsibilities. So you can see that recognition of marriage is of the utmost importance for Mississippi residents (for things like power of attorney, health insurance, tax breaks, inheritance rights etc.).

In recent months, the news has been speckled with reports about Christians (or religious individuals, but let’s be honest, Christians) being attacked for refusing to do business with gay couples. In relation to one such case, Fox News asserted that, “in today’s America – gay rights trump religious rights.”

Yet, marriage between individuals of the same gender is banned in Mississippi. This is extremely concerning, as Mississippi uses marriage as the basis for determining a number of different benefits. Moreover, in Mississippi, same sex couples do not have hospital visitation rights. In Mississippi, landlords can discriminate against individuals based on gender and sexual orientation. In Mississippi, employers can discriminate against individuals based on gender and sexual orientation.

What’s more, in Mississippi, individuals of the same gender cannot adopt a child together. Considering that Mississippi has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the Union, one would think that those in government would be concerned with ensuring that there are as many happy, healthy homes as possible. Sadly, this is not the case. Although there is no evidence that same sex relationships cause any harm to children (or to any one else in society), Mississippi still will not allow same sex couples to adopt. What possible justification is there for this besides bigotry, ignorance, and religious intolerance?

The aforementioned is not a rhetorical question, Mr. Hood. As a representative of the state of Mississippi, you should be able to justify the laws of your state, or you should be working to change them.

Given all of the aforementioned, it seems that gay rights do not, in fact, trump the rights of religious people. Religious people can marry. They can adopt. They cannot be fired because of their religion, but they can fire people for being LGBTQ. They cannot be denied housing because of their religion, but they can deny people housing because they are LGBTQ. Indeed, in Mississippi, the government openly acknowledges, “in God we trust.”

In short, Mr. Hood, Mississippi is a haven for the religious individual. It is, in many ways, hell on Earth for those who are LGBTQ.

However, in recent weeks, certain areas of Mississippi have been working against the discriminatory legislation in the state. I am proud to say that my own town, Hattiesburg, recently passed a referendum acknowledging the basic dignity and worth of all LGBTQ individuals.

And in the midst of this conversation, Mississippi passes a bill–not to secure rights for LGBTQ People–to secure rights for religious individuals.

Are we truly to suspect that this bill is not a direct response to the conversation currently taking place about LGBTQ people in our country and in our state? Are we truly to believe that this bill is about securing religious freedom when (as I have already clearly articulated) the freedoms of religious individuals are not at all infringed on in our state? Indeed, are we to believe that you were truly concerned about religious freedom and that your only goal was to secure their rights, despite the fact that LGBTQ people in Mississippi are denied access to a number of the most basic and fundamental protections?

Isn’t it far more likely that you are directly responding to the recent advancements in the freedoms and protections given to LGBTQ individuals in our nation, and trying to work against these advancements? In a state where LGBTQ people already have next to no security, where the government and its representatives have already boldly shown (though constitutional amendments aimed at denying LGBTQ individuals’ rights) that they are determined to keep LGBTQ people second class citizens, isn’t it more likely that this bill was really meant to ensure that religious individuals have the right to deny LGBTQ people service?

I fail to see how you could be so overwhelmingly concerned with protecting religious freedom and simultaneously care so very little (indeed, not care at all) about the LGBTQ and non-religious individuals in your state. Such a position reeks of bigotry and prejudice. Even giving you the benefit of the doubt (that this really isn’t just an attack on LGBTQ people, but a genuine effort to secure religious freedom), let me tell you this:

There are many individuals in our society who are underrepresented and denied access to employment, housing, education, and health care. Mississippi has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates and worst education systems in the U.S. The poverty level in Mississippi is nearly 10% higher than the national average. I suggest you focus on some of these issues instead. Because there are a lot of individuals who need your help, who need to know that you are going to bat for them.

You are in a unique and privileged position. Mr. Hood, you have the ability to enact real change. I hope you do better in the future.

*Joey Hood is not actually my representative; however, my representative, Toby Barker, voted against this bill. Hence, the letter to Mr. Hood. I encourage all individuals to contact Mr. Hood (and other Mississippi representatives who voted in favor of this bill) regarding this issue.

SB 2681, again. Discrimination back on the table. (With only 13 minutes to spare).


Sometimes I feel like Conrad got “Heart of Darkness” so terribly wrong…

Originally posted on Sourcerer:


Remember that Mississippi Senate Bill I spent a whole week stirring up outrage against? The one that so many people opposed, the MS House of Representatives was afraid to just go ahead and pass it on the floor? The one they amended to create a study committee? Well, I have no idea what the status of the study committee is in the bill that was filed at 7:47 tonight (the deadline was 8 p.m.). But look at what’s going back to both chambers for an up-or-down vote, and thanks to our friends at Deep South Progressive for telling us something the local news might not mention at all.

Section 1 of the bill says, “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except as provided in paragraph (b) of this subsection.”

In practical terms, for example…

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Loki Fights Like a Girl, and That’s a Good Thing


Fairy tales, Loki, and a pretty cool argument about equality–what more could you want?

Originally posted on Things Matter:

Minor spoilers if you haven’t seen Thor: The Dark World.

The first Thor movie is absolutely my favorite Marvel movie, and I was happy with the sequel, too. A few weeks ago, I saw this on Pinterest:

Loki and Frigga pin

Basically, it’s an observation that Loki’s Asgardian mother Frigga fights the same way Loki does: with trickery. Loki’s signature move is to create an illusion of himself and get his attacker to lunge at it, thus trapping him, luring him off a cliff, or providing an opportunity to attack him from behind. I had noticed Frigga doing it too in The Dark World, so I pinned the picture happily and went on about my business.

However, I’ve recently realized this is more important than I thought. I don’t care if Loki was adopted, and Frigga doesn’t either — she raised him, and it’s clear in TDW that they were close. (Tom Hiddleston has…

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Can We Talk About Feminism or LGBTQ Rights?


This is a response to the conversation taking place here, here, and here. I was going to just respond in a comment, but as you see, it got far too long for that.


To begin with, one could ask, “did we ever need feminism?” And the answer to that, I believe, is yes. Women did not have the right to vote. They could not hold jobs. They did not even own their own bodies, their husbands could legally rape and beat them. Saying that we should not have focused on these atrocities–that they should have instead talked about how men and women should not be forced to conform to gender norms–is ignoring the historical reality that created the feminist movement.

It’s like saying that we don’t need a gay rights movement, we need a human rights movement. It’s like saying that we don’t need to discuss systemic forms of child abuse, we need to discuss the abuse of all people. Where do such conversations leave us?

Ultimately, they leave us with nothing to say.

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Katy Gillan: This post needs a better title, but I don’t have one

katy gillan

Amber asked me if I still had this memorial for Katy. I thought that I would post it in case anyone else wanted to bookmark it or, I don’t know, something. I hadn’t read through it in years, maybe six or so. Most of the entries are riddled with grammatical errors (worse than usual; that’s saying something).

I want to keep them.

Changing them would change the substance. That voice that is speaking to you in my writing, it’s me, but it’s not-me. It’s little Jolene, or Jolene when she was littler. I don’t have the same beliefs anymore. It’s me; it’s not-me. Strange.

I was thinking about the grammar one moment, the words, the voice, about how it’s me-not-me. And then I was thinking about Katy and all the words she never… If it’s not-me writing, is it a not-Katy too? Am I remembering a not-Katy? I bet I am. I bet that she is different than the Katy that you remember. Memory is funny like that. I know that now, or I think I know that. That’s what 9 years of school tells me about memory, anyways.

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1 in 4 Americans think the Sun Orbits the Earth: The Real Problem with Education in America

We recently did a post about a new study which indicates that 1/4 of Americans do not know whether the Sun revolves around the Earth or the Earth revolves around the Sun. You can read that article here. Naturally, everyone started the blame game. And who did everyone think was to blame? Teachers.

People were arguing over whether we should blame the teachers who are liberal brainwashers or the teachers who are anti-science conservatives. So I thought I would weigh in.


Read the full thread here.

I was educated in New York, and I currently teach at the University of Southern Mississippi. My life has been divided between two states that are polar opposites, and you know what this taught me? That there really aren’t that many differences between the two States.

Before you launch into a big tirade about how Mississippi is full of crazy Christians, or New Yorkers are a bunch of socialists who have no morals, please read on:
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